Stopping the Cold and Flu Onslaught

manongolfcoursemodblog

It’s that time of year: cold and flu season are fast approaching. And, with the quick and early drop in temperatures  (global what?), the season promises to be longer and nastier. There is no “cure” for the cold and flu. Even though drugs and other substances may help, your body must fight off the viruses through the immune system. This is why it’s vital to boost your immune system especially this time of year. Here are a few ways to accomplish that:

1.  Sleep- Getting enough sleep (7-9 hours for adults) is crucial to keep your immune system at top performance. How many Americans get enough sleep? My guess is not enough

2.  Exercise- Exercise can boost your immune system in important ways. However, you can’t over-exercise or your immune system takes a hit. Workouts that go too long cause stress on the body and immune system.

3.  Eat well- Low sugar, whole grain foods, limited meat, lots of fruit and vegetables, and other healthy choices boost a person’s overall health and immune power.

4.  Stress- Keeping the body in a constant fight or flight response wreaks havoc with the immune system. This is true even for low level daily stress, so you should avoid it if possible or deal with it through relaxation techniques, fun activities, friends, etc. A good, basic technique is an easy one to remember. In a high stress environment think of: STAR (Smile, Take a Deep Breath And Relax). This can really make a big difference.

I don’t specifically recommend supplements because that is a personal decision to be made with a doctor, but I use them and believe they have an important place in fighting colds and the flu. So, the following represents my personal experience and is not medical advice. I start with Vitamin C. I typically also take Oregano Oil, Olive Leaf, N-Acetyl Cysteine, and Bromelain. The first two may have anti-viral properties and the last two could help with congestion. I also fry up green beans or spinach in a lot of garlic. It’s bad for the breath, but probably beneficial in getting rid of foreign invaders in the body.

Image by Jonathan Bennett. To order prints or download high resolution images, click here.

Just Do It!

Sometimes when it comes to exercise you just have to do it. Kind of like the Nike slogan. Why? Exercise is going to be very hard at first. Even new activities for those already in pretty good shape can be tough. Once again, you have to just do the activity and not overthink it. Granted, you should think about issues of safety and etiquette and use the proper equipment (e.g. don’t think you want to play tackle football at age 60 and run out in the middle of a high school game and line up at fullback).

However, you have to work through the mental issues that tell you that you can’t do it. Issues like: you’ll look like a newbie, you may be sore, you are not good at it. The answer to all three of these, for example, is: duh, but who cares? Even Michael Phelps was new at swimming at some point, even if it probably was when he was diapers. But, unless you train with professionals, no one at your pool will be anywhere near Michael Phelps in terms of ability. If you think an activity or sport looks great and will provide good exercise, then jump in and just do it, even if you may look a little foolish for awhile.

Some Thoughts On Exercise and Mood

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Exercise is thought to enhance mood, and studies confirm this. According to research presented in Dr. Bob Arnot’s  The Biology of Success, for moderate anxiety and depression, exercise is just as beneficial as counseling therapy, and results in brain chemistry change similar to what is experienced through pharmaceuticals. Exercise has been shown to raise serotonin levels. In fact, long term exercise, done regularly for years, actually changes personality traits. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I think a lot of the anxiety and depression in the U.S.A. is the result of altered brain chemistry resulting from living in ways contrary to our wiring, i.e. we are inactive, spend most of our time inside, live in big cities, etc, when our brains are wired for constant activity, being outside, living in the country, etc. Exercise may be one way to reconnect to our natural wiring.

However, not every exercise in every situations enhances moods. According to Arnot, “the harder, the better.” He believes we have been sold a bill of goods about “over-exercise.” He says that only about .01% of Americans are in danger of over-exercise, and these are well-trained athletes, while most of us are in danger of under-exercise. To see an enhancement in mood, we have to work a little lot.

Also, where we exercise has an impact on mood. Exercising outside seems to provide the most mood enhancement, as is confirmed by research mentioned in my article Sun and Speed, and by a 1995 study by Harte and Eifert, which I came across in The Biology of Success. The research by Harte and Eifert showed that those who exercised outside had greater mood enhancement than those exercising indoors. However, if those exercising indoors had plenty of stimuli around, i.e. watching people, looking out windows, listening to music, etc, they experienced  mood enhancement. When the researchers placed participants on a treadmill in front of a blank wall, participants actually reported a worse mood following exercise. So, this research suggests that if you are using exercise to enhance your mood, you should make sure you are exercising vigorously (within your physical limits, of course, so consult your doctor before beginning any exercise routine), and preferably exercising outside, or at the least, inside with plenty of stimuli around.

Recently, I have been feeling really craving aerobic exercise. I have been pushing up to about 7 miles of running, and I think this could be part of it, since I am perhaps hitting the point of a “runner’s high.” Or it could be that I have been taking phosphatidylserine prior to running, and it happens to kick in near the middle of the run.

Image taken by me, while running (enhanced with Qtpfsgui and Gimp)

Workout Tip #6: Start Slowly

I’ve known people for whom a diet can be a life changing extravaganza. They buy the right clothes, pack the ipod with upbeat tunes, get totally motivated, and start to envision their new hot selves. Next, they go to the gym and kill themselves. And, scared off by the soreness and stiffness, they don’t go back for a long, long time.

My basic advice is that you have to start slowly, especially if you are out of shape, overweight, or older. But, even young people who are starting a new fitness activity could use this advice. Now that I’m doing summer camp, I’ve discovered that being able to run, play racketball, lift weights, ride bikes, and cross country ski at a high fitness level didn’t translate to floor hockey. It probably helped, but I was still extremely sore.

You have to start slowly or you risk burning out. Nothing puts the breaks on a new fitness routine like not being able to move! But, you also risk hurting yourself. Waiting several weeks for an injury to heal also does little for your physique.

So, start slowly and work your way up to the harder stuff. It may seem wimpy to walk around the block at first, but you have to start somewhere. Walking around the block now could lead to a mega-marathon way down the line; but if you try to overdo it too soon, you may just feel like you’ve run one.

My Experience with “Brain” Supplements

I am into health and fitness and have been since I was a teenager. In fact, I have taken vitamins on and off from the time I was fourteen. As an overweight teenager, I basically took matters into my own hands and read about health and fitness issues, including nutritional supplements. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about supplements that help bring mental clarity. I already take Acetyl L-Carnitine, an amino acid, and have added DMAE and phosphatidylserine (aka PS). I have had great experiences with these supplements, but want to share my thoughts including both positive and negative aspects.

I started by taking 250 mg. of Acetyl L-Carnitine the evening that it came. I immediately noticed greater mental clarity, sharper vision, and a generally elevated mood. I was able to sit down and focus enough to finish grading some papers I had been putting off for awhile. I’m not ADD by any means, but I still can be distracted. In spite of the greater focus, my sleep was lighter that night and I was somewhat restless. I figured taking it in the morning would help eliminate this, so the next morning I took 250 mg. on an empty stomach. I noticed the same benefits previously, with a little bit of restlessness thrown in. I was cruising along throughout the morning, but had a pretty big “low” in the afternoon. It came right as one of my classes was starting! Bad timing, I guess. I also experienced light sleep that night too, but this could’ve been connected to congestion, which I suffered from that day.

The next day, I modified my routine again by taking 125 mg. in the morning and 125 mg. in the late afternoon (all on an empty stomach). I still had an afternoon low and slept lightly to boot. More bad timing, I think. But, curiously, my workout that day was incredible. I got on the “virtual bike” and instead of my usual average of 220-230 watts over a 30 minute period, I was able to do 260 watts over the same period. This resulted in an additional 80 or so calories burned!

The next day, I cut my dosage to 65 mg. before breakfast and another 65 mg. or so before lunch. This removed the low and kept me going through school and my after school workout. So far, so good. During the weekend, I cut my dosage to 65 mg. one time before lunch. Once again, I noticed a nice workout boost, going from an average of 168 or so strides/minute on the elliptical machine to 175 or so strides/minute. I’ve worked my way back to 250mg a day, usually before workouts. Occasionally I mix it up by taking DMAE or PS before workouts.

As it stands, I have had a great experience with Acetyl L-Carnitine, DMAE, and PS. I can’t say I saw any physical benefits, but the mental boost when working out is amazing. I work a long day as a teacher and couldn’t imagine not taking these supplements (not at the same time, btw) before working out.  Here is the summary of my experiences:

Positive: Sharper vision, better mental clarity and more focus, huge workout boost (even at lower doses)

Negative: Restlessness, lighter/less sleep (at higher doses), some nausea (even at lower doses, but went away with time)

Bottom Line for Me: After I started slowly on the dosage, I noticed incredible benefits without the annoying side effects.

These are my experiences only. If you are interested in taking this or any supplement consult a doctor.

7.5 Minutes a Day to Save Billions?

A new study shows that a person need only exercise 7.5 minutes per week to prevent type-2 diabetes. The study is small, but it supports other studies that have shown that exercise can prevent diabetes, only in this recent study the amount needed was not a daunting 30 minutes a day, but a few minutes a week. Wow. 7.5 minutes a week to prevent a disease that costs lives – and billions of dollars.

So what are you waiting for? Get off your seat, go outside, and run for 7.5 minutes. Repeat next week, for every week, until you die, (which, hopefully, will not  be from complications of Type-2 diabetes.)

Workout Tip #5: Get Motivated (Part 2)

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I previously wrote about the importance of motivation and how to use short term motivation. Here are a few of my ideas for long term motivation. They are similar to the short term ones in many ways, just more focused on the…well…longer term.

Visualize Yourself– While the first short term technique was to visualize your immediate goal, this is more about visualizing your healthier, fitter self. What do you want to look like? Feel like? Imagine it and remind yourself of that each and every time you are tempted to skip your workout or even eat un-healthily. Which image would you rather date? Or hang out with? Be?

Look at your old or current self– In addition to your new image, remind yourself what you don’t want to look like.Keep a “fat” photo of yourself close by at all times. When you feel tempted to avoid workouts look at it. Is this really what you want to be?

Find a deeper reason– Looks are not everything, even though they we’d be lying if we said they didn’t matter. But, there are deeper and more important things in life: family, friends, health, happiness. Pick one or more of these and remind yourself of them every time you want to slack. Maybe it’s the grandson you want to see graduate high school or the ability to golf (or live) past 45.

The photos are ones of me (the first poorly manipulated) to illustrate the first two principles. If anyone has any more tips that work for you, please share in the comments.

jonskinny

Workout Tip #5: Get Motivated!

Motivation…whether it’s to clean our room or mow our lawn, it’s not easy and to be honest, it’s probably not the same for everyone. But, motivation has to be at the root of successful workouts. As I mentioned in a previous post, you can’t even start to exercise if you don’t get to the gym, get off the couch, etc. I know it sounds very mental and working out is supposed to be physical, but inspiration is just as important as perspiration when it comes to losing weight (my apologies to Thomas Edison).

Admittedly, I am to the point now where I am simply motivated as a matter of fact. I don’t say this to brag, but I don’t really think about it; I simply do it. But, it wasn’t always that way. Unless working out has become a life habit, motivation remains an important component. So, here are a few of my suggested motivational tips (note: I’ve not actually used all of these, but figure they’d be good). Today I’m going to discuss more short term tips and next week, I’ll write part two which will detail more long term motivational tips.

Short Term:

Visualize it– Visualize what you want to accomplish at that very moment. If your goal is to go to the gym, then don’t let yourself even consider going home to sit on the couch. Keep focused and see yourself at the gym, on the bike, etc.

Filter out the noise– Life is really busy and it’s easy to think that all the little things pulling at us are more important than working out. Remove the deadlines, the home stress, and everything else from your mind. Exercise (which helps focus anyway) should be a big priority, which means that the little things vying for our daily attentions should not lead us to avoid exercise.

Remind yourself of the immediate benefits– I overheard a guy at the YMCA say how he’s never (except when sick) left the YMCA feeling worse than when he came in. He meant that although it may have been a pain to drag himself in, he always felt better after exercising. I can completely affirm his statement. Remind yourself of the immediate, great feeling that you get when you workout.

More coming next week, so check back!

Workout Tip#3: Just Show Up

Heath Road was the point of no return. If, on my way to the YMCA, I could cross the threshold of Health Road, I knew a solid workout was in my future. Heath Road was important because a left turn followed by a quick right turn onto Wilson Mills Rd. led to my old house. So, after a full day as a high school teacher, the choice was difficult: turn onto Heath and end up on the couch or in front of the computer or keep going to the YMCA. Usually, I just went forward, but occasionally the pull of doing nothing was too much.

The point of this post? Sometimes the most important thing you can do regarding your exercise program is just show up. I’ve never gotten to the YMCA and just left. When I was there, I figured I should workout, even if it wasn’t for a terribly long time. I think that is true for most people. Just getting to the gym to work out is half the battle.

In fact, this is why I prefer to work out at the gym and not at home: because my house has a variety of uses, the gym has one. At home, I’m constantly distracted with other choices and temptations. I don’t always “show up” like I do when I go to the YMCA. There, it’s pretty much working out or nothing. At home, it’s working out or eating or the computer or the TV or the dishes or…you get the point.

To be successful at fitness, you may have to identify the “Heath Roads” in your life. What is keeping you from getting to the gym and working out?

Mowing the Yard Is Exercise

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I can’t afford to get a riding mower at this point, so I use a hand-mower. In fact, even though mowing my yard is sometimes a huge pain in the you-know-what, I kind of look forward to it. Besides getting a little sun to make some Vitamin D, mowing is a good “off day” exercise for me. In fact, since my yard is fairly big, in an hour and a half, according to Fit Day, I burn 620 calories. I would basically have to run 5.5 miles at my normal speed to burn a similar number of calories!