Monday, June 22, 2015

Motivation Dedication

     Motivation, the reason, or reasons, one has for acting or behaving in a particular way. The dictionary labels motivation as a noun. I suppose it must be since it is a thing. If you ask people what motivates them to exercise you will receive varied and interesting responses. Almost everybody who is exercising because of somebody else. For some the body is the temple of God. For others, it is to be healthier and more active with family and friends. Being eye-candy and feeling sexier were also mentioned.
     The responses to this question seemed to involve being there for others. This is a great motivator particularly when those others are your immediate family. I come up with, find, and commit to working out for my family, eye-candy for my wife, general eye-candy, and ego as being excellent motivators. I am also competitive and want to be able to go at lest as far, as fast, and as hard core as people half my age. But, getting to this point took re-framing my initial view of working out.
     Motivation is great for the initial jump. It is the kick in the guts that really gets us moving on a run schedule. But, motivation, like fires, will burn out. What happens next? What do you do? You dig deeper and find dedication.
     Dedication is defined as being dedicated to a cause or an activity. Dedicated is being devoted, single-mindedly, to a goal or purpose; allocating time, energy, and all other needed resources to a particular goal, purpose, or service. Dedication to yourself is the key.
     Dedication is everywhere in our lives. We are dedicated to a project at work. We are dedicated to our children. We are dedicated to our friends and family and they are dedicated to us. In fitness, as in any other aspect of your life, you must take care of yourself. You must first love yourself. Then, you can take care of yourself.
     Dedication requires courage. The bottom line here is courage. Motivation and dedication vital to the formula, but without courage it will all fall apart.
     The kind of courage that I am talking about is from love, not just being afraid to do something and doing it anyway. The kind of courage that this takes is what the Greeks wrote about. What they held dear in their heroes and legends. The kind of stuff that writers of legend and lore like Homer from the age of lyric wrote about. The great endurance embodied in his heroes. A driving will to resist obstacles that were thrown into his path at every turn can inspire us today. Some days we feel like we need that. This will to continue, this kind of endurance, is not just for the outward enemies that Homer wrote about or that veterans of all wars have.
     This will, this inner strength, this courage, is aimed at inward passions and misfortune in general as well as the outside elements. These intangible enemies can be just as deadly and destructive as any met on beachheads and mountainsides. The courage, the heart to keep going forward at home, with family and, especially, inside oneself is the hardest courage to find on most days. But, it is the type that you already have and live every day whether you know it or not.
     Above, we mentioned your family and friends. You do almost everything for them and they for you. No questions asked. Well, there are the occasional, “Are you out of your mind?!” questions and looks. Still, by and large, there is a core group that falls into the You-Call-I-Haul category.
     Now, show yourself this kind of courage and dedication. Seriously. Many of us have a difficult time doing this. If someone you trust and love is willing to do that for you, aren't you worth doing it for yourself?

     This is ironness of heart, from the Oddyssey and the Illiad. This ironness is love. That is what drives us to greater achievements than any mindset alone ever could. It was no mindset by which Shakespeare wrote any sonnet. It was by no mindset that a squad member or platoon member ever ran back into a hail of gunfire and explosions to grab a wounded buddy. No, these were done from the heart, out of love. Courage, from love, is what gives the true warrior his heart. Love is what makes a mother such a formidable force.
     Bottom line? Love yourself enough to invest the blood, sweat, and tears into you that you would invest in your family or battle buddies without a second thought.
     Love your self enough to go that extra mile. To get to the gym even though you really don't feel like it. You show strength in the face of great pain or grief for your children. Now do it for you.

     It's 95+ degrees outside. I am going to the track to do my push ups, pull ups, sit ups, squats, and other aerobic training. I am going to do this because I want to be there for the people who need me. That list starts with Me and my Family.

What is your courage?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Positive Thinking For Health

      How much of what we say to ourselves is negative? How does that impact us? Our family? Our children?
      We all have our down times. Those moments, or days, when everything is dark. No matter what happens we see things negatively. Depression. Some of us look at the world through the eyes of doubt as a regular thing, the pessimist. “Well, Marc, one person's pessimist is another person's realist,” you might be tempted to say. But, I ask you, what impact does this life view have on your health? How does it impact your body? Can changing how you look at the world change your health?
      There are several studies that tell us positivity, optimism, can improve the quality and longevity of our lives. Let's look at that a little.

Live longer
      Rather than just falling apart, positive outlooks enable people to overcome and persevere in the darkest of situations; optimists look at what they can do and do that. This is a lesson taught at military survival schools. Look for what you can do and focus on that. This is resilience. It also manifests in our immunity system.
      If you can improve how you view the world and the circumstances you find yourself in, you can improve your body's immunity. These studies show those with positive emotions about how they are doing in important areas of their lives have better resistance to infections. Positivity actually strengthens our immune system while negativity weakens it. This is not a cure-all, but if it can help keep the flu away, it's worth smiling more.
      You can handle stress better and outperform negative attitudes. How is that? By being able to look at the situation and seeing what went right and how to change what went wrong you can readjust what is being done and move forward.
      Mark Divine, a former Navy SEAL writes, in his book The Way of the SEAL, described fast forward failure. Understand that failures happen. All the time. SEALS hit snags in every operation. Business leaders hit shags in every deal. None of those snags matter. What matters is how people deal with them. When the failure hits, these elites look at what went wrong and, rather than finding who to blame, they find the way to go forward and succeed. You will be better able to see the big picture and identify solutions as you move forward.
      As you get better at doing this fast forward failure you will make better decisions under pressure. It takes practice. Positivity takes practice. As you practice you will also find that you have happier long-term relationships.
      Optimism to positive self-esteem to success to optimism is a cycle of thought habit
. It really does not matter which way you take the cycle, just so long as you take it and begin. It is a learned habit. Start with small things and small successes and work your way up, building confidence. Mark Divine, a former Navy SEAL writes, in his book The Way of the SEAL, that every night as SEAL candidates went to bed they were taught to focus on their successes from that day. In so doing, they built a wellspring of confidence to draw upon when things became tougher. …

Use this as a triangle of good mental health
and self talk during a workout, during the day, or whenever you may need a gentle reminder. This is something that is both positive and healthy to model and teach to our children. I am using this triangle and the lessons from
Mark Divine in my house on a daily basis. They help me and my children.

Confidence to Achieve and Succeed
      We need to have confidence in that we are supposed to be happy, that we deserve to enjoy and benefit from what we have worked for. Otherwise, we are living a life of drudgery, slogging from one day to the next. This is the embodiment of low self-esteem.
      Low self-esteem leaves us vulnerable to negative thoughts and ideas such as not being good enough, self-distrust and leads to lower creativity and productivity. Those who live in this state, and I have been one, just go through the motions of life, doing what they have to do to get by. Just get by, nothing more.
High self-confidence brings empowerment, energy, motivation, the world is open and full of challenges and opportunities. Granted, these people are hard to handle until I have had some coffee in the morning, but it is better to be one than not.

Things Suck, Now What
      Life has just kicked you in the jewels. I don't know what this looks like, but you do. Your challenges are yours. But, what can we do to get out of that ditch?

Focus on the Good
      Not easy, believe me, I know how hard this is to do. Still it is extremely important. Remember some of those things that you are really grateful for when you are flying high? Yeah, those. Write some of them down. Look at that list of blessings and people that are all around you when you are in that dark place.
      It is natural to focus on the negative. Ignoring problems does not make them go away; however, dwelling on them does not make solutions appear.
      I am not going to lie to you, this is going to be difficult when you are down. But, it will also be well worth it. Perhaps there is a smell that you find particularly pleasant. Go find that. Scent is the most powerful memory stimulant. Find that scent and connect again to that happy memory and its joy.
      Write a Daily Blessing Journal. Each day you write down a few things that made your day really great, or even just a few moments of it splendid. Something to refer back to when you need it.
      Stop and do something that you really enjoy. Step away from the chaos, go to your favorite coffee shop or cafe, book nook, or whatever and indulge for 15 or 30 minutes. Take a few minutes to reset yourself.
      Focus on someone else. No, I am not saying that you should stalk anyone! But, perhaps, you should focus on someone else and make sure that they are having a pleasant time. By taking the focus off of yourself and putting onto someone outside you change your thoughts. Your actions also bring about the release of feel good hormones in your brain. So, this is a double tap on the feel good actions.
      Expressing gratitude. Just saying thank you and putting a smile on your face, even when you dont feel like it, will tell your brain that you must release something inside to change what you are feeling in your brain. The positive neurotransmitters, called serotonin, will be released in small amounts. Resulting in a slightly better mood.
      Positive affirmations do work. As goofy as it sounds, they work and you should use them. In Napoleon Hill's book, Think and Grow Rich, these are part of his plan. They have been used for more than 100 years and are still in use today because they work.

Final Thought
      Tigers, the most successful land hunter on the planet in the animal kingdom, has a kill rate of … 80%. Tigers, the deadliest land based killers, miss their meals 20 out of 100 times. 20 out of 100 times these 700+ pound magnificent beasts go hungry. Yet, they still go on. So will you.

Teach this to your children. Model this in your family and life. See how much healthier you will be for it.

Friday, June 12, 2015


     Pressed for time? Want to work out, but not sure what to do to get the best bang for your buck? Looking to improve your muscle strength and cardio? Looking to make changes:? Changes for the better? Changes to loose that fat? Changes to get stronger?
     This week I will address these questions and provide a simple routine that will work the largest muscle groups, the greatest amount of supporting muscles, and get your heart pumping. There are two aspects to weight loss and fitness that we need to address. Those two are cardio and muscle mass and how they impact your weight loss goals.
     What is your metabolism? Your metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories. It changes its rate throughout the day and throughout our lives/ It varies also based on whether you are man or woman. Men tend to have a higher metabolic rate than women of the same age. Sorry, ladies, it's nothing personal.
     Age related changes also occur. At a point in our lives we start losing muscle mass and start putting on fat due to changes in metabolism. At around 25 our bodies change. Our metabolism does a downshift. It begins to slow down at a rate of 2%, or maybe a little more, per decade. If we do not make appropriate changes to our input or output, we will gain weight.
     That works out like this. A man eating 2,000 calories a day and maintaining a healthy weight up until 25 os going to have to make one of two changes after age 25. He will either have to take in 1,960 calories per day or burn 40 to 50 more calories per day. A woman of the same age eating 1,800 calories at the same age would need to make a change that looks like 1,764 calories or burning off 36 to 45 more calories per day.
     In a nutshell, that is how to address your weight gain by adjusting your diet. But, who really wants to eat less and less over the course of their life? I mean, really? Slowly cutting your intake down to cheese and a slice of sausage on a cracker? That's no way to live. Besides, calorie reduction sends the body into a starvation response. This response takes muscle tissue for the calories necessary to keep functioning. Not good.

Effecting Changes in Your Metabolism Through Exercise via Cardio and Building Muscle
     Essentially, we burn calories every time we move. But, I am not going to go into that minutia. I am, however, going to look at the cardio aspect of weight loss. Aerobic activity, an exercise that gets us breathing heavy and our heart pumping for an extended period of time, is going to use fat stores while exercising. Here's how that works.
     Muscle glycogen, which stores energy, is broken down into glucose. This glucose goes through the process of glycolysis, a determined sequence of ten enzyme-catalyzed reactions, that reults in pyruvate. This pyruvate then reacts with oxygen to release CO2, water, and release energy. In the case of a lack of oxygen and an increasing intensity in the workout, lactate builds up in the muscles. This causes muscle soreness and, if goes too high, can also cause vomiting.
     When glycogen levels in the blood stream fall, the liver releases glucose. Fat is then used at a higher rate in order to fuel the aerobic pathways.
     Studies show that 65% of your maximum aerobic capacity is going to use the most fat stores possible for the duration of your exercise period. Calculating your VO2, the amount of oxygen you take in compared to the amount you exhale, is beyond the scope of this particular piece. So, we will revisit that another time. Still, you should be breathing heavy, but not so much that you can not talk to your training partner. Think about singing cadence. If you are breathing to hard to sing a few lines of running cadence then ease back on the throttle, you are going to hard. If you exercise too hard your body will keep burning glycogen and not the fat.

Cardio/Aerobic For Fat Loss
     Cardio/Aerobic is no longer just running forever. Interval style training is the preferred method for fat loss. Intervals combine muscle building, intense activity, and getting your heart and lungs working well above normal. But, we'll get to that later.
     If cardio/aerobic is not the greatest for fat loss, why do it? What's in it for me? There are several reasons why this is an important activity to include in your training. It lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease. It floods your brain with chemicals that improve functions like memory, problem solving, and decision making. It spurs the release of “feel good” hormones into your brain.
     If, like me, you take part in other physical sports like grappling and kick boxing, you need that aerobic capacity to outlast your opponents. Running is still one of the best ways to get that. Jumping rope is a close second, not to mention the coordination and balance training you get with this. I love jumping rope!
     Movement is great! Keep moving and you are burning more calories with each movement. Cardio is not just laps on the track, but a mix of sprints, squat thrusts, push ups, pull ups, and other body movements that can be mixed in between the sprints. Exercises that are done in such a way so that your heart rate and respiration are elevated, hence aerobic.
     That being said, let's address the muscle building aspect of this.

Muscle Building For Fat Loss
     Resting metabolism burns 30% of the calories taken in over the course of the day. Increasing the resting rate by increasing the lean muscle mass increases the resting metabolic rate. Scientist know that a modest increase, such as 2-3%, in our resting metabolism could end up reversing the age related fat and weight gain.
     How we will do that is by improving the quality and quantity of lean muscle in our bodies. Yes, we. I have a routine at the end of this article that I am doing right now, and enjoying thoroughly. The challenge that I am inviting you to accept is to complete three months.
     Anyway, the goal is to increase our resting metabolism by increasing our quality of lean muscle and the density of that muscle. The reason is because that muscle requires more calories to exist. Muscle burns 6 calories per pound for its existence. If you increase your bodyweight by 10 pounds of lean muscle that means that you will burn 60 extra calories per day. I wish that it were more, I really do. Still, that's 60 calories right off the top. Fat, on the other hand, takes only 2 calories per pound to exist.
     What this means is more lean, solid muscle will require the consumption of more calories just to exist. This is why building muscle is so important to the weight loss process. Now, keep this in mind about fat and muscle; being denser than fat, muscle weighs more. While you train and are building lean muscles you may see an increase in weight.
     To the left you see what five pounds of fat looks like compared to five pounds of muscle. I think that clearly illustrates it.

    Below is a bodyweight routine that you can do just about anywhere that has a place to do pull ups. I use pull up handles that I an hook on a bar that is on the back of the bleachers at the local high school, there are several parks and playgrounds nearby.

Routine: Level 1 3x (24 minutes), Level 2 5x (40 minutes), Level 3 7x (58 minutes)
Each set is one cycle through. Start with Pull Ups, select one of the 3 cardio choices and stick with that choice for the duration of the workout, and do each event for 1 minute. Each cycle is 8 sets with 30 seconds rest between each exercise.

Pull Ups
Jump Rope, Jumping Jacks, or Running in Place
Push Ups
Jump Rope, Jumping Jacks, or Running in Place
Bicycle Crunches or Sit Ups
Jump Rope, Jumping Jacks, or Running in Place
Jump Rope, Jumping Jacks, or Running in Place

     The first month we are doing this challenge is Level 1. The second month is Level 2. The last month, Level 3. Time durations are listed above at 24, 40, and 58 minutes.
     There is a very specific reason behind the choice in selecting the exercises for this routine. The cardio events are outstanding at getting and keeping your heart rate at a good level. Pull ups, push up, and squats are the exercises of choice because of their being compound exercises. That is to say, they involve more than one joint and more than one muscle group.
These particular selections will hit practically every muscle in your entire body. We are all getting a head to toe work out that is effective and efficient. It will turn your metabolism into a fat burning furnace and give you the lean, muscled body you want.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Benefits and Importance of Stretching Are No Stretch

     Better flexibility brings better performance in your chosen field of athletics. It decreases your risk of injury through moving your joints about its full range of motion. Stretching also enables your muscles to work at higher levels of efficiency. Stretching also increases blood flow to your muscles. In this it helps with recovery from exercise by speeding nutrients into your muscles and lactic acid out. Stretching should be done at a minimum of three times per week.
      Improves range of motion in joints and muscles – how far a muscle/joint can move without injury; We get this by applying constant pressure to a muscle group in order to lengthen it. This lengthening improves the range of motion and reduces the stiffness and soreness. You should not, however, stretch after your workout, just before.

Warm up then stretch
      First, warm up. Get your blood pumping a bit and your muscles loosened up some in order to elevate your core temperature. This has neuromuscular benefits as it improves the brain-body connection and function. This can also psychologically get you pumped up for your routine. Warm ups also help to increase metabolism (prime the pump to burn more calories). Studies have proven that warming up and doing passive stretches, that it is not bouncing but holding the static stretch, improve muscular performance during your workout. The result is that your muscles work at higher levels of efficiency.

Improves muscular coordination
      Nerve-muscle impulse, or the time it takes for messages to get from your brain to your muscles, is a factor in how our body moves. Say that you are having a hard time walking due to stumbling or tripping over your feet. This may be due to brain messages not being transmitted effectively to the muscles in your legs.

Here are some Do Nots to keep in mind
  • Stretch the muscle groups that you will be using
  • Do NOT bounce, hold the stretch for 30 seconds
  • Do not try to balance and stretch. Yes, it is fun and a great way to show off. It is also a great way to fall on your kiester, get hurt, and sideline yourself early on in your fitness routine.

      Do stretch for tension, not pain. If you are experiencing pain, as in. “Oh, now that is NOT right.” Stop. See your doctor. Stretching will, as in must be and will be, done daily. At least, I am going to be doing the stretches herein daily. It's part of my challenge to me and to you.

Warm up
Fast Walking 10 minutes Or Jump Rope 3 minutes
Jumping Jacks 25
Seal Jacks 25
– This requires some explanation. It will also require some getting used to and a good bit of laughing at yourself as you get accustomed to this. The only difference between these and jumping jacks is what you do with your arms. You start out with your feet together and your arms out straight in front of you, hands together. When you jump and spread your feet apart you spread your arms out your sides so that you would look something like a starfish. You jump up and pull your feet together and you swing your arms together out in front of you just as you did when you started. Please, keep your arms as straight as possible throughout the exercise.

Standing Side Bend
     This stretch will work on your Abdominal Obliques which are located between your floating ribs and the tops of your hip bones.
          Stand with your feet together and reach up over you head with both
hands, put your hands palm together. Interlace your fingers and point your index fingers if you have to in order to keep your hands together. Inhale as you point and stretch upwards, exhale as you bend to your right side. Take 5 slow breaths then return to the middle. Repeat on the left.

Forward Hang
     This stretch will work your frontal deltoids and your rotator cuff. The deltoids are your shoulder muscles and are in three parts or heads. The rotator cuff is the thin and vitally important layer of connective tissue that provides smooth and painless movement for this ball and socket joint. Believe me, you do NOT want to go through ANY kind of joint pain here.
     Reach behind you and put your hands together with your fingers interlaced. If you can't mange this, you can use a small towel. It's all good, you're working on it! Feet should be shoulders width apart. Now, bending at the hips, lean forward, exhale, and raise your hands towards your head. This movement is done at the shoulder and is where you will feel some stretching.
     The below picture shows the beginning portion for illustrative purposes. Start here and then bend forward at the hips and try to allow gravity to bring your hands toward your head while keeping your arms straight.

Seated Back Twist
      This is mainly for the Erector Spine. These are the muscles that are along each side of your spinal column. Their purpose it to keep your spine erect and flexible. There are a multitude of things going on back there, as this picture plainly shows. As anyone who has had back problems can attest to, as well. Which is why it is vitally important to maintain a healthy and strong back. If you have ANY problems with this one before trying it, see your doctor. I do NOT want you to aggravate an already existing issue.
      Honestly, this is one of my favorites! It has helped me out of SO much back pain over the years. Sit down and extend your left leg. Cross your right leg over your left so that your right foot is as close to your left hip as possible. Place your left elbow on the right side of your right knee. Press back with your left elbow lightly. This should be forcing you to twist tightly to the right. It should be tight and make breathing a little difficult due to that tightness. Hold this for 5 slow breaths and then repeat on the other side.

Quad Stretch
     The Quadriceps are the four muscles that make up your thigh.
      Standing near something for support, reach behind you with your right hand and grab your left foot. Gently pull up on your left foot and hold it steady. You should feel and look somewhat like a bow without an arrow. Hold this for 30 seconds. Do it 2 or 3 times and then repeat on the other leg.

     What we call the Hamstring is the Bicep Femoris, Semitendinosis, and the Semimebranosus. These muscles are located on the back of the leg opposite the thigh muscles.
      Stand with your feet together. Do not lock your knees in this, but keep them just slightly bent. Bend at the hips and let your upper body hang down. Reach a little bit further. Hold this for 30 seconds. Repeat this two more times.

Calf Stretch
     The calf is the meaty portion of your lower leg. It's also the spot where many of us get the dreaded and hated Charlie Horse … I know that is where I get them when I do get them …
      Stand one or two steps from a wall or telephone pole or something stable. Step in with one foot and keep the heel of the back foot down. Also, keep that back leg straight and in line with your hips and shoulders. Lean in towards the wall, or whatever you're using. You can have your hands up on that vertical surface. If you don't feel a gentle, tight pull in your calf you need to move your back foot further back and try it again. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat 2 more times.

Chest Stretch
     Pectoralis Major and Minor are your chest muscles.
      Lift one arm up so that your upper arm is straight out to the side and your forearm is straight up in the air. Place the upright portion of your arm against the wall, pole or whatever you used for the calf stretch. Now, turn so that you feel the stretch across the muscle of your chest. That is the pectoral muscle. Hold this for 5 slow breaths then repeat on the other side.

Lat Stretching
     Latisimus Dorsi are the large muscles that go from the back of your shoulders down to the base of your spine. They also wrap inwards from around your rib cage.
      Stand with your feet a little more than shoulders width. Raise your right arm over your head and grab your right wrist with your left hand. Bend to your left side and pull on your right arm with your left hand. Hold for 5 slow breaths then repeat on the other side.

      This stretching routine is to be done as part of a daily workout routine, as I alluded to above. One that I will be doing as part of a video fitness blog and posting soon. I really hope to see you there. Please, join me on what will be a 2 month trek to better flexibility, strength, and stamina.
      At any rate, please consider the importance of stretching and how you could integrate it into your daily routine. Apply these simple stretches so that you may find and enjoy more flexibility and less pain in your daily life and mobility.

      Happy living!