Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Where Do We Get Our Salt?

So after reading my post about why too much salt in your diet can cause an elevated blood pressure, today we are going to look at the hidden ways we get salt in our diets without even knowing it. (If you missed my post on the effects salt has on bp, find it here.)

Most people think the key to limiting dietary salt intake is to limit the use of the salt shaker.

But alas, as with the Transformers, in this situation there is much more than meets the eye.

The amount of salt that we add to the food that we eat is minimal for most, and even insignificant for some. How come then, does the average American consume close to 5,000 mg every day, which is about twice the recommended amount?

Simple answer, processed food. When food is processed, lots of changes take place that effect the quality of the food. An often overlooked result of the processing is the amount of salt added to help preserve the food and prevent it from spoiling. This excess salt, which often is barely even tasted, makes up the majority of salt that we consume in our modern diet.

Don't believe me? Let's look into this a little more closely. Stouffer's makes a frozen lasagna that comes completely pre-made, all you have to do is pop it in the oven and you've got a seemingly healthy, almost home-cooked meal.

But when you look at the nutrition facts, there are a couple of numbers that are a bit startling, to say the least. The amount of fat found in a single serving of the frozen lasagna contains 20% of the daily recommended fat content. While this is a little scary, it is not completely unreasonable since there is so much cheese and ground beef in the lasagna. The amount of salt (sodium) however, is almost unbelievable. Stouffer's lasagna has 671 mg of sodium in a single serving, which is an astounding 28% of your recommended daily amount!

The reason this is a troubling situation is simple, when you eat a piece of lasagna, it doesn't taste salty. So without even knowing it, you are getting a whole lot of salt in one meal eating something that doesn't even taste salty.

Stealth salt can attack you from many fronts, but did you know it can attack you even when you are making a viable attempt at eating healthy? Case in point, canned green beans from Green Giant.

Now let me be clear, I'm not campaigning against green beans or any kind of canned vegetables. While canned varieties aren't perfect, you can make a lot worse food choices than canned green beans. What this example illustrates, however, is the importance of reading labels and acknowledging that processed food has some sneaky ingredients, and excess sodium is chief among them.

So while a can of green beans has plenty of health benefits, be aware that a serving has 16% of the daily amount of salt in it, which is 380 mg. A number like that is certainly too big to ignore.

Then there is the king of hidden fat and salt when it comes to processed foods: fast food establishments. McDonald's food is so processed that you can set a happy meal on the counter at room temperature for months, and it will not break down. If that doesn't scare you a little bit, take a look at some of their numbers. A McDonald's double cheeseburger has 1150 mg of salt. A Big Mac has 1040 mg. 5 chicken strips have 1240 mg of salt. All of these items, which are some of the most ordered foods on the menu, have almost half of your daily salt content.

And you still haven't eaten any French fries.

A large order of French fries only has about 350 mg of salt, a relatively small amount since the fries actually taste salty. However, since most people add more salt to their fries when we get them, the actual amount of sodium in a McDonald's meal is likely between 1500-2000 mg, which is an admirable daily maximum, not a singular meal total.

Salt is great. It makes our foods taste better, and our bodies need it to function properly. However, like many things, too much of a good thing isn't good.

Now that you know why too much salt elevates your blood pressure, and where most of the salt we eat comes from, hopefully you will start to make some changes to your diet to limit the salt you consume. Stay tuned for my next post, where we will look at some ways to make great tasting foods at home without using too much salt.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why Does Limiting Your Salt Intake Help Lower Your BP?

Having high blood pressure can be a precursor of a number of other medical problems, which explains why so many people keep an eye on their blood pressure readings. It has even gotten to the point where many department stores and pharmacies have blood pressure readers available for customers to measure their blood pressures while they are shopping. The machines tell people that a 'normal' blood pressure should be 120/80, and that if your numbers are above that you may want to try to lower it.

So, how do you go about lowering your blood pressure? Most doctors first instruction is to limit salt intake.

The obvious follow up question that begs to be answered, however, is what does salt have to do with blood pressure?

In its simplest form, salt causes your body to retain water, which increases the volume of blood in the body. Since the amount of arterial space remains the same, the increase in volume is directly proportional to the increase in pressure.

By limiting salt intake you are able to prevent the increase of blood volume, and therefore help to prevent a rise in blood pressure. And by decreasing your blood pressure, you are able to decrease your risk of many chronic diseases such as stroke, heart attack, arterial aneurisms, among others.

So the next time you go to the drug store, take a minute to sit down at the blood pressure machine to get a reading. And if the reading comes back a little high, think twice before you reach for the salt shaker at your next meal.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Business Profile

DK FitSolutions has been profiled on the business start up site Shoe String Venture. The profile gives a brief explanation of what we do and the services we offer, and provides some advice to others that are thinking of launching their own businesses in the future.

Check out our profile here.

Quick Test

I got a new blogging app for the iPad, that will hopefully allow me to do a better job posting every couple of days. Just giving it a shot to see how it works.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Surviving The Holidays

As Thanksgiving Day here in the United States rapidly approaches, there are more "how to avoid unhealthy eating during the holiday season" articles than you can shake a stick at.

I kind of get sick of reading them, to be honest, yet I'm going to add another bit of holiday eating advice to the ever-growing list.

However, I think my thoughts might contradict every other health-slant piece of advice out there. And here's why, cause I'm going to tell you to eat. Don't worry about calorie count, fat content, or anything else. Thanksgiving is rooted in feasting on the bounty that the Earth has provided, and even if we get more food out of a can than from the ground these days, let's still enjoy the bounty.

A word of warning, though, before you get too food crazy. Thanksgiving is a one day holiday, not a four day one. Feast on Thursday. Eat like a king. Have a second piece of pie with two scoops of ice cream.

You'll be ok.

But on Friday, the holiday is over. Enjoy the leftovers as they are available, but enjoy them sensibly. No need to over overdo it two days in a row. Mix in a little salad with your green bean casserole. Maybe only have one side instead of stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and corn bread.

You see, the reason for holiday weight gain isn't a one day feast, it's the four day bender. Keep things under control after Thanksgiving, and you'll have a head start on the goal of not gaining any weight between now and the New Year.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

You're Never Too Old to Run

Sometimes people say things, and all you can do is stop, scratch your head, and say "huh?"

I feel like the time that this happens most often to me is when the topic is me running another marathon. While saying I'm a marathon runner might be a bit of an untruth, I have successfully finished the only two races I've ever attempted, which is an accomplishment I'll be proud of for as long as I can still lace up my Asics.

While I was training for my first marathon two years ago, I had one of those head scratching "huh" moments while talking with my parents. My dad said something to the effect of "Are you sure about this? You know, people die from the stress of running marathons."

Huh? Sure, every once in a while a marathoner dies while completing a race. And if legend holds true, the Greek soldier did drop dead after running from the Battle of Marathon to the assembly in Athens. But really, dad, let's compare the ratio of marathon running fatalities to that of those who die of a sedentary lifestyle.

I think I'll take my chances with running.

Turns out, I'm not the only person willing to take on the "inherent health risks" associated with marathon running. According to Joy Johnson, 84, the "risk" of running isn't enough to keep her from continuing her streak of 24 consecutive New York City marathons. "I want to keep running as long as I can and drop in my running shoes when the time comes," she recently told Janice Lloyd from the USA Today. Joy is one of 2,634 runners age 60 or older that is running New York this year.

The positive effects all this running has on these elder runners is impressive, to say the least. Ms. Johnson's bones are so dense after 25 years of distance running that Stanford researches thought the results of a recent bone density test can back wrong. Not only were the results correct, but the strength of her bones is directly attributed to her healthy diet and physical exercise, as Johnson takes no bone strengthening supplements. Running, as well as most any type of higher intensity activity, has also been shown to improve cholesterol levels, muscle strength, and body composition, as well as a host of other effects. While there can be some aches and pains associated with running, the positive effects far outweigh and far outlast any negative ones.

The moral of the story is simple, you're never too old to start running. As with anything, there will be some growing pains, but they are nothing that can't be overcome. And whatever reason you may be hiding behind is just an excuse. Asked about the aches and pains she experiences, Ms. Johnson replies that she does have a little arthritis, but "who doesn't over age 30?"

Kind of hard to argue with that logic, eh?

To read more about Joy and other older folks running for their health, check out the article here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On-Line Pesrsonal Training:Pros and Cons

There is a lot of confusion out there concerning what exactly an on-line personal trainer provides to his or her clients. While the price is certainly affordable, people need to be assured that they are still getting a good value for their investment. Below, find a list of the benefits a good on-line personal trainer can provide, as well as the few ways in which an in person personal trainer is superior. Then, compare the two lists and decide if the pricey option is what you need, or if you think that a good on-line personal trainer will be able to help you meet your fitness goals while saving you hundreds of dollars along the way.


1: Price. This can not be over emphasized. An on-line trainer can give you years of knowledge and experience at a price you can afford.

2: Accessability. An on-line personal trainer is likely to be available most times of the day. Certainly there are some instances of unavailability, but with the prevalence of smart phones you can expect a reply from an on-line personal trainer whether by phone, text, or email within a few hours. If you need to get in touch with your personal trainer and he or she isn't at the gym, it may be a couple days until you get your feedback.

3: Information. The Internet is full of information, and if the on-line personal trainer knows his or her clients, it will be very easy to pass on relevant information in a very timely manner. For a personal trainer in a gym to provide all f his or her clients with relevant articles and information, he or she would be wearing out the photocopier. And most people aren't going to read the article at the gym anyway, but many would click on a link that comes from a trusted adviser.

4: Mobile. If you travel for work or pleasure, there is no way to take your personal trainer with you to advise you about working out on the go. If you have a good relationship with an on-line personal trainer, when you get to a hotel that has an on site "fitness facility", which is seldom very complete, you can send an email listing what equipment is available. Soon, you will get a reply giving you a workout routine that will help you meet your goals and utilizes the equipment that is available. Another benefit that falls into this category concerns people moving. If either the client or the personal trainer moves to a new city, their relationship is severed. As long as you still have Internet access, your relationship with your on-line personal trainer can go on for years.


1: Form. When working directly with a personal trainer, the personal trainer is able to watch your form and help you correct it on the spot. He or she is also able to adjust the weight being used on the fly to either push the client harder or back off if the resistance is too difficult. With an on-line personal trainer, the client must handle these tasks on his or her own.

SOLUTION:To help prevent bad form, I post photos and videos of the exercises I am recommending on-line so you are able to know the proper way to perform the exercises. Also, you are always welcome to send me a video of you performing an exercise for me to critique, or we can Skype or use face time to make any corrections in that way.

2: Accountability. Meeting with a personal trainer at the gym is a motivator for some, especially if they are going to have to pay whether they go to the gym or not. With an on-line personal trainer, you have to keep yourself accountable about maintaining your workouts.

SOLUTION:If accountability is the biggest challenge to improving your health, I will make it a point to keep you on track. If you need a phone call or a text every day to make sure you are working out, I'll do that for you.

At the end of the day, there are a number of options out there for people that want to improve their health. What you need to do is figure out what works best from you, and stay diligent so as to make the most out of your decision.

How healthy you are is ultimately up to you, and I'd be honored to help you along your way.

If you would like to explore the possibility of us forming a working relationship, please check out www.dkfitsolutions.com for more information and to get the ball rolling.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stress Busting

The world that we live in is so fast paced, that sometimes it feels that if you're not fighting to get ahead you are completely losing ground. Sometimes, it feels like you're loosing ground even when you're trying to get ahead. Ergo, it really shouldn't be much of a surprise that we struggle to take some time to just enjoy the moment and separate ourselves from the fast pace of modern life.

And that is exactly what my wife and I are doing today. We have some friends in town from TN, and we are enjoying an afternoon with them at one of the Disney resorts. Even though there is plenty of stuff to do at home, and even though I'm missing the Lions game, I feel so at peace as I sit here in the shade by the pool. Just watching all of the families enjoying their vacations, and interacting with the girls we are visiting, it's so easy to let many of the cares and concerns of 'real life' just melt away.

So the next time you feel like you have too much stuff to do, don't hesitate to take a step back and smell the roses a little bit. Letting the stress and worry melt away will allow you to be more productive later anyway.

And the relief you will feel will be worth it's weight in gold anyway. I promise.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What's On Your iPod?

Everyone, it seems, has an iPod these days.  Whether it's the newest and fanciest model or something a little older and possibly outdated, for some people an iPod is every bit as important to their workout as good shoes or a sports bra.  This is especially true for many people when they take their workouts out of the gym and do their cardio on the open road.

As someone who has run a marathon both with and without an iPod, I am somewhat on the fence when it comes to "needing" music with you during an extended workout.  Something that absolutely cannot be overlooked when deciding whether or not an iPod is appropriate is the safety aspect of not having music blasting in your ears while you run or bike down the street.  Being able to hear an approaching car, dog, or fellow exerciser can give you an extra second or two of notice to ensure your safety, should a situation ever arise.  The ear buds can also have a subtle impact on the balancing mechanism of your inner ear, which can be a problem if you are riding or running on a trail that may be somewhat uneven.  If you choose to exercise while listening to your iPod, I would recommend you keeping the volume low so you are better able to stay aware of your surroundings. 

If you do decide to use an iPod or other mp3 player, what are you listening to?  The spectrum of options is wide, from listening to books on tape to only having music with a specific number of beats per minute in an attempt to help you run or pedal at an even pace.  As long as you are making the choices of music that you enjoy, you really can't go wrong.  Personally, I like the music on my iPod to be a little more upbeat, especially when I'm an hour or more into a run.  I love a lot of slower music, but when I'm working out and I'm tired, those slow songs don't help. 

So, here are a few songs that I have on my iPod running playlist.  They definitely help me get over the hump when I'm out training for whatever distance race is next up on the horizon.  If you've got other suggestions, feel free to leave a comment for others to check out as well.

1.  "Otis"--Jay-z and Kanye West
2.  "Rolling in the Deep"--Adele
3.  "It's All Been Done"--Barenaked Ladies
4.  "Dog Days are Over"--Florence + the Machine
5.  "Celebrity Skin"--Hole
6.  "Bombs Over Baghdad"--Outkast

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tomato Heaven

If your garden did better than mine did this year, you may have more tomatoes right now than you know what to do with. I picked some up at the farmers market last weekend, and am now obsessed with my new way of eating them.

Best part about this "recipe" is that it takes all of a minute to be ready.

Other best part, it's super healthy. Enjoy.

1. Medium to large tomato (or a couple handfuls of cherry or grape tomatoes)
2. Olive oil
3. Cheese
4. Salt/Pepper

Just chunk the tomato and put the pieces in a bowl.
Drizzle a little olive oil over the tomato pieces.
Add salt and pepper if you want.
Top it all off with a sprinkle of your favorite cheese. My personal favorites are gorgonzola and crumbled blue cheese. Feta would be good too. If you like milder cheese, try some fresh mozzarella.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why is Your Health Important?

Why is improving your health important to you?

The question is simple enough, yet the answer isn't nearly as simple as it would seem. 

So, let me ask again.  Why is improving your health important to you?  The reason this question isn't as simple to answer as you might think is that it is too easy to answer this question in a very vague manner.  And an answer to a question as powerful and as important as this question MUST have a specific answer that resonates with each person.  Ergo, there is no one right answer but there are lots of wrong answers.  If everything goes right, by the end of this post I hope you are able to produce the answer that is right for you.

And if you do, it could change your life.

So, why is improving your health important to you?

The key to answering this question appropriately is to be as specific and personal as possible.  Why should this be so important?  Simple.  This answer is what you are going to use to provide you the inspiration that you need to make the changes necessary to improve your health.  If you don't have a good, specific, and personal reason to make improving your health important to you, it will be really easy to talk yourself out of getting out of bed an hour earlier to go for a run.  Or it will be easy to talk yourself out of taking the stairs instead of the elevator.  And when it comes to portion control, good luck not going back for seconds on dessert if you don't have a good enough reason not to.

Why is improving your health important to you?  Here are some examples of bad answers to this question that I hear a lot.  "To live longer."  "To feel better."  "To get more energy."  "To look better."  On the surface, these may seem like at least decent answers to the question.  But, are any of these answers good enough to hold yourself accountable on the days that you need it most?  I doubt it.

But what if you have a more specific answer to our omnipresent question?  Here are some examples of much more effective answers that will inspire you to stay dedicated to your routine.  "I'm hoping to start a family soon, and being healthy increases the odds of getting pregnant."  "I want to be able to see my son/daughter get married and start a family."  "I want to be around to see my grandchildren graduate high school."  "I want to be able to play with my grandkids."  Answers like these are even more powerful when you are able to put a loved one's name and face along with your reason to improve your health. 

Why is improving your health important to you?  The answer choices are many, but for each of us there are one or two answers that hit home more than any other.  The key to making lasting life changes is to find those answers, and use them as motivation on the days that need them.

If you're serious about improving your health, decide on your reason and get started today.  Need help coming up with a personal reason, or need advice on what steps to take to improve your health?  Check out my website or email me at denny@dkfitsolutions.com.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fall Harvest

For most of the country (except for the poor saps like me that live in Florida), the most delicious time of the year is about to arrive. As fall approaches, crops in fields across the country are ripening up and being harvested.

And that should be excellent news to anyone out there who enjoys healthy, fresh, and local foods.

Fresh, local produce is, in my opinion, the best option to improve the quality of food we are putting on our tables at home. It is also a great way to keep your money circulating in the local economy, though that's another topic for another time. Fresh and local has a huge benefit over grocery store fresh, since it hasn't traveled thousands of miles to get to your house. When produce is harvested to be shipped all over the world, it is often times picked well before it has had a chance to fully ripen. This causes the produce to be less flavorful, and may have an effect on the density of the nutrients. But produce grown locally is much more likely to have been harvested when it is actually ripe, and therefore be more tasty and better for you.

So this weekend, and for the rest of the fall, try to avoid the produce aisle at the grocery store and instead stop by the farmers market or produce stand. And when you do, you will no doubt find better food for you and you family.

To help find farmers markets, CSAs, and produce stands where you live, visit localharvest.org and enter your zip code.   And to read more about the perks of shopping at farmers markets, check out this earlier blog post.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Finding Your Six-Pack

A common goal for many people starting an exercise plan is to work on their abs, with the ultimate goal of developing a six-pack.

What is so often overlooked, and so conveniently omitted in ever ab info-mercial ever made, is that seeing your six-pack doesn't require doing more ab exercises. To see your abs you must cut down on the amount of adipose tissue that your body is storing in that area.

To put it bluntly, you have to lose the belly fat to find the six-pack.

Before you feel like all hope is gone, however, realize that there are ways to lose the weight, it just requires some dedication and self-control.

The biggest way to impact your waistline for most people is to reexamine their diet. In this day and age, it is so easy to consume more calories daily than what we actually need. Whether it is because restaurant portions are out of control or because we drink so many calories from a bottle, there are a multitude of ways to cut back on the number of calories going into our bodies on a daily basis. And if you are able to lower the number of calories going in, your body won't have any excess calories to store as at, which bodes well for your waistline.

Along with calorie control, exercise is also very important to help keep your weight under control. While many people feel that running is the best form of exercise to lose weight, it is far from the only way to get a level of exercise that is good for your health in general, and your abs in particular. Biking, swimming, and walking are all great alternatives to running as a way of burning extra calories. Strength training is another very effective way to burn calories, and has actually been shown to have a longer lasting impact on your metabolism than most forms of cardiovascular exercise. Leisure time activities can also help you burn calories on a regular basis. Playing tennis or racquetball are great forms of fun exercise. Golf is great too, provided you don't spend the entire 18 holes riding in a cart. Most courses are 3-5 miles in length, so if you can walk while playing you will get a great deal of exercise while enjoying a day at the golf course. Even something as fun and easy as playing with your kids or grandkids can provide you with some much needed exercise.

Developing a six-pack is difficult. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you or trying to sell you something--or probably both. But, with some dedication to the plan, it is a totally achievable goal.

Just remember, it won't happen over night and you might need to do a little more than just 8 minutes per day.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

10 years later....

Today, I'd like to take a side-step from the usual health and fitness banter to remember the events that took place 10 years ago. 

For my generation, 9/11/2001 is without a doubt our Kennedy moment.  Or our landing on the moon moment.  Or our Pearl Harbor.  It is a day that I can tell you almost to the minute what I was doing, who I was doing it with, and where we were doing it.  I can also tell you that I very likely was the last person in the United States of America to find out what had happened.  I knew nothing but an ordinary, ho-hum Tuesday, until after 11 o'clock in the morning. 

And at that point, everything changed.

But in looking back on that fateful day, I realize I was hardly immediately effected by the events that took place.  I was in college in Florida at the time.  I had never been to New York City.  And I really didn't know anyone who was immediately impacted by the tragedy.  I realized it was a big deal and that life would never be the same.  This weekend, as millions look back on a day we will never forget, I pray that we as a country can relearn some of the lessons we should have learned that day and on the days that followed, yet for some reason we have completely forgotten.

Remember after the attacks happened, how nice everyone was?  Out in public, people would smile at you, and even say hello.  If you bumped into someone by accident, you'd say excuse me or apologize, and the person would smile and say it was no big deal. 

On a larger scale, it didn't matter if you were democrat or republican, you were American--and that was it.  You could disagree with someone politically, but no one would have dared to attack that person's personality. 

As a country we were unified.

My how the mighty have fallen. 

These days, we take what we want and could care less about the next guy.  Trying to merge on to a busy highway?  Good luck.  Leave a cell phone on a counter or table, odds are someone is taking it to sell on ebay, as opposed to turning it in. 

These days, the President gives a speech to congress, and a member of congress calls the President a liar out loud on the spot.  Not only is this member not reprimanded, he is actually lauded by his party.  These days when it looks like something may get done in a bipartisan way, one party backs out of the deal because they were only able to get 80-90% of what they wanted, not the full 100%.  But if they were getting the full 100%, it wouldn't be bipartisan, would it? 

What happened to the days of Reagan working with Tip O'Neill to get things done?  Or Clinton and Newt Gingrich putting politics aside for the betterment of our country?  Why does it appear that Obama and John Boehner work together as well as oil and water?  Why can't they remember September 12, 2001, when all that mattered was being an American and doing what was best for each other and the country?

So on this day when we watch a special on TV, or notice our favorite football players wearing red, white, and blue cleats, I encourage you to remember the feelings you had on September 11.  And remember the feelings that you had on the 13th, 25th, and 30th of that month as well.  Remember when you were willing to overlook our differences, which at the time seemed so petty because something larger was going on.

Folks, the differences we had then are the same differences we have now.  They were petty then.  They are petty now.  Do something nice for someone in your life.  Preferably for someone you have had a disagreement with recently.  Because at the end of the day, we are all Americans.  We were all affected by the events that happened 10 years ago. 

And even though we will never be the same, if we allow ourselves to, we can overcome anything by lending a hand to those in need, and overlooking the things that really don't matter. 

That's what being an American is about. 

Whether it's September 11th or March 3rd. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Resistance Training--Why Bother?

Resistance training is a form or physical activity that is often a bit misunderstood.  Many 'experts' have said that resistance training is beneficial, but that if you want to burn calories it isn't as good as cardiovascular exercises, such as running.  Some women feel that lifting weights is going to make their muscles get too big and they will start to look a little too manly for their tastes. 

However, I'm here to tell you that resistance training is as beneficial AND as important as any component of a healthy and active lifestyle, for EVERYONE!  The trick is to know what you are trying to achieve and tailor your resistance exercises accordingly. 

So let's start with the benefits of strength training.  You can do a google search on the topic, and read countless articles on all of the benefits of strength training.  One huge benefit of resistance training is the effect it has on your metabolism.  After a good, full body strength training routine, your metabolism is elevated for hours.  This means that you are burning calories at a faster rate WHILE YOU ARE LITERALLY DOING NOTHING after you complete the workout.  A cardiovascular workout, on the other hand, has very little effect on your metabolism after the workout is completed.  Strength training also helps to lower your blood pressure and reduce your stress.  Just make sure to keep breathing while you are pushing out those last few reps. 

There are many different components to a strength training program as well, and any good personal trainer can easily advise you in the way to combine these components in a way that will help you achieve your ultimate goal.  While some may have the goal of increasing their muscle mass or gaining lots of strength and power, others may simply want to tone their muscles and improve their muscular endurance and the look of the muscles.  The way to achieve these rather opposite goals often require performing many of the same exercises.  The difference, though, is the amount of weight lifted and the sets and reps performed.

All things considered, weight training is every bit as important as cardiovascular training in any well rounded fitness plan.  While very few plans will have an even split between cardio training and lifting weights, any plan that doesn't include both should be called into question. 

And remember, no matter what your goals are, doing some form of resistance training needs to find its way into your program. 

If you need help incorporating resistance training into your workout routine, or if you are unsure how to best utilize resistance training to meet your goals, visit my website or send me an email and I'll be glad to help you on your path towards improving your health. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Day of Rest

"Lazy Sunday! Wake up in the late afternoon."

For most of us, we've all had days where we just needed to sleep in. From working late, to pulling all night study sessions, to being woken up by crying babies, to staying up for the Daily Show, we have all had days where our bodies were telling us we need more rest than we have been getting. So we end up sleeping in a little, or a lot, and maybe catching a nap at some point too.

Just like our bodies need a break from time to time from the routine that is our daily life, we need a break from working out from time to time as well. Now, allow me to tread lightly on this topic. When I'm recommending a break from working out, I'm not talking about a 4 or 5 day bender. I'm just encouraging a break from strenuous activity on occasion. Our bodies weren't made to be pushed to the limit on a daily basis, either in the gym or the office, and if we don't give our bodies a chance to rest they will begin to break down. When that starts to happen, your time at the gym is no longer productive--but destructive.

So whether you rejoice in the Judeo-Christian motto of Sunday being a day of rest, or whether you just need an excuse to listen to your body and take a day off, remember that a rest day can actually be as productive as a workout day, especially if it's been awhile since you last took one.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Let the Games Begin!

It's the first Saturday of the college football season, and all of a sudden everyone's a football fan. To prove my point, espn has been on for an unprecedented 4 straight hours today in the FOLK greenroom. Unbelievable, I know.

In honor of the new football season, many fans are returning to the fall tradition of tailgating and Saturday afternoon gatherings centered around watching your various teams play. While there is nothing wrong with this, make yourself aware that you can very easily undo an entire weeks worth of healthy decisions in one big afternoon blowout.

So, as you're digging into your second round of BBQ and waiting on the first big upset of the day, allow me to give you permission to not sit on the couch all day watching game after game. Going for a walk between the noon and afternoon games doesn't make you less of a fan. And honestly, there is only so much Lou Holtz and Mark May that one man can take per day. If there's some kids around, go toss the football for a few minutes. Just find something to do for those few moments when you are not missing any game action.

So hurry up! I'm not asking you to miss any plays from your favorite teams games, but do something good for your health today in the midst of watching something that's so good for our souls.

Hail to the Victors!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why Wait?

When did Americans go from being a people who take action to a people who put off action? In all honesty, I've been known to put things off a time or two. And when it comes to our health, which probably should be the MOST important thing to most of us, we are especially guilty.

Case in point, how many times have you been planning to work out once you got home from work, only to get home and change your mind? Or how often do you hear someone say something to the effect of "I'm starting a new diet/workout program next week/month?" Why wait? Why put off improving our health until we get around to it?

The person that is willing to start now, and work with what they have, is going to see the best results. Maybe you have a shoulder that is bothering you or a knee that's flaring up. These issues may limit the amount of physical activity you can do, and may force you to think outside the box about what you can physically do, but they shouldn't be your excuse to just not do anything. Use this time when you are healing a certain body part to strengthen up some areas that you may not focus enough on. The time spent will jot be in vain, I promise you that.

So why wait any longer? Start doing something. Anything. Do some stretching to loosen up your hips and low back. You'd be surprised how tightness in your core can cause problems in other parts of your body. Get in the pool for a good workout that places relatively little pounding stresses on any of your joints. The moving and swimming might actually alleviate some of your pain.

Just start doing something. Now.

Don't wait for the perfect time to start improving your health.

Because the perfect time will likely never get here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Easy Breakfast

If you've never heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, where have you been hiding? Breakfast is by far the most important meal of the day. Yet, for some reason, many people don't regularly eat a good breakfast. According to the International Food Information Council more than half of Americans routinely skip breakfast! So why do so many people skip this vitally important meal?

So what is a good, healthy, and quick breakfast you can have during the week before work? If you like eggs, give this a shot. It takes about 12 minutes start to finish, and you can totally eat it in the car if you need to.

I know, because I had this today on my way to work.

Take a frying pan and splash a little olive oil into it. Sauté some garlic and mushrooms while browning some ground sausage. If you're so inclined, feel free to add any other veggies as well, ie peppers, onions, tomatoes, zukes, etc. When the sausage is ready, drain off any excess grease and add a couple of beaten eggs. As the eggs cook, stir the mixture a little bit so eggs cook through and sausage and veggies all mix with the eggs. When the eggs are cooked, top with some cheese of your choice (gorgonzola is sublime) and serve.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Schedules Change

It almost never fails. Just when you think you're getting into a good routine, finding time to exercise and eat healthy foods, somebody goes and throws a wrench into everything.

This is exactly what happened to me last week. In my case, my hours at my day job shifted a few hours back. So instead of getting home in time to walk the dog, run, and still have dinner almost ready when my wife got home, now my wife is routinely beating me home.

This type of scenario plays out for most of us from time to time. For many of you, your routine may have just taken a sharp turn now that your kids are starting back to school. Maybe you're starting a new job. Maybe something changed in your spouse or partner's life that has some ramifications as to how your day flows.

At the end of the day, though, you only have two choices. Alter your schedule so your priorities still fit into your new "routine", or let the new schedule win.

Hopefully you won't even consider the latter option.

In some cases, the new routine may even be a blessing. Switching things up from time to time can provide a new spark, or a breath of fresh air. Changing your routine allows you to see the things that really are important to you, like making time to exercise and prepare healthy foods. And without a little adversity from time to time, and my new schedule is full of adversity, we would stop growing as individuals.

So, even though a schedule interruption may be uncomfortable, from time to time it may just be the best thing for you.

As the month of August draws to a close, I challenge you to find a way to disrupt your routine. Whether you resolve to pack lunch everyday, get up and exercise before work, or decide to swear off pop for good, find something to do starting September 1st that may be a little uncomfortable.

You may just be surprised how much pushing yourself out of one rut will help you get out of many others.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Quantity Over Quality

As if we needed further evidence of modern man's (really modern America's) complete and utter cluelessness when it comes to food and nutrition, consider the following:

Would you be more likely to purchase:
  • a Mercedes or a Kia?
  • Abercrombie & Fitch or Wal-Mart brand?
  • iPhone or a flip-phone?
  • Grey Goose or Popov?
  • Organic or Non-Organic?
If the majority of people were being honest, they'd most likely choose the Mercedes, A&F, iPhone, and Grey Goose.  Why is that, considering all are remarkably more expensive?  While some would say you are paying for the name only, you could make a very good argument that the quality of the former far exceeds that of the latter.

Why, then, are people who choose to buy organic food considered either hippie-ish or snobby/elite because they choose to not buy the cheaper, non-organic food?  Why is quality so important in our stuff, but it is irrelevant when it comes to our food?

A lot of people I know genuinely do not understand why quality food is better for you.  Many think that there is little if any difference between a peach in a can and an organic peach straight from the tree.  Or they don't see the difference between a McDonald's burger made with feed lot beef and a homemade burger from a free range cow.

The ultimate problem is that somewhere people learned to shop for food on the basis of price alone, and have therefore paid literally no attention to the quality.  And here is the funniest part of this whole unbalanced equation.  When you buy the cheaper, less nutritious food, your body doesn't stay full as long when you are eating the same amount of food.  So you actually end up eating more and spending as much or more money on food than if you would have just bought the more nutritious organic food.  As an example, my typical breakfast includes two fried eggs and a piece of toast.  About this time last year, I started buying my eggs from a local farmer who raises chickens and sells free range eggs.  When I made the switch from store bought to free range and fresh, I noticed that I was able to go much longer before feeling hungry when still just eating the same two eggs and the same piece of toast.  In many cases, the eggs from the farmer were even smaller than those from the store.  However, the eggs from the farmer are literally packed with nutrients, whereas the store bought eggs have not near as much.  So instead of being ravenously hungry after just a couple of hours at work, I have a snack 3-4 hours into my day. 

The big food corporations have done a great job keeping the lid on the fact that the more processed a food is, the fewer nutrients it contains.  And since there are fewer nutrients, you are going to be hungry again sooner, and therefore eat more.  All of which means more profit for big food.

What big food can't stop, however, is people from stumbling upon the truth on their own, and then hopefully spreading the word.

So that's what I'm doing.  People, we are smack in the middle of a health crises in this country, the likes of which we have never seen before.  Yes, we do need to exercise more.  We are more sedentary than we have ever been.  But, even if you never increase your activity level, you CAN make a drastic change in your health simply by eating better.

So the next time you're at the grocery store or produce market, look for the organic seal.  Yes, you'll pay more for the higher quality foods, but when is the last time paying more for better quality has stopped you?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Accept What You Can't Control

When you're setting out on your plan to improve your health, there are a number of inevitable obstacles that you will encounter along the way. The trick to making yourself healthier for the rest of your life, as opposed to for the first two weeks of whatever program you are trying, is to accept that your training plan has limits and don't let those limits get you down.

As an example, I am currently training to run my second ever half marathon. The race is coming up in just about a month, and I'm not nearly as ready as I want to be. One of the big reasons I'm not closer to ready is completely out of my control--the summer weather. I live in Florida, and to train for a long race you need to log many miles. There have been a few times I've set out from home hoping to get 8-10 miles in, only to walk in the door 2 hours later after finishing 5-6. The summer heat and humidity really takes a lot of energy out of me when I run, and as long as I live here that won't change. So, instead of giving up on trying to get a new PR in this race because it's too hot to train like I want to, I keep grinding out as many miles a day as I can, and make sure to rest for a couple of days before trying a long run. Tomorrow I'm shooting for at least 10, so hopefully the weather will be slightly cooler and my body will cooperate.

Another road block to a healthy lifestyle is our body's need for rest after physical activity. This rest comes in two forms, one taking days off and one sleeping enough at night. Sleeping close to 8 hours a night is important because that is when the body does most of it's tissue repair. Sleeping enough at night helps your muscles get stronger and allows for you to be able to exercise longer and at a higher intensity. And sometimes, you just need to take a day off from working out to allow your muscles to rest as well. On these off days, however, it is still important for you to make sure that you are engaging in some moderate activity, but nothing that forces your body to work too hard.

Family, kids, pets, and work are all other things that tend to get in our way occasionally as we work towards improving our overall health. If you learn how to mange these distractions, and how to overcome them and stay on the active path, there is no doubt that you will begin to see the physical changes that you are hoping for.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Being Human

Today's blog is going to be short and sweet. 

Sometimes it seems like the world is moving faster and we are just standing still.  My schedule at work has been turned upside down, and I struggle to find time to get it all in.  So, when you find yourself in a situation like this, don't be afraid to take a deep breath and relax.  The important stuff will get taken care of, it always does.

This post may not be the most informative on matters of health and fitness, but maybe it offers something that gets lost in the shuffle of the daily race of life.  Sometimes, when you think things can't get any crazier, you just need to let go.  Not letting go causes the stress to build like crazy, and that is certainly not good for your health. 

So next time you feel like you can't get everything done that needs to get done, just stop and smell the roses for a few minutes.  Those moments of relaxation will allow the following times of insanity to be just a little bit more bearable. 

So, if you'll forgive me for ending this post here for the evening, I've got some sniffing to do.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Just Do It

Face it folks, how many of us really look forward to working out every day?

This seemingly simple question isn't quite as superficial as it seems. Most active people, myself included, look forward to the IDEA of working out every day. We may look at a calendar and plan out our cardio and strength training days. Maybe you sign up for a yoga or pilates class as well.

Then, inevitably, the day of the workout gets here and it just seems like the last thing on Earth any of us would like to do.

So what do you do? Gut out a workout that you really have no desire to complete? Ideally, maybe. But maybe not. Doing the whole workout, when you have no desire to be there, can leave you with an awfully bad taste in your mouth. The kind of taste that might prevent you from hitting the gym or the pool or whatever you had planned the next time.

So should you just skip the workout entirely? Absolutely not.

Instead, you need to alter the workout but still do something. Maybe today you were supposed to do a P90x workout but you are just dragging. Well instead of ploy-x just do cardio x instead. Or instead of running take the dog and the kids for a longer walk than normal. If you're going to the gym, only do one or two sets of one or two exercises instead of your normal 4 sets of 6 exercises.

The key is to do something and listen to your body. Sometimes once you get started, your attitude will switch and you'll knock out the whole workout anyway. And sometimes your body is begging for a break of routine, but will respond positively to some light activity.

The trick to maintaining a healthy active lifestyle is to understand that to err and miss a workout is human. But to use one bad day or week as an excuse to quit working out is just that--quitting. You are literally giving up on yourself. And you deserve better from yourself than that.

So do a little something everyday, no matter how little that something is.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Skip the Scale

A quick reminder today about the importance of ignoring the bathroom scale. If you're so inclined, I'd recommend getting rid of the scale. If that's not going to happen, here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

1. Your weight fluctuates by as much as 3-5 pounds up or down per day. So the more you weigh yourself, the more likely you are to freak out because you retained a bit more water from one day to the next. If you're going to weigh yourself often, try to do it the same time of the day to lessen the odds of a big swing, but know that the swings will happen and they are normal.

2. Muscle weighs more than fat, so after working out for awhile you may actually gain weight. This can seem defeating, especially for those concerned with the reading of the scale. So if you are feeling yourself getting stronger, don't panic if the needle on the scale stops going down, or even goes up.

If you're not using a scale to measure your progress, how do you know if your hard work is paying off? The first way is really simple. Honestly assess how you are feeling. Do you have more energy? Do you feel stronger? Can you do more physical work than you used to be able to do? Then it's working.

Another way to tell that you're making progress is to assess how your clothes are fitting. Can you zip up your jeans without laying on the bed and holding your breath? Are you cinching your belt to a new loop? Are you in need of new clothes because your other clothes are too BIG? All are good signs that you are heading toward your goals.

One final way to gauge your progress is to just take a long, honest look in the mirror. A word of caution though, as the mirror is a slippery slope. When you use the mirror, you need to use it to see the progress you have made. This requires that you take off your critical glasses and put on your realistic ones. Are you getting a little more definition in you arms? Don't look for the jiggle that may still be there, but look at the muscle that is starting to emerge. Contract your abs and notice the start of a six-pack forming, even if right now it struggles to be a one-pack. Remember where you started from, and be happy with the progress you've made thus far. Then set new goals and work to eliminate the current trouble spots.

Remember that there are many ways to measure your fitness gains, and the number on the scale isn't the most important one. Even though our society tries to tell you how much you need to weigh to be "healthy," there are better measures.

As long as you are being active and working towards improving your health, ignore the scale and keep moving instead.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why Personal Trainers are Helpful

When people think about hiring a personal trainer, one of the first reasons that they dismiss the notion is that it costs too much money. I'm inclined to agree with that logic when you're talking about the typical, in-gym personal trainer that is charging $30-$50 per 45 minute training session. However, if you're looking for a cheaper alternative that still provides plenty of benefits, allow me to explain why a DK FitSolutions plan may be the best thing for you and your health.

1. Paying a little money may actually help motivate you to workout more. If you're paying for a service, you might as well use it, right? And according to Women's Health Magazine, spending some money on a personal trainer is the number one way to stay dedicated to working out.

2. Personal trainers help prevent your routine from going stale. A good personal trainer will accept your feedback about what things you like and dislike, and design programs that will meet your goals without being monotonous.

3. A good personal trainer will give you new exercises and moves that will challenge you in a different way than what you've been doing. Sure, doing squats/leg presses are great ways to tone your legs and burn calories, but have you ever tried the Bulgarian split squat or around the clock lunges? Variety in the gym is a good thing, and personal trainers can help provide that.

4. Personal trainers can also provide you with a sense of accountability. I am fully willing to check up with you daily, if need be, to make sure you're sticking with your plan. For some folks, knowing that someone is going to call or send an email asking about their workout is the best tool to make sure they actually get to the gym or do their at-home workout for the day.

5. At DK FitSolutions, we not only work with you to improve your fitness, but we also work with you to help improve your diet. What you eat plays such a huge role in how you look and feel, and so many personal trainers are slow to address the foods you eat. While we in no way try to impose a strict caloric limit nor forbid certain foods, we strive to make you more aware of the food choices that you make and how those choices effect your overall health.

There are more benefits than just these five examples of why DK FitSolutions would be a great choice for you to help improve your health. Why not give us an opportunity to prove what we can do?

Visit www.dkfitsolutions.com for more information on how to let us help you. You've got nothing to lose.

And remember, whatever your health or fitness problem, we have a solution!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Water Works

Everyone knows that we need water to survive.

The human body is between 60 and 70% water, and as a person becomes dehydrated, the body's systems have to work much harder to function. A human will likely die in 3-5 days if he or she doesn't have any water to drink.

So, we need water to live. No one argues that. How much water we need, however, is a point of contention. Another point of contention is what exactly counts as "water". Does juice count? What about pop? Coffee?

The standard amount of recommended water a person should have daily is 64 ounces, or a half a gallon. For some people, drinking a half a gallon of water a day is no big deal. For the rest of us, however, getting to our daily quota is rather difficult.

While there is no argument from health professionals that water is the best option, there are other options that still count toward your 64 ounces. Virtually any liquid counts, but some non-water choices are much better than others. Coffee and tea, without creams and sugars, are good options to help you get to your daily allotment. While coffee and tea both have caffeine in them, new research has showed that caffeine doesn't dehydrate you as we used to believe. Coffee and tea also have the added benefit of being packed with antioxidants, so not only do they add flavor to your water, but they also provide beneficial enzymes to the body.

While caffeine is no longer considered a dehydrator, pop does not end up on the list of good alternatives for water. Simply put, regular soda is so full of sugar and calories that removing them from your diet is a great benefit to your health. Diet sodas aren't any better either, because the artificial sweeteners can cause long term problems to your health. Also, mounting evidence is showing that diet drinks actually encourage more sugar consumption throughout the day. So while you aren't getting the calorie bomb with your diet pop, you're much better off long term staying away from them.

Juice and sports drinks are another thing to avoid. While marketers have lauded them as healthy options, especially as alternatives to pop machines in schools, they pack a huge sugar punch as well. Sports drinks do have some salts and can be seen as beneficial during high intensity, long duration exercises, but they aren't good for just drinking throughout the day. Most store bought juices are only 10-20% juice, the rest is HFCS and water, so don't consider them a good option for meeting your goal either.

At the end of the day, water is far and away your best option. An occasional glass of juice or bottle of Gatorade probably won't have much of an impact on your waistline, just make sure you make them the exception instead of the rule.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Grow Your Own

Whether you live on the farm or a third floor walk-up, growing your own food is a fun way to improve your health and save money on your grocery bill.

If you've got plenty of land where you live, the process is pretty easy. Put some seeds in the ground, put some compost or mulch down, add water and let nature take over. But city dwellers are often at a loss when it comes to growing veggies. Many types of plants have varieties that can grow in pots, and by positioning them on a balcony they will grow and produce healthy, delicious vegetables to add to salads or just to snack on. If you live in a northern climate, put the plants near a south facing window or under a grow light and you'll have some fresh veggies throughout the winter.

Fresh herbs are another option to grow on your own, and many herbs do well growing on a counter, window sill, or shelf in most parts of the country. And let me just tell you, a fresh sprig of rosemary or basil adds a lot flavor and nutrition to just about any dish you create.

One word of pause, however, before you rush to the garden store and buy a bunch of seeds. Remember that not all crops are able to grow in all climates, and not all things are capable of producing indoors. Vegetables that need pollinators obviously don't work indoors, and some plants need more room to grow than most pots provide. But if you want to grow some nutritious and delicious crops, there are options available to you no matter where you live.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

No Gym Required

There is a thought floating around that says you can't lose weight and get fit unless you have a gym membership and spend hours a day at said gym.

I'm here to tell you that this couldn't be farther from the truth. While there are certain advantages to working out a gym, there are enough other ways to accomplish the same goal working out at home with little or no equipment required.

How can this be possible?

Simple--body weight exercises. By simply using the resistance God gave you, you can work up a sweat and shed pounds at home doing many of the same exercises you'd do at the gym with a few minor modifications.

Don't believe me? I guarantee I can have you sweaty and out of breath in less than 20 minutes and that you'll be sore for a day or two following the workout. And with the hundreds of different exercises that can be done using nothing but your own body weight, it would be easy to create a program that would never get stale and continue to challenge you as your health improves.

Care to give this idea a try? Go to www.dkfitsolutions.com, click on the individuals programs tab and sign up. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Good Reads

In case the dog days of summer are getting to you, allow me to offer you a couple of great book ideas to help bide you some time while lounging by the pool or soaking up the A/C.

"Real Food"--Nina Planck: Great read that will really open your eyes to the fact that so much of our daily caloric intake in the modern diet is, in fact, not real food. Real food doesn't come from the drive-thru or the frozen entreé aisle, it comes from the ground and from the farmer. This book may have done more to shape my views on nutrition than any other source.

"In Defense of Food"--Michael Pollan: This book explores the relationship we have with food, and the fact that you need to have certain types of food in a healthy diet. It does a great job stressing the importance of knowing where your food comes from, and how you can still enjoy meat products in a way that is healthy to both the environment and our bodies. Another great book by Michael Pollan is "The Omnivore's Dilemma".

"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"--Barbara Kingsolver: I actually just started this book today, so I can't give you a great endorsement of the entire book. The friends that I have that have read it, love it. The book chronicles the life of a family that lives an entire year eating basically nothing but foods that are produced locally. Most of the food they eat they grow themselves, while the rest is purchased at local farmer's markets or direct from the farmers. So far, the book seems pretty good.

"What's Gotten Into Us?"--McKay Jenkins: If you want a book that may in fact scare the bejesus out of you, look no further. This book talks about all of the environmental and product toxins that we live with in our modern world, and looks at the shortfalls of our government agencies that try to protect us. About 1/4 of the way into this book, I felt like I was Neo after he swallows the pill. I almost wish I could unlearn what I read, but the knowledge will certainly make me more mindful about the products we use that literally are poison. For example, do you know we still use Agent Orange in the year 2011? I guarantee my neighborhood is teeming with it, and I bet yours is too.

I hope you have a chance to enjoy some of these books. If there are any books you've read recently that you think I'd enjoy, leave me a comment and I'll be sure to add it to my list.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Did You Get Your Full 8 Last Night?

Everybody knows that sleeping is a necessary component of our daily routines. Most people are aware that it is recommended that we get 8 hours of sleep every night. While this is the recommendation, there are very few people (excluding my wife) who make it a routine habit to get a solid 8 hours every night. Is it any wonder, then, that we are a nation completely addicted to our Starbucks runs? However, besides just helping you to stay more alert a good night's sleep has some other important benefits to your health. Among them:

1. Sleep helps your brain process the information you received today and commit more things to memory. Turns out those college cram sessions weren't so good after all.

2. Sleep helps your body regulate its metabolism and burn calories more efficiently. Want to loose a little more weight, give your body more sleep.

3. Sleep helps improve your immune system. But getting plenty of rest your immune system has a chance to recharge and battle all of the pathogens that you are exposed to on a daily basis.

There are countless other ways that sleeping enough at night helps improve your health.

So, while 8 hours a night may mean you miss out on a little tv (just DVR the Daily Show), your body will appreciate it in the long term.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Getting the New You Off the Couch

In case you've missed the first three parts to creating a new you, you can find them here (Part I, Part II, Part III)  As a quick refresher, in Part I you were implored to make the decision for yourself to become a healthier person.  In Part II, we looked at how important it is that you cook the majority of your own meals.  And Part III looked at how to navigate the grocery store shopping for the healthiest items.  Today, Part 4 is going to contradict the excuses you use to not get off the couch and get active. 

The first excuse to look at is the most tired and overused excuse in the book.  Ask most people that don't exercise why they are not active, and the majority will tell you that they just don't have time.  Can anyone say "Shenanigans"?  If you are super busy for a day or two, this excuse might work.  But to say that you are always too busy is a load of crap.  If you were to take a look at how you use your time, you may find that you have more time to exercise than you think.  For example, how much time do you spend on Facebook and Twitter?  Checking e-mail?  Playing Farmville?  While all of these things may SEEM important, none of them are more important than taking positive steps towards improving your health.  Other time wasters that we are notorious for include playing video games and watching TV.  If we are honest with ourselves, playing that game of Madden or watching another re-run of Seinfeld or the Kardashians really isn't a good reason for not exercising. 

Another reason that many people like to give for not exercising is that they are too tired.  On the surface, this sounds like a semi-legitimate reason.  Exercising requires exerting physical energy, and if you are tired you are already running low on energy.  The funny thing about exercise, though, is that the physiologic effects of exercise actually make you more alert and give you more energy.  I don't know how many times at work I'd be struggling to stay awake no matter how much coffee I've had.  However, if I walk around for a few minutes, maybe do a few squats or push-ups, I usually am focused and alert for hours afterward.  So when you get home from work, don't let yourself get sucked in to the "I'm too tired" routine, change clothes and do something.  Even if you only have a few minutes to jog around the block, you'd be surprised how much more energy you'll have and how much better you'll feel than if you don't do anything at all.

The last of the most common excuses that I get for why people don't exercise is that they are sore after they are done.  This excuse is funny to me, because when you talk to people that work out a lot they love that feeling of sore muscles and dead legs.  When you haven't done much physical activity in a while, any big change in exercise habits cause microscopic damage to your muscles.  Even when you've been active for years, if you stress the muscles enough, this damage occurs.  The soreness that you get after the workout comes from the process of your body repairing the tissue.  Ultimately, this soreness that you feel is the actual process of your body getting stronger.  The more consistently you exercise, the better your body will be at repairing itself, and the shorter the duration of your discomfort. 

These are just three of the most common excuses that I've heard from people trying to explain why they don't exercise.  There are dozens of others, and none of them are good enough reasons to not be doing something to improve your health.  While modern medicine has gotten increasingly better and solving medical issues, there is nothing better at improving your health than preventing whatever injury or illness to begin with.  So get moving!

Got a good excuse for why you aren't getting enough exercise on a regular basis?  Leave me a comment with the best you've got and I'll give you a better reason to start exercising today.

Need help determining what you need to do to improve your health and take control of your fitness?  Visit www.dkfitsolutions.com for more information on how I can help, or e-mail me at denny@dkfitsolutions.com and I'll be happy to answer any questions that you may have. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Alternative Exercise

Everybody knows that getting a certain amount of exercise daily is a good thing. The problem is that too many people have a hard time "finding time" to exercise.

What they fail to realize, however, is that just because you're not on a treadmill or pumping iron, you can still be exercising. Chase your kids around in the backyard or go splash around at the beach. That's exercise. Take the dog for a walk or spend some time working on the lawn. Exercise. Don't drive around the parking lot looking for the closest parking spot. Park out in BFE and walk into the store. Then when you come out with the cart, take the time to walk the cart back to the corral. Exercise.

There are literally dozens of ways to get the exercise you need on a daily basis, and many of them don't require a significant time investment.

Now get off the computer, and do something to get your exercise in for the day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Worst Breakfast

What is the absolute worst thing you can have for breakfast? Doughnuts and some fancy coffee drink from Dunkin? A McGriddle meal from McDonalds? A grand slam from Denny's? Or my personal favorite, the three egg special from Fat Jacks?

Perhaps, surprisingly, none of these calorie and fat bombs would qualify as the worst breakfast you can eat. That distinction goes to something much smaller: nothing.

Breakfast has long been called the most important meal of the day, and for good reason. When you wake up in the morning, your body is literally in starvation mode. If you don't get some fuel into your body soon after waking up, your metabolic fire will go out and the amount of calories you burn throughout the day will be significantly reduced.

Now this doesn't give you the green light to go through the drive-thru every morning, but please make sure you get something before you leave for work in the morning. Whether it's eggs and toast or just a banana with your coffee, something is better than nothing. And you really need to have something.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Best Ab Exercise

Today's quick tip deals with working on getting those nice looking abs for whatever is left of summer swimsuit season, which depending on where you live could be almost over or still have no end in sight.

While popular perception has long been that doing lots of ab exercises (crunches, sit ups, etc) is the only way to work the muscles needed to craft the sought after six-pack, as with most cases of conventional wisdom, that may not be the whole story. Most ab exercises are contraction based, meaning that as you perform the exercise the muscles are contracting. However, because the main function of your abdominal group is not a contraction movement, working those muscles using primarily contraction exercises is not the most efficient way to see improvements.

Your abs are stability muscles that connect your upper and lower body and allow the entire body to function as a unit. As stabilizers, the best way to work them is in a stabilizing or rotational manner. Therefore, front and side planks are two great ways to really tone your abs. Doing exercises on a stability ball, or just trying to sit on one for portions of the day, also works your core muscles. Twists and chops are good options as well.

Of course, the biggest factor in determining how good your abs look really has nothing to do with what kind of ab exercises you do. But that's another topic for another day....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On-Line Personal Training:How It Works

Anyone who has spent much time in many of the big time national gyms has probably been approached by a personal trainer who is interested in helping you reach your fitness goals. For the sake of argument, I'm going to assume that any and all personal trainers hired by these gyms have the knowledge and professionalism to help you reach your goals, though that may not always be the case. In any event, after talking with the personal trainer you may decide that he or she may in fact be able to help you reach your goals. Inevitably, the conversation is going to shift to what it would cost to hire this person to help you achieve your fitness goals. Depending on where you live and exactly which gym you frequent, the cost associated with hiring the personal trainer may shock you enough that you are no longer interested in what they have to provide. It would not be uncommon at all for a personal trainer to charge $20-$50 (or more) per 45 minute session. If you're a little scared of that price, you're not alone. But don't think that just because you can't spend $100 dollars or more a week on a personal trainer you can't afford to have one, you just need to take a second and think outside of the box.

A good on-line personal trainer provides you with most of the same things an in-person personal trainer provides at a fraction of the cost. In my program,months small monthly rate, you'll get customized training plans suited to you and your goals based on what activities you like to do. Don't like running? No problem. I'll never have you on a treadmill or pounding pavement again. Your program will be updated every 4-6 weeks typically, but if you need a change after a week or two, we can switch it up then. Literally everything a personal trainer provides we can provide, except we aren't there to talk to you between sets. If you can motivate yourself to get to the gym (or to just workout in your living room) I will provide you with the tools you need to live a healthier life.

At the end of the day, there is no denying that Americans are as unhealthy now as they have ever been. Many people want to take steps to get healthier, but don't know how. There are professionals out there that can give you the tools you need to improve your health, but too many have priced themselves too high for many people to afford. But the tide is changing. With the growth of the internet, more services can be delivered to you at a price you can afford, and rock solid personal training advice is no exception.

Please visit www.dkfitsolutions.com for more details about how we can work together to improve your health. Get in touch with me through the website or leave a comment on here, and the new you will be on the way.

And remember, no matter what your health goals are, we have the solution that will help you achieve them.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Running in the Rain

As I'm sitting in the office looking out the window, sunny Florida is looking awfully rainy today. While there are a multitude of reasons to wish I wasn't working today, the fact that I'm missing a chance to get a good run in while the temperature and humidity are down is chief among them.

If you have the opportunity to get in a good rain-run this summer, I urge you to take it. You need to make sure to bring some water with you, though. Remember you are still sweating and need to rehydrate, even though temps are a bit lower and the rain is coming down.

Enjoy your time exercising outdoors this summer, and take advantage of a rainy day when the opportunity arrives. I promise, you won't regret it.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Summer Exercise

No matter where you live, the summer heat is on us.  This year, most of the country is experiencing stifling heat, and if you are exercising outdoors, some extra precautions must be taken to avoid heat issues.

First and foremost, you must stay hydrated.  The summer heat takes a lot out of your body, and if you aren't putting water into your system before, during, and after exercise, you are asking for trouble.  A rule of thumb is to weigh yourself before you exercise and again when you are finished.  For every pound you've dropped, you need to drink 16 oz. of water to replace what you've sweated out.  Whether you weigh yourself or not, make sure you are drinking plenty of cool water when you finish your exercise session.

While staying hydrated gets the vast majority of attention, eating a healthy diet is also important if you are going to be exercising in the extreme heat.  A balanced diet will help your body do what it needs to do to keep you moving.  While the water is important for cooling you in the heat, good food gives your body systems the energy needed to function in and extreme heat environment.  Fruit and veggies also give your body the nutrients needed to repair the tissues after exercise.

Know that the heat can effect your performance.  My runs this summer have hardly been good, and it's hard to see much improvement in my long runs right now.  When I go out, I can usually get in about 3 good miles before the heat gets the best of me.  While it's frustrating to not see much progress, as the weather cools and summer turns to fall, the improvements will come.  So keep at it this summer, and reap the rewards in the future.

For what is left of this summer, please work out safe.  Heat illness is preventable, and being safe is up to you.  Make sure you're eating properly, drinking plenty of fluids, and keeping your goals realistic and you'll be ahead of the pack as the weather starts to cool.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dietary Hiccups

As a health and fitness professional, I take living a healthy lifestyle pretty seriously. I try to eat as much local and organic food as possible, and try to make physical activity a regular component of my daily routine.

In an attempt at being completely honest though, I have to say that I am human. Ergo, I am not perfect. The other day I had a major food slip-up.

Allow me to explain.

On Tuesday, for whatever reason, I wasn't feeling it when I got home from work. My wife was out of town, and after walking the dog I had no desire to make something legit for dinner. So, I pulled a frozen pizza out of the freezer and put it in the oven. 15 minutes later, dinner was served. After cutting it up, I ate what I thought would be my dinner. Then, I went back for more. Then, I just finished the whole dang thing. I sat on the couch, feeling full and completely unsatisfied. Then I went to the freezer for a bowl of ice cream.

Needless to say, when I went to bed that night I wasn't feeling the greatest. But yesterday, I was back to eating a better array of foods and have noticed no real differences in how I've felt except for the time right after gorging on Tuesday night.

So what is the point of this story? Simple. Eating a "perfect" diet all of the time is impossible. Sometimes life gets in the way of ideal, and that's O.K. The trick is to only screw up for one meal or one day once in awhile. If you eat well for most of the time, a bad choice or two won't derail your progress. Keep going forward and you'll see progress. I promise.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Navigating the Grocery Store

If you've decided to take charge of reinventing yourself, congratulations. And if you've made the decision to start making more of the meals you eat, then you're off to a good start in the journey of the rest of your life. So now that you're cooking your own food, we need to take a look at what ingredients you use in your cooking.

Of the 1000's of products available to you in your local grocery store, not many can be classified as good for you. As an example, take a walk down the cereal aisle. How many types of cereal could you make a valid argument about the nutritional benefits of that particular brand? Half? Maybe a quarter? Even cereals that most people view as healthy pack a lot of sugar into your bowl. And the amount of sugar found in most kids cereals would blow most people's minds.

In fact, if you walk down most aisles in the grocery store, you are much more likely to find unhealthy options as opposed to good for you options. There is, however, a much safer area of the grocery store to shop. If you stay to the perimeter of the store, your chances of finding healthier food improves dramatically. Typically, the perimeter of the store has the meat, dairy, and produce sections. While there are certainly good and bad choices that can be made in these sections, your chances of coming out ahead are much better.

The "problem" with shopping the perimeter is that most of these products have expiration dates. The fact that they aren't jammed full of preservatives is actually a good thing. I heard it said once that the foods you should eat are the foods that can go bad. Obviously, the fewer the preservatives in something, the better it probably is. And to further that though, if a "food item" literally won't go bad, you really shouldn't eat it--happy meal or Twinkie anyone?

The other "problem" with shopping the perimeter relates to the cost of buying perishable foods. I can't very well argue that healthier foods are cheaper than non-healthy ones, but let me try to give you a little common sense. People spend so much money on health and beauty items. Whether it's make-up, hair products, cleansers, or spa treatments, all of theses products are rather pricy and work to improve our external appearance. Why not save a little bit of that money and instead spend it to improve the quality of food you are eating. Not only will the better food improve your overall health, but you may be surprised that better food will improve the health of you skin, hair, and nails as well. When it's all said and done, the impacts of eating well by far offset the marginal difference of cost over the long run.

As is the case in all areas of improving your health, you can improve your diet if you want to. The money you save from eating out all the time will more than pay for the healthy food you are going to start buying. And if you really want to start saving on your produce, check out local farmers markets and fruit stands. Read more about the benefits of farmers markets here.

Once you make the commitment to eat better, you'll be surprised at how well you feel. An occasional splurge is obviously ok, but limit the junk food you put into your body and your body will thank you for years to come.

Find out more ways to improve your health at www.dkfitsolutions.com

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The New You Starts in the Kitchen

In "The First Step to a New You", we looked at what it is that is holding you back from making lasting and significant changes to your health.

Now that you have (hopefully) decided to stop making excuses and start taking charge, let's look at the root of the problem when it comes to health and wellness in the developed world--the kitchen.

It's somewhat funny to me how we view kitchens in this country. On every home buying show I've ever seen-and thanks to my darling wife I've seen hours upon hours-every home buyer wants a nice kitchen. In almost every episode the buyers compromise on something, but never the kitchen! When it comes to kitchens, bigger is always better. And you can never have enough cabinets. And updated appliances are a real plus, too. Has anyone ever asked why the kitchen is so important?

The only room that rivals the kitchen in terms of endearing a home to a potential buyer is the bathroom. Talk about in one end and out the other, eh? But I digress.

So what is the big to-do about the kitchen, anyway? The obvious response would be that the kitchen is where the meals are prepared, so a nice kitchen is very important.

But are most meals really prepared in the kitchen?

Probably not as many as you would think.

As it turns out, we don't cook as much as we think we do. According to the FDA, Americans spend almost 50% of their food budget on meals prepared outside of the home. 35 years ago, we spent 34%. I would make the argument that 34% is still way too much to be spending on ABC (Already Been Cooked) meals, but it's much better than the half of our budget are spending now.

So for the average American, half of his or her meals are ABC. At least we are eating pretty well half of the time though, right?

Not so fast my friends. But first let's remember, half is still failing at every school in the world; so even if half our meals are healthy, we still fail when it comes to good nutrition.

How many people who grew up in the 50's and 60's would consider hamburger helper a home cooked meal? What about Easy Mac? Lean Cuisine? DiGiorno? How many people in today's world would call these foods home cooked? The fact that many in my generation consider opening a box and putting something in the oven or microwave cooking is mind-blowing. And just a bit scary. I feel bad serving pasta with canned sauce for dinner because I feel like I was too lazy to make a real meal. But for too many, penne with ragu is the fanciest thing they've ever cooked. And we wonder why our nation is so unhealthy.

It's time to take action. No one is incapable of cooking. All it takes is a little effort. If you're reading this, you obviously have a connection to the Internet. Ergo, you have access to the largest and most diverse cookbook in the world. You can literally google a list of ingredients you have available, and dozens of recipes will pop up. Pick one that sounds good and start cooking. But please, just start.

Creating a new, healthier you starts in the kitchen. It may not end there, but we need a place to start. as you start cooking more of your own meals, you'll be surprised how much better you feel. You'll consume fewer preservatives and salt, and appreciate the true taste of food like you never have before.

And besides, if we start making the majority of our meals at home, all that kitchen talk on the home buying shows might actually start to make sense.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First Step to a New You

There are a variety of components that constitute a healthy lifestyle. Some of them are very difficult to argue about. There aren't too many people who would argue about the need to incorporate physical activity and good nutritional choices into your life to help improve your health. No one doubts the negative impact that smoking has on your health anymore, not even the smokers themselves.

There are some, however, who question the role some other lifestyle factors have on people's overall health. The amount of sleep you get at night has been shown to play a role in the amounts of both fat loss and muscle gain, but many have yet to take those findings seriousy. The use of dietary supplements is a huge source of contention among health professionals.

In the next few weeks, I'll look at these components individually and how you can take responsibility for improving your health.

Today, however, it's time to look at the most important component to improving your health: what you see when you look in the mirror.

You are the most important part of your health. Period. End of story.

It may sound harsh, but it's true. And what it means is that if you don't like what you see in the mirror, there is no one to blame but yourself.

But on the flip-side, that means that changes are completely possible if you want to make it happen.

The only thing that can stop you? That pesky guy in the mirror again.

So what are you supposed to do then? In simplest terms, just start doing something. There are literally dozens of ways to improve your health. Better choices, more activity, more sleep; all good ideas. Drink more water, cook your own meals, watch less TV; more good ideas.

Use common sense, and make good choices. You can do it if you make the commitment.

The vessel needed to make the changes you desire is staring you in the face every time you look in the mirror.

Need more help making some changes in your lifestyle to achieve a healthier you? Check out www.dkfitsolutions.com, and we can work together to get you started down the path to better health.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Best Oil You've Never Used

Olive oil? Check.

Ever since Rachel Ray came to television, olive oil has been popping up in kitchens across the country like mushrooms in a cow pasture. And for good reason. Olive oil has a light taste that adds flavor to lots of dishes. Olive oil holds up to heat better than any other vegetable oil, so it is great to use for cooking and sautéing. Some cool people don't even say olive oil anymore, they just drop evoo and everyone knows what they are talking about.

So is olive oil the new miracle cooking oil? Not hardly. Don't get me wrong, it's great. I use it for all kinds of dishes. But if you need to broaden your cooking oil horizons, let me let you in on a little secret. Try coconut oil, it's devine.

Coconut oil is listed as a saturated fat, and as such has fallen out of favor with many dietary organizations. But guess what? Scientists are starting to understand that the fat profile of virgin coconut oil is actually good for you. The chief fat, laurie acid, is known to help raise your HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which for most people will help improve their blood panel readings.

Once you get passed the "unhealthy hype" associated with coconut oil, you can start to find many uses for it. Because of its high oxidation temperature (even higher than olive oil) coconut oil is great to use when cooking with high heat. And the hint of sweetness that the oil has will hit you with a flavor that is impossible to find in other oils. This combination opens up an unlimited list of possible uses.

My personal favorite way to use coconut oils is to make home fries with it. The potatoes end up with a crispy outside and the inside is cooked completely through. The sweetness of the oil makes it great to use for sautéing veggies as well. Onions, carrots, sweet peppers, and more all taste amazing after a sauté in coconut oil.

You can also use coconut oil in baked goods. Just substitute coconut oil in the recipe for the oil or butter listed, and you end up with a little added sweetness. A friend uses coconut oil to drizzle on toast or to add a little sweetness to her coffee. Literally, the possibilities are endless when it comes to how to use your coconut oil.

Coconut oil is available in stores, but you may have to search a little bit to find it. Personally, I buy all of my coconut oil from www.tropicaltraditions.com. You can find dozens of organic coconut products and recipes on this site, and the prices are completely reasonable.

Take a chance and try it, you just might be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

July 4th Cookout? Yes Please!

It's summertime, and that means different things to different people. Depending on your age and your background, summer could mean no school. Pool parties. Baseball. County fair. Lightning bugs. The smell of freshly cut grass. Lemonade. Ice cream. The list literally could go on for a few pages.

One thing that would probably be high on most lists would have to be the cookout. Whether you call it grilling, barbequing, or something else, having people over for good food and fellowship is as much a part of summer as anything else I can think of.

Seeing that in America we are celebrating a long 4th of July weekend, there are lists all over the Internet advising you of the things you should and should not be eating. Advice like "stay away from the potato salad" or "go easy on the fried chicken" are all over the place. On twitter, I've seen lists from multiple health sites claiming which cookout pitfalls should be avoided for this holiday weekend.

Want to know what I think about all of these lists?

Don't read them. Enjoy the holiday and the food that comes with it.

Disclaimer time. Please don't completely disregard you calorie common sense every time you're invited to a summer gathering. But when the gathering celebrates a national holiday, by all means go crazy. And if that holiday celebrates your nation's independence, then you can feel free to gorge for a night independent of calorie counts and grams of fat.

Too often in the health world, my peers portray the importance of maintaining a certain level of daily caloric consumption. Whether it's 1800/day, or a Michael Phelps-like 4000/day, we get caught up in the per day total. Dietitians need to take a step back and try to see the bigger picture. Weight gain, or loss, doesn't happen over night. It is the result of weeks and weeks of accumulated caloric surpluses and deficits. By focusing so much on the daily allowances, people either buy in to limiting their calories or say screw it and eat whatever they want.

What I'm proposing is a little different. Radical? I don't think so. Logical? You better believe it. Eat well most of the time. Eat from a variety of food groups most of the time. Indulge on the occasional instance.

So, my fellow Americans, on this 4th of July weekend feel free to not only celebrate our national independence, but a day or two of caloric independence as well. And to my international friends, when your country's holidays are being celebrated, please enjoy the freedom to indulge as well.

Then, when the party is over, go back to eating well most of the time.

And if anybody questions you taking a second helping of strawberry pie with ice cream AND whipped cream, you can tell them I said it was ok.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Organic AND Cheaper

Just got back from Publix and found an example to combat the "Organic food is more expensive than non-organic food" argument.  An 8-pack box of Publix organic maple and brown sugar oatmeal was 30 cents cheaper than an 8-pack of Quaker maple and brown sugar. 

Remember that next time someone tells you it's too expensive to eat organic food.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

More Than Just The Best Part of Waking Up

Nothing beats the smell of fresh brewed coffee in the morning. The aroma itself is enough to get some people going. Millions of people feel like they can't start their day until they have their first cup. I know, because I'm one of them.

Coffee has been enjoyed for centuries all over the world, from royals to peasants and everyone in between. A main reason for its popularity is the energy boost provided by the caffeine. Whether you need the boost to get you moving in the morning, or you just need a pick-me-up to make it through the rest of the afternoon at work, coffee is a great choice.

Coffee is a very low calorie beverage (about 5 cal/8oz cup) and is full of antioxidants. These two perks have been known about for years. More recently, however, other benefits of coffee drinking have started to surface. A recent study from Harvard University shows a relationship between drinking coffee and a decreased risk of prostate cancer. The exact reason for this relationship isn't completely understood, but the evidence is strong enough to encourage coffee drinking.

Another possible advantage of downing a few more cups of joe daily is about to be published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Caffeine has long been thought to help protect the brain from developing Alzheimer's disease, but according to researchers at the University of South Florida there appears to be "something" else in the coffee that interacts with the caffeine to produce an even greater benefit. The "something" isn't completely known yet, but according to the study, the added effect was seen only in the mice given the caffeinated coffee. As someone who has watched family members suffer with Alzheimer's, I'm willing to do anything I can to reduce my risk of developing this terrible disease. And if drinking more coffee is going to help, it's a win-win type of situation.

If you're a black coffee person, drink up. The benefits are many, and the negatives are few. If, however, you are a member of the cream and sugar crew, you need to take a step back.

The coffee industry is booming around the world. There are Starbucks going up all over the place. Dunkin Donuts have popped up in areas other than Boston, and more are on their way. Even McDonalds touts their new McCafé with all their specialty flavors. These days, if you're not drinking coffee, you are in the minority. But most of this new crop of coffee drinkers load their cup up with cream, sugar, and/or syrup. These additions turn coffee from a healthy choice to a ticking calorie bomb. The biggest bomb at Starbucks is a 670 calorie monster for 24 ounces. Whatever health benefit you might get from the coffee Is completely undone by the damage done to your waistline. And if you're drinking two or three of these a day, you're getting your entire calorie count from drinking coffee. Not exactly healthy, eh?

If you're the kind of person that struggles to drink black coffee, I understand. I've been there. But black coffee is an acquired taste. If you drink it enough, you'll learn to like it. Until then, a dash of skim or soy milk and a little Splenda might help.

The benefits of coffee are known, and more are discovered all the time, but you need to remember that all coffees are not created equal.

Consider yourself warned.

Tread lightly, friends.