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  Whether it's the newest and fanciest model or something a little older and possibly outdated, for some people an iPod is every bit as important to their workout as good shoes or a sports bra.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

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 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.