Friday, October 31, 2008

The beginning of the binge

For me in the past, in terms of fitness and wellness, and for many people, Halloween starts what I call the "holiday binge season". It's insidious and starts when we're kids. You go out, do your rounds and get several pounds of candy. If you're good like I was, you hit all the hot spots and travel far and wide and end up with maybe 5 pounds or more!

This starts a month long sugar orgy in preparation for ... the next big eating event, Thanksgiving!

Ahh ... Thanksgiving. It just so happens it's around my birthday so it's a day I always cherished. For good reason too - lots of family around. But also for the food of course! So I had a birthday cake coming, to top off the last of the Halloween candy. Then sometimes that very day, there was a built in feast of feasts - the binge eaters holiday, Thanksgiving! Turkey, gravy, butter, rolls, stuffing. Oh yea there are vegetables too but got to have the sugary cranberry sauce. And at our house, after the extra pan of stuffing was mostly gone and I dipped a few rolls (white usually, if I was feeling "healthy" I'd use a wheat roll) with butter into the gravy boat. In fact it was more like a harbor, with flotillas of boats and dingys all swimming with a luxurious pool of brown gold gathered around plates which were more like docks. My grandfather made the turkey, stuffed it with spices, oysters, gizzards (didn't know what they were until later ;) and rich brown gravy. Made from bacon and butter basted turkey drippings! In case the bird was dry we didn't want to run out of the rich creamy liquid so he made extra.

An hour or so after the hour long dinner and a nap on the couch watching football were the pies and coffee. Apple, chocolate cream, and my aunt from Alabama's favorite to make - pecan. Pecan was one of my favorite, topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream or the tasty substitute loaded with hydrogenated oil Cool Whip. Another aunt prefers the fake cream and makes pies out of it. Pecan though - how many eggs, at least a dozen and all that corn syrup - wow. Well there are a few nuts in there but they get drowned in bad stuff.

Don't forget around 5 we'd have sandwiches and then leftover cranberry, stuffing and gravy on rolls. Maybe some white mashed potato with gravy and butter.

Then, only a few weeks and a left over meal of turkey or two later - Christmas season! That all starts with Christmas Eve. In our Scandinavian family, this was a great night of meeting 75 or 100 family and friends culminating with presents but starting with many strong drinks of Glog (a highly alcoholic beverage something like mulled wine on steroids) and a pot luck family smorgasbord. The pickled herring (Swedes call sill) and salmon were de-emphasized over time in favor of newer American favorites like lasagna, meatballs (Swedish and Italian), chicken wings and hot dogs in a bourbon sauce. The next day, a full on sitdown meal of roast beef and ham or turkey or both followed by more presents and lounging around with a dehydration headache!

Of course only a week away was New Years Eve, where I learned the alcohol binge side of things ....

So I guess ... the point of all this ... besides being pathetically accurate ;), is that it's no wonder we gain weight this time of year. It's a bad cycle.

I'm not here like Tony (wish I could be like him but I'm too empathetic I think) to tell you to give up everything and live a monastic life of no fat no alcohol no fun.

But I'm just making the point to cut yourself, your liver and your heart a break this holiday. Take just one piece of pie. Have a glass of water. Ditch the gravy and butter and maybe even white rolls. Your moderation in celebration is more relaxing and less taxing. Enjoy family, slow down, appreciate your health and all the gains you've made in fitness.

Take a walk on Thanksgiving or run a turkey trot. Take a break from the buffet table and sing a few Christmas carols. Rediscover some of those healthy ethnic foods like fish. Enjoy your time, don't binge it!

We're here a short time - let's make the best of it! Enjoy your food, enjoy your time and you'll be much happier longer!


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Workout 6 days a week

One of the things I learned from P90X and chatting with Tony Horton is to get results, to get lasting weight loss, obvious body changes, fat loss and muscle development, you need need need to workout every day.

Or at least if not every day, 6 days a week. Not 3, not 4. He mentions it all the time. He has a saying "working out 3 or 4 days a week is like throwing yourself down the stairs - you get sore and that's about it!".

Some of the principles you need to be aware of is recovery, variation and periodization. It can be complicated because there are a lot of aspects to being fit and you can't work the same way each day.

One basic tenet is that to burn enough calories to get body changes, you'll need to incorporate resistance training into your schedule. I mean weights, bands or something to push back or pull you down, add to gravity whatever you want to do to make something take most or all of your effort for a handful of number of repetitions.

There are two basic moves to go along with two basic muscle movements - flexing and extending. These are opposing muscle groups - bicep and tricep, quad and hamstring, ab and lumbar, they are all over the body. You can train these separately, or in an intelligent way together in supersets. Or you can hammer them together and vary opposing muscle groups by alternating days.

A good rule of thumb for reps seems to be 8-10 for more bulk, 12-15 for leaner muscle mass. I think, without doing the physiological proof, this hits the majority of folks. You can do more and gain huge size (and probably get injured) or do less and build stamina, which leads me to my next aspect.

Another aspect is cardiovascular absolute capacity and related but not the same, stamina or endurance.

You build stamina with lower intensity longer duration activity. I did it when I trained for the marathon. Paul Galloway, who wrote the highly popular How to Run a Marathon talks about the base level aerobic training, 75% of your work for training for a marathon, which is low level mid distance runs. LSD - long slow distance. Related, are long runs, which you increase very gradually over time to great distances. We all have a "wall" of lactic acid threshold, where your body just can't run anymore because you kind of cramp up and can hardly move. It used to be thought this was at around 20 miles for everyone, but as Galloway points out, your own wall is equal to your longest run (usually within some number of weeks time period).

But my point is, you can build this up with lesser activity.

You build cardio capacity in several ways, but mostly by taxing yourself via weights and circuit training or by doing some activity like running or kickboxing near your anabolic threshold. This means very vigorous exercise. When I refer to cardio capacity I am mainly referring to your heart and lungs and circulatory system. Don't forget your circulation - it's been shown that blood vessels are actually grown when you increase your cardiovascular capacity with vigorous exercise. Once you create them you have that for the rest of your life.

So another aspect and one that most programs gloss over - flexibility. Yoga, stretching when warm and proper form and range of motion while exercising build this up. This is an area of greater need as we age and is related to freedom of movement and balance also. And of course AVOIDING that bane of the athlete's existence, INJURY!

More subtle but very important is explosive vs endurance muscular strength. Jumping is different from slow jogging or walking. All of us have different mixes of these muscle fibers - fast and slow - but we can train them all and need to particularly for sports. Ironically, resistance training doesn't always equate to explosive strength. There is something also called "static" strength which happens when you build lean muscle tissue. You also have to hit the muscles with quick movement or you won't necessarily get that kind of capability. One interesting aspect - intervals or quick bursts of very high activity (interspersed with periods of rest) not only helps with explosive muscle capability it also taxes and thus helps develop absolute cardio capacity. You will get stronger and have a better cardio "motor" by doing interval type training.

Another principle that's vital for results is overload. You need to constantly challenge your central nervous system to adapt to ever changing and increasing loads or plateaus occur. Steve Edwards of Beachbody writes a lot about periodization, or the concept of different periods of time of emphasis for a particular fitness building activity.

Finally, you need to rest. Every now and then and at the end of a particular phase or period, a recovery period is essential or you will burn out. That is, if you are bringing appropriate intensity in the other times. I'll blog about that issue some time - most folks just aren't bringing it enough!

So how do you put this all together? In my opinion the BEST program I've found is P90x. It addresses all of these aspects, and the periods of training involved over 3 months, a good length of time to judge its effectiveness. Thousands have seen results with it. It's flexible, there's a LOT of thought that went into designing it and adapting it for various levels and a superb motivator and trainer Tony Horton, who constantly addresses form, motivation and intensity needed to maximize your results.

Once you've transformed yourself using it there are many options available for customizing your own programs but I always come back to some mix of Tony's programs. I'm sold and I think if you try them you will be too - they are the best on the market out there and you can do them without getting in your car and going anywhere (personally I commute enough every day!).

The basic truth though is, no matter what you do enjoy it enough to do it 6 days a week, intense resistance days for total body muscle groups, cardio, flexibility, muscle group periodization of course paired with good nutrition and you'll be well on your way to a healthier fitter lifestyle!

In a later column I'll post up my skiing workout, which I'm planning to get ready for ski season. It'll be 6 days a week and contain resistance, cardio, flexibility and stamina aspects. I'll be doing this once I complete my round of P90X in early December.

If you have any questions about any of this (I just scratched the surface) or want to learn more visit my web page at beachbody here....

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Loveland's open

They're waaaaaay up there near the Continental Divide ... got a nice report today - they are open!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

PGP exposes DNA sequences of 10 volunteers

Pretty interesting. Maybe some day we can all get screened for this stuff. I have the feeling it'll be a while, but I'm sure it will happen for my kid's lifetime.

Here's a link to one doctor's information with some hereditary risks he carries.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Healthy kids

Some good ideas on healthy snacks from beachbody


12 ways to raise healthier kids - includes walking at least partially to school!

Walk to school (or at least some of the way). This alone could make one of the biggest differences in activity levels. A generation ago, most self-respecting parents would laugh at their child's suggestion to drive them to school. Nowadays, lines of SUVs stretch out for blocks around campuses filled with kids burning nary a calorie whilst waiting to be dropped on the front step of the school. In some neighborhoods, this lost time is enough to fill most of the child's exercise requirement.

Lack of busing can shoulder some of the blame but the primary reason is fear. The world has gotten scary, or so we think, and parents drive their kids to keep them safe. In reality, the damage done from lack of activity is putting them at far more risk. According to former Department of Justice statistician Callie Rennison, our fears are mainly based on sensationalism in the media, which seem to promote every child abduction to the top of the headlines. "99.9 percent of child abduction cases are family related," she states. "Statistically, our kids are much safer in public than they've ever been."

Numbers aside, most parents will likely balk at the idea of making their kids the lab rats in some "walking to school" experiment. But, at least, you can drop them off close to school. The last part of the commute, the part while you're waiting in line, is a place where your kids could be moving in what is probably one of the safest situations imaginable—a line of cars filled with highly-protective parents.

Also, note that pediatricians recommend more activity for toddler age children than older - at least 60 mins of play and 60 minutes of planned activities.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Commuter bicycle act

One positive thing that came out of the bailout was the Bicycle Commuter Act.

You can now deduct $20/month for biking to work! The text of the law is here.

(i) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT- The term `qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement' means, with respect to any calendar year, any employer reimbursement during the 15-month period beginning with the first day of such calendar year for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee during such calendar year for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee's residence and place of employment.

`(ii) APPLICABLE ANNUAL LIMITATION- The term `applicable annual limitation' means, with respect to any employee for any calendar year, the product of $20 multiplied by the number of qualified bicycle commuting months during such year.

`(iii) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING MONTH- The term `qualified bicycle commuting month' means, with respect to any employee, any month during which such employee--

`(I) regularly uses the bicycle for a substantial portion of the travel between the employee's residence and place of employment, and

`(II) does not receive any benefit described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of paragraph (1).'.

(d) Constructive Receipt of Benefit- Paragraph (4) of section 132(f) is amended by inserting `(other than a qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement)' after `qualified transportation fringe'.

(e) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2008.

Also, the President is planning to open the National Parks to mountain biking. Under the new rule, which is proposed before Nov 15 so it can be enacted before Bush leaves office, park superintendents will have the latitude to open areas for mountain biking much more quickly than the current process, which requires formal public notice.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Feeling fatigue? Workout regularly

It turns out fatigue doesn't always improve with rest. In fact moderate exercise may heal your sluggish mitochondria which are part of the issue with fatigue problems.


This also includes a physiological response to cancer - deemed cancer fatigue. Moderate exercise appears to help with this.

Of course, infection and other disease may require rest, particularly at the outset, with this caveat:

Doug Wallace, who directs the Center for Molecular and Mitochondrial Medicine and Genetics at the University of California, Irvine, notes that while bed rest is important at the beginning an infection, after that "it can be bad because you literally down-regulate muscle function, and with that, the number and efficiency of mitochondria also go down."

So at some point, moderate exercise will help you get better. Anecdotally, I've noticed this when training for marathons. If I feel I'm getting sick, it can be a two edged sword. It might make me bonk worse. And there's nothing worse than that kind of bonk - you're out of it and can even get sicker! But on the other side, it seems to make me get better sooner. I've noticed even when training with P90X, I didn't get sick much, and when I did (ironically on an off week) I got better quicker. Probably the old moderate exercise revving up my immune system response again!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New fitness guideline recommendations from Uncle Sam


These include people with chronic medical conditions

"The new guidelines are a tremendous example of how policymakers can
help create a culture of wellness in America that focuses on prevention
first," Moore said. "These new Guidelines are easy to understand and
provide a very practical tool for helping Americans build exercise into
their daily lives. Communicating the new Guidelines will be a top priority
for IHRSA as we work to motivate more Americans to exercise for healthier

IHRSA also is making Americans aware of specialty health club programs
designed to support people with chronic medical conditions, such as
arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and cancer, as well as other
programs designed for children, older Americans, women, and other

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Speaking of yoga - ski season yoga

Interesting post about the utility of yoga for skiing with a few examples.

Us doing P90X probably already appreciate the value of yoga for all the reasons mentioned and more. It's like a miracle exercise that makes a lot of stuff better. But it's good to see it gaining acceptance as a ski season prep also.