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Archive for the ‘Getting started’ Category

Should we be exercising… less?

This might sound crazy to you, but in the quest for weight loss, some of us may be exercising too much. How can that be, you might be asking, since so few people actually exercise? Let me ask you this; for those of you who regularly go to the gym, do you know anyone that you see there every day on the treadmill not getting any thinner? I know I do. There is a new research study out this month that suggests that some people may be struggling to lose weight because they are actually exercising too much!

The study was conducted by the University of Copenhagen and followed the weight loss efforts of overweight but otherwise healthy men in their 20s and 30s. The men were broken up into 3 groups; no exercise, 30 minutes daily and 60 minutes daily. They were told to keep their eating habits constant throughout the duration of the 13 week study. Afterwards, they were weighed, and as expected the group that did not change their diet or exercise habits lost no weight. The 60 minute group lost around 5 pounds on average, so they were mildly successful. However, the 30 minute group lost 7 pounds on average, which was significantly more than the researchers were expecting. How could this be?

One hypothesis is the compensatory eating effect. Those who worked out an hour each day felt exhausted afterwards and may have had an increased drive to eat in order to compensate for the large number of calories burned. The 30 minute group most likely didn’t perceive the effort to be all that hard, and may actually have kept their calorie intake constant. The second and more interesting hypothesis (I think) is the amount of other activity they did during the day. The 60 minute group usually felt pretty wiped out from their workout and spent most of their free time sitting; they took the elevator instead of the stairs and sat on the couch after work instead of tackling some chores. The 30 minute group actually reported feeling energized from their workout and they moved around significantly more during the day.

I loved this study because it actually made sense in my own life. When I was in college I ran both track and cross country. During the cross country season, I ran more miles during the week, and therefore always felt like I was burning a ton of calories. I definitely reduced my other activity and ate as many brownies as my heart desired and looking back at pictures, I was always a little heavier during cross country season.

How much do you exercise? Have you ever felt frustrated that you’re exercising so much and yet not losing weight?

-Sara

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Getting Motivated

For those of us who struggle to exercise daily (or at least semi-daily), finding the right motivation is key. When my alarm goes off at 5:45 every morning, I need a really good reason to get out of bed; if not, I’m hitting the snooze and exercising tomorrow.

As an exercise physiologist, I’d like to think that the most current research is what motivates people to exercise. There are dozens of studies that tout the benefits of regular physical activity on reducing chronic disease; with just 30 minutes a day, you lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and even depression. That should be enough to make us want to move around, right?

Unfortunately, the research would suggest otherwise. According to a study done by Ingledew and Markland, exercisers tended to stick with a program much longer if their reason for working out was related to social interactions and those who were exercising for appearance didn’t last very long. Researchers have also found that when we perceive benefits to be either intangible or in the distant future, we aren’t very motivated. Just knowing that when you’re 75, your cholesterol will be lower doesn’t seem to be a potent motivator for getting off the couch.

So what do we do? There’s a great article on nytimes right now that suggests we will exercise much more often if we think about how it makes us feel, rather than how it makes us look, and if we think about how it affects us today, rather than how it will affect us 10 years from now. If yo look forward to your evening walk, thinking about how it helps you de-stress and how nice it will feel to be outside, you’ll be more likely to go than if you try to guilt yourself into going. Thinking about exercise as a punishment will always leave a bad taste and it will be a dreaded item to check off the to-do list.

I exercise for a couple of reasons; some noble, some not so much. Some days I look forward to my run; I feel fit and thin and it sounds like a fun thing to do. Other days, I force myself to go because I’m training for a race, or honestly, because I had an extra piece of chocolate cake the day before. But, what gets me out of bed in the morning at 5:45 is thinking how good I’ll feel for the rest of the day. If I tell myself, “it’s just 30 minutes. Then think what you’ll have accomplished before 7 am,” I’ll  get right up.

What motivates you to exercise?

Changing the Way We Think About Exercise

If I mention the words “exercise program,” what comes to mind? Do you think about joining a gym, sweating it out in a spinning class or maybe training for a marathon? Most people associate exercise with something hard, sweaty and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. I came across this article in the New York Times about a new book written by Gretchen Reynolds, one of their columnists. I loved her idea so much, I thought I’d tell you about it. Her book is called “The First 20 Minutes” and details the most current research about how long and how hard we should exercise.

She clearly defines how much exercise is required for health, as compared to how much exercise we need to become more fit (faster, stronger, more competitive). “The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk — all of those things come in the first 20 minutes of being active.” Reynolds explains.

Without being evangelical, I wanted people to understand that this is a book about how little exercise you can do in order to get lots and lots of health benefits. Two-thirds of Americans get no exercise at all. If one of those people gets up and moves around for 20 minutes, they are going to get a huge number of health benefits, and everything beyond that 20 minutes is, to some degree, gravy.”

I’ve seen this so much in research; just walking 20 minutes a day lowers your risk (by quite a bit) for not only heart disease and diabetes, but cancer and depression as well. Our bodies were just made to move around during the day, and our health benefits tremendously when we do. When encouraged to exercise, I think most people feel pressure to join a gym, lift weights or start running, and perhaps it seems either too expensive, too time consuming or just too hard. Reynolds disagrees with that idea, “If people want to be healthier and prolong their life span, all they really need to do is go for a walk. It’s the single easiest thing anyone can do. There are some people who honestly can’t walk, so I would say to those people to try to go to the local Y.M.C.A. and swim.” Walking is so easy and so cheap, and the best part is that you don’t have to get 20 minutes in all at once. Plenty of research supports the fact that if you walk 10 minutes in the morning, and 10 in the evening, you still reap the same benefits.

Reynolds also discusses the importance of moving around during the day, and not going too long without standing up. For more information on the dangers of sitting, check out one of our previous posts.

Others who aren’t big proponents of exercise feel that they put in plenty of time at the gym, but don’t lose much weight right away, and think it isn’t worth their time. “I think a lot of people look to exercise to help them lose weight, and when they don’t lose weight immediately with exercise, they quit. They return to the couch, and they basically never move again. What is lost in that is that fitness is almost certainly more important than fatness,” says Reynolds. Exercise, especially moderate exercise, may not lead to large weight loss if not coupled with a reduced calorie diet. I think so many people struggle here because you feel so great about all that exercise you just did, and then you drink a 200 calorie Gatorade, completely negating the caloric deficit.

I loved this quote:

If someone starts an exercise program and improves his fitness, even if he doesn’t lose an ounce, he will generally have a longer life and a much healthier life. It would be nice if people would look at exercise as a way to make themselves feel better and live longer and not necessarily as a way to make themselves skinnier.”

How do you view exercise? Is it a way to stay thin, a way to be healthy, or both?

-Sara

 

 

Stages of Change

Hey guys! Here’s a section from our book about how to negotiate changing your habits when  you’re in a relationship. Enjoy!

“For most couples, seeing eye-to-eye on health and fitness is something you dream about, but not really a practical reality. You may like to read articles about diet and vegetables, but your partner is only interested in hitting the gym. Or, perhaps fitness has never been part of your relationship, but as you become more interested in a life change, you’re hoping your partner will be excited about changing with you.  In order to make this transition as easy as possible, it will be helpful to understand how willing your partner is to change and what methods will be most helpful in ensuring the two of you change together. In this section, we’ll teach you about the 4 stages of change and what strategies are most effective in communicating with a partner at each stage.  This theory was originally published by Prochaska et al in 1992, and the strategies we discuss are based on a paper published by Zimmerman et al in the American Family Physician Journal.

T he Stages of Change model shows that most people slowly change their behavior over time, instead of just having that “aha” moment. True change in one life takes time and is not a linear progression. Relapses are almost guaranteed to occur and actually become a piece of the process. The Stages of Change model describes 4 stages along to way to making a life change; pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation and action.  In the pre-contemplation stage, a person has no intent or desire to change. They don’t think the statistics apply to them and they don’t think there is any reason to live their life differently. In the contemplation stage, a person will begin to weight the benefits and costs of changing their habits. They may see the merit in diet or exercise, but giving up their lifestyle will seem like a loss. In the preparation stage, a person is getting ready to make a big change. They may test out smaller changes such as buying a pair of walking shoes or shopping for low-fat items in the grocery store. Finally, the big leap is the action stage. This person has weighed the pros and cons, done the proper preparation and has decided to jump in and live life differently.

It is critical to understand where your partner is in the stages of change before you expect a significant alteration in their behavior. If they aren’t even contemplating change, then giving them goal setting tips probably isn’t your best course of action. The most effective way to help your partner change their lifestyle right along with you is to match your interventions with their stage. So how do you do that?

The best thing you can do is to listen. Ask your partner how they feel about diet, exercise or even their own health and then listen to what they have to say. More than likely, they’ll let you know exactly where they are just by their answer. Here’s what to listen for:

If they are in the…. They might say….
Pre-contemplation Stage “All that research doesn’t apply to me”

“It’s impossible for me to lose weight”

“I’m fine the way I am”

In this stage, your partner won’t think change is necessary at all. They don’t think advice applies to them and altering their lifestyle is not something they are interested in.

 

Contemplation Stage “I know I should work out, but I just don’t have time”

“I’d like to eat better, but I just hate the taste of vegetables”

Your partner will be receptive to the benefits of diet and exercise, but they feel that the cost (whether it be money, time, or taste) is just too much

 

Preparation Stage “I’ll try walking once a week with you”

“I guess some more vegetables would be nice”

Your partner may be willing to try out small changes that don’t seem too intimidating

 

Action Stage “Alright, let’s do it”

Good idea! I’ll challenge you to see who loses the most weight!”

In the action phase, your partner is truly ready to make a big life change

How to be Manly on a Diet

Can you really maintain your manly credibility on a diet? I will testify to the fact that if you truly strive to eat healthy, the legitimacy of you Y chromosome will take a few shots. Don’t believe me?  Ok, next time you go out with the guys, order the fresh green salad with salmon and low fat dressing on the side with a glass of ice water……….that’s what I thought.

So how do you try to lose weight while still maintaining your masculinity? Here a few things that worked for me.

Talk up your testosterone:

First thing you have to do is make it publicly known to your friends that you care about what you put into your body. You’re going to want to address this as a performance issue; every man can get behind this. Whatever your cup of tea is:  weightlifting, running, triathlons, martial arts or vinasea yoga, let people know what your goal is and that a proper diet is pivotal to your success. This brings forth manly thoughts of determination and desire to be physical, which will strike a chord with every guy and they will get behind you.

Having a Drink:

Next comes the booze.  There is nothing wrong with ordering a light beer and water; this way you are still having a drink and hydrating to go with it. Or, volunteer to be the designated driver.  Trust me, this will make you popular. One great excuse for passing up the booze Friday or Saturday night is having a planned athletic event the next morning. For me, it’s a race because I still consider myself a runner despite everything else I do.  Not a runner?  No problem!  Tell your friends that you’re maxing out on bench in the morning; trust me, they will buy into that.

Football Sunday:

This is a problem I encounter a lot; friends invite me over to their house for a day of football or just a cook out, but they don’t follow my regiment when it comes to food. Everything bacon wrapped, extra cheese, beer, fried, ranched covered is what is served to me. First, I try to bring a dish, not just an appetizer but something that will count as real food. On top of that, I make it something that’s actually good.  There is no way you’re reaching over the extra large pizza for goat cheese salad. Try my healthy pizza recipe or make it a pasta salad and chalk it up to carbo loading. The next trick, and probably the best, is to host the party at your own house. It’s your turf, your food and so you can just provide all the crap that they want and make your own food to suit your needs. Couple that with my other techniques listed above and you maintain your man credibility.

Let me know how it goes this week!

-Kevin

My New Morning Fix

I, like most of America love getting my morning fix of coffee in some form or fashion. Unfortunately, frap-a-chocolate iced sugar filled chino has hundreds and hundreds of calories. So, I decided to find a healthy fix; something that would wake me up in the morning without making me feel guilty for the rest of the day.  I didn’t want some lame substitute that makes me only miss my beloved cup of coffee. My wife and I recently joined a gym and they have a lap pool. Being that I was a water survival instructor in the Marine Corps, I decided to get my butt in the pool again and give it a go. It has been the best thing I have done for myself in a long time.

First off, I truly benefit from the fact that it is a low impact form of cardio so I have been swapping out some of my 4:30am runs with swims. *Side note from Sara: Kevin is crazy. I would never get up at 4:30 to run. Who does that?

 Second, I use my morning swim as a warm up for my lifting which I do right after. I am no meat head, I don’t live my life one scoop of protein at a time and I will never put any kind of pre weight lifter work out supplement in my body like NO Xplode or something like that. I don’t really need to; just jumping in a chilly pool at 4:30AM is the best wakeup call you can get! A simple 500 meters later and I am full warmed up in the right state of mind to get my lift on and get out!

The third and last benefit to my new morning ritual I feel fully energized by the time I get home and have my breakfast smoothie. I get dressed wake up my wife, get my things ready for work (wake up my wife again)and I don’t even realize that I haven’t consumed my morning coffee. This new found source of energy is with me all day. I work out again in the afternoon and call it a day. I have found a new; better source of energy and the best thing is the fact that it is negative calories! BOOM!! I would love to find out what you guys do to get your morning rolling so please feel free to post comments and let me know!

Kevin

2012 Spartacus Workout: Week 1

 

Well, I am a week into this thing and for the most part I am feeling pretty good about this routine and about my healthy weight. For about the past 5 months I have been running with my wife to help her train for her ultra race, and it really feels good to get back to a more testosterone challenging workout! I will say this however; the majority of this work out seems to be legs based. I don’t really think anybody got jacked arms from this workout, but hey, I am only a week into it. Check out my progress so far!

Kevin Week 1

*This is a picture of Kevin at week 1. If I was more computer savvy, I could figure out how to put his before picture side-by-side with his week 1, but I don’t know how! Does anyone know how to do it? -Sara

Moreover, I will say this workout needs one adaptation: it says to pick a weight that is challenging enough that you struggle to complete the work out, but I suggest having at least one set of weights 5-10 pounds lighter than the one you use. By the time you get to the third set you are pretty well smashed! And, having a lighter weight allows you to keep going instead of bending over and holding your knees. This workout also fails to prescribe a proper warm up. I have been kicking this thing off at 4:45 am, so I need a good warm up to even wake up let alone do mountain climber push ups. For my warm up I have been running about ¾ of a mile before I start.

 

As for my food diary, I have chosen to keep it really quite simple.  The only thing that changes for me is my dinner.

 

Breakfast: I drink a homemade smoothie containing orange juice, raspberries, spinach and Greek yogurt. I usually have this as soon as my work out is over at about 5:30. After my shower I make a breakfast taco with 1 egg, 1 strip of turkey bacon, 1 tortilla and a little bit of cheese.

Lunch: I pack a cliff bar, 1 banana, a low fat string cheese, an almond butter sandwich and an organic fruit bar. I start eating my lunch 1 piece an hour starting at nine so that by the time my lunch break comes I only have my sandwich left. I do this so I can work during my lunch break, but I also really like doing this because I never really get hungry

Dinner: I have really eaten a variety of things for dinner. I’ll have a bowl of south west taco soup, half a bowl of tortellini or a baked chicken leg with a vegetable.

After dinner snack: This is a must! I usually have pistachios and flavored seltzer water.

I’ll will keep you all updated on how it’s going. Anyone else try the Spartacus workout this week?

-Kevin

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