Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

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?

Our Olympic Hopefuls

Hendiatris Citius, Altius, Fortius

Swifter, higher stronger, this summer Olympics are shaping up to be an all photo finish, pun intended. So I thought I would share a preview for I think we are in store for. China which didn’t fully compete in the Olympics will win the overall medal count. That is if you consider what has transpired at the world championships. Swimming will be key; at Beijing we outnumbered China 31-6 in the water however at worlds the number was reduced to 26-12. Most predictions have China beating us by 5-10 medals in the overall count. So clearly given what has happened at worlds, we need a strong showing in the pool.

The 100 meter dash is not a shoe-in for Usain Bolt. He was a relative unknown coming into the last summer games and from 2008 on he has had ever mounting pressure on him. He was a victim of the recently implemented one-and-done rule; his false start at worlds as an immediate disqualification. Yohan Blake capitalized on this and won the 100 and then came back and ran the second fastest 200 ever. Worst of all for Bolt, he is a team mate and fellow Jamaican.

Lochte, Phelps show down is going to be awesome! At trials, Lochte edged Phelps in most events. However this year Lochte is taking a Phelps-esk amount of races more than he has ever taken on. This is most likely will be Phelps last Olympics. He knows this and is truly ready to go out as the most storied Olympian in history.

Allyson Felix is America’s best chance to restore our sprinting glory. She is truly pushing hard for the individual medal that has eluded her. She is primed and ready to compete. In the 200 she is a three time world champion and she was just .03 off a world title in the 400 in her first time racing this distance. Her coach, Bobby Kersee, is husband and coach of the late Jackie Joyner-Kersee. He was also coach to Florence Griffith Joyner (Flow Jo) so I know he has her in true Olympic shape.

Ashton Eaton has brought about a renewal and attention back to the Decathlon. He just recently set a new world record with 9039 points breaking an 11 year old record by 13 points held by Roman Sebrle. He has joined the ranks of Bruce Jenner, Dan O’Brien, and Rafer Johnson among the Americans who have held the world record. His feat came on the 100 year anniversary of the decathlon and his world record was done against horrible odds.  Drizzle, Rain, cold and sun shine and everything in-between is the weather he faced that day. Which holds great promise for him as London weather hits all those wickets before noon.

A Bit of Inspiration

For all of you trying to change your lives or your weight, we thought we’d give you a little inspiration today!

“Strive for progress, not perfection.”

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.”

“Act how you want to feel.”

I wake up every day realizing this is it, that there’s only one shot at this life and I can either enjoy the ride and live it to the fullest and to my highest potential or I can stay the way I am.

Make the decision then do something- no matter how small- towards accomplishing what you want.

Your past does not equal, nor does it dictate, your future.

Never give up on a dream because of the length of time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.

A year from now, you may wish you had started today.

“There is no one giant step that does it. It’s a lot of little steps.” Peter A Cohen

“Failure is not fatal; failing to change will be.” John Wooden

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do it is increased.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Leave us your inspiration!

It’s Hot! Preventing Heat Related Illness

Well it’s not quite June 21st but with record highs across the country, summer is here. With that summer heat comes a whole slew of potential heat-related illnesses: hyponatremia, heat stroke and heat exhaustion,  all of which are serious and can be life threating. As an EMT, I have treated all of these, and as a Marine I suffered most of these and have seen them all many, many times. I’m going to throw at you some signs and symptoms as well as some quick tips to avoid them.

Hyponatremia: everyone really knows about dehydration, but few people have ever really heard of hyponatremia. What is it exactly? Hyponatremia is a metabolic condition in which there is not enough sodium (salt) in the body fluids outside the cells. In simple terms, you drank so much water you have flushed your system of needed nutrients. This can happen when you consume large quantities of water without eating regularly and with no other food inbetween meals. Although it is more common in endurance athletes, everybody is at risk. A person suffering from this will appear intoxicated, woozy and stumbling and possibly even slurred speech and disorientation. If you believe that you or someone around you is suffering from this call 911. This is really dangerous, so sit them down in the shade and give nothing to drink. You can avoid this by eating regularly, salt food to taste, and I always had sunflower seeds as a snack. They’re high in sodium and will help prevent this from happening. Also try drinking a little Gatorade with your water.

Heat exhaustion: this happens when your body isn’t able to regulate temperature. We all have experienced this before. This is not good, but that serious however it can lead to more serious things. How it happens is your outside without taking brakes and without continually hydrating. Signs and symptoms include light headedness, cramps, cool clammy skin and just overall exhaustion. Treatment is get out of the sun, get inside, and hydrate. To avoid this,  for every 30-45 minutes of work you do outside take a 10 minute break where you resupply what you have lost with water and a snack.

Heat Stroke: this is the most serious of heat injuries. Eventually you are baking yourself! In particularly your brain! Defined as a body temperature of greater than 40.6 °C (105.1 °F) due to environmental heat exposure with lack of thermoregulation.  Your body sits naturally around 98.6, but when you’re dehydrated and have been working out in the sun your internal temp will raise sharply. Your body combats this by sweating which cools off your body. However if you have pushed yourself for a long duration of exercise, your body will not have sufficient fluids to sweat and your internal temp starts to rise. Signs and symptoms are hot, red and dry skin. It is also common for the person to become unconscious. The treatment for this is call 911, move to shade, remove all tight fitting clothing and douse with water. If you have ice available put in their arm pits, under their neck and in the groin region. You want to place it here because these are 4 places where the body can lose the most amount of heat as quickly as possible. I cannot stress the urgency of calling 911 with this one; brain damage can set in very quickly and is permanent.  The elderly and young are particularly susceptible to this. Avoid sugary sodas and drink plenty of water before during and after exercise.

With summer comes many outdoor activities and a desire to get out and exercise. Take into consideration the dangers of heat and make sure to prevent them!


7 Quick Takes from ACSM

Last post about the conference, I promise! 🙂

Since I spent last week at the National American College of Sports Medicine Conference, I thought you all might like to learn a little bit about some of the latest research that’s being discussed! Rather than elaborate on for several blogs, I thought I’d give you the top 7 things I learned at the conference. Let me know if you want any more information!

1. Sanjay Gupta is quite good-looking up close. 🙂 Just had to throw that in there! (Sorry honey) Dr. Gupta came to the conference to speak about health and social media, and though he seemed to be a bit confused about who his audience was ( he thought most of us were medical doctors instead of researchers), he really was entertaining to listen to. He spoke about changing behaviors and how as a society it’s important that we reward healthy choices. The photo below is Dr. Sanja Gupta, Dr. Lustig and Diana Nyad.

2. Diana Nyad is phenomenal! If you don’t recognize the name, she is the 60+yr old woman who made a serious attempt last year at swimming from Cuba to Florida. She spoke about living life to the fullest, having big dreams and focusing on what really matters. While she didn’t present any research or novel ideas, her energy and passion were incredibly contagious. After listening to her speak, Kevin and I went on an 8 mile run. If you ever have a change to hear her speak, don’t pass it up!

3. Learned a new catch-phrase: 5,2,1,almost none. Have you guys heard about this? It’s a quick way to help parents keep their kids healthy without making things too complicated. Every day kids should have 5 servings of veggies/fruits, less than 2 hours of total screen time, at least 1 hour of activity (for kids, playing counts as exercise!), and almost no sugar. While this catch-phrase is technically aimed at kids, if we all lived by these simple rules, we would be much healthier!

4. The old manta “a calorie is a calorie” is most definitely on its way out. I had the interesting pleasure of hearing Dr. Robert Lustig speak about obesity and sugar. If you haven’t seen his youtube video, you should check it out. He gave a 90 minute lecture on the evils of sugar and crazily enough, the video has gone viral. Dr. Lustig has gotten so much attention in part because of the tenacity and bluntness with which he speaks. He has no problem calling sugar “evil” or calling people “fat” right to their faces. While his views are definitely controversial, he does make a very interesting case for the negative effects of sugar and warns that regardless of calorie content, sugar is harmful and can lead to weight gain. This link is from 60 minutes is has both Dr. Lustig and Dr. Sanjay Gupta this is the same information they shared with us at the conferance

5. I learned a little more about high fructose corn syrup; one group of researchers put mice on a high fructose diet and monitored their insulin sensitivity (if you have low sensitivity, you are at risk for diabetes). The high fructose diet significantly lowered insulin sensitivity (bad), but when the mice were put on a regular exercise routine, their insulin sensitivity went back to normal.

6. For those with diabetes, another group of researchers tracked insulin sensitivity 48 hours after a single exercise session and found that just one bout of exercise improves sensitivity for at least 24 hours. The effect doesn’t last much longer than that, which is why diabetes are recommended to exercise 5-7 days a week if they can.

7. Lastly, the research I presented! I found that the flavonoid quercetin, found in fruits and veggies with dark red colors, may help alleviate fatigue induced by chemotherapy. Almost everyone who has cancer and undergoes cancer treatment reports a significant, debilitating fatigue, and I hypothesized that inflammation might play a role. Quercetin is a natural anti-inflammatory, and when fed to mice at regular intervals, the mice experience less fatigue following chemotherapy treatment.

Hope you learned something!


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?




Guest Blog from Jennifer Fulwiler

We are very excited to bring you a guest today; Jennifer Fulwiler from Conversion Diary (a wonderful blog about Jennifer’s journey from atheism to catholicism). One of my favorite things about her blog is how she candidly discusses her diet and relationship to food. Through a combination of prayer, research, medical insight, and just listening to her body, Jen was able to figure out how the foods she was eating affected her health, and she did a complete diet overhaul, which she calls the Saint Diet. Below are some questions I asked her about her diet, both before and after her drastic change. For more info on the Saint Diet, check out Jennifer’s blog!

1. Can you briefly describe your relationship to food before you started your Saint Diet? What a typical dietary day for you and how successful did you feel you were at dieting?
I used to joke that I had an alter ego, whom I not-so-affectionately called Jen-Tron the Eating Machine. There were certain times when I simply could not control myself. When I was in this mode, someone could have offered me $500 not to eat that fifth helping, and I would not have been able to accept that offer. It was that bad.
When I was trying to eat well, I would lean toward natural foods, whole grain breads and pastas, etc. It tended to work okay for a while, but inevitably Jen-Tron would rear her head at some point, and I’d end up eating way, way more than I needed to, in the form of excessive snacks, massive dinner portion sizes, etc.
2. What made it click for you that your relationship to food was much more than willpower, but something physiological?
There was one specific moment when I realized I had a problem: I was at a wedding, and ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a while. She began talking to me about what was new in her life, and had some exciting news to share. At that same time, the dinner buffet line opened up. I wasn’t all that hungry — I’d eaten a heavy snack right before we left for the wedding — but I became obsessed by the buffet line. I saw that there was fettuccine alfredo, and all I could think about was getting a plate-full of that. I was so terrified at the idea of not getting that pasta that I could not concentrate on what my friend was saying, no matter how much I wanted to. I kept telling myself to listen to her, but my thoughts were utterly fixated on that food, like I was a drug addict in need of a fix. That’s when I realized this was more than just a willpower issue.
3. How did you determine what foods triggered a negative response, and was it difficult to give up those foods?
I had heard a lot of testimonies of people whose lives changed after they gave up wheat, and I suspected that I might have some sort of addictive issues with that food, so I started by just giving up gluten for Lent one year. For the first time in my life, I didn’t hear from Jen-Tron. I could finally exercise some control over what I ate. It was such a powerful experience that I stuck with it.
At first it was hard. In fact, twice I fell back into eating pasta. But after the second time I had a “relapse,” my health got so bad that my husband became seriously concerned. I felt like I was 100 years old, I was in pain all the time, I slept 10 hours at night and still needed naps. As soon as I gave up wheat again my health completely changed and I felt fantastic. That was over a year ago, and I’ve never been tempted to go back to eating wheat. Now when I look at a bowl of pasta I associate it with feeling like I’m on the brink of death.
4. How has the Saint Diet affected your life? What’s your diet like now?
The “Saint Diet” has morphed into a mostly Paelo diet. I basically follow the eating guidelines laid out in the excellent book The Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. Since I’ve been following that food philosophy, cutting back on portion sizes, and going on regular jogs, I have lost over 30 pounds and have more energy than I did when I was eighteen (I now weigh less than I did when I got married). And it’s worth noting that this all happened after I had my fifth baby in six years. If I can do it, anyone can!

Thank you so much Jennifer for spending some time with us on our blog!

-Sara and Kevin

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