Tag: fitness

Understanding Hydration

Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

Spring has now arrived and many of us physical fitness buffs will be taking our activities outside where we can enjoy nature as we go at our favorite outside recreational activities. Some will go for walks, while a good many of us will go at our activity vigorously enough to raise a sweat along with our heart rates. While it is my personal opinion that outside exercise is great for everyone, we have to be quite vigilant about our level of hydration as dehydration can not only hurt us, it can kill us. ALWAYS seek medical attention if you have ANY signs or symptoms of dehydration!

Hydration might seem a boring topic, yet it is an important one as there are people who really do not understand the implications of both dehydration, nor the ill effects of over hydrating. It was through my following of Weight Watchers social media Connect where I really became aware of some of the crazy ideas which proliferate the internet, ideas which range from being mildly ill informed to down right dangerous. The mildly ill informed crowd would be the folks who make it a point to drink one to two gallons of water per day with no solid scientific evidence to back up their reasoning, it was just something they read on the internet they should do in order to lose weight easier. For most people, the worst aspect of this would be never being able to get too far away from a bathroom during the day as they will be urinating on a frequent basis. When this practice becomes harmful is if the individual drinks enough to suffer a condition called hyponatremia, or water intoxication. Water intoxication is a result of drinking an extreme amount of water in a short time which will cause the level of salt, or sodium, in your blood to drop too low. This situation is serious and can be fatal.

 A downright dangerous idea I saw perpetuated on Connect was by a very popular male “Connector” who appears to have little else to do with his day than to flex his muscles for selfie pictures which he constantly posts every day. Many people who are struggling with weight loss and are new to physical fitness hang on every word this gentleman writes on his page. This fellow who is a huge influence to a great many people once wrote about how he likes to workout while dehydrated. This is an old body builder trick for just before competition in order to make their muscles appear more “cut”, or to have a clear separation between each muscle group. While this ignorant practice might be good for him, it is beyond the pale, that he would put this word out to people who for the most part do not know better than to workout while dehydrated. I called him out on this and was blocked not long afterwards. I sure hope this individual never put out dangerous word like that ever again.

Friends, before I get further into dehydration, refer to the chart below and remember this as a rule of thumb in regards to hydration; there is no magic amount of water you need to drink each day for your health. The amount you need is going to be unique to each individual based on not only how much water is consumed, but how much water is taken in through other sources of liquid, including food. Look at the simple chart below and use that as a hydration guide. By the color of your urine, you can know if you are taking in too little or too much water. Note, the upper color is a light straw and does not represent entirely clear, like water, urine. If your urine can pass for drinking water, you have likely depleted a good amount of your body’s electrolytes and you will need to replenish them before partaking in vigorous exercise.

To get more into science of this topic, did you know that the human body is made up of about 60% water?

Adequate hydration for healthy digestion of our foods, proper breathing, and just about every basic function. When you are not taking in enough water, dehydration will happen which can lead into less than favorable side effects. Unfortunately, more than 70% of Americans may suffer from chronic dehydration according to doctors (1). And because it can come in the form of several different symptoms, many people fail to notice that they are dehydrated.

What is dehydration?

Your body requires adequate water intake for every function it performs. Dehydration can be mild, moderate, severe, or chronic depending on how much fluid your body is missing.

  • Dehydration is your body’s negative reaction to having a water deficiency.
  • Chronic dehydration is a condition where dehydration lasts for longer periods of time.

Again, without sufficient hydration, your body cannot perform its basic functions properly. No matter your age, dehydration can occur for several reasons. Babies and elderly people are more prone to fluid deficiencies than adolescents and adults.

Young children are most likely to experience diarrhea and vomiting which purges both electrolytes and water, which increase the chances of dehydration. Babies also do not have fully developed kidneys. This means they will retain less water than they store in their tiny little bodies.

Older adults naturally have less water in their bodies and often times will not realize they are thirsty until dehydration has already set in. Additionally, elderly people are more susceptible to dehydration if they take certain medications like diuretics.

Causes of dehydration

The causes of dehydration can vary per individual depending on certain lifestyles, genetic and environmental factors. Most people are prone to dehydration under specific circumstances such as exercising frequently, illness and exposure to heat.

Your body loses water every day just through breathing, sweating, going to the bathroom and through saliva. If you have a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting, you are excreting additional fluids that can worsen dehydration. People who are active, exercise frequently, and sweat a lot also have an increased risk of fluid deficiencies.

In addition, some digestive tract issues can make you more prone to diarrhea which is linked to dehydration. Some of these conditions include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Gluten sensitivity

Always, make it a habit to increase your water intake when you are releasing more water than you normally would.

Signs you are dehydrated:

  • Not urinating enough, or your urine is dark yellow. A simple way to determine if you are dehydrated is by checking the frequency of your bathroom trips as well as the color of your urine. If you are not urinating frequently, and when you do it is a darker color of yellow, chances are you have moderate dehydration. The darker it is, and the less frequent you do urinate, the more likely it is you are dehydrated, period. Start drinking more water as soon as you see that your pee is a darker yellow.
  • Dry skin. Research shows that your skin contains 30% water which is responsible for elasticity and plumpness. Many people who show signs of dehydrating may sometimes appear sweaty but as you go through the stages of dehydration, from mild to severe, your skin will become drier. Your skin may also appear red and flushed if you are dehydrated. Applying moisturizing lotion can alleviate some skin problems externally, but drinking more water will help your internal bodily functions to maintain healthy, supple skin.
  • Bad breath comes from dehydration when you are prevented from creating enough saliva. And since saliva has antibacterial properties, the lack of production can cause bacteria growth in your mouth that can lead to bad breath. If you have “zoo breath” reaching for a glass of water may be more effective than a piece of gum.
  • Experiencing muscle cramps! Refer back to the idiot telling people he likes to be dehydrated when working out, and the harm this can cause people. Exercising frequently, or working in hot weather can make you dehydrated and cause muscle cramps. As your muscles work harder, they will stop functioning properly, especially in a hot environment. Excessive sweating from exercise or heat worsens dehydration and also causes you to excrete vital minerals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. If you are experiencing muscle cramps, consider bringing a sugar free electrolyte drink as well as a water bottle and sipping on both throughout your day.
  • Fever like symptoms, having the chills and other flu like symptoms is commonly associated with infection. But dehydration is another culprit to having fever. When your body does not have adequate fluid levels, it becomes difficult for your body to maintain a stable body temperature which can lead to hyperthermia and fever symptoms. If you are experiencing flu like symptoms, immediately stop all physical activity you are doing and drink more fluids as well as electrolytes while you rest.
  • Not consuming enough water may result in fatigue, dizziness, and lightheadedness. Your brain is composed of more than 70% water so it is crucial to stay hydrated for optimal brain and body functioning. Severe dehydration can come in the form of confusion and feeling like you may pass out any second. If this occurs, take a seat, slowly drink water and give your body a rest before attempting any physical activity. Ensure you consume a source of essential vitamins and minerals from water filled fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers, apples and watermelon.
  • Craving sweets and sugary treats. When you are dehydrated, it is difficult for your body to release glycogen (which uses water) as your main source of energy. If you are experiencing sudden hunger cravings for something sweet or salty, there is a good chance that dehydration is making it difficult for your body to release glucose into the bloodstream to use as a fuel source. Instead of giving into this craving, drink a glass of water or two.

How to avoid dehydration and rejuvenate your body.

Here are some tips for bouncing back from dehydration and restoring your body’s proper fluid levels. ALWAYS seek medical attention if you have ANY signs or symptoms of dehydration!

  • Keep a water bottle next to you at al times. If water is constantly in front of you and readily accessible, you will most likely get in the habit of sipping throughout the day without even noticing.
  • Add flavoring to your water if you do not like the blandness of water. Consider getting a zero calorie sweetener to satisfy your thirst and taste buds.
  • Eat more vegetables. Aim for large servings of vegetables in each one of your meals. Some fruits and vegetables are made up of 90% water such as watermelon, cucumber, celery, zucchini and lettuce.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol. Both increase the frequency of your bathroom trips, resulting in a higher chance of dehydration.
  • Drink unsweetened tea. If you like tea, a few cups a day can help you reach proper fluid levels while benefiting from antioxidants. Avoid sweetened tea as the added sugar can worsen dehydration.
  • Workout less during extreme heat. It is hard enough to maintain proper hydration when you are working out in an air conditioned gym. If you are experiencing chronic dehydration, consider less intense exercises while it is hot out.
  • Drink a bottle of water first thing in the morning. When you are asleep, your body is still excreting fluids. More often than not, you are slightly dehydrated after a full nights rest. Drinking at least one glass of water as soon as you wake up is a great way to restore proper fluid levels.
  • Drink water before, during and after exercise. Whether you are a beginner, or advanced in fitness, water intake should be one of your top priorities. We encourage drinking at least a glass of water three hours before exercise, sip on a bottle of water during your workout, and immediately after you finish.

Staying hydrated is key for optimal health and longevity.

Drinking enough water for optimum hydration can be a struggle for many people. Ranging from babies to older adults, dehydration can negatively impact your health at any age.

Putting conscious effort towards maintaining proper fluid levels will help you stay healthy and prevent dehydration from rearing it’s ugly head. If you are experiencing any of the tell tale signs mentioned above, consider adopting a few strategies above into your daily activity. Whether you are an athlete, construction worker, or live a sedentary lifestyle, drinking more water can help you improve your health and well being.

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How Much Water Do I Need?

(1) Claire Riley, AFPA Health, Nutrition & Fitness

Fitness Trackers, Fitbit or No Fitbit?

I get asked fairly often do I think Fitbits and other fitness trackers are worth the money. These questions come almost exclusively from folks who are new to physical fitness. Maybe they have begun a new exercise regimen. Or, they may still be in the contemplation stage, trying to gather all the information they need for success. I have mixed emotions about if I think Fitbits are worth the money for anyone and will get into that.  But first, I will address what a Fitbit is and how  they are utilized by fitness enthusiasts.

What is a Fitbit?

Fitbit is a brand name for what is essentially a glorified pedometer. You can find many of these  on the market available from different manufacturers. These devices when combined with apps work together to deliver a complete, connected and fun experience that’s available at any time. With these fitness trackers, you can track your activity, exercise, food, weight, sleep, heart rate and more for real-time information, day and night. That is pretty handy to say the least. The question is, are these devices accurate with their data? Common sense would say that accuracy is going to all depend on the quality of your tracker.

What you will find is they are usually pretty good for counting steps, but when it comes to distance, some are more accurate than others. You could believe you are walking or jogging, lets say three miles by your fitness tracker data, and then discover that you are actually only doing two and a half miles. Conversely, you could find yourself going even farther than your target of three miles.

Another issue with fitness trackers comes from tracking you caloric burn. Some are going to be fairly accurate while others are wildly off. If you are one who likes to eat extra calories based on the calories your fitness tracker said you burned, you could very easily find yourself not losing weight. In fact, if your caloric burn is not accurately reflected, you could even find yourself gaining weight if you eat the extra calories.

If you are in weight loss mode, you really need to know exactly how many calories a day you need to consume in order to lose body fat and really consider going easy on consuming more based on what you believe you may have burned extra through exercise. It is my observation that many people will underestimate the amount of calories they eat, and greatly over rate the amount of calories they believe they have burned each day.

The bottom line is, based on your gender, age, weight, and activity level, you require a certain amount of calories each day in order to maintain your weight. If you desire to lose one pound per week, you need to reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories per day, or 3500 calories per week in order to achieve that amount of weight loss. Your fitness tracker can hurt your weight loss effort if the data it gives you is not accurate.

A lot of today’s fitness trackers will monitor your heart rate, which is good if, once again, if the data is accurate. They are usually most accurate when you are at rest, and lose accuracy once your heart rate elevates during exercise. While there may be a legitimate benefit to monitoring your heart rate with a fitness device, know that this data is not accurate enough for medical purposes.

These devices are probably good enough to inform the user of general trends in their heart rate, but it is important to have more accurate information when physicians are relying on this data to make decisions on medications or other tests and treatments. Also, where this applies to you, the end user, is if you have or had heart problems, bad data can give you a false sense of confidence in your physical capabilities. You could believe your heart is healthier than it may actually be. A released study by the American College of Cardiology showed these devices can be off by up to 34 beats per minute. All this being said, I do not believe that any of the manufactures market their products as a medical device.

The prices of fitness trackers range from as low as $25 to upwards of a couple hundred dollars. Are they worth the money? Well, that is all dependent on the quality of the device you purchase and it’s accuracy. Just my humble opinion, but if a device is not accurate, then it is not worth a penny in my book. But, you might find them to be really useful for your purposes. Their value is entirely subjective to the individual wearing it and what they hope to achieve by using the data they collect from their device. My advice to anyone considering buying a fitness tracker whom may also be tight on funds is to ask yourself a few questions;

  1. Have I been at an exercise regimen long enough to know that I am in it for the long haul and will not quit when the going gets tough?
  2. What do I hope to achieve by using a fitness tracker?
  3. How useful is the information really going to be for me? Is the data going to help me run farther and faster. Is it going to be the holy grail that gets me into good physical condition?
  4. Instead of a fitness tracker, would I be better off spending that money on a good pair of shoes? This question really is pretty important to consider as a cheap pair of shoes can derail you from your efforts before you truly even get started. If you are heavy, then a cheap pair of shoes is going to be your worse enemy as proper arch support and cushion is a prerequisite towards becoming a runner. Poor arch support can lead to Plantar Fasciitis. This condition comes from the numerous complex tissues, muscles and bones that can become damaged quite easily if your feet are not properly protected when you run. The foot has a thick, fibrous band of tissue called the fascia that reaches from the heel to the toes and provides support to the muscles and arch of the foot. When this tissue becomes overly stretched, tiny tears can occur on the surface, resulting in pain and severe discomfort. Trust me, if you do not care for your feet, that fitness tracker is not gong to do a thing for you while you are recuperating.
  5. Another issue to consider when deciding on a fitness tracker over a quality pair of shoes is a fitness tracker will no more prevent you from getting Shin Splints than it will Plantar Fasciitis. Shin Splints are also referred to as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. The cause is stress on your shinbone and the connective tissues that attach the muscles to your bones. They get inflamed and very painful. Shin Splints can happen from flat feet, or over pronation, when the impact of a step makes your foot’s arch collapse. They can be cause by shoes that do not fit well or provide good support and by weak ankles, hips or core muscles. Another preventive measure is to ensure you warm up before and cool down after exercise. Know that your fitness tracker does nothing to help this. It will give you no warning that your legs or feet are about to be in terrible pain. You are better off in having good shoes over any fitness tracker on the market.

But, I really like to know my heart rate when running in order to get maximum fat burning benefits….

Note:

Always be sure that your doctor has cleared you before beginning any new exercise regimen.

Heart rate training can benefit almost everyone who exercises. The key is to exercise at a rate where you elevate your heart rate into the optimum training zone. You really do not need a fitness tracker. Here are seven easy steps that will help you to calculate your ideal heart rate training zone.

  1. Calculate your maximum heart rate with a simple paper and pencil calculation. Simply subtract your age from 220. This result is an age predicted maximum beats per minute. Note, this method does not take in account your fitness level or inherited genes. This can make your true maximum rate 10 to 20 beats higher or lower than the age predicted number. Your best heart rate can actually be detected by our ability to speak during a run or jog. If you can barely, or not speak, your heart rate is too high. Slow yourself down. If you can speak easy, your heart rate is too low. Step up your pace until you can have a labored conversation.
  2. Determine your resting heart rate. Take your pulse before you get out of bed in the morning. Do this for several days in a row to get consistent readings.
  3. Calculate your heart rate reserve. Subtract your heart’s resting rate from your maximum rate. For example, if you are 40 years old, then subtract that number from 220, your max heart rate is 180 beats per minute. Next, subtract your resting rate or 80 as an example. Your heart rate reserve is 100 beats per minute. This heart rate reserve represents the cushion-heartbeats available for exercise.
  4. Calculate your aerobic training heart rate for fat burning. This fat burning range is between 50 and 75% of your heart rate reserve.
  5. Calculate your aerobic training heart rate for fitness. This range, required to improve aerobic endurance is higher than that needed for fat burning. It ranges between 75 and 85% of your heart rate reserve.
  6. Calculate your aerobic-anaerobic threshold heart rate range. This range represents the upper limits of aerobic exercise. Or, the point just before you push yourself into exhaustive anaerobic work. Exercising at this intensity is usually done to improve athletic performance. It is not recommended for weight loss. The range to get to this point is between 85 and 90% of your heart rate reserve. Know also that operating at this intensity level will not burn body fat. It becomes a carbohydrate (muscle-glycogen) burning exercise.
  7. Calculate your anaerobic training heart rate range. This is an all out effort and represents 90 to 100% of the cushion of your heart rate reserve. The goal here is to go as fast as you can for as long as you can. At this level you are achieving a pure anaerobic, carbohydrate burning, exhaustive, lactic acid producing exercise. This is truly no pain-no gain type training.

Whether you feel the need or not to buy a Fitbit or any other fitness tracker, do so with knowledge. Fitness trackers have their utility for a lot of people. However, do not put off beginning a new exercise program because you do not have one. If your money situation is tight, consider investing in a quality pair of shoes first. Get into a good routine for a few months to where you know if you will stick with it.  Then save your money in order to buy a quality fitness tracker at a later date. Your feet and legs will appreciate this, I guarantee.

Check out our  plan here at David’s Way to Health and Fitness. It is not complicated at all, and is really nothing more than a common sense approach to nutrition. I guarantee that anyone who tries our methodology will lose weight, and then keep it off. Best of all, we charge nothing to anyone to follow our methodology, we are entirely free to all.
We also have a a page on Facebook where you can also follow along with David’s Way to Health and Fitness. Give us a like and a follow if you like what you see!

Peaceful Inspiration from Nature

My personal favorite physical fitness activity is strength training, while my second favorite, by a fairly narrow margin, is getting out into the great outdoors on a good hike on dirt trails that meander through out our local woodlands here in north eastern Kansas and north western Missouri. Today, on an off day from weight training, I got in a most excellent hike of a little over seven miles on some really great trails at Weston Bend Park in Missouri, about 25 miles north of Kansas City.

This particular trail head begins at a prepared asphalt trail and then meanders through a wooded ravine and then gradually takes you upwards to the top of a high ridge that overlooks the Missouri River Valley and the river itself. This time of year is a beautiful time to hike there as the leaves on the trees are beginning to change to their fall colors before dropping to the ground for the winter months. The falling leaves will lay on the ground and rot before being absorbed into the soil as nutrients for next springs new growth. Much in the same manner as how our own body’s absorb nutrients for growth and cellular repairs when we are at rest.

Getting out on the trail is a relaxing method of vigorous exercise for myself. It is vigorous, as I make it a point to hike at a rate that keeps my heart rate within the aerobic fat burning zone for my body over the entire course of my outing. Yet as my heart rate comes up, I can only feel relaxed in mind, body and soul as my eyes take in the beautiful surrounding sights while my ears pick up on the subtle sounds of nature living all around me. I am but a small microcosm of all the life around me despite the fact I only encountered a couple other hikers out on the trail this morning. Surrounded by life, yet alone where I can bring upon an inner peace to settle my post traumatic stress.

Looking out, over the Mighty Missouri River from atop the ridge.

The hills and ridges in this part of America were cut by glaciers during the last ice age. I look upon these two humongous slabs of stone and wonder if they were one piece many centuries or thousands of years ago. Maybe this huge rock was split by the awe inspiring force of nature when water found it’s way into a small crack, and with each cycle of freezing, the rock split more and more until it was separated enough for a seedling to become a sapling, which eventually grew into a mature tree in the center of these massive stones.

When out hiking in the woods, my mind is freed which allows me to find inspiration to write just about anywhere about anything. You might find it odd, but the inspiration which came from this split rock was the thoughts of how just like water seeping into a small crack, and eventually breaking the rock apart, we do the same thing within our body’s when we eat a diet that is calorie dense and nutritionally poor. Too many simple carbohydrates with cookies, cupcakes and other junk foods cause our pancreas to release floods of insulin as a result of high blood sugar.

The rocks, with their cracks remind me of our cellular structure, which opens up to the entry of blood sugar when signaled by our insulin. Over time, with centuries of thawing and freezing cycles, the rock become fractured until it finally breaks apart. In the same manner, when our blood sugar remains high for too long, and our body’s begin suffering ill effects such as damage to your nerves, blood vessels and internal organs. It can also cause:

  • vaginal and skin infections
  • slow healing cuts and sores
  • loss of vision
  • nerve damage
  • and erectile dysfunction

Whether you realize it or not, our body is just another element of the nature which surrounds us, It is a shame, a sad reality that far too many people never give the health of their own glorious body the same care as they might give to plant or animal life out in the nature.

Some people shake their heads in disbelief when I speak of going out and hiking anywhere from 5 to 10 miles or better, or when I talk about dedicating no less than four days a week to strength train for two hours at a time. Some assume that to follow my way of living, they might have to go to the same physical extremes as myself in order to get the same results.

You do not have to go to my extremes to get fit and healthy, There is no one size fits all exercise regimen. However, you do need to be active at a level that is appropriate for your level of fitness and capabilities. Your activity needs to match your needs and preferences.

You need to know, that while you can lose body fat and be healthy without exercise, you are only selling yourself short in your efforts. Regular activity reduces both insulin levels and insulin resistance. Regular physical fitness activities can and will help with lowering high blood pressure, improve your total blood fat level, elevate your good cholesterol (HDL) while lowering your bad cholesterol (LDL). Exercise on a consistent basis will lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, while decreasing your body fat and your risk of insulin related heart disease such as Coronary Artery and Coronary Heart Diseases.

Exercise does not, nor should it ever be a chore to suffer through. You should select an activity that is fun and easy to fit into your busy schedule. Instead of going all out hardcore like, you need to start slow and easy and increase your intensity over time in order to not burn out before you have derived any benefit from your activity.

Consistency is going to be key to your success with any physical fitness activity/program. Again, you will need to select an activity that is fun for you and easy to fit into your schedule in order to make being consistent easier on yourself. You do not require a daily commitment in order to be consistent. You can pick 3 to 5 days a week to exercise and use your off days as time for rest and recovery. These two elements, along with nutrition are as important as the physical activity itself.

By giving yourself a break a few days per week away from exercise, you will be more inclined to stick with it as it is not an every day chore. By taking a few days off you will always be able to attack a new exercise session with a fully rested body which will give you the best results, more bang for your buck if you will.

Again, find an activity that you will enjoy. Never force yourself to do something you really do not want to do as you will come to resent it. By all means, while you need to push yourself to always excel at your activity, never push yourself past your level of endurance as you are likely to come to hate what you are doing. This is not helpful in helping you to achieve your goals.

My advice is to please try to be loving, understanding, firm and compassionate with yourself. In the end, it makes good heart sense on all levels.

Active minds and active bodies never grow old. – Lee Salk

 

Diet and Fitness Mistakes I Have Made

Making a list of diet and fitness mistakes I have made over the years might get kind of lengthy as I have made more than a few. Something I learned long ago is smart people learn from the mistakes of others, it might be said I am a slow learner. I hope you can learn a few lessons from my past mistakes, here goes:

1. I just did not care about diet and fitness at a couple of times in my life. This point is the one I want to place the most emphasis on, I did not care. Now, how about that for being not only less than intelligent, but also pretty selfish too? This mindset is less than intelligent as, at some point, an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle will jump up and pop you in the nose before you can even say ouch. You might get away with this for a period of time, but unhealthy eating and laziness will always, at some point, catch up with you.

I guarantee this. Without fail, your health will begin taking a nose dive on you at some point. For some, this may come later in life, but for many, they will become stoved up with old peoples issues and ailments far too prematurely. Look around yourself on any given day and you will see folks in their early forties who are obese, out of shape to be able to function to their full capabilities as a human. Every day people become victims of their own poor lifestyles and then spend a good portion of time and a great deal of money on medical care which could otherwise be preventable.

Not taking care of your own health is a naive, or even a selfish attitude, that is never going to be just about you. Your poor choices will always become the business of someone else when you cannot fully take care of yourself. If you are going to be selfish about your own health, you might begin looking now for the loved one who is going to have to pick up the broken pieces behind you.

2. I never tracked my intake of food. When you eat with no regard to what types of food you are consuming, nor the amount of calories, you are going to become obese at some point. Most people can live a healthy life on 1800 to 2500 calories per day, especially if they eat whole, healthy foods that are not processed, contain added sugars and or tons of preservatives. You can very easily consume in excess of your daily needs in just one outing to a fast food restaurant. With all of the garbage foods of so called convenience of today, it is no difficult chore that people can find themselves consuming 5000 to 6000 calories per day, or even more. This is why in America we have an obesity epidemic where close to three fourths of our population is either already obese, or at a minimum, overweight. Sadly, this is also why our nation’s military is having a hard time finding quality recruits that can even meet the basic requirements to enlist. Our children are growing up obese, out of shape and suffering preventable physical ailments such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome to name just a few.

3. I over-estimated my caloric burn from exercise. This is a common problem where people greatly exaggerate their physical exertion from exercise. The thing is, many people have no clue what vigorous exercise truly is. Nor do they understand or know how to recognize the intensity of their efforts. I have seen this on a few weight loss social media sights where people will justify to themselves eating more than they need because they “exercised” at high intensity for at least an hour.

News flash; If you are overweight, or obese, it is highly unlikely that you are going to exercise at high intensity for a full hour. Really, it just is not going to happen simply because you would need to be an elite level athlete. If you were an elite level athlete, you would not be struggling to lose 100 pounds in the first place. This is just the truth, even if it hurts.

If you can easily carry on a conversation during your exercise, you are exercising at a low intensity. You can still carry on a conversation with ease because your heart rate is not elevated enough to burn fat. While a slow walk around the neighborhood is certainly much better than sitting your tail on the couch watching the boob tube, it is not going to justify going out for an ice cream sundae afterwards.

You want your heart rate to be at a level where you can still speak in conversation, but your words need to be labored. This is when you are at a medium intensity level. When your heart rate makes your conversation labored, you are at the fat burning aerobic zone for burning fat. This is where you need to be when doing cardiovascular exercises. Once your heart rate is in the right zone, it will take your body at least 20 minutes to burn through it’s glycogen stores before it begins burning fat for energy. You might need to work up to this, and that is perfectly fine. I would encourage you to do so. But in the meantime, do not over rate how much fat you are burning if you cannot go at it for at minimum of a half hour, and at least three times per week, four times preferably.

If you are huffing and puffing and cannot talk, you are at a high level of intensity. At this point, you have entered the anaerobic zone and need to slow down your intensity to the medium level. If you are over weight or obese, you are not going to be able to exercise at this intensity for more than a couple minutes at best. Period. I do not care who you are. If you go onto your diet app and log that you exercised at a high intensity for a solid hour, you either do not understand intensity levels or you are lying to yourself in order to shovel more sugary crap into your belly. If you do this, you are likely to never lose your weight and should take a moment to evaluate yourself, your goals and just how you are going to achieve them

4. I did not place the same emphasis on nutrition as I did my physical exercises of choice. If you enter Fitness Triad in our blog search bar, I have written an extensive article on this topic. In a nutshell, if you begin an exercise regimen, you need to feed your body with healthy foods for fuel. You need to ensure you are also consuming enough good protein in order to either maintain your lean muscle mass or to build upon it.

You need to ensure you are consuming the right amount of calories. Too many and you will find that you cannot out exercise your diet. Too few, and you will find yourself losing lean muscle mass and you could become what we refer to as skinny fat. Skinny fat is where your body might be at the so called ideal weight for your height, yet your body fat percentage is still to high for good health. Skinny fat is probably more harmful to your overall health and wellness as it could give you a false sense of security by being at your goal weight. Too high of a percentage of body fat is unhealthy no matter your weight which is why we teach and promote concentrating on body fat percentage over a random number on your bathroom scale.

Note: You can go to Calorie Counter Pro in our menu and find how many you need for your individual goal. It is free of charge to you.

5. I did not understand how important rest and recovery is to exercise specifically in weight training. Again, enter Fitness Triad in our search bar as this topic is also a part of that article. When you exercise, you cause micro-trauma to your muscle tissue which requires time to heal itself. This is how we get stronger. Another component of this equation is that your central nervous system needs a break too. This is particularly true when training with heavy weights. If you do not give your body adequate rest and recovery, you will find yourself burning out before you have reached your physical potential.

6. I did not do my due diligence in fully researching my exercise of choice from known experts. This is easier now days to do with all of the modern search engines available on the internet. It used to be that all we had for weight training was muscle magazines where Joe Wieder was selling worthless supplements and convoluted routines no one could ever fully understand, nor would they possess the personal equipment in order to even do them. Do yourself a favor and listen to those who are established professionals instead of falling into the trap of Bro Science which is usually based on the gym equivalent of “old wives tails”‘.

7. I did not understand the importance of using an established routine or tracking my workouts in a log. If you are serious about any type of exercise, do yourself a favor and establish a routine, even if it is just running. And then log everything that you do. Sets, reps and weights for weight training. Distance, pace and time for running as examples. Tracking a routine is a form of measurement, and what gets measured gets done. It also allows you to keep track of your progress by being able to go back and read over your earlier sessions. It is also a good idea for weight trainers to log the amount of sleep you get each day, and the amount of calories and macronutrients you have consumed before hand. Your mood and or how you felt when beginning your exercise session is important too. By logging these items, you can more easily identify why your routine might be stalling out on you.

8. Getting hung up on not being the strongest, the fastest or the best in the gym. Everyone is a newbie at some point, and most gym goers know this. Do not worry about what others might think of your level of fitness when you go to the gym. Just get in there and be diligent in getting your routine completed. Your tenacity will be noticed by those who are experienced in physical fitness. And even if you do go unnoticed, who cares? Just do your own thing. Bear in mind too, that sometimes, some of those you might think are all that in the gym might not know much more than you.

9. No matter your exercise of choice, learn to perfect your form and movements. If you think lifting weights is just picking up heavy stuff and setting it down, you are sadly mistaken. Take the time to perfect your form before trying to go heavy as this will mitigate your risk for injury and allow you to continue going forward for years to come. Lifting weights is as much about technique as it is about strength. Bad form and technique can hurt you bad.

If you are an aspiring runner, you need to learn it is more than just moving your feet as fast as you can for as far as you are able. Learn and perfect your stride. Build upon your pace, and how to breath. Seems simple enough, that is until you head out and cannot manage to jog around even a simple neighborhood block.

At my age, I have honestly made my share of mistakes in nutrition and exercise over the years. Those without blemish are usually found to be liars in my experience. Take care of your nutrition and fitness and odds are likely that your quality of life as you age is going to be leaps and bounds superior than if you neglect yourself. Too often, folks neglect themselves and find themselves sickly in their early forties, or younger, with ailments that used to not hit until at least the upper sixties or seventies. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to take proper care of yourself. Anything else is could easily be seen as selfishness on your part. Others will always have to pick up all of your broken pieces at some point.

Check out Facebook page Fit and Healthy Living with David’s Way and give us a like and a follow. If you would like to be a part of a weight loss, health and wellness support group, we have a group linked to the Facebook page you can join. The group is private in order for us to keep out the trolls and trouble makers. It is a safe place to share your triumphs and set backs with your health initiative.

Be The Best You Can Be

This article is dedicated to my life long friend and mentor Ronnie Gray Cash. My brother from another mother.

Years ago I had the good fortune of having an older mentor who took me under his wing and taught me some valuable lessons about life. Despite being functionally illiterate, Ronny was an extraordinary craftsman and artist. I learned a great deal while watching him turn random pieces of wood, metal scraps and such into fine art, all the while talking to me about living life to the fullest. Ronnie taught me to be the very best I could possibly be at anything and everything I should ever take up in life. Actually, his admonition was to always be the damn best at every endeavor I should take on. He taught me that anything worth while to take up in life was worth putting a 100% effort into. He taught me to never slack at anything, and I have lived my life trying to live up to the lessons he taught me. The ultimate irony being with this highly intelligent man was that he had quit school at a very young age, about 13, in order to work and help support his family.

The most mesmerizing masterpiece Ronnie ever crafted was his rendition of an old time masted warship that he worked on for sixteen years before calling it done. No detail from bow to stern was missed, not even down inside the ship where he had crafted miniature cannons out of brass that could actually be loaded with a small amount of black powder in order to shoot bb’s. The female figurehead he carved for the bow was so finely detailed you could have imagined a woman posing for it while he carved. Looking at the ships steering wheel, you could imagine crashing through high waves in an unruly ocean while heading off to fight battles for country or plunder. I could dream of climbing up the ropes of the main mast to the Crows Nest with a telescope in hand to watch for signs of land in the distance such as the slight haze variation of the horizon you see when land is still quite far away. I could imagine the joy sailors would feel after months at sea when they would spot a sparrow, as these birds would always lead you back to shore. These little birds are such a part of sea going lore that sailors will often have a pair of sparrows tattooed on their chests or back to remind them to always return to their homes when they could. After I became an actual sailor I never got sparrow tattoos, but I did return home when I could where I could sit and chew the fat with my mentor, my brother Ronnie, and still learn lessons of life from this wise man despite my having been around the globe aboard Navy ship a few times in real life.

A good portion of who I am today is a result of my brother Ronnie Gray Cash taking me under his wing when I was still a wild ass teenager that was having a difficult time navigating life.

Today, Ronnie is now 70 years old, and I will be 56 in just a few short weeks. I have had my ups and downs in life as a good many other people have. But, no matter how hard life has kicked me when I was down and out, I have always got up and fought my way back to the top.

I get agitated when people tell me “that’s easy for you to say” when I give advice to them. Life has not always been kind to me either.

But, I always get back up.

In 1997, 16 years after enlisting, I lost my career in the Navy when our government decided to draw down our numbers in the armed forces. I went into a deep funk for a few years. A depression combined with Post Traumatic Stress that I began to believe I could not kick. I gained a tremendous amount of weight, and was no where near being in good physical condition. It was Ronnie’s words from the past that woke me to the reality that I was becoming a weak man. I was a 250 pound bloated slob when I decided to clean up my diet and to get back into shape physically and mentally.

I dropped 90 pounds from 250 pounds to 160 pounds with a 30 inch waist. I began running again, which made me once again enjoy life. Soon, I cleaned up my weight set and began lifting again. Next came mountain biking. By 2008, I was 45 years old and in top physical condition again. I was eating clean, weight training three days per week and biking 60 to 70 miles as well.

Also in 2008 I found out I could return to military service in the Army Reserve National Guard and would likely be able to return as a Staff Sergeant. I did not believe this would be true, but went to have a chat with a recruiter anyhow. He informed me that with my physical condition and military history he could indeed bring me back in as a Staff Sergeant. He also informed that a part of coming back in at this time meant that I was sure to have a combat tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, possibly both. These terms were acceptable to me. I re-enlisted, went home and asked my loving wife what she would think if I told her I could get back into military service. She looked at me and said the obvious, she instinctively knew I had joined and gave me her full support in finishing my military career even if it meant combat deployments.

Shortly after I signed my re-enlistment papers I was shipped off to the Army’s Warrior Transition Course at Fort Sill Oklahoma. The Warrior Transition Course (WTC) is essentially Basic Training for Veterans returning to military duty. At WTC we went through almost all the training basic recruits endure with the exception of only a few areas being as we were not raw basic recruits. I was not only one of three Staff Sergeants returning to duty, I was also anywhere between 15 to 20 years older than the 255 other soldiers in my training evolution. Because of my rank, I was automatically assigned the position of Platoon Sergeant over 85 other soldiers. I took it all in stride despite having been a Navy guy with no experience with the Army culture. I took the position and did my best, and I was good.

As a Platoon Sergeant, I led our morning physical fitness training and formation runs. I was just shy of turning 46 years old, but I still was able to physically out perform many if not most of my soldiers in our morning calisthenics. During our formation runs, as with Ruck Marches, my place as Platoon Sergeant was at the front of the formation leading the way. Because of my position, there was not going to be any falling back in the runs or ruck marches. Our morning formation runs were 5 miles, I set the pace and we went hard. Anything less would have had me getting swarmed by the Drill Sergeants as they already could not believe a 45 year old former sailor had the nerve to join their beloved Army in a senior leadership position. The same was true with our timed ruck marches where we had to go from Point A to Point B while carrying 100 pounds of combat gear in a prescribed amount of time. As difficult as this was, I lead from the front as a good Platoon Sergeant is expected to do. There was no allowance for me to slack because of my age. I was a Staff Sergeant and had to carry myself as so. Lack of experience with the US Army did not matter, I had to learn on the go, and had to be damn good at improvising when I did not know some of the established procedures set by the Army, and the particular Cadre running the training. I had to be on top of my platoon from before sun up to well after sun down. As the Platoon Sergeant, I made it a point to arise, shave and be dressed in my uniform before my troops were out of their bunks. At night, I did not retire to my bunk until I was sure I had given my troops the opportunity to speak with me about any of their injuries and or concerns. A good Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) will always place the welfare of his troops before those of his own. This I did, I took my NCO Creed to heart. I was damn good at my position.

As Ronnie taught me in my youth, be the best at what you take on in life.

In August 2009, I suffered a very debilitating spinal injury which brought my life to a screeching halt. I herniated the disk at L5 S1, squeezed it like a jelly donut to the point it encapsulated my sciatic nerve which caused permanent damage and now a life time of chronic pain from my right butt cheek all the way down to my right foot. Not a day goes by that I do not have some degree of discomfort if not outright pain.

As a result of this spinal injury, I endured a series of three epidural spinal injections. What these are is the doctor uses fluoroscopic x-ray guidance to inject a dye and then a steroid into the epidural space in the hopes it will decrease inflammation and your pain. The injections did not work for me.

November 2009, I underwent spinal surgery where the herniated disk material was removed along with a bit of arthritis that most of us over the age of 40 have in our spines. This was followed by 2 months of physical therapy after I healed, yet I still suffered a great deal of pain. I returned to the doctor and was sent for an MRI where it was confirmed that my sciatic nerve had been damaged and also was now scarred over. I was doomed to a life time of pain, and was told to never return to heavy weight training again in my life.

I was not content to lay around and not resume living my life to the fullest possible. I figured I could live in pain and be inactive, or I could live in pain and still enjoy my life as best I can. I had a choice to make and chose the latter. I decided to resume living as I see fit, and have zero regrets. I embrace tough challenges in life whether it is under the barbell, on a difficult hiking trail or in any other endeavor. I do not accept mediocrity out of myself. I began lifting again with an empty barbell and worked my way up to squatting and deadlifting over 400 pounds which caused my doctor a great deal of concern to say the least. I also began eating upwards of 6000 calories a day to fuel the heavy lifting I had worked up to and gained enough weight and body fat to skew my blood lab numbers some and also to cause a elevation in my blood pressure. But, I had proved to myself that despite what is sometimes crippling pain, I could still live my life fully.

People say it is easy for me to say when I give advice about diet and physical fitness.

Yet, none of them were ever there to see how many tears I shed when working to regain my mobility to squat to a proper competition depth, or just in getting myself into a good starting position to pull a heavy deadlift without once again injuring my spine. No, none of these people have ever seen me cry in pain after a workout that was triggering horrible sciatic pain brought on by a simple impingement of the damaged nerve. None of these people were there to know what it was like for me to learn to walk normal again. After my injury, it took me a year to learn to not have my right foot pointing out at an acute angle and dragging when I walked. Every step was a conscious effort in making my right foot do what it was supposed to do pre-injury. None of these people ever seen the tears of pain this brought on either.

I have always had good nutritional knowledge despite not always using it in my past. However, when I decided to lose the weight I had put on after my injury while rebuilding my capacity to train once again with heavy weights, I put this knowledge into use. I took off 70 pounds and dropped to 9% body fat which I maintain through clean eating and exercise. People always ask for nutritional advice and what do I do to stay fit and trim, I get the same answer from them quite often when I tell them I do not ever eat added sugar or processed foods, nor do I eat in restaurants. And, I exercise vigorously on a regular basis no matter how the rest of my week may be going. I always make time for physical fitness. I treat it with the same importance as I do my job, it must be done even when I do not feel like doing it. Period.

That’s easy for you to say!

What I want to know is why do they think it is easy for me. Granted, it is now, but I too have had an addiction to simple sugar and carbohydrates. I too know what it is like to get those cravings for food so bad that I would become “hangry”.

What I do know is that adopting my methodology is not impossible for those who try. I am not that different from anyone else except for the fact I do not ever take the easy road in life and I believe that when you take a difficult task and work it long enough, it will soon become easy. My dietary habits of clean eating, measuring and weighing my foods comes easy. It is just what I do, it is my lifestyle and I guarantee I can cook a full meal quicker and cheaper than you can go through a fast food drive through and order utter crap to feed yourself and your family. While this may be acceptable on occasion, you are doing yourself and your family a huge disservice when you feed them in this manner on a regular basis.

Friends, Brenda Sue and myself are certified by American Fitness Professionals & Associates as Nutritional and Wellness consultants. Our certification process required many hours of intensive study in order to become certified. We take nutrition and fitness seriously, and love sharing information with you, our wonderful readers from around the world. We both live the life that we teach to others. We live this every day, and despite our certifications being in hand, we still study nutrition and fitness in order to bring you the best and most current information with no sugar coating or bull shit. We tell it like it is, and pull no punches. Our blog is unique in that no one else brings you this information from a male and female perspective. We are unique in that we address weight loss and management from a holistic, whole body and mind approach in order to best serve you. We do not only address a limited number of topics, we address every aspect of what it takes to achieve and maintain a healthy and fit body. We put out this blog as a labor of love to help others and have never charged for any of the information in our over 500 articles and recipes.

We live to be the best we can be. We want to help you to also live to be the best that you can be in health and wellness. We believe hard work and discipline actually makes life simpler rather than harder. This may take a little effort, but a life without chaos is easier any day, any time. We believe in planning our days, weeks and months. We believe in measuring our goals in exercise and fitness. I know that my weight remains within ounces of being the same from week to week, yet I still weigh myself every Saturday morning first thing as a form of accountability to myself. When I train with my weights, I log every weight used for each lift along with every rep of every set. After all, how can you judge success if there is no measure? Remember too, what gets measured gets done.

Be the best you can be my friends, thank you for reading and God bless.

You CAN Do This!

                                                                                     
Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU from Pexels
 

DON”T QUIT!

The Tools

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties and the ability to spring back into shape, or elasticity. That does not mean that you do not struggle. It does not mean that you never want to quit or that you never get “bent out of shape”. It means that even though you do, you put yourself back together and proceed with your plan of action, always pressing towards your goal.

The Skills

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that resilience can be cultivated. (1) It is a learned behavior for most people. It doesn’t just happen. It’s cultivated over time with specific behavioral modifications. Resilience creates “The Phoenix” personality, someone who will recreate themselves and rise from the ashes. A 1- positive attitude, 2- optimism, 3-the ability to regulate emotions and 4- the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback all help to create this state of strength and growth. Research indicates that a positive outlook helps to buffer the effects of stress on the brain. Once the stress is defused, our ability to think can be restored and we can choose the best path of action. Resilience is usually a result of “doing the work”. It doesn’t just happen. We have to want it and work for it. The result is reaching our goals and having a measure of peace of mind in even the most difficult circumstances because we have learned how to control our thoughts.

Application 1

In weight management, resilience is critical. The idea that a “diet” is a temporary state of deprivation is possibly the most destructive factor in crushing good intentions. Without resilience, cravings seem like an impossible obstacle to overcome. The resilient person has the ability to look forward to the goal, realize that this moment of misery is just that, a moment, and move on. In the interim, we reset our minds to focus on the big picture, not just one dark spot, and the beauty of the masterpiece that will be revealed has the ability to obliterate most of the present pain. It’s not an easy task but it’s well worth the effort.

Application 2

In any fitness program resilience is the deciding factor of success or failure. There is never an end to fitness. It is a chosen lifestyle filled with victories and falling short of what we want to achieve. Without resilience we will throw in the towel when those six pack abs don’t show up on our predetermined schedule. The resilient person toughs it out, struggles through the workouts, falls short, sets new personal records and keeps moving towards the goal which is a lifetime of strength and good health brought about by working for it day in and day out without an end in sight.

Methods

The ability to see the temporary factors that affect our performance, and success or failure, is important. If we view these things as temporary and fixable we are much more likely to make adjustments and go on with our plans. If we believe that we performed poorly because we are inept or unable to accomplish the task, we may stall and eventually stop or even lose progress. Perspective is key to our resilience. One “fail” at the barbell or one gained pound, or so…, does not mean that we can’t do it. It means that THIS time we didn’t do it and we need to set about to discover WHY. To say that we just couldn’t is never an adequate response. Dissect the “failure”, fix it as much as possible and move on.

Assimilation of “Failure”

Failure is part of growth. Even plants do this. If a blade of grass encounters a sidewalk, it just looks for the crack. It didn’t fail. It had a temporary setback. Trees that are blown almost to the ground in a storm may grow up twisted but they don’t just die because their first attempt to be the tallest tree on the block failed. They keep growing and become a strong and beautiful work of art.

Resilience Models

 David, the Author of David’s Way is the best example of resilience that I have ever known. He has had debilitating spinal injuries that would have destroyed most people. Instead, he is incredibly strong and healthy and accomplishes more in an hour than most people accomplish in a day. I have had my own struggles, including having my life turned wrong side out by the direct hit from three tornadoes within mere minutes March 19. 2018. When we have trauma and setbacks in our lives, the only proper response is “Full speed ahead!” Anything else makes us a victim of circumstances. I am a tornado, cancer, divorce, raising an autistic son , child of an anorexic mother, puritanical upbringing survivor, NOT a tornado, or whatever, victim. NEVER refer to yourself as a victim of anything. If you survived it, you are a survivor.

Full Speed Ahead

When you feel the wind pick up, gather your forces and put your survival plan into place. Shelter, but when the winds still hit, hold on. Don’t wait for the storm to end before you start fighting back. Fight IN the storm. Fight for your health. Fight for your mind. Fight for your loved ones. Fight for your life. Never stop. Don’t Quit. Even if you get a direct hit, or two, come out of that shelter and create a brand new life. The old one is gone and it doesn’t really matter. You have to work with what you have today. So, if you feel like a failure or if you’ve had setbacks, know this, you are not alone. There are many people who fail repeatedly. They’re called Winners and Leaders. I believe that Winston Churchill summed it up, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” No one succeeds the first time, every time. Just keep getting up and you will get there. Only runners can win the race.

(1) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/resilience

Women and Strength Training

Photo by Luciano Ottoni, Pixabay

I want to address the topic of strength training and women in this article and hopefully clear up a few misconceptions. Over the last few years, I have had several women ask me about how they should best approach resistance training and they are about always surprised when I recommend they train with the exact same exercises as a man would do, the only difference being the amount of weight used as a starting point.

Women who regularly train with weights can improve their health, develop a healthier self esteem with a higher degree of self confidence, reduce their risk of degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis and they can enhance their athletic capabilities. In the past, some women have questioned the value of strength training and have even avoided it because of social stigmas, and or the fear of getting too big.

You might even believe that training with a barbell is too hard for a woman to attempt.

Current evidence clearly displays that women are perfectly capable of tolerating and adapting to the stresses of strength training, and the benefits of doing so are quite substantial. An excellent example of how strength training benefits women, even those who are older, is our very own Brenda Sue whom I have been training via online videos for the last year and a half. Brenda Sue asked me for weight training advice and I took her on as a trainee. Despite being a 62 year old female, I began her on the same training program I would any young man, only at a lighter starting weight. Her strength gains have been remarkable to say the least, and it is incredible how much it has improved every other area of her life through being stronger physically and mentally. These qualities bring on a higher sense of self confidence which simply makes the tasks we face every day seem much easier. Brenda Sue has learned that if she can rise back up from a heavy squat, then she can tackle anything else that comes her way.

Sex differences, body size and composition.

Obviously because of differences in strength between men and women, some approaches to strength training might need to vary by a small degree. That being said, there are many men who are weaker than many women when they begin strength training too so this is not as large an issue as some might believe.

Before puberty, there are essentially no differences in height, weight and body size between boys and girls. As the children begin going through puberty, the differences between boys and girls becomes more evident primarily because of hormonal changes. During puberty the production of estrogen in girls increases fat deposition and the development of breasts. Whereas testosterone in boys increases bone formation and protein synthesis. Though estrogen also stimulates bone growth, boys have a longer growth period, and thereby adult men tend to achieve greater stature than women. On average, women tend to have more body fat and less muscle than men. Women also tend to weigh less than men, yet require a higher amount of body fat for good health than a man requires. Anthropometric measurements of adults indicate that men have broader shoulders relative to their hips and women tend to have broader hips relative to their waists and shoulders. The broader shoulders of men can support more muscle tissue and can also provide a mechanical advantage for muscles acting at the shoulder. Yet, again I still maintain there not be weight training programs that have to be different solely because of the differences in the sexes as our anatomies and physiology is not that different. We might have a difference in our build, yet we have the exact same muscle groups, our cardiovascular systems are also the same. Women prove every day they are just as capable of performing the same physical tasks as men. In a world where my fellow men feel they need to prove their manliness, I will tell you straight up that I would rather work with a woman who can physically pull their load than with a weak man who cannot. This was true both when I was in the military and during my period as a maximum security correctional officer.

Strength and power output.

When comparing training induced changes in muscular strength between men and women, it is important to distinguish between absolute and relative measures. In terms of absolute strength, women generally have about two thirds the strength of men. The absolute lower body strength of women is generally closer to male values, as compared to the absolute values for upper body strength. Gender related differences in body composition. anthropometric characteristics, and fat free mass distribution can partly explain these differences.

When compared on a relative basis, gender related differences in muscular strength are greatly reduced. Because the average man and woman differ considerably in body size, it is useful to compare gender differences in strength relative to body weight, fat free mass and muscle cross sectional area. When expressed relative to body weight, the lower body strength of women is similar to that of men, while their upper body strength is still somewhat less. If comparisons are made to fat free mass, differences in strength between men and women tend to disappear. It is interesting that but there is data that suggests that eccentric strength may be more similar between men and women than concentric strength when compared to relative fat free mass.

When strength is expressed relative to muscle cross sectional area, no significant difference exits between genders, which indicates that muscle quality is not gender specific. Granted that the muscle fibers in men and women are also similar in fiber type distribution and histochemical characteristics, never the less men tend to have larger muscle fiber cross sectional area than women. Notwithstanding the importance of these observations, we need to remember that there is a wide range of strength abilities and that in some cases differences between two women may in fact be greater than the difference between a man and woman.

In terms of absolute strength, women are generally weaker than men because of their lower quantity of muscle. When compared relative to muscle cross sectional area, no differences in strength exists between genders, which indicates that muscle quality is not gender specific.

Strength training for women.

Despite gender related differences, men and women respond to resistance training in similar ways from pre-training baselines. Although the magnitude of change in selected variables may differ to some degree, the overall value of resistance exercise for women extends far beyond an increase muscular strength and includes favorable changes in other important measures of health and fitness.

Being as the physiological characteristics of muscle between the genders are the same, there is no sensible reason why weight training programs for women need to be any different from that of men. In fact, because the muscle groups involved are the same for men and women, resistance programs should be designed to improve the performance of the muscles involved regardless of gender. It is a misconception that weight training programs for women should be any different from those of men. It is also a misconception that women lose flexibility and become bulky from weight training. The only difference required between weight training programs for men and women is generally the amount of weight used for a given lift.

Ladies next time you balk at the idea of strength training, consider female Olympic athletes such as gymnasts who are able to perform 40 pull ups and competitive female weight lifters who can lift over two times their body weight. These outstanding female athletes display what is possible through strength training. For another excellent example of what is possible when a woman commits herself to “Life under the Iron”, take a good hard look at our own Brenda Sue for inspiration. This little lady is 62 years old, weighs about 135 pounds, and can deadlift 190 pounds, and will soon surpass 200. Brenda Sue has become strong without becoming bulky, her health and level of fitness are that of a twenty something, her self esteem and confidence levels are at an all time high.

I will place this topic on our new forum where you can comment or ask either of us questions. I am positive Brenda Sue will share some of her fitness secrets with you there. Lets get the forum up and rolling!

Be Firm, Fair, and Consistent to Yourself

I had a reader inquire recently about the best way to approach physical fitness and what do I believe is the best time of day to exercise for weight loss. My first response is “Do not over complicate it”. Of course professional personal trainers might tell you differently, however, there really are no magical formulas which you need to memorize. If you are new to physical fitness, forget all about those theories about having to maintain muscle confusion in order to find success. Forget about most everything you may have ever heard that might have prevented yourself from venturing into the world of physical fitness. You can worry about the fine minutiae of exercise once you have found an activity you love to do that also gives your body a healthy benefit. Until then you just need to become committed to good health and then be:

Firm! Fair! and Consistent!

But, firmness, fairness and consistency are leadership traits. You might be wondering how in the world does that apply to the best way to approach physical fitness and the best time of day to exercise for weight loss?

It is simple!

Once you have decided to begin a physical fitness regimen of any type in order to become healthier and to lose weight, you are going to have to be a leader unto yourself, you will have to be a self starter. And here is how these traits will apply to you and and your new routine:

Be “Firm” in your resolve!

Face it, if your family and friends are not into physical fitness, do not expect them to be as committed to your cause as you need to be. You will find family and friends to often be like crabs in a bucket. The harder you try to crawl out of that bucket with them, the harder they will try to pull you back in. Therefore you are going to have to be firm in your resolve in getting healthy, fit and trim. You need to create your own exercise schedule and then be firm in using that schedule. You will find that your out of shape loved ones will not respect your exercise schedule and will not understand why you have to exercise all the time. They will attempt to get you to go out for fun when you are getting ready to head out for a run, or to your gym. You cannot let them stray you from your schedule. Once you let them do this, you have lost your battle since they will always believe themselves  capable of manipulating you away from that which they do not have a care in the world for. Treat your workout schedule with the same importance as you do your job. It really is that important.

Don’t try to fit workouts in haphazardly; put workouts on your calendar or have a set time each day. I have found that most who work out in the morning have greater consistency than those who work out later in the day. Things will often occur throughout the day to sidetrack your workouts, and this is less likely to happen in the morning.

Be “Fair” to yourself!

Sometimes life is going to get in your way of having a good workout. This is true for all of us who have incorporated physical fitness into our lifestyles. Maybe you have been sick or exhausted from work and you could not put in a full effort, or maybe none at all.

This happens!

If something out of your control causes your workout to be less than stellar, don’t ever beat yourself up about it. Do not let a small setback derail your efforts, sometimes life circumstances just happen without any of our control. Once you have been at physical fitness long enough, you will come to understand that there will be days when you are feeling strong and your workout will suck anyhow. There will be days when you go at it feeling weak in the beginning and then finish stronger than you ever have. There is not always any rhyme nor reason to this, so just be fair to yourself and feel satisfied that you still gave it your best effort no matter what the circumstances. Take any kind of setback in stride and vow to “lean forward and drive on” with your next workout.

Lastly on fairness; never, never ever, compare your capabilities to that of others. We all have a different story, and different goals with different visions in how we are going to accomplish our goals. No matter how strong or fit you might be, your personal best might be the warm up exercise for someone else. You might also find yourself striving to be like one who has a losing  and non sustainable strategy to last for the long run. You just never know…

Be “Consistent”!

Be consistent with meeting your schedule for exercise.

You need to be consistent for the beneficial changes of exercise to occur in your body. Just doing a little exercise just when ever you feel like it is not going to bring you much benefit. Consistency in working out will bring more substantial results than periodic extreme fitness routines. Without a doubt consistent training is the most important aspect of athletic success and forward progress. The single main ingredient that keeps people from reaching their fitness goals is their lack of consistency!  People tend to be impatient when it comes to exercise. Too many times people do not give their exercise plans enough time to reap the benefits they are looking for, and as such, they fail to ever realize their original goals.

Even a poorly designed or random training program will produce results if followed consistently and training occurs regularly. In my experience, those who are still performing well into their 40s, 50s, and beyond all have one thing in common: they’ve trained consistently over the years and rarely gave up ground. If you have tried consistent exercising and failed, think about the different methods of exercise.  Most people try one exercise routine over and over again—going to the gym, walking around the neighborhood, etc.  But if your routine isn’t working, switch things up.  Start biking, swimming, hiking, rock climbing, playing with the dog, lifting weights, or yoga. There is a vast multitude of fitness routines available online and through programs.  If after giving a routine a truly valiant effort over a month or two, try something new and learn to enjoy the many benefits of consistent exercising.

Best Exercises for Six Pack Abs!

Summer time beach weather is coming soon, and with it, many will be wanting to look their best in swimwear. While a lot of people desire well defined abdominal muscles, the “Six Pack”, most appear to be sporting a keg under their shirts instead.

I frequently get asked what are the best exercises for developing abdominal muscles. My response will typically be to ask them whether they want strong abs, or well defined abs. Of course, most who inquire want to have well defined abdominal muscles. I perform some type of ab work with every workout I do, but I do have my two favorite which I will get to last. These two are the most effective way to achieve good visible abdominal muscles and trump all others, but first:

Beginning Abs Workout

I would tell you to do all the exercises in the illustration above, with the understanding that the rep counts are going to increase until you can do 50 reps of each.

Are you going to be committed?

Are you willing to work through the pain?

If you are not committed and willing to suffer a little bit when first beginning, then I might be inclined to tell you to get back to doing nothing. But, as I said, these are not my favorite exercises, nor are they the only way forward to achieving that “Six Pack”.

Ab exercises for the more advanced.

Assuming you have become more capable with your ab work, the exercises pictured above are great for those abdominal muscles too. But still, these exercises in and of themselves are not enough for you to be able to display a nice midriff during the summer beach wear weather.

Let’s get real about this, male or female, if you want to have well defined abs, you can do all the ab work in the world, and it will mean jack squat nothing if you are not willing to do more strength and conditioning work, especially for your core.  And, you must get your nutrition under control. If you are not committed to strengthening your entire body and eating a nutritionally sound diet, then you might as well continue eating powdered sugar donuts while washing them down with your favorite soda pop. Developing visible abs takes work on many fronts that requires full commitment. If you are paunchy now, and unwilling to do what is necessary, then get over ever having a good swimsuit body and resign yourself to remaining out of shape.

My favorite work for my abs!

I do a little something for my abs every single day of the week, that you can do too.

That is if you will commit to it.

With my weight training workouts, I love to do:

sit ups,

hanging leg raises with a twist for obliques,

screw drivers,

dead lifts,

squats

I do each of those exercises regular with a good mix of exercises from the illustrations, but my favorite and most important exercises are “Push Aways” and “Fork Put Downs”.

The most effective thing you and I can do for visible, well defined abs is the “Fork Put Down” followed immediately by the “Push Away” of our plates when full from nutritionally sound foods. If you want your abdominal muscles to be well defined, you have to get your body fat percentage low enough for them to become visible. If you fail to do so, all you will achieve through that extra ab work will be that your belly will only become larger since larger ab muscles will only serve to push out that layer of fat which has them hidden away.

Quit eating or at least cut back on your consumption of refined carbohydrates and added sugars.

 This can and will help you lose extra fat and to expose your abs.  When you consume refined carbs, it cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, which can lead to increased hunger and food intake. Swap out refined carbs from foods like pastries, pastas and processed foods and instead enjoy whole grains such as brown rice, barley, bulgur and couscous to help support satiety and burn belly fat. Eating plenty of whole grains, helps to reduce waist circumference and lower body weight.

Stop eating processed foods.

Heavily processed foods like chips, cookies, crackers and convenience foods are typically high in calories, carbs, fat and sodium. These terrible foods of convenience are typically low in key nutrients such as fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. By dropping these unhealthy foods from your diet and swapping them for whole foods you will increase weight loss, reduce belly fat and help yourself achieve a set of six-pack abs. It takes more energy to digest whole foods rich in protein and fiber, which can burn more calories and keep your metabolism up. The  healthy nutrients in whole foods, like protein and fiber, also keep you feeling satiated longer which curbs cravings and aids in weight loss. Simply put, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes are all nutritious alternatives to prepackaged convenience items like frozen meals, baked goods and salty snacks.

Add more high-fiber foods into your diet.

This is one of the simplest methods for increasing weight loss and achieving six-pack abs. Soluble fiber moves through the gastrointestinal tract undigested and can help slow the emptying of the stomach which makes you feel satiated longer. One study found that increasing fiber intake by 14 grams per day was linked to a 10% decrease in caloric intake and 4.2 pounds of weight loss. Another study showed that for each 10-gram increase of soluble fiber taken daily, participants lost 3.7% of belly fat over five years without making any other modifications in terms of diet or exercise. You can alter your diet to help burn body fat simply by adding fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds for sources of healthy, high fiber foods.

Having visible abs takes commitment.

As you can see, there is much more to getting six-pack abs than simply doing a few crunches or planks each day. If you want your abs to be visible as a “Six Pack” instead of as a “Keg”, it requires a commitment to following a healthy diet and maintaining an active lifestyle to help achieve your goals.Your overall goal should be one of achieving and maintaining good health over vanity of how you appear in swimwear. No matter your age, by making a few simple switches in your nutrition and daily routine,  you can get  a set of six-pack abs and improve your health at the same time.

Invest In Yourself, Exercise!

I cannot fathom the reasoning that goes into ones thought process when they state they do not do healthy. I have heard this enough over the years I actually wrote an article about it which I titled,  I Don’t Do Healthy and Other Dumb Quotes.

Honestly, I have a difficult time getting past such an absurd mindset. Yet I know it is not uncommon. The mind set delves further into the absurd when it is coming from who is obese and suffering from many self inflicted ailments that require constant medical attention. Not that I have, or will ask this, but sometimes it makes me wonder if they are really this dumb, or just want me to believe they are. After all,  who are they hurting with their obstinence?

Who they are hurting might just be you if you are the one who will be picking up all the shattered and broken pieces of their lives one day.

 Is it really too much effort to take care of yourself before your body decides to fight back with ailments and or disease?

It does not take rocket science to know and fully understand that exercise is good for our bodies. Even if you suffer from DOM’s (delayed onset muscle soreness) for your first few days of an exercise regimen, your body is liking that it is being worked as it was meant to be. Too many lay about licking their wounds, wanting a doctor to just prescribe them something to stop the sickness, the aches and pains, and the early aging. Yet, you have the power within yourself to put a stop to most of this without ever stepping foot in a doctors office.

It is proven science that as we age, exercise will help mitigate the frailty and diseases that come from a sedentary lifestyle. The more fit your body, the longer you will live a quality life. If you want to live a life of laying about the house eating cookies and cakes while binge watching your favorite program on the television, then you will likely die younger than you need to, while being a miserable individual in your final years on earth. It really is as simple a concept as this, and no one can scientifically argue against the benefits of physical exercise.

Invest in yourself!

Make an inexpensive investment into your future that will pay big dividends for quality of life as you age. Begin investing when you are young, and before you get too far out of shape. Even if you are obese and out of shape, get your butt up off the couch and move it with a purpose. Once you begin getting into better shape, you will live a more active life that will make you feel and look younger. Exercise is going to make daily life functions much easier and simpler. There will not have to be any thinking about how hard it will be to climb the steps in your home. You will have an easier time carrying in your groceries. Best of all, you will be able to live a fuller life where you can actually enjoy doing outside activities with your grandchildren. And you will be able to do these things without gasping for air every few minutes or having to constantly sit down to rest.  By exercising at enough aerobic intensity to get your heart rate elevated, by strength training and stretching, you are going to improve your functional fitness, which is going to improve your life for you and your loved ones. You will no longer rain on your kids, or grandchildren’s parades anymore by sitting out every activity they might want you to be involved with them in.

Immediate payoff

Good exercise can and will give you a boost in energy. If you are lethargic in the afternoons, you can easily turn this around with a brisk walk and simple stretching. This will aid in getting your more blood pumping to your brain. At night, you will find that sleep will improve and come easier than it did when you were fat and out of shape. Your body will have true fatigue and your stress levels will have fallen as a result of a good bout of vigorous exercise. This is good since as we age, our periods of deep sleep will often shorten, which translates into less restful sleep.

Being as physical exercise essentially resets the brain, you will find that you have become a calmer individual than you might have been before. Exercise reduces our stress levels immensely. It helps to keep our blood pressure lower during stressful situations. If you are a couch potato, your blood pressure will rise quicker and higher than a normal weight, fit individual. This benefit is one of great quality as it allows you to remain better focused on the difficult tasks life often hands to us.

Exercise helps with chronic pain and helps relieve menopausal hot flashes. After a few short weeks with an exercise regimen you notice that your self esteem has improved as you achieve your new fitness goals, and of course, as you begin to feel healthier. you will find that an active life style will work wonders with your mood as it is known to release endorphins, or the feel good brain chemicals in your brain. Have you ever heard of runners high? I can tell you it is absolutely real, and it damn sure feels good.

Getting your heart healthy.

Any type of exercise is going to be better for your heart health than sitting on your couch all day doing nothing of substance. By getting your body moving with some intensity, you will strengthen your heart, which is absolutely going to make you feel better. Your heart will beat with less effort and your arterial walls will be more supple, thereby reducing your risk of heart disease. Moderate exercise that burns 1200 to 1600 calories per week will improve your cholesterol profile by raising your HDL (good cholesterol) and preventing the oxidation of your LDL (bad cholesterol) which if left unchecked, will cause your LDL to stick to the walls of your arteries.

This is a topic I love! The American Heart Association has come to the conclusion that lifting weights is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Strength training lowers your cholesterol, reduces blood pressure, and improves your overall cardiovascular fitness. Your glucose metabolism becomes more efficient, which lowers your risk of diabetes and your ratio of muscle to fat will be increased which means your metabolism will be more efficient at burning off body fat. The importance of having a low bod fat to lean muscle percentage is the fact lean muscle burns more calories than your body fat ever will, and it does this even when you are sitting down resting. When people ask me if I do much cardio, I always tell them that weight training done right, is cardio.

Greater lung capacity.

After the age of 25, there is a 1% decline in lung capacity that occurs every year unless you do something about it with aerobic activity. This lung capacity, known as your VO-2, will typically increase by 6 to 20% with aerobic conditioning, and can go as high as a 50% increase. When you can breath better, you live better. Only a fool would argue this. As your lung capacity improves, oxygen enters your lungs more efficiently and the carbon dioxide waste, leaves more rapidly. By increasing your lung volume, you are increasing the quality of your life. You will be able to function without getting winded so easily.

Benefits, head to toes.

You do not need any expensive gym memberships or high tech fitness gadgets to get yourself into good physical condition. All you need is your doctors clearance and a will to get yourself active. By simply walking 30 minutes per day, you will begin reaping many benefits to your body and soul.  From arthritis to weight gain, good vigorous exercise will help mitigate many medical issues in your life. The investment in a pair of sneakers and a comfortable outfit to exercise in is far cheaper than unnecessary medical bills brought about by an unhealthy diet and sedentary life. Strong muscles in your thighs will help reduce the risk of arthritis in your knees. Women can reduce their risk of diabetes by half.

It is a well established fact that exercise boosts your body’s immune system function. And you do not have to work out every day to enjoy the many health benefits. I have read of a study where it was found that people who exercised moderately for 30 minutes, only 6 times per month outlived those with a sedentary lifestyle by a 43% margin. When it comes to quality of life and longevity, staying physically fit is the best investment you can make in yourself.

Invest into your own future wisely. You will have no regrets.