Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Unfortunately, we can’t work out all the time.  Our bodies require rest as well as work.  Short rests during a workout allow the body’s energy systems to reset.  Longer rests between workouts promote body growth as the muscles recover stronger than before.

Rest is a challenging concept.  We feel guilty about it.  Surely we should be Doing Something.  Rest is that thing.

However, there are some sneaky ways to make rest feel less like wasting time.  We can rest one muscle group while working another, perhaps following squats with bench presses or pushups with lunges.  We can stretch, something that should in fact make us feel extra virtuous since we all need to do it and yet somehow most of us don’t.  We can rest from intense cardio with weights and vice versa.

Best of all, we can sleep.  I know there is a mystique about the I’ll-sleep-when-I’m-dead people.  Some very few people in the world can thrive with not very much sleep.  The rest of us just get cranky, achy, sick, and stupid.

Happy dreams…

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Wouldn’t it be nice if we could exercise once and be done with it?  Who wouldn’t want to escape (your least favorite exercise here) forever by doing a single set?  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

As the Under Armour commercial I saw last night says, we are the sum of what we do every day.  (It features Tom Brady, who is not exactly my personal poster-boy for doing things the Right Way, but that’s just picking on their example rather than their point.)  This is good news in several ways.  No one workout is going to make or break us.  We have tired days, days when our bodies rebel at the very idea of working out.  And those days when we can run twenty laps around the globe without breaking a sweat?  They feel great, but we don’t get to be awesome for life on the strength of them. 

Show up.  Every time.  That’s winning.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I can see this bike from the spin bike, too

My name is Janet and I am a football addict.  I started watching casually when I was a kid because my dad watched.  And then I was in high school in the 80s and there were the great Niner teams.  Later on, I found that watching large men hit each other on Monday nights after work had a soothing (or maybe cathartic?) effect.  Later still, my boys started to watch with me.

There are many reasons why being a football addict might not be a good thing (glorification of violence, excessive valuation of athletic ability over character, wanton sacrifice of young men’s health for entertainment, rampant consumerism, brain cell loss from too many beer/truck commercials), but the one I want to focus on today is that games are long.  If we sit on our behinds on the couch for a three-hour broadcast, we are not doing ourselves any favors.  Getting up to get more snacks is not enough to keep us from being slugs.

I happen to have a spin bike in my living room near the TV.  I realize that not everyone thinks that all d├ęcor must include bikes of one kind or another.  I use the spin bike to keep myself from slugging out.  Yesterday, that meant that I did in fact watch the entire terrible spectacle of the Raider game, pedaling seated during the game and doing standing intervals during commercials.

Even without a spin bike, we can multitask our TV time.  Commercials make great intervals for pushups, squats, crunches, jacks, mountain climbers, and other body weight exercises, no equipment required.  Keep a couple of dumbbells around (they make great doorstops) and we can add lateral raises, curls, overhead presses, and the like.  Stepping also works if we can locate something sturdy enough to step up on (which is to say, not the glass coffee table, which is probably higher than we want to start with anyway).

When we use our imaginations, we can find all kinds of ways to sneak exercise into our lives and even make our guilty pleasures somewhat less guilty.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

But it's hot...

Things that are good for fitness about hot weather:

Swimming.  Cool water, no sweaty feeling, intense cardio, and, if you stay in long enough, green hair.

Hydration.  It’s easier to remember to keep drinking water all day when it is hot.

Lighter eating.  Hello, nice cold fruit, crunchy salad, sushi!  Breakfast smoothie with ice, anyone?

Shade.  The gym is inside in the shade and sometimes even air conditioned.

We’re already sweaty.  So we might as well have something to show for it.

Go do it!  Just don’t make the post-workout ice cream too big.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Win fabulous prizes!

If we want to exercise regularly, we need to make it fun.  Otherwise, excuses are too easy to come by.  We all have limited time and energy and money.  We can all cite lots of things we probably should be doing right this very minute.  And we probably will choose the most fun one to do first (unless we are practicing rigorous time-management techniques that sometimes include getting the worst things done and out of the way before the fun stuff).

Making it fun takes many forms.  I love biking; no trouble to get me to go do that!  In fact, I love it that biking is good for me because otherwise I might view it as an indulgence for rare occasions.  If I need to do burpees, I had better find some other tactics to get some fun in there.  Like maybe burpees for margaritas.  Just kidding.  Sort of.  A better choice might be racing myself to get them done faster, or turning up the volume, or finding someone to do them with me so we can complain and suffer together.  Rewards also work, if we can manage to pick ones that don’t defeat the purpose (like those margaritas…).

Go play!

Monday, September 7, 2015

And thank you for the weekend, labor movement folks!

One of the key ideas in the early labor movement was time to rest.  We need both work and rest to be healthy.  Nowadays, many of us have sedentary jobs and we need to rest from them by getting out there and moving around.  Our brains need the rest of exercise and our bodies need to work and stretch muscles that have been still too long.

Happy Labor Day, however you spend it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Make the minutes count... so you can concentrate on form!!!

How many articles, commercials, and blurbs do we see about what we can do “in just minutes a day?”  Here’s the thing:  many of us do not have minutes to spend.  I think most of us have already focused in on our major time wasters (hello, cop shows; I am looking at you…) and found ways to avoid them or multitask during them (watch pretend science while we pedal our spin bikes!).  We have to set priorities.

In fitness, this means that we recognize that we have only so much time to devote to it.  We need to make sure that what we are doing works.  In my opinion this means:

Interval training.  It builds cardio-respiratory fitness faster than steady pace work, it bumps up the metabolism for the whole day, and it doesn’t take as long to get the benefits (i.e., half an hour of intervals reaps about the same benefit as a whole hour of non-interval training).

That leaves time for weight work, which builds muscle, which builds up the metabolism and shapes the body.

And there is still time to stretch and roll and relax.  We need to take a moment or two or three to restore the body and the mind.  We all have more tension than we need.  Stiffness is not fun.  Working out the kinks through myofascial release, flexibility work, and some deep breathing pays off in reducing pain and increasing mental clarity.

And we should also probably take two minutes to floss our teeth.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sweet somethings... or not.

I had a great Hawaiian vacation on Maui.  One of the highlights was ziplining with Flyin’ Hawaiian Ziplines.  Much of the land over which we slid (flew?) consisted of sugarcane fields.  One of the guides told us that sugarcane takes about two years to mature.  The process of harvesting sugar contributed to the cultural diversity of Hawaii, as immigrants came from Portugal, China, Japan, and other places to work in the fields.  Nowadays, the cane is harvested by burning, which reduces the sugar loss between field and processing plant; unfortunately, the growers burn the fields, drip systems and all.  Burning plastics might not be the healthiest thing in the world.  In fact, the sugar growers willingly pay a fine for the environmental impact of burning fields.  All that irrigation is necessary because it takes about a ton of water to produce a pound of sugar.  For more on the environmental impact of sugar growing, check out World Wildlife’s data here.

Why is this a fitness issue?  Several reasons.  First, no one can be healthy without clean water and clean air.  Second, sugar consumption underlies a lot of the obesity problem we face personally and societally.  Sugar tastes good; we are programmed from birth to like sweet things.  We can all use a little more motivation to reduce our intake.  If the personal risks of sugar (excess weight, potential diabetes, energy crashes, etc.) aren’t enough to convince us to skip the sweets, maybe saving the world a little bit might help.