Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday Book Report: The Stress of Life

Hans Selye’s book The Stress of Life remains a classic in the field.  Selye was among the first to articulate a theory of how stress works in the body and backed up his theory with extensive experimentation that demonstrated the role of various hormones in the stress response.  The work has percolated thoroughly into our body of knowledge.  We all now know what it means to be “stressed.”

The bulk of the book is taken up with detailed explanations of the General Adaptation Syndrome and the Local Adaptation Syndrome that make up the stress response.  Most of us probably don’t need this much detail, particularly about some of the grimmer experimental methods that brought us this information.

The last section of the book offered some ideas on how to cope with stress to maximize our positive challenge (eustress) and minimize destructive tension (stress).  I was hoping for something more than was on offer.  Selye suggests that we each need to find our individual balance and our right work, that we need to make mindful choices to avoid wasting our limited supply of adaptation energy, and that we ought to seek a meaningful existence.  None of this is bad advice, but it’s not particularly helpful, either.

As an introduction to the concepts and mechanisms of stress, the book succeeds, but may not be suitable for all readers.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

How do you grow THAT kind of flower?

Some days, we just need a reason.  In case reasons do not feel plentiful today, here are eleven ready to use.

1.     It’s fun.
2.     Mom says.
3.    All your friends are doing it.
4.     None of your friends are doing it.
5.     You, too, can win a prize.
6.    It’s cheaper than therapy.
7.     Heck, it’s cheaper than the movies.
8.     It makes your butt look cute.
9.     Remember that ice cream?  So does your belly.
10. Loud music.

11.  Sweat is your color.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Try it...

I create new workouts every week.  I try to incorporate different pieces of equipment.  I change up the number of repetitions depending on whether I’m choosing heavier or lighter weights.  I test out new exercises (on myself and clients!).

I don’t just do it because I like variety.  I do it because our bodies learn best when they are constantly challenged with something new.  Each time we approach a workout, we get to learn something about how our bodies react.  We get to solve new puzzles in movement.

What new thing can we try this week?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


When we are trying to change our habits and behaviors, we can often find ourselves discouraged.  Change takes hard work.  Notice that word “hard.”  That means we won’t always succeed right away.

Even so, we can always find some kind of victory each week.  If we have to, we can at least recognize that we’ve eliminated some ineffective ways of working toward our goals.  It’s likely we can find something more positive than that.  Maybe we managed to have more than coffee for breakfast most days of the week.  Maybe we got in four days of cardio.  Maybe we talked ourselves into a walk when we really wanted to watch another episode of that great show we’re addicted to.

Find the success.  Build on that.  Whatever else happened can slip unnoticed into the past.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Workout: Speed Ladder

The speed ladder gets us to work on precision placement of our feet.  It also gets us to breathe hard.  In the past, we’ve used it in longer circuits, but this week we’re going to hit it in a short one combined with some compound exercises for extra fun.  Four rounds.

1 min cardio

push press
speed ladder in in out out
1 min
med ball lunge twist
bent over row
speed ladder lateral
1 min
Russian twist

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Book Report: The Human Use of Human Beings

Norbert Weiner’s book The Human Use of Human Beings:  Cybernetics and Society ranges over a wide field.  The original publication date is 1950, with a second edition in 1954, which is relevant because a lot of science has occurred since that time.  Nonetheless, his exploration between the relationship between mind and computer contains much that is thought-provoking and a great deal that seems downright prescient.

As we grow and learn (yes, there is the tenuous connection to fitness!), it is useful to remember what he says about who we are:

“It is the pattern maintained by this homeostasis, which is the touchstone of our personal identity.  Our tissues change as we live:  the food we eat and the air we breathe become flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, and the momentary elements of our flesh and bone pass out of our body every day with our excreta.  We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water.  We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves.” (p. 96)

He has many other interesting reflections on, among other things, fascism, game theory, teleportation, and prosthetics.  I would enjoy a conversation with this person and would be fascinated to hear what he thinks of where we are now.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Feel good!

Today’s news flash:  exercise includes some things that feel good.

Yes, there are times when we have done something hard and we have kicked some butt and our butts feel like they have been kicked and we feel amazing anyway, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about that little-kid-at-recess-who-could-run-forever feeling, the one about the wind in our hair and the new, super-fast tennies.  Also the peace that comes when we relax into a yoga pose or stretch muscles that really need it.  Or maybe the feeling of length we find in our spine during Pilates.  Or even the release that comes from rolling on foam rollers or tune-up balls.

We need to make sure that some of those things make it into our workouts.  Joy is allowed.  It can be embraced.  And we will be better for it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A little slack

Sometimes we need to be slackers.  Not usually.  Not often.  But sometimes.  If rest is not part of our fitness plan, we are making a big mistake.  We need to rest to grow and heal.

And then we need to get moving again.

So:  how many days has it been since we took a nice long rest?  Is today that day?  If it is, great.  If not, let’s move.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

There's a word for it!

While I was studying for my Behavior Change Specialization, I learned a term for something that I’ve used for a long time.  The magic word is:  Premacking.  Psychologist David Premack coined the word (I guess he was super creative with the naming thing, eh?). 

Since the name doesn’t tell what it does, I will explain.  Premacking is the process of linking something we don’t much want to do but need to do with something we like to do or do often to get us to do more of the first thing.  So knowing that there is a new season of some compelling police procedural show available on Netflix, I might get myself to stretch more by making a rule that I only get to watch while stretching.  Or if I need a little more work on balance, I might make a habit of brushing my teeth standing on one leg, either flat or up on my toe.

Some activities pair better than others.  Meditating while driving is not encouraged.  I may joke about Workout:  The Drinking Game, but that only works if the beverage in question is water.

We can all take a look around at the things we do and figure out some creative ways to hook our existing habits to ones that will make us more awesome.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Workout: TRX

It’s time for TRX.  We have done this workout before, but it is still lots of fun.  Do as many rounds as you have time and energy for!


squat row (mid)
mountain climber (mid calf)

clock press (long)
overhead squat (long)

crossing balance lunge (mid)
plank (mid calf)
30 sec

hamstring curl

low row (mid)
burpee (mid calf)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday Book Report: The Book of Joy

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams have done a wonderful thing in creating The Book of Joy.  It is both practical and fun.  All too often, I think, we equate spiritual leadership with dullness, boredom, and the kind of sobriety that makes us long for something, anything, else.  These are not those spiritual leaders.  They laugh.  They joke.  They poke each other.  And they exude the kind of joy that we all would like to have in our lives.

Both the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama have faced deep personal and political crises.  There has been lots of suffering for each of them.  If they can somehow come through and find joy, they can show us the way.

The book has lots to offer those of any or no religious preference.  We can all learn from these great people and live more joyously.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Why do we choose to lift heavy sometimes and lighter other times?  There are at least two reasons.

One reason is that our bodies thrive on variety.  If we always do the same things, our bodies get bored and stop developing.  Switching up what we do helps keep our bodies (and brains!) engaged and growing.

The other is that we have different goals.  Some of us want Big Muscles.  Others of us want to be Massively Strong.  Still others want to be toned and shapely but definitely Not Bulky.

Let’s lift to get what we want!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I think this flower looks like a fried egg, but I don't know what it is really called.

I work in the evening.  That’s when people want to work out.  I love my clients and my job, so that’s all good.  And it means I need to plan ahead when it comes to cooking for my family.

Planning and cooking are two of the best things we can do to promote healthy eating for ourselves and our loved ones.  For some of us, that might mean spending part of the weekend making dinners for the week.  For others, it might be enough just to make sure that there are the right ingredients on hand for tasty meals that come together quickly.  The goal is to avoid that weak moment when clearly the right answer is to call for pizza.  Where to start?

1.     Make a list.  Yeah, lists are boring, but without one, we might end up without a crucial ingredient. 
2.     Make a habit.  This works better for some families than others.  If you and your family don’t have a high need for variety, knowing that Monday means chicken can save a lot of brain space.
3.    Consider a slow-cooker or instant pot.  Some of us have more time to prep dinner while making breakfast than we do later in the day.  Let the appliances do the work!

4.     Stock the pantry.  Figure out one or two meals that everyone likes that can be made from stuff you always have on hand.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Carrot? No thanks...

When we face the task of changing our behavior toward more healthy actions, we have to figure out how to motivate ourselves.  We want to do more of some things (like exercise) and less of other things (like eating too much cake). 

Pretty much we can choose between carrots and sticks as motivation.  Imagine we are donkeys.  We will move toward yummy carrots (I admit, I would have to be a donkey to find carrots motivational!) and away from sticks that might whack us on the behind.  The research suggests that, in general, adults respond better to rewards than punishments.  This was also true of my children, at least, but they are hardly a representative sample.

Rewards come in two flavors, and neither of them is carrot.  We can give ourselves something we want or we can get ourselves out of something we want to avoid.  In practice, this might mean that we get a long massage for losing that first five pounds or that we might get out of doing burpees at a workout for remembering to log our food intake every day.

Because we are all individuals, we will need to experiment to find out which rewards actually get us to make the changes we want.  We can experience science in action!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Workout: 100!

We’ve spent a few weeks doing longer circuits, so it’s time to shake it up and do a shorter one.  It has been a while since we last did the Pilates 100; if that’s more than you can manage, you can always substitute a V-sit for as long as you can hold it!  Four rounds.

1 min cardio

heavy squats
overhead high knees
ball bench press
mountain climbers
100 or V-sit