The Power of Fitness

Darwin used the phrase “Survival of the Fittest” in 1864 to describe the mechanism of natural selection. Over the years it has taken on many different meanings based upon interpretation. In modern times, it can mean that individuals that have good health and fitness will most likely live the longest. While genetics plays a role in our health and longevity, many studies have shown that lifestyle (in this case, exercise and nutrition) accounts for 60% of our life determination.
Darwin later (1869) refined the phrase to mean “those better designed for an immediate, local environment”. I think that description holds value in today’s world. Look around you, is your immediate local environment set up to promote your health and fitness? Is your lifestyle helping or hindering your health and fitness? If your lifestyle is 60% of your life determination, can you make changes to your lifestyle to improve your life outcomes?
Being with family this holiday season has forced me to think about 3 changes to improve your life determination:
Place a greater value on your health.  Many people in my family do not place a significant value on their health. And it shows in how they have aged and the problems they have with their health. You do not truly know the value of your health until it is gone.
Think of your family, for each person, do you hear more about their health problems or their life adventures? I want my life to be about what I have done (volunteer for Search and Rescue) and seen (Florence, Italy at Christmas), not about how many doctors’ visits I have had this year.
Understand that the lifestyle you have now will determine your health in 10-15 years. Our world is mostly about what you have now when we discuss health and fitness. Every other topic we look to make the future better; the environment, stocks, technology, etc. We fail to show the meaning in changes today make the quality of your life better in the future.
I do not feel like exercising every day. But, I make sure that I perform some type of physical activity every day. If I am feeling tired and sore from the week, I may only foam roll and stretch on that day. I know that performing small amounts of maintenance on my body daily will allow me more movement and less pain in the future.
Do something every day to make 1 small improvement in your health. We talk with people about sharing desserts or even meals when going out to restaurants and this seems like such a small change. How could it possibly make any difference to your health?
Reducing your caloric intake by 300-500 calories everyday can lead to the loss of 1 pound of fat. While this may not sound like a significant change, this habit can lead to the loss of 52 pounds of fat in 1 year.
Park a little further from the stores you are going to shop. It is usually easier to find a space, less chance of someone damaging your car, and you burn more calories.
Eat a little less for dinner. This helps you digest better with less chance of heartburn. You are less likely to store some of those calories as fat. And you will wake up feeling better and lighter.

Survival of the Fittest does not mean that you need to be the biggest or strongest to have good life expectancy or quality of life. It means that you need to take care of the body you have to life a long full life. You can spend your time taking care of your body and enjoy your years or you can spend time in the doctor’s office so they can tell you that your lack of a good lifestyle has caused medical conditions and degeneration that makes you look and feel old before your time.

We hope these tips can help you find activities you enjoy and start to feel better, look better, and get more out of life. When you are ready for an exercise program, motivation, and accountability, please visit our website and see how we can help you on your road to health.
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Keep your weekend from ruining your progress

Maintaining your health and fitness routine can be challenging, but it seems the weekends are where we can lose steam or even regress. During the week when you’re working, you have specific habits that tend to keep you on track. Get up by 5am, eat a healthy breakfast, walk the dog before you head into work. At lunch maybe have your prepared meal, then stop by the gym before you head back home. Once you are home, have family time, eat a healthy dinner, and in bed by 9am to read before starting another day.

It can be much easier to stay on track during the week, but by Friday, we are ready to relax and unwind. But this can mean many things to people, unfortunately it means doing the opposite on the weekends. Sleeping in for starters, going out to breakfast with friends, binge watching Netflix, then going out for drinks in the evening. Herein lies the problem – all the hard work you have put into the week in watching your weight, can go right out the window by the end of the weekend.

Here are 10 tips to keep the weekends from during your progress.

1. Don’t be so restrictive during the week. Because by the weekend you feel the need to overcompensate by increasing your calories, adding trigger foods, and possibly going overboard. Aim for a better balance throughout the whole week, not just Monday through Friday afternoon.

2. Bank calories during the week (-100kcal Monday-Friday). Try to decrease your calories by 100 each day during the week. That way you go into weekend with a slight deficit that will help offset the caloric increase on Saturday and Sunday.

3. Try tracking your food just on the weekends to see if there is a large increase. Plan ahead for your weekend activities. Plan your calories around a party or event or going out. Make sure your other meals are significantly smaller to make up for the added calories during the event (don’t have two full meals plus overeat on the day your event is happening). You need to go into your weekend with a meal plan, it doesn’t mean you have to be very restrictive, plan to have a single larger meal on each weekend day so that you account for it in your total calories. This way you do not end up with 2 days of excess calorie intake that limits your progress.

4. Have a small protein shake before you go out. This will help so feel fuller so you don’t consume as many calories when hanging with friends or family.

5. The 1 for 1 ratio. If you drink, have 1 water for every alcohol drink or have low calorie drinks that contain more ice so you don’t drink your calories or get dehydrated.

6. Eat more fruit or veggies that contains water. This can be a great way to snack between meals or while socializing and it will increase how full you feel.

7. Share. If you have an appetizer or dessert, try to share it with somebody else (these calories can be more than the meal itself). You could always share a full meal to reduce your total caloric intake, and skip the bread basket when you go out.

8. Keep your meals light during the day. If you know you’re going to have a big dinner, don’t consume as much at breakfast and lunch.

9. Get out early and go for a walk or workout. Try to do a fun activity, outdoor hikes, or outdoor festival where you will be moving for several hours. This will still help burn calories while enjoying the day.

10. Always keep your eye on your why. Set mini goals, write stuff down, and organize yourself for the weekend. Don’t let the moment derail you from the future you want.

You need to go into your weekend with a plan. It does not need to be the detailed meal prep that fits your busy week, but an idea of your activity level and eating schedule. Try not to go into it mindlessly eating whatever is in front of you. After a hard week we use weekends as small celebrations, or parties to offset the week. But overeating at every meal, not moving all weekend, drinking too much, or snacking on the couch watching football all afternoon will end up reversing all the hard work you put into the week. Start with 1 or 2 items next weekend, and see if you start Monday off feeling better, lighter and more on track for your goals.
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7 Secrets to Lifelong Exercise After 50

The key is in factors that you already control.
Most mornings you will find Diane, 65, at the gym starting her day with a workout. She has always performed some form of exercise, although very sporadic, she has now worked to be more consistent in her routine.
Diane doesn’t have to make herself go to the gym; it has simply become part of her lifestyle. And anyone over 50 can make the transition from sporadic workouts to a more committed routine. The key to becoming a lifelong exerciser has less to do with access to a gym and more to do with factors that you can control.
Here are seven ways you can start working out — and stick with it:
1. Schedule It
Most people who are regular exercisers self-regulate their time to include exercise as part of their normal day. If you find that you are never able to find the time, then scheduling an appointment for exercise will help you be more consistent. This requires actually blocking off time in your calendar and treat it like a medical appointment since it will improve your health.
While working out in the morning increases your chance of sticking with it, choose a time that works for you. Some people prefer midday workouts, while others are more consistent with late-afternoon sessions. The best time for you to workout is when you will be the most consistent.
2. Create Your Support Network
Research shows that having a workout partner makes you more likely to stick with an exercise program. Some people will prefer to take exercise classes for the camaraderie and social support instead of exercising by themselves.
Talk to your significant other and friends other about your intentions and get him, her, or them on board. You may find that some of your friends have similar goals and together you can help each other reach them.
Diane has belonged to the same gym for more than 20 years and has made longstanding friends there. When she was younger it was only about exercising, but later the social part of the gym and the friends there became a source of enjoyment.
3. Increase the Intensity
It may sound counterintuitive, but pushing yourself a little harder than normal can increase the pleasure you derive from exercise. A recent study published found that increasing the intensity, doing a more challenging workout that includes intervals as opposed to steady-state cardio, can increase the amount of enjoyment you get from your workout. And when you feel good after the workout, you’re more likely to want to keep doing it.
4. Get Outside
Do you hate working out in a gym? Then don’t do it! Get outside and go for a hike, a run, a swim, play tennis, ride a bike, go standup paddle boarding. Anything that is a better fit with your lifestyle and is physical exertion is still exercise.
There are so many opportunities to exercise. At this point in your life, you can make yourself a priority. We traditionally think of exercise as doing something for 30 minutes or longer, but even 10 minutes is fine. Try new things and see what you enjoy. Enjoyment does help with adherence over time.
5. Protect Your Body
Regardless of what you choose to do for exercise, it’s important to include range-of-motion activities on a regular basis. That might be taking yoga once a week or doing flexibility or stretching exercises several times a week. This will help reduce your risk of injury and help you maintain your mobility as you get older.
Also, 2-3 days of strength training every week. For women especially, I always encourage strength training. This make sure you have the strength to continue to do the everyday tasks you may now take for granted.
6. Develop Intrinsic Motivation
People who exercise for extrinsic reasons, like to lose weight or to look a certain way, aren’t as likely to stick with it as those who have intrinsic motivation, which is doing exercise for its own sake. Being mindful about your workouts, paying attention to the feeling of moving your body and the satisfaction you feel at the end of workout, can help develop this inner motivation and stick with exercise after the earlier goals are long gone.
7. Invest in Your Health
Everyone is looking a magic pill to make them look and feel better. Exercise has the ability to affect you physically, emotionally, intellectually and cognitively. It’s not something you have to work hard to do! You have to figure out how to incorporate it into your daily life so you’re able to do the things you want to do and have the quality of life you want. Exercise is one of the things that will allow you do that.
Make exercise a part of your lifestyle. When you finish a workout you feel great. There’s no other way to put it. So why would anybody stop doing things that make them feel good?
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Second Guessing Lifestyle Choices

My father passed away Thursday morning after a 9 month battle with stage 4 stomach cancer. Looking back at his lifestyle and eating choices, many people will say that his early death was inevitable based on his weight and Midwestern eating habits. Plenty of fried foods, pies made with lard in the crust, only real butter, and no food lacking in sour cream or gravy for added flavor.

I remember years of discussions trying to convince him that grilling is better for you than frying foods, and how butter and salt are not major ingredients to be added to every vegetable. The idea of moderation in eating was simply an idea that was pondered, you ate until you’re full. Most of you will see this and quickly agree that his lifestyle significantly contributed to his death. But, like most things in life, it is not that easy.

The foods we know have changed.

Many food items have significantly changed over the decades without changes to the taste. Early on, food items were actually made with, well food. Technology had not progressed to the point of artificially producing ingredients for many foods on the market. This improvement in food technology allowed manufacturing companies to spend less on the ingredients while having a more consistent supply source. They no longer had to wait for seasons to change or the crops to come in, they simply made more artificial ingredients to meet demand.

But artificial ingredients do not process through our bodies the same way as real food. The human body has over 500,000 years of evolution breaking down real food into vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to fuel our bodies. We do not know how or if these artificial ingredients can be correctly used by the body for fuel. I know that even a little too much spice wreaks havoc on my stomach, I do not want to know what a couple hundred chemicals that I cannot pronounce are doing to my system.

Quality vs Quantity

Almost everyone still buys food based on quantity, not quality. Watch any fast food or restaurant commercial and you will see that the selling point is more food for less money. We never ask how good that food is for your body, what benefits will I gain from eating this? We focus on what extras we are given (never mind the added calories) for the same price that we would pay elsewhere. It is not about what is right for our body, but how much excess can we get.

This system of has led to us consuming hundreds and even thousands of extra calories per day that our bodies cannot use for fuel, so it stores them as fat. And then we repeat this cycle again tomorrow. And still we wonder how the 40+ different diet plans came into existence.

The reward system

Growing up, we went to Dairy Queen once every other week, if we were good. That last part could change on the way to Dairy Queen or even in the restaurant, depending on how we acted. Eating out was a rare treat and earned based on merit. Later in life we find ourselves eating out based on lack of time, emotions, and even boredom. We even arrange our eating schedule based on our television viewing.

And yet, with Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) allowing us to record shows and play them back anytime while skipping commercials, you would think that more people would take the time to have a home cooked meal first before settling down to binge on their favorite viewing pleasure. Sadly, I do not see most of us going back to home cooked meals. Eating out is the new norm and the home cooked meal is a reward that few people ever see.

The Aftermath

No one can really say what caused my father’s cancer. I know the pain he suffered, the loss of ability to do the things he wanted, and the years of his life that we will miss.
I believe that if he would have made better lifestyle choices that he would still be here. Not just the simple choices of more vegetables and less ice cream. But the more difficult choices of taking the time to cook your own meals, use real food, and not allowing boredom or emotions to dictate your weight.

Many people are slowly eating ourselves to death while making sure that they don’t let a deal on more food pass them by. These added calories (and pounds) take a toll on the joints, the heart and cardiovascular system. They rob us of self-confidence, physical ability, and most importantly, time. Time enjoying life, traveling, spending with friends and family. Seeing how many wonderful things the world has to offer.

Everyone knows how to eat healthy, and still so many people are looking for a quick fix to the best nutritional intake. We now have so many food choices that the most difficult part is figuring out how to go back to the old ways. Real food, cooked by you, with a few spices for flavor, and in the company of friends and family.

Don’t allow the easy day-to-day choices to limit your life. The time you save now in short cuts may cost you later.

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6 Fitness Secrets You Should Know

Getting in shape seems simple: Exercise, eat healthy, keep at it for an undisclosed period of time, and at some point you see the results.
This does not happen the same for everyone. While genetics, coaching, past exercise or sports experience, and your life outside the gym all play a role, there are some facts that usually are not discussed when someone is looking to get in shape.
Here are six of the lesser-known facts about getting fit that may surprise you:
1. Sweat is not indication of effort
Two people completing the same workout will find that one may sweat profusely while the other may barely glisten, though both may be working out with the same intensity.
Very fit people tend to sweat faster because they’re able to hit higher workout intensities sooner. But some unfit people also sweat a lot, so there’s no hard and fast rule. Your hydration level, temperature of the gym, humidity level, and even genetics also play a role. Either way, how much you sweat doesn’t necessarily mean you’re working hard or vice versa.
2. Your recovery is just as important as your exercise
Your body does not become stronger when you exercise, it becomes stronger when it recovers from exercising. Proper sleep, nutrition, hydration, and muscular/soft tissue massage (or lack thereof) can all impact your results. Plan on a minimum of one day completely off. As we age it may take longer than one full day to recover, so take an extra day if you feel you need it.
Your body needs recovery time, pushing your body every day or doing too many high-intensity interval training workouts can result in injury or overtraining, which will keep you from reaching your goals.
3. You may not feel sore until two days after your workout
The enthusiasm of starting a new program and wanting to see results causes many people to push too hard initially. It’s better to start with less repetitions and/or weight and progressing gradually as your body changes. You will most likely feel sore when start a new workout, but the brunt of muscle soreness may not hit you until two days after your workout. DOMS, short for delayed onset muscle soreness, is believed to occur as a result of microscopic damage to muscle fibers during exercise.
DOMS most likely occurs when force is applied to the muscle during its lengthening (eccentric) phase. Examples would be the lowering phase of a bicep curl or even jogging, since the thigh muscles lengthen while the leg brakes against your body’s momentum. A light workout or foam rolling helps loosen up and increase blood flow and can ease DOMS.
It’s a misconception that the soreness is due to lactic acid build-up. Lactic acid is out of your body an hour after exercise, which is also why it’s a good idea to do a cool-down when you’re done, to help get out the lactic acid.
4. Exercise machines do not fit everyone
Exercise machines fit roughly 70% of the population. Using an exercise machine without adjusting for your body size can lead to reduced results and the increased risk of injury.
You have to adjust the machine to fit your body size in order to achieve the results.

You want to line up the machine so your joints coincide with pivot points of the machine (usually indicated by a red dot), your feet are flat on the floor (if you are seated) and the pads rest comfortably against your body. Charts can be found on most gym equipment illustrating proper positioning.
If you’re unsure of yourself, elicit the help of a certified fitness professional to make sure you are using the equipment properly. Improper use, including incorrect positioning of a seat, padding, platform, bar or weight that is too heavy can all lead to injury.
5. It takes time to see changes
The first 4-6 weeks of an exercise program will cause neuromuscular changes to happen that will see your body become stronger without physical changes to your appearance. This the initial stage of training is where your nervous system adjusts to the new demands placed on it with exercise. After the initial stage of training the body will start to make physiological changes to continue to adapt to the workout program.
Unfortunately, many people give up in the first 2 months of a program, right before they’d see results they want. Make sure to commit to at least 3 months of an exercise program so that you can see your body change.
6. You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet
Some people will tell you that exercising alone is enough to make a significant difference in your body. However, it is too easy to consume far more calories than you could ever burn off in the course of a day. Expecting to see results when you’re eating too much or too much of the wrong foods such as fast food, is not likely to happen. If you want to lose weight and see results, you must get your diet under control.
Unhealthy food choices not only make you less likely to lose weight, but you may also feel sluggish and less motivated to stick to your exercise goals.
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5 Exercises to Quit After 50 – You can still keep fit and avoid injuries if you follow these rules

Working out the same way in your 50s as you did in your 20s or 30s sets you up for pain and problems. Our bodies change as we age and muscular strength, bone density, flexibility, and recovery time make injuries more likely as you age if you don’t adjust your workout.
Your risk of injury will be greatly decreased by eliminating some exercises altogether.
My professors always taught that there are no bad exercises, just a lot of exercises used incorrectly. People are built differently and have varying levels of fitness. Make sure you have the flexibility and range of motion to be able to perform every exercise using proper form. Increase weight and repetitions incrementally over time to ensure you are able to handle the new stress.
In general, experts suggest avoiding the following exercises if you are over 50:
Heavy Leg Extension machine
This exercise involves extending the legs up out in front of you with resistance in front of your ankles while in a seated position on a machine. It isolates the quadriceps in front of the thighs and placed a significant amount of load across the knee joint.
This machine puts an unnecessary stress over the knee cap area, causing wear and tear in the knee joint. I still have some clients use this machine with light weight (less than 30 lbs) and perform the exercise single leg at the end of the workout, but never heavy. This can be a great rehab exercise or one of the worst single exercises for your knees if you use too much weight.
Instead, use squats, or wall sits to strengthen the same muscles without the risk of injuring your knees.
Pull ups or pull downs behind the head
This exercise works primarily the back muscles in addition to the biceps and shoulders. Behind the neck pull ups or pull downs places tremendous stress across the shoulders and rotator cuff tendons. Since rotator cuff injuries are very common after age 50 due to the lack of elasticity and strength, this exercise is not a good choice.
Safer and equally effective alternatives include pull ups or pull downs in front of the head, stopping the bar at the chest. Make sure to also utilize a horizontal row exercise or machine to also strengthen the muscles that support the back of the shoulders.
Sit ups
Sit ups have been one of the worst exercises for your lower back for decades. Yet, many people (including the military) continue to use this exercise for abdominal strength. The military is finally looking to replace sit ups due to the increased rate of injury for troops. They are studying planks as a better alternative to the injury prone sit up.
When we talk core strength, we mean 3 areas (abs, lower back, and obliques) and most people only focus on the first one. Balance out your workout with exercises that will strengthen the other 2 areas. Which leads us to the next exercise.
Flutter Kicks
This is also a staple of the military and many fitness fans that only focus on the abdominal section of their core. This exercise places a significant load on the abs and even more load on the lower back that you have not been working to strengthen. It will work your abs, but usually at the cost of your lower back.
Again, balance your core routine. Any exercise that places a load on your core means that your lower back is supporting musculature. If you lower back is not capable of handling this load, you will end up with a lower back injury, and a lifetime of lower back problems.
Good Mornings
This is meant to be a back-strengthening exercise that involves placing the weight behind your head while bending forward from the waist with your legs straight and knees locked, where you use your lower back muscles to pull yourself back up. This move can cause issues for you if you have any type of lumbar (lower back) instability or stenosis.
Stick with a whole body exercise like deadlifts that will strengthen your back, glutes, hamstrings, and even upper back. The body does not work well placing a load against isolated muscles across a single joint. The body works by spreading the load out against multiple muscles and joints. Isolation is great for rehab and body building, but not to build functional strength. If utilized incorrectly or with too much load, it causes injury.
Any exercise that you perform should have a purpose (i.e. strengthen specific muscles or movement patterns). Performing exercises that do not directly relate to your goals is a waste of your time and increases your risk of injury. Start with lighter weights using combined motions, such as squats versus single joint movements like leg extensions, that are not as functional.
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3 Rules for Fitness After 50

A funny thing happens to our bodies as we age: Our body doesn’t respond to exercise as it did earlier in our life. Fatigue, muscle and joint aches and increased injuries seem to happen with greater frequency.

Unfortunately, it’s not your imagination. It is a normal consequence of aging. In fact, some of the “standard” fitness rules no longer apply, at least not in the same way as they did in your 30s and even 40s.

Most people have a health goal as they age to be both “physically and mentally independent” rather than fit into a certain jean size. Everyone wants to feel better in their own skin so they can enjoy their leisure time with children/grandchildren, travel with ease of movement, or perform optimally in their careers? The trick is to attach “meaning” to your fitness goals and do the work, step by step.

You are the only one who can make and keep yourself healthy, not your doctor. Your doctor can assist you, but its 95% you. Even when surgery is involved, the outcome is more dependent on you than it is your surgeon. The surgeon makes the healing possible but if you don’t follow through with your share of the work, the surgery will fail. If you get knee surgery but don’t do any rehab other than what they force you do to in those six post-op sessions, then your knee will never be 100% and it is your fault, not your surgeons.

Rule 1 – Work Smarter Before Working Harder

Just a few tweaks to your exercise choices can make all the difference. Exercises that utilize more muscles burn more calories, and tend to also hit the larger muscles like legs and back. Hiring a trainer to run you through these more complex choices for just a couple of sessions can put you on a road to much greater progress and be worth the money in the long run….(maybe have one less bottle of wine a week to make up for it!!)

Talk To Experts – Guess work is the worst thing you can do when you exercise: it leads to poor results, and a lot of wasted time and money. If there’s a question you don’t know the answer to, just ask a pro.

Drop Your Ego – Nobody cares how much weight you lift. Nobody is watching and nobody is tracking. What does draw attention is terrible lifting technique. Lifting well beyond what you can handle just to look good in front of other people is pretty much the same as tattooing “I’m insecure about my strength” on your forehead. If you can’t bench, squat, deadlift and curl with immaculate technique, it may be time to drop down a weight, develop authentic strength and come back to lift heavier another day. If it really is respect you’re after, that’ll be how you earn it.

It’s You vs You – Never be disheartened by the progress or condition of others. Everyone has their own genetic make-up, their own goals and their own challenges. All you need to concentrate on is being a little bit better than you were yesterday.

Get Compound – Never substitute tried and tested compound exercises in the name of isolation or the latest exercise craze. The classic exercises have earned their status because they’ve been tried and tested over time. Be sure that your strength training program includes some of the following exercises such as: squats, deadlifts, barbell rows, lunges, and presses.

Have A Plan – Every time you exercise, you need to have a plan. You should know exactly what exercises you are going to perform, for how many sets and how many reps you are aiming for. Without this you will waste time and possibly select the wrong exercises. The same applies to nutrition: every day you should know how many calories you need to consume.

Rule 2 – Speed Is Your Friend

Going for an easy stroll with a friend may be a good way to get fresh air, but it won’t do much for calorie burning. Continue cardio for its heart health benefits, but focus on intervals since interval training for 30 minutes versus moderate, continues exercise decreases belly fat. Moderate cardio does not.

Interval Training – Interval training involves alternate bouts of higher intensity cardio with “rest” or easier periods. Intervals create an “after burner” effect called EPOC, which stands for “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.” That’s a state in which your body continues to burn a higher rate of oxygen and calories after you’ve finished your workout. How many calories and for how long depends on the intensity of the intervals.

Additionally, research shows that interval training can burn more calories during exercise, which in turn will lead to a higher percentage of fat calories burned.
At low intensity exercise, your body uses mostly fat calories. At high intensity exercise, the body uses mostly glucose or carbohydrates. Because interval training is a combination of moderate and high intensity exercise, a greater percentage of fat and total calories are used.

Jump Around – Plyometrics used to be called “jump training.” It’s a technique that you can use in many different ways. Every time you land from a jump, your muscles get a stretch. That gives your next jump even more power. The combination of stretching and contracting your muscles whips them into shape.
You won’t do plyometrics every day, because your muscles will need a break from all that jumping. If you’re not active now, you may need to start working on your basic fitness first and later have a pro show you how to do the moves, so you don’t get injured.
It’s a fun alternative to an everyday strength-training workout that boosts your muscle power, strength, balance, and agility. You can either do a workout based around plyometrics, or add some moves to your usual routine without giving it an entire session.

Rule 3 – Consistency Triumphs In The End

With all the advanced training principles, dieting secrets and magic bullet supplements at our disposal, the people who really succeed in fitness are the ones that keep things simple and consistent. Great workout after great workout and clean meal after clean meal will trump any genetic or synthetic advantage over time. Decide where you want to be, take the first step and don’t stop until you achieve it. Honestly, it really is that simple.

Your health will change with age, but you have a choice in how it changes. My professor used to always state, “The human body responses to the forces placed against it. The more you do, the more your body is able to do. And the less you do, the less your body will be able to do. When you challenge the body, it grows stronger. And when you fail to challenge the body, it grows weaker.”

I learned that to successfully reach a fitness goal you need to plan your workout and then work your plan.  Your body is too important to guess how to make improvements.  Write down your goals, talk to an expert on how they can help you reach those goals, and get to work(out)!

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I don’t respect anyone who has lived an easy life.

“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials”, this was stated by the philosopher Seneca 2000 years ago, and it is still true today.

Throughout history, life has never been easy. We will all battle against adversity and life problems. Some more than others. Life has a way of grounding us and then kicking us when we are down. The challenge is to be resilient against the battles of life.

I left home at 17 and joined the military because it was the only way that I could see to escape an unhappy childhood that left me very angry (my father still does not care to have a picture of me up at his home). At 18 I was living in a foreign country that I did not speak the language. From there I deployed to other countries for the better part of 3 years before returning to the US to a small, isolated base. After the military there was a lot of moving around, failed relationships, failed business, and homeless for a short time, not to mention health and financial problems.

Many of these were not separate events, they overlapped causing times of high stress that made me question what my future would be. Exercise has always been my primary source of destressing from these situations. I believe that exercise has made me more resilient to the challenges of life and it has shown me that I have control over myself in times of doubt.

What is Resilience?

How people react to extreme adversity is normally distributed. On one end are the people who battle against Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and even suicide. In the middle are most people, who at first react with symptoms of depression and anxiety but within a month or so are, by physical and psychological measures, back where they were before the trauma. This is the definition of resilience. On the other end are people who show post-traumatic growth. They, too, first experience depression and anxiety, sometimes exhibiting full-blown PTSD, but within a year they are better off than they were before the trauma. These are the people of whom Friedrich Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

The key to getting over the challenges in your life is to build your inner reserves well before you’re in a failure situation. Knowing that failure will happen, no matter how hard you try to prevent it, will give you a better perspective on understanding your mistakes without letting them devastate you. A mistake can be unpleasant, embarrassing, and even costly, but the resilience you develop to prepare you for those inevitable times will allow you to draw even more fulfillment from when you succeed.

Resilience is the process of adapting in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.

Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. People commonly demonstrate resilience. Examples of this response are the many people affected by the September 11th terrorist attacks and Boston Bombings and the individuals’ efforts to rebuild their lives.

Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. The road to resilience involves considerable emotional distress.

Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed.

Resilience does not mean that you will never have doubts about yourself. Resilience does not mean that you will never be depressed. Resilience does not mean that you will not have fear or apprehension.

Resilience means that you will not give up on you. Resilience means that you will keep trying to work through the problems (some days more than others). Resilience means that things don’t always work out as we hope and plan, but that can also lead us to new opportunities and new happiness.

Military Bootcamp is a series of stressful situations that are meant to transition you from civilian to military life in a quick and efficient manner, while building resilience that you will need on the job. We have many sayings for adversity in the military, “The only easy day was yesterday,” is common in the US Navy SEAL Teams. Yesterday is considered an easy day because it is over, you have survived the challenges to move on. In times of hardship, you have to focus on living day to day (or even hour by hour). Getting through the day can be a major accomplishment. We also say, “Embrace the suck”. The challenges are what make us better. Face it, put on your game face and rise to the challenge instead of allowing the challenge to defeat you.

While resiliency is normally built over time, it’s not too late to develop it now. Everyone has some kind of resiliency built within, but with varying degrees of strength. To say that an individual has great coping skills is one thing, but to say that an individual is resilient takes it to an entirely different plateau.

How do we build resilience?

Make connections with other people. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience (it is NOT a sign of weakness to accept help, it is part of the path to resolve the problem). Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.

You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Avoid seeing predicaments as insurmountable problems. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.
Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

Move toward your goals. Do something regularly, even if it seems like a small accomplishment, which enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, determine what is one thing I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?

Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.

Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

How the Exercise helps develop Resilience.

“It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness,” Seneca.

Weight lifting is the perfect metaphor for building resilience. We say that the body adapts to the loads or challenges placed against it. Your body adapts to the way you train it. The success of setting goals to lift more weight and then accomplishing the task translates to the ability to overcome challenges in other areas.

In the gym, you must continually challenge yourself with progressing difficulty to get better and grow. Your muscles respond to new challenges by gaining strength. Same with your mindset. With each new challenge there’s growth, and this incremental growth begins to snowball like compound interest.

Elite military schools have 70%, 80%, and at times even 90% drop out rate. Some people may argue that the standards are too high and we need to reduce them to have more trained special operations forces. But they would be incorrect. These troops are pushed beyond what they believe their breaking point is, for a reason. Decades of combat have shown that these individuals need to have the resilience to face the challenges placed before them. How do you develop this level of resilience? By facing adversity. There is no easy way. But, most people simply won’t do it. They’ve never trained to have a resilient mindset. These schools have developed over decades to provide our troops with the mental and physical resilience to face overwhelming challenges.

In day to day life, all you have to do is be a little less hesitant, a little less fearful of challenges and change, and a little more willing to question assumptions and your abilities. You can achieve amazing things. And exercise can be your proving ground. When you achieve a new personal best in the gym, it helps prepare for new fear trials in life.

Your brain is always watching you and judging the type of person you are. When it sees you attacking the gym consistently day after day, month after month, it’s more likely to believe you and support you when you attack something new in life.

Athletic Strategies

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right,” was famously stated by Henry Ford. It highlights how important self-belief is to accomplishment.

In athletics we teach that visualization and self-talk are valuable tools to help you achieve your goals. What you tell yourself can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So show and tell yourself a story of success and accomplishment.


When you repeatedly imagine performing a task, you also condition your brain so that the action feels familiar when you go to perform it; it’s as if you’re carving a groove in your nervous system. Envisioning success can enhance motivation and confidence.

Imagery can be a great tool the next time you have set your sights on a goal. Here is how to put it into effect.

Use all your senses. Mental imagery is often referred to as visualization, but it’s not limited to the visual. What are you smelling, hearing, and feeling? You should be so immersed in a mental image that it seems as if it is actually happening.

Be the star, not the audience. Imagine performing the activity from your own perspective, don’t watch yourself as if you’re viewing a movie.

Focus on the positive. Think of reaching for an apple instead of visualizing passing up the peanut butter cups. Researchers suspect that this tack may be more effective because it’s easier to see how close you are to a new goal than to gauge how far you are from old habits.

Imagine every step. A 2011 study by scientists at McGill University, in Montreal, found that when told to eat more fruit, people who envisioned every step of the process (reaching for it, biting into it, enjoying it) were more successful than those who only generally thought about eating more fruit.


Often, the pattern of self-talk we develope is negative. We remember the negative things we were told as children by our parents, siblings, or teachers. We remember the negative reactions from others that diminished how we felt about ourselves. Throughout the years, these messages have played over and over in our minds, fueling our feelings of anger, fear, guilt, and hopelessness.

Positive self-talk is not self-deception. It is not mentally looking at circumstances with eyes that see only what you want to see. Positive self-talk is about recognizing the truth, in situations and in yourself. One of the fundamental truths is that you will make mistakes. Expecting perfection in yourself or anyone else is unrealistic. To expect no difficulties in life, whether through your own actions or sheer circumstances, is also unrealistic.
When negative events or mistakes happen, positive self-talk seeks to bring the positive out of the negative to help you do better, go further, or just keep moving forward. The practice of positive self-talk is often the process that allows you to discover the obscured optimism, hope, and joy in any given situation.
“The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity”, Seneca.

Underdog stories have been popular throughout time. The story of David and Goliath always comes to mind. Rising up against a significant challenge and emerging on the other side victorious. Blockbuster movies that show the hero facing an impossible enemy, or normal people breaking the cycle of actions that have taken them to their limits always evoke an emotional response because we can relate to the feelings. If the movie showed someone with an easy life that never struggled, it would fail at the box office because we would not respect that individual nor feel anything for them.

The American Psychological Association gives this analogy of facing life’s challenges:

Think of resilience as similar to taking a raft trip down a river.
On a river, you may encounter rapids, turns, slow water and shallows. As in life, the changes you experience affect you differently along the way.
In traveling the river, it helps to have knowledge about it and past experience in dealing with it. Your journey should be guided by a plan, a strategy that you consider likely to work well for you.

Perseverance and trust in your ability to work your way around boulders and other obstacles are important. You can gain courage and insight by successfully navigating your way through rough waters. Trusted companions who accompany you on the journey can be especially helpful for dealing with rapids, upstream currents and other difficult stretches of the river.

You can climb out to rest alongside the river. But to get to the end of your journey, you need to get back in the raft and continue along your path.

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

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Building better bone strength

My mother was a beautiful, tall, vibrant women. She had a passion for travel, making jewelry, and gardening. Now, she is a shell of her former self. Her body is riddled with osteoporosis. She always looks down because her spine no longer allows her to stand up straight. Because of the pain she no longer travels, makes jewelry or any of her former hobbies. Her passion is gone, her love of life is gone, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I see her. This degenerative disease has lead me on my lifelong passion to help other women stay strong. Our bones were meant to last a lifetime. However the current epidemic of poor bone health stems directly from our lifestyle. We have come to expect poor health as part of the aging process. My aim of this article is to encourage women (and men) to build better bones, to keep passion and love of life through strength, and not end up like my mother.

Bone fulfills many functions in your body:

Bone gives the body form, rigidity, protection, and locomotion. There are 206 bones in the body and they are the hardest of all tissues. As such, they give form and rigidity to our bodies, allowing us to sit, stand tall, and walk.

Bones serve as an incubator for the red blood cells. Each second, our body produces 2.4 million red blood cells. These red blood cells are produced inside bone, in the nine ounces of bone marrow are body contains. Bone is an active manufacturing plant.

Bones serve as the mineral bank for the body. Ninety-nine percent of the body’s total calcium is stored in the bones, 85 percent of the phosphorus, 60 percent of the magnesium, and 35 percent of the sodium. Bones store minerals, keeping them available for use anywhere in the body. The level of blood calcium, for example, must be kept within a very precise range. Essential functionality from your heartbeat and nerve transmission, depend on precise blood calcium levels. When levels drop, a myriad of reactions occur aimed at drawing the calcium from the bone and depositing it into the blood. If more minerals are taken out of the bone than deposited back into the bone, the end result is thin, weak bones.

In the United States more women have osteoporosis than men do, and osteoporosis is held to be largely a disorder of women. However this may be more cultural than genetic. For decades women believed you could never be too thin. We are embroiled in a thinness mania, young and old, following misguided attempts at maintaining lower weight. It is virtually impossible to consume the nutrients required for bone maintenance, much less bone growth, on a low calorie diet. Under nutrition causes osteoporosis in young and old alike. Women were also told that nice girls don’t build muscle mass. It was taught that it is not proper to exercise heavily enough to build visible and defined muscle mass. Strong muscles are a good indicator of strong bones and it takes strenuous activity to build strong muscles.

Osteoporosis is not just a dreadful disease that randomly strikes some of us. Excessive bone thinning and the development of weak bones does not occur without due cause and this is often associated with poor lifestyle choices. Lifelong patterns of poor eating, smoking, surgeries and medication, excessive stress and little exercise. Never before have we been so physically inactive, eaten so much processed food, spent so much time indoors, taken so many drugs, or exposed to a vast array of pollutants. I believe that our sedentary lifestyle ranks number one as a major cause of osteoporosis.

Physical activity builds bone at all ages and bone mass maintenance is a natural response to load placed upon the body (i.e. weight training). Exercise is absolutely essential for optimum bone development in the young, and without it aging bone regeneration is limited. Nutrition alone cannot bring about maximum peak bone mass or maintain optimum bone mass as we age. Exercise is not an option. If we build muscle, we build bone. Conversely, if we lose muscle, we lose bone. Skeletal strength correlates directly with total muscle mass, and individual bone strength generally correlates with the strength of the muscles. Women with stronger back muscles have stronger vertebrae and stronger hip bones. Less fit people have both less muscle mass and less bone mass just as they have less aerobic capacity. Weight training is a very effective way to build muscle mass. The more weight-bearing exercises yield greater bone benefits. Less strenuous activities like walking can help to maintain bone mass, but generally more vigorous activity is needed to actually build bone. All things being equal, the more strenuous the activity, the more bone built. Among women at menopause and beyond high intensity strength-training exercises done only twice a week over a year yielded detectable increases in spinal and hip density.

Start by developing a strong, comprehensive bone-building strength training program. There is never a good time to slack off. The exercise component should be regular and rigorous. If you do not currently exercise regularly, begin slowly and build up exercise time and endurance. However judging the adequacy of your personal exercise program is often difficult.

Here are 4 tips to improve your bone health:

1. Consistently exercise at least three times per week. Three times per week is a minimum to maintain bone density. If you can exercise more that 3 times per week, even smaller 10-15 minute sessions, you can add to your bone strength.

2. Exercise vigorously enough to increase aerobic capacity, as well as strength. You have to challenge the body in order for it to change. If the exercise you are currently performing is not challenging you, why would you expect your body to change and become stronger, leaner, or healthier?

3. Work your posterior (back side) with 3 exercises to every 1 (anterior side or front) exercise. Back extensor strength correlates well with spinal bone density. Example exercises would be pull-ups, lat pulldowns, bent over rows, squats and deadlifts, to name a few. Most people focus on the muscles they see when looking in the mirror, forgetting that the muscles on your backside support your body, spine, hips, and shoulders.

4. When beginning a strength training program one should seek professional guidance. We often see individuals start too fast with the intention of quick results, instead of focusing on long term fitness with a progressive program. Each one of us is an individual with different needs, goals, injuries, and challenges. Set yourself up for success with a plan to achieve your goals.

Finally, remember a house built on a weak foundation will not stand. Nowhere is this more true than in the area of your bone health. A strong foundation for lifelong healthy bones must be built in youth and maintained in adulthood. Exercise, together with proper nutrition, a life-supporting lifestyle, can help build and rebuild bone density at any stage of life. Hopefully, you are ready to commit yourself to making these healthy changes!

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8 Easy and Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Many people approach health with the all or nothing extremism that can potentially derail your attempt at making lifestyle changes. Start with gradual changes that can get you closer to your overall goals. Here are 8 changes you can implement to improve your health. Pick one and after you have been consistent for 3 weeks, then pick another one. Normally it takes 3 weeks for a habit to become a permanent behavioral change.

1. Kick up your exercise
2. Reduce your sugar intake
3. Drink more water
4. Decrease processed foods
5. Limit your intake of red meats
6. Manage your stress
7. Aim for 8 hours of sleep
8. Be kind to yourself

1. Kick up your exercise – According to the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine, we should be exercising 150 minutes per week. While this may sound like a lot of time, it equates to only 22 minutes per day. This includes strength training at least twice a week. Find an activity you enjoy and make this your routine. This could be a Zumba class, a CrossFit workout or an exercise program at home. The benefits of exercising are numerous and lead the way with increased longevity and vitality.

2. Reduce your sugar intake – The World Health Organization advises no more than 10% of your total calories should come from sugar. However in the last 30 years sugar consumption has increased by 30%. When you take into account drinks loaded with sugar, processed foods with excess sugar and sodium, or the availability of bakeries on every corner, it’s no wonder sugar consumption has increased to 22 teaspoons per day on the average.

3. Drink more water – Water is in every cell of our bodies. Our bodies are composed of 60-70% water. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, and decreasing immune functions. It can dry out your skin, hair and every area of the body. The human body can go 2-3 months without food, but can only go 2-3 days without water. Aim for half your body weight in ounces per day ( ex: 100lbs = 50 ounces). Instead of consuming beverages with high calories and sugar, drink water. Rule of thumb- don’t drink your calories.

4. Decrease processed foods – Processed foods have so much sugar, sodium, and artificial chemicals you can’t even pronounce. The nutrient value is extremely low compared to vegetables and fruits. One medium package of M & M’s equals approximately 500 calories whereas it would take 8 apples to get 500 calories. Staying away from junk food is a real challenge but in the long run will contribute greatly to your well-being.

5. Limit your intake of red meats – Limit your intake of red meats. According to the American Cancer Society a high intake of red meats is linked with prostate, breast, colon and other cancers. Going vegetarian for a few meals can help. Having a good source of lean proteins is important, but it’s not always necessary to get it from red meats.

6. Manage your stress – High levels can take it’s toll on the body and wreck havoc with your immune system, endocrine and hormonal systems and eventually lead to increased ability to store fat. Whether you take 5 minutes each morning to breathe deeply, do a yoga class or go for a walk out in nature, you need time to meditate and contemplate.

7. Aim for 8 hours of sleep – Not getting enough sleep is very stressful to the body. When sleeping your body is in recovery mode. It builds muscle, repairs and renews. If you are not getting 7-8 hours a night your body is unable to recover properly, which could lead to weight gain, illnesses or injuries. Exercising and healthy eating is a major contributor to sleeping well throughout the night. Keeping the room digital free, dark and cool also contributes to a good nights sleep.

8. Be kind to yourself – As humans we are always striving for perfection. When we hit below our goals we gravitate toward self deprecating behavior. We can become critical, engaging in negative self talk. We need to be kind to ourselves and accept setbacks not as failures but as opportunities to learn and re-evaluate. If you fell off the nutritional bandwagon, then allow yourself 3 days to regroup, then get back on track and start again. Lasting change takes time. Know that missteps are normal and forgivable.

The secret of a healthy lifestyle to getting in shape is really about how you will live in the future. The changes you make now will determine the quality of life you will have 10 years from today. Health and fitness isn’t about getting in shape in 21 days and then you are done. True health is about laying a foundation now for a quality life in the years yet to come.

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