Archives for March 2014

The Five Diet and Exercise Myths No One Is Talking About

Whenever I click on an article that’s attempting to debunk weight loss or exercise myths I skim through it and think, “Tell me something I didn’t already know.” Many of these myths are common knowledge because they’ve been written about over and over.

For example, did you know that it’s a myth that if you’re a woman and lift weights you’ll bulk up like a man? How about that doing 100 crunches a day isn’t the secret to flat abs or that a steady state cardio workout isn’t the best way to burn the most calories?

Yes. We know.

Yet, there are plenty of untruths that circulate in the world of diet and fitness that no one seems to care much about. Many of these myths are being perpetuated – some even endorsed – by fitness and weight loss experts.

Get the body you want without giving up the foods you like is a myth.

Get the body you want without giving up the foods you like is a myth.

Here are the five myths that I wish people were talking about.

1. You Can Get The Body You Want – Usually this myth is accompanied by six or seven tips that tell you what you need to do to get your dream body. (Google it. You’ll see what I mean.) Then the secrets to getting the body you want are things like drink more water, eat more fruits and vegetables, and move more.  While these are good for your health, they won’t give the body you want.

LOTS of hard work in the gym and getting ridiculously strict about what you eat is what will give you that body. Now add to that the role that genetics plays in your physiological make up.  Getting the body you want might not just be unrealistic. It might be impossible. It’s unfair to tell people they can have the body they want by making a few simple changes. The picture (above) is from Pinterest.  It is on a page full of hard-core bodies with captions that say “get the body you want without giving up the foods you like”. That’s more than a myth. It’s a lie.

2. I Can Undo What I Ate With Exercise –The fitness phone apps and trackers are fueling this myth.  They let you put in and subtract calories based on what you’re eating and how much you’re burning through exercise. Unfortunately, no tracking mechanism that you wear on your belt can tell you how many calories you’ve burned during an hour of interval training, Zumba or other physical activity.

Your metabolism and the way you burn calories is as individual as your fingerprint.  Even the best tracker can only give you an estimate of how many calories you’ve burned based on your age and weight. That will get you in trouble with the scale if its guess is too high.

3.  Drinking A Lot Of Water Will Help You Lose Weight – Drinking a lot of water is good.  Water helps every organ in the body function properly. Staying hydrated keeps us cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and can prevent chronic low-level fatigue. However, to date, there is not one scientific study that shows that drinking a lot of water leads to weight loss.

If you replace the high calorie beverages you typically drink in a day (sweet tea, soda, energy drinks and fruit juices) with water, that will help you lose weight.

4. Jumpstart Your Weight Loss With A Diet Cleanse – We have Dr. Oz and Oprah to thank for perpetuating this myth. Both have promoted detoxing and cleanses as a way to kick off a weight loss program.  Most physicians and nutritionist will tell you that there is no need to spend money on detox products.

Not only do you lose a lot of precious vitamins and minerals when you undergo an extended detox, but the weight that you lose is almost all water and will come back once you start eating again. The human body is a wonderful, complex system that has its own built in detoxification system that isn’t enhanced by modern day fasting and cleansing systems.

5. The Myth that Isn’t A Myth: No Pain, No Gain – A writer for Philly.com writes, “No Pain. No Gain. Whoever came up with this horrific adage deserves to be punched square in their six-pack, oiled up gut”. (The best thing about this article is the picture of the shirtless, ripped guy getting ready to do a bench press that I am absolutely certain has endured some pain in order to look that way.)  She goes on to say the idea that someone has to endure pain in order to benefit from exercise is wrong because it demotivates people.  I get that, but there is some truth to the no pain, no gain adage.

People that haven’t exercised for a long time are going to experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness [pain]) when they get started. Those of us that work out on a regular basis experience pain when we do something different, new or more difficult. Not down on our knees, excruciating, debilitating pain but there’s definitely some ouchiness that makes us aware that we’ve done something we’re not used to. It’s not a bad thing. It’s part of getting and staying in good shape like the guy in the picture is. We’re lying to people if we tell them otherwise

These are just a few of my myth pet peeves. What fitness myths bug you?

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Fermented Vegetables: Probiotics in a Jar

Have you attempted to solve the probiotic puzzle? It’s hard to know whether or not probotics are something that you need or just another fad.

The fact is, probiotics play a huge role in maintaining a high functioning immune system and something almost everyone could benefit from. There are some options when it comes to making sure you’re getting what you need.

Fermented Vegetables

Why Do We Need Probiotics?

Most of us don’t have enough ‘good’ bacteria (gut flora) in our intestinal track. Gut flora consists of trillions of complex microorganisms that assist in the digestion process and contribute to our overall health.

Ninety percent of our immune system lies in the healthy bacterium that resides in our gut. Our traditional American diet is full of things that destroy this gut flora.  Sugar, antibiotics – not only the ones that we take, but those found in meat and dairy products – and genetically modified grains are all good gut flora zappers.

Not having adequate amounts of good bacteria weakens our immune systems and puts us at risk for autoimmune diseases and irritable bowel syndrome, and increases our risk of succumbing to viral infections. New research is showing a link between abnormal gut flora and Autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, and ADHD. Although more work will needs to be done to prove these theories, the preliminary findings provide hope that there may be help for people that suffer from these afflictions.

Because these healthy flora are so critical to good health and our western lifestlye leaves them in short supply, supplemetation makes sense.

Supplementing: The Easy Way

If you want to increase the good bacteria in your system, the easiest way is to purchase a supplement from your local CVS or health food store.  You’ll find there are a wide range of probiotics on the market that contain various strains of bacteria that provide different functions.

I am not an expert on the various strains of bacteria so I did some research to find out what we should be looking for.  There is an excellent article on probiotic supplements at Lean It Up.com that you should check out before you make a purchase. But . . . . .

before you do that, keep reading for an even healthier way to boost immunities.

Supplementing: The Natural Way

There are ways to increase your gut flora without purchasing expensive supplements. A better and less expensive approach is to make probiotics in your own kitchen by fermenting fresh vegetables. It’s an easy process, and not only do you get the benefit of the healthy bacteria, you get all of the vitamins, minerals and fiber from eating the veggies.

The Process For Vegetable Fermentation

What you’ll need:

– One or two glass jars with plastic or glass lids (I used jars with the lids that latch.)
– Sea Salt (you can add more salt to taste)
– Filtered Water
– Fresh Vegetables of your choice

 *You don’t have to use cabbage but I read that it will help the fermentation process, so I put some chopped cabbage into each of my jars.

Directions:

– Dissolve one and a half tablespoons of sea salt in one quart of filtered water.
– Chop the vegetables you’re going to use and put them in the jar leaving a half an inch at the top.
– Add spices, peppercorns or other seasonings.
– Pour the salt water in the jar to cover the vegetables.
– Place a cabbage leaf on top of the vegetables and press it under the water so that all of the vegetables are submersed.
– Allow the filled jars to sit at room temperature for five to seven days.
– Open the lids of the jars once a day to release the gases (and taste the vegetables to see if they’re ready).
– Once the vegetables have fermented, move the jars to the fridge where they will keep for several weeks.

Vegetable fermentation takes anywhere between three to seven days depending on the temperature of the room.  You’ll know when the vegetables have fermented because they will have a sour (pickled) taste.  If any mold or scum forms on the top of the jar, simply skim it off.

Fermented vegetables contain several bacteria: Lactobacillus brevis, Lb. plantarum, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Pediococcus acidilactici and Ped. Pentosauceus.

Kefir Is Another Option

Homemade kefir and  yogurts also provide an abundance of probiotics and the strains are different than the ones found in fermented veggies.  I wrote a how-to on making kefir awhile back that you can check out here: How To Make Your Own Kefir

Kefir

Most of us could beneift from a daily dose of probiotics and they are even more essential for people that have been taking antibiotics. Long term antibiotic use can result in a condition known as C.difficile which is life threatening inflammation of the colon.

Individuals with chronic conditions or that have active auto-immune disorders should consult with their doctor before supplementing with probiotics.

Are you boosting your immune system with probiotic supplements or fermented vegetables?

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The Truth About The Baby Carrot Lies

As George Takei would say, “Oh my”.

A writer for the Huffington Post has gotten so carried away with her attempt to demonize the baby carrot it’s funny. Maybe that’s what she’s trying to be.

Baby Carrots

In the article “Getting To The Bottom of The Baby Carrot Lies” in the Huff Post on March 17, the author, Julie Thomson, tells readers:

We’re just going to come right out and say it: what you know as baby carrots are not, in fact, baby carrots. They’re just thin carrots that have been cut in half.

There, now you know. Sorry to lift the veil of cuteness off your eyes, but it had to be done. No longer can the carrot industry trick us into eating carrots just because we’re drawn to all things baby sized.

We know, this feels like the day you found out Santa was a sham — worse even. We’re sorry to be the ones to burst your tiny carrot bubble, but we can’t have you living this food lie any longer. Especially if it means you’ll stop buying those watery, stumpy carrots and start enjoying whole, full-flavored carrots again. Don’t believe us? See for yourself.

What follows are video clips (originally from Buzz Feed) that shows the way carrots are peeled, cut and washed in mass production and then bagged to sell to grocery stores.  And the clips have words on them to let you know they are “FAKE  FAKE  FAKE!” and it’s all a BAG OF LIES! Truly, if you don’t click this link and see it for yourself you’re missing out:  Click here.

To Julie and all of the other baby carrot haters out there I say, “Calm Down”.  It’s a bag of carrots that have been cleaned, peeled, washed, and cut and so that they are lunch-box-ready. You can open the bag, take out a half a dozen and dip them in hummus for a low-calorie healthy snack, or put them into a steamer for a nutritious side dish on a hectic evening.

The Truth About Baby Carrots

I was fascinated with “Getting To The Bottom of the Baby Carrot Lies” because I know that some people do think that baby carrots are a processed food.  I went to an outdoor barbeque last summer and someone brought in a tray loaded with fresh vegetables that included, you guessed it, baby carrots. One of the other guests pointed out that she wouldn’t touch them because they weren’t real.

Huh?

Just to be sure, when I got home I looked at the ingredients on my bag of baby carrots. There was only one: Carrots.

I thought before I started flapping around about how silly all of this is I would do my homework. What better resource than Lisa over at “100 Days of Real Food” to answer the question, “are baby carrots real food?”

Lisa says, yes they are and not only that, the stories that you may have heard about them being soaked in chlorine- enough chlorine to make them unhealthy and turn white – isn’t true either.

Lisa went straight to the source and talked to a representative from Grimway, a manufacturer of baby carrots, and learned that “the carrots are treated with WATER that contains a small amount of chlorine. And this water/chlorine solution is “well within the limits established by the EPA and comparable to the amount acceptable in [public] drinking water.”

Another baby carrot myth has been dispelled.

And, all of the leftover stuff that comes from skinning and chopping the big carrots to make baby ones becomes part of the food chain for livestock.

Don’t Freak Out About All The Lies

I think most of us know that baby carrots are not the offspring of a mommy carrot.  We know that they were not hatched or delivered or anything else. We know that ‘baby’ carrots are regular carrots that have been cut and peeled and packaged to make our lives easier. We did not need anyone to tell us that.

I’m guessing someone is trying to be cute using the sequence of videos to show us that what happens to a ‘real’ carrot is similar to what happens an animal at a slaughterhouse. Not true.

I absolutely agree that the flavor of a baby carrot pales in comparison to a fresh, whole, ‘real’ carrot. I always buy whole carrots when I’m making soups or stews for that reason.

The best snack for kids and adults - hummus with baby carrots.

The best snack for kids and adults – hummus with baby carrots.

To the manufacturer of the babies I say, “Thank you”. These carrots are helping people eat a nutritious, now-calorie snack that satisfies the desire to chew on something.  People (and children) can eat them by the pound and not gain weight.  They are a handy, crunchy, inexpensive snack in a bag.  They are not a Dorito.

What more do you want?

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Strength Training: The Secret to Looking Younger and Better

Walking, running, swimming, biking, or getting on the elliptical for 30 minutes are the most popular forms of exercise and typically what people turn to when they want to lose weight.

If this is how you spend your time at the gym or outdoors, the heart health benefits are undeniable. But, unless you’re pushing around some weights a couple of times a week, you’re missing out on one of the most important components of physical fitness. The one that will make you look younger and better.

Weights

Save Your Muscles

As you age you lose muscle. People that are inactive lose about three to five percent of their muscle mass per decade after the age of 30. That means, by the time you’re 50 you will have lost up to 15 percent. Physically active people also experience age-related muscle loss although not quite as drastically.

The loss of muscle tissue can generate a variety of inflictions including sarcopenia, osteoporosis, weight gain, loss of balance and decreased energy. It is the primary reason why people begin to look frail and weak as they age and many take on a stooped appearance.

Adding a couple of strength training workouts to your cardio routine a couple of times a week can turn these conditions around or prevent them from occurring in the first place. Strength training is the key to looking and feeling younger than your age.

You don’t need a gym membership or expensive equipment to do some basic exercises that will help you save your muscles.  I’ve picked seven exercises that target the larger muscle groups so you get the best results for your time spent.

If you have time left over and want to work on biceps, triceps and calves – what I call vanity muscles – go for it. But focus first on working the larger muscle groups to prevent overall muscle loss and stimulate muscle gain.

1. Chest Press – Lie on your back on a bench or exercise ball with a dumbbell in each hand. Slowly press your hands to the ceiling and then back down so that the elbows drop slightly below the ball.  Repeat 12 times. Do two sets.

Chest Press

2.  Upper Back or Rear Deltoid Fly – Still holding the weights, stand and bend over so your hands are down by your knees. Lift your arms out to the side as though you’re getting ready to take off and fly.  Release slowly to starting position. Focus on pulling the shoulder blades together in the back.

Rear Deltoid Fly

3.  Clean and Press – This is a multi-purpose exercise.  It works the large muscle groups in the legs as well as shoulders. Holding the dumbbells down by your sides, squat down slowly. As you come up, push weights overhead to a shoulder press.  Release the weights back down and repeat.

Clean and press

4.  Dead Lift – This exercise works the hamstrings.  Start by holding a weight, weighted ball or kettle bell in front.  Slowly bend over lowering the weight down to the floor.  Try to keep your knees straight as you bend over. Slowly come back up to starting position.

Dead Lift

 

5.  Side Leg Raise – Having strong abductors (outer thighs) will help you maintain balance. In a standing position or laying on your side on the floor, slowly lift one leg away from the body and back in 12 times.  Repeat on the other leg. Using a resistance tube will make this exercise more challenging.

Side Leg Raise

6.  Push-Ups – On your knees or with toes on the floor, place hands under your shoulders and lower your chest down to the floor. Come back to starting position and repeat.

Push Up

7.  Plank – With your elbows and toes on the floor, tighten your tummy and hold your body in a straight line for 10 seconds.  Work up to holding the position for 30 seconds and eventually a minute.

Elbow Plank

There are numerous variations to these moves, but if you want to get started with some basic exercises that don’t take a lot of time or equipment these should do the trick.

Try to do two sets of 12 of each exercise two to three times a week.  When they start to feel easy to you keep challenging yourself by increasing the weight or adding a weight bar or other equipment such as kettle bells. You should notice some noticeable changes within three to four weeks.

Strength training will save your muscle and your bones. Did I mention that these basic strength training exercises will make you look better?

(Pics are from Pinterest. Click on the picture to see the source.)

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Why Cheat Days (And A Few Other Things) Are A Bad Idea

I hear a lot about cheat days when I’m talking to people that are trying to lose weight.

Many people say one cheat day a week keeps them motivated to stay on the diet on the other six days. If you’re truly seeking long-term weight loss, being on a deprivation diet where the reward is one day when you can eat anything and everything is a bad idea.

Cheat days are a sign that your relationship with food needs some work and keeps you stuck on that wheel of using food as a form of punishment and reward.

Dog with bone

If you are someone that is engaged in a lifelong battle with your weight I’m willing to bet you follow a pattern that goes something like this.

1.  Is That Really Me? – Something happens in your life and you decide you have to lose weight right now.  Maybe the decision was brought on by a trip to the doctor where you get some not-so-good news about a health condition related to your weight, or you see a picture of yourself and can’t believe that’s how you look. Maybe there’s an event like a wedding or high school class reunion coming up that you want to look great for. You’re ready to get started and your motivation is high.

2. It Worked For My Cousin’s Mother – You share your plans to lose weight with a friend or co-worker. They tell you about a diet their sister-in-law is on. She’s lost 20 pounds in three weeks.  You say “sign me up”.

3.  Game On – You start out on the top of the wave.  You’re losing weight, maybe drop a pants size or two, and are having no trouble adhering to the diet. It doesn’t bother you that you can’t join your friends once a week for lunch or meet your co-workers for a cocktail after work on Friday because the slightest digression could blow everything.  There is no temptation strong enough to come between you and your goal.

4.   Victory – After several months of weekly – maybe even daily – weigh-ins and the highs and lows that come from that practice, you reach your goal weight.  You. Win!  No one really knows or understands how much you’ve had to sacrifice to get that scale to display the arbitrary number that you selected six months ago.

Now What?

You look great. You feel even better. Three or four weeks go by and you decide an occasional splurge will be okay. You shouldn’t have to deprive yourself forever. That would just be wrong.

You go to lunch with your friends and order the creamy shrimp alfredo that you’ve so missed and join your co-workers for the Friday happy hour drink specials once again. You begin to slip back into living your life the way you did before that moment in time when you vowed that things were going to change.

The pounds creep back on, and, as disappointing as that is, you can’t find the motivation you need to go back to ‘the diet’.

What Does This Have To Do With Cheat Days?

Cheat days are a sign that you are participating in a process that is unsustainable. Having a cheat day means that you feel that you’re giving up so much on days one through six that on day seven you deserve a treat so you’ll be able to keep doing the deprivation thing on the other days. You’ve made a deal with yourself.

Rather than trying to keep your promise to be good six days out of seven, why not put some work into figuring out how important it is to be at that oh so coveted weight and what you’re going to have to do different from now on to stay there? Getting there is easy. Staying there is much trickier because, over the years, you’ve developed habits and eating patterns that make gaining weight inevitable.

Although you may not recognize it, you’ve also developed this internal belief that having to eat right every day and exercise at least a few times a week to stay healthy and look good in your black dress isn’t fair.

Don't reward yourself

It’s Not Your Fault (but it’s up to you to fix it).

Dr. Phil says that you are not to blame for what happened to you as a child.  But, as an adult, despite whatever took place back then, you have to take responsibility for your life now.

The same is true of your battle with food. We live in a society that is obsessed with high calorie, overly processed, yet highly satiable foods.  These tempting foods are on every street corner. Super market rows are stocked full of them. Indulgent foods are at the center of every social event.

We ignore that the purpose of food is to provide fuel to our bodies. Most of the foods that are consumed today don’t fulfill this primary objective.

You’re not to blame for the obsession our society has with food that has led to obesity for 35% of American adults.  There is nothing you can do about the endless deluge of foods that test your willpower each day. That’s all way bigger than you.

You’re also not to blame for the prevelance of the idea that healthy, nutritious whole foods that provide vitamins and fiber along with a bunch of ther nutrients that our bodies actually need are tasteless. Or that ‘clean’ eating (forgive me for using that buzzword) is nearly impossible to do for any length of time. Neither are true.

I hope you will begin to re-think your truths about food, what you’re eating, why you’re eating it and whether or not you should be on a diet where the incentive is a day of eating ‘bad’ foods. The reward for even the most heroic of acts should never be a cookie.

What do you think? Do cheat days work for you?

If you liked this article, you might also like Do It Right The First Time So You Won’t Have To Do It Twice.

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My Life In Six Songs: A Different Kind of Wellness Challenge

I follow the blog Running On Sober written by blogger and fellow runner, Christy, who bravely shares her journey from alcoholism to sobriety through her posts. Christy describes herself as a recovering alcoholic that is not able to drink in moderation, although she has tried, and had her last alcoholic beverage on May 6, 2011.

Christy is also a music lover. Most of her articles are accompanied by song lyrics or a music soundtrack that she uses to help convey her message.  The name of her blog was inspired by the Jackson Browne song “Running on Empty”.

This week at Running On Sober Christy put out a challenge to her readers that she read about on NPR. The challenge is to tell your life story – chronologically, up to now – in six songs.

What a challenge that is! At first I thought that it would be too hard.  Music has been a part of my life since I was a small child.  There are so many songs.  I didn’t think I could narrow it down to six.

Music

Flickr photo by Cuba Gallery

Music is fundamentally associated with well-being.  We move to it.  It makes us cry or dance. Old songs invoke memories that are so real we feel, for a moment, like we’ve stepped back in time.  We associate songs with places we’ve been and people we’ve met. Music is deeply connected to everything we do. Imagine how different life would be without it.

After I read Christy’s Life In Six Songs, I decided to take a crack at mine.  How this works is you pick six songs that have had the most significance to you and write a brief description of why they are on the soundtrack of your life.

My Life In Six Songs

1.  Rock With You, Michael Jackson – I bought the Off The Wall album and played it so many times it wore thin.  The whole album is good but there is something extra special about the “Rock With You” track.  It has that often-imitated-but-never-duplicated MJ rhythm and quickly became my favorite song on the album. We still dance to it on girl’s night out.

“ . . . when the groove is dead and gone,
you know that love survives,
so we can rock forever.”

2.  Son of A Sailor, Jimmy Buffet – When I met my husband he and his friends were all big Jimmy Buffet fans. When they got together they would play the Son of A Sailor album and sing along.  I didn’t really know much about Jimmy except for his one top 40 hit that I had heard on the radio.  (You know the one.)  But over the years Jimmy Buffet’s music has influenced our lives more than any other. We’ve been to concerts, have every album, and dream of someday meeting Buffet at a local hang out in Key West, FL. I can sit in my backyard in Illinois, put on a Buffet album, and feel like I’m in the tropics without a care in the world.  That feeling is hard to beat.

“Where it all ends, I can’t fathom my friends.
If I knew I just might toss out my anchor . . . “

3.  Pump Up The Jam, Technotronic – I can’t imagine what my life would be like if many years ago I hadn’t asked the Y’s fitness director if I could be trained to teach classes.  In those early days, as I was learning how to be ‘up in front’, the course of my life was forever changed. My life at the Y has given me so much more than being in physically good shape.  My best friends are people that I’ve met through classes and my career has been shaped by my early years as a fitness instructor. “Pump Up The Jam” was the workout song of the decade and was on every workout remix. Today when I hear “Pump Up The Jam” I’m back in that gym.

4.  Spiderwebs, No Doubt – This is a song that marks a time in my life that I wish I could return to. “Spiderwebs” was popular when my daughters were young and following the top 40 radio hits. This was their favorite. It was one of those songs that when you got in the car and turned the radio on it was playing. I remember my middle daughter changed the message on our answering machine to “Sorry I’m not home right now, I’m walking in a spider web. Leave a message and I’ll call you back.” The song was on the Tragic Kingdom album that won a Grammy for Best Rock Album in 1997.

5.  Victory Is Won, Santana – This is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. I put it on the list because it’s my favorite song even though I don’t associate it with a specific person, place or time. My connection to the song is internal. “Victory is Won” is on Shaman which was a follow-up album to the Grammy-winning Supernatural  that gave Santana’s music re-birth and tuned a new generation of listeners into the magic of Carlos’ crying guitar.  It is by far the best track on the album.  The music video below is of Santana playing “Victory Is Won” live. Wow.

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6. Trip Around The Sun, Jimmy Buffet and Martina McBride – We call this the Happy Birthday song at our house.  We all love it.  It states so well how insignificant we are to the big round ball that we’re all on so why not hang on and enjoy the ride?

“I’m just hanging on while this old world keeps spinning,
and it’s good to know it’s out of my control.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all this living,
is that it wouldn’t change a thing if I let go.”

“Trip Around The Sun” is on the License To Chill album and is always on the playlist at our house.  It’s a low-key song with a very real message about life,

“. . . .So I’ll make a resolution that I’ll never make another one.
Just enjoy the ride on my trip around the sun.”

What Are The Songs Of Your Life?

I love this challenge and truly encourage you to participate in the six songs exercise.  You will learn so much from it. (You don’t have to write paragraphs about your songs like I did.  A brief sentence or two will do.) Finding the songs that have had the most impact on your life is fun and not nearly as hard as you think.

If you want to be a part of the six songs series over at Christy’s blog, here’s where you can find her: Running on Sober.com.

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The Downside of Extreme Workouts You Might Not Know About

You might be a CrossFit or HIIT junkie.  If you’re not, you probably know someone who is.

High Intensity Interval Training, CrossFit and Sparten workouts are some of the most popular fitness programs of the decade.  These killer workouts turn couch potatoes into lean, mean machines in a few weeks and challenge even the most athletic individuals to train outside of their comfort zone.

CrossFit

CrossFit Workout   (Flickr photo by Julianne)

Doctors are now urging participants to approach these extreme workouts with caution due to an increase in a condition known as rhabdomyolysis that has become more common with their rise in popularity.

What is Rhabdomyolysis (rhabdo)

Rhabdomyolysis takes place when muscle fibers break down and release their contents into the bloodstream which, in severe cases, can lead to kidney failure.  There are many causes of rhabdo.  The most common are extreme muscle strain from exercise, a crush injury that occurs from a car or other crash, and the use of both legal and illegal drugs.

A quick Google search will lead you to numerous stories about people who went to a fitness class, pushed themselves to the limits and wound up in the hospital the next day. Jay Armitage, who was interviewed by Global News, says she came down with rhabdo after attending her first Spartan workout class.

She describes the workout as being like nothing she had ever done before.  “We’re talking kettle bells, we’re talking burpees, endless amounts of using your own body weight to do sumo squats, push-ups and it just went on . . . .,” Armitage said.

The next day she was in such agony she couldn’t move her arms to do her hair or dress herself. She was in incredible pain and she noticed her arms were swollen. Armitage was diagnosed with rhabdo and hospitalized.  In the hospital she was hooked up to IV fluids to flush the muscle tissue out of the blood and was closely monitored for kidney and liver failure.  A nurse that was treating Armitage said her Creatine Kinase (CK) levels were hovering around 95,000.

A CK test measures the amount of the protein, creatine kinase, in your blood.  Normal levels are between 120 and 150. Levels outside of the normal range can end up damaging the kidneys.  Sometimes that damage is irreversible.

Symptoms of Rhabdo

The symptoms are very similar to those experienced by Armitage:

  • Painful, swollen, bruised or tender areas of the body
  • Muscle weakness or trouble moving arms and legs
  • General feeling of illness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion, dehydration, fever, or lack of consciousness
  • Dark-colored urine, reduced or no urine output.
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    Early diagnosis of rhabdo can lead to good outcomes. Outside of spending a couple of unpleasant days in the hospital, most people with rhabdo can expect to have a full recovery although there are personal stories on the internet that tell a grimmer tale of people with extreme cases that have long term muscle and kidney damage.

    Rhabdo doesn’t just occur after an intense CrossFit, Sparten or boot camp workout.  Runners, weight lifters and athletes can also suffer from muscle tissue melt down.  In 2011 the University of Iowa had 13 of their football players hospitalized early in the training season after an extreme strengthening workout.

    Experts agree physically fit people don’t have to worry about rhabdo as much as the weekend warrior or a person just starting into a fitness program does.  However, the effects of rhabdo can be even more dangerous for an athlete because there is more muscle available that can break down, therefore more tissue available to get into the bloodstream.

    They also agree that it is up to fitness trainers and instructors to warn their participants of the risks of over doing it and coach them to start slow and work up to their goal.

    What This Means For You

    This article wasn’t written to condemn CrossFit, HIIT or boot camp workouts.  I’m a big fan of all three and admit that I find myself in the no-pain-no-gain category when it comes to exercise.  But, after researching this sometimes fatal condition, I plan to do a better job of checking myself when I find I want to push someone too far or tell them that they can do something that they may not be ready for. I think I owe that to them.

    As a participant, you owe it to yourself to stay in tune with what you can and cannot do and not cross that line because of peer pressure or an overzealous fitness instructor.

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Tired, Bored and Lazy? What You Need Is A Fitness Challenge.

I’m over winter!

How many times have you heard someone say that the past three months?

The snow and freezing cold temps have been relentless this winter.  An outdoor thermometer with a -10 reading and a new winter weather alert every three days can obliterate your motivation to do anything.  Especially go to the gym or do a workout at home.

Maybe what you need is a challenge; one that you don’t have to leave the warmth of your own home to participate in.

Below are six to web sites that offer  a variety of health and wellness challenges that will keep you moving and buoy your motivation until warm weather.

1.  Skinnyo .com is the ultimate on-line challenge site.  At Skinnyo you can start or join a challenge and get support from the other Skinnyo groupies.  The challenges range from sexy legs and arms to wedding weight loss.  Join the site for free, update your profile and get started.

Skinnyo

 

2.  30 Day Challenges.com – If you have a little black dress you’d like to get into or want to look good at the beach this summer, 30 Day Challenges.com will make sure you’re ready.  Beyond challenges, the site  has a how-to page that shows the proper way to do the challenge exercises, a healthy recipe tab, and a forum where you can interact with other participants.  It’s free and easy to navigate.

30 Day Fitness Challenge

 

3.  Eat. Drink. Be Skinny!.com – There are 12 challenges that you can join at Eat, Drink and Be Skinny.  What’s interesting about this site is they are not all fitness challenges.  There is a nutrition and juicing challenge that will help you put the exercise and eating together for big results.  The site belongs to Teresa Marie Howes, who holds a certification from the American Council on Exercise in personal training and has a background in nutrition.

Eat Drink and Be Skinny

 

4. 21 Day Fitness Challenge.com – There are four unique challenges at 21 Day Fitness.com.  A Health and Fitness Challenge, More Energy Now Challenge, Fight Type 2 Diabetes Challenge and a Faith and Family Challenge.  Each challenge incorporates a variety of activities specific to the goals. Once you register, there is a daily dash board that you can log into to record your progress.  Plus, you’ll receive daily e-mail reminders to keep you on track.

21 Day Challenge

 

5.  SkinnyMs. Fitness com – Train like a Navy Seal, ramp up your cardio with a Tabata challenge or sign up for a 7-day strength and stamina workout.  There’s plenty of motivation at Skinny Ms Fitness.  The site has short videos that provide exercise demos so you can make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly.  Not all of the challenges are based on exercise goals.  For example, if you want to tackle your sugar problem, join The Sweetest Challenge and kick your sugar addiction to the curb.

Skinny Ms

 

6.  Challenge Loop.com – There is challenge here for everybody.  Weight loss, no dessert, run a marathon, and walk the dog can all be found at Challenge Loop. What’s fun about this web site is you get to post pictures that reflect your personal experiences.  For example, at the Home Cooking challenge people are posting pics of the stuff they are fixing in their own kitchens.  There are even ways to win prizes at the loop and, unless I’m missing some fine print, they are all free of charge.

Challenge Lop

The variety of challenges found at these six web sites is amazing.  Add to that that they are all free and there’s no excuse not to sign up! Get your friends and co-workers to join with you and make it even more fun.

Do you have a favorite on-line challenge?

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What You Can Learn From B.J. Fogg: B = mat

“I’m obsessed with how behavior works.  Even on vacation I’m thinking about behavior, I’m watching behavior, I’m reading stuff on it.  I’m trying to understand it systematically.” — B.J. Fogg

What desired behavior change  are you struggling with?  Maybe you want to lose those last 10 pounds or get to the gym three times a week.  It could be that you just want to increase your productivity at work or keep the house from being so cluttered.

It’s all about getting and staying motivated, right?

Not according to B.J. Fogg, the Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University.  Fogg says that long-term behavior change doesn’t have as much to do with motivation as you might think.  It’s more about establishing tiny habits that are anchored to already established ones.

Fogg Behavior Model 2

Motivation applies to temporary behavior change, but not long term.  Fogg says “Relying primarily on motivation to change your behavior long term is a losing strategy. Motivation is very slippery. If you set yourself up to do something really hard and you have to somehow sustain the motivation, the motivation is going to drop down and there’s going to be a point where you won’t do it.”

He says the same is true of willpower.

In Fogg’s Ted Talk, Forget Big Change, Start With A Tiny Habit, he shows you how you can change your life and change your behaviors by making a series of tiny changes. He believes that if you design your goals around the outcomes you’re deisgning at the wrong place.  You need to focus on the behaviors that lead to the desired outcome.

For example, if the desired outcome is weight loss, there are many, many behaviors that lead to that losing weight.  As we create these tiny habits, little by little we will approach the health outcome in a very reliable way.

B = mat

Fogg has created a behavior change formula that consists of three elements:  Motivation. Ability. Trigger. There has to be some level of motivation present.  You have to have the ability to do the habit. There has to be a trigger to get you to do it.

In the Ted Talk he explains how the trigger is the key to the behavior change process and explains how to set up the triggers so that they work.

About B.J.

Fogg devotes 50% of his time to his Persuasive Lab at Stanford and 50% to industry innovation.  At his lab they focus on methods for creating habits and automating behavior change.  Over the years, improving health outcomes has become a theme.

Another focus of the lab is peace innovation and they are investigating how technology can help change attitudes and behaviors in ways that bring about global harmony. While they realize that is this an “idealistic project, and [they] may fail, given the state of the world, choosing not to pursue this line of research would be irrational.”

He has a body of work that includes a Behavior Design Boot Camp which is a two-day event that takes place at his guest house in Northern California and  a book titled Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do.

Fogg was chosen by Fortune Magazine as one of 10 New Gurus You Should Know.

Join Tiny Habits

B.J. can help you create new behaviors through his Tiny Habits program that he has shared with over 20,000 people around the world. This 5-day method starts every Monday and he will check in with you via email Monday through Friday of the week you’re registered for to see how you’re doing.

Space is limited. The current session is sold out, so if you’re interested in joining, you will need to check the web site on a regular basis in order to get in.

What tiny habits are you working on?

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