Happy New Year 2018 !!!!

It has certainly been some time since my last post and, in looking back, I realize that 2017 was a year of wasted opportunities to relate my journey as it unfolded. It was a year that was somewhat sidetracked by healthy doses of procrastination and distraction despite experiencing discovery on all fronts: weight training, cricket, philosophy, and continuing formal education.  

What set things into motion?

It was about November, 2016 when I introduced the dumbbell bench press into the mix and noticed soreness in my left shoulder. Thinking it was general soreness from a new exercise, I decided to try and work through the pain. Not only did it get worse on the bench, but it got worse while performing most other upper-body exercises. The soreness turned into pain and lack of mobility, which screamed "rotator cuff" issues. A trip to The Ohio State University Department of Sports Medicine confirmed my suspicion, and the ensuing physical therapy revealed that I was compensating with my deltoids and biceps (shoulders and arms) on movements that required lats and the scapular muscles (back). In some cases, the targeted muscles were weak and in others they did not fire at all! 

So, out the window went the "progress" that I had made on pull-ups, lat pulls, lat rows, dumbbell rows, and bench, and into "rehab mode" we went. 

It was difficult going from lifting as much weight as I could for 2 sets of 4-6 reps to going extremely light for 2 sets of 8-12. Some heavy lifts even became unloaded stretches. Let me be clear: this was not difficult from an effort perspective, but difficult for my ego!

Incorporating rehab exercises such as internal/ external rotations, shoulder extensions, shoulder retractions, scapations, and including activations (known as "Y's", "T's", "W's", "A's", and "U's") promotes proper scapular, and upper back positioning and strength.  

My resolution for 2017 was to really work on my back and shoulders by literally starting over; to date, I've made excellent progress in that area. By learning how to set my back prior to activity by pinning the shoulder blades together and pushing them down, I am in an athletic position that ensures all of my lifts incorporate the best form and recruit the correct muscles, respectively. Moreover, I've found that by setting my back in this manner, I have more explosiveness during cricket matches, both as a batsman and a fielder. 

Back on track, who knew 2017 would offer more challenges in the months to come. 
Stay tuned!

Take a Moment for Safety

As a new year begins, people will be flocking to gyms to get a good jump on their fitness goals. This will find more people of varying levels of experience moving heavy loads through a confined space. Oh! You've got that new shiny treadmill or weight bench for home? Then, in your case, there's risk in pushing the envelope of physical endurance without someone nearby in case of physical or equipment failure. Either way, it's a good idea to keep safety in mind when engaging in a fitness activity. Here are some ideas:

Before You Start: 

  • Get a checkup from your doctor prior to beginning any exercise or diet program. 

In the Gym: 

  • Be aware of your surroundings both when exercising and moving through the gym.
  • Fitness Machines:
    • Understand the purpose of each machine and how they work. If you are unsure, ask an employee at the gym. 
    • Start off with a very light weight to get accustomed to the movement, making sure you are engaging the correct muscles/ muscle groups. Then add weight as desired. 
  • Free Weights, Plate-Loaded Equipment, and Squat Rack:
    • Use a live spotter.
    • Employ safety stops. (e.g. Leg Press)
    • Utilize spotter bars. (e.g. Squat Rack)
  • Mechanized Equipment (Treadmills, Elipticals, Stair Climbers, etc...):
    • Wear the Emergency Stop Tether.
    • Locate the Emergency Stop Button before you start.
    • Know when to use hand-rails and when not to use them. (This will vary by machine and activity)

 

At Least I'm Here...

"At least I'm here, in the moment, improving."

This mantra came to me when I was in the process of earning my first black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Our dojang (training hall) had a gallery where parents, friends, and visitors could freely watch classes. Usually, those watching appreciated the effort we put forth in our training and offered a lot of encouragement along the way.

However, occasionally, those who weren't acclimated to the etiquette of the school would see this as an opportunity for comedic entertainment. On one particular evening, a guest in the gallery set his sights on my stiff, clumsy movements as I was learning a new technique. The more I failed, the harder this guy laughed, and the more pointed his barbs became. With my concentration now centered on his comments, the frustration grew until I literally couldn't do anything right. I was awash in self-doubt and I knelt to catch my breath, fully contemplating throwing in the towel right then and there.

Then it happened.    

"At least I'm here."

It was a voice that filled my thoughts and calmed my nerves. 

"At least I'm here."

The more I heard it, the louder it became, and even though it was a big class with a lot of onlookers, I was alone. I was calm. I was confident. Strength filled my spirit, my mind, and my body.

I stood to look into the gallery and made eye-contact with the heckler, and though he may have still been there, both he and his words were rendered powerless.  

"At least I'm here, in the moment, improving."

It takes a lot of courage to do something new, especially when you are in a public forum. Regardless the activity, it's easy to become super self-conscious being the newbie among more experienced people. You can sense that you don't look or move or act like anyone else; it's frightening to be a learner on the path of self-improvement. And that is why most aren't there, content to sit in the crowd and cast their own self-doubt on those of us who are.  

 

Avoid Autumn Gluttony

October, November, and December mark that time of year where holiday celebrations (at least in the United States) feature unending sweets, heavy dinners, and savory deserts. This is also when people say they're either putting off their fitness plans, or putting their fitness regemin on hiatus, "so they can enjoy this time of year". This is always said with a straight face and with every intention of hitting the gym three times as hard come next January. 

Don't be this person!

  • Keep true to your fitness and nutrition routines. 
  • Enjoy the one-off treat, but don't fall prey to multiple trips to the candy bowl each day. While those miniature-sized sweets are only 1/3rd the calories of the real deal, it's easy to get fooled into consuming multiple servings without realizing the consequences. 
  • For example, if you eat one snack/fun-sized serving a day, at an average of 70 calories per serving, by the end of the week it will total an extra 490 calories! 
  • Average three servings a day? Then that's 1,470 calories from sugar waiting to be transformed directly to fat.
  • The keys here are awareness and moderation. Read the packaging or gain an understanding of how these holiday snacks will impact your goals, and choose to partake in moderation.  

Believe me, you will "enjoy this time of year" all the more if you stay healthy, stay moving, and not having skipped a beat come next January when it's time to pay the piper.  

Watchful Learning

Every day spent in the gym is ripe for learning opportunities. We can take much from each day, each set, and each rep; how it feels, what muscles are engaged, what worked, and what didn't. Combining these mental and tactile inputs will build a knowledge base that will increase your level of performance and overall experience. However, sometimes it isn't what we do, it's what we observe others doing. I call this 'Watchful Learning', and it's a great way to add to your workout skill-set.

Watchful learning seems pretty obvious, but it's easy to lose overall perspective at a time when we generally focus on us.

The next time you're resting between sets or waiting on a machine and can't work in, look around. What are others doing? Are their lifts / exercises comparable to yours or is someone doing something different? What do you think their goal is? Also, make note of how people organize their reps and sets. Are they doing 5 sets of 5 reps (5x5), 3 sets of 8 (3x8), 2 sets of 10 (2x10), etc... ? Are they increasing weight as they go, decreasing, or keeping it the same? There are many variables for a multitude of outcomes.

Watchful learning will help with your overall development and provide many alternatives as you progress towards your fitness goals.    

Opportunity Cost... or Opportunity Lost?

Opportunity Cost  

noun
Opportunity cost is defined as the value of something that is lost because you choose an alternative course of action.
The opportunity cost of going to college is the value of the lost years of income which you would have earned if you had not quit your job and gone to college.

"opportunity-cost." YourDictionary, n.d. Web. 20 August 2016.
<http://www.yourdictionary.com/opportunity-cost>.

Opportunity Lost

noun
Opportunity lost is defined as having the available time and resources at hand, but failing to utilize them.
The opportunity lost of not attending practice is not being selected to perform with the group.  
            ~David Grumblis

It is inevitable. 

Any time I choose to squander an opportunity for exercise or sport, something beyond my control will happen to prohibit my participation the next time out (or three). A last minute project at work, an unexpected health issue, a family emergency, etc..., it never fails. Not only am I disappointed for missing workouts, I am doubly upset at myself for passing up each perfectly good day to be active.

In short, the future regret of 'skipping the gym' always outweighs the immediate gratification. 

Let us ponder the aforementioned terms in this post and their application to our outlook on exercise. We choose to participate in an activity because we value the benefits of that activity over all other possible alternatives. The positive mental and physical benefits of exercise, and in the case of team sports and group activities, the camaraderie, outweighs the benefits of all other endeavors. This is 'Opportunity Cost'. 

'Opportunity Lost' is flat-out failing to seize the moments where we can be active. 

So, the next time you feel like driving by the gym or skipping that yoga class, weigh the Opportunity Cost and ask yourself if this will be an Opportunity Lost.      

Millions of Small Decisions Over Time....

"The future is just a bunch of what you do right now strung together."
                            ~ Coach Hand (Kurt Russell) from the film 'Touchback'

"If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves. You gain more control over your life by paying closer attention to the little things"
    ~ Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886

Every single one of us make millions of small, seemingly insignificant decisions each day.

From our morning and bedtime routine, what and how we eat, and the routes we take to our favorite places, we rely on the packaging and reuse of decisions formed throughout the years to efficiently maximize our use of our time and energy. Aside from the occasional 'milestone' event, such as purchasing a home, capitalizing on job opportunities, or navigating medical emergencies, do we realize that we're even making decisions. 

Left to these rare, but major situations, it leaves us a relatively small sample size of decisions from which to reflect on our overall being. It is also what propagates the misconception that only a few key decisions make the most impact on our future, good or bad.

Nice. How does this relate to my fitness goals?

Consider this:

  • Not one person has ever woken to find themselves 50 pounds overweight simply by ditching the gym one evening to meet some friends out for dinner. 
  • On the same token, not one person has ever become an elite athlete simply by deciding hit the gym that one day to bench a few reps. 

The fact of the matter is, no single independent decision has the power to completely reshape our lives in an instant. It is in the repetition of our decisions that led us to where we are now, and that will pave our way to the future.

With millions of small, seemingly insignificant decisions each day, we have almost endless opportunities for improvement. 

Focus your efforts to:

  • Recognize the number of decisions over which we really have control.
  • Try to win one decision at a time.

You have more control than you think. 

Meal Prep...Preparing to Succeed

The key to successfully maintaining a nutrition plan is preparation.

You see? If you wait until you're hungry to think of nutrition, the cards are already stacked against you. It's inevitable that you're not going to have the time, availability of ingredients, or proper quantities or measures.

The fix? You guessed it. Preparation.

  1. Plan your meals out on paper for the upcoming week. Know what you are going to eat, when, and what nutritional needs are being met.
  2. Use this plan to purchase all of the ingredients when you do your grocery shopping. 
  3. Spend some time over the weekend preparing your meals for the upcoming week, and package them in the correct quantities for each day. (Refrigerate when applicable)
  4. Buy a food scale to make measuring easy. A basic food scale will cost $10-$20. 
  5. Save your plan and and recipes for future use. You will find that your prep time will get shorter and shorter, while your meals will become elaborate and diversified as you go. Just like anything, practice makes perfect.
  6. Make meal preparation part of your routine. 

*Please consult with a certified/ licensed nutritionist or your doctor before beginning any nutrition plan. 

Where you spend your time in the supermarket...

Where you spend your time in the supermarket selecting food is a good indication of where you are with your nutrition. 

Let me explain.

A former version of myself spent time in the following areas selecting food:

  • 50% at the deli counter
  • 20% in the frozen foods section
  • 20% in the snack aisle
  • 10% in the butcher section

In short, despite a very active lifestyle split between soccer and tae kwon do, my main fuel was:

  • Sandwiches (bread, processed meats, and cheese)
  • Potato or Corn Chips
  • Frozen Pizza
  • Chicken/ Beef/ Pork (with some kind of marinade slathered on for flavor)
  • Microwaveable Mashed Potatoes
  • Microwaveable Vegetables
  • Cookies
  • Soda or Sports Drinks

And when it was my turn to 'cook', it was generally take out. 

No wonder I couldn't lose the size and weight despite a cardio-intensive lifestyle. 

Compare the above with where most of my time is spent now:

  • 70% in the fruits and vegetables section
  • 20% in the butcher section
  • 10% in the frozen food section

After a couple years of gradual change, substituting bad for better, and general experimentation, my meals consist of:

  • Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
  • Some Microwave Vegetables (no added ingredients or sauces)
  • Fresh, Lean Meats for Protein 
  • Rice or Potatoes for Starch/ Carbs
  • Seeds for Good Fats

The most important thing I've learned along the way is that one can make dishes at home that are healthier and taste better than most restaurants, and certainly better than snack foods, in about the same time. Plus, nothing is more satisfying than putting a healthy dish together yourself. It is literally art that you can taste!

More on how to be comfortable in your own kitchen later. Until then, think about how to switch out one bad snack item, like a pastry, for a better one...perhaps a Honeycrisp Apple. 

Burnout: Two Causes for Fitness Burnout and Tips to Avoid Them

1. Herculean Effort

At the end of your workout, if you are questioning your ability to make it through the same routine next time, you are probably taking on too much. You are either doing too many exercises, or performing them at an unsustainable intensity. Exercise should be challenging and enjoyable, not a battle to set a new world record each time out. Sure, events that test our overall conditioning are great from time to time and do a lot to benchmark progress. A good session at the gym should leave you feeling with a positive sense of accomplishment, and one on which we can build. 

2. Marathon Training Sessions

If you feel pressured by the clock during exercise, you're either still overdoing things, or you're not focused on managing your time effectively. There's nothing worse than realizing that you've just spent 3-plus hours in the gym and wondering how you're going to keep finding that kind of time to make fitness work. This is when you should scrutinize your exercise plan and pare it down to what can be done in a manageable time-frame. I suggest at least 40 minutes and no more than 1 hour for most. Secondly, stay on task. Figure out how many sets you will do at each station and stick to a set time for rest between sets. For example, let's say 90 seconds of rest between each set. Keeping chit-chat and and smart phone distractions to a minimum will help, too.

Managing your routine and maintaining focus are very important, but often overlooked, steps in realizing short and long term goals.

Just Starting Out...

There is an earnest feeling of freedom in being a beginner.

With nobody to impress, no expectations, and no obligation to demonstrate skill, beginnings are a time when each experience offers up a universe of possibilities to explore. "Staring Out" is a wondrous time, indeed. 

However, something happens when we begin to assimilate knowledge and put it into practice; our egos become engaged. Fulfillment is no longer derived from learning, but in receiving recognition for our accomplishments. 

Here's the rub. When our ego dominates our actions, we are literally just reliving the past! Questions become filtered to hide ignorance, we overlook opportunities to improve, and progress stagnates.  

Keeping a beginner's mindset allows us to remain in a constant state of learning and growth. Each day, each exercise, each set, and each rep exist independently of one another. Therefore, each action affords us the ability to affirm that we are "just starting out".  

Remember, the next time you feel self-conscious trying something or that you aren't as accomplished as those around you (basically, anytime you feel at risk of looking foolish), that is your ego speaking.

Remind yourself that you are "Just Starting Out" and experience the freedom of the beginner.  

A False Sense of Accomplishment

When someone decides to become active and incorporate fitness into their lives, especially those who are new to exercise, one of two things usually happens: 

  1. They buy into a membership to a gym or other type of fitness facility.
  2. They run out an purchase expensive exercise equipment for their home.

There's a lot of excitement and enthusiasm that comes with exploring gyms or shopping for gear. In the act of purchasing, we feel that we're taking a giant positive step to become a better version of ourselves. Despite our goal, be it losing weight, getting in shape, building muscle, etc... there seems to be the compulsory prerequisite to affirm our resolve by plunking down our hard-earned cash before we truly begin!

Parting with hundreds, or even thousands of dollars never felt so good!

Sadly, this is the apex for most aspiring fitness enthusiasts. 

That gym membership card will make its way to the back of your wallet, and that nice new fitness equipment will be set up in a musty basement next to the washer and dryer. Sure, both "investments" may get some heavy use in the first few weeks, but hey, life happens. Before you know it, both are cateogorized as "out of sight, out of mind".

Investing money into fitness before making fitness your lifestyle is a false sense of accomplishment. 

Remember, memberships and equipment are only the tools, and not fitness itself.

My Own Failed New Year's Resolution

January 1995.

This was going to be the year! It had been six years since I had last played soccer and I was yearning to get back into the game. 

I remembered back to my high school days how preparation for athletics meant conditioning first. "Conditioning" was the month before the season where, every weekday, we'd run ourselves back into shape having taken almost a whole year off from our respective sport. This is how we did it in the 1980's before year-round strength and conditioning became the norm. 

So there's me facing a blustery, cold morning on January 1st, wearing old-school sweats and a pair of black Mitre indoor soccer shoes that were flat and wide. Although it was late morning, the steel gray clouds made it seem like dusk. After a few quick stretches, I left the comfort of my nice warm apartment to jog through a parking lot covered with ice and snow.  

The total distance was probably a half-mile, but after six years of a sedentary lifestyle fueled by a steady diet of fast food and soda, it seemed like a marathon. My pace was terrible; one foot after the other.... for 25 minutes! 

I still remember barely making it back to my apartment winded, sore, and frozen. It was miserable. But in my mind, it was necessary.  

My plan was to quicken my pace a little the next day, a little more the day after that, and so on until this run became easy. By spring, I figured my gains would translate into the strength and endurance I needed to get in a few minutes here and there with a rec-league team. 

Easier said than done!

With a 24 hours to recover, I set off again. Only this time, in addition to the elements and my lack of conditioning, I had to deal with muscles that were sore and stiff. Shortly after I began, the words, "this sucks", started to repeat in my brain and pretty soon I was forced to walk, jogging periodically only when I caught my breath. 

Utterly discouraged, thus ended what I now call, "The Resolution of 1995". 

January 4th, 2016.... Are You Ready???

January 4th, 2016 is right around the corner. What is so significant about this date? It's the first Monday of the New Year. This is when all of the New Year's resolutions kick in and people flock to the gym to get back in shape. In other words, I call this day 'Black Monday'

If it has been some time since you last exercised, you might benefit from some of the prior posts on this site about planning, setting expectations, and reinforcing new habits. 

To recap, increase your odds of successfully 'getting back into shape' by following these two simple guidelines:

  • Planning Ahead
  • Setting Realistic Expectations

Your resolution to get back in shape should start long before you show up to begin your first exercise in the form of a PLAN. Know which exercises you want to do, and know how to do them. Write down some alternatives in case the stations you want to use are occupied. This will result in a more efficient use of your time and energy, and reduce the chance of injury. 

Setting realistic expectations through your plan will encourage you to capture some 'quick wins' and give you a sense of accomplishment on which you can build. Remember, it took months, years, and even decades for most of us to fall out of shape, and it wouldn't be fair to expect one to recapture fitness over a day or two. Keeping your expectations tempered is a way to condition yourself to experiencing exercise as a fun, positive outlet, over the long-term. 

These two simple tips will keep you motivated, allow positive results to be experienced quicker, and increase the odds that an active lifestyle becomes a permanent habit!

Inspiration in the Wake of Setbacks

Fight on my men, Sir Andrew says,
A little I'm hurt, but yet not slain;
I'll but lie down and bleed awhile,
And then I'll rise and fight again.
--Excerpt from Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton (Author Unknown)

Setbacks are a part of life. 

Things seem to be going well when sometimes the wheels just come off the wagon.

A major step backwards is sometimes exactly what we need to take 5 giant leaps forward. It isn't fun to fail, because the taste is so bitter. We're inevitably left feeling that the time and effort we've spent has been somehow meaningless and wasted. In the shadow of failure, our goal seems further away than ever. Giving up is always the easier route.

Instead, accept failure as a gift to meditate on your methods and to seek alternatives. It's okay to stop and rest when feeling overwhelmed, but use that time for reflection and refocusing. Saying goodbye to old methods is difficult, but the power of change is exciting. 

In the light of day, are the changes that bad? That major? 

Detach yourself from the methods and philosophies that are holding you back and have trust that your alternatives will guide you to a better place.   

Rather than starting over, you'll be changing direction!

Taking time to Celebrate Progress

Take some time to celebrate your progress!

As we near the end of another year, now is a perfect time to reflect on the progress that we've made, and position ourselves for continued success in the year to come.  

If you've been religious in recording your results during each exercise session, the numbers are tangible proof of the improvement you've made. In the context of day-to-day or week-to-week, these numbers rarely seem to change. Their significance doesn't really come to light until the sample size increases to several months to a full year.

Just for fun, pull out one of your first exercise trackers and dedicate one session to replicating exactly what you did back on that given day. Same routine, weight, sets, reps, time, distance, etc... Use this day as an opportunity on which to focus and perfect your form. 

The ease at which you can now perform the movements will astound you, and provide some great motivation. It's mind-blowing to do with ease now what used to be nearly impossible. Because you will need less rest between movements, you will still be getting a great workout due to the increased intensity! 

Moreover, the ultimate proof is by recognizing the improvement in the way we look and feel: healthier, stronger, faster, and long-enduring.   

All of this is a testament to your dedication, perseverance, and effort.

Just think where you will be a year from now...

Kicking Cola to the Curb

Soft drinks are the devil. 

Marketed as thirst-quenching, fun, refreshing, and safe, soft drinks pack a caloric bomb loaded with sugar, sodium, and carbs. 

Consider the nutrition label of a popular cola.
1 Serving = 12 oz.
150 Calories
30mg Sodium
41g Carbohydrates
41g Sugars

Between the high fructose corn syrup and the sodium, these drinks are engineered to overwhelm your brain's pleasure response to sweetness and keep you coming back for more. Throw in a perceived need for caffeine and we've got the makings for a nice little addiction.

Let's assume one soda per day. In 1 weeks’ time, that will equate to 1,050 calories per week. This is roughly half of the daily caloric intake for the average person. Two cans per day put that to 2,100 calories per week and 3 will take you to 3,150!

Bear in mind that these are empty calories. In other words, they provide no nutritional value. 

Cutting soda out of our lives is tough because our brain and taste buds have become conditioned to crave their ingredients, which makes us dislike other drink options. I, myself, was one of the many people who claimed that even water just didn't taste good once I was under the spell. 

When sparkling fresh water no longer sounds good, it's time to re calibrate those taste buds!

Here is a suggestion:

Infused Water

I replaced my 2-3 can / day soda habit with ice water infused with various fruits. You can stick to lemons, limes, oranges, etc... even cucumber! Or you can mix your fruits/ vegetables for a unique taste. The only limit is your imagination, plus you get the nutritional benefits of the juices with minimal calorie load. 

If you find yourself dining out without the ability to infuse, then ask for some slices of citrus fruit and squeeze the juice into your water. This works just as well.

I'm not going to lie; cutting soda from my diet was tough. It took me about two weeks to overcome the cravings, and then a few more weeks consciously avoid falling back into the habit. However, within about a month after switching my mindset (and maintaining my activity level), I found that I had better digestive health and was no longer continually thirsty. Most importantly, people began commenting on how much thinner I started to look! 

I invite you to take that first step to re-calibrating your taste buds and ditching the empty promises of soda.

Using Your Food Journal to Effect Positive Change in Nutrition Habits

You've been diligent on keeping a detailed food journal for a few weeks now, and, if you're like me, there probably are some surprising results! 

Without a journal, we rely on a memory that is selective at best. We congratulate ourselves for ordering a salad for lunch, and forget that it came with fried chicken strips and a half a cup of ranch dressing. We feel great about our breakfast of oatmeal, yogurt, and fruit while disregarding the doughnuts we munched on. We also tend to remember the big stuff while overlooking impulse decisions, such as taking a piece of candy from the bowl at the office each time we walk by... and we walk by it 15 times a day!

So? What do we do with this journal information?

First off, I would recommend approaching nutritional change through baby steps. Small changes, one at a time, over time, will most likely result in better decision making and long term adaptation to lifestyle habits.

Let's use the sample listings in the previous post, for example. 

In the first journal listing, a few opportunities jump right off the page; and to get yourself started, only pick ONE:

  • Eliminate one of the two Glazed Doughnuts - Equates to 1,344 calories per week
  • Exchange a small order of French Fries in place of the large size. - 1,960 calories per week
  • Replace either the Large Soft Drink or the Can of Soda for a water (you'll see huge results by eliminating all soft drinks) - potential of 3,010 calories per week
  • Only have 1 Chocolate Chip Cookie rather than 2 - Equates to 700 calories per week

These results assume one eats these, or comparable foods, each day.  However, it drives home the impact of one small tweak. 

Just like increasing weight or reps when exercise becomes easy, once you've managed your first change, then move on to another. 

This way, we are controlling our change without the feeling like we're depriving ourselves. As you see from the examples above, even a small change can equate to some pretty big numbers over a week's time. 


Bear in mind, the information I've provided is an example on how to effectively change nutritional habits, and not meant as a recommended nutrition plan for any particular goal. Please consult your doctor or a licensed nutritionist for more information on the specifics of nutrition that meets your individual needs. 

Getting a Handle on Nutrition

Many people are sold on the untruth that nutrition is an all-or-nothing proposition. One either consumes pizza, bacon, beer, and cookies, or survives on raw carrot sticks and brown rice; there's no in-between.

This mentality makes nutrition, commonly referred to as the dreaded "diet", a very unpopular topic that most gladly avoid. It's the proverbial 800 pound gorilla in the room. 

The truth is, swapping one set of eating habits for another overnight just doesn't work. By going this route, it doesn't take very long until we feel deprived, hungry, and miserable. This is when one treat leads to two, two leads to three, and before you know it, old habits return with a vengeance. 

How do we change this mindset?

First, start a food journal. 

Eat as you normally would and write down everything you have. Do this for 2-3 weeks to establish your baseline. Be honest and keep it simple. I started mine by noting what I ate, the quantities, and the calories. As my goals evolved, I started tracking protein, sugar, fats, and fiber as well. 

A food journal can be a notepad, a spreadsheet, or even a smartphone app; whatever is easiest for you! 

Here is an example:

Hint: You can easily find nutrition information online, and, after a couple of weeks, you'll probably notice a lot of repetition. At that point, it becomes mostly copy and paste.

Why a food journal? 

1. It's a great way to actually understand our eating habits and pinpoint easy opportunities for change.
2. Like our method of tracking our workouts, a food journal will help in monitoring our progress.
3. We can link effects of various types of food on our fitness goals and and overall health.

Here is where I invite you to begin your food journal. In upcoming posts, we will cover what to do when our nutritional baseline has been established.

 

Nutrition: The Other Side of the Coin

We've invested the sweat, spent the time, and yet the results just aren't there. At least not those we would expect given the effort. Prolonged periods of limited results only increase the chances of us giving up. How do we get over this hurdle?

Rather than look for new exercises, or spend additional time exercising, let's think about nutrition

Many people will continue to consume their normal meals, snacks and all, thinking that a good workout can overcome bad dietary choices. Not true.     

Becoming fit on exercise alone is a myth. 

Becoming fit on nutrition alone is a myth. 

The fact is, we need to manage both sides of the equation in order to be successful.

Right now, you probably think the word 'diet' is going to enter the picture. 'Diet'; as in small portions of vegetables, grains, and all of that 'healthy' stuff that isn't fun to eat. Well, fear not. That isn't going to happen.

What we need to do first is understand how we're fueling our bodies, and then make small adjustments to maximize the quality and manage the quantity of what we eat. Finally, we need to do this in such a way that we do not deprive ourselves of the enjoyment of the culinary experience. 

Let's break this down next time. Hint: If you've been following the blog, you already have the tools to hit the ground running on this one.