Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Give Yourself the Greatest Gift

Four (4) years ago Christmas 2010 was my first cheat day. 

I was still a mess, I was still 33 pounds heavier than I am now, but I had given myself and my family the best gift I could ever give them (aside from Jesus, the reason for Christmas) – which was my health, energy and vigor.

That year (2010) I had turned 50. I had a one year old son (and four older girls). One day in the fall, shortly after my birthday, I needed to pick up my son, but I found I couldn’t bend over and get him, I had to bend to the side to do it. I knew then I had to change things. Really, I knew before then.

Though I was a fat kid (no, not chubby, fat) I had actually been very active as an athlete through my high school and college years (even running cross country in college). I was a fitness fanatic and was in great condition.

 In my early 40s I had gained some weight (about 10 lbs or so heavier than I am now) and got Tony Horton’s first full workout series from Beach Body (Power 90) and lost the weight and gained some muscle.

Then we had three more kids. I had two years where I was virtually unemployed, working contracting gigs where we could find them. The job market changed dramatically, and where once I could work from home, I was now required to go into the city (Boston) for most of my jobs – which paid less – and incur either public transportation expense or gas and parking expense. Additionally, I was travelling a minimum of 1.5 – 2 hours EACH way to and from work. We were squeezing pennies and so I squeezed my food budget. My lunch was typically a chicken patty of some kind with Ramen and a half bag of mixed veggies.

50 years old, weighing 195 - Those were 36 inch waist pants, that I had to UNBUTTON.

Needless to say, between the stress, the travel, the lack of exercise and the poor diet, my weight skyrocketed. In no time I was up to 195 lbs. Maybe not too bad on a guy 6’2” but on a guy 5’6” (ish) – well you can see the picture, it looked like I had swallowed a beach ball. I know at one point I had published a video talking about design and I looked at my head and thought “Oh my God! I look like a swollen tick!” – I almost didn’t recognize the guy in the mirror.

So, there I was, suffering later in life weight gain and at the worst time (with a young family) loosing energy and endangering my health and ability to provide for them. I couldn’t ignore the problem any longer – I had to make a change.

I ordered a book I had just heard about, Tim Ferris’ The 4-Hour Body. Ferris (in case you don’t know who he is) became famous for his book “The 4-Hour Work Week”. He’s a well known bio-hacker, and he had come out with this book with a simplified eating plan and some basic exercises that could be done in a few minutes a week. I jumped on it.
I got the book in mid-December and devoured it (it’s gigantic by the way) and decided that it was then or never – I had to make the change. So, the first week of the rest of my life was the week leading up to Christmas (on a Saturday that year) and that was my first week of change. My first cheat day was Christmas.

I lost 30 lbs just by changing what I ate. By the way, your nutrition plan – that is “what you eat” or your diet – is the most important part of any program for better health. Those around me and those I train and consult with know my maxim “you can’t out exercise poor eating”.

An interesting thing happened then. Because I was loosing weight, because I realized that my work situation was conducive to my health or my family, I felt lead to make some changes. I didn’t know how it would work out, I didn’t know where it would have me end up, but I knew that I needed to make the changes regardless. So I started looking for how.

In a miraculous occurrence of timing and opportunity, during the spring of 2011, we found ourselves moving from the cold temperature climate of New England to the Queen City of Charlotte, NC. My job situation changed, the environment I worked in changed, the home we moved into actually had room for all of the family without all being on top of each other (we had 8 people living in 1,200 square feet, plus some space in my partially renovated basement), I was working 20 minutes from home. I saw my kids in the morning, I saw them at dinner, I got to put them to bed. I could spend time with my wife.

Yes, we were blessed. I know things don’t always happen that quickly (remember the 2 years of virtual unemployment – one in which I paid more mortgage interest than I actually made that year… somehow), but because they had, I also had time to get better physical condition in addition to having lost the weight.

Since then, I’ve become more fit and more active and become a certified personal trainer. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’ve lost and kept off another 5-10 lbs (a. It’s not quite as easy when you get older b. I also got injured twice and had to completely stop working out for the last quarter of both 2011 and 2012 so I put a little weight back on because of the inactivity – but then was able to get back on track. NEVER QUIT! :-D )

My goal is to help people to change their lives by helping them regain their health (no matter their age) so they can live out a full and complete life to the best of their ability. I did it at 50 - I know you can do it too.

52 & 54 (left to right) after the 2012 & 2014 Warrior Dash, weighing 160 lbs

So why the big story? Why the life history? Because I want you to understand how it all started. How taking the action on the week before Christmas to change how I ate changed the entire course of my life and the life of my family.

Don’t wait. Don’t wait for the new year. Don’t wait another week, or even another day. Make the change now. I’ll be here to help and to cheer you on.

To all, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

To your health –


Friday, December 12, 2014

It's All About That Bass (Bring Booty Back!)

While none of us want to end up with too much "junk in the trunk" especially while we're attempting to fit into our holiday finest, a lot of folks aren't really sure what they can do to maintain a toned deriere and firm toned legs.  Well, if you want to bring booty back, then keep reading to find out the BEST tips for building that killer tusche and rock hard thighs.

Stop doing squats like you've probably been taught to do them. Usually, the instructions you hear are something like this. "Ok, get comfortable, feet about shoulder width apart toes forward." Which, is a commonly taught and "ok" type of squat to do. It has a couple of drawbacks, namely:

1. It really works your quads the more than anything else, so no booty for you.
2. Most people don't track out properly over your toes and it puts pressure on the knees.

Understand, these are good for what they do. They will build your quads, but if you want a better squat that builds your booty, then make this simple adjustment.
Goblet Squat

The simple adjustment is to turn your feet out to somewhere between 11 and 1 and 10 and 2. This adjustment does a several things for you.

  1. It really activates the inside of your thighs (the adductors and the gracilis muscles) much more. No worries, you're still getting plenty of work on your quadriceps group as well, but that's not the primary thing anymore.
    Note: The first time you do squats like this, go LIGHT, you won't believe how much you've never felt your gracilis muscles before. Trust me on this.
  2. This squat works your butt in a MAJOR way. It's going to really fire those glutes - all of the glutes (max, min and med).
  3. It protects your knees. Specifically, it saves strain on your Vastus Medalus, (the muscle that runs on the inside of your knee) and the tendons to the inside as well.

Now you know the adjustment to make and the benefit, your question might be, what exercise(s) can I do?  The answer? Many.

  1. Bodyweight squat. You don't need weights, and if you're doing this squat correctly when you do it the first week, I'd actually recommend doing body weight only.
  2. The Goblet Squat (see image). This one is my personal favorite. It's GREAT beause just by holding the weight properly, you automatically keep yourself centered. You hold the weight close (it's not a big bar) so you don't need to be worried about being pulled off balance - even when you start to get the weight up there. Best chance to do your best and not get injured, which is critical.
  3. Back Squats. Unless you're a body builder I tend to recommend against back squats. Especially if you're working out alone and/or in a home gym there are just lots of opportunities to get hurt. Additionally, even when done in proper form, they really load your lower back, so the potential to injure that in addition to other things that might happen don't seem to be worth it to me.

There you have the answers! If it's all about the base and you want to bring booty back - it's the right squats done in good form. Now go get them so you can rock that holiday outfit!


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

It's Not the FAT that will kill you - it's the FRENCH FRIES!

It's Not the FAT that will kill you - it's the FRENCH FRIES

It's true!  The recipie for french fries is not good for you. The components? Well, that's different.

BTW, this is a post based on a real life conversation I was having, thought I'd share with you as well.

FAT isn't bad for you. In fact, fat is GOOD for you. It's essential. And, if you want to loose weight, you MUST eat healthy fats (about 20-30% of your caloric intake) to do so efficiently.

The kinds of fats that are used to make most french fries areHORRIBLE for you. There are a range of oils and such that are used, and 99.9% of them are bad for you - so really, the bad fats in french fries are bad for you all by themselves. Avoid them no matter where they may be found.

The thing that kills you (or more accurately your weight loss effort) about french fries is the combination of fat (lots proportionately to the total energy) AND starchy carbs.
The reason why fat and starchy carbs together are bad for you is because of how your body processes fat and starch.

Essentially, both fat and starchy carbs are short term energy items and are burned or stored immediately. Also, as calorie sources, they're the most dense. Therefore, when you're having that traditional french fry made with oil or lard of some kind and potatoes, you're overloading your system with PANT loads of energy.

When you do that, your body does this: uses what it can immediately (replaces muscle glycogen stores) then stores the rest as fat.  SOOOOOOO... unless you've just done a killer workout of some kind, the likelyhood is that most of that calorie (read: energy) blast is going to be stored as (yup, you got it) FAT.

There you have it - FAT won't kill you - but french fries might (at least long term). Short term, they're also going to keep you from reaching your goal - becoming a leaner, stronger, healthier you.  I'd say go for the goal.

No Guilt. Be Fierce. Bring the Fit.


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Monday, December 1, 2014

No Guilt Happy Holiday Health Strategies

Ok, so you just plowed through Thanksgiving  (possibly literally, figuratively and emotionally - which might also cause some additional eating) and now you're trying to

(a) recover(b) keep from going past the point of no return(c) still fit into your current sized clothes (nothing worse than needing to go out and buy bigger clothes for holiday parties right?)(d) navigate the rounds of office, church, organizations , friends and relations holiday parties, and(e) maintain your commitment to your health and well being.

GOOD on ya! You've taken the first step in the No Guilt strategies for a happy, healthy holiday season. W00t!

Having said that, here are some other strategies you can employ along with that "can do" attitude that will keep you tight, toned and looking good in that athletic fit shirt or holiday frock.

1. Plan Your NutritionThe most important thing you can do for your success in this season (and - bonus - any season) is plan your food. Be on a schedule. Have your food prepped the night before to take to work with you (or set to put together quickly in the AM). The WORST thing you can do is go into work (or your day) without your nutrition planned. Where you don't plan for your success, you'll find a bad alternative waiting to derail you. #BeFierce 

2. Plan Your Cheat DaysSay what?! Yes, I said PLAN. You know when those parties are going to be, so PLAN them. If your normal cheat day is Saturday and you've got a party on Friday, don't delude yourself into thinking you're going to keep your diet clean. And you SHOULDN'T. Listen, we all want to be fit so we can live long, healthy and prosperous lives. We all want to enjoy ourselves - it's kinda what makes life fun :-) So, plan to enjoy yourself that day instead of your usual day.  Have two parties that week? It's OK! Just split up your cheat day into two cheat meals (or deserts). You'll be glad you did.

3. Sync Your WorkoutsHow you workout is important - so is WHEN you workout. When you are doing a total body workout that's torching your major body parts (either bodyweight or using freeweights, machines, TRX or kettlebells) you WANT to be having some carbs on those days (Note: I believe in low to no sugar and amost no grains (the exception being occasional rice or oats on cheat days) so, plan your heavy workout days (and you should only be really hitting it hard 3-4 days a week) for the days when you know you're going to be cheating. Ideally, get them within 3-4 hours of that party if you can (all kinds of science as for why). Sync your way to success!

4. (Optional) Plan FEAST DaysThe first three are critical, I find this one to be helpfult but not everyone can do this. The concept is called intermittent fasting. You stop eating around 8:00 PM the night before and don't eat until lunch. Have a normal sized lunch and then you can have a "feast" at your evening holiday party.  Wait! You say your party is a work? Then have a good hearty lunch and plan for a more reasonable dinner.

There it is, your three (or four) point plan for No Guilt Happy Holiday Sucess.

Now's the time to make it a holiday success, so as Zig Ziglar always used to say: Plan your work and work your plan!