Tuesday, July 31, 2012

summer break?

it's always less busy in the gym during the summers so it's a good time to test the waters. that is, to see what else is out there. before i do, let me share my philosophy about fitness, exercise, and related issues.
it is my opinion that anyone who trains their body with physical activity is an athlete, despite the frequency, intensity or duration. that is,, if an athlete is someone who exercises to improve performance, prevent or rehab injuries, or just stay in shape for whatever playing she/he chooses, then what differentiates that athlete from the general fitness enthusiast or participant is simply data, not intent. in other words, just as the best hi school basketball player doesn't hold a candle to lebron james does not make him any less an athlete - he's just not as good an athlete. so, too, are most of my, and most trainers', clients. (in fact, for most of my clients, and myself, exercise - regular or inconsistent - is designed to extend a certain degree of continued function, mobility, pain management, overall health, etc. my athletic days are gone for now and maybe forever but i still think of myself as one.)
so how does this relate to the topic at hand? well, to get myself out of my gym, i decided two months ago to try yoga once a week. having been very flexible in my youth and still significantly more flexible than almost all males other than those in flexibility sports - martial arts, dance, gymnastics, diving - of any age but esp at this age, 59, i thought this might help me both maintain flexibility and get some stress reduction under the control of a yoga instructor away from my usual gym activities. and while i'm happy to report that it is challenging insofar as my bad knee and shoudler are concerned, it is nothing i couldn't do if i had good joints. it's good activity and if done a few times a week, i could see someone improving flexibility and maybe getting some core strengthening but i would not recommend it as a primary form of exercise for overall health, esp for bone or muscle strength.
this past weekend i went to a barre amp class, a fusion class of ballet, callanetics, yoga, and pilates. designed for women - i was the only male in the class of about 20, and was perhaps the second oldest - my friend/client is older and was a former dancer and found this to be a challenging class, so she challenged me to get my opinion of it. it was interesting and i did find some of the exercises potentially beneficial for those who want toning but at some point would no longer yield strength gains. again, flexibility is part of the routine and other than the instructor and my friend, i was substantially able to meet the flexibility demands. i can also tell you that i didn't break  a sweat but i know the others did. and for that alone, it was a great exercise modality. at some point one might be hard pressed to get stronger simply by doing barre amp tho if you did it several times a week, and watched how you ate, other than the fact that your cardio would not be improved, you could clearly get nnice toning from it.
but i want to go back to my philosophy and make it perfectly clear: every form of physical actiivty serves a purpose and for some folks may be all they really need in life. so for some, simple balance exercises may be primary; flexiblity for others; strength for someone else, etc. while a balance of exercise modalities is best for ovearll health and wellness, not everyone needs everything to the same degree. but we ALL need to be doing something, and something more than what most of us on a regular basis are doing. it's the basis for cross training principles, for triathloning, for circuit training, etc. embrace it, enjoy it, just try it. it all counts, esp, most especially if you enjoy it!!!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

the busyness trap


who hasn't made the claim - i'm just too busy to do xxxx? even my kids, out of school for the summer with no real job other than a few babysitting gigs, are just too busy to do xxxx. or too tired to do it, whatever it is - ilke look for a job, read a book, exercise even if it is at daddy's gym. in this poignant and somewhat funny essay, light is made of being too busy: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/?nl=todays...
but i want to address it in another way.
when i get a new client, who usually states they want to make some change in their lives in order to get healthier, leaner, fitter, stronger, more this or that, i ask how can i help. before they answer, i usually state, esp if wt loss is their goal, that they know how to do most of what i can help with. they know to eat less of this, that or all things. they know to exercise, walk or move or go to the gym. they know that they have to take responsibility for many of the changes necessary in order to see the results they want. and still they tell me they don't have time. somehow work, play, kids, parents, other obligations, all get in the way despite the same 24 hrs in the day that you and i have. what they often don't know is that it really doesn't take a lot of time to make these healthful changes; it takes consistency, regularity, and a long term commitment to stick with it. what they want from me is not the total amount of effort necessary but the way to start off so they don't burn out, get hurt, or learn to hate exercise. and i give it to them in small doses. after that, it's really up to them to make it work, whether they come see me regularly or proceed on their own.
for the most part many still claim to be too busy, even when i suggest they simply do 10, maybe 15 minutes of some type of continuous movement each day. mostly walking which can be done with no equipment, at home or work, or even the mall, but non stop, and not too hard. initially it's about creating the habit; then adding minutes/walk, then intensity IF their goal and abilities allow. ultimately, it's about regularity, making a habit and maybe even making it an integral part of their psychic and spiritual well being. not to get too wishy washy here but if doing so makes you look forward to the short period of your day where you move your body simply because it feels good, then you've achieved a certain stage of nirvana, where for its own sake and not for the poundage on the scale or tightness of the dress or holes in the belt movement is desired and appreciated.
likewise, when folks come to me starting from scratch, with aches, pains, and chronic injuries that need to be overcome before regular movement is feasible, i start them with some bed-based exercises, things they can do when they awake and before they go to sleep, right in bed. simple sets of 10, 3-4 exercises, done in 4-5 minutes. while i know most won't do it twice a day, my goal is to get at least once a day and at least 4 times a week. we all have 40 minutes a week to do these simple steps to get strong enough to take more steps. eventually, i add more exercises, more challenges, and constantly manipulate the volume to keep it within the 10-15 minutes/day nearly every day or minimally every other day. i try adding things they can do any time of day so you don't have to retire to your workout space - push ups on the kitchen  counter, wall sits while talking on the phone - cell phones expedite fitness because you're not attached to a cord, or heel raises while waiting for the morning coffee to cool off. all in all, my job is to minimize the reality of 'too little time'.
now, admittedly, this won't get you ready to run a marathon, or lose 30# by christmas, or many other potential motivating goals. but you have to start somewhere. to go from 0 minutes a day to the idealized 60 minutes a day is like having your stock fund double by tomorrow - you can bet you'll see a bust very shortly thereafter. yes it's possible, and stories abound of people doing so out of total frustration with who or what they've become. but there's a lot to be said for finding the balance that comes with gradual effort and results that, over time, prove to you and others close to you that you've been plenty busy, taking care of yourself.