World Cup Fever

Liverpool1

Me and my pal, Tom Werner

Liverpool2

Liverpool 5, Arsenal 1

Liverpool3

Liverpool!

As an American-Irish Immigrant (that’s right America to Ireland,) I am relatively new to the football/soccer life.  But I have to say I am enjoying it!

In February, thanks to my friend, former client in LA and benefactor, Tom Werner, I got to see Liverpool route Arsenal; it was the spark that fueled a fire that almost led to first place  It was an amazing run, nonetheless!

Thanks Tom, for getting me hooked!

REST IS UNDERRATED

 

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Cyclo-cross

“So during your season, you’re in constant training as a road cyclist.”

“Correct.”

“What do you do in the off-season?”

“Cyclo-cross.”

“And each season is about six months?”

“Yeah, about that”

“…You realize that you’re still doing the same sport?”

“No it’s road racing and cross.”

“…But you’re still on a bike.”

“So? That counts as cross-training?”

“…Right…”

Happy Sleep

Happy Sleep

This is a conversation I had with one of my clients on the topic of cross-training to improve race performance.  I use it as an example, of how insidious the ego can be when it comes to the topic of Rest.  R-E-S-T is seriously underrated.

drunk at work

Impaired Cognitive Ability

People don’t realize that sustained MILD sleep deprivation can result in your cognitive function (ability to do basic stuff, plus reaction time and accuracy) being the equivalent of a blood alcohol level of 0.05%.  In the workplace, we drive ourselves towards the 60 hour mark and think it’s a good thing, a sign of good effort & productivity.  But in fact, most offices would likely fire an employee that showed up repeatedly intoxicated at the above level.  We have a disconnect from “perceived effort” – what it takes to get work and get the job done right and what is actual reality! http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1739867/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19958/

vacation

Vacation

How many of us don’t take proper vacation days until it becomes a “use it or lose it” situation?  You don’t think you are tired; but then you get on the beach and three days later you realize how dire your state, mental and physical actually have been! I once had a client who was a NYC partner in a financial research company.  She decided to dedicate three hours out of the 168 in a week to herself and regaining her physical health.  Her partners put pressure on her and implied that she wasn’t taking her job seriously.  But luckily, she ignored them and stuck with the priority of her own self-care.  Over the next year, she shared with me that she had started charting her productivity and the better care she took of herself, the more productive she was.  She lost twenty pounds, began running marathons and her work, contrary to popular belief excelled.  And her partners, who sat around the table audibly wheezing, began to respect her because they saw the positive change.

happy brain

Happy Brain

Your brain thrives when it is properly rested.  The NIH recommends 7-8 hours/night for adults. So too does your body thrive when you just give it some time off.  If you play a sport, do something completely different even if it’s just for 6-8 weeks.  As we head into summer, I hear panicked clients saying, “What should I do on my two weeks off?”  I always say, “Relax. Do Nothing.  If you want to go on a stroll or a hike or even a bike ride with loved ones, then do so. But if you want to sit in the lawn chair and just breathe that would be perfect too!”  http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/howmuch.html

equestrianAs a teenager I was a nationally ranked Equestrian; I rode all year long and was always working on performance and technique.  When I went to college, I was forced to stop for three months.  But when I came back to ride my trainer of ten years said, “Have you been riding while you’ve been at school? All the things you were struggling with seemed to sink in while you were gone.  You’re looking fabulous!”  This is one reason why cross training or just pure rest are good for the body; it allows time for the learning to sink in and for the overused parts to rest.

Twenty years ago when I was in secondary school/high school, kids played different sports each season.  Nowadays, kids play one sport year round and they play it hard; everyone has their eye on college athletic scholarships or awards.  Disturbingly, doctors and physical therapists are seeing more and more pelvic fractures, repeat fractures and other dangerous injuries in youth simply due to the overtraining!  As my conversation with the cyclist above illustrates, the body likes rest and that includes doing different movement patterns and sometimes just the one pattern of couch potato. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00247-009-1191-z#page-1

We must let go of this unhealthy “driven superhero” attitude.  How many of us want to drive hard for the first 65 years and then arrive as a wreck in your retirement?  If you are rested, sleep 7-8 hours/night most nights, vary your workout routine, break up the schedule with short bouts of complete physical vacation your work productivity will increase and so too will your enjoyment of your life.  When you get to the golden goal, you will be able to fully enjoy it!  Hallelujah! Say it with me now, “R-E-S-T!”

Rest

R-E-S-T!

Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves

Catty WomenAfter nearly twenty years in the fitness business, I have a learned aversion to all-things related to a locker room! And while the men may have the women cornered on revolting semi-public behavior – apparently, every gym in the world has their own “old naked guy wearing just socks striking up conversations with everyone” – But the ladies win when it comes to withering eye glances, catty stares and sometimes overt hostility.  I’d like to simply chalk it up to hormones, but I think it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Women are much pickier in ways; that can work both positively and negatively.  Compared to men, who typically tend to jump first and figure it out as they go, women are more likely to only accept or ask for a promotion when they feel they have fully earned it. As a general rule, women will work diligently on achieving a skill-set and be unwilling to advance to a new or more complex task until they feel totally confident.In this together

JoAnna Barsh of McKinsey & Company sites massive research that supports this. “Women often elect to remain in jobs if they derive a deep sense of meaning professionally. More than men, women prize the opportunity to pour their energies into making a difference and working closely with colleagues. Women don’t want to trade that joy for what they fear will be energy-draining meetings and corporate politics at the next management echelon…Of all the forces that hold women back, however, none are as powerful as entrenched beliefs. While companies have worked hard to eliminate overt discrimination, women still face the pernicious force of mindsets that limit opportunity.” http://www.mckinsey.com/client_service/organization/latest_thinking/unlocking_the_full_potential

This is true whether we’re talking about corporate leadership and management or doing a set of lunges and pull-ups.  In training, I find that men will want to do the most challenging thing they can until they get hurt.  This will then cause them to rethink their techniques as in, “Hmm, maybe I’m doing it wrong and should get some help.”   Conversely, women will hold themselves back from proper workout progression due to anticipation of a future injury; “I can’t go up in weight, even though I know my purse and child weigh more.”

sisters

Ironically, women tend to be faster on visual assumptions and perhaps that comes back to the underlying “entrenched beliefs driven by fear” that Ms. Barsh mentions.  In a gym, women are much faster to judge a “good” trainer or a “bad trainer” by how big are the biceps or how good the legs look.  Compounding that is women’s ability to quickly cut down other women!  Likely, it’s a poor way of bolstering the negative voice inside one’s own head.  But this behavior really has to stop and we need to be more inclusive of all women trying to improve their health, physical composition and mental well-being.

Lose 10 lbs

Lose 10 lbs

I had the privilege of working with a female trainer who was obese.  She was also a psychologist that specialized in eating behaviors.  Many women would take one cursory glance at her and scoff, deride and judge.  Yet, this trainer worked with fellow obese clients.  And when she said, “You can do this, ’cause I can do it!” they believed her.  I may have all the scientific learning and coaching behind me, but I will personally never know what if feels like to need to lose 100 pounds.  This woman, gave hope to the hopeless and made their hearts, lungs and minds stronger and healthier in more ways than one!

Similarly, I have seen women flock to a “hot” guy trainer who has zero education or credentials, cares nothing for his clients’ well-being save only when they are complimenting him and has reckless disregard for their well-being.  Take for example a trainer without any certification having a 45 year old woman, with DD breasts, bad knees – as evidenced by the patella tracking bands and thirty pounds to lose doing jump squats onto a 6-inch step while holding 10 pound dumbells.  The kicker is that while the other trainers in the room are rolling their eyes, waiting for the “snap” and impending lawsuit, the women walk by, flirt with the trainer and comment, “Wow, that’s what I want to do.”sisters5

While I do whole-heartedly feel that trainers should practice what they preach and look professional, perhaps don’t pick a trainer by their physique, but rather by their credentials and experience.  I have many men clients ranging from high-end athlete, to elderly with Parkinson’s and obviously, some of my most trusted colleagues are men who work brilliantly with women!  But know that with many businesses, women trainers have a longer/slower road to sustainability. And part of that comes from women’s unwillingness to trust and promote other women.  And yet, who can understand better trying to do abdominals while suffering from cramps than another woman?!

Ladies have an internal struggle where we work really hard at self-improvement, but often that self-improvement is tempered by self-loathing.  That in turn shows itself in the petty behaviors towards other women seen in the gym.  We will only truly help ourselves by empowering women around us.  And we need to use the great skills we have to not only better ourselves but other females too.

 

Goal Setting

“I want to lose weight.” 

Lose 10 lbs

Lose 10 lbs

“Ok. What do you plan to do to achieve that?”

“Well, I signed up for a gym and I’m watching what I eat.  I’m going to try to not eat any sugar.”

And then…three weeks later, no change occurs and the individual gives up on the goal having only gained a sense of guilt and failure.  This scenario, I think we can all agree is unfortunately far too common.

There are actually three different types of goals: Outcome, Performance and Progress.

Goal Setting

Goal Setting

The problem lies in that most people only set the OUTCOME goal.  At some point in the future, you would like to lose 10 lbs.  An outcome goal is the end result of what you are trying to achieve.  It’s problematic because if it’s vague and too far out in the future, then there’s no sense of urgency.

A PERFORMANCE goal is the task you set yourself to achieve the OUTCOME goal you desire.  Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to accomplish losing weight?”

The PROCESS goals relate to the specific steps you must take to achieve better performance.

Let’s take the example of my friend, Susan.  She had a baby and went back to graduate

S.M.A.R.T.

S.M.A.R.T.

school.  Having been an athlete, she decided that three years after her son was born it was really time to get rid of “the baby weight,” especially since that baby was rapidly growing out of the toddler stage.  Her OUTCOME goal was to lose 10 lbs in five months.  This is a doable goal: Having estimated that the average woman at optimal weight loss loses a 1/2 lb/week.  That would take her 20 weeks to lose 10 lbs.  Notice, she got specific – she did the math and put a date down on the calendar.  Also, she realistically gave herself an appropriate amount of time to achieve her goal.  With this roadmap guiding her through the next few months, she’s not likely to feel completely disappointed two weeks later.

To define a PERFORMANCE goal she needed to address what she had to do to get the weight off.  She identified three areas that needed more specific attention: 1) Nutrition, 2) Cardiovascular work and 3) Strength training.  Therefore, she set PERFORMANCE GOALS, ways to measure her success for each category.  For example: Regarding nutrition, she ate a balanced breakfast five out of seven days; regarding cardiovascular work she committed to running four days a week for twenty minutes; and regarding strength training she committed to going to a body sculpt class twice a week.

Lastly, she really took the time and thought about her PROCESS goals. “What goals 2specifically do I have to do to get my self to perform better?”  She thought about her time management and realized that she did set aside the time to go to the gym, but when she got to the locker room to change she would start chatting with friends and whittle away the time dedicated to her PERFORMANCE goals.  So she began coming to the gym ready to go straight to the workout. And she steered clear of chatting with everyone.

I’m going to put this into outline form because writing down your goals and strategies will ABSOLUTELY aid you in achieving the best things in your future!

GOAL SETTING FOR SUSAN:

OUTCOME GOAL: Lose10 lbs

  • 1/2 lb/week on ave. for 20 weeks = 5 months.
  • June 1st, 2014 is my optimal date and it’s written on my calendar!!!

PERFORMANCE GOALS 1 – 3: Nutrition, Cardio & Strength Training

1) Nutrition

  • Eat breakfast 5/7 days
  • Eat two servings of fruit/day
  • Eat three servings of veggies/day

2) Cardio

  • Run four x week for 20 minutes – Mon @ 7am, Tues @ 7am, Thur @ 7am, Fri @ 7am.
  • It’s written in the calendar for the next five months.

3) Strength Training

  • Do two body sculpt classes/week – Mon & Fri @ 7:30 am.
  • It’s written in the calendar for the next five months.

PROCESS GOALS: What will help me achieve my performance goals?

1) Nutrition – Meet with a nutritionist once a month to learn what is a balanced meal and what is an appropriate portion for me.

2) Cardio –

  • Come dressed, ready to do my run. Don’t chat – just get on the treadmill.
  • Meet with a trainer at week 4 to determine my anaerobic threshold (heart rate range) and build a cardio program around it.

3) Strength Training –

  • Meet with a trainer at week 6 to assess my strength and learn how to safely increase the weights I’m doing to keep seeing changes.
  • Form a support group with my best friend to help me stay on track.

Goal Setting should be specific, positive and shared with anyone who will help uplift you and be on your team.  When done this way it is a valuable tool to help you realize your highest concept of self!

Remember: “What is your Victory today?”cropped-vflogo-shdw-final.jpg

 

The Myth of “Fat Burning”

UnknownWhen I see someone walking leisurely on a treadmill, drifting off to the side while watching ‘Ellen’ three screens down on the right, barely breaking a sweat or even breathing hard, I have to chuckle and roll my eyes when they say to themselves, “I’m working out; I’m in the ‘Fat Burning Zone.’  I don’t know any super-lean athletes that got that way by strolling for twenty minutes a day.  Look, moving of any kind is better than not moving at all, but if your goal is to lose weight, wandering and window shopping the glass fronts of Afternoon Television Boulevard is not the way.

Every manufacturer of cardiovascular equipment is guilty of this bit of mis-information, as they all come equipped with a pre-formatted “fat-burning” program to make it easy for people to use.  You must also remember, they don’t want to get sued if you keel over from a heart attack while using their product.Unknown-1

But what does “fat-burning” really mean.  In technical terms your body uses two different systems of energy to run your body: aerobic and anaerobic.  Aerobic is like when you go to the grocery store after you’ve just had Sunday brunch.  When you’re full, it’s pretty easy to stick to what’s on your list and take your time going through the aisles.  But now imagine you started your day with a 5K run and then skipped breakfast.  When you hit the grocery, your brain and stomach begin screaming at you!  Your pace through the store is manic and you’re grabbing whatever you can get your hands on that seems fast.  Maybe there’s a box of cookies open in your cart while you’re throwing in veggies and fruit and probably a pizza.  This is Anaerobic behavior.

imagesLet’s explain it like this: aerobic means that the fuel your body is creating is coming mostly from fat storage.  However, it also means that the body is going at a slow enough pace that there is time to go to the storage tank, gather fuel, break it down to a usable substance and fire the engine.

The closer you get to the anaerobic threshold means that the demands for fuel are greater, the internal pistons are firing harder and faster and burning through the fuel.  So you’re body grabs anything it can get its hands on: fat, glycogen, protein, muscle, etc.images-1

At the end of the day, weight loss is basic math: you have to take more calories out of the system than you put into it.  Sure in the “fat burning zone” you are only using fat for your fuel source, but you also will likely only be burning about 100 calories in a half hour.  Whereas, if you work in the higher end of your aerobic zone, just under your anaerobic threshold, you might not be burning all fat, but you will burn 3-4 x more calories in the same time.  Plus, later in the day, your body must repair whatever it broke down to use as “emergency fuel.” So you get an additional “after burn” affect where your body uses fat to fuel the work of replacing whatever was used up during your workout. Plus, 100 Calories in a half hour might seem like a decent deficit to you, but consider that 1 banana or two Oreos are enough to replace that amount.  Which is better burning off the caloric equivalent of a few mouthfuls or of an entire meal?

I am not suggesting you get on a treadmill and run until you collapse or fly off the back.  But here are some signs that you’re in the true “fat-burning” zone:  you begin to get winded, you break a sweat, you couldn’t “do” it all day and it begins to be hard to focus on anything but the task at hand. Losing weight isn’t easy, but you are not immune to the laws of science.  By following good nutritional principles, proper portion sizes, 20-30 min/3-4 x week in the “true fat-burning zone” and some strength training.  You will get there, absolutely steadily and certainly!VFLogo-final

Olympic Fever

Sochi 2014

Sochi 2014

images-1I love the Olympics!  It doesn’t matter the nation, sport or season, every two years I get obsessed.  If you’re calling me to go out, don’t bother; if you want to spend time with me, park it on the couch and no talking except during commercial breaks!  When the two weeks are up, the torch extinguished and regular snoozefest programming returns, I literally slump.  Several of my friends also go through the Post-Olympic depression knowing that many cool sports, that we’ve become addicted to, like Bi-athalon and Snowboard-Cross, we just won’t see for another four years.  The separation is difficult.

But the great thing I find about each and every Olympics is how much harder I begin to train in my own workouts.  That’s not to say that I get delusions of grandeur and start pumping iron five days a week, three hours a day.  It’s simply watching graceful individuals with purpose, dedication and discipline inspire me to emulate those qualities within myself and it starts coming out in my workouts first.  It’s not that I consciously even intend to work harder and better; but I get to the end of my planned workout and I have given it my all and it has left me in a better place than when I started.Unknown

It’s true that the Olympics like church is often beset by scandal, corruption and politics.  But the true Olympic spirit burns so brightly that it casts all those petty incidents into the shadows and the world is drawn together in a celebration of camaraderie and the best we have to offer each other.  It doesn’t matter that I can’t pronounce the name of the athlete who just went off pace by a fraction of a second and is brought to tears, my heart breaks just the same.  I yell encouraging “coach-like words” from my perch on my cushions as I see two athletes battling it out, both exemplary and both flawless – it doesn’t matter that they don’t speak my language or that they can’t hear me through the screen.  The elation I feel as I do a victory lap around my living room having just watched someone achieve absolute perfection and a world record leaves me feeling like I’ve just won the gold.  It doesn’t matter if they’re from my home or not.Unknown-1

This great spectacle of empathy allows us to celebrate the triumphs and lows of the individual, but it draws us together in one world of experience.  And that is magical!  And while I will be sad when the closing ceremonies turn the lights out on the athletes partying on the stadium floor, I will have been enriched by witnessing others strive to be their absolute best, not just to themselves, but to their fellow competitors, to the dogs of Sochi and to the human race!Unknown-2

Fitness Apps

Brain vs. App

Brain vs. App

A mechanic friend of mine is fond of saying, “The computer is not the brain.  The computer is a tool for the mechanic’s brain.”  Sure there are a lot of really cool new fitness apps and new-fangled techno gear all claiming to give you the best workout.  But how good can it be when that same workout has also been given to literally thousands of other people?

Each person has their own strengths and weaknesses and their own quirky habits and patterns, some good, some bad. A fitness app should not be a replacement for a coach, trainer or therapist. It is a tool to help you get to be your best self.  And there are some really groovy tools (check out UP24 by Jawbone.) https://jawbone.com/up

Think of it this way: think of how much information is stored in your computer.  It’s unlikely

App = Tool

App = Tool

that you will ever use all the information available to you.  To that end, an app can help support your efforts to change behaviors but it is a tool not a brain.  The trainer, coach or therapist is the brain! They thrive on dorking out on sport sciences. They absorb all these areas of expertise and then tailor select information to a program that is perfect and effective for you!  They will then likely suggest apps that help you stay on track with the areas you want to change.

I’m not saying everyone should run out and spend money that you don’t have on an Olympic level coach, but as anyone who’s tried to navigate the software service of a utility company, finding a human with the answers is what you really want!

Sochi 2014

Sochi 2014

Think about pro level athletes: they use high tech tools every day but you don’t see any of them showing up to Sochi armed with only an app on their phone.  An app cannot identify a structural imbalance or a flaw in technique or a faulty movement pattern.  An app cannot see your face when you start to struggle and give you the encouragement to keep going.  An app cannot help you stretch or massage a closed joint capsule or strained muscle.  An app can remind you to eat better, can track your sleeping habits and can show you data documenting your improvements.

Consider using a trainer, coach or therapist AND an app!  You don’t have to train with someone three times a week; it could be once a week for eight weeks or once a month for a checkup/update.  Maybe you could train with your best friend for a half hour a week?  But know there are a lot of options, more so when you use your apps + your humans as a team.  Get good at using your tools to lift you to VICTORY.