Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Kid Comes Out On Top

I love to watch kids. They can attempt anything with no fear and no inhibitions. What adults see in children as carelessness really just translates to being carefree. As we grow hopefully we become more mature and gain good sense and sound judgment. We understand risk, we realize we’re vulnerable and not invincible and that we can’t fly and run at lightning speed. It’s nice to dream we can though.

Growing up I had a teacher in elementary school who was a feminist. I didn’t know it at the time though. This teacher encouraged me to arm wrestle the boys in my class because she believed I could beat them. And I did. This is not shameless self promotion. This really happened. Which leads me to my point. Sometimes when I’m training with people I see the barrier between that childlike carefree assurance and the skepticism that comes with maturity and experience. Some people are certain they can’t do something. More often I hear “I can’t” rather than “I can”.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not always bad. Sometimes that’s what keeps us safe and injury-free when exercising. But when there is appropriate instruction, guidance and encouragement even the most cynical folk will hesitantly mumble “I’ll try...” and this is the beginning of something greater.

The New Year is a few hours away and many make a fresh start at this time. You don’t need a new year to do this but since it’s upon us take advantage of it. Challenge yourself to get active and work towards new fitness goals this year. I challenge you and from my experience the kid in everyone always comes out on top.

Happy New Year, enjoy 2009 in good health and fitness./gena

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cover the Basics For the Holidays and Beyond

Miracle pills, quick fixes, super supplements and the latest and greatest breakthrough training methods…so many options when you’re trying to get leaner and healthier, especially during the holiday season. In my years of training myself and others I’ve come to realize that many methods work. Temporarily. Few work long term. Low carb diets work but not forever. We simply need carbs. I don’t encourage anyone to consume too many supplements or “magic” weight loss pills. Before you take on the newest diet craze or open your wallet to the hottest piece of fitness equipment make sure you’ve covered the basics. Statistically results can be achieved faster when you work with a trainer. Whether you are new to exercise or need to breakthrough a plateau the benefits of a personalized program, the structure and accountability are invaluable. Couple this with some basic food and lifestyle adjustments, weight loss and fitness for the average person is not rocket science. It comes down to choices and commitment.

Understand Appropriate Portions and Servings
This is a good article with a portion control study and a sample portion plate

Set Moderate and Realistic Goals
To drop one pound of body fat you need a 3,500 calorie deficit. A safe and realistic goal is 1-2 lbs/week so distribute this 3,500 deficit into your week. The caloric deficit should come from a decrease is food intake and an increase in exercise. I hate calorie counting but as an initial short term goal do it so that you understand how much you should be eating.

Make Proper Food Choices
Choose foods lower on the Glycemic index (GI) since lower GI foods generally make us feel fuller and often cause decreased food intake. Some studies show GI may be less relevant in endurance trained individuals. This could mean that the more physically fit you are the less insulin sensitivity you may experience. Insulin is a complex hormone so to keep things simple opt for complex carbohydrates, skip the juice, choose citrus fruits and fruits with skin you can eat and have plenty of veggies and lean proteins.

Sleep Enough and Manage Your Stress
Stress affects our every day life and has an impact on the foods we crave and select to eat. In addition to this a lack of sleep causes a vicious cycle since sleep deprivation increases levels of a hunger hormone and decreases levels of a hormone that makes you feel full.

Take care of yourself with some basic guidelines, laugh and have fun during the upcoming holidays. Enjoy yourself in good health/gena.

Mettler S et. al. The influence of the subjects’ training state on the glycemic index. Eur J. Clin Nutr (2007 ) Jan;61(1):19-24.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

See the Whole, Not Just the Parts

It seems that everyone wants to change something. When I meet with people to discuss their health history and fitness goals the focus often shifts from health to appearance. Many people want to change their appearance; flatten the belly, get rid of the jiggle on the back of the arms, the fat through the thigh and pieces of their bodies. So it seems that we don’t really see ourselves as a whole but as parts – some are good and some not so good.

Let’s look past the mirror for a moment. What we do know is that exercise benefits more than just our physical appearance. When you realize your potential, your strength and endurance you then start to see your body as more than just its parts. Some see it as a temple others see it as a machine. I see it as a whole. When I run across a finish line the size of my clothes, my thighs or whether or not my stomach is flat seem trivial to me. At the end of the day what you accomplish during exercise translates to all areas of your life and you essentially become more than just what is physically visible.

You feel the benefits of a lower resting heart rate, better sleep and the natural progression of healthful eating. You gain an improved mental and emotional state of being. You build and maintain healthy muscles, joints and bones and you reduce the risks of diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, heart disease and premature death. You can’t always see these things but what you feel will encourage you and others to see you as healthful whole being. We are not all genetically inclined to have the perfect body. What is that anyway? That’s not attainable to many people’s standards. Be realistic, understand the commitment and make the necessary changes. Accept and embrace what you genetically cannot change, improve what you can and enjoy yourself knowing you’re doing your best to look after yourself. See beyond the mirror and...enjoy yourself in good health/gena.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Getting It Out Of Your System

I live inside my head a lot. When I'm not living inside my head I might talk about what I talk to myself about. During one of these moments I expressed my want to climb something really high and/or to run a really really long distance. It was then suggested that I just get this kind of stuff “out of my system” followed by some discourse about age, unnecessary risks, bones and joints which eventually concluded with: “you know you’re not that young.” Hearing this secretly makes my want stronger but I just stare back blank faced. The odd time I’ll throw in a squinted eye, maybe with a tilted head, but I try to maintain what I’m thinking is my “poker face”.

I don’t like the term “get it out of your system”. I don’t want it out of my system. It’s this desire or drive or will or whatever it is that keeps me going. So how do you rid yourself of these wants? I guess one way is to actually follow through and accomplish what it is you want. I personally don’t doubt my abilities to accomplish what I set my mind to but right now I opt to be more present and available to those who need me more than I need to fulfill these wants. Sometimes timing is just off. So if getting it out of your system means giving it up then don’t. Maybe you need to wait a bit or maybe you need to alter your goal slightly but keep it. Gather info, talk to others with similar goals and stay connected.

A few years ago I woke up one morning, four days before what would become my first race, and decided that I was going to run that Sunday. I didn’t really get into it with anyone...there will always be someone to tell you you're nuts. I’m a bit of an introvert. Don’t like too much fuss. I just want to do my thing and most likely alone. That’s why I run. I like the solitude and I don’t need to do it with anyone. So just like that it may hit you - you wake up one day and decide. Everything starts somehow so maybe this is the day for you.

Enjoy yourself in good health/gena.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Defy and Ascend

One day per week I spend a lunch hour feeding an elderly person. I sit in a room surrounded by older adults who unfortunately cannot feed or look after themselves. It’s a sad but very real state for these people and their families. When I first started doing this it was suggested that it must make me happy. I’m not sure about that. Actually I’m not sure what it makes me. When I leave I’m pretty detached but when I’m there I’m there wholly and I’m harshly reminded of the value and importance of good health. Getting older can stink sometimes but aging in good health with physical independence and strength is far better.

I’m reading a novel where the main character feels that his “…life has crested”. He’s climbed to the peek and peering over the edge to view what lies ahead he sees “…only deterioration-descent into aging…” and then goes on to say “… it’s not descending that is troubling but it’s the not ascending…” Pretty dramatic, no?

For the past year I’ve been working with an older adult who is in their 70’s and they are incredible; not afraid to try anything with total confidence in their physical strength and abilities. I guess this is what one might call a “dream client” – the kind that follows what is recommended, carries through and works just as hard even when I’m not around. And from where they were a year ago they have indeed ascended.

I read a slogan on a poster recently that read “Getting Old Is Not For Sissies”and it displayed a mature gentleman doing one mean pushup. Which reminds me – how many pushups and chin-ups can you do? Most people I ask haven’t done a chin-up since grade school. Let’s face it – from the day we’re born we just keep getting older and although aging is a complex process it is a process we can defy along the way. At least I intend to. So go ahead and be defiant - one pushup at a time.

Enjoy yourself in good health/gena.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Make It Your Olympics

A few months ago while training for a marathon I developed an injury. When you’re an active individual an injury can be crippling to your soul. So I laid off the running and during that time I was offered various words of “consolation”. There was the typical “oh you’ll be o.k.” and the “ugh that sucks” and my favourite “stop running you’re going to be crippled!” Although I think they all came from a place of deep regard one was most intense and came at me in a firm, matter-of-fact kind of tone: “GENA! Olympic athletes train for years and withdraw from the games due to injuries.” I’d call this a reality check and not because of the tone but because of the…well - the reality of it. My reaction to this? (rhetorical question) “But marathons are MY Olympics!”

This leads me to my next question (not rhetorical). Have you thought of doing a 5K, 10K, half or full marathon? If you really want too but think you can’t you’ll have to find a better excuse. It starts in your head. Set a goal, do some research, talk to someone who knows a little more than you do and establish a safe training plan.

Every time I go for a run I’m humbled by the fact that my feet always carry me back home. They just know what to do. During my recent marathon I passed and was passed by people of all ages, shapes and sizes. There was a woman in her late 60’s who ran across the finish line seven minutes ahead of me. I’m thirty years her junior by the way and this was a new personal best or me.

If you can see it in your head you can do it. I don’t doubt that about anyone who wants to do something. I have to warn you though; the exhilaration at the finish line, any finish line, can sometimes be addictive and life altering. Everyone has an athlete within. Make whatever it is your Olympics.

Enjoy yourself in good health/gena.

Friday, October 17, 2008

First Get Uncomfortable. Then Get Comfortable In Your Body

After a brisk walk this morning it occurred to me that although I had worked up a sweat I still had some in me to go. It’s sometimes hard to push ourselves during our workouts but maintaining comfort during most workouts will leave you, well – just feeling comfortable.

Being creatures of habit and comfort the biggest challenge is getting uncomfortable. And really, at the end of the day who really wants to feel uncomfortable? I’m running my third marathon in a five month span. My second and third marathons are 21 days apart. I also have kids. Two of them. I think I know a little something about discomfort.

Well, if you want to see changes in your body composition, endurance and overall well being at some point you will have to feel uncomfortable. During your walk, run or resistance training exercises incorporate bursts of high intensity: increase your speed for 30-60 second intervals or go to failure on at least one of your resistance training sets.

Not every workout requires maximum effort for the whole time but push yourself a little further and you’ll be surprised how much is really in you. After all, I spend a good part of my day reminding people of that. And I’m always right. When you think you can’t do one more or run anymore or any faster – do it anyways.

Enjoy yourself in good health/gena