Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Postscript: Keeping the Holiday Pounds at Bay

After reading Chris' insightful blog entry, I would like to add a final note: don't be afraid to "overtrain" for a couple of days before a holiday or holiday party.

Strenuous workouts burn a few extra calories for a day or two after the workout. This will help save your butt in the long run.

Now, this does not give you license to eat everything in site for days afterwards — however, it does assist in burning extra calories when you need them during your holiday binge.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Keeping the Holiday Pounds at Bay

These are the times that try men's souls: the Christmas holidays.

It starts with the gorgefest of Thanksgiving and doesn't end until all of the Christmas cookies are eaten at work some time in January. Most people waddle off with a few extra pounds during this relatively short period.

It's not difficult. Between the fudge and cookies at work, the different holiday candy and fruitcakes (hey, my mom makes a good one!) and the "just one!" egg nog, the challenge is fitting into those cute Christmas clothes after the holidays.

So here are a few tips that should be easy to follow:
  • Take the stairs when you can — every step you walk is calories burned.
  • Drink water and other low- or no-calorie beverages with or between meals, so you can save your calories for the food.
  • Keep at treat a "treat" — limit the snacks in which you indulge (and stick to it: only one cookie before lunch, etc.).
  • Indulge at only one meal, rather than three (or four) meals a day.
  • When attending a party, eat healthy at home beforehand, so you're less apt to go straight for the dessert table.
  • When you plan to attend a party, eat lighter during the rest of the day to keep your total calorie intake at a reasonable level.
  • Try to get your exercise in early in the day — it's out of the way before the partying begins and you have no real excuses.
  • If you're throwing the party, give away the leftovers — your guests will love you because they came to eat your world-class fudge — er, enjoy your company
What tips have you used to help keep the holiday pounds at bay? Leave your tips in the "Comment" section to help the rest of us!

- Chris

Friday, December 21, 2007

Working Out in Cold Weather

Some of you may be into extreme exercising, trekking for miles in cold weather no matter the conditions. Others might take winter as a sign to hibernate. Exercising during the winter can be fun. Just be sure to be safe and smart.

First of all, choose your weather carefully. We could toss around some numbers for optimal temperature limits, but if you're like Chris, you won't listen. Chris will run when it's snowing, when it's raining, no matter how hot or cold. The only things that will keep her off the road are ice and lightning.

I don't know if I would recommend this approach for everyone, but I do recommend that athletes be smart. Refrain from playing tennis in a blizzard, even with neon yellow tennis balls. But don't stay indoors all winter — remember, 20 minutes of sunlight can provide the daily recommended amount of vitamin E. Even in the winter, go for a run if you're comfortable. Take a brisk walk at lunchtime to break up the workday and revive yourself. Just be sure to dress in layers for the weather: wear a hat, consider gloves (or tuck your hands in your sleeves or pockets) and wear a layer or two on top and bottom. If you can, warm up with a nice warm shower upon your return.

Extend your warm-up. Make sure you're warmed up before you start. Spend a little more time loosening your muscles before exposing them to the cold because it will take longer to get from zero to 60 in cold weather.

Finally, keep an eye on your surroundings. Watch where you're going when there's ice on the road. When you go off-trail in the snow, be careful to avoid even the smallest of snowpiles, which could be covering roots and other road hazards. Remember that low-hanging branches could be frozen solid or harbor ice that can scratch and cut. Trust me, it will take quite a while to recuperate from a bad fall or an ice cut.

If the great outdoors is too much of a challenge, don't take it as a sign to slack off your fitness. Take a brisk walk around the mall or walk the stairs at work or school. Go to the gym or work out at home. Find opportunities — they exist.

One final note: numbness in your extremities is bad. It may take a few minutes to get warmed up during a hike or run — however, if you can't feel your feet or hands even during rigorous exercise, come in from the cold. Frostbite is very dangerous and can do permanent damage.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Chris and I were talking tonight, and she mentioned how she just calculated her BMI — and I was appalled. Not because she calculated her BMI, but because I am a personal trainer and have yet to discuss BMI on this blog.

So, for all you people out there wanting your BMI (body mass index) calculated, here is what you need to know. First, you need to know what body mass index is. Then you need to know the formula.

Body mass index, commonly referred to as BMI, is a relationship between height and weight that helps determine overall body fat as a health risk factor.

The formula is simple:
your weight in kilograms (2.2 kg per pound)
divided by your height in meters (.3 m per foot), squared

For a 100 pound person who is 5 feet tall, her BMI formula would be:
45.45 kg
divided by 1.52 m, squared

45.45 divided by 2.31
equals 19.6

Chris votes for letting the National Institutes of Health BMI calculator do the math. However, she concedes that the formula above works, no matter how hard she tries to mess it up.

By the way, this formula will not work on bodybuilders -- their muscle mass is so dense, the formula will show them as overweight every time. However, for the rest of the population, it should work.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Amusing Anecdote

A couple of months ago, Chris and I went for a chiropractor session. I had a brief discussion with my chiropractor Dr. Kowarski about how, when exercising the lower back, exaggerating a back extension posture can cause the back to go out of alignment. He and I were in total agreement that exercise of this kind needs to be approached cautiously.

While I was working out at the gym, I noticed a young guy working on this particular movement. He was using a very exaggerated range of motion — and a slight twist to try to work his obliques as well.

Being an employee of the gym and a personal trainer, I try to look out for everyone's well-being, so I approached this young man. I said, "It may be wise to not exaggerate that movement," as per the discussion I had with Dr. Kowarski.

I added, "If you want a second opinion and know a chiropractor, please ask for yourself."

His reply: "I already have a chiropractor."

I thought to myself, "Obviously."

See what I mean? Always pay attention to proper body mechanics.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

For Alicia: Check the Beat

After writing Doing the Math for Fat-Burning, Alicia asked me for the proper technique of taking one's own pulse.

It is really very easy: take your index and middle finger (of either hand) and place them directly beneath your thumb on your opposite hand, just above the bone. You will feel your arterial pulse. (Go ahead, try it. I'll wait.)

Now, keep an eye on a watch that has a second hand or a stopwatch and count the number of pulses for 15 seconds. Multiply that by four. That's your resting heart rate.

For example, if you count 15 pulses in 15 seconds, multiply that by four and you get 60 beats per minute.

If you have time on your hands, count the pulses for a full minute and see how the numbers compare. They should be within a pulse or two.

Go ahead, try it. I'll wait.


This is Your Brain on Exercise

With winds reaching 25 miles per hour this morning and the temperature peaking in the low 30s, I couldn't bring myself to run at dawn. Instead, I promised myself a trip to the gym with David this evening.

As I stood in the spray of the shower, I could see why people depended on coffee. Most mornings, I don't find my way to the shower until I've put in five miles on the road. By then, I'm alert — or I'd be under the wheels of a car driven by an inattentive driver on the cell phone. I wouldn't say I'm annoyingly perky, but I am aware of my surroundings and functioning at a higher level than I would without it.

Apparently I can thank my regular exercise regimen for this alertness, as well as for the possibility of long-term mental and brain health ("Rx for the Brain: Move," The Washington Post, December 4, 2007).

John J. Ratey, a Harvard Medical School professor, will attest to that very thing in Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, which will be published in January 2008.

Anyone who has taken a walk can attest to the magic and restorative nature of a little exercise. Do it as a regular activity and see how much you benefit.

Keep doing the word puzzles, Sodoku, word games and puzzles. Just throw a little exercise into the deal. Work out to your heart's content, but don't feel you have to overdo it — you don't have to run a marathon to be fit. Take a walk around the lake. Play basketball in the driveway. Kick a soccer ball around.

Remember: your brain is a part of your body, a living organism. Treat it like you love it. Chances are, you'll live to remember your happy days with loved ones in the park.
- Chris