24 January 2011 ~ 1 Comment

Remembering Jack LaLanne

Every gym owner, personal trainer and infomercial fitness guru owes their career to Jack LaLanne, who did it all first, back when fitness was a hard-sell and the term “workout” hadn’t yet been invented.

He opened his first gym in the 1930s, had a national TV show in the 1950s, and sold countless Juice Tiger juicers through paid airtime in the 80s. His name was literally a synonym for a fit, healthy-living man. He happened along at the right time, when many humans were no longer performing physical labor and needed something to keep our bodies from turning to mush.

Jack LaLanne died on Sunday at the age of 96. I’ve written a longer piece on him at my other site (A Lesson from Jack LaLanne), but I’ll be offering a few of his more inspirational bits over on the Simple Workout Facebook page. Here’s one to start you off:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBVk071N88M

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31 December 2010 ~ Comments Off on Tips for Your New Year’s Fitness Resolution

Tips for Your New Year’s Fitness Resolution

Okay, a little tonight. But tomorrow... (Photo by John Morgan)

New Year’s Day usually brings two major changes: the need for a new wall calendar, and the start of millions of new year’s resolutions. Statistics, however, paint a bleak picture where fitness resolutions are concerned: of the millions joining gyms in January, only about 10% will last into February.

I want you to beat the odds, so I’ve compiled a few simple resolution-keeping tips, whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle or just live a healthier lifestyle:

Don’t Tell Everyone

We live in a sharing society, but psychologists have found that people who tell everyone their goals are less likely to achieve them. Why? Your brain gives you the illusion that you’ve accomplished the goal already. (There’s more in this TED talk from entrepreneur Derek Sivers.) There are two ways around this:

  • If you have wonderful willpower, just surprise everyone with your achievement.
  • If you don’t have great willpower, tell your friends/family but have them track you or join you.

Go Big (But Be Specific)

Just want to drop that “last 5 pounds” or “start running again”? Studies have found that people who set higher goals accomplish more than those who set “realistic” goals.

What’s your ultimate goal? Go there. Just make it a specific, actionable goal (“I want to get to 15% bodyfat,” “I want to run a marathon without walking.”) That way, when you do drop the last 5 or run that 10k that would have been more “realistic,” you not only get there faster, you have a new goal already waiting.

Don’t Try for Perfection and You Won’t Find Failure

Some days I don’t get to the gym. I’m on a deadline, or it’s insanely snowing out. Does that derail me? Nope. I change into my workout gear and start a routine of bodyweight movements—or if I really want to go for it, tabata intervals of burpees. Zero equipment, 10 minutes max.

If you can’t do what you initially planned, back off but do something. Walk around the block if that’s all you can manage. Keep the forward motion and you stay on track.

Don’t Let the Gym Scare You Off

This is specific advice for those who are joining a gym for the first time—when you first show up, you may not know anyone and may have to get used to the equipment. Maybe you’re intimidated by the gym rats who seem to all know each other. It’s kind of like the first day of a new school when you were a kid, right?

It gets better with time. Do your workout. Bring some good music. Pay no attention to the muscleheads, and do not emulate them! The gym’s for everyone, and I’ll tell you a little secret: if you’re obeying all the gym rules, you’re a better customer than most of them.

Seek Help When You Need It

When you’re feeling stuck or just want some support, don’t be afraid to ask. Even those muscleheads will usually be happy to show you how to do an exercise. Talk to the desk staff if you have questions about the club or its rules. Try a personal training session if you can afford it. (If you can’t afford it, I’m about to release a program that’s just like having your own personal trainer for no ongoing cost!)

For general questions or support you can always e-mail me or leave a comment on any article. I read them all.

Have Fun

Above all, any trip is about the journey as much as the destination, and a fitness goal is no different. Look for the fun in your workouts, the joy in the healthy food you eat, and before you know it your goal will arrive.

A New Year’s Resolution is just another occasion to reaffirm your goals. The daily steps you take are much more important than the resolution itself.

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27 October 2010 ~ Comments Off on The Two Mental Necessities for Fitness

The Two Mental Necessities for Fitness

You know what commitment is? THAT'S commitment.

Since we’re starting at ground zero here, I thought I’d offer up the two mental traits that help most in starting and continuing a fitness program. They’ll help you whether you’ve chosen Crossfit, HIIT, or a basic simple workout as your regimen of choice. These critical traits: commitment and intensity.

Commitment

The first mental obstacle you must overcome to even begin a workout or diet program is the idea that you really don’t want to go to the gym in this weather, or that you can have just this one tub of Ben & Jerry’s. To really take on a fitness program you have to commit, and commit fully.

Make no mistake, exercise is work, and eating new or different foods can quite literally take you out of your comfort zone. You’ll have to push yourself to get down to the gym after (or during) a hard day at work, or to avoid just picking up the phone and ordering Domino’s. There are ways, however, to push through the commitment barrier:

  • Set goals. Make them achievable. Even “go to the gym 4 times this week” can count at first.
  • Reward yourself when you reach your goals.
  • Take a cooking class so you can better prepare healthy recipes.
  • Put your workouts in your calendar. Set an alarm.
  • Work with a personal trainer or find a workout buddy.
  • Get some great, inspirational workout music.
  • When you get bored with your workout, change it. (I’ll be helping with a selection of exercises.)

Above all, try and have fun with it. Make a game out of your goals, and be positive about both what you’re giving up and what you’re doing instead. A recent study showed that people who made a game out of avoiding tempting treats were more able to keep from eating those treats than people who equated avoiding the treats with torture.

Intensity

The difference between just going through the motions in your workout program is intensity. Lack of intensity is why those guys at the gym have been going every week for years but have little to show for it. In fact, the more intense your workout, the shorter it can be. Some High Intensity Interval Training workouts can take as little as five minutes—but they can be the most intense five minutes of your life.

Even when you’re just beginning, though, you can use intensity to your advantage. Try this: as you perform a set, try and put more effort into each rep, until you’re putting everything you’ve got into it. Feel your muscles straining and burning. Concentrate on nothing but the movement and breathing proper form and getting that weight up. Squeeze out one last rep as you feel your arms or legs shaking with the effort…then squeeze out another. Leave everything you’ve got on the floor.

I’ll bet you that when you’re done, you feel pretty darn good.

Put commitment and intensity together, and you’ll be unstoppable.

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