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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes: Holiday Recipe Ideas to Help Avoid The Fitness Train-wreck


Recently I was watching Biggest Loser and was very intrigued by one of the guests they had on “The Ranch”. They had a scientist who has done brain research on why obese people over eat and why thin people, generally, do not. 

What he said he discovered in his research was a difference in the brain’s “pleasure center”. For obese folks, the pleasure center is actually much smaller in comparison to their thin counterpart. This suggests that while both obese and thin folks have cravings, it takes much MORE for the obese person to satisfy the craving. 

The good news is that this pleasure program can be re-written in the brain. It takes 4-5 weeks of healthy and moderation eating to train your brain. The bad news is, it can be overwritten with the old habit with just 4-5 days of over-indulgence. That means 1 week of unhealthy eating can completely undo all the hard work you have done to enjoy eating healthy. 

So, what is a health-conscious person to do during the holidays! We are bombarded by all types of unhealthy foods and sedentary living for an extended period.  

My solution is to deck your halls with boughs of healthy this Thanksgiving and find healthy recipes to keep your Holiday Train from getting de-railed.  

While I am no recipe expert, I love to eat and I know where to look. I found a site with a full menu of healthy Thanksgiving recipes that will provide good options for just about any traditional Thanksgiving craving. These include: 

Healthy Thanksgiving Menu

Hearty Mashed Potatoes (without butter and milk!)
Using your brain to train your brain is the key to long term weight loss. Find these recipes and more healthy options at www.coxhealth.webhealthyrecipes.com


Please do me a favor and  post your own healthy recipe ideas and websites below in the comments section to help other readers!
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Insanity Workout Review Week 5 and Workout Rest Week Ideas


The two most glorious words ever spoken when one is doing an intense workout program like Insanity are REST WEEK.

However, don’t think we got off too easily. This may depress those who were looking forward to getting some extra sleep during this “off” week, but we still had to get up every day and do an easier, though still pretty active workout.

The rest work workout for Insanity is around 35 minutes long, and does make you sweat and stretch a little bit, but is much less intense than the normal workouts. While it was somewhat repetitive to do the same workout 6 days straight, it wasn’t bad. We enjoyed the routine of it, and knew that it was only going to be for this week only.

I like the idea of doing something during the rest week. It takes a long time to create a workout habit, and very little time to break that habit. So, still utilizing that time you carve out for something active is very helpful to maintain a “routine”.

So, even if you want complete rest during your workout respite, I would encourage you to do SOMETHING during that time you have carved out.


Active ideas during rest week:

  1. Brisk walks or easy bike rides.
  2. Playing on the playground with your kids.
  3. Play a sport you used to have time for: tennis, basketball, swimming…something.
  4. Take a week of dance lessons with your loved one.
  5. Plan an active vacation when you know you will have a rest week: skiing, hiking, etc.

Inactive ideas during rest week:

  1. Read workout magazines and websites to give you ideas.
  2. Write a  new, intense workout program
  3. Create a spreadsheet to keep track of your workout progress and body measurements.
  4. Surf the internet for healthy recipes to spice up your menu.
  5. Actually do some cooking of healthy entrees and items you can freeze and pop in the microwave for healthy “on-the-go” meals
  6. Get caught up on my blog, of course! Also, research for other blogs that will help motivate you to healthy living.
  7. Start a blog of your own! Help motivate others by chronicling your progress toward your fitness goals. Then, always include a link to this blog: criticaltransformation.blogspot.com (hint hint J)

Use the comment section below to leave others your ideas for ways to fill those workout minutes during rest week, and Happy Resting!
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Black Friday: Fitness Shopping to Change Your Future


On Friday, November 24, the doors of the big box stores will swing wide open for sugar-plum visioning shoppers seeking bargain treasures for their family. People load up their sleighs with TVs, computers, appliances and toys that the family will enjoy.

However, this year I want to encourage you to take a different path. Many stores also have great Black Friday deals on exercise equipment that could help to change your family’s future.

For our family, it has been very helpful to have a few pieces of exercise equipment. When we had our kids, we had lost all our motivation to stay healthy, partly because we could not find the time to get to the gym. Once we decided to make a change, we got an elliptical machine and a few weights and committed to work out together. The difference has really been transformative as we have never been more fit and are having a blast doing it together.

So, instead of using those Black Friday deals to get that 42” LCD TV that will contribute to a sedentary lifestyle, choose to give a gift to the healthy you and your family. Here are some of the best fitness deals for Black Friday (click on the store to go to their ad):


Proform 18.0 RE Elliptical machine: $799 (save $1200)

Proform 290 SPX Indoor Cycle: $199 (originally $499)

Bowflex Select Tech 552 Dumbells: $300



Fitness Gear 225 pound weight set: $150

Powerblock Adjustable dumb bells with stand: $299 (great for limited space!)



Perfect Sit Up: $44.77 (about 30% discount)


Reebok Upright Bike with Ipod Port $200

Body Media Fitlink Armband (body wellness monitor with activity manager): $200 (normally $229)



Marcy 80# Combo Bench 89.99 (save $40)

Body Champ Cardio Dual Trainer 189.99 (save $60)



Horizon T100 Treadmill 299.99
Everlast 4-pc Heavy Punching Bag 49.99





As it gets closer to Thanksgiving, more of the big deals will come out. Keep watching www.blackfriday.com and http://www.blackfriday.info/ If you hear of any great deals, post them here in the comment section below. Happy HEALTHY Shopping! Black Friday Deals Shopping Black Friday Deals Shopping Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Dealks Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Deals Shopping Black Friday Deals Shopping Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Dealks Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Deals Shopping Black Friday Deals Shopping Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Dealks Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals Black Friday Shopping Deals

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Insanity Week 4- The Struggle To Maintain Focus


We finally made it to rest week. I must say, I probably feel a little bit softer than I did at the beginning of Insanity. I think the reason for this is that I have not been as disciplined with the nutrition side of the program as I should be.
 

Since nutrition is 70% of a weight loss/ fitness program, it is not fair to expect to see results from an exercise program without focusing in on this crucial component. It is too easy to get into the mindset that it is ok to eat extra because “well, I got my workout in.”
 

However, just think about that fact that it takes about 30 seconds to eat a cookie with 300 calories, but it is going to take 30 minutes of exercising to burn that same amount. That is why it is so much easier to get fat than to lose it!


Another factor may be timing. With the change of summer into fall, my extraneous activities have definitely gotten more sedentary. The extra evening walks, swims with the kids, and afternoon jogs have been reduced to almost zero.
 

So, now that our family birthday season is done, Susan and I are going to renew our resolve to avoid the extra snacks, stop eating the kids crumbs, and avoid the leftover sweets. Just like everyone else, we struggle to stay on track over the winter months.
 

So, next week is “rest week” which means we have a light exercise regimen. That means we are going to have to be extra careful to eat right, avoid grazing like cattle and try to get some extra movement in.
 

Hang tight with your program! Remember, the hard workouts are not an excuse to indulge the sweet tooth. Those holiday treats are just going to end up hanging over your belt in January!
 

In the comment section below, help us with ways you plan to avoid the extra weight gain over the holidays.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

World's Greatest Fitness and Weight-Loss Apps


Back in the old days, if you were really serious about losing weight you would have to get a food calorie dictionary and start keeping an old-fashioned pencil and paper list. If you wanted to keep track of your heart rate, you’d put your finger on your wrist or neck and attempt to take your pulse while running.


A lot has changed in the past 25 years. Heck, a lot has changed in the past 25 weeks. So, knowing there are a lot of other geeks out there, I decided to put together a list of some of the best apps around for nutrition and exercise.


Exercise:

Loops (Livestrong): Web : This app allows you to search for and create exercise loops wherever you happen to be. This app is especially good if you travel a lot to large cities and have no idea where to go for your daily walk or jog.


Target Heart Rate Calculator (American Cancer Society): Web : I recommend working out with a heart rate monitor to be sure you are keeping the right intensity level. This site will calculate your target heart rate for you.


Physioadvisor (iphone): This app helps you develop your work out program with common physical therapy exercises. You can search by numerous categories and body parts to help you develop a comprehensive program.

GPS Motion X (iphone): I used this one a lot before Susan bought me a new Garmin watch for our anniversary (I know, she is quite the romantic!). However, if you don't have a watch and are going to run with your iphone anyway, this app will give you your pace and a plethora of other workout tracking info, all while still playing your music. Obviously, though, this app is worthless if you have an ipod touch...unless you just run circles in a wifi hotspot.


Nutrition:

Calorie Tracker (Livestrong): Blackberry / iPhone / iPad: One of the problems with using a calorie tracker is the frustration with not having the foods you need to track. I have found the livestrong app to have a pretty comprehensive data base so that you can find just what you are looking for, or at least get pretty close.


Menu Planner (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute): Web. This menu planner is only available online, but helps you plan your meals. There is a large variety of food options and serving sizes and calculates the number of calories for you. This one may be really good to help you pre-plan those dangerous holiday meals.


Text-2-Eat (Livestrong): Text messaging. This one is fun, and you don’t even need a smart phone! You just text a food you are considering (or just ate J) to 35242 and they will text you back with the item, calories, fat and protein.


If you want more ideas, I got most of these from an online story by MD Anderson. It has several other categories including kids nutrition and smoking cessation. So, follow this link and "app" to your healthy hearts content:


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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Healthy Living and the 38 Things I've Learned In 38 Years


Today I completed my 38th trip around the sun. Here are the 38 random things I have learned during these revolutions:
  1. Being lazy feels good now, but regretful later.
  2. People that love you don’t care what you look like or what you do.
  3. Just because you’ve lived 38 years it doesn’t mean you have to have a 38” waist.
  4. Learning doesn’t stop when you are out of school.
  5. Doing something for someone else is more gratifying than doing what you want.
  6. Winning isn’t everything, but striving to be your best is.
  7. The woman is ALWAYS right
  8. Mom’s should be the ones getting the birthday present. They did all the work on that day.
  9. A man’s home isn’t HIS castle....at least as long as there is a big fat mortgage.
  10. Having to work hard for a goal makes achieving it more satisfying.
  11. Genetics are never an excuse for bad behavior.
  12. Pain is not an excuse for lack of movement.
  13. Having children is a greater achievement than all other things I have ever done, combined.
  14. Having money doesn’t change you, it just magnifies who you already are.
  15. Home is not where you are, it is who you are with.
  16. The dishwasher may have been the world’s greatest invention.
  17. To make exercise a habit, do something you enjoy. To make it worthwhile, do it HARD!
  18. Having hope makes any circumstance tolerable.
  19. Giving your money is great. Giving your time is priceless.
  20. The traditions you create with your kids will be their most treasured memories.
  21. Don’t wish your life away, enjoy the present.
  22. Time really does go by fast.
  23. Doctors make the worst patients.
  24. Doing something you are passionate about always beats doing what makes the most money.
  25. Nothing tastes as good as it feels to be healthy.
  26. Mothers-in-law sometimes are the best. Just know you are entrusted with her greatest treasure.
  27. A happy wife makes a happy life.
  28. I can endure just about anything for 1 minute or less. 
  29. A healthcare worker is more respected if they look like they take their own advice.
  30. The Bible has the best answer for any question.
  31. Seeing isn’t always believing.
  32. Indulge sparingly, enjoy always.
  33. Friends can be short-lived but family is for life.
  34. “No man is a failure who has friends.” (Angel from Its a Wonderful Life)
  35. Food is not an aphrodisiac, an antiseptic, or an anti-depressant. It is fuel. That is all.
  36. Once you have children, your hobbies can wait. You have more important things to do.
  37. Your future is too high a price to pay for short-lived pleasure.
  38. Whenever I feel out of control, remember God is in it.
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Monday, October 31, 2011

How to Enjoy Halloween Without Being Frightened By Your Scale


October 31st has come around again. It is really the beginning of a two month season of indulgence, right? I have people ask for advice because they are in fear of the approaching coldness of the weather and fatness of the winter comfort food. However, the extra candy around the house doesn’t have to be a poltergeist to your wellness plan. Here are some tips on how to get through it.

  1. With extra candy around the house, keep some extra healthy options around as well. Sometimes, I just need a snack. The candy is so easy to grab, and is ok once in a while. However, make a bowl of trail mix with healthy ingredients. Personally, I like a mixture of Kashi “Heart to Heart” Honey roasted oat cereal, raisins, and plain almonds. It is just the right combination of sweet and crunchy and fills that “candy craving” quite nicely.

  1. If you can’t resist the candy temptation, go for a handful of gummy bears or sour candy instead of a chocolate bar. One snack size snickers has about 3 times the calories of a snack size package of Sour Gummies. It may not be the healthiest option, but definitely the lesser of two Freddy’s to keep you from having a November waistline nightmare.

  1. Play “Hide the Pumpkin”. Studies show that people eat more cookies if they have a see-through glass cookie jar verses an opaque one. The point is, put the Halloween candy in the pantry. Limit the kids to just  2-3 pieces per day and that only after a healthy meal. Then make yourself live by the same rule. 

  1. Walk with the kids around the neighborhood. I know, the “trick or treating” has passed until next year. But remember, while it may be tempting next year to send your spouse out with the kids to walk the neighborhood while you stay at home to hand out the candy: volunteer to be the chaperone next time around. After all, who do you think consumes the fewer number of calories?

Just because it is Halloween, you don’t have to turn into your own self-destructive Chuckie. With a little discipline and forethought, it is possible to enjoy the holidays without waking with regret the next day……if the spirits let you wake up at all!!!! (insert evil laugh here!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

INSANITY workout program- Weeks 2 and 3


Three weeks down on Insanity and I am warming up to, though not hot on the program for my readers.

As stated last week, I like the intensity of the program. If you are feeling lethargic (and who isn’t at 5am when Susan and I get up to do the workout), Shaun T is going to push you to get out of your funk.   I also love the creative new exercises I have learned such as bench press leg raises, power jumping jacks, standing sprints with hurdles, plank oblique knee raises, and ski jumps.  I also love that, when I am limited on time, I know I can still get a good return on my short investment.

There is one big issue about which I want to caution readers. You really need to know your body and pay attention to how you are doing the exercises. Shaun has you moving so fast that it is very easy to sacrifice form just to keep up. There are a lot of moves where you bend over and stand up while jumping.

For example, while watching my wife, I noticed she has a hard time squatting fast enough to get to the ground, so she compensates by bending forward at the back. Since she is also jumping and twisting at the same time, this can seriously compromise her back. There have been a few days where Susan has complained of her back, knees, and shoulders (in the area of the rotator cuff) being pretty painful. I recognize these symptoms as not being “normal” workout aches and soreness, so we have talked through modifying her form on some of the moves.

If you have minimal knowledge of proper body mechanics, be sure to really watch the leader, Shaun T, closely and have a mirror so you can keep an eye on your form. Don’t pay that much attention to the models, as they sometimes don’t have the best form either.

Now, I will go back to watching game 7 of the World Series. Go Cards!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Knee Arthritis

Mike Reinold is a PT that I highly respect as he really studies the available evidence before making a recommendation. I had been thinking of doing an article on Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for knee pain as my wife has commented recently, as do quite a few of my patients, on the success they have had with the product. So, since Mike did such a thorough with his blog on it a couple years ago, I just decided to repost it here. For more from Mike, you can link to his blog at http://www.mikereinold.com/.          Stan


A recent review from the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Arthroscopy reviewed the use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for knee osteoarthritis.  Considering the vast amount of people suffering from knee arthritis and the increasing cost of medical care for these patients, the use of any type of supplement to reduce symptoms is welcome.
Research into the efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate is certainly not new with studies dating back to 1969.  However, the literature has been filled with many poorly controlled studies, some of which were funded by glucosamine manufacturers!This particular paper reviewed the results of 23 studies that involved double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized control trials as well as several meta-analyses.

The effectiveness of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate

The overall results of the review show that there are inconsistent results, but that the results do favor improvement of pain and joint function in patients with arthritis.  The authors also note that one of the most consistent trends between studies involved the length of use of the supplement.  The best results from glucosamine appear to occur after several months of use.  Studies are referenced that show positive results in 3-6 months and even up to 9 months.
In general, if you looked hard enough, you could probably find more articles that say that the use of glucosamine is effective than you could find saying it is not effective.  I realize and agree that there is not overwhelming evidence in support of glucosamine or outlined the exact mechanism of symptom improvement.  However, when we start to run out of options for our patients, I would say there is enough evidence to support it’s use, as long as the supplement is safe.

The Safety of Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate

A potentially more important finding of the current review was that the use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate appears to be safe, at least as safe as placebo supplementation.  To me, this is the most important finding for me clinically.  If we are going to recommend the use of a supplement with inconsistent findings, as long as the supplement is safe I have no problem recommending a patient try glucosamine.

Recommended use of glucosamine chondroitin

I have spent a lot of time over the last several years trying to find a consensus statement on the use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate.  Unfortunately, this does not appear to exist.  I have taken information from many sources, including the excellent recommendations of noted orthopedist Dr. Frank Noyes of Cincinnati Sports Medicine and information from the Osteoarthritis Research Society International to provide the following information.  I recommend that you read Dr. Noyes’ recommendations, it is a great resource.  Also, realize that you should consult with your own personal physician before taking any supplements and that glucosamine may not be indicated for you personally.  The below information are just basic guidelines for healthcare providers when considering the use of glucosamine:
  • Cosamin DSGlucosamine should be taken with chondroitin sulfate to maximize it’s effectiveness
  • Supplements that include magnesium and vitamin C may help the absorption rate of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate.
  • To date, the specific brand that has received the highest recommendations appears to be Cosamin DS.
  • Dosage should vary based on body weight:
    • If less than 120 lbs: G 1000mg + CS 800mg
    • Between 120-200 lbs: G 1500mg + CS 1200mg
    • If greater than 200 lbs: G 2000mg + CS 1600mg
  • Supplements should be taken for at least 3 months for noticeable results.  If no response within 6 months, may discontinue.
I have found decent results from the use of glucosamine in my patients, have you?

C VANGSNESSJR, W SPIKER, J ERICKSON (2009). A Review of Evidence-Based Medicine for Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate Use in Knee Osteoarthritis Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic & Related Surgery, 25 (1), 86-94 DOI: 10.1016/j.arthro.2008.07.020

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Insanity Workout Chronicle: Week 1


With fear and trepidation, my wife Susan and I started the “Insanity” workout this past week. Insanity is a 2 month program led by trainer and former pro athlete, Shaun T. For the next 2 months I will be journaling through the program and give my thoughts on this popular home workout.

Insanity is quite a bit different from P90X* in that it is VERY heavy on the cardio and sport drills training. In fact, there is very little upper body resistance exercise, in my opinion, though my legs were definitely given a good workout. The set did come with a separate upper body weights workout, but it is not a part of the official “plan”.

The great thing about Insanity is that Shaun makes you dig deep to find another level of intensity and with each set he pushes you harder and harder. If you thought you could sit on a recumbent bike and casually read a book and lose weight, Shaun tries to coach you past that natural passive attitude and show you it is necessary to push yourself to succeed.

Prior to beginning Insanity, we did know that there was going to be a lot of jumping involved, so Susan and I purchased a couple of jump mats on Amazon, and I am pretty glad we did. This workout can be very hard on your joints and if actually done on a gym floor as shown on the video, month 3 would be the “Insanity Joint Replacement Recovery Series”.

If you are trying to use Insanity to lose weight, definitely utilize the meal plan as well. Since the workouts are a bit short, you will need to keep a strong focus on nutrition and perhaps add a few resistance workouts as well.

 *see previous post rating experience with P90x

Thursday, October 13, 2011

P90x: The Fitness Road Less Traveled


There are many roads to fitness. There are roads that, unfortunately, are circles and lead right back to where we started. There are roads that are possible but require a level of knowledge that some people just do not have. There are others that lead to success, but require a lot of money and/or time that are not possible at this stage of our lives.  There are other roads that are risky because they require a level of self-discipline and commitment that are difficult to come by but, nonetheless, attainable. I would place P90X in the latter category.

In case you are one of the 12 people in America who haven’t seen the infomercial, P90X stands for Power 90 (for 90 days) X (Extreme). It is a diverse series of fitness videos including resistance training, plyometrics, core strengthening and flexibility training designed to keep challenging your body in different ways to encourage positive change.

 Susan and I decided to do P90X about 6 months ago for a lot of reasons. I was a bit resistant at first because I was comfortable doing what I was doing. But, the chance to do something different and to get to workout with my life partner was enough to give it a try.

After a short period of time I was impressed. Tony Horton (the host trainer) pushed us to a level of intensity that we had not ever been able to do on our own. He also pushed me to try “new” things, such as yoga and jump training, and things I have never been good at, such as pull ups and 1-arm pushups.

The other positive was that every time Tony would change things up, I would end up being sore and exhausted…in a good way. I knew my body was going to make progress, and it has. Another important part of the plan is to track your progress by writing down the weight and number of reps. This is something people rarely do on their own, but is helpful in seeing real meaningful progress.

There are, however, some things that concern me about P90X. One is that the workouts are probably a bit long for some. They vary from a little over an hour to 1 ½ hours. This may discourage some to stick with it.

 It also is, after all, just a video. The trainer is not watching you perform the exercises. Therefore, due to the intensity and speed at which the exercises are performed, there could be risk for injury if not careful. Another inherent weakness with a video series is that it is a cookie-cutter approach and doesn’t take into account each individual weakness.

So, the verdict is P90X is a good, affordable option to help jump start or push you through your plateau in your fitness plan. Finishing the P90X program feels gratifying because the road we chose was the road least traveled: good old-fashioned hard work, intensity, and commitment.
Below are my "before and after" photos. Pic #1 was in around February of 2011 (note the pale shade of winter :) ) and the after was in September 2011 after 6 months of P90x.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top PT Tips Part 2: Taking advantage of every moment: getting enough rest


Part 2 of the Top PT tips series is about getting enough rest. Ironically, I am writing this at about 9pm and my bed is calling my name after a very long day. I am truly exhausted, so I will stop rambling and get started. 

  1. Sleep with a pillow between your knees- do this while sleeping on your side. It will keep your spine in a more neutral position and help you have a more restful night sleep.
  2. Use a towel roll in your pillow- a pillow can cause your neck to crane upward when sleeping. It can be very effective to use a towel roll in the part of the pillow that fits under your neck. That way, the cervical spine can be supported, and the head can rest in a more neutral position. For some, a down or memory foam pillow can work better since it will conform to the curves in your head and neck.
  3. Don’t go cheap on your mattress. If you are trying to save money, get a used car. Unless you are an over-the-road trucker or a salesman, odds are you will spend much more time on your mattress than in your vehicle. So, it is crucial to your well-being to invest wisely. Susan and I just ordered a new mattress that we are very excited about, although we have to wait six weeks to get it. When “trying on” mattresses at the store, we quickly realized how badly we needed a new bed. Our old one is 17 years old. Despite religious flips and turns every 3 months, eventually a mattress does not exert the same force on your body and will sag. This causes creep and strain on joints and ligaments over a long night. You wake up sore and tired because all night your body has been fighting gravity. So, look for a bed with a combination of proper support and one that conforms well to your body.
  4. Get to bed early and get up early to do your work out. It’s such a timeless phrase that it is cliché, but Mr. Franklin said it best…. “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man HEALTHY, wealthy and wise.” Getting to bed early so you can work out early will help you beat the million distractions and other priorities that prevent people from accomplishing their goals. I know for me that if I don’t get a work out in early in the morning, then it just won’t happen. If you want a critical transformation, than a good, hard, productive workout has to happen!  

Nightime for my toddlers can be a battle because they don’t want to miss anything. But we should be older and wiser and know that if we don’t get enough rest we won’t have the energy to fight the battle of the bulge. Be sure to take advantage of every moment of the day, whether your eyes are open or closed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Top Physical Therapy Advice To Fuel Your Exercise Program


Every day I find myself handing out advice. It also tends to be the same advice over and over. So, for the next few blogs I am going to share the “tips” I find myself giving out most often that could help with your workouts, keep you from getting injured, and help maintain your focus for hitting your goals.


Part 1: Lifting and body mechanics


  1. Knees behind toes- No, I am not suggesting you play Twister…although that sounds like fun. Instead, when doing squats or lunges, look down. If your knees are jutting out over your toes, there is likely undo strain being placed on your knees. Step out a little farther so when you squat your knees are behind your toes.
  2. Chest and head up when squatting- if you look down when lifting an object, the tendency is to flatten out the lumbar spine and place increased strain on the back. So, think “head and chest up” when lifting to keep the lumbar spine in its naturally curved position.
  3. Lift with your legs- everyone knows this one but so few do it! Perhaps it is because of lack of flexibility combined with lack of energy that people allow gravity to pull the trunk forward instead of lowering their trunk with their legs. You won’t lift with your legs if you don’t use them to get into position. You can start strengthening your legs by leaning against a wall and sliding down to do mini-squats. This can also help control dust around your house!
  4. Use a wide base of support- unless you are trying to balance on one leg in the yoga “tree” pose, spread your legs apart when exercising, especially when lifting weights from the floor. It will increase your stability and help you be able to lift more weight safely.

So, there you go. Don’t worry, I’m not going to bill you for a 15 minute therapy unit. This one is on me. But now, it’s on you. As you exercise to achieve your goal, remember to use good body mechanics so you stay healthy and injury-free in the process.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Happy Meals Over Big Macs...What a toddler can teach us about eating to achieve our weight loss goals


When you think about a toddler, what comes to mind? Boundless energy…fun-loving….and generally happy, except when they are mindlessly screaming because they wanted to shut the van door and you accidentally shut it yourself. Lack of emotional filters aside, we can really learn a lot about how to be healthy and lose weight from toddlers. 

  1. Only eat the amount you need. Toddlers are great at this. To many parents’ dismay, children go through periods where one would think they are on a Lenten fast, and they won’t eat even their favorite foods. But toddlers will generally only eat the amount their body needs. In a survey by Appetite magazine, 85% of 142 families say they try to get their kids to eat to eat more at meal-time through persuasion. But the old adage that “a child will eat when he is hungry” is really true, and we should follow that rule as well.
  2. Take your time when you eat. My son is the master at this…so much so that sometimes we have to set a kitchen timer just to get him to move it along when we are on a schedule. But Jake just really likes to talk at dinner….a lot! That translates into long meal times. It really is helpful to be social when you can with your meals. People that are too busy to sit down with their family to eat are often people who gain weight. Why? Because eating together, talking as you eat, and taking your time will help you feel full faster and eat fewer calories. But no, you don’t have to bring your favorite Thomas the Tank Engine or baby doll to distract you from your food.
  3. Just keep moving! Now, your toddler probably does this before, during, and after dinner. I am not suggesting you move constantly during your meal, but I certainly think you could move before or after. Even if it is just to get on the floor with the kids and wrestle around with them after dinner, every bit of motion you can add to your day will help you in your overall weight-loss goals.
  4. Happy Meals over Big Macs. When eating out, think about eating a “child’s” meal. A McDonald’s Happy Meal has anywhere from 450-650 calories. Since an adult meal should probably be around that amount based on a 1,500-2,000 calorie/day meal plan, adults should think about eating a child-size portion when eating out. No, you don’t have to eat a child’s hamburger and apple dippers, but you should rethink the size and quantity of your portions if you want to be successful in achieving your goals.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Spiritual Warfare of Weight-Loss: A Christian Perspective

“The thief has come to steal, kill and destroy. But I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Why is it so darn hard to lose weight? Once you lose it, why is it so hard to keep it off? While it is certainly true that many temporal factors such as self-control, chronic pain, medications, and genetics make weight-loss difficult, for those of us who are people of faith, we know that it can be a spiritual battle as well. Something we often forget is that we have an enemy. According to the Bible, this enemy seeks to “steal, kill and destroy.” If you think that the devil only seeks to utilize tools that are typically thought of to achieve his outcome, think again. He is going to attack wherever he thinks he can gain an advantage, as any impactful warrior would. With over 2/3 over-weight and 33% of American’s being obese, this has been a very effective weapon. (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003)

What does obesity steal?

ENERGY: What more could we do to impact the world for good if we had some? How many times do you avoid opportunities to serve because you are too tired or just can’t physically do the task?
BEAUTY: The devil loves nothing more than to steal this from us since he used to be the most beautiful of all God’s creations until he fell, according to the book of Ezekiel. To see that God has granted a bit of his image to mankind that we can carry on this legacy must really spur him to steal this from us.
HOPE: If we have given up control over our own body, what else will we give up on?  Many feel that being healthy is a lost cause.
INDEPENDENCE: Too often, as a PT, I have seen the end stages of obesity. Some have lost so much independence they become completely confined to a specialized hospital bed. Of course this is the worst case scenario. However, do you avoid flying on an airplane because you have to pay for two seats? Do you have to sacrifice the memory of roller coaster rides with your kids because you can't fit in the car? Do you avoid taking vacations or even trips to the mall because you can't walk reasonable distances? If you can't do things you want and should be able to do, this is a victory for the Enemy.

What does obesity kill?

Obesity related disease is one of the most common causes of death in the United States. Annually, obesity causes 112,000 excess deaths due to cardiovascular disease, 15,000 excess deaths due to cancer, and over 35,000 excess deaths due to other obesity related diseases in just the U.S. alone. (1)

What does obesity destroy?

MARRIAGES: While a study in the Journal of Biosocial Sciences did not find a significant link between divorce and factors related to health (other than high risk behaviors such as smoking and drinking); anecdotally, surveys reveal loss of physical attraction as significant. Divorce expert Gary Blanchard lists this as the number 3 cause of divorce behind “abusive relationship” and “lack of communication.”

FAMILIES: Sadly, without energy, hope, and independence, many eventually “check out” of their significant relationships. Speaking from experience, as a dad who was 50 pounds over-weight, it was much easier to collapse in the easy chair and give into the “tube” than to physically engage with my kids. This was one of the issues that turned me around. I finally refused to be “that” dad and husband.

Farther down the line, since obesity causes needless early death, how many children are left fatherless or motherless because of this preventable disease?

However, the good news is the conclusion to the Bible verse: “but I (Jesus) have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” James 4:7 says, “If we submit to Christ and “resist” the devil, he will flee from you.”

The key is, submit and resist are verbs and require action on our part. When we realize that we have an enemy that wishes to steal, kill and destroy us, we will realize what a fight we are up against. Take up your swords and put down your forks! This is a battle we must win!


1. Flegal KM, Graubard BI, Williamson DF, et al. Cause-Specific Excess Deaths Associated With Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2007; 298(17):2028–2037.
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Redefining Normal

I read a great blog that fits in well with my philosophy of peeling away the layers of the fat onion by changing habits and redefining a new you.  Please check out Roger's great but short read on "Redefining Normal":

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quick Post- Motion Doctor: Great Ipad App for Exercisers

Recently I came across a great application for those who are new to exercise who want to avoid improper movement patterns when exercise. It is called the Motion Doctor. This app will allow the user to click on an area of the body they wish to exercise, and then it will provide exercise recommendations and the proper way to perform them.

Soon after initiating an exercise program, many start complaining of nagging pain they makes them want to quit. The problem is not typically the exercise. It is the movement patterns utilized during the exercise often combined with too much resistance that are the cause of the problem.

For example, when I began yoga several months ago, I was having a lot of rear shoulder pain with the "warrior 2" move.where in a lunge position one arm is forward and the other straight back. I soon realized the shoulder pain was there because I was trying to strain my shoulder too much to get into the position to compensate for a restriction in trunk rotation. So, even though my shoulder hurt, it was my back that was the real problem! Of course as a PT, I am a bit more in tune with how my body should move than the average yoga student. So, I was able to make the adjustment and the pain resolved.

Motion Doctor is an app that was developed  by a PT to show you exactly how to perform each exercise...if you are lucky enough to have your own Ipad.  Please let me know if you have other great technological resources that will make weight loss easier and safer for the CT community.

You can read more about the Motion Doctor app at: http://www.motiondoctorapp.com/

Monday, July 18, 2011

BIG MOVES: A safe exercise routine for obese people who want to lose weight

Triathlons can be grueling events, even for the fittest of athletes. So, imagine everyone’s surprise at the 2006 Concreteman Triathlon in Springfield, MO when a man who was clearly on the plus side of 300 lbs showed up to compete. It wasn’t until after every other competitor had finished the 2-3 hour race that I noticed this man again. It was quite inspirational to see. As the rest of the competitors were driving away, and long after the awards for the top finishers were handed out, this man was laboring toward the finish line in 95 degree heat. Was he inspiring?…YES. Was he also a bit crazy? ABSOLUTELY. The chance for injury and perhaps much worse are pretty high in an individual competing in an endurance event in such condition. It is admirable to have such ambition. However, if you have the goal of competing in a triathlon, make that a long-term goal and take small steps each day toward it. This will increase the opportunity for a safe, enjoyable, life-long activity.

So where should you start? Increasing exercise activity is a crucial component for people who have weight to lose. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it will take 45-90 minutes of exercise per day, 5 days per week to achieve weight loss. I know that seems daunting for those with a significant amount of weight to lose or with chronic orthopedic issues. However, it can be done…safely! Here is a proposed regimen that almost anyone can do:

Day 1: Start the week off with a brisk walk. If 45-60 minutes is too ambitious, go as far as you can go. For each subsequent walk, add 5 minutes until you achieve at least 60 minutes. This is not a quick-fix. The goal is to achieve long-term health and wellness. If you just can’t tolerate the idea of a 60 minute continuous brisk walk, break up the walk into three walks of 20 minutes each. The key word in this discussion is “brisk”. In order to achieve maximum benefit, the intensity needs to be relatively high. Although some use 60% of max heart rate as their target heart rate for fat burning, I would go for 80% to increase the number of calories burned per hour. To calculate your target heart rate, subtract your age from 220, and multiply that number x .80. I would recommend you purchase an inexpensive heart rate monitor to give you visual feedback on how you are maintaining your intensity during your activity. Polar makes an excellent heart rate monitor that provides everything you need. I have included the link here to the monitor on Amazon:


Day 2: Hit the pool! Water exercise is great for those with weight related orthopedic chronic pain issues. The main reasons are:
  • The water decreases the effect of gravity and un-weights the joints. This allows for greater freedom of movement and longer activity duration.
  • The water improves blood flow. The hydrostatic pressure is greater at deeper depths and decreases in more shallow water. So, if you are standing in the water, this aids in getting blood back to the heart.
  • Water increases sensation all over the body. In general, this feels good, and provides feedback to the neurological system to help with balance and lessen pain.

There are many things you can do in the water, from low-impact water aerobic exercise and water walking, to higher intensity lap swimming and water polo. Whatever you decide, remember to wear your heart monitor. (The recommended on amazon.com is water resistant). You may notice it is a bit harder to hit your target heart rate doing water aerobics or walking. However, the nice thing about water is as you increase the speed of your activity, you will increase the resistance. The increase work will elevate your heart rate and help you achieve your target zone.

Day 3: By day 3, you will be ready for something different. A beginner yoga video or class would be a good choice. I know some people may be skeptical; I was as well. However, I have found that the improved mobility from the combined movement patterns, the mental discipline developed from pushing through the discomfort, the improved spinal alignment, and core strength gained from yoga has helped decrease pain and increase body awareness and fitness motivation.

There is a nice dvd specifically for obese patients who want to make yoga part of their fitness regimen. It is called Heavyweight Yoga. You can follow this link to get to the site: http://heartfeltyoga.com/shop.htm. In many communities, there are yoga studios with classes specifically designed for heavier individuals. So, don’t be afraid to give it a try. Yoga has become an important part of my fitness routine….but, I do take a pass on the “ohms”.

Day 4: Seated resistance exercises. Early in the weight loss program, it is important to focus on improving nutrition and aerobic types of exercise to maximize fat loss. However, incorporating some resistance exercise stimulates different muscle fibers, improves muscle tone, and facilitates increases in strength. For those who have a lot of weight to lose, many exercises can be done sitting down. In addition, you can do a whole body workout and still burn a lot of calories by doing an interval routine. That means you alternate between upper body and lower body exercises and perform the entire routine with just a couple brief rest breaks. Below is a link to a seated exercise routine that can be done at home:


Day 5: Finish off the week strong with a nice, long bike ride. You could possibly make this workout fall on a Saturday so you can take a little more time and really enjoy a longer workout.  For most, this is a good alternative to running because you can increase heart rate without all the excessive weight bearing that places high loads on the back, hips, knees and feet. In addition, if you get outside you can enjoy the views, and a 2 hour bike ride can go by quickly. Of course, that is great for the spring and fall and most of the summer, but what about the winter? Joining a spin class at a gym can be a great social activity and help keep you motivated and elevate your intensity.

On the 6th day, take a break! You deserve it. If you don’t feel like you can do this routine, do something.

The other day, my four-year-old son told his two-year-old sister that she could not have peanut butter because she was “electric” to it. I promise, you are not “electric” to exercise, even if you think you are going to have some sort of adverse reaction. Once you make it a part of your life, and start feeling changes in your well-being, you may even enjoy it!

Monday, July 4, 2011

The F A T Onion: peeling away the layers of bad habits that keep people from lasting weight control.


My favorite Facebook status update of all time was by a friend who said, “Mike is...still working on my before picture.” 
I remember laughing out loud when I read that. No, I am not saying my friend looks bad. I just mean it typically takes a great amount of time to become overweight, and it is going to take some time to reverse it. Jim Rohn, famous author and speaker, said, “Failure is not one cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.”
So why do we so often feel like we need to drop the weight immediately by going on some drastic calorie restriction diet? The concept that needs to be grasped is that weight loss should be a decision to live life well, not just to look good as soon as possible. I often think of when we go on a diet to shed some quick weight. We lose 20 pounds in a couple months, and look great! But then, the diet ends, and we go back to the old way of eating. Within a year, we are back to our old weight. What did that diet actually do? According to obesity research, it actually makes us LESS successful at weight loss in the future!
With that said, I want to introduce to you my philosophy of gaining control of your health.  I call it the “Fat Onion”. The idea is simply that, just like peeling an onion layer by layer, you “peel away” the things that have contributed to the weight you are now....for good. Well, we at least want to eliminate them as constant, habitual acts.
Here is how to do it:
  1. List every “vice” you have that contributed to your “before picture”. Each one will be represented by a layer of the onion. 
  2. Try to prioritize the list from the thing that is easiest for you to let go of to the hardest. 
  3. Start eliminating these habits (ie: peel the onion), with a new layer every thirty days. 
  4. There are NO SUBSTITUTIONS. You can not replace the onion layer with a new contributing habit. For example, one admirable layer that people like to peel is soda. However, they then replace that layer of the onion with other sugary choices like lemonade or sweet tea. In all likelihood, they are just eliminating a bit of carbonation, but no calories. If you are eliminating soda, I would recommend drinking a lot more water and have a sporadic glass of unsweetened tea or Crystal Light. That way, you can actually see a bit of progress for all your suffering! :)
The idea is, we must make changes and eliminate (or drastically reduce) things that have gotten us to where we are now, and substitute new habits to replace them that will help you move in the direction of your “after” picture.
For example, my wife and I were talking today and she was a little dissatisfied with her amount of belly fat. She just is at a loss for what to do. I said, “well, let’s talk about what you do that contributes to the problem.” One of the first things we mentioned is the extra calories we both get in food preparation and nibbling off the kids’ plates. 
This can easily be an 300 extra calories per day. Since 3500 calories equal a pound, that is potentially an extra 31 pounds per year! So, we decided this was an unnecessary luxury and we are going to eliminate it from our “fat onions”.
At the end of the 30 days, we can evaluate. Are we happy with the choice we have made? Have we made progress? Have we made progress but reached another plateau? As long as you are happy with your continued progress, you can just continue on as you have. Congratulations! You have created a new habit. If you have reached a plateau.....you guessed it....pick another layer of the onion.
This may not be the fastest or most dramatic weight loss plan. However, it is effective. If you can keep these unnecessary evils out of your life, it will also be long lasting. 
Now, finally, Mike...and you...can start working on your AFTER picture!