Finding your Hidden Strength Reserves

It’s amazing really, so many indirect actions are perfect metaphors other areas of your life. Take exercise for instance. From my observations, your level of dedication to your workouts indicates:

-How disciplined you are in other daily or frequently recurring activities (uh, diet anyone?)
-How much effort you put into those activities, or barring that:
-How hard you push to complete or push those activities to the next level

Of course, regular workouts can also contribute to your well-being on a daily and ongoing basis, but I’m talking about the less frequently connected dots in life. For instance, little victories in life tend to lead to, or contribute to a belief that you can, accomplish small (and large) victories in other areas of life.

Take a look around the fabric of your week after a good workout or two. What did you accomplish in those workouts? What did you attempt? How did you challenge yourself?

Often, we find that the best victory (especially as you push past 40!) in a workout is finding out how much effort we could give. Realizing, ‘damn, I didn’t know I had it in me!’

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter that you didn’t reach the goal, or complete the WOD. What matters, and what is most exhilirating, is discovering a power within you that had been dormant or undiscovered. A power that surfaces through the expenditure of energy from a synergy of mind and body.

That is what lifts you up. That feeling is what drives you on. Empowerment makes you realize that you have barely tapped your own potential, and damn that feels good.

Here’s my empowering workout from today. I really didn’t know I had it in me, specifically that many pullups in one workout. I have been struggling with consistency and setting up the right combination of home gym equipment in my garage and backyard. Now, I can’t wait to load up another 50 lb. sandbag and add weight to my pullups!

Warm-up at track:

-Joint rotations (see instructions here. Just scroll past the first paragraph for the videos.)
-3 laps (jog/walk; sprint/walk; sprint/walk)
Coupled those with:

Finger-only pullups: 3 sets of 3-4 (on a fat steel beam, thus the fingers only)

At home:

5 supersets of:

-Kipping&strict pullups: x 3-4 (not to failure)
-Sandbag ‘hug’ lift from floor, 100# x 1-2 (not going for failure)
-Single arm ‘gas-mower starters’ with 80-120# power band x 5 each

So now it’s your turn. Go out and start exercising. Do what you do, Crossfitter, runner, triathlete, whatever. If you don’t do anything, just walk. Really push yourself. Reach deep. When you want to quit, keep going. After you ignore that quitter a few times you might just forget about it altogether.

Chances are, you will discover something about yourself that was long forgotten, or perhaps you never even knew about.

Cheers,
Mo

Great Fitness Ideas for Everyone to Stay in Shape

Exercise benefits young and old, sedentary and athletic, and whether you do it in a 24 Hour Fitness with machines and eliptical trainers, or in your backyard with stones and rusting dumbbells, the results are pretty much the same. Train hard, train often, and watch your diet. You’ll feel great and you will be healthier. Chances are you will also build some muscle and burn off a little fat while you’re at it.

Unfortunately, research from the National Institutes of Health and a few other prominent organizations claim that two segments of the population, teens and seniors, are becoming less fit in general, with obesity and related diseases on the rise as a result.

Having seen the benefits of physical therapy and regular exercise work miracles on my 78 year old father after he took a fall in his house, I was inspired to write out some ideas for seniors to get up and moving. This was the final product:

Easy Cardio and Endurance Exercise Activities for Seniors

It is a basic outline of some simple and not-so-simple cardio, resistance and balance exercises seniors can do with little or no equipment. The article also offers some inspiration. How about a 100 year old woman who can put an 8.8 lb. shot almost 14 feet?

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Where I live, I see an abundance of healthy teens being very active;  playing soccer, skateboarding, riding their bikes and playing baseball and softball, to name a few. Very rarely do I see an overweight teen. But according to ‘the research’ there are a growing number of overweight teens every year. Considering that I loved going to the gym when I was a teenager (and doing anything active,) it is hard to imagine being sedentary as a teen.

Then again, when I was growing up we had 13 channels and Atari was the reigning video game console of the day. Still, I figured there must be a reason why there are so many teenagers who are uninvolved in physical activities. Just like everyone else, the key is probably to do a wide variety of things and continue doing those you enjoy. In other words, find something you like and it isn’t ‘working out,’ it’s FUN.

Here are my ideas for teens who want to get in shape but get bored with traditional workouts or just need some new inspiration:

How to Stay Fit Without Boredom for Teens

So check these articles out, and if you know (or are) a senior or a teen who could benefit from these, please pass them along. Suggestions welcome 🙂

Not So Useless Biceps Muscles and The Exercises you Need to Try

As a 40 year-old guy I enjoy all kinds of exercise. If it keeps me strong, helps me stay flexible or increases my endurance it makes it into my workout/playtime rotation.
At this age, strength and muscle disappear fast if you don’t work at it, so resistance training is always a priority, even basic bodybuilding movements with traditional weights to hit every body part.
Yes, every. This means curls of some variation for the biceps, and even isolation work for those rear deltoids. I do this because, like every other muscle in the body, the biceps (or the posterior deltoids) are important and functional.They play a vital role in flexing the elbow and supinating the forearm, both movements which happen often throughout the day.
The biceps are a vital link between the anterior deltoids and the forearms, which is why I was surprised to read an article in a popular men’s magazine quoting trainers that claimed they were “useless.”
According to the short blurb in the magazine, the triceps were the more “important” muscles, and isolation work on the biceps was unnecessary and even dangerous. Claiming that “curls pull your shoulders forward and bend your elbows out” leaving you prone to injury, the quoted celebrity trainer also said too much biceps work would make your pecs look ‘droopy.’ Uh-huh.
eorthopod.com
So does this mean you should stop training your biceps?!?
No! As the magazine goes on to state, you will get plenty of biceps work from doing compound exercises like rows, pullups and even deadlifts.  But instead of ignoring these important muscles, try getting creative with how you work them. Forget the curls and consider these exercises:
-Hanging dumbbell rotations.
The biceps supinate the forearm, so why not add weight and resist this motion? Stand and hold a dumbbell in either hand hanging at your side, palms facing backwards, shoulders back. Grip the dumbbells firmly and rotate the hands until the palms are facing forward. Squeeze this position for 2-3 seconds and slowly return to the starting position.
Farmer’s Walks.
Holding dumbbells at your sides, walk with palms face forward or rotate as you walk as in the exercise above. Engage the biceps with a firm grip on the dumbbells. This exercise is also great with 8x8x16 mason blocks or a similar odd object.
Medicine ball curls.
Doing a curl with an open hand instead of with the fingers wrapped around a bar requires a slow, concentrated motion. Obviously some grip will be necessary, especially when you are lowering the ball, but open the hand through most of the movement. Start lighter and consider using one of the squishy sand-filled balls for this one.
While the majority of your workouts should involve compound exercises, don’t neglect the smaller muscle groups like the biceps from time to time. Undertraining these vital muscles can cause just as many problems as overtraining them.  Get creative and have fun!
For more interesting biceps routines, read this article:

The Life Saving Effects of Exercise

We all know that an active lifestyle is good for us. In fact, most of you would have a hard time getting through the day, let alone sleeping at night, without a good workout.

The effects of exercise are much wider reaching than we could have ever imagined however. Just about everything we do is dependent on staying active and keeping junk out of our bodies. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to try to tell you to put down those peanut M&M’s or skip the occasion cocktail, but just in case you are lacking motivation to workout on any given day, I offer the following reminders.

Exercise:

-Releases ‘good’ brain chemicals such as endorphins, catecholamines and brain-derived neurotropic factor. No you can’t get addicted to them. But they are primarily stimulated by exercise and affect everything from your mood to your heart rate; even your long term memory.

-Reduces bodyweight, but more importantly, reduces the visceral fat that likes to build up on our internal organs. It does ugly things like pump chemicals we don’t need into our system. Plus, it’s ugly, real ugly.

-Increases blood flow, improves orgasm, increases testosterone and growth factor hormones.

-Helps you sleep better and more soundly.

This list could go on for a couple more pages, but i think you get the idea. We were born into a world more sedentary than any our genetics were designed for. Resist the urge to watch that TV show when you get home from work.

Don’t sign on to Facebook or Twitter, I promise it will be there later.

Forget about exercising ‘later.’ Yeah, right, after a beer or a Jack n’ Coke?

Instead, start moving, get your heart rate up, build some muscle. Here is a little workout I like to do when I head to the garage for a beer and see my gym staring me in the face. I think ‘oooooh, but I don’t have the energy…sniffle sniffle.’ The cure for that? Get moving!

You don’t have to change into your workout clothes (maybe you should if you’re not in your pajamas yet.)

Just start rotating your neck, gently now, it’s stiff from staring at a screen all day I bet. Now swinging an arm around in circles, small at first, then full arcing circles. Now switch to the other. If you want you can swing both around and run around in circles making airplane noises, whatever gets you going.

Now rotate those hips, loosen up, that’s it. You know how to move your hips!

Ok, start doing calf raises, don’t worry about weight for now. Just rise up and down on your toes, squeeze the calves at the top, now go faster, now pause at the top. Give yourself a number to hit. “I’m going to 20, 30,…”

Now bounce up and down in a partial squat while swinging your arms. Not a full squat, wait until you’re warm. Get that stretch reflex in those leg muscles going. When you feel ready, start launching off the ground.

That’s it, you’re doing mini jump squats, plyometrics; build up to a high jump and knock out 20 or so of those. Feeling good? Right on, now the blood is flowing! The beer is still in the ‘fridge, but it seems a little farther away now…

Ok, quick, arms out to the sides and rotate your trunk. Swing from side to side. After a few, squeeze the obliques on each side for about 2 seconds, release and repeat on the other side.

Now, if you are feeling warm, choose an exercise. Not two, not three. Not a whole bodybuilding program for a specific bodypart, not even a whole workout routine named after some random woman.

In my garage I see:

-Homemade sandbags, 40-80 lbs. I can choose the 80 and do lifts off the ground. Catch it in a full squat, then heave onto one shoulder. Start with three hard sets, then decide what else, if anything, i want to do.

-Pullup Bar/Homemade Gymnastics Rings: Hop on either one and start off by doing nothing but hanging while engaging your scapula. (Pull it back and down.) They call this active shoulder hangs.

When I’m ready I start doing pullups. I’ll mix it up though. First hangs, then without letting go, pullups; without letting go I do knee or leg raises. Now, if I am on the rings I can swing my legs over and do flips or inverted positions, you see?

-Dumbbells: There in the middle of the rug are dumbbells, ready to clean and press. Hell, 5 sets of that and I won’t feel bad about a beer at all! Great workout.

-Homemade Indian clubs: On the wall I have several homemade clubbells, a homemade mace, i can just pick any of these up and start swinging and swaying. Talk about getting the blood pumping!

You may not have any of this, but that’s ok. Get on the floor, do pushups. Change the hand position. Don’t pushup, just see how long you can hold yourself up. Do leg raises, squats, supermans, even shadowboxing.

Your workouts always deserve to be priority number one! So give them all you’ve got, even if you’d rather have a drink and watch TV. You will never regret ignoring that urge and exercising instead. Never.

Workout Motivation

To be honest with you, working out can sometimes be a real pain in the ass. If for no other reason than some days you feel like you are banging your head against the wall, and going nowhere fast. This mindset is easy to absorb in a society fraught with obesity, one in which dietary excess is glorified while ‘vain obsessed physical fitness/gym rats/insert your term here,’ are sometimes mocked for their dedication.

Then the excuses can kick in: ‘What’s the point? I don’t need to be in good shape, I sit in an office all day.’
‘I’m just too tired when I wake up in the morning/get home from work.’ ‘I need my energy for work/taking care of the kids, it is just not feasible to waste time and energy working out.’

What about the times you allow yourself to believe all the crap anyone ever helped you convince yourself of?

-There is no way you can get that strong, those guys/girls have been doing that for years. Plus they are naturally gifted.

-With all that extra weight on you, it’s not a good idea to run or overdo it, it might put too much strain on your already overworked heart.

-I’m too skinny, I can’t put on muscle.

-I’m too fat, I can’t run.

-This or that injury is something I have to learn to live with.

Damn, this could go on all day. You have to run errands, fix dinner, get a presentation together, make phone calls, etc., etc., etc. 


And you know what? Even if everything I said above, and anything you may have added to it is the absolute truth, it does not matter.

Exercise, whatever it is, is not done just to lose weight, or to get ready for competition, or to gain muscle and strength. These are direct benefits yes. But here is one more: Exercise is good for your brain.  Especially cardiovascular exercise. And when your brain is clear, every aspect of your day is going to go better.

Exercise is also a natural bodily function. We are designed to move, as a car is designed to run. Sorry for the cliche analogy but it fits. When a car sits, never turned on and never cared for, it rots; from the inside out. The oil gets thick and gunks up the motor. Batteries corrode and that corrosion crawls up the wires.

Sadly, the human body is not much different. Let it sit and neglect to run it often enough, and it develops circulation problems, muscles atrophy, and the motor begins to have trouble running smoothly (the heart.)

But the truth is, you and I don’t need any of these reasons to start moving;  to go after a physical goal, no matter how old you are or how ridiculous it may seem. Know why? Because you may only have today to do it, and personally, I don’t want to miss out on the feeling of being alive. That’s right. Alive. A feeling I get every time I push myself, feel my muscles straining, burning, my lungs laboring to suck in air.

I haven’t run in awhile? So what, thank God it’s burning, it means I was able to run fast enough that it hurt. I’m alive!

Not as strong as I used to be? Who cares? It feels good to lift heavy, no matter what heavy is on that day.  The feeling of power and strength surging through me is like a fountain of youth! I can’t wait to do more!

When the workout is finished it may have been shorter than expected, or maybe expectations were exceeded, but I guarantee it didn’t fail to teach me something about myself; about what it means to be human; and by the end it erases any doubts about why I started exercising today in the first place. It doesn’t take much, just start stepping, start moving, and don’t stop until you feel alive.