live it active


10 Things that are Awesome

It’s Friday and I thought heck, why not post something funny and slightly unrelated to exercise/health/fitness.

This morning I arrived at school to find a wrapped present on my desk. Awesome. After unwrapping I was surprised and touched to find The Book of Awesome given by a good friend. The gift itself and the meaning behind it is just, well, awesome.

If you aren’t aware of the book, each page is dedicated to events/things/thoughts that happen everyday which are just plain ol’ awesome. Some are hilarious/thoughtful/true and I just needed to share.

Things that are awesome:

  1. Getting the eyelash out of your eye – “Eyeballs do not want to be touched”. This quote along with the different types of eyelash removal options made me laugh out loud.
  2. Hearing a stranger fart in public (priceless).
  3. Licking the batter off the beaters of a cake mixer (this drives Evan crazy due to the raw eggs – I’ve been doing this since 6 so I think I’ve built up some resistance).
  4. Tripping and realizing no one saw you.
  5. Fixing electronics by smacking them (this is a common practice for me).
  6. Your colon (random, but awesome).
  7. The first shower you take after not showering for a really long time (come on, we’ve all been camping)
  8. When your sneeze stalls for a second and then suddenly comes booming out.
  9. When there’s leftover cake in the office kitchen (my old co-workers will appreciate this one as they were ALL well aware of my love of desserts…).
  10. Remembering how lucky we are to be here right now.

I may add just one other which is very relevant to the events of today – getting up at 4:50 to watch the Royal wedding with a good friend. What a treat and a great start to the day.

Have an awesome weekend!

M

P.S. If you want to check out the Awesome website click here!


Wednesday Workout Tip: Lose the Gatorade

Gatorade is full of sugar (check out the nutrition label). While Gatorade seems to have dropped high fructose corn syrup (as of 2010 according to Consumer Reports) it is undeniably composed of sugar, sugar and more sugar. Yes, sugar is the new fixation in current media and with good reason. It’s in a lot of food products even when it doesn’t need to be (high fructose corn syrup that is).  

So why am I saying lose the Gatorade? Well, because you probably don’t need it. Yes, athletes do consume the beverage to restore blood glucose levels during exercise and replenish depleted glycogen stores post-exercise.  Yet, athletes are not the main consumers of the sticky beverage. Kids/teens/young adults are the primary consumers of Gatorade. And the type of exercise that most kids/teens/young adults and most adults are doing is not going to deplete glycogen stores to dangerously low levels. That takes a while. Most of us aren’t even going to exercise to the point of dehydration (I know running room begs to differ with its handy water bottle belt).

I remember when I had my track meets in high school and I convinced my parents to buy me Gatorade. I thought I needed it. I thought it would make me perform better. It didn’t. Actually, by the end of the day I usually felt awful which can be attributed to both the shivering from extreme weather conditions and/or the large quantities of sugar consumed (most likely the latter).

Kids don’t need any more high fructose corn syrup. Approximately 26% of Canadian children between 2-17 years of age are overweight or obese. I know, I know you’ve heard this before. But it’s scary stuff and we need to be aware, accept it and do something about it.

So lose the Gatorade on your run today. Set an example for your kids/cousins/nieces/nephews. If you desperately feel the need for it, I would encourage you to try something out. Run without it one day and with it on another and compare how you feel. Any different?

M    

P.S. If you’re interested check out RunnerDude’s Blog who discusses natural options for energy during and after your run. Very cool ideas. Caution with the coconut water as running is a natural diuretic…


Evil Sugar: Both Sides of the Debate

“It rots your teeth” “It makes you crabby” “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”

Yes, today I am talking about sugar. I recently watched a lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig who discusses sugar and how evil it really is, referring to it as a toxin. He provides a clear and concise description of how sugar effects hepatocytes (your liver cells) comparing it with ethanol to demonstrate its similarities to a well-known toxin. He is specifically referring to fructose. You may have heard of it in a little something called high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is in just about everything we eat (slight exaggeration, but seriously, read the ingredients of your bread). HFCS is one of the main ingredients in soda/pop/fizzy garbage and juice. He pulls together a number of illustrative studies that show the deleterious effects of HFCS on weight, obesity, and health risk. All in all, a great lecture that I encourage all of you to watch.

The debut of this lecture and the article by Gary Taubes (which referenced the lecture) was met with slight resistance from other medical professionals. I just read the rebuttal by Dr. David Katz. It was well-written with a number of excellent points about natural selection, the importance of sugar, etc., etc. Yet, I was disappointed. I understand why Katz discusses natural selection/evolution – because those who had a palate for sweet were more likely to survive. Thus, our survival is largely predicated on the like/dislike of sugar. But, discussing evolution really didn’t change my view on Lustig, in fact it frustrated me because it seemed like Katz was using points that Lustig wasn’t debating at all. Lustig wasn’t arguing against the importance/role of sugar in our evolution as a species. He was merely presenting the facts, showing the difference between sugars (lactose, glucose, sucrose, fructose), and touching on the dangers of it due to the changes in quality (HFCS) and quantity consumed.

Katz goes on to state that “Lustig seems to be tossing out the strawberries with the soda”. If you watch the lecture, I want you to listen for this. Does he say to stop eating fruit? Nope. Well, if he did I missed it. In fact Lustig states that fructose found naturally (such as in fruit) is always accompanied by fibre. Fibre helps to counteract some of the negative effects of large doses of fructose as it helps with gastric motility (reducing the amount of time for absorption in the intestine). I believe Lustig actually comments on how fruit are good things.

Both physicians have some good points. But I think it is important for you to watch the lecture and read the article and make your own assessment. I know where I stand on this one, but I don’t know where you do. Only you can make that call. Knowing and understanding how different foods (a.k.a sugars) affect your body both acutely and chronically is important. If you click on the links above they will take you to both the lecture and the rebuttal article.

Happy reading and happy Monday.

M


Happy Easter Egg Hunting

This year, why not turn your egg hunt into a family affair? Even if you’re an adult child visiting mom and dad with no little ones to speak of, why not have an egg hunt? Seriously, why not?

The entire process of purchasing, hiding and hunting for the eggs will cause a slight calorie burn (even though eating the eggs may negate all the effort). If you want to, increase the intensity. Make it a race, a competition, or add in an obstacle course – get crazy (or not). The more crazy, the more fun, the more laughs, the more calories burned…not that everything is about the calories and I bet you want me to shut-up about calories, especially this weekend (and especially because I rarely talk about them). It’s true, I rarely talk about calories but they are important to consider – especially when energy intake is likely going to exceed energy output such as during this weekend.

Yet my reason for posting about egg hunting wasn’t to discuss calories. It was more so to help make physical activity fun (if only for this weekend). Making it fun, crazy, or competitive almost prohibits you from thinking that you’re exercising. I’m totally serious. If you’re having fun doing something active you are likely not going to consider it exercise – exercise is associated with the gym, feelings of resentment, and oftentimes boredom.

So make physical activity fun this weekend. And if you find yourself enjoying it why not make it fun all year round? It’s totally possible. Re-associating exercise with fun physical activity may help you stick with it. It doesn’t always have to be physically demanding/exhausting/boring to be good for you.

Happy Easter and happy hunting.

M


Wednesday Workout Tip: Lift Weights

How many of you go to the gym and run/cycle/swim, shower and then leave? I would hasten a bet that most of you primarily do cardio. That’s great. No problem with cardio – it will improve your fitness which will reduce risks for cardiovascular disease and mortality. Yet, weight training should be an integral component of your workout routine. Why? It’s good for your muscle strength and endurance, bones, and metabolism.

I never used to weight train. I used the elliptical for 20 minutes or ran outside and called it a day. I was afraid of the weight room, the machines, the grunts. Then I went to the gym with a friend who used weights, regularly. So I started using free-weights, venturing into unknown territory. After a few months of doing very basic weight training (bicep curls, crunches, squats, lunges) I started to notice a definite change in my body. I had a lot more lean muscle, and my weight became a lot more stable.

Increasing lean muscle mass will increases resting metabolic rate (RMR). RMR is determined by a number of variables – height, weight, sex, genetics. In short, it’s the number of calories you need a day to function. Women are typically around 1200-1500 kcals/day while men are around 2000-2200 kcals/day. The greater your muscle mass, the greater your RMR. So not only will you feel/look better but you will also increase your resting metabolism.

If you are nervous about free-weights or using the machines there are a number of things you can do. First, if you go to a gym ask for a free weight machine tour/explanation. This should be an included service – if they ask for money then ask a friend. If you are so inclined, you can sign up for a few personal training sessions to get a feel for weights and how to properly use them. I cannot stress how important form and safety is. However, having a personal trainer does not necessarily mean you’re safe. Ask about their credentials –some gyms such as Goodlife employee personal trainers not yet certified. The best certification a trainer can have is through the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. This certification requires that the trainer have education in kinesiology and health. Can-Fit-Pro, while well-known does not require trainers to have any education in kinesiology/health/etc. So anyone (your granny, for example) could become a certified personal trainer through this institution. Lastly, ask a friend who you trust for some instruction. While gym classes are good places to learn new ideas and routines there isn’t a strong focus on adequate form, so I would encourage you to attend those after learning the basics.

Be brave and ask for help. Weight training does not need to be intense to be beneficial.

Safe and happy lifting.

M


On Training, Maintaining, and Enjoying

The questions: “How’s your training going?” and “Still doing that streak?”

My answers: “Non-existent” and “Not happening”

It would seem my motivation is definitely lacking. And it is. I know that I am supposed to be the motivating one giving you (my amazing readers) tips/tricks/ideas on how to maintain your motivation. Yet, today I thought it may be a good idea to share that I am not always motivated. That sometimes motivation will leave even the most motivated. And that’s OK.

I know that I will find my motivation again. I will get back on the bike and start cycling. I will lace up my running shoes and get back running. How do I know? Because I always get back on the exercise-train, even during my lulls. My motivation comes from a lot of places, but often I just get the feeling that I need to move, to sweat and feel the endorphin rush.

I wanted to share this period/stage/moment with you so that you know that these things happen. And that when they do, you should NOT beat yourself up. Instead, enjoy the momentary break. Beating yourself up and ruminating on what went wrong is going to make it worse.

If you’re feeling unmotivated and/or down about your exercise routine, here are some snappy and hopefully helpful hints to move through it (and believe me, I am definitely going to be utilizing some of these in the very near future):

  1. Enjoy the momentary break (but don’t let it go on for too long)
  2. Take a walk (even a quick tootle around town may trigger some feel-good endorphins and kick you back into gear)
  3. Find your favorite tune and dance to it (down the street, in the office, in your car, in the shower)
  4. Download some new tunes
  5. Ask a friend for their workout routine – change is good
  6. Sign-up for a race and fundraise for a cause close to your heart (there are always plenty going on, especially this time of year)
  7. Do a bootcamp class – a total butt-kicking may work wonders or be a complete disaster, make the choice that works for you

There are so many other things you can do to get motivated again. The number one thing to remember is not to be too hard on yourself.

Please share what motivates you during the lulls (via the comment board or email at liveitactive@gmail.com. I would love to hear some fresh ideas!

M


“It’s not the time, but the will that is lacking”

“In truth, people can generally make time for what they choose to do; it is not really the time but the will that is lacking” ~ Sir John Lubbock.

I realize that some of you will disagree with this sentiment. I appreciate that time is often lost in the hustle and bustle of our days, but you need to seek it out – easier said than done, I totally understand. Even if you’re not making time for exercise, make time to be mentally still (if only for a few minutes a day). I don’t often take time to be mentally still/calm/quiet.

I would encourage you to make time for something that makes you happy. While many of you will argue that TV makes you happy (which it can) I would encourage you to seek out something a little more active and engaging. Even if that means reading, or walking the dog, or taking a 10 minute meditation break – it’s important.

Find the will to find the time. It will be hard, but it will be rewarding. I am going to work at doing this too.

M


Wednesday Workout Tip: Take TV breaks

As much as I would like to say limit your television use, I watch TV and really enjoy it. But I do try to take breaks at commercials. What do I mean? I get up, I stand, I stretch. I am chronically sore from exercising, sitting too long, well,  just about anything (thanks Dad for those genes). Anyways, I can’t sit too long without starting to stiffen up.

So next time you’re watching television, don’t sit through the commercials. Finish the laundry, save the dinner dishes and do them in between, take out the garbage, vacuum the living room. If you don’t feel like doing chores (because who does) why not do some squats, wall push-ups, planks, or stretching.

Here are some ideas/images/instructions:

Squats: Check out this video for an idea on proper form. Now, I assume that most of you do not own a 60-80 lbs barbel and store it in your living room. So I wouldn’t worry about adding weights to your commercial squats routine. If you are feeling up for the challenge grab some soup cans, or something with a bit more weight and place and hold the cans on your shoulders. But above all else, do not let this compromise your form.

Wall Push-Ups: I know most of you can figure this one out, but check out this site for some helpful tips. You want to ensure that when you place your hands on the wall, they are at shoulder height and width apart. If you aren’t feeling anything with this, go to the floor. Start out using your knees as pivot points and then move to your feet. I want to stress that your hands should be directly under your shoulders. If they are too far forward this is going to cause some serious strain on your shoulders and back.

Planks: Many of you may not like planks but they are actually the best thing for your core. I appreciate that they are hard, but once you start you won’t stop. For some instruction on form check out this site. While crunches and sit-ups work on your abdominal muscles, they do not strengthen your lower back. With an improvement in the abdominal muscles, many will experience back pain which is due to the muscles in the back being pulled forward by the strengthened ab muscles. So, be careful with those.

Utilize those commercials and take some TV breaks. You may not think you’re doing a lot, but you’re doing a lot more than you were sitting and watching commercials!

Happy TV breaking.

M


On Protein – Composition is Important

“Stay away from red meat” “Red meat is high in cholesterol” “Red meat is bad”

Most of us have heard these statements, many times. Quite frankly, I find it confusing given that our Paleolithic ancestors got 45-60% of their daily calories from protein. How do we know this? From the study of current hunter/gatherer populations. Paradoxically, these populations have a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease and a few other chronic conditions.

So how can these populations eat a vast quantity of red meat and still be healthier? Isn’t red meat full of cholesterol – the exact stuff that causes your arteries to clog up? Well, the red meat that a proportion of hunter/gatherers eat is extremely lean with 2-4% fat by weight, which is largely monounsaturated. The protein we have access to in the grocery stores is 20-25% by weight and it is composed primarily of saturated fat…not the best stuff. This is largely due to the current diet of most cows and pigs – one of grain, grain and more grain. This is not the stuff they were evolved to survive on, but it is the stuff that creates that beautiful marbling effect which we just seem to live for in North America.

So what to do? Well, I appreciate that protein is expensive, especially protein that is grass-fed, massaged, taken to the spa, etc., etc. I don’t have the money to go and purchase the good stuff and therefore cannot tell you to. All I wanted to do, is increase the awareness and understanding about the serious differences between the protein of today and that of the past. Be a savvy shopper – know what you’re eating.

The more you know, the better decisions you can make.

Happy protein-eating.

M


Wednesday’s Workout Tip: Start Skipping

Can’t fit a full workout in, but want to get a good sweat going? Grab a skipping rope.

In the early 1990s a group of researchers compiled a list of physical activities and their associated intensities. While there are some serious limitations to the Compendium of Physical Activity (its formal name) it provides a general idea of the metabolic cost of a number of physical, occupational, and leisure time activities.

If you skip at a fairly high-intensity (you would not be able to hold a conversation) for 10 minutes and weighed approximately 62 kg, you would burn about 124 kcals. How do I know that? I used the following formula:

(Intensity (METs) x body weight (kg)) x (duration (min)/60 minutes)

What are METs? METs or metabolic equivalents are a measure of intensity and can be converted to a more understandable unit of energy expenditure – calories. 1 MET is what we are burning at rest and is equivalent to 3.5 ml oxygen/kg of body weight (how much oxygen we consume gives an indication of our energy expenditure). 

From the Compendium of Physical Activity high-, moderate-, and low-intensity skipping are associated with an intensity of 12, 10, and 8 METs, respectively. Note: during low-intensity skipping you would be able to carry on a conversation.

OK let’s run through one more example:

Your weight is approximately 50 kg and skip for 15 minutes at a moderate-intensity.

=(10 METs x 50 kg) x (15 min/60 min)

= 125 kcals OR 8.3 kcal/min  

It’s amazing what you can accomplish in such a short period of time. Skipping ropes are inexpensive, portable, and provide excellent calorie burns in a short period of time.

Happy skipping!

M

Ainsworth et al. 1993. Compendium of physical activities: classification of energy costs of human physical activities. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise: 25(1);71-80.

Picture courtesy of Caza_N0_7, Flickr


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