Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Take Charge of Your Fitness!

Why do you go to the gym? I bet in the last ten years gym membership is at an all time high. Why is that? Especially this time of year. The gyms are packed. Weight loss is probably the most common reason people work out. Some do it for improved health as they get older, others just to socialize or be a part of something. There are many reasons people work-out but then there are plenty more reasons why people don't! That's why I'm challenging you to show some ownership! Take charge of YOUR fitness! It's yours, no one else, so if you're not happy with it, change it. Do something about it. When is the last time you found yourself wishing you could lose some weight or get in shape? I bet it was within the last week. Then why don't you? Even though membership is through the roof there are still a lot of people that don't go to the gym. I want to address some of the reasons I hear and how not to fall victim to these excuses.

I was talking with someone recently about fitness and goals and I asked them how often they planned to go to the gym. They really didn't know they just said that they were going to "try" to go 3 days a week. Well, trying is often times not good enough. Our intentions are great but our actions sometimes don't match up. What you need to do is make exercise a part of your day or week. Schedule it. Write it down. Put it on your calender. Make it as much a part of your day as eating or brushing your teeth. I hear people all the time say that they just don't have time. I have to call BS on that one. Take a day or a week and think about where you spend your time. Is it on the Internet or surfing Facebook? Careful on that one. I just started a FB account and I know the answer! Here's a good one, how about watching TV? You will be surprised when you take a close look at where you are spending your time. I think that what you'll will find is that you do have time to fit in exercise if you make it.

What about those New Year's Resolution's? So many people set these and never follow through. They may go to the gym for a week, maybe two but then stop. Some may even hang in there for a couple months but then slowly fade out. Why is this? One reason is that most people think that they have to work as hard as they can or work-out like they did back when they were playing high school sports. Then they find themselves very sore and unable to walk for a week and say "forget that", I'm not doing that anymore. I can't blame them, heck I wouldn't either. I'm too old for that. The answer is to start slow. You didn't gain all this weight overnight and you sure aren't going to lose it overnight. In fact, it's going to take a lot longer than it use to. Sorry to break that to you, but it gets harder as you get older. So hang in there. Take it slow. Don't try to kill yourself at the gym. If you use to be a runner back in the day but you haven't ran in years, WALK.(read my "Harder is Better" Post) Don't try to go out and run 5 miles the first day back. What happens is that most people start out too hard and try to pick up where they left off. Then they get discouraged and quit. Don't make this mistake.

There are even those that are faithful and workout 3-5 times every week and still aren't getting the desired effects. Is this you? Have you been working out for a year or so with minimal results? Why do you think this is? The biggest reason I see is that people don't have any goals. I love the saying "If you aim at nothing, you normally hit it" That is so true. What about this one? "You tend to miss 100% of the shots you don't take". I ask my class often why are they there. Why do you get out of bed at 5:00am in the morning to ride a bike that doesn't go anywhere? You have to have a reason for going to the gym. It doesn't have to be that your training for an Ironman or the Olympics or something. It just has to be something. It can be as simple as weight loss. If it is, then how much (see my Post on New Year's Resolutions about SMART goals) do you want to lose? How long do you want it to take to lose this weight? Set some goals. Be specific. Then track your goals. You are so much more likely to even go in the first place if you have a good reason.

I could write about this forever but I think these few things are enough to get you started. I know you have good intentions. I know you really want to do better. Well, what's holding you back? Don't let anything stand in your way of your own fitness. It's yours! You have to be the one. Don't let time be an excuse. Make time. Do away with some of the things in your life that do not add value. Make fitness a priority. Take it easy. Especially if you are just getting back into the swing of things. Don't try to be a hero. The odds are against you if you do. The chances of you quitting are really good if you do this. Then lastly, set some goals. Maybe you can set a long-term goal with plenty of short-term goals to help keep you focused. The bottom line is that YOU have to TAKE CHARGE of YOUR FITNESS! I'm no fitness professional but I've been doing this long enough to know a little bit about it so if you have any questions or need any help, let me know. Hang in there. Stay positive. When you get discouraged or tired and think you want to quit, think about why you are doing it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Base Building Works!

I've been preaching the benefits of aerobic base building for a while now and we are 5 week in to it. I feel great! I'll tell you later the tangible benefits I've already seen but let me share with you what I'm seeing out on the road. Friday after noon we climbed Suck Creek Mountain. Suck Creek is about 6 miles long but had a nice and easy grade of 6%. We had about 8 miles or so to warm up so when we got to the bottom we were ready to go. Typically I climb this mountain as hard as I can. I've only climbed it a couple times for training, the other times were in 3S3M Challenge. As we started the climb, my friend set the pace a little too high. My HR went up to around 170 which I didn't want to do because of base training. Although it is expected that your HR exceed your base training zone while climbing, I still wanted to keep it down as much as I could. I told my friend I was going to back off and let my HR settle in. We both agreed and did so. What happened was very encouraging. After I let my HR settle down to about 160bpm, I started focusing on my pedal stroke and breathing. before I knew it my hr was well under control and I felt incredible. My legs felt stronger than normal and I was still maintaining an average speed that I normally keep at a lot higher intensity. The bottom line is, I was able to climb this mountain at the same level of performance (speed/time) but with much less effort. What this means is that my heart, my CV System, my aerobic system is getting more efficient and stronger.

Sunday afternoon we went for another base ride. This time with 4 other folks, two of which are known to try to push the pace even though we are doing a base ride. Here's what happened. We rode for 2 hours at a pretty good pace. I averaged 139 but often times found myself at 25-30 mph. Granted, some of that was while drafting (another post later) but for the most part, I know it was because of the time spent in base training. My heart is getting stronger and my body is adapting to the low intensity training. It's becoming very efficient at burning fat as fuel! This is huge for a former Zone 3 Hero. I can't wait til base is over and I can start adding intervals and some LT work. In the mean time, I'm committed to the "Fat Burning Challenge", thanks to Melissa! If you are doing it, hang in there. It works and if you go to another instructor's High Intensity class, don't fall victim to the madness. Stay disciplined! You'll be glad this summer when you are hammering down the road with a low average HR because you can!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Anyone interested in doing a couple hours tomorrow afternoon? A few of us are riding from the bike shop (Suck Creek Cycles). Out Signal Mountain Blvd over Suck Creek. I think we'll head down the mountain into the Sequachee Valley for a while then back up the back side. Should be nice weather so if you are interested, let me know.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Isn't it amazing how our impressions are formed so quickly. I don't know about you but I'm bad about making a judgement based on an initial encounter with someone often times without really getting to know them. Am I the only one? Do you ever do this. Don't get me wrong, my inital impressions aren't always bad or judgmental, they are just that, intial impressions that can often shape a relationship or how you see others. I have to tell you a story about an encounter with two women in my class.

A month ago I was attending another Saturday class to gain experience and "learn" from other instructors. As I was working out, I noticed a couple women in front of me. I noticed that as the younger woman was trying to do the prescribed standing climbs, she was having difficulty keeping up. She would go as long as she could standing then would sit down. Struggling to keep up, she would do this over and over with her form getting worse each time. Finally I decided to "help" her so I proceeded to tell her that it was OK to stay seated and that she didn't have to feel like she had to do everything the instructor was telling us to do. I told her my favorite line that I use everyday in my class, that Spin class is an individual exercise in a group setting. As I was "helping" this woman, she looked at me like "who the heck are you pal" and kept on spinning. I continued working out, feeling that I had really ticked her off. She didn't have a clue who I was. She probably thought I was some know-it-all, indoor cycling hero or something. After class I approached them and introduced myself and tried to encourage them to come to my class and that I was an instructor for the early morning classes. Then we were off.

As I looked back on the experience, I thought, wow she was not receptive to my feedback at all, and that I was just trying to help. Right then my impression of this woman was formed. Not really in a bad way but just the fact that she was not receptive to my feedback and correction. I thought, wow, she really had a problem with me trying to "help".

A week or so later the two women start coming to my class. I re-intorduced myself and chatted for a second before class but mostly very shallow small talk. They continued coming to my class for a couple weeks. Well, yesterday I approached them after class and called the one by name and asked the other "what was your name again?" She replied, and I then asked them if they were friends or sisters. I was just trying to get to know them a little better when the oldest one smiled an said, "she's my daughter". We all laughed and joked about how they looked like sisters and the age difference and so forth. The mom mentioned riding outside and that she didn't have a good road bike that she hasn't invested in one yet but she did do a charity ride last year. Turns out she did the Saul Raisin ride last year. Saul is a kid from across the state line from Dalton, GA. He rode professionally with a French team named Credit Agricole. Saul unfortunately had a crash that almost cost him his life. He suffered a severe head injury and was told that he should never race again. Since then he has started raising money for victims of head injuries. The daughter looked at me and said "My mom rode for me in that ride last year". At that moment it clicked. My heart to the floor. I saw beneath the surface of the situation. Tears welled up in my eyes as I asked, what happened. She told me that she had a jet ski accident a while back and suffered severe trauma to her head and almost died. She was in a coma for 3 and a half months. I told her how sorry I was and that she looked great and seemed to be doing awesome now. Her mom told me how much they liked my class and that it help with balance and coordination. I was touched by the whole incident.

Somehow my age came up and the daughter said, wow, I thought you were my age (25). As usual, I laughed and joked that she was awesome and that when you get old flattery is good for you and stuff like that. Then she said " I told my mom that you were cute, and wondered if you were married". I again laughed and said thank you and thatI was flattered. She could tell I was humbled by the whole encounter and then said "I hope you are not offended by me telling you are cute". Getting the mom to agree, I told her again that flattery was good when your older. Then I said, Heck, I'm not offended, I'll give you a hug for that! We laughed and then went our seperate ways.

How I see it? Well, I learned again that next time I meet someone, I need to be careful not to be so quick to form impressions. I need to take time to see what's on the inside not just the outside. What's beneath the surface. What causes people to respond in certain ways. Who are they and why are they not receptive to you or your feedback? I saw her heart once I took the time to look at it and I was touched. How do you see it?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ride this Week-End?

The spring-like weather will be here this weekend and YOU are invited to come ride with us! We are meeting at the corner of Mahan Gap and Ooltewah-Georgetown Road in the big parking lot. Wheels down at 2:00pm. (that means rolling at 2:00 not airing your tires and putting on gear ;o) It's the parking lot on the right coming from the interstate.

We will be doing an easy loop at a super easy pace. If you feel like coming, let me know and I'll look for you. Don't miss this opportunity to get together and ride. Also, if you are doing the 3 State 3 Mountain Challenge, you had better start getting in some hours in the saddle! See you there at 2:00

Monday, February 2, 2009

Harder is Better? Maybe Not

Are you one of those that thinks that "if I don't work out hard every time I go to the gym, I'm not getting a good workout"? Don't get me wrong, as I mentioned in another post, I've been there. I was raised in the camp of no pain no gain, and blood, sweat, and tears, and sacrifice your body. Now, after years of hit or miss exercise, injuries, and average fitness gains, I'm not so sure that that mentality works. Are you one of these people? What usually happens after you set your New Years Resolution to get back in the gym? Are you still at it? You tell me.

I can tell you how it use to be for me and I bet for many others out there to. Maybe not you, because some of you are totally committed and love taking care of your bodies and have developed the habit of consistent working out. But for the majority of us, I've seen it year in and year out at the gym, after the first month or so we quit. It's too hard! It's not fun. Why do I kill myself? My back hurts. My muscles ache. I can't focus at work after working out so hard in the mornings. I'm soooo tired all the time. It doesn't even seem like I'm losing weight. I crave sugar all the time. I crash about 2:00pm. I'm getting sicker this year than usual. I'm not really seeing any significant gains anyway. Do these sound familiar? If they do continue reading.

After reading many, many articles on this and experiencing this for myself, I'm convinced that "harder is not better". Now, is there a place for "harder" workouts. Let's refer to harder as intensity for now on. Absolutely there is a place for intensity in your routine. I would bet that for some of you, that's all you know. That's why you get discouraged and quit, or maybe aren't as consistent as you want to be. Do you think that every time you go to the gym you have to work at a high intensity. Here's a better question. Do you even know how intense your workouts are? Do you have a Heart Rate Monitor? How are you measuring your intensity? That might be a place to start.

There are several ways to measure intensity. The first is by RPE or rate of perceived exertion. That's just simply how you feel. How hard it seems you are working. There are a dozen charts that describe RPE based on certain descriptors like "Hard" or " Near Breathless". These are obviously subjective and vary greatly among students. The other is by using a power meter which I have not yet tasted the cool-aid on so I won't go into that. And the other most common way to measure intensity is by measuring your heart rate. Your heart rate is how your heart reacts to a certain work load. It's not a measurement of work or force produced but simply how hard your heart or cardiovascular system is having to work in response to this effort. This too can be subjective but it's so much more objective than RPE. Several things can affect HR are things like quality and quantity of sleep, caffeine, illness, stress etc. Do yourself a favor if you are serious about fitness and get yourself a heart rate monitor. Google Polar Heart Rate Monitors. I recommend Polar and particularly the F-4 or F-6. You're going to spend anywhere from $80-$120 on one but don't panic. These are not your entry level HR monitors. Polar is the most popular and dependable brand on the market. There are other more expensive and less expensive brands but these are the ones I would recommend for anyone looking to get one.

Back to Intensity. It is a physiological fact that you burn fat as the primary source of fuel at lower intensities. If you train at a lower intensity for 8-12 weeks you actually train your body to become very efficient at burning fat as fuel. When you do that great things start to happen. (more about the benefits of aerobic base training later) On the other side of the coin, when you work out at a high intensity, you burn glucose (sugar), carbs, and calories as your primary source of fuel. Now this is very simplistic explanation of your body's different energy systems and what each uses for fuel but for the most part, they'll do for now. What is the first thing most overweight people do when they finally want to lose weight? They walk! Partly because they can't run or do much of anything else so they just simply walk. IF they are committed to walking and get out there regularly and walk, what happens? They start seeing results. They start losing weight. They start feeling better. They get MOTIVATED to do more and the cycle starts. What happens if they are fat and try to run 5 miles the first day? You guessed it. They quit and go to Krispy Kream because let's face it, they're never going to get into shape. There's just no use.

Don't be that guy/gal. Don't think that you have to kill yourself in the gym or on the track the first day back. Take it slow. You didn't get in this shape overnight and your not going to get in great shape overnight either. Get a HR MONITOR now. Set some goals. Have fun. Get over the idea that harder is better. Be smart. Educate yourself on the facts and don't listen to anyone that tells you otherwise. Remember, there is a time and place for high intensity workouts, it's just not the first few weeks after you set your NY Resolutions. I would tell you to go easy for 8-12 weeks. Trust me. It works. More on that later.....