Monthly Archives: January 2010

Phone a Friend

If you read the last post by my guest blogger and wife, Andrea, you understand why it is so easy for me to be inspired and motivated to live a healthy lifestyle.  Besides being my life partner, Andrea is my fitness partner.  We share this common interest and have common goals.  It makes a huge difference for me.  And, if you asked me what ONE thing I do that keeps me on track with maintaining a healthy lifestyle, I will tell you, unequivocally, that it is having Andrea to share my fitness goals.  Hands down.  Not even close.  I am not sure I could do it without her.  Using sports vernacular, having her in this with me is “the key to the game.”   Because I share this with Andrea, it is easier to drag my lazy butt out of bed around 5am most mornings to workout and it easier to make healthy choices when it comes to nutrition.  It is easier because I know she is out there, too, doing the things she needs to do to keep fit, and I don’t want to let her down.  It is a partnership.

By having a fitness partner or group–whether you join a running/walking group, sign up for a yoga class, or set a regular running date with a friend–it will help you stay more committed to your fitness plan.  Depending on your interests, there are a myriad of partnerships and ways to help you reach your fitness goals.

Here are a some recommendations for keeping motivated and engaged in your fitness plan:

I am not saying that you have to get your spouse or significant other to sign on for the same exercise program or nutrition plan.  Andrea and I don’t do that.  She runs; I walk.  She trains for her personal races and has her favorite training routes; I have my own.  She has certain preferences for healthy food; I eat lots of M&Ms.   But, the overarching goal is the same – to achieve and maintain a healthly lifestyle.  We help push each other to make sure we get there.

Now get out there and find your motivation or partner.  You can do it.  And, sorry, Andrea is taken.

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You Have It Within You to Be Amazing

Today’s post is by a guest blogger, my lovely wife, Andrea. You can follow her on Twitter @AndreaApplegate.   

At the 2009 Komen Columbus Race for the Cure. Andrea is on the left.

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Miep Gies (meep geez) died recently. You may not be familiar with her, but under great personal threat from the Nazis, she and her husband hid Anne Frank’s family in the secret annex of the shop where she had worked for many years for Anne’s father, Otto. She was also the person who found and preserved Anne’s diary, ensuring the legacy of an extraordinary girl and giving the world a timeless piece of literature.    

I am fascinated by Gies’ perspective on what motivated her to do what she did. For the rest of her life, Gies rejected that she was a hero and refused to accept that she possessed any particular qualities that made her remarkable. One explanation she gave for her modesty was that she didn’t want others to think it takes some great strength of character to do what she did. She wanted us to understand that ordinary, everyday people can do extraordinary things. She said, “People should never think that you have to be a very special person to help those who need you.”    

In other words, Gies rejected the attitude that some people take on when faced with adversity: they throw their hands in the air and say, Nope, not me. It’s too tough. I don’t want to try. I’m afraid to take a risk. I can’t do it. According to Miep Gies, you can. And you should.  

It’s not unlike the attitude you need to run a marathon. You may know that I ran the Boston Marathon in April 2009. Though it was a tough, tough road, and this was only my second marathon, I ran every step of the way, from Hopkinton to Boylston Street. Normally, to get into this, the granddaddy of all marathons, you must meet a qualifying time. But I secured a spot by raising money for a charity, the Young Survivial Coalition. The YSC provides resources, support and advocacy for young women with breast cancer to ensure that no woman under 40 faces breast cancer alone. I was diagnosed when I was 33-years-old, and subsequently endured countless surgeries, six months of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, five years of Tamoxifin, and now five years of another drug. So, getting to Boston was a very long road indeed.    

When people hear I run marathons, or ran Boston, or when those who know my story hear that I ran on behalf of the YSC, they often say, “Wow, you’re amazing.”  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the compliment (I do!), and it’s not that I don’t like to think I am amazing (!), but, really, I’m not. I’m no more amazing than the next guy or girl. I am no more amazing than you.    

Running a marathon is an amazing accomplishment, there’s no doubt about it. The truth is, though, that the hardest part isn’t the 26.2 miles on race day, it’s all the weeks and months and miles that go into training for the event. There are, quite literally, no shortcuts to marathon preparation. You don’t need any special skills or qualities to do a marathon. All you need is commitment, dedication and a good pair of running shoes. Anyone can do it, anyone can run a marathon. In fact, anyone does. I ran Boston along side people who are blind (holding onto a short rope tethered to their guides who were also running), and others with prosthetic legs. And those were just the challenges that I could see. Who knows what personal obstacles people overcame to get to the race that day. Amazing.    

You, too, can do a marathon. Ordinary, everyday people can do it. And become amazing.  But maybe running a marathon is not your thing. I understand. But I know you have a “marathon” in your life: you have some challenge that otherwise overwhelms you, that is daunting, and seems impossible to overcome. But you can do it, you can get it done.   

Maybe your marathon is getting healthy & fit. Just like a marathon, it will require dedication, commitment and perserverence.  It will take time. Weeks, months of making slow, steady changes to your eating habits, building up endurance so you can be healthy & fit for the rest of your life. Just like a marathon, there are no shortcuts. But when you cross the “finish line”–when you realize that, without even trying, you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle–you will enjoy an amazing sense of accomplishment.   

Boston Marathon Finisher

Do you think the blind guy ever thought he’d run the Boston Marathon? Do you think the guy laying in the hospital bed after his leg was amputated ever thought he’d run again, let alone the Boston? I can assure you that, though I’ve always been a runner for fitness, when it was everything I had just to finish a 5K, it never occured to me that I’d ever be fit enough to run 26.2 miles, let alone in Boston.    

Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t avoid risk or shrink from challenge because you’re afraid that you don’t have it within you to do it. Because you do. You have it within you to be amazing.

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So…How’s that going for you?

Andrea and I were at the grocery store the other day when we ran into a friend who, right there, in the produce section, bragged about the diet he just started.  New Year, new diet, he proudly proclaimed.  We delighted to hear what crazy-ass approach he was taking to drop unwanted pounds.  We leaned in close as he continued, “It consists of eliminating all refined sugar and bleached flour.  Basically, any kind of white foods.”  Andrea and I gave a single, knowing nod to each other, because we’ve heard it all before.  Then I asked, “How’s that going for you?” “Great!” he said.  “I’m doing it again because, when I did it the last time, it worked, and I lost a ton of weight.”   

Really?  Really Joel?? (That’s his real name.)  Did you listen to what you just said?  You’re doing it again?  Because the last time you did it, it worked so well?  What do you mean, it worked?  And how do you define success?   That you are doing it again because you again have unwanted pounds to lose again indicates that, in fact, the diet did not work.  Just like my poker buddies, Lou, Steve, Mike, and Bob (their real names, too).  They get back on Atkins every year or two because, as they like to remind me, “Hey, Larry, you can lose a ton of weight.” Really.

This is the part of the blog I like to call “SERIOUSLY…!”

Seriously…!  What is with people and extreme diets where they give up some major food group because, by some twisted logic, they can (and do for awhile) drop “a ton of weight”?  The best I figure, they just cut out a ton of calories in a short period of time. Sure, anyone can lose weight with that strategy.  Andrea and I have one.  It’s the M&M diet. Just eat two fun packs of M&Ms (plain or peanut, doesn’t matter) for breakfast and lunch, and then a sensible meal for dinner.  And in 2 weeks, you’ll probably lose 6 pounds.  Again, anyone will lose weight when they starve their bodies of food, but is it sustainable?  Is it a long-term solution?  Have they changed their approach to food to incorporate healthy eating habits that they can follow for the rest of their lives?  Uh, no.

Hey, I am all for reducing consumption of refined sugars and bleached flour.  Great idea.  But severe restrictions? How healthy can that be?  (I am not a doctor.)  I don’t know anyone who has done an extreme diet who has not eventually packed on most, if not all, of the weight.  Some people end up in worse shape than before they started.  And lots of people find themselves caught in the yo-yo cycle of weight loss/weight gain.  This can’t be healthy, physically or emotionally. 

Quit dieting!  Quit trying to lose weight rapidly. Quit cutting out major food groups, or eating cereal two out of three meals a day, or whatever is the diet of the month.  And don’t set a goal to lose some ridiculous amount of weight in time for this summer’s high school reunion (hmmm…my 35th high school reunion is in June) or by Spring Break vacation with the kids to Florida.  That is setting yourself up for failure.  Again. 

Change your habits.  Eat healthy.  Be fit.  You’ll get to your goal weight and you’ll keep it off for the rest of your life.  It is about sustaining a healthy lifestyle!  

Now, please pass the M&Ms.

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It’s Just Arithmetic

Weight loss all comes down to simple arithmetic: addition and subtraction.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before, “Calories in, calories out.”  Or, as I like to say, “Eat less, move more.”  That’s it. That’s all there is to it.  And in your heart of hearts you know it to be true.  Why, then, is it so hard to lose weight, and why is it almost impossible to keep it off ?  After all, if it’s that easy–calories in, calories out–why do we have statistics showing that approximately 67% of adults in this country are overweight, and about 34% are classified as obese?  Staggering.  http://tiny.cc/jwXE0  And, childhood obesity?  Don’t get me started…

To understand what we need to do to get to a healthy body weight, and maintain it for the rest of our lives, let’s explore the calories in/calories out (CI/CO) formula.  First, what is a calorie, anyway?   A calorie is a unit measurement of energy.  Energy comes from the food we eat; it is the fuel source which our bodies consume like an engine to keep us moving.  If there is too much fuel (or too many calories), it accumulates in our body, primarily in the form of fat.  Our change in weight is determined by the number of calories we consume versus the number of calories we burn.  (Certainly, some people have an issue with their metabolism which contributes to their calorie expenditure, but for most, metabolism isn’t an issue and the basic CI/CO formula stands.)  The answer then, simply and elegantly, lies in calorie management.  Let’s break it down.

Once you know two basic facts, the arithmetic of the CI/CO formula is very easy.  First, one pound of body mass is the equivalent of 3,500 calories.  Second, to lose one pound (without surgery!) you have three options:  a. Expend 3,500 more calories of effort over and above your current level of physical activity, b. Consume 3,500 fewer calories of  fuel (aka, food), or c. Do some combination of both.  See, CI/CO.  That’s all there is to it.

Now comes the calorie management plan.  First, determine the total amount of weight you want to–or need to–lose.  Second, figure out how long it’s going to take.  It is important to limit weight loss to an average of 1/2 to 1 pound per week.  If you try to lose too much weight too quickly, not only will likely burn out and quit like most people on a diet (did you see me wince when I typed “diet”?), you risk losing muscle along with the fat.  So, let’s say your goal is to lose 25 pounds, which happens to be the weight loss goals of my buddies’ with whom I have The Bet.  By losing only 1/2 pound per week, it will take a little less than one year (50 weeks) to achieve your goal.  Because 1/2 pound equals 1,750 calories (3,500/2), when you divide it by 7 days, you only have a daily calorie deficit of 250.     

Doesn’t 250 calories sound manageable?  If you run or walk just 2 1/2 miles per day, you have 250 calories knocked out without even changing your eating habits.  How about cutting out a bag of chips and a soda, or the two cookies that you shouldn’t have eaten in the middle of the morning, or that 350 calorie “healthy” bran muffin, or that 400 calorie Starbucks latte?   I have a better idea, maybe try eating slightly smaller portions for dinner?  

By having a REASONABLE weight loss plan, you can make fairly easy choices to achieve the necessary daily calorie deficit, which will make your weight loss goal over a year very attainable, and, better yet, SUSTAINABLE.  Making better choices GRADUALLY over time helps you develop healthy HABITS that become part of your daily ROUTINE.  Rather than chasing a quick-fix weight loss mirage, you now are leading a healthy LIFESTYLE at your goal weight without even trying. 

As with any big endeavor, the key is to break down the effort into manageable components, and give yourself a reasonable timeframe to achieve your goal.  In the end, you will develop the routine and good habits needed to lose and maintain a healthy weight in order to sustain a healthy lifestyle.  Remember my favorite saying, “You didn’t put the weight on in 30 days, so quit trying to take it off in 30 days.”  Tape that to your refrigerator!

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I’d like to workout, but…

Runners (and many walkers) are funny creatures.  They collect motivational quotes about running–by runners and non-runners alike–and neatly compile them into books and websites as on-going celebration of their sport.  One such quote, attributed to a runner named Sarah Condor, goes like this: “Remember, the feeling you get from a good run is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were running.”

Maybe you’re not at a point in your fitness regime where you miss it when you skip a workout.  Maybe you’re relieved when circumstances prevent you from getting out for a run (or walk, as the case may be).  In fact, maybe you look for any excuse to avoid exercise.  I hear lots of excuses.  There must be a million reasons why people can’t get healthy and fit.  Do any of these sound familiar?

  • My child can’t be left alone; I have to care for and/or drive my child to school/practice/scouts
  • My schedule is too hectic; I have a big project at work/home/school that prevents me from working out, but once things settle down, I promise I will do it regularly
  • I can’t workout in the … humidity/dark/cold/wind/sun/rain
  • It is impossible for me to… get up early enough to exercise in the morning/find time over lunch; I’m too busy and/or I get distracted/have no energy after work
  • I can’t afford a…  gym membership/treadmill/personal trainer
  • I can’t be… outside in the fresh air/inside in the air conditioning
  • I don’t like to sweat
  • I hate to workout… alone/with a group
  • I suffer from… bad knees/arthritis/exercise-induced asthma/migraines/kidney stones/a heart condition
  • I’m in retail… (seriously, someone told me that just last week)

I have no doubt that these excuses are real.  Your child is too young to stay home alone.  Your schedule is unbelievably hectic (just like everybody else’s).  Dragging your sorry ass out of bed in the morning is excruciating.  And if your health problems prevent you from exercising, you should see a doctor right away

The fact is, this is your reality.  These are the cards that have been dealt you, so deal with them.  It is unrealistic to think you can wait till the day that the stars align and everything in your life is in perfect synchronicity…and then that’s the day you’ll work out.  Because, you know what?  That day will never come.  Ever.  You want to know why?  Because you’ll come up with new excuses, new reasons why it is impossible for you to stick with—or even start to—exercise. 

To become healthy and fit, you need to put aside those excuses—whatever they are—that prevent you from establishing a regular workout routine.  You need to work around them, power through them, walk ‘em off, find solutions.  You need to organize your life so that you can incorporate meaningful exercise into your weekly routine, and stick with it for the rest of your life.  You can do it.  You can figure it out. 

The reality is you’re never going to get healthy and fit otherwise. 

So, let’s adjust Sarah’s quote to make it a little more meaningful to you.  Print this out or write it on a sticky note to keep by your PC, in your wallet, on your refrigerator or in your Day Timer (old school) as motivation:  “Remember: the feeling you get from working out is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were healthy and fit.”

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Hey, Give Me Some Elbow Room!

Trying to fight your way onto one of the weight machines these days at the gym?  Locker rooms a lot messier?  Having to wait to get on the elliptical machine?  Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of room again in a couple of weeks when those New Year’s resolutions fade.  Don’t YOU be the one to fade. Stick with it!  But, pace yourself.  It’s not a sprint to good health; it’s a lifelong commitment. 

You need to create good health habits to help you do it.  Here are a couple tips:

1.  Set your workout routine weekly.  On Sunday, write out the weekly exercise schedule in your Day-Timer (old school), or in your Blackberry.  Make it an appointment, like any other appointment you schedule.  Review and revise the schedule again next Sunday.

2. Make just one small change in your exercise routine and one small change in your nutrition routine this MONTH.  It can be a small change such as walking the stairs at work, or substituting water for soda or diet soda (and yes, diet soda causes weight problems).  Make these small changes for January.   Stick with them. Then add one more small change to exercise and one small change in nutrition in February. Do it again for every month of the year.

Don’t worry about weight now.  It will begin to show on the scale after you start making small changes as you develop good fitness habits.

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It Was A Great Ride!

Dear UC Bearcat Football Players:

Thank you, each and every one you, for giving Bearcat fans a season to remember.  Never in my 40+ years of following Bearcat athletics, have I been as excited, inspired, and proud of a team than I am of you, the members of the 2009 UC football program.  What you have accomplished, both on and off the field, has captivated the hearts of a city and made the college football world stand up and take notice.

You should be proud of yourselves and your accomplishments.  You had a perfect 12-0 record during the regular season, the best in UC football history.  No one can take that away from you.  You have the best graduation rate of any Top 10 BCS team this year.  You understand what it means to be student-athletes.  And, finally, your off the field selfless acts, particularly adopting Mitch Stone, the 11-year old boy with brain cancer, was inspiring and heartwarming.   

UC students and Cincinnati residents alike have embraced you and rallied behind you this season.  You have taken us on an exciting ride, and you have lifted the football program, the University, and the city to new heights.  Congratulations on a remarkable season, and all the best to each of you in your future endeavors.  I look forward to kickoff of the first game next year.  I am Proudly Cincinnati!

Post Script:  For more information on the college adoption program and also another video of the history of Mitch and the UC Bearcats, please go to this link of The Friends of Jaclyn:   http://www.friendsofjaclyn.org/

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