Fitness and Healthy Aging

CONTENTS:

Older couple riding bikeHealthy Aging & YOU – The Keys to Healthy Aging

“Becoming an Example of the Change You Wish to See in the World”

My goal is to run a 6 minute mile on my 80th birthday. I set it when I wrote my book “On Turning 60: Defining my Life From Now On” in 2006. I started running “birthday miles” years ago as a way of challenging myself and learning more about myself – mentally, physically – and spiritually.

I started a running program during my freshman year at Syracuse University in the fall of 1964 as a way of relieving the stress of living a new and alien environment (I am from Hawaii). My life since then has centered on remaining fit and strong and for the most part I have succeeded beyond my wildest imagination. The purpose of this article is to examine the fundamental principles I have used during the past 48 years to arrive at this moment in time.

Jack LalanneI am an example of the change I wish to see in the world – just as one of my heroes Jack Lalanne was during his long and amazing lifetime. This is the first principle of healthy aging: Commitment to a purpose that transcends your own life and encompasses significant change by the way you live out your vision as what is possible.

The vision I have is one of a world where we each are accountable and responsible for our choices every day of our lives and that are made in the present. Being in the present is one of the keys to healthy aging for it is truly a “consciousness issue” when we feel the power in our choices and know that there are always consequences – even when we “choose NOT to choose”. Defining your purpose is critical to remaining vital in our later years and supporting it with positive action reinforces the driving emotional and spiritual forces behind it. Set your course early in life and see what happens as you grow.

My life is built around training mentally, physically and spiritually each day. I find that in moments of quiet meditation and prayer I access my inner potential through my thoughts and feelings – and these include my fears. My most significant fear at this point in my life is NOT doing what I was sent here to do and this captures for me the true importance of training each and every day of my life.

Access Your Inner Potential Through MeditationI am prepared to share my message through my mid 70’s – and beyond – because I know it is the reason I have spent the last 66 years  learning what it is I am here to do. Retirement does not even enter my mind as it is the thing that I believe leads to an early death.

If we are to truly tap our potential in life we MUST be willing to spend our later years sharing our wisdom and passion with others when we truly DO know ourselves. Being authentic takes time and effort and energy – it is something to be treasured because if we become our message then the world will shift with us and make new choices that enhance our total quality of life.

Finally, the fitness I enjoy today represents all the “inner work” (and of course the training sessions as well) that I have done since 1985 when I found my own spiritual path. Suffice it to say that on this journey I have learned a great deal about myself and why I am here. I am training hard with my both my running and weightlifting programs and learning about my potential in the process.

I recently experienced a “breakthrough” by completing my 7 mile run (on the treadmill) in 38:44 which translates to an average of 5:33 per mile! I have averaged under a 6 minute pace in most of my workouts in the last two months which of course means that I am on track to achieve my future objectives – IF I don’t get hurt or sick. I am still very passionate about my running and over the past 48 years I have run approximately 70,000 miles – 98 percent of those miles outside on the roads or the track. Running has been my constant companion throughout my life and because I committed to it early in my life I am here today – ready to serve those that never had the opportunity to learn what I have learned throughout my life.

This is the first of what I hope will be many articles on the subject of healthy aging from my perspective as both a personal trainer over a 22 year span – and as a runner of almost a half a century. I am passionate about my future as a result and am ready to engage in the dialogue that will someday give us the answers that we all seek when it comes to getting “older” – not OLD!   Nick Prukop – [email protected]

See Also:

The Case for Fitness and Healthy Aging

In this series on healthy aging, an important principle that has emerged throughout my writing on this subject has been the issue of fitness and the role being fit plays in preventing illness and injury, yielding a fulfilling and vibrant life – a “life well lived”. The point of healthy aging is to be in a position as we grow older “to do what we want when we want without getting hurt”. I have always believed that my level of fitness would yield positive results as I got older emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually – and so far I have been proven right in my own life. The “fitness lifestyle” is a consciousness issue just as healthy aging is as well. I make choices everyday that are designed to enhance my ability to live the way I choose. This always includes high intensity, focused training which will (hopefully) prepare me for the challenging years ahead.

Speaking, traveling, teaching, program design, consulting, writing and other activities that I wish to do in my future will require focus, high energy, inspiration, imagination, and physical stamina and endurance. The ability to train the way I am now will translate into the future actions that will yield the result I envision for audiences in the years ahead. Planning for a future that requires me to be prepared to do my work at a high level will also demand that I be as fit as I can be in order to give me the strength to help as many people as I possibly can – while I can. This is my mission – and my purpose.

This article is about something I think about EVERY day. Each of my actions, decisions, and thoughts are applied to the outcome that I seek with every step I take in becoming stronger, faster, quicker, more powerful, balanced, imaginative, flexible and skilled. My purpose is to be able to PERFORM at a high level even as I approach my 70’s and this is the point of my plan – and these articles in this series. How fit are you today for the future you envision for yourself? Does your vision inspire you to reach beyond your grasp? Does it “pull you forward” so that you will take the actions necessary to enable and empower you for the journey ahead? Only you can answer this question! Do it now!

Discussion

Power, speed, quickness, strength, endurance, balance & flexibility: The “core” of healthy aging and growing old – not old.

I think of training in terms of performance and so much of fitness today is “gimmicks” – programs designed for the “few” in America who are NOT the obese, overweight, poorly trained, seniors, and youth. The “fatting” of America does NOT include practical programming on TV, the internet – or anywhere for that matter – that appeals to the average, untrained individual struggling just to live a ‘moderately’ happy life. I see this huge “hole” in our society everyday when I go out into the world where the “connection” between being fit and “regular” people is NEVER being made. To most of the world, fitness – or becoming fit – means acquiring a gym membership with all the “hassles” that implies and THAT isn’t healthy or inspiring at ALL!

I worked in the Nautilus and Bally’s systems as a trainer for over ten years and I never once saw the effort being truly made to help people “realistically” ACHIEVE anything. The world outside the gym is a giant “blank” for over two thirds of the population. The only thing I see that is visible today is elementary lifestyle “advice” on Dr. Oz and other related sophomoric network shows that really change nothing. The other major factor in the sales “pitch” to America on fitness comes in the form of “infomercials” that literally “sucker” people into buying USELESS stuff that will never really help them – EVER! The latest gimmick is the “abdominal belt” that will ‘melt” fat away with just 10 minutes a day! This is just the latest in the same old scam – “sell them anything and make a buck in the process!” What a disgrace and a shame that we have resorted to “hucksterism” in this country in order to sell the virtues of being fit! Jack Lalanne’s legacy has almost been completely forgotten today and I want to make sure I play my role in carrying the work he started so long ago forward with me. At least he TAUGHT simple exercises to people of all ages in the 50’s and 60’s with passion AND led them every step of the way during his shows. Those days are long gone!

When we think of helping people to become fit and healthy, we must always remember to train ourselves FIRST so that we can inspire others to do the same. I will not TELL anyone anything because for each of us our understanding and perspectives are different – just as each of us is different. I will always side with “being the example of the change I wish to see in the world” – the theme of my first article in this series. How do I retain my skill level with the “seven keys” of fitness highlighted above? I maintain them – and will elevate myself to higher levels of performance in the future – through my weekly weight training program, running 40 to 50 miles a week, stretching, and meditation. This dedication to fitness will hopefully allow me to do what I want, when I want, without injury and live with joy the active future of service I am envisioning for myself. I believe that with each passing day we are ALL falling ‘behind the fitness curve’ in life – whether we are training or not – and it is imperative that we translate our passion for being fit to others through our example. If we CAN’T DO IT, WE SHOULDN’T BE TEACHING IT!

Conclusion

My primary commitment to myself each day is to NEVER GIVE UP. If I am not sick or injured, I am training – training for my life to come and the role I have chosen for myself as “an agent of change in the world”. Each of us MUST decide what it is WE STAND FOR so that others can be inspired by our example. Jack LaLanne taught me through his example – as John Wooden did – that it is WHO WE ARE on the inside that will be the ‘key’ to inspiring and encouraging others to reach beyond their current grasp and strive for more than they ever dreamed possible. I am convinced every day by what I see in the world that what we have to offer the ‘many’ is desperately needed now more than ever. If we do not take up this challenge, who will? When will the REAL change come? It will only come when we change ourselves (on the inside – healthy aging is an inside job, remember?) and that is the greatest challenge that we will ALL face in life. It is worth fighting for this principle every day of our lives. Will you take it upon yourself TODAY and join me in this “journey of change” – and touch millions of lives in the process? I hope your answer is a resounding YES!

man running on beachAdvanced Running: Establishing the Mindset for Success

I took my first yoga class in more than a decade today and it wasn’t pretty. I was stiff, ungainly and awkward and had to literally fight the desire to stop! I found out my instincts were right about my body – it IS strong and fast but when it comes to balance and flexibility – and mind-body awareness – I am way behind the “8 ball”.

What I also learned today is that to continue to follow my program of the past 10 years as it is currently constructed would NOT benefit me in the long run. Injury and other issues WILL surface if I don’t respond to what I have discovered today so I will share some ideas and thoughts with you in this article that may help prevent you from making similar mistakes that I have made in my own running life.

Discussion

Lessons from my first yoga class

woman performing yoga poseI realized that being 66 the way I am today is truly a blessing – and a curse as well. My thoughts are forming about this new process I am entering and the impact it will have on me in the years ahead if I respond appropriately – and remain flexible and unafraid of the unknown. I can honestly say I felt WAY of out of my comfort zone today and that IS a good thing. I needed a “wake up call” and I got one loud and clear today. Whatever you do with this information on running and establishing the mindset of success and achievement, it will finally be defined and determined by how much – and how often – you step outside your comfort zones.

We ALL do what we love and avoid those things that make us uncomfortable in the end. Will I go back once a week – this next time with my daughter Lisa on Monday and share my discomfort with her support? YOU BET I will!. Remember I said earlier that I am a solitary soul and have run almost my entire life alone? Well now I need to share this part of my journey with others who know more about this subject called balance and flexibility than I do. After all these years I have another long process to start and the challenge of discovering new things about myself that I knew would NOT be easy or comfortable to learn AT ALL!

The reality is my hamstrings and my lower back are REALLY tight and it will take me time to “undo” what I have done to them after all these years of hard training. I will need to remain committed to developing – and maintaining – my flexibility and balance in the years ahead for sure. What is in this for you? The knowledge that you MUST engage in balance and flexibility activities – either in a group or on your own if you are willing to do the work yourself. This will insure injury is minimized as you engage your body in high intensity (sometimes of course) and challenging training to improve your fitness levels and enhance your quality of life.

What do I do about this now that I know more about my limitations?

The answer – or answers – to this important question will be given to me over time I am sure. What I am not sure of at this point is how I much work I must do on my own between classes to insure my own development as a runner –and athlete. I am a bit in shock to be honest with you about how poorly I performed in class today. The women kicked my butt for sure – but I am going to absorb this information and work on a plan of changing my approach to the training I will do this year. I set aside January of 2013 as a “month of recovery” because of the intense 2 year period I am just emerging from after setting records for mileage and speed. I also found out today how exhausted I am mentally and physically so these are the “red flags” I am now aware of at this particular time in my life.

What “red flags” are waving in your life and are you aware of their presence at all? I walked a mile on the treadmill at 3.5 after class today because that is all I could do. I was dismayed (to say the least) at how the yoga class had affected my legs! I will have NOW decided to “follow through” on my pledge to make January a TRUE recovery month – or I will PAY dearly in the months ahead for sure. This information I am sharing with you now is brand new to me. I am not 35 or 45 or 55 or even 65 now. I am 66 and finally am recognizing what limitations “feel like”. Your limitations will become apparent to you as you begin to train with more intensity and increased volume – just as they have for me. We cannot avoid paying a price for whatever we do – or don’t do – in our running and training lives.

I will continue running and lifting weights but now I will add additional stretching, flexibility and balance work at the end of each workout. I will attend one yoga class per week and run different programs at slower speeds to enhance my recovery period. Since I did not take recovery time during the last two years of my running life I will evaluate recovery periods more clearly when they are apparent to me and learn to add them when I need them. This is the “mindset of success” I am referring to in the title of this article. The REAL surprise to me is that after all these years of working out and running – and training clients on these principles as well – it is that I am still struggling to follow what I know NEEDS to be done – and WORKS ON MYSELF!

Conclusion

man happy and healthyTake what I am sharing in this article and APPLY it to your own training. I am secure in the knowledge that as I continue to learn – and in some cases like today “re-learn” what I already know to be true – that we NEVER truly “KNOW IT”. We are continuously exploring territory in our lives – whether it be running or the yoga discipline – that we have never seen before. We know what we need to do if we accidently “bump into new knowledge” but the unknown remains ever-present.

Today I merely learned what I suspected for a long time – that to run really fast and train with success – I (we) must never forget the basic principles of training: Remain open minded, dedicated and committed to our purpose, passionate about what we do – and love, and finally BE WILLING TO CHANGE what needs to be changed in order to continue to be successful!

Tomorrow I will run slowly (force myself actually “for now”) and work on incline (hill stride) training in order to start working my legs differently than all the hundreds of runs I have done over the past 10 years! I will be patient and open to this next phase of my running life because now I KNOW I have to do this if I intend to NOT breakdown somewhere in the future! A little discomfort today will be well worth feeling in order to be GREAT tomorrow – and all the tomorrows that will hopefully still be coming my – and your way as well!

Best Weight Training Exercises for Long Distance Runners

Exercise & Program Recommendations for Long Distance Runners

Introduction

Runners do not necessarily enjoy – or welcome – resistance training into their lives because it represents time away from what we love to do – run!

However, based upon my own experience over the past two decades, I am convinced we could ALL benefit from some resistance training in our athletic lives.

To prevent major injuries, maintain a balanced approach to training, and strengthening our “psychology” – as well as our bodies – resistance training pays off in spades, especially for long distance runners.

In my years as a long distance runner I have found the stronger I am, the better I can train as a runner. Strength gains can happen in a relatively short period of time (30 days if we are consistent) and will enliven and encourage us as we embark on a new adventure in running – and exercise – for a life of fitness and fun!

Discussion

Resistance / weight training can be accomplished in a wide variety of ways and through a varied menu of exercises thanks to major advancements in technology and science based research – allowing us a relatively safe and effective way to access its many benefits.

In the days I trained at Syracuse University with the football team (1964-1968), we had only free weights and simple tools (like a climbing rope) at our disposal. It is in this environment that I learned the principles that would later become more advanced thinking in the value of weight training. It now applies to anyone who wishes to gain strength and slow the advancement of infirmity and reverse the effects of weakening muscles and joints due to inactivity.

Weight Training Exercise Recommendations for Long Distance Runners

Weight Training Exercise Recommendations for Long Distance RunnersHere is my list of exercises – by body part – that I have used – or are using today – to help me maintain my strength as an athlete – and long distance runner:

Legs:

  1. Squats – the “gold standard”
  2. Lunges – walking and standing
  3. Leg extensions – “quad” development
  4. Leg curls – Hamstrings
  5. Calf extensions – standing, seated, with weight and without
  6. Adduction – seated – inner thighs
  7. Abduction – seated – outer thighs
  8. Leg press – standing – incline – seated

Chest:

  1. Butterfly – machines, dumbbells, cable
  2. Bench press – barbells
  3. Chest press – machine, cable, dumbbells
  4. Incline press – free weights, machines
  5. Decline press – free weights, machines
  6. Pushups – body weight

Back:

  1. Lat pull – machine
  2. Seated row – cable, machines
  3. Upright/incline row – dumbbells, machines
  4. Decline row – machines
  5. Low back extension – machines
  6. Reverse fly – dumbbells, machines

Shoulders:

  1. Shoulder press – free weights, machines, rubber tubing
  2. Lateral raise – dumbbells, machines, cable, rubber tubing
  3. Front raise – dumbbells, bar, cable, rubber tubing
  4. Pull ups – body weight – hands face away from you, (on any pull up “set up”)
  5. Chin ups – hands face toward you (on any available overhead bar)

Arms:

  1. Curls – machines, barbell, dumbbells
  2. Triceps extension – machines, reverse pushups, dumbbell extension (“press backs”)
  3. Wrist curls – dumbbells, bar, rubber tubing
  4. Reverse curls – hands face away for curl to train forearms

Weight Training Exercise Program Recommendations for Long Distance Runners

Weight Training Exercise Program Recommendations for Long Distance RunnersBeginner Runners:

3 sets of ten exercises combining the major muscle groups – 2 back exercises, 1 chest exercise, 4 leg exercises, 2 arm exercises, 1 shoulder exercise (overhead press)– 3 times per weeks – plus an abdominal crunch program to strengthen the core, followed by basic stretching and flexibility work. Weights selected – light – sets of 10-15 reps each. These will build more endurance and some strength.

Intermediate Runners:

3 – 5 sets of 13 exercises combining the major muscle groups – 3 back, 2 chest, 4 leg exercises, 2 arm exercises, 2 shoulder exercises – 2 times per week – plus abdominal exercises with variation to strengthen the core, followed by stretching and flexibility  work. Weights selected – moderate – sets of 8-12 reps each. These will develop strength and some power using the pyramid and ladder (increase weight consecutively by exercise).

Advanced Runners:

3-5 (plus) sets of 13-15 exercises (my current program) combining the major muscle groups – 3-4 back exercises, 2-3 chest exercises, 4 leg exercises, 2 arm exercises, 2 shoulder exercises, and an abdominal program with varied exercises to maximize abdominal strength (hanging “knee ups”, crunches etc.) followed by stretching and flexibility work. Weights selected moderate to heavy – 4-8-12 reps each. These will develop BOTH power and strength – particularly in the legs if you so choose. I do bench press, leg press/ extension, calf extension, arm curls, lateral raise, shoulder press, lat pull, seated row, cable row, incline pull, upright row, abdominal crunches, “dips” (hanging – press up with arms) – for my upper body strength overall.

The Bottom Line

long distance runner performing drillWeight training for runners is the key to maintaining and developing as a runner – or any type of athlete for that matter. Without a strong and flexible body, injuries – both acute and chronic – become more likely.

The idea of frequency – how often we train, intensity – how hard we train, time – the time we spend training, and the type – the mode or method of our training – all play a role in helping us develop power, strength, quickness, speed, endurance, balance and flexibility.

Over the long term we need ALL the methods of training if we are to successfully traverse the wide world of running and other incredible forms of exercise (cycling, hiking, sports etc.) that will help keep us healthy and vital well into our later years!

Calorie Burning, Aging, and ‘the Battle of the Bulge’

Every day I see evidence of the impact of the obesity crisis. It IS real and its effects will be felt for many years to come. The choices we are making when it comes to our nutrition are amazingly “unconscious”. When I say that healthy aging is a “consciousness issue” this is part of the reason I believe it to be so. Even with calorie counts staring at them from a wall of choices – say at McDonalds for example – people are still ordering the large fries and combo meals without ever “connecting the dots” to the impact those calories will have on their bodies over time. We are literally losing this battle and no matter what any of us says, it is clearly the challenge of our lifetimes – and our children’s lifetimes. Here are some of my thoughts on this most important issue.

When I see 1500 calories next to a menu choice I immediately think of how many miles I will have to run to burn them off. On my typical training days I burn approximately 1020 calories for a seven mile run – at relatively high intensity considering the results I have been achieving. Yesterday for example I completed my run in 40:20 and burned 1015 calories (I know the calorie counters on the machines are estimates only but at least I know the amount of work it takes to burn 1000 calories). So when I see 1500 calories I’m thinking I better REALLY want this food or I am running 10 miles to burn it off! People don’t realize that even MODEST caloric intake above our body’s daily needs adds up significantly over time and will eventually cause major problems – not only with our metabolic rates at rest but our overall health as well.

fat guy pantsThere is research emerging that is now telling us that abdominal fat is not just resting stored energy – it is active tissue and is engaged in creating problems for our various systems. It could even be contributing to cancer and heart disease – and even stroke potential. This is the visceral fat surrounding the organs, not the subcutaneous fat we see in the typical male midsection.  The health risks associated with being overweight or obese are becoming real contributors to our nation’s overall decline in health. I see more and more fat people today than ‘normal weight’ people – even at the gym. The 6 out of 10 number looks to be relatively true from my perspective and I am more than a little concerned about what we are to do about this “consciousness issue”.

Part of the answer lies in educating and informing people of these issues related to lifestyle and food choices at the “grassroots” level – meaning the family. If the parents don’t know “what they don’t know” then they need to know that an obese or overweight child is at risk not only for diabetes but early death as well. It is being said that the generations coming up behind me (my daughter’s and her son) may NOT outlive the parents. That has not happened before in my lifetime. Growing up on Maui in the 40’s and 50’s I was ALWAYS outside playing with my friends and swimming in age group swim meets. That foundation of fitness has stayed with me throughout my adult life and has probably saved my life when I was most at risk for a heart attack or stroke during my “dark years”. This reality we live today IS VERY UNHEALTHY and if positive change does NOT come in the next decade, we will ALL be staring down the barrel of a really terrible situation.

The “consciousness divide” I see now will be a long time in “fixing” but it is well worth the effort that each of us MUST expend if we are to really make a difference in people’s everyday lives. Exercise of course is critical as a part of the solution – burning calories counts! My body looks forward to burning those 1000 plus calories everyday now and unless I am sick or injured – which is almost never now – I am training mentally, physically and spiritually in order to move myself onto a “higher plane of consciousness” for myself. Getting older with GOOD habits makes a difference in HOW we age and I want ALL of us to be the models through which others can take comfort that it is indeed possible for them as well. This is how I felt when I trained my clients. They could trust whatever I said to them because I was either DOING what I asked them to do or HAD DONE what I was encouraging them to try.

The answer to the obesity crisis lies within each of us and I can’t think of a more important role for the fitness professional today or in the future to fulfill. I want to see the world that I came from on Maui so many years ago come back in the years ahead – happy, healthy & FIT!   Nick Prukop – [email protected]

Cardio Conditioning and Training

Cardio Conditioning and Training - Cardiovascular SystemIntroduction

The real power of being fit is in the ability of the cardiovascular system to perform at high levels throughout the day. The process of becoming fit is inherently tied to the heart’s ability to pump blood and oxygen to the organs, tissues, muscles, and extremities during periods of peak demand.

The conditioning process is a daily effort requiring activity and movement. The training process is the planned activity that is designed to stress the system intentionally over time and at a prescribed intensity. They are two sides of the same coin and will be highlighted in this article.

Discussion

The benefits of cardiovascular development and training are: Increased cardiac output (stroke volume), decreased blood pressure, reduced blood sugar levels and increased insulin sensitivity, increased aerobic capacity, increased energy levels, improved sleep patterns, improved emotional balance, decreased risk of developing heart disease, and of course – improved ability to control body weight. These and other benefits are derived from the purposeful movement and increased adaptability of the human body.  We were meant to move, even run, and over the millennia have learned NOT to run – or even move – and this has led to the rise of chronic and debilitating diseases such as diabetes and heart disease on a massive scale.

Determining Your Training Heart Rate

Cardio Conditioning and Training Heart RateThe standard formula that has been used to determine your training heart rate has been a simple one: 220-your age = your maximum heart rate. Take the result and multiply by 55-85% and get the range for most people’s training heart rates. It is flawed and subject to a 10-20% margin of error. Example: 220-66 (my age) = 154x.85=131 or my maximum training heart rate. If by chance I am de-conditioned and have not exercised in quite a while I would choose a lower percentage – 70% or 108 beats per minute for my training heart rate.

The training number (or intensity) is subject to the individual’s level of fitness, medical profile, and their ability to perform the exercise as designed at the prescribed rate. If you feel that your weight is an issue then you start at a lower intensity (65-75% for example) for a shorter period of time, increasing the number of minutes gradually over time. This is the conditioning aspect of cardio conditioning and training. It is the first phase of the cardio conditioning process and can last up to 6 months to a year (or more), depending upon the individual’s ability and how often you schedule sessions during the week.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardio Conditioning and Training

I have been a runner since 1964 so for the past 48 years I have been training my cardiovascular system at higher intensity levels in order to maintain its capacity to deliver blood and oxygen to my body’s tissues and organs – for a very long time. This is the point of the training activity over time.

Training is determined by the body’s ability to adapt to varying levels of intensity over time. The more flexible and adaptable the program becomes the more flexible and adaptable the cardio system becomes. This long term approach enables and empowers us to reach for higher levels of achievement and accomplishment over time. Cardio conditioning and training are the long term partners in the fitness formula for success. Effort and discipline MUST be demonstrated over time for results to take hold and again, recording the training sessions is KEY to remaining dedicated, motivated, and directed toward your goals.

The final point I want to make about cardio training is that there are an unlimited number of activities that qualify as cardio conditioning and training methods. They are as diverse as the number of people engaging in these activities. Walking, swimming, cycling, hiking, skiing, rollerblading, skating, playing or participating in endurance sports and many others you can define for yourself can open the door to a happy and healthy fitness lifestyle. Running has always been my passion and over the past 48 years I have run approximately 70,000 miles. It is my hope that I will reach 100,000 miles before I leave this planet.

Whatever you choose to do over the course of your life for cardio health and fitness make sure you choose something you LOVE to do. This is the secret to a long and healthy life. What is the best exercise? Answer: The one that you WILL DO! It is that simple. So get moving and breathe today!

Conclusion

Exercise to me is life itself. In our world today we are encouraged to sit – and sit some more. It is toxic to life and our lives in particular. Cardio activities are “breathing” activities. They require us to move our WHOLE bodies – not just individual parts. The feelings of joy and happiness that are generated by “intentionally” moving our bodies on a daily basis are lasting. They can carry us through many of life’s ups and downs – and help us emerge whole and healthy on the other side of sadness or defeat.

I can remember many years where I was struggling emotionally, financially, and spiritually and running “saved” me so that I could try again tomorrow. My tomorrows came because I spent some of my days in activity that I loved – and that made all the difference.

I believe in exercise as the KEY to our future health and well being. Let’s decide today to get moving and have many “happy tomorrows”!

Setting and Achieving Your Fitness Goals4000 Miles & Counting: Achieving a Milestone

Today I achieved what I once thought would be impossible for me to accomplish – a new two year mileage goal set in 2011 that today became a reality – running 4000 miles in a two year span. I began my run today not even remembering that this would be an important milestone run for me.

You see I have records of all my years of running from 1978 to the present. At the start of 2011 I was aware that in 1998 and 1999 I had run a total of 3675 miles and that record had stood as my best 2 year mark since then. I decided to break that record (prior to the start of 2011) and in 2011 I ran 1955 miles making it seem possible to me that I might achieve a goal of 4000 miles by the end of 2012.

I set my goal to run 2100 miles at the beginning of this year and today it happened – I ran past the 4000 mile barrier for 2011 and 2012 – shattering my previous effort and setting a new standard for myself. I am now on pace to finish 2012 with over 2100 miles and establish a new two year record of approximately 4150 miles! What a sense of joy and accomplishment I felt today that in my mid 60’s I did something I never even dreamed possible when I was younger!

So today I felt it was important for me to share my thoughts on the power of goal setting with you and let you know whatever you dream to accomplish – YOU CAN! If you BELIEVE you can achieve something important to you – you will!

Discussion

The Power of Setting Goals

In setting goals we begin the journey of not only the mind but the body as well. I never really understood the power of creating goals that were meaningful to me – that captured my imagination and my innate power to achieve.

I had set goals in the past but never really attached my entire consciousness to achieving them. It always felt good to set goals but they never really entered my subconscious mind at any depth to help me “feel” a sense of achieving something special to me – until 2011.

Focusing my attention on achieving DAILY goals in support of my “big goal” allowed me to recognize “mini milestones” each week and month – and keep me engaged.

When I started running 7 miles for each session in early 2011, I began to see the “big picture” more clearly and I felt more alive with each passing day. You see it is NOT the 2000 miles I focused on but just the 7 mile run. With each passing day the mileage added up – week to week – month to month – until finally today I reached 4000 miles for both 2011 and 2012 – with 18 days to go in the year!

It never occurred to me to stop because I continued to make progress not only in reaching my mileage goals monthly but in my speed as well. A major breakthrough came on June 3 of this year. I broke 40 minutes for the 7 mile run and since then have gone under 40 minutes 25 times setting a record of 38:26 on November 3 after setting the record the previous day of 38:32! This speed work for me was an unbelievable achievement because now I believe I CAN run a 5:30 mile outside in 2013!

This all came about because of the power of goal setting and you TOO can achieve what you want by doing the same thing I did these past two years. Believing you can achieve takes time – as it did for me – but eventually you WILL believe. This is the power of goal setting!

Charting Your Course in Fitness

I am evaluating my new goals for 2013. They include working on my balance and flexibility (maybe yoga classes) – and continuing to develop my strength through my weight training program. I am thinking that now that I have accomplished something special in these last two years that it is time to look for new horizons and unexplored territory in my life. The last few weeks have been challenging. It has been a grind at times to have to face the miles but because I have set “mini goals” for speed and endurance along the way, I have managed to achieve greater results than I ever dreamed possible for me as a runner.

The idea of setting new goals for ourselves is to inspire new thoughts, feelings, and unleash our “hidden power” to move beyond our “perceived” limitations and into a new “lands of achievement”. What we do with our bodies we do THROUGH our minds. “What the mind can CONCEIVE and BELIEVE it can ACHIEVE” is something I used to say to my audiences back in the 80’s and 90’s when I was teaching the principles of client centered marketing to professional organizations and associations.

I never really made the connection to my physical being until this year when I started running 7 miles in under 5:30 per mile! Now I KNOW I was the one setting the limits and they were WAY below what I could really achieve. I can begin anew in 2013 KNOWING I am capable of so much more than I used to believe about myself – and YOU CAN TOO!

Set your goals for 2013 with achievement in mind. Make them REAL in your mind first and then ACT on them – ONE DAY AT A TIME and see what starts happening. This principle applies to ALL aspects of our lives and you and I KNOW that “the mind of man is unlimited in its potential and responds to the demands placed upon it”. This is another principle I used to share with those same audiences and now it is a part of me FOR REAL!

I focus my attention DAILY on what it is I want to achieve TODAY and make it my business to accomplish something toward its completion. Remember ONE DAY AT A TIME anything is possible. Rev. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral and the Hour of Power used to say to his congregations when they became afraid or frustrated: “Inch by inch – anything is a cinch!”

Conclusion

Today was special for me. I will never have to second guess myself when it comes to my running – ever again. I believe in myself more completely today than I ever have before. It just took me longer than most to “get there!”

Let’s have faith (today) that our years will be filled with the joy of achievement and that our journey is like the one I am having now – filled with the joy of accomplishment and the surprise of things yet to come.

Set your goals with the intention of exploring your potential and breaking through barriers that were once only in your mind. What you can conceive and believe – you can achieve! NEVER stop believing that and you will become more than you ever dreamed possible – just like me today!

Making Healthier Food Choices

Nutrition: Food Labels, Grams, Calories, & Metabolism

Confusing, frustrating, and overwhelming are just a few of the words I would use to describe the difficulties we face when making healthy choices about the food we eat.

Unless we chose whole foods we are dealing with manufactured foods with labels and packaging that can defy logic. Grocery shopping inevitably involves buying food that requires us to “read” and understand the various messages we are being given by the manufacturer.

The idea of translating grams into calories and making decisions about portion sizes and nutritional value of the product are all a part of healthy eating in the 21st century.

This article will hopefully give you information that will help you make better choices and remain connected to a healthy lifestyle.

Food Labels, Grams, Calories, & Metabolism

Making Healthier Food Choices - Nutrition Facts Label Breakdown

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Food Labels

Total fat: Listed in grams. 1 gram of fat is equal to 9 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrate and protein is equal to 4 calories. If the label lists total fat at 6 grams it means the total calories from fat is 54. The total calories per serving are listed at the top of the label and shows 140.  The percentage of fat to total calories is 38% (140 divided by 54).

The percentages matter because total fat, sugar, and salt can be high in processed foods. If I see total fat exceeding 6 grams I figure it will not be good for me. I always counseled my clients to balance their calorie intake among carbohydrate, fats, and protein using the 60/20/20 rule (60% ‘healthy’ carbohydrate, 20% protein, 20% fat – including saturated/ unsaturated fats).

Paying attention to the list of ingredients is important as well. The first ingredient listed is the most prominent ingredient and should be REAL food – like whole wheat –NOT sugar or salt. The list of ingredients also contains additives – if there are any – and other oils and support ingredients.

Fiber is important so I always look for fiber content – both soluble and insoluble fibers are important to digestion so in bread for example I look for TOTAL fiber, protein, and carbohydrate from healthy WHOLE sources. Cleaning out your intestinal track is important so look for “clean” products that enhance your body’s ability to manage and process the foods you consume. Obviously fruits and vegetables already have water, high nutrient, and fiber content so no label reading or understanding is required!

Metabolism

Making Healthier Food Choices - Metabolism Sample DiagramBasal metabolic rate is the rate at which the body burns calories at rest. We burn approximately ten times our body weight in terms of calories just to stay alive. Calories burned during exercise or other activities related to daily living are in excess of what we require to continue living. Food is the critical link to a healthy lifestyle – as is water of course – so it behooves us to remain conscious of our calorie intake throughout the day (especially if we are trying to lose weight).

The ways we affect our metabolism are by creating additional lean mass (muscle) and also through cardiovascular training which demands the greatest amount of energy because we use all of the major muscle groups in the body (especially if the activity is “load bearing” such as running or walking). From our 30’s on we start to lose 1-2% of our muscle every year if we don’t engage in some form of resistance training. This loss of lean mass translates into higher blood sugar levels because muscle burns sugar and we all know the consequences of higher sugar levels in the blood – it is diabetes and other chronic, preventable diseases.

As we evaluate the balance of food intake we want to maintain with our current activity levels, we have to remember that 1 pound is equivalent to 3500 calories. If our bodies are 10 pounds over their ideal weight that translates into 35,000 calories of “stored energy”! If I see people who are significantly overweight – 30-50 pounds or more – I KNOW that burning that much stored energy WILL take more than a couple of years.

“Reality Check”

calorie intake and output It always comes down to how aggressively we want to schedule our time to include activity that will enhance our metabolic rate and help us lose weight. “If it took years to put on the pounds, it will take months – or years – to get rid of it”. Patience is the key to planning your workload and nutritional intake that supports your goals because it is essential to your eventual success. I burn approximately 1020 calories for my 7 mile runs and as I run 6 days a week (42 miles), the total calories I burn through just my running is over 6000 which is NOT even equal to 2 pounds of body weight (normally we recommend not losing more that 1-2 pounds per week in a weight loss program).

My point is I am conscious of my calorie intake and output each day. I know I will NOT be perfect in making all my food choices but since I CAN burn a significant number of calories every day (if I am not sick or injured of course), I allow myself that leeway. Most people don’t have the luxury I do from all my training BUT they CAN get there over time. It takes persistence, desire, and vision to achieve long term and worthwhile results. I saw this every year in my clients and of course in myself as well. It IS well worth the effort to inform and educate yourself about your own body and how it works.

The Bottom Line

There are many excellent sources for this information on exercise and nutrition such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Council on Sports Medicine, the National Strength & Conditioning Association, the American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association – and many others. My favorite source of sound nutritional information comes from the Nutrition Action Health Letter published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Make it your business to examine your health and fitness goals every year and make changes to your program that will enhance your quality of life and help you be happy with yourself. Next year I will be revising my own goals to include more diverse activities such as yoga and group exercise classes now that I am completing my “two year” plan of setting mileage records. It is time for me to move into a new phase of my own fitness programming. Doing the same thing every year can become very repetitive and boring – even if you love what you are doing- so be open to all your possibilities and go for it!

See Also:

Effective Training Methods for RunnersThe Runner’s Program: Defining Your Options

The reason I wanted to cover fitness training first in this series on running is that over the years I have seen way too many de- conditioned, overweight people attempting to lose weight by running before they have “learned to walk”.

The idea of preparing thoroughly before beginning a rigorous program such as running in order to become healthy and fit seems like an obvious step but most people want results NOW so they skip preparation.

My goal is to help people prevent injury when starting and maintaining a running program – and help them stay on track in achieving their health and fitness goals for the long term.

In this article I will review several approaches to running and programming (there are many more to be sure) that supports anyone who is interested in becoming the best runner that they can be!

Six Effective Training Methods for Runners

The idea of running is to enjoy it. The freedom that comes with running well generates a feeling that I can’t describe. When I am running well everything that is unimportant seems to disappear.  I end up focusing only on my stride, my breathing, the rhythm created by my body as it moves through space and over distance. Nothing else matters and at the end of a run there is such a sense of peace and happiness – that you did something well – and accomplished something  important – both for your body – and your spirits as well.

Here are some of the training methods I use as a runner for my own purposes – and that have been proven to work over many years by runners of all levels of ability – and accomplishment.

1.  Hill strides

Hills strides are conducted on any hill that has an up and a down. Running uphill builds power and strength in the quads while enhancing the cardio-respiratory system’s ability to transfer oxygen to the cells, while running downhill strengthens the calves, hamstrings, and the overall muscular-skeletal system as well. Running downhill requires control and balance because the pressure on joints can be severe depending upon the steepness of the hills. I run the Turtle Rock hill in Irvine – a mile climb up at about a 40% uphill grade. It is a tough training run and I do it only periodically because it requires so much energy and effort. I need to do this run again this year and I need to prepare mentally beforehand!

2.  Pickups

Pickups are designed to build speed for interval training. I use them on the roads. They are usually small intervals of 30-45 seconds followed by approximately 2 minute recovery periods of decreased speed. Over a distance of 7 miles I will generally average about 25 pickups. They are challenging but very good for building leg speed and a balanced stride.

3.  Tempo runs

Tempo runs are good for race preparation and generally involve 5-10 minute periods of increased speed followed by a relatively shorter period of recovery running. They are good for simulating “race pace” and can give you an idea of how your body responds to the increased demands of race conditions. This is more of a training tool for race preparation but they are useful also for testing your progress.

4.  Long runs

Long runs are used to increase endurance and are used for the purpose of increasing your daily mileage as well as for increasing your cardiovascular conditioning. Long runs can vary depending upon your training schedule and experience – and goals – and can be from anywhere from 5-20 miles. The marathon obviously requires one become accustomed to distance so by the end of marathon training the long run is traditionally a “20 miler”. It is scheduled and generally completed about two weeks before the event so that you can build confidence and “mental toughness” for the actual event. Long runs are NOT run at race pace (or even a training pace for that matter). You pick a comfortable pace at the start of your run and maintain it throughout the course of your run. Distance matters – not time!

5.  Interval training

Interval training is a classic and is designed for the purpose of learning to run faster more comfortably. The speed one uses for each interval is determined by the level of fitness of the individual and is broken into “small bites” that can be readily accomplished without exhausting your cardiovascular system. The most advanced runners – competitors such as Olympic track athletes – run intervals at competition pace for whatever their event requires (400 meters etc.). This is often called “anaerobic training” because it is conducted at levels of exertion requiring the body to work in the absence of readily available oxygen.

The rest of us use intervals as a way to learn to run faster and maintain that level of speed over the distance we prefer – half mile, mile etc. (I want to run under a 5:45 mile this year so intervals will be a big part of my training).I generally schedule one interval workout per week. The ideal location is a track for this type of training and mine is the one at UCI where I need to go this year for my speed work. You can do intervals on the road by timing yourself but it is higher risk because of cars and traffic, heat, cold, air quality etc. Even bike trails can be dangerous so be careful when planning your interval workout!

6.  Negative splits

One of my favorite workouts on the treadmill – yes I have been training on the treadmill – is one I call the “negative split” workout. I start at a 7 minute per mile pace (generally – an “8”) and increase the speed incrementally every 3-5 minutes over a 7 mile distance. This is how I got to 38:28 for 7 miles last year. I ran at speeds that ended with a 5:15 per mile pace (11.5) and that meant each interval got faster than the last one, allowing me to finish my workout at my fastest speed. It is a challenging process but I repeated it over and over again and became quite capable of sustaining incredible speeds over time. This year I want to translate that progress to outside “timed trials” and see what is possible. I want to run faster this year but do it with FEWER miles (not 2100 miles!) of total training time.

Conclusion

woman running

The runner – whether beginner or advanced – is a unique “breed of animal”. I have spent the entire 49 years of my running history running alone – by choice. It is totally an individual sport – and process.

Running does not require a significant investment in gear or equipment and you can run anywhere, anytime you want. When I traveled to Japan to be with my daughter and see the country I ran with her – and alone. I ran around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo by myself and along a river shaded by beautiful cherry blossom trees in full bloom with my daughter. It was one of the most incredible runs I have ever done and it was with Lisa – and speed never entered my mind. I was just “in the moment with her” – and the trees and the sounds of Tokyo – and the people. It is a memory I will always treasure.

I hope to run on the Great Wall of China someday or up a pyramid in Mexico. Who knows where running will take me? I just know that being a runner has amplified and uplifted my experience in life as a human being, helping me to see the beauty and diversity of life on this planet.

Becoming a runner was the BEST decision I ever made and I hope that will be yours as well. It is well worth your time, energy and devotion. Running gives FAR MORE than it takes and I will run until I no longer can do it – and I hope that is years into the future!

Establishing a Vision for Your Future and Planning for Success

I have never stopped believing in the power of a vision that captures one’s imagination and fuels a deep seated passion to make a difference in life and leave legacy of contributions that is remembered long after we are gone. The idea of creating a vision that fuels my desire to live life fully forms the foundation for a life that is built on purpose and serves to open doors of opportunity for others as well.

In the context of aging healthfully we can draw from the idea that “pulling us forward’ is an inner desire to NOT live life on the “edges” but become completely engaged and energized by what it is that we do on both the professional and personal levels. I believe in the power of a vision that yields purpose and also creates a deep sense of responsibility and accountability to one’s goals. This idea of creating a vision is at the heart of how I view my life now. I have spent a lifetime making decisions about both personal and professional matters that were limiting and not empowering. When I finally created my vision I learned I had become committed to my purpose and felt free to live my dream without fear –or reservation.

Here is my vision as it is currently written: “Healthy aging is a consciousness issue. It is not merely the death of our cells but is a complex and dynamic process that is grounded in change as life unfolds for each of us. The challenge as I see it is discovering the potential that lies within each of us to become all that we were meant to be mentally, physically and spiritually. This potential can carry us to living lives of fulfillment, peace, and prosperity if we remain present during each moment of our lives – living consciously. Learning about who we are from the ‘inside –out’ while acting upon our choices in the present moment, enables and empowers us to live a life of great accomplishment. This is my vision of a world that is possible.” Implied in this statement of purpose is the idea that my health and my evolving needs as I grow in time are dependent on the present circumstances as I understand them.

Supporting this vision is what I call my ‘core beliefs’ that define WHO I am as a human being – and as a professional. Some of these beliefs are:

  • Everything that we desire in life comes through relationships.
  • The mind of man is unlimited in its potential and responds to specific demands made upon it.
  • The “Triple Win” (created by me in the 80’s); “As I help you win, we win; as we win those we touch win.”
  • The purpose of life is to discover, develop and share our natural gifts.
  • What we put out in terms of energy and actions comes back to us multiplied. (Karma)
  • The rewards in life are directly proportional to your service to others.

My values are clear. Without my health I can accomplish nothing in my life. This notion fuels my desire to train mentally, physically and spiritually each and every day in order to expand the borders of my consciousness and be of service in ever expanding ways.

I have lived in my “shell” a long time and now I feel the presence of growth in all areas of my life. These articles are helping me to clarify my message and become more than I ever dreamed possible. It is about time after all I have lived 66 years, right? The programs I develop around these ideas will form the nucleus of what it is I am here to do (including publishing my book – no excuses!). I am also going to be “pushing back” a bit against the increasing influence of technology in our lives because every moment we spend tweeting, texting, checking our iPhones and communicating constantly online pulls us away from the ‘moment’ – the present – and this is only point of power through which we can change our lives for the better.

The world is “attached” to technology now and we no longer acknowledge each other – we are just too busy!  Make the time to meditate, imagine, feel, think and enjoy your life. If prayer works – pray by all means. Making time to take the “inner journey” everyday will make a world of difference in how you view and live your life – now and in the future. This work has paid off in spades for me. I am running faster and getting stronger everyday because I have taken the time to be with “me”. I have begun to prioritize my needs as they become apparent to me so that my life continues to move forward with meaning and purpose enabling me to be able to maximize the time I have left – whatever that turns out to be. (Remember the 6 minute mile on my 80th birthday?) Be strong and know that you have something unique in you that only you can give the world. Let your light shine and see what happens!

Creating an Effective Running Exercise Program

Creating an Effective Running Program

Creating an effective running program is part science and part art – depending on your comfort level and preferences.

For most of us we have just “laced up our new running shoes and hit the road”! It takes more than a new pair of Nike’s to become a runner – it takes thought, planning, some research, preparation, and creativity.

In my previous article, Introduction to Running, I mentioned joining a running club to get exposure to others with the same interest in running and getting other people’s insight into running for sport or fun. This is a part of “running by design” – where we learn new skills and develop partners in training that we can turn to when we hit a “rough patch” and need help.

This article will share some ideas about training and designing a program that fits your needs in preparation for becoming a successful – and happy runner. Proper preparation and planning will go a long way to helping you succeed as a walker, hiker, or runner – all three if you choose!

Methods of training

Treadmills

woman on treadmillThe treadmill is a logical place for many of us to start because it can be programmed by the user – and there are no cars or weather to confront during the run. The treadmill has multiple programs from the manual setting to hill strides and other interesting options for the user. The idea is to walk before you run so learning to walk for exercise is a great way to learn about your body and how your breathing and stride are connected. Learning about balance, stride length and speed, breathing and arm swing all will contribute to preparing you for running. Buying your own treadmill is an option but only if you are serious about the investment, will investigate your options thoroughly, and WILL use the equipment.

Rowing machines

Rowing machines have the advantage of training both your cardiovascular system and neuromuscular systems in tandem. The development of cardiovascular capacity is part of the training necessary to become an effective runner and rowing is a great training tool for overall conditioning – and weight loss.

Cycling

Cycling has the advantage of being a primary “cross training” tool for runners. It works the quadriceps primarily (and heart of course) and is a counterbalance to the use of the hamstring while running. The process of cycling strengthens the legs, provides additional practice for monitoring breathing and allows for a fun alternative to the pounding of the running motion. Cycling can be both an indoor activity and outdoor activity and has many aspects that build overall strength – critical for all runners.

Yoga/Group exercise

group fitnessYoga provides “mindfulness training” that connects the mind with the body during and after exercise. The many poses in yoga create a mind-body relationship and awareness that allows us to connect movement with our bodies in a positive and meaningful way. I will report further on this form of training as I move forward with my own program of yoga training and discipline this year. I want to develop an awareness that contributes to my whole program of fitness – not just strength training and running. Group exercise classes have the advantage of guided movement based exercise in a variety of formats and styles. They are also worth exploring for total body development in order to increase balance and body awareness.

Walk/jog

This is the most common form of preparation training for most of us as we begin to explore running as a new form of exercise and training. I believe this approach allows us the opportunity to create a running program based on a solid foundation for both our minds and bodies as they learn how to respond to the demands of a new activity. Walking for exercise gets us into a “rhythm”, allowing us to learn about our stride, foot strike, arm swing and movement, breathing and presence of mind, and ability to focus. The skills that we gain from exercise walking do translate relatively easily into jogging which is simply a faster form of exercise “striding or walking”. Taking the time in the first few weeks of your running program to learn this part of the training is well worth the effort and can be accomplished on a variety of surfaces.

Hiking

Hiking is an advanced form of exercise walking and occurs on trails and hills allowing us to gain perspective and confidence in our developing ability as true exercise enthusiasts. The hiker is a person who believes in the body’s ability to adapt to a variety of terrains and implies a “walker with purpose”. Hikers are purposeful and can found in almost any worldwide venue. It is an art unto itself and hikers can evolve into mountain climbers if the interest is strong enough. I have always wanted to hike in remote areas such as the ruins of the Incan civilizations in Peru or the Aztecs in the Americas. Because I have been a runner all of my life these things are still possible for me. The benefits of proper training and preparation are endless!

Weight training

performing weight trainingI am a big proponent of resistance training because the technology is incredible. From free weights to machines of all types a total body workout is now possible. Being strong is a prerequisite for becoming a good – or even great –runner. Working your shoulders, chest, back, arms, legs, abdominal muscles, torso, and grip prepares your body to handle the stresses of running or any related activity. Planning your strength building effort and being committed to its purpose is a great way to allow your body to handle the training and workouts to come. Doing 1-3 sets of 10 basic exercises 3 times a week for three months is a major plus in creating an effective running program. You will see results within a month of starting a strength training program and that is not an unreasonable expectation.

Creating an Effective Running Program:  Conclusion

In this article I have attempted to present you with a variety of ideas that will prepare your body for the wonderful benefits of running. I never knew any of this information when I started running back in 1964 – I just started running to relieve stress and get outside. Back then we didn’t have the knowledge we have now and we also didn’t the technology with which to develop incredible training programs that we do now. Take advantage of the internet, your local gym, running clubs, friends, Runners World (online if you wish), organizations such as the American Council on Exercise (my certification body) at ACEFIT.com for ideas, and many other resources available in today’s world. It will be worth the effort and pay off in the long run without a doubt.

Nutrition 101

Nutrition 101

Understanding how to read a food label, determining appropriate portion sizes, making healthy food choices, calorie consumption vs. burning, fats, carbohydrates, protein, micro and macro nutrients, calorie dense vs. nutritionally dense foods, water and staying hydrated, hidden calories and so much more.

The above challenges are just SOME being faced by people of all ages today – and it’s getting WORSE with each passing day. With these topics I have just scratched the surface of what it means to survive in our toxic world – and ultimately thrive. These and many other issues have contributed to our society’s obesity crisis and as a result, the onset of multiple chronic diseases as a consequence of our inattention to the basic nutritional requirements for healthy living.

It is appalling to me that in only the span of half of my life (33 years), we are seeing the manifestation of this inattention to healthy eating taking many forms such as the onset of type II diabetes in children starting at under the age of 13! This trend – if not corrected or addressed NOW – WILL destroy scores of families if we don’t find solutions for these BASIC pressing issues now.

This article is designed for all of us – me as a review – and for those of you who don’t know – an opportunity to “catch up” and maybe make different choices in not only your own lives – but those you love as well!

Discussion

overeatingWe associate healthy eating with weight loss and diet programs – everything else is eating for fun. We take care of our emotional and spiritual wounds through food. Families gather to eat at Thanksgiving but in the interim we “eat out”, rarely seeing that special time with family again as our days spiral on one to another.

Our lifestyle has become toxic through overeating, unhealthy choices, and massive quantities – all in the desire to “forget” or calm ourselves from the stresses of the day. We are immersed in technology and tied to an unforgiving master who demands more from us than many of us can afford to give.

The idea of reading a label, or noticing calorie counts before we eat something seems impossible – so we go for the easy “fix” and just say “I’ll get back to making an effort tomorrow”. It is always going to be tomorrow until tomorrow finally doesn’t come.

I see this problem as a “three pronged” issue or challenge:

1.  People are woefully unprepared to deal with the enormous impact of marketing and media and the power they hold over our lives.

2.  The complexity of foods and their confusing claims about their value is taking our ability to choose rationally away from us.

3.  The food industry has basically “kidnapped” healthy eating by making it easy to select every possible harmful form of nutrition (packaged, processed foods, fast food, massive portions and so much more). The basics of healthy eating have become such a “mystery” to most Americans so that every talk show imaginable schedules healthy eating segments and how to lose weight for good regularly! When I was a boy on Maui I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bananas and we NEVER went out to eat. All our meals were at home with the family sharing in the effort.

Calories count and there is no difference between them – they just “are”. Burning calories is what we do to stay alive so eating pretty much is a given. Learning about portion control and balanced intake of nutrient dense/calorie deficient foods is not rocket science. It requires a desire to improve your choices by providing our bodies with the fuel they need to survive and thrive – nothing more, nothing less. We need to get back to “eating to live, NOT living to eat”.

The calories now proclaimed on menus throughout America should be a wake-up call to Americans of all ages. Should our food be fried or baked? Should it have sauce or no sauce? Should we eat everything we are served or save some for later? What is the source of the primary calories – saturated fat or carbohydrate? Are we getting enough protein in our diet and is it from healthy sources?

These and other questions need to be addressed and I will do my part to help answer them. I am not allowed by my professional code of conduct to provide specific advice on what and how much someone should consume – that is for a licensed professional to determine, but I am allowed to talk about nutrition and the role it plays in leading a healthy and happy life. That is part of my job and I take it very seriously!

mcdonalds contributing to obesity?Today I saw a lady at McDonald’s who was eating their terrific side salad but had also ordered the large order of fries – a common staple at McDonalds (what was she thinking – that the one would “cancel” out the other? Or was she NOT thinking but going for the joy the fries bought? I don’t know but it happens all the time!).

People don’t go to this place for the salads – they go for the fries! McDonald’s is REALLY good at selling those fries and one cannot blame them for wanting to make a profit after all, can they? The idea that one could order a meal that includes the burger and fries and NOT notice it contains over 1200 calories is “mind blowing” to me. I would have to run 8 miles to burn those off at just under 55 minutes of hard running! We need to “connect the dots” as I do every day when I choose and IF I choose the pizza I am absolutely sure I can run that pizza off tomorrow.

Every choice has consequences and every day we will live with those consequences until our bodies say “NO MORE”. That day of reckoning is not far off and if today’s children don’t get to live longer than their parents then we will all be to blame to some degree, won’t we?

When you look at food think of it as fuel to keep you alive and ask yourself:

  • Does it have water as a primary part of its makeup?
  • Is it fried, boiled or baked?
  • Is it good for me?
  • Will it promote my general health and preserve my immune system?
  • Will I enjoy it and possibly eat it again?
  • Can I find a way to eat more or less of this food?
  • If it has lots of chemicals associated with its manufacture will that eventually harm me?
  • Am I being proactive in my food choices and not reactive to the inevitable emotional swings in my mood that occur throughout my day?
  • Do I eat for reasons other than because I am hungry?
  • Am I compulsive when it comes to eating alone and do I overeat for reasons beyond my knowledge and control?

These and other questions are a part of the dialogue on healthy eating and MUST be addressed if we are to slow the death spiral being brought on by the obesity crisis – and its cousin the “sitting of America”.

The Bottom Line

I see the massive need for ongoing education and communication at ALL levels of society and from all aspects of life that touch the American family. These include the schools, government, the weight loss community, the food manufacturer’s, the restaurant community (including McDonald’s of course who IS actually “trying” to make healthy choices available to its customers although not fully succeeding because of those “damn” fries), supermarkets, the community at large, non profits, spiritual centers and so many more.

It will take “that village” referred to earlier to solve the problems we are facing but they MUST be addressed if we are to save lives in the future. I will discuss basic food issues in future articles and identify some of the ways in which we can all participate as part of the solution.

If we each just help one person improve something in their nutritional lives TODAY we end up helping “the many” too – and I think that is well worth the effort! Don’t you?

See Also:

Change, Habits, Comfort Zones and the Power of Fear

I am a creature of habit. I have always struggled with change throughout my life. I fought it and rarely embraced it until I was forced to acknowledge I was on the wrong path and needed to make a change. In my personal life I held onto my marriage long after it ended creating unnecessary pain and anguish for all of us. I have learned that to RESPOND to the changes in my life is a far less traumatic way to live than always REACTING to the “fluid” circumstances and uncertainties of life.

Comfort zones, habits, and fear – the “Big 3” of life’s impediments to lasting and positive change in our lives need to be embraced for what they are: “False evidence appearing real” – FEAR.  I see this today as I have seen it repeatedly over the past 2 decades with my clients. We seem to end up being FORCED to change our ways rather than willingly and knowingly taking the steps necessary to move us forward to a more fulfilling life. Let’s take a look at a model for change that has begun to work for me.

HEALTHY AGING: Change, Habits, Comfort Zones and the Power of Fear by Nick PrukopThe principle behind change is that the universe is always in a state of flux. Nothing in this reality remains the same – especially as we age. One of my former teachers stated that “the only constant in the natural order is change” and yet we fight the changes in our lives and often label them “bad” or “good”. Even positive change brings new stresses into our lives – stresses that can fuel our creative “juices” and enable us and empower us to grow in ways that we could barely imagine. Being willing – and ready – to embrace change allows us to imagine with feeling what is possible. This can create new paths to a future that can embolden and encourage not only ourselves but others as well.

This opportunity to write for AskTheTrainer.com has re-energized me and made me realize there is a lot of work yet to be done AND I can play a significant part in that process. So we all have to understand that we can’t control what is NOT ours to control and “let go” while embracing what it is that we DO have the power to influence. The next steps in my journey are being written RIGHT NOW as I type these words. The same holds true for each of us so let’s be BOLD and embrace change as a friend and see what can happen when we partner with change for a higher purpose.

HEALTHY AGING: Change, Habits, Comfort Zones and the Power of Fear by Nick PrukopHabits and comfort zones rely on each other to keep us from fulfilling our promise. I have lived for years with the notion that I didn’t possess the “right stuff” to leave a lasting mark on this world.

My daughter Lisa is a “big thinker” and strives for excellence in all aspects of her life even as she has had to struggle over the past three years with life’s inevitable challenges at a very crucial time in her life. I am proud to say that she is confident and hopeful and continues to trust her instincts making me feel very proud of her at this critical moment in time in her life. She has what I didn’t have at her age – an indomitable spirit that continues to believe in her own innate ability and talent. To her comfort zones are only “resting places” – not residences.

I have learned that my fears were of my own making and today I know that we can only improve our lot in life if we are willing to risk acting “in spite of our fears”.  Remember that fear is nothing more than “false evidence appearing real” and our clients need that reassurance every day as they attempt to change something significant in their lives. We need to KNOW deep inside ourselves that we indeed CAN make a difference and move our clients – and all those we want to serve – one step closer to their OWN new reality. May we each benefit from the changes that we are experiencing right NOW in our OWN lives so that we can help others achieve their own victories as well!  Nick Prukop – [email protected]

Introduction to Running Exercise

Introduction to Running: Recommendations & Observations

I have been a dedicated runner since my freshman year at Syracuse University starting in the fall of 64. This year marks the 49th year of my running life and in this spirit, I thought I would share some of my top recommendations and observations for those of you evaluating the merits of selecting my fitness passion as one you might want to pursue.

These thoughts can serve as an introduction to the world I have called my “athletic home” for almost 50 years – and counting.

Discussion

Three Key Observations:

1.  Running isn’t for everyone.

Just because you see your friends doing something doesn’t mean it is right for you as well. Evaluate several factors prior to beginning a running program: Your weight – too many added pounds can injure your knees and ankles (back as well), your medical history – spinal and balance issues, your ability to stay consistent, your diet, your experience with exercise – since running is more advanced than other types of activities and finally, you readiness to learn a new and challenging skill.

2.  Running takes discipline and consistency in order to work.

Planning to run as your foundational cardiovascular exercise is critical to succeeding as a runner. Weight loss is not a goal – it is an outcome of increased activity and improved eating habits – and improved lifestyle habits. Take the time necessary to decide clearly WHY you want to become a runner and develop a reasonable and flexible plan that you WILL follow.

3.  Running is a lifelong pursuit and requires a strong desire in order to “keep going”.

I find that this observation is one that we should take very seriously because this decision defines your “true desire” for the long term. Getting injured is not fun and many “repetitive use” injuries can result from running. Injuries can be chronic or acute and can last days or months. I have had mostly “soft tissue” injuries during my running life – strained Achilles tendons, plantar fasciitis (inflammation of connective tissue at the base of both feet), pulled and strained hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, and most difficult and painful of all – low back spasms that were most prominent before I began a weight training and stretching program in the early 90’s. My desire to work through injuries – and learn how to prevent them – was always my best attribute as a runner. I NEVER let injuries stop me!

Six Key Recommendations:

1.  Begin a resistance training program targeting the core muscles and legs.

Resistance training can prepare the body for the stresses of running by strengthening and stressing the muscles that propel us as runners. Individual programming targeting individual needs are best – especially with specialized coaching (personal training etc.) – in order to prevent injury.

2.  Join a running club and spend time with runners of all abilities to better ascertain your own ability and interest.

Others have been through the process of transitioning to running and getting their input and support is a good idea. Don’t do something new like running alone – it can lead to shortcuts that can harm you. Slow and steady progress – and effort – gets the reward.

3.  Don’t start a running program on the streets – or concrete – it is a bad idea and it can lead to serious problems.

Identify places other than the roads that will work for you and stay on them while you learn what type of runner you are. If jogging and walking work for you then do that and find a park or other surface that will be convenient – and accessible – for you. Tracks at high schools and colleges are a great option as well. My favorite track is the one at UCI – it is forgiving and in a beautiful location. I will get back to this venue this year for speed work.

4.  Run in the right equipment (clothing – loose fitting is best) and make sure you find the right shoes that will work for you.

Shoes are every runner’s best friend and ally – or the enemy if they are not properly fitted. Find a store that specializes in serving runners and seek out their advice on what type and manufacturer will work best for your body type and weight. Each company has advantages and disadvantages so it is best to actually try them on and “check out the feel”. The toe box is important – too short or narrow – and you will get blisters and develop other types of problems. A thumb’s width at the end of the shoe will allow for swelling and expansion of your foot – and your feet DO expand – trust me.

5.  Evaluate your diet and make appropriate changes so that it will support your new activity – and give you the energy to perform at your best.

Eating is a common theme for all of us – not only the type of foods we eat but the quantity and timing of our meals. I always want to eat something before my runs and it generally includes some form of carbohydrate (cereal, bananas etc,) and light protein such as yogurt. I schedule my workouts for early afternoon so I prepare for that time accordingly. I also make sure I am drinking plenty of water daily to be properly hydrated and ready to consume more fluids as I run. I have a bottle of water that I refill as I complete my run.

6.  Be conscious of what you “don’t know about running” and commit yourself to learning as much as you can so that your experience will be an enjoyable one.

Runner’s World magazine is always a good source of running information. They cover every aspect of running – from beginners to elite competitors and beyond – to Olympic caliber runners who can serve as role models for “regular runners” and competitors alike. I am learning something new every time I run – whether it is about my goals or my current conditioning. This month I am starting a new year so I am “finding my way” right now and deciding what I want to do with my running. I am starting a yoga program at my gym this week and will be focusing on balance and flexibility – two areas that are important to help me become a more successful runner.

Conclusion

This article has focused on some observations and recommendations I would make if I were starting over as a new runner sharing some important information that may help make your transition to running more effective – and fun. I will follow up this article with more of my thoughts on progressing and developing the skills and training techniques that help ALL runners improve and grow over time. I hope that for those of you who may be new to running – or are experienced veterans of the sport – that through efforts like this one, we can advance the art of running and have more and more people enjoy what I have enjoyed for almost 50 years!

fit middle aged coupleThe Fitness Lifestyle & the Path to Healthy Aging

Technology really has changed our lives for the better – and for the worse. The implications of our emerging and overwhelmingly sedentary lifestyle are now only beginning to become apparent to us as we see the obesity crisis emerging as the first “real” medical and health emergency of our time. The long term consequences of this evolving – and expanding – process will be a challenge that we will ALL be affected by on some level in the years ahead. Diminished life expectancy and quality of life, the increasing numbers of people who will suffer from a wide variety of preventable chronic diseases, and finally, the premature loss of life WILL be significant if we can’t find a “way out” of this complex predicament.

Being physically active was always a part of our societal makeup in the first two hundred years of our history due to the nature of work and the lives we had to lead just trying to survive in a world without conveniences and support networks that eventually came into being in the second half of the 20th century. In the last twenty years of my lifetime, the world has turned into the “sitting of America”. What are the underlying problems we will be facing and how can we address them in order to effectively solve them? That is the question, isn’t it? The answers will emerge over time in the “dialogue” that WILL eventually occur among the parties that CAN help bring about permanent and positive change to people’s lives. Part of the answer lies with each of us in the fitness profession. We MUST define for ourselves how to “translate” what we love into “doable” solutions for those we train and teach. We have to become the change “we wish to see in the world” – one person at a time.

Discussion

The world is complicated by different and opposing points of view. The “post Bush years” have shown us conflict and anger on levels never before seen in our political discourse. We now call it “gridlock” and throw up our hands at the very mention of healthcare and reform. The truth is that approximately 80 million people born into the “baby boomer” generation will be reaching 60 years of age (including my daughter who was born in 1971) in the two decades ahead. The reality about the debate regarding healthcare in this country is that we NEVER really had one. The sides were opposed to discussing rationally anything remotely close to the REAL issues and now in 2014, the 2010 healthcare reform act will take effect and we will ALL be scrambling to decide what to do to comply with this law. Starting in 2012 I see the need to have community based “conversations” about the delivery of healthcare to people and how to make it affordable and accessible – and most importantly – understandable. I became a personal trainer in 1990 with my first client and during the period of 1988 to 2011 I did NOT have health insurance because I couldn’t afford it due to the nature of my uncertain and fluctuating income – AND the cost for coverage for those over forty.

I never made a “comfortable” living as a trainer because I was always struggling to build my client base, which as we all know, tends to expand and shrink depending upon a wide range of variables including the state of the economy (and jobs), people’s motivation to hire a trainer, personal finances, and other related challenges. I was in my mid forties by the time I transitioned to the fitness profession and was already “old” and a part of the higher risk age groups that tend to pay significant percentages of their income to cover their health insurance costs. I am NOT informed – even today – as to what I will do in the future regarding this issue even though I now have Medicare and a companion program through Blue Shield to help cover me in the event something unexpected happens to me.  I am now covered by health insurance and relatively well informed on health and fitness issues and that still DOES NOT qualify me to be a primary resource for solving this problem. However, I WILL make it my business to be a “part of the solution” and this time I am counting on the fitness profession to NOT be an “afterthought” in the discussion! How does that sound to you? It will take, as Hilary Clinton said a while ago in one of her books, “a village” to tackle this massive challenge.

Conclusion

In my book (which I promise I WILL publish – on line if I have to – no more procrastination!) I describe (what I BELIEVE will work) a concept whereby we bring the “major players” to the table in order to “seize the moment” and save lives in the process. First, we ALL have to agree that it is NOT OK to just “let people die” because they lack health insurance. Second, we have to agree that prevention means MORE than “testing” for diseases and that learning to make better choices (and establishing new priorities) in our daily lives, becoming conscious of our challenges, and FINALLY taking responsibility for all of them is CRITICAL. Third, we have to understand the MAIN ISSUE to be handled WILL be about MONEY (and how to pay for medical services) and we will have to always remember that lives will be at stake with whatever we decide. Fourth, it will take a “cooperative effort” on all our parts – and compromise – among the major “players” (the insurance industry, medical profession, government at ALL levels, the pharmaceutical industry, business and corporate America, health related non-profit agencies, and finally, each of us in our own communities) to decide what it is we are going to do “to fix the system” so that it works for ALL of us – not just a few of us.

My health insurance program over the past 45 years has been my exercise, fitness, and running program – even when I was covered at work during my corporate years. In the intervening years from college to the present time, I have NEVER been in the “system” because I stayed healthy. I am the EXCEPTION – not the rule. What do we DO with all the aging people who aren’t like us – or me – when the time comes to treat them for “whatever ails them”? This is the BIG question we will be facing in the years ahead as we age and I AM betting on my approach with HEALTHY AGING as being one of the KEY components of the solution! Will YOU commit yourself to this journey with me today? NOW is the time and THIS is the place! We ARE the ones who truly CAN make a difference – and save lives in the process!

Exercise Principles & Application

Man Performing LungeStrength training prepares our bodies to do the things we enjoy doing without injury. It is the foundation upon which all exercise and activity are built. Without strong muscles and joints we can’t perform – period.

This article will examine the assessment questions prior to beginning an exercise program and provide a framework for developing a strength training program.

Assessment

Medical and health issues are important to address prior to beginning an exercise program.

The following areas need to be addressed with a medical professional prior to beginning any exercise program:

  • Do you have a history of heart disease in your family?
  • Do you have high blood pressure?
  • Do you have elevated cholesterol?
  • Have experienced any dizziness or fainting?
  • Do you have diabetes or any other chronic illness?
  • Do you have bone or joint problems?
  • Do you smoke? Are you over 40?
  • Are you currently taking prescriptions and if so what are they for?

These are some of the “red flag” questions anyone over 40 – and who has been sedentary – needs to have addressed before beginning any exercise program in order to prevent problems from becoming emergencies.

Any “yes” answer needs to be reviewed with someone other than a fitness professional before commencing with a strength conditioning – or any program.

Strength Training

Strength training is what I call a foundational program. It creates the “platform” from which all fitness programs progress because it builds up the body’s ability to withstand the rigors of all types of activities that many of us enjoy on our time off from our jobs and careers.

Strength training stabilizes the joints by increasing the body’s ability to support and protect them, increases bone density through increased loading during sets, improves posture by strengthening the spine, improves basal metabolic rate by increasing muscle mass (which burns more calories than fat), positively impacts “core strength” by improving the stabilizing muscles of the abdominal cavity, helps achieve weight loss goals, and finally, improves appearance by creating a toned and resilient body.

That is a lot of result for 45 minutes of training 3 times per week!

Sample Program

Note: This sample program is designed with a gym in mind where access to strength equipment is available. The design of strength training programs outside the traditional club environment is beyond the scope of this article due to variables such as the environment, equipment available, experience of the individual, specialized needs etc.

Exercises:

Leg extension, leg curl, chest press, seated row, shoulder press, triceps extension, biceps curl, abdominal crunches, leg press or squats, incline chest press, lat pull down, seated or standing calf raises, lateral raise, and triceps press down.

It is wise to periodically change the pattern of the program to insure the body is required to keep adjusting to the “training stimuli” being applied so as to help the muscle grow in response to the weight, sets and reps being applied.

Guidelines:

Depending upon your experience level 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps is appropriate with periodic changes in weight and/or reps to insure you give your muscles a chance to develop over time. Building strength requires us to stimulate the growth of muscle fibers (cells) and develop the ability of the muscle group to do more work over time.

Adjusting the resistance could be as easy as doing twelve reps without difficulty and moving the weight up (marginally) until you again work your way back to “easy for 12 again”. Doing 8-12 exercises in this manner 2-3 times per week will help your body adjust to new levels of performance and allow you to do more of the activities you may want to do such as cycling, playing tennis, swimming, running, hiking, skiing etc.

Exercises should progress from large to small muscle groups and your focus MUST always be on proper form (especially is using free weights), speed of movement, posture, breathing properly, and settings (machines). Being distracted by your phone is never a good idea when you are executing a strength training movement!

Keep track of your results by writing down the date of the session, exercises done, the weight used, number of sets, and type of exercise equipment used so you can change up your program over time. This is a very helpful tool in achieving your fitness goals as it helps to keep you motivated.

Allow 2-3 days for rest and recovery depending on the intensity of your efforts.  A schedule that allows you to be flexible and dedicated to your purpose will help you stay on track over time.

Final Thoughts

Strength training can keep us young, vital, and strong throughout all our years. It is the ONE thing that can provide visible results in 30 days and that makes for a winning formula.

If everyone of us made an effort to “train for strength” three times a week we would all be healthier today.

Find yourself a place to train today, set up a program for yourself (or seek help from a personal trainer for an hour or two), and start training today. You will be glad you did!

healthy fit family10 Keys to Planning for Your Health and Fitness Needs

Being proactive beats reacting every time. With the healthcare law already in effect and our nation’s level of fitness deteriorating with each passing year, I thought it important to highlight 10 keys to planning for the year ahead. I am evaluating what it is that I may want to change in my own world and by sharing these thoughts with you hopefully move you to such a review as well.

Discussion: The 10 Keys

1.  Get a physical

As a nation we are not being proactive when it comes to our health and as a result we are over medicating ourselves and creating other significant health related problems as a result. Being on drugs is not an effective way to maintain our health – making healthy choices instead is a far better strategy for preventing illness and disease in the long run.

2.  Get “real”

Being “real” with yourself starts with an honest evaluation of where you ARE in your physical and mental – and emotional life. Dumping old behaviors – and attitudes – that are no longer serving you is a place to start. Another step we can take is to get moving – doing whatever you can to positively move in the direction of what I call “your highest good”. We all have something we are here to do in life so get going and don’t waste a single day. Writing these articles is part of what I am to do so I am writing them!

3.  Get moving

By way of reminder – we are meant to be active beings – not sitting beings. Find out what it is you enjoy doing and get moving. Your body will thank you every day you do this. I know how I feel after I run and lift weights and it is in one word “happy”.

4.  Get a handle on your stress

We are all stressed at some point during our day so why don’t we start working on strategies for dealing with the stresses – and stressors – in our lives BEFORE they happen. Being proactive in stress management means knowing we are going to have to deal with stress in our lives so why don’t we practice before the event or stress occurs? I have passed on some of my strategies in prior articles: Meditation, prayer, visualization work, focused breathing, running, quiet reflection etc. These and other techniques are readily available and can be learned through classes and other forums.

5.  Get excited

Getting excited about life fuels our imagination and creativity. The more I think about my potential to make a difference in the world the more excited I become about each day of my life. The same experience can happen to you if you are open and receptive to what your subconscious is trying to tell you. The world of technology is taking away our ability to “go into the silence” and discover what life has in store for us. The “noise” we face every day is keeping us from hearing anything that could be of help to us in planning for it is we may want to do – and accomplish. Take a moment and ask yourself “am I living up to my full potential and if not what can I do about it?”

6.  Get clear on your purpose

Purpose driven people are happy people and they are self actualized – meaning they don’t need someone to tell them what to do, think, feel, say, or do. They approach life from a position of “real power” and at the same time are able to acknowledge the uniqueness of each one of us. I got an email today from a reader telling me I would go to hell if I didn’t believe what he did and my response is – “it’s a free country and we get to live our lives the way we choose”.  I am empowered and energized by this thought. I am free – as are you – to live a purpose driven life or stay on the path you are on. We are ALWAYS “at choice” so CHOOSE YOURSELF TODAY!

7.  Get close to “real” people

This key is important in today’s world. “Friends” are NOT on the internet – they are in our REAL lives. Be aware that we need each other. Make it a point to be kind to others – smile, acknowledge them when you can, call people by their names and look them in the eyes when you speak to them. People are what make life worth living – not the cyber world of “fake” experiences and relationships.

8.  Get close to your family

My daughter is going through a difficult time in her life right now. She is facing challenges that are most uncommon and have her living “on edge” every day. She has a 7 year old son who needs her and a career in business to re-establish – all in 2014 – and beyond. I spoke with her last night and told her “I am here for you – whatever you need”.  As a father I sometimes feel helpless because she is a grown woman but she is still my daughter and I love her. It is my job now to just be her father and love her – tough as that may be for me. Take this step in your own life in the coming year and see what happens – you might surprise yourself at how your family responds to you.

9.  Get serious about your own health and fitness

Time has a way of marching on and to the degree that you acknowledge the passage of time you begin to appreciate what you have been given – and have in life. I am grateful everyday for my passion for training and running because I know it can be taken from me at any time. I live in the present when I am running or lifting weights and it is a practice I hope to continue until the end. I am serious about my fitness program because it gives me the energy and strength to do my work – teaching, speaking and writing on matters of healthy aging, fitness and exercise. Are your energy levels low? Get moving!

10.  Get to know yourself

This is perhaps the best thing we could do to prepare for the year ahead. Get to know yourself and start appreciating the magnificence that is you. Getting to know your self is a lifelong pursuit. The journey never ends.  I have learned during the course of my 66 years that I DID NOT appreciate myself at all – I had to learn the hard way through difficult and painful experiences that until I could love myself – and appreciate what it is I am here to do – that no one would ever appreciate – or love – me either. I spend time (each day) thinking about my life – and my contribution to life itself – and ask myself “is there more that I can learn or do today?” You should do this too – it will help immeasurably improve the quality of your life now and in the years ahead.

Final Thoughts

Why not take the time between now and the end of the year to see what you might want to work on in the year ahead and see how you can live more fully and completely.  Can you make a more expansive contribution to your own life and the lives of others as well? Of course you can! Isn’t this what the fitness lifestyle enables us to do in the first place? So get moving, be willing, be open, and appreciate who you ARE right now because you have only scratched the surface of your potential!

The 7 Fitness Keys to Healthy AgingHealthy Aging & You: The 7 Keys to Fitness Achievement

What does it mean to be fit or “be in shape”? We set fitness goals for a variety of reasons that are important to us at the time but in the long run is really losing weight a lasting goal? Do we really ever regard the “real” point of becoming fit? Probably not. Getting older means losing “something” in most people’s minds (mobility, independence, freedom to do what we love to do etc.). It however doesn’t have to be that way. If we think in terms of performance based goal setting and being able to do all the things we love to do over time – regardless of age – we will find that getting older doesn’t have to mean “getting old”. I would like to share with you what I consider the seven keys to fitness that if we maintain over time we will be able to be not only functional but vibrant and healthy as well.

Discussion

I have always maintained that if I remained fit for life that I would be training every day toward becoming an “evolving athlete” – capable of “doing what I want, when I want – without getting hurt”. This is as good a definition of what it means to be fit to me given my track record as a fitness professional. Taking time today to evaluate what you REALLY want from your fitness activities is probably a good idea and worth the effort and time up front so that you can access the benefits that you TRULY want from your training program. Here are the seven keys to fitness that will make your efforts worthwhile:

#1.  Strength

Strength is a cornerstone of any fitness program. How we build strength over time is dependent on our effort and focus at being consistent in all we do. I started a weight training program in college with the help of the varsity football team at Syracuse University in 1965 and learned the basic principles of strength training with their help. I am still using those same methods and training principles today 50 years later and the secret to my success is clearly defined methodology and consistency of effort. I record all my results in a written log and am now in a training mode for my 70’s that will enable me to be able to run well into my 80’s thanks to my resistance training program. What do you want to be able to do as you age? Strength training is THE foundation for healthy aging.

#2.  Endurance

Endurance is being able to do an activity – any activity – over time without tiring and running out of fuel. Endurance is training for the heart and the cardiovascular system and enables us to be able to do more in our lives without tiring. Running is a key activity that I have engaged in since 1964 and has remained a cornerstone of my training program since then. I am doing 7 mile runs at a variety of speeds and currently have accumulated a body of work that has stretched over 70,000 miles. Since 2000 I have run 23,500 miles and I know these results because I have recorded each of my workouts in detail in a runner’s calendar and know where I have been, where I am in my training and where I am going. I want to be able to run a 6 minute mile on my 80th birthday in 2026 and current results say I will be able to do it – barring injury or illness. My book on healthy aging is simple but not easy. Pick what you love to do and keep doing it – and continue to learn more about yourself every day. Be a student of your own life and never stop learning!

#3.  Power

Power comes from being able to retain “explosive” ability over time. Old people lose their power and never regain it because they may have known they had it in the first place. Power is both mental and physical. It resides in the mind as well as the body. Many forms of exercise help us retain our power from yoga to dance (yes dance) to tai chi – and of course weight training. I use several exercises in my own programming for this purpose – from pushups, dips, bench press, leg press, weighted ab work, lunges, squats and other exercises that allow me to retain the power in my body. My “mindfulness” work is embodied in my meditation and visualization (imagination) work that I am committed to doing daily. I also use sprint workouts in order to increase my anaerobic threshold which determines my ability to engage as many of my “fast twitch” muscle fibers as I can. So far I am doing 250 pushups, 1000 crunches, and running sub 6 minute miles while still bench pressing 250 lbs. for my “power set”. If I maintain these results over time I WILL retain my power as I enter my 70’s next year.

#4.  Speed

Most of us lose speed after we leave our 20’s. If we have struggles with health issues we most likely never thought of speed as a part of our lives. Injured joints, soft tissue damage and other debilitating issues will prevent us from ever being fast but it is still worth our time to try and improve our speed of movement. I love to run fast and I will always have this aspect of fitness in the front of my mind as I train my body in the future. I love sprint workouts and will most likely keep the track in my sights going forward. Right now running indoors suits me and I am making real strides in developing leg speed and maintaining a “rhythm” that I positively love. What will you do to address speed in your programming? Seek to rise to a higher level of achievement and see what happens to your confidence!

#5.  Agility

Agility is an elusive quality and many of us never really train for it because it is hard to simulate agility in a training program. Athletes must all have some form of agility or quickness to play their sports at the highest level so they routinely add agility drills to their off season programming. It takes effort and desire but can be a real asset to any training regimen. Seek out new ways of addressing this skill set and see how you might incorporate some agility training into your program and see what happens. Personal trainers and group fitness instructors can – and do – use agility training as a part of their instruction. I am thinking about this aspect of fitness as well and have not yet decided on a course for myself yet so I am still an “evolving athlete” too.

#6.  Balance

Balance is a key to becoming fit and implies not only physical balance but mental and emotional balance as well. Being balanced means that we can more easily respond to life’s challenges and roll with the punches as change enters our lives. Being physically capable of balancing our bodies is a worthy goal. Yoga is a great way to learn to balance the mind and body. The poses help you acquire a “sense of self” in space and time. I use yoga as a part of my stretching routine to “release” tension from my joints and muscles following my training. I find breathing exercises to be useful in calming me and balancing my mind with my heart and is also a soothing way to address stress in my life. Use basic principles of achieving balance in your life and you will go far and be healthy along the way.

#7.  Flexibility

I saved flexibility for last because it captures for me the essence of health and fitness. Being flexible in our thinking and in our physical being is a reward for all our hard work. I am more open to change in my life than I ever thought possible. “Change is the only constant in the natural order” is one of the important lessons I learned from a favorite teacher over 30 years ago and only now am I finally beginning to truly understand this concept as change accelerates in my own life. “Feeling in control” of our lives is important but when we realize that what we love today may change in our lives tomorrow we become more adaptable and willing to change so that we can continue to grow and expand in consciousness. Life is bigger than we can imagine and if we become flexible in body we can save ourselves from injury and if we become flexible in our thinking we can become healthier – and happier – grateful for all that we have been given.

Conclusion

The seven keys to becoming – and staying fit are: Strength, endurance, power, speed, agility (quickness), balance and flexibility. Where do you fall short when it comes to your own fitness? Where do you feel you need to improve your training? What do you REALLY want to accomplish with your training? Looking good is fine but what do you want to DO with your training? I want to travel, water ski, play with my grandson and teach him to be active, empower and inspire audiences to make positive changes in their lives, write more books and articles on healthy aging and live a fulfilling and rewarding (and meaningful life). Time is precious so use it well and gain your freedom to be all you were meant to be!

Fitness & the Aging Population – Risks & Rewards

The reality is that most Americans are unprepared physically and mentally for old age. To the population at large the future looks like a partnership with the medical community – and drugs – as inevitable. I disagree. The health issue is the precursor to the fitness issue and the two are linked closely to the future of all those who are currently “behind the curve” when it comes to preparing for our “declining years”. The fitness industry is going to play a critical role in how well we age in this country in the years ahead – and the impact we have on the lives of those we are fortunate enough to train. If we don’t change the “culture of avoidance” we are experiencing in this country today in really short order, the cost of our failure will be enormous. The point I am making is that to turn this ship around we need to find a way to tap into the “emotional content” of people of all ages and help THEM find their OWN path to “feeling” the NEED to train and FINALLY enjoy being active (just like me when I was a boy on Maui). What do we do?

The training process is very consequential to the outcome I envision – meaning that it is “one step at a time” so that lessons can “sink in” and be internalized by the client. Trainers with limited experience often miss this step in their assessments of potential clients and unknowingly set up failure as the outcome of their best efforts. Finding the “hot buttons” for clients takes the art of listening to a higher level where we listen with BOTH our ears and our hearts to what people are saying to us. As we age and find obstacles appearing in our path to new ideas (like living a new life through fitness and training), fear can take over and rule our ability to hear what is being said to us. It is through “hearing” what people are saying – nonverbally – that will enable and empower us to make a REAL difference in their lives. If I had to pick the MOST important skill in establishing a relationship with a potential client I would pick the listening skill. What do we study most to become a trainer? It is NOT listening!

The first step in the process of working with people who ARE afraid is NOT in “telling” them anything – it is in the process of asking the “right” questions and providing COMFORT and SUPPORT along the way that establishes the importance of the dialogue – and open (and honest) communication. It is in open and honest communications that we can “build the bridge to another soul” and create the “link” that will ALLOW us to serve people of ALL ages in critical areas of their lives. Taking “baby steps” and learning how to “master the basics” (my primary message), is the way to encourage and prepare the client for what is to come. Fear DISAPPEARs with knowledge and support – and no “preconceived notions” about another person’s needs, allowing us to establish a foundation of mutual trust and respect – the key to developing a long and lasting relationship.

Preparing a clearly defined plan highlighting the “points of success” and “milestones” of accomplishment is a MAJOR element in helping clients adhere to and comply with their programs. I like the KISS approach to planning – “keep it simple stupid”. Explain the elements of the plan to the client in plain English and help them understand their role in the process. Let them know that they ARE beginning at step one and that it is only the FIRST step in a process and that you will be there for the ‘long haul’ to help them reach their goals. As a result of this careful process of planning they WILL greet each new session as an opportunity to discover something new about themselves leaving them stronger mentally, physically and emotionally – and ready for whatever comes their way!

Fear is an inherent part of the aging process – fear of the unknown and fear of not knowing all I need to know to face the challenges before me. This of course applies to the majority of the population, doesn’t it? “Assuming” always gets us in trouble with people and so I always affirm in the beginning that we will “be learning together” and what we need to learn in the process, we will learn TOGETHER – tying me to the partnership. Getting beyond these barriers requires building mutual respect and trust and this requires EMPATHY – being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes and trying to “feel how they might be feeling” about their situation. While we explain the trainer’s responsibilities to our clients, we MUST also understand the role the client will play in the training relationship so that both people are prepared for the unknown and unexpected twists and turns that inevitably “pop up” in the course of implementing the plan. (Life has a way of surprising even the most prepared professional!)

Older people know a lot about life but where they can fall short is in their OWN understanding of how their bodies work and why they have stopped working like they used to when they were younger.  The opportunity to educate and inform – and inspire – people is always available to us and how we choose to welcome this moment into our lives is up to each of us. I CAN say that if we don’t make a conscious effort to “reach out” to people we WILL lose our chance to make a difference in their lives. They WILL NOT reach out to us! It is NOT about “selling” ourselves but finding the “connection” to another soul ‘unlike’ ours – and yet very much like our own. With aging people becoming the new “reality” of the future, the fitness profession will have to adapt to this reality by learning that we “don’t know it all” and “partnering” with clients will be THE KEY to success in helping them address the many challenges they will be leaving on our “doorstep”. This partnership will help ease the “age difference” that many trainers will face with clients in the future and allow them to establish their credibility in the relationship. To serve clients with distinction and professionalism AND that is appreciated and rewarded by the client with friendship and mutual trust and respect is reward in itself for a job well done!

Keys to Achieving Optimal Health – Ideas and Strategies

Today while I was at the gym I asked a man (he is in 80’s and struggles physically just to move and with whom  I am friendly) if he could go back in time – knowing what he knows now – and tell his younger self just ONE thing, what would that be? After some thought he looked at me and said “that’s a very good question – I’ll need to think about it.” Sometime later while I was getting ready to leave I asked him if he could give me an answer to my question and he said “no, not yet, I still have to take some time to think about it – it is a difficult one.” I think my point is that I AM thinking about this and other questions about the aging process and what we might be missing out on while living our lives full of clutter, noise, frustrations, obligations – and uncertainty. The question I pose now to you is “how do YOU want to be older? (We are NOT going to be OLD!) I am thinking that in this series we may want to address these and other questions that may – or may not – serve to guide us in making optimal choices NOW in order to have the quality of life in our later years that we would consider desirable. I will share some of my thoughts on this subject in this article on “becoming older”.

My initial introduction to healthy aging came through my clients. The majority of the people I served during my twenty plus years as a personal trainer were over 45 and came to me with a variety of physical, medical, emotional and related issues. My experiences with them spurred my thinking about aging because in some cases they WERE my age and yet “way behind me” in terms of knowledge, experience, and training skills. My sessions with them taught me more about myself than I ever imagined they would, giving me insights into my own choices, attitudes, and behavior. I learned I needed to resolve my OWN emotional and mental issues if I were going to be a model for change in the world. This included my own family shortcomings, relationships in my life (including my daughter which is certainly open to change), and “baggage” from my past years that I had not yet fully addressed. My clients became my teachers and through helping them I was helping myself to heal and grow in awareness of who I wanted to become. The good news about the training business is that it IS about the business of healing – not only ourselves but those we serve – is that great or what? My potential was always within me – I just never looked hard enough to find it – now I am – and it feels right to me. My favorite minister (long passed) once said “life is to be lived on the boundaries where growth occurs – and “in the questions” because it is in the process of asking the tough questions that we learn about who we ARE and WHY we are here.”

To summarize: Develop clarity of purpose. Become clear on your priorities – and values – and ACT on them. Believe in yourself – and your work. Know your value as a person and as a professional.  Arrange your day in order to find the time for daily meditation and “inner work” – to turn the “noise” of the world off and envision a future of your choosing. These steps are an ongoing process and repeat over time leading to an “expanded consciousness” which will lead you to an experience such as the one I had at the gym today with my friend. I find myself “thinking ahead” about my message now and how that message will be received and acted upon by the people I meet in person – or touch through my writing -or as a speaker in the future. Imagination and creativity go hand in hand and form a powerful partnership – we MUST use these gifts or they will wither and die. Suffice it to say I am a firm believer in the notion that “who you are on the inside, is who you are on the outside” (what the world sees). Let’s make that the most powerful and memorable person the world will ever see!

In summary think about what you are doing – or not doing – today that will enhance who you want to become, or make a change that you feel will enhance your quality of life right now. The future is set in motion today through our thoughts and feelings – and choices today. You are living the choices you made in your past and tomorrow will reflect what you chose today. Live the life of an adventurer. Take risk, have fun, and learn something new today while always being authentic and true to yourself. We express who we ARE through the life we choose now – and if it is not working the way we envisioned, we can always change our minds. In summary: Develop a clear FOCUS and PLAN for achieving your purpose; implement your plan today and measure your progress through your ACTIONS; develop a training program for yourself that includes the mental, physical (yoga, group exercise, sports, etc.), and spiritual aspects (learning about your belief systems etc.) of your life, (i.e. journaling); develop persistence and the ability to rationally address the challenges you face along the way while facing your DOUBTS and FEARS; and finally, become congruent and learn to “walk your talk”. These ideas will enable you and empower you to enjoy the journey to becoming older – not OLD!

Turning 50 – Is it Important?

HEALTHY AGING & YOU: "Turning 50 – Is it Important?"

Introduction

I am open to the possibility I might learn something new each day and today was no exception. My friend Mike and I were discussing fitness related “stuff” when he mentioned that turning 50 for him was an important step and he explained why. He said that it was the first time he became aware that he could no longer look to his past for encouragement and the “old” ways to measure his present fitness circumstances. The years of his 20’s, 30’s and 40’s would no longer be “possible” and that to set his sights on new goals and “aspirations” for his 50’s made more sense to him. I didn’t give turning 50 much thought because I was still in the midst of a major transformation at the time and it wasn’t until I hit 60 that the awareness Mike was referring to “hit me”. I felt this conversation with Mike was significant because for the first time “someone else” was referring to what it felt like to “grow older” – and this came from a former Olympic caliber water polo player (who by the way will turn 61 this fall)! I suspect that in the process of examining the aging process the way I am in this series, it is appropriate to ask the question: “When DO we become old”? The answer will be different for each of us!

Discussion

My father died in November of 1983 – almost 29 years ago. He never made it to the age of 66 because he lived a different life than the one I am living now – and Mike as well. I was 37 when he passed away and I never felt that we developed a close relationship during the years he was alive. I felt regret and sadness when I called home the week after I returned from Hawaii in early November from my visit with him in the hospital. The sadness of course came from his passing but the regret came from the distance I felt for many years after my graduation from Syracuse in 1968 because of the conflict I had with my mother. He essentially “gave in” to her “way of being” – “writing off” each of her children in some way, for some “perceived transgression” AND because of “stuff” we did – or didn’t do to – or for her. Her world was one of constant turmoil and because of her instability emotionally and mentally he decided to “not rock the boat” cutting each of us off in the process.

He NEVER reached out to me for comfort or support – or anything for that matter – EVER. He was from a different generation – the “depression generation” and he kept everything he was feeling (good or bad) to himself. I can’t recall ever hearing him say “I love you” to me so I guess what I am sharing here is that time does “run out” on every life and it behooves us to prepare every day for that possibility. That is what Mike was REALLY saying to me today – that he perceives the importance of his OWN family more than ever now and wants to “be there” for his parents (87 and 90 respectively but with health issues growing in importance), his wife, and his son and his new wife as well. The clock starts “ticking louder” at 50 for most of us but for some of us that sense of mortality starts even earlier – perhaps with a diagnosis of cancer or diabetes – or whatever – that FINALLY gets our attention. Is it important to pay attention to time and its impact on our lives NOW rather than later? You bet it is! As I look at my own situation with my daughter and grandson I think about the legacy I will leave each of them and what they will remember when they think of me. I believe I am expressing my true understanding of the aging process by writing these articles for askthetrainer.com so that others can benefit from the lessons I HAVE learned from my past – and AM learning in the present.

As Mike told me today, if you DO NOT plan for your expected tomorrows both physically and mentally, you are behaving very foolishly and carelessly. He said that if people can’t manage to plan for their own retirements and stay out of credit card debt today, how can they expect to prepare for their health issues to come in their later years? That is a very relevant point and I predict that when the crisis comes for each of us – and it will – what WILL “they” do then? Andy Williams died yesterday at the age of 84 and had a really terrific life. He sang beautifully and I loved listening – and singing along – to his music (I bought many of his albums even when I was in college). His death got me to thinking that if I live to the age of 84 what will I be like? Well, if I am accurately assessing my current efforts and plan, the year I turn 84 will just be “another number” for me and wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Conclusion

Thanks to my conversation with Mike today, I CAN say turning 50 IS important and in nine years my OWN daughter will be turning 50 – making me the grand “old age” of 75! Yikes! Time has a way of speeding up as we grow older. I sense time moving faster each day and everyone I talk to at the gym who is “older” says the same thing: “Boy the days sure go by fast!” Mike said he wanted to grow older from this point in time by being able to “remember who he was” and enjoying who he “was becoming” – whatever that may be in the future. I couldn’t agree more. I want to know who I WAS and who I had BECOME so that if I wanted to change my mind – I could! Training for today provides us with life’s greatest gift – OPTIONS and CHOICES! I suspect if I look back on my OWN life from this perspective, it hasn’t been THAT bad after all and I CAN live with that! How about you? Take that “leap of faith” TODAY and find out NOW who you ARE and what you would like to become, so that it won’t be too late like it was for my father and me.

Healthy Aging: Mindfulness, Meditation, Affirmation & the Inner Journey

HEALTHY AGING: “Mindfulness, Meditation, Affirmation & the Inner Journey”

With advancing technology invading every aspect of modern life, it has become apparent to me that it is more difficult than ever to create personal time and opportunities to reflect and create a broader understanding of who we are (on the inside)– AND creating a happier life for ourselves in the process. Since the mid 80’s I have included time in my day for reflection, contemplation, and thought – through meditation and prayer work. I was first given this gift at my church in 1985 and have practiced it in some form – along with affirmative prayer and affirmation – since then. My life has achieved a level of clarity and understanding that grows with each passing day as a result of this practice. Since healthy aging – according to my current understanding – is an “inside job” (a “consciousness issue”), it is important for me to review this aspect of the process of aging well with you now.

I believe that since these practices have been around for thousands of years in both the eastern and ancient worlds, it is important for each of us to explore these ideas and principles in order to help us access our TRUE potential (and eventual purpose). These time proven practices have demonstrated over time the ability to help countless numbers of people of every background and cultural upbringing to achieve a deeper level of wisdom and insight (over time) and leading those “who stayed the course” to a life of deeper meaning and purpose – resulting in “a healthy, vibrant and meaningful life!”

Our subconscious mind is the driver – and “storehouse” for our entire life. From it comes our “perceived reality” that is provided for us early in life by our parents, teachers, and others who help us grow into adults. It directs our conscious mind and serves as the “gate” to the world we inhabit later in our lives when we start to interact with life as adults. In the subconscious is stored all that we ARE – our beliefs, self awareness, understandings, values, thoughts and ideas that we hold to be true. While this all sounds positive, it can prove to be troublesome if – and when – we are faced with the need to examine and possibly change our understanding of ourselves due to circumstances or challenges that we inevitably face as we grow older. Typically we face these potential changes unwillingly because the “known” always seems to outweigh the “unknown” – even if changing our minds might be useful and beneficial to us. This is the reason for my willingness to change my life in the mid – 80’s. My life was unraveling in all areas – personal, professional, family, financially, – and my sense of self worth as well. My physical being remained fit because of the life I had lived over the years as a runner and probably saved me from experiencing a fatal heart attack or stroke – a very common outcome for most during times of significant change and stress.

Re-entering the world for the first from this point of view can be invigorating or incredibly scary. I felt both emotions deeply on a conscious – and unconscious level – but I also knew I could not go back to the “old ways of being” that had dominated my previous life experience (unconscious and thoughtless which I classify as ignorance!). My world did not improve overnight. As a matter of fact the process took me more than a decade of effort to see positive results because I had so much to review within me and then I needed to make new choices – all pretty scary but wonderful as well. I could finally say that I had triumphed over tragedy because I “spent the time wisely” looking within myself – the only REAL place we can look to make REAL change happen. I had learned much of what I needed to know to change my life for my “higher good” through effort and thought – using meditation and prayer as my “tools of change”. Ultimately as I said earlier, my clients proved to be the vehicle through which I rode this wave of change. Through my dedication and commitment to the process, my inner journey helped me arrive to this moment in time where I can now share with you this important message. Change was no longer my enemy but my ally, leading me to new opportunities and “ways of being” that reflected my true nature and passion – doing what I am doing right NOW. This series reflects my “evolved” understanding of myself and is based upon the wisdom I have acquired over these many years and is guiding me to my new world of speaking, teaching and writing.

I set aside approximately 30-45 minutes every day for this work and it is the most valuable time I spend each day. I “go within” and let my consciousness open up to my thoughts and feelings. I don’t judge what emerges – only allow it to flow through me. If something needs to change I simply acknowledge it and “let it go”. It is a simple concept but by no means easy to do. It takes repetition for REAL change to occur in our lives but it is well worth the effort! My creativity during this time also rises and expands – and ideas seem to emerge and flow through me with ease. These nine articles that I have written so far are a reflection of the outcome of spending this important time and also keeping  an “open mind and an open heart” helps in the process.

Your inner work will provide similar results but be different from mine because we are different people and your results will reflect your values and beliefs – just as mine did. You too can make significant changes to what is NOT working in your life, whether it be an attitude, belief, past hurt or something you did not know even existed. You can’t change “what you DON’T know needs to be changed” and therefore your “inner work” is the ONLY way for you to find out. In conclusion I can only say that the time I spend “in the quiet” is more important to me than any other time I spend during my day. It “sets up” not only my day – but my future life as well. In part II I will reveal some of the ways in which you too can reveal more of yourself and become truly happy, healthy, fit for life!

Man and Women with great fitness bicyclingFour Key Components of the Fitness Lifestyle: The Fitness Lifestyle isn’t EASY But it is SIMPLE!

The fitness lifestyle as I describe it in part one of this series is one that brings great opportunities and challenges – all of them positive and worthwhile. There is no “downside” to choosing for one’s health and fitness needs because any energy expended toward this worthy goal always yields something that encourages and inspires us. I thought it important to share some additional thoughts on this subject since I am now in the stage of my life where health risks naturally rise and the timeline shortens. Many of my classmates from high school are dying now so it is important that I share additional information on “living as though there is no time left”.

Discussion

The idea that there will always be “more time” for us to make necessary changes to our lives is inaccurate. There is only a finite amount of time available to each of us in this life and it is important to face our key issues earlier in life and not later when there is little anyone can do about our circumstances. We are the “cause” of all that happens to us in life and the “results” we see are the outcome of our choices. To exercise or not exercise, eat healthfully or not, deal with stress or not, plan for our future health needs or our retirement – we face these and other choices every day and it is in how we prioritize them that we will either fail or succeed.

My “future self” will happen the way I want him to if I am thoughtful about my training today. Every day of our lives provides us with an opportunity to prepare for our later years by choosing what it is we want to be in later life and this includes the following:

The Four Key Components of the Fitness Lifestyle

1. Cardiovascular training

Our hearts are the center of our beings. The heart pumps blood and nutrients and I feel this part of training is critical to my future so I plan my runs every day – thoughtfully and carefully. I am using new techniques this year that I have not used before and through this new pattern of training I am becoming a more versatile and flexible runner. Speed, endurance, and power come from the heart.  If our hearts are stressed properly age becomes “only a number”. In my case I am using high intensity interval training, steady state training, hill climbs and other variables in my daily sessions to insure my resting heart rate remains low and my training heart rate is adaptable – and capable – of handling the “loads” I provide it during my training.

2. Strength training

I am using multiple set, multi exercise training methods in my strength training sessions. I am currently employing 16 exercises using a variety of modes from free weights to machines to accomplish my goals of increasing my strength, power and endurance. I am using the pyramid where I increase the weight with each set and then decrease it on the declining sets. I am also doing what I call “super sets” where I will do as many as 100 reps for one set and continue that strategy through heavier sets by not focusing on range of motion but speed and limited movement. Each set is different and each exercise stimulates my body in different ways. The key is to keep making changes over time to your routine so that continued growth and flexibility increase opportunities for doing the activities that interest you most.

3. Flexibility

Flexibility is a key component to preventing age related challenges from becoming debilitating and ultimately life changing. Stretching every day is critical to a healthy life and focuses our attention on how our bodies are responding to the training stimulus we provide it with each training session. Scheduling flexibility training time is essential to preventing injury and encouraging balance in our lives. Balance is a function of thought and action. Through our minds we connect our feelings and our thoughts and this translates into creating new ideas about how we want to be in the world. Stretching BOTH our minds and our bodies is good idea if we want to remain young and vital.

4. Planning for results

Planning for results is a daily activity for me. I think about my plan for my health and fitness needs every day and I record my results in a journal. For my runs there is my runner’s calendar in which I note times, speeds, program selection, accumulated mileage and day to day progress. I also record milestone performances and records I set along the way month to month. At the end of the year I have a total “picture” of my year and can then make decisions about what I want to accomplish next in my ongoing efforts to remain strong, vital and capable of doing the things I love most. With strength conditioning and training I record the resistances used, number of sets accomplished and the totals for the session that then allows me the opportunity to make changes to my program as necessary. Finally, flexibility and stretching remain a challenge for me – a “work in progress” – and I suspect we ALL have those to deal with every day of our lives. I will in the final analysis develop as I go – the operative word being “go”!

Final Thoughts

The fitness lifestyle is not EASY but it is SIMPLE. You either buy into it – or you don’t. If you accept the challenges of creating a healthy body and mind then the next step is obvious – you start and keep going! The rewards are enormous and because I AM now in my 60’s training for my 70’s I can tell you it never stops being a challenge for me but it is one I embrace with all my heart and mind. I LOVE training and it never gets old for me. I get up each day KNOWING I am going to run or lift weights and challenge myself as I never have before – and it FEELS great!  Live like this and see what happens to you. Make the choice to become more than you ever dreamed possible and commit yourself to not only training but having FUN and you WILL be surprised at the result!

Treadmill Training: Running for ResultsTreadmill Training: Running for Results

It occurred to me today that running for me is “what I love to do” – and also “who I am” – a runner. The reason this is so is because I am very experienced and capable as a runner. I know how to plan, execute and measure my progress as a runner in such a way that I can forecast my probable results weeks – or even months – ahead of a particular goal. I am positive that ALL forms of running – whether they be indoors or outdoors – can and DO improve our ability to run faster and farther with greater ease.

The miles we run add up to creating a body that is more fluid, capable, lean, and strong than the one we started with in the beginning. Today I ran on the treadmill – as I have for most of the past two years – and discovered some of the keys as to WHY I am successful as a runner. I will not discuss the various programs available on most treadmills today because that is way too general, but the run I had today CAN inform us on the “idea” of REAL “training” which is “working out with a purpose in mind”.

Discussion

The various programs on a commercial treadmill are designed with variety in mind to keep the user from becoming bored or distracted; however they are also capable of becoming incredibly strong tools that we can use to improve not only our “psychology” as runners but our physical skills as well. I am now a proponent of using ALL the “tools at hand” to improve our physical skills and create a stronger, faster, AND more durable body that can take us into our future years with minimum stress.

The profile & my plan

I chose the random profile today. I selected level 8 which is just below the midpoint for intensity (it ranges as high as 20 – a most challenging and advanced level). The incline used by the machine at this level ranges from 0-6.4 – moderate by the scale in the program. The speed I selected was 8.0 – 7:30/mile pace to as high as 9.0 – a 6:39/mile pace. My thought was to run 7 miles and increase the speed every time the treadmill declined to below 6.4 (highest angle) and increase the speed each time the treadmill lowered the angle of incline (down to 0 – level). The idea here is to train “over time” with varied speeds on a variety of inclines from easy to moderately challenging. The plan worked like a charm. My total time for the seven mile run was under 48:00 – meaning I ran under a 7 minute pace “on the hills”!

The results and measuring my progress

To give you an idea of how I record my runs I will guide you through what is important to me for experience’s sake. I am interested in mile and half mile “splits”- meaning I want to know how I am progressing as the run unfolds. The treadmill allows for you to “pause” as you wish so that you can drink water or record “the numbers” as they unfold. I found my energy levels were as high –or higher – at the completion of the run meaning that my cardiovascular system and muscles are in tune with the “loads” I have placed upon them. The notion of progress comes in many forms but for me it is in my ability to hold certain speeds over time and distance that matter most to me.

My goal of running 1 mile in under 6 minutes (which I CAN certainly do right now) can only happen if I can sustain such a pace over several miles – not just one. That is the purpose of training – to increase our body’s ability to handle various “loads” (like weight training does) over time and at a number of different speeds. The treadmill is an ideal partner for this process and I have now become a believer in the promise of “cross training” and using a variety of different tools.

My splits (miles run) increased as my speed increased and this was because I kept the speed at higher levels every time the machine adjusted up or down every 30-60 seconds. This is a result of my confidence developing with this type of run. Now I know I can increase the level – and speeds – for subsequent runs because of how I felt today at the conclusion of the run. I tracked my splits – as for all my runs – by going from 1-7 miles – with half mile splits starting at 2 miles – and concluding with the 7th mile. I will add miles with this formula in the weeks ahead – meaning I will not only run farther – but faster as well.

My splits today were 7:30, 14:26, 21:18 (3), 24:46 (3.5), 28:10 (4), 31:36 (4.5), 34:56 (5), 38:22 (5.5), 41:50 (6), and 45:10 (6.5). I will increase BOTH the level of intensity (to 10 and maybe up to 15) and eventually increase the speed as well to up to 10.0 (6 minute pace). These changes insure that I will experience continued growth both mentally and physically in the future. The timing of these changes depends on recovery periods and the time I choose to run future distances. The same rules apply to tracking results on outdoor runs, only the process contains a bit more guess work because measured distances tend to be less accurate and weather conditions and the like can add complexity to the results achieved. The idea of training with results in mind is very common for runners – we always want to know “how we are doing” and so today was a “measure of how I am doing” – and it felt great!

Conclusion

Taking this example of a training run as a realistic one for all of us – and keeping in mind that I am a singular runner to myself because I am always only running against myself – we can decide to adjust our training to accommodate our body’s current ability and build upon it for future runs. Tomorrow I will do a “hill profile” but employ the same technique that I did today and since it is less challenging than the one I ran today on the random profile, I will either increase the speeds I run with or the distance and shoot for 8 miles instead.

I will decide that tomorrow when I get to the gym. I will record my results and keep in mind my overall goal – run under a 6 minute mile on my 67th birthday. I am reinstating “the birthday mile” this year – it is time to “go for it”! Take this example and the thought processes that went into it and train for whatever your running goals might be – now and in the future. I will run outside again in a month or so and check my progress with the idea always in mind of having fun and being free to grow again mentally, emotionally, physically and yes, even spiritually, because running to me is a GIFT and I NEVER want to forget how truly lucky I have been – and continue to be – in the world as a runner!

Fitness & the Aging Population – Risk & Rewards – Part II

HEALTHY AGING: “Fitness & the Aging Population – Risk & Rewards” – Part II

As I examine the landscape of the future, I see the potential for a reversal of our current challenges because of the contributions of many diverse groups and forces. The greatest challenge we face of course, is that of the millions of baby boomers arriving at 60 in the next 20 years – and beyond! The differences in the generations before mine – and now – are grounded in the lifestyle we lived prior to the technological “revolution” of the past 20 years. The “sitting of America” began about the time my daughter Lisa was graduating from USC in 1993 and as she said to me years later, hers was the LAST class of journalism students to use typewriters! Computers, the internet and telecommunications have revolutionized our society for sure but it has all come at a terrible price – our health and future well-being!

The notion that there is a “pill” coming “down the pike” that will save us from ourselves and the obesity crisis is nonsense of course but people are continuing to pray – and hope – for that “magic pill”. My generation will quite possibly be the last to outlive our children as evidenced by recent studies that state that children in our current lifetimes will NOT make it beyond their parents because of the “self inflicted” wounds of poor choices and lifestyle habits that will yield a “tidal wave” of diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, cancer and so many other examples of PREVENTABLE causes of early death. We have a lot of work ahead of us if we are to turn things around – and it still may NOT happen in my lifetime- whatever that may turn out to be!

The questions we MUST ask potential clients during the assessment interview range from medical concerns, medication use, injuries, illnesses, limitations, surgeries, joint problems, lifestyle issues, stress, work, and family history among the factors we have to consider before recommending a program to them that meets their goals – and needs. When I worked with seniors I often found their knowledge of these and other issues “wanting” – meaning that the physician who recommended they start exercising had failed to inform and educate them as to their best options prior to speaking to a trainer. On many occasions I had to send potential clients back to their doctors for further evaluation and recommendations so that I could safely proceed with designing an exercise program that was truly tailored to meet their immediate needs. Just as often, however, they never returned for a follow-up consultation because I had (by necessity) overwhelmed them and inadvertently discouraged them. I disliked this outcome intensely and always felt that the fitness professional was becoming the “dumping ground” for patients who had NO business starting an exercise program on their own – unsupervised – in the misguided hope that exercise alone was going to “fix” whatever “ailed them”.

Today I see a world that is “disconnected” from the reality of what IS possible in the world of fitness. There are countless numbers of people “out there” who are afraid – or too overloaded with negative emotions – to access the many benefits of a “fitness lifestyle” and its corresponding gifts. The job ahead for each of is to take the person “in front of us” one step at a time through a ‘transformational process’ that encompasses the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual (where appropriate of course) aspects of life as IT CAN BE for the client – ONE choice at a time. Here is my simplest advice for everyone: “Eat a salad, drink water, and take a walk” – EVERY day. Do we do this? NO! CAN we do this? Of course we can! You can also answer that question easily because for US, training is a way of life! The training I am recommending for seniors – or the “aging people” as I have called them in the past – is simply more – and safe – physical activity than they are now doing (activity that they will ENJOY and DO – the best exercise for them), a positive attitude about eating HEALTHY food and its enjoyment, proper hydration, and proper rest. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It IS! Is it EASY? NO, it is not, because as you will remember what I said earlier in this series about change – even SIMPLE, clear cut changes can be daunting and difficult to embrace because the “known” always outweighs the “unknown” – even it WILL help me! We need to PREPARE for change every day we are alive because “change is the only constant in the natural order” and it CAN make a huge difference if we embrace it willingly and with a positive attitude.

What “should” we recommend to the aging population? Cardiovascular exercise in some form will always be a part of the program. How much and at what intensity is determined by many factors we are all familiar with as fitness professionals – physical, medical, experience with particular forms of exercise, and time constraints among other factors that need to be considered when making recommendations to the client. The strength issue troubles me the most. Age brings with it a “cascade” of physical effects and problems – loss of lean mass, joint and connective tissue damage, weight gain (loss), chronic and acute diseases and their lingering effects, medications and their many side effects, and mental and cognition issues  – and balance – (especially balance) that take time and repetition to address and solve. Many seniors NEVER wanted me to put them on the floor for exercises such as abdominal work because they were so unsure about getting back up again! The program designed for flexibility and balance issues can be time consuming and tedious for the client. It takes energy and creativity on the trainer’s part to maintain a compliant and happy client during these times for sure! If the proper foundation has been laid in the beginning of the relationship, the client WILL be prepared for the inevitable plateaus and difficulties that arise along the way. This is where TRUE coaching and support comes in for the trainer.

My clients all responded to me because I attempted “to be with them” for every session we were together – no distractions were allowed! I was with them because I always attempted to “stand in their shoes” – if even for a moment – so that they KNEW I was there “for them” no matter what the challenge was because we would face it together. The successes come more slowly as we age but they DO come and people are to be rewarded, recognized, and praised when they try their best and succeed. This is where the “feeling” I referred to earlier comes in – the feeling of achievement, conquering the unknown with courage and dedication – a process to be applauded and celebrated! This is our role in the new order of things – to play our part in a world “gone mad” through unhealthy choices and unconscious behaviors that have threatened our very existence! I KNOW we are up to the challenge because we KNOW what it takes to thrive and win in our OWN unique way in the world of the fitness professional!

The Power of Habits, Attitudes, & Behavior in Aging Healthfully

Healthy Aging: “The Power of Habits, Attitudes, & Behavior in Aging Healthfully”

So far I have discussed many different aspects of the aging process from a variety of perspectives in order to give you a “glimpse” of the complexity of the subject and its depth and breadth making it more than a “scientific investigation”. Scientific research will certainly be providing us with many important answers in the years ahead to some of the KEY questions we are currently asking about the aging process – and why and how it occurs. However, there will ALWAYS be that part of the process (or “equation”) that science simply can’t “touch” and that goes to the “heart and mind” (and spirit too) of the individual and the singular way in which each of us CHOOSES to live out our OWN unique life experience. It is said that each of us IS absolutely distinctive and that NO two people are alike – even identical twins. This is the premise by which we can examine our uniqueness – and the choices we make. Habits, attitudes and behavior play a KEY role in HOW WELL our life choices serve us – or hurt us.

The habits we form over a lifetime are critical in helping us to “navigate” the “rough spots” we encounter along the way. Comfort zones form out of habitual behaviors and tend to “imprison us” and NOT allow us the opportunity to explore our potential and the possibilities that MAY lie before us when change comes. The habits I formed at an early age came from my family’s dissonance and conflict. I retreated into myself and found ways to “avoid” conflict by staying away (as much as I possibly could) from the source of the conflict – my mother and her emotional outbursts and continuous angry, aggressive behavior toward my brothers and me – and my father as well. My father “hid” behind his work and although he was successful in avoiding her anger by being absent, we were not.

Besides attending a very competitive and academically challenging private school for my last three years of high school, I was constantly in the middle of pain and suffering and fights at home because of my mother’s unstable emotional condition. It was a never ending cycle of emotional and mental abuse that left each of us exhausted and eager to leave at our earliest possible moment. I had no friends, no social life, and no opportunities for personal growth because of the situation I faced at home every day and so I became comfortable “with myself”. I never needed anyone or anything in my life and learned to rely solely on my own instincts and intuition. This “way of living” had enormous consequences for me later in my life when things got even more complicated and confusing.

My attitude was simple: “Sorry, you DON’T know what you’re talking about and I DO!” I became arrogant and judgmental and isolated over the years after my Air Force duty was completed. From 1972 through 1988, I clearly made some terrible decisions and choices along the way and blamed others – including my former wife – for all my “screw ups.” When I was finally confronted with a life that had no meaning, no friends, no family, no purpose, and no support around it, I started to realize that my behavior, attitudes, and ultimately my habits had gotten me thrown into a very DEEP HOLE of my OWN making and escaping from it would all “be on me”. I had no one I could turn to for help and nowhere to go for answers except within myself (at least that’s how I saw it at the time). The church provided me with a new spiritual path that highlighted a different way of “thinking – and feeling” about myself and my supposed “shortcomings and flaws”. I began this journey in 1985 and learned I could “feel” differently about myself and be OK with that truth because it was honest and “right” for me. This knowledge gave me the opportunity to ask some of life’s most important questions – those that reached to the core of who I had become – and also who I wanted to BE.

The challenge for me was to honestly evaluate and assess the many roadblocks I had put in my own way over forty plus years of life. I had discovered that I had sabotaged myself by NOT using my talents the way they were intended and choosing work that NEVER suited my gifts or interests. If I had stayed in the Air Force as a Titan II Missile Combat Crew Commander (and beyond), my life would have been “ordered” by the very program I was trained to support and that would have required NO REAL thinking or evaluation on my part. This is just the way life is in the military (it has to be or no one would ever follow orders) and I would have progressed through the ranks, followed the career path laid out by the work I had done as an operational commander, and eventually retired with a great pension and the chance at a second career. We know however, that is NOT how life works – following orders  and reading checklists – and that is the dilemma for each of us: What do we DO when the world we have known – and possibly loved – comes crashing down around us leaving a giant hole where our life used to be? This is the crux of the issue isn’t it? Surviving to “choose” another day before the clock runs out on us because of a heart attack or stroke – or cancer. Regret and guilt can definitely kill us!

In the end our habits, attitudes, and subsequent behavior all play a role in the outcome of how we eventually face our lives. My point is that until we “reach for the cause” of our discomfort, we will be forced to deal with the “effects” of our choices and this will NOT lead to permanent or positive change – only more chaos and uncertainty. Healthy aging demands a NEW approach to living and the way I lived my life before I started to become the “real me” – the “fitness guy” – I was living a lie of my OWN making. We cannot encourage others to change when we DO NOT recognize the need to change in our OWN lives. We must become the role models (the example of the change we want to see in the world) for how ALL of us can be better – and healthier – by living AUTHENTICALLY and PURPOSEFULLY so that people can experience this in their OWN lives through our example, making the necessary changes that WILL empower and encourage them to be “who they were FINALLY meant to be”!

middle aged man in great shape6 Keys to Aging Healthfully: What Am I Doing Differently Than Other People?

As we enter a new year I have been reflecting on my potential life in 2014 – and the amazing possibilities that MAY lie ahead for me. This thought was coupled with an awareness of the many blessings I have been given by those that touched my life and enabled me to identify and become committed to my life purpose.

This life purpose is simply: To inform, inspire – and move to action – people of all ages to become more – and achieve more – in their own lives by practicing the 6 principles of healthy aging that I have used consciously – or unconsciously – throughout my own life.

This article is intended to illuminate our possibilities of living a healthy and productive life by becoming committed to inspired choices – and creating new paths of exploration – that truly inspire us to reach for more than we ever dreamed possible for ourselves!

6 Keys to Aging Healthfully

#1:  Make your health & fitness needs #1 in your life.

When I worked in the corporate world following my service in the Air Force, my continued focus on my fitness needs remained a priority in my life – regardless of the hours I worked, the miles I drove for work, or the demands placed upon me by my night time MBA program. I never failed to put my running program on my schedule so after these past 48 years I have remained faithful to this priority and to this day it remains at the top of my “to do” list. It is my position that we cannot be of service to others if we have NOT been of service to ourselves FIRST– and this includes family.

#2: Make your thoughts, words and behavior consistent with your belief systems and treat people the way you wish to be treated.

This key is designed to enhance not only your experience in life but also to elevate your consciousness of gratitude and forgiveness. Carrying outdated or unexpressed feelings of resentment, grief, guilt, anger or bitterness WILL make you age badly. The reality is that life is created from our perceptions of ourselves and our worth as we – and others – have defined them. Being “clear” about our self worth releases our inner power to transform our lives for the better. As I have been writing these articles I have been “discovering my voice” and this has given me my purpose for the years ahead. This process of revealing our true nature is a most important aspect of healthy aging. I have been told that I look 20 years younger than I am which gives me the feeling that I have been on the right track all these years. I read once in a journal that by the age of 50 we have the face that we deserve! What does your face look like to you today?

#3: Make your choices and decisions in life thoughtful ones and become accountable and responsible for every aspect of your life.

The “blame game” is a bad game to play when it comes to healthy aging and the way your life unfolds. Being “in the moment” allows you to reflect in “real time” about what is happening in your life. I never used to believe in the “power of the moment” and made many choices and decisions from my emotions and not from my rational side. In making poor choices I ended up with many painful consequences and it took years of growth and investigation on my part to learn the basic truth of life and that is that WE create EVERY aspect of our lives! Becoming aware of consequences BEFORE choosing can save us a great deal of unnecessary grief and discomfort. If you find you are in this situation just STOP and don’t decide until some time has passed and your emotions have calmed down.

#4: Make every effort to discover your purpose in life and be steadfast in moving toward your new life.

This particular key is what has been driving me since I became a speaker in the 80’s and started learning the principles of sharing what I have learned and believe is important with others. Learning to “walk the talk” is a lifelong process of connecting what we believe to be true with what others may need from us in order for us to help them correct something in their lives. “Telling” is NOT the same as sharing and inspiring others to act. I am NOT interested in telling people HOW to lives their lives but I AM interested in helping people see something in themselves that they may not be able to see because they may be too close to the issue to identify it clearly. Knowing WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU REPRESENT means everything when it comes to healthy aging because WHO YOU ARE speaks volumes BEFORE you ever say a word!

#5: Become a “critical thinker” and use BOTH sides of your brain – the creative and imaginative AND the rational.

Accepting “anecdotal” evidence as fact is not a good idea. It means that we cannot think for ourselves and as this process becomes a daily practice it becomes “habitual” and we seek out others for validation and reinforcement. I believe one of the challenges within the fitness industry is the notion of the “expert” – someone who is apart from us and KNOWS what is best for us. I also believe that the pharmaceutical industry and medical profession want us to believe that all they tell us is GOOD for us. Being on multiple medications is NOT the answer to life’s problems and relying on doctors totally makes no sense to me either. When my father was diagnosed with cancer in the early 80’s, he literally turned his body over to the doctors to “fix” and by 1983 he died anyway – a painful death which I observed firsthand. He was only 64 at the time of his death and that image of his struggle NEVER left me. I will NOT allow others to determine the outcome of my life – that is my job.

#6: NEVER MAKE EXCUSES – it is a loser’s game.

I have served hundreds of people over a 20 year span as a personal trainer and lifestyle consultant. They represented all ages and backgrounds from young to very old. The common theme among ALL of my clients was that they arrived at a decision to train after struggling on their own to solve complex emotional, physical, and lifestyle problems. The idea that we can REACT to life’s challenges and make sensible choices is totally wrong in my book. The corollary to this point is excuses. We MAKE excuses every day for what goes wrong in our lives and we often blame others when things don’t work out as we thought they “should”. I never found myself making excuses for NOT working out and I developed a philosophy over the years that said “if I am not sick or hurt, I am training”. This past 2 years I have accomplished a very difficult goal of running over 4000 miles. I have been feeling the pressure of that goal in these last weeks of 2012 and yet I am inspired and feeling a sense of exhilaration and accomplishment as I achieved this milestone on December 23rd. I could never have accomplished this lofty goal if I had made ANY excuses along the way. Everything in life comes with a price and my question to you is: “Is it worth my effort and am I willing to pay it?”

Final Thoughts

These keys to healthy aging have worked for me and ALL of them are still a “work in progress”. We NEVER arrive at a destination because life is always changing and everyday is unique providing us with new and unknown challenges to address.  Our ability to remain youthful depends entirely on our attitude and how we treat ourselves. It is the KEY to living a happy and fulfilling life.

I will NOT retire because with each day I grow older – and wiser – but NOT old. I am engaged, curious, happy, grateful, forgiving, open, receptive, active, loving, joyous, enthusiastic, powerful, and hopeful. This is, in the final analysis, the only thing that matters to me. The rest will take care of itself – including money and recognition – if they are to be.

Remember I am NOT telling you anything – I am merely sharing what has – and is – working in my own life that MAY help you as well. May your 2013 be a year of growth and discovery!

Here is My Fitness Program: What is yours?

Nicholas S. Prukop

Background

I started a weight lifting program during my freshman year at Syracuse University and eventually ended my tenure there working out several times a week with the varsity football team. From 1964-1968 I learned the fundamental principles of resistance training from athletes who relied on power and strength in order to compete at the highest levels of intercollegiate sports. It turned out to be a life changing experience for me and when I finally “re-started” my resistance training efforts in 1982 upon joining Nautilus Plus as a new member in the summer of 1982, I was way ahead of the average person. For the past 30 years I have continued to train for strength, speed, quickness, power, balance, flexibility (my weakness) and endurance through my running program and the incredible gift that weight training delivers for me every week. My program – and approach – has evolved over time as technology has improved our resources for developing speed and strength as well as my OWN knowledge, experience and skill has grown over the years. I consider this program a critical component in maintaining my ability to PERFORM beyond the “norm” in the years ahead.

Weight Training

weight TrainingI lift on Monday and do 15 exercises using a combination of machines and free weights. BOTH methods work well but free weights tend to add a challenge for balance, focus and control that machines, by their very nature do not. Safety is an issue and proper preparation is advisable before beginning any resistance training program. I would NOT expect anyone to duplicate what I am doing unless they are fully prepared and have the proper skill sets and knowledge to safely perform each exercise. Here is my current routine (it will change over time just as my goals will evolve as well):

  1. Bench press – 135-240 lbs. Pyramid (climbing in weight and coming back down to base set)– reps decline as weight increases. I do 500 reps or 50 sets.(count 10 reps for each set)
  2. Incline leg press – 315-450 lbs. – 300 reps or 30 sets.
  3. Calf extension (toe raises) – same weight and machine – 300 reps or 30 sets.
  4. Seated cable row – 100 lbs. – 180 reps or 18 sets.
  5. Shoulder press – 120 lbs. – 200 reps or 20 sets.
  6. Lat pull – 120 lbs. – 160 reps or 16 sets.
  7. Incline (upward) row – 120 lbs. – 200 reps or 20 sets.
  8. Low back extension – 60 lbs. – 200 reps or 20 sets.
  9. Seated leg extension – 156-204 lbs. – 100 reps or 10 sets (20 per set).
  10. Seated arm extension (tricep) – 120 lbs. – 200 reps or 20 sets.
  11. Abdominal bench – 2000 reps or 40 sets – 50 per set.
  12. Arm curls – 20-25 lb dumbbell curls or 60 lbs. preacher (machine) curl – 60 reps or 6 sets.
  13. Hanging dips (press up body) – 160 reps or 16 sets.
  14. Lateral shoulder raise – 60 lbs.(machine) or 15 lbs (free weights) – 60 reps or 6 sets.
  15. Seated row – 120 lbs. – 200 reps or 20 sets.

I would recommend a SERIOUS resistance training program to anyone. Optimally, it would begin as early in life as possible because the loss of lean mass (muscle) (and possible chronic joint damage) accelerates over time with each passing decade that we remain sedentary. I see my own program giving me the foundation – and opportunity – for continued success in remaining a runner who not only runs – but excels. My goal is to retain my speed and endurance for AT LEAST another 20 years! I am currently 66 years old.

Cardiovascular Training

cardio trainingI run 6 days a week and with each 7 mile run I plan on using a different approach each time. I “mix up” my program in order to maximize my results as well as maintain my speed. My primary plan involves utilizing “negative splits” that have me running faster “splits” or intervals at the end of my workout. I usually start at 7 or 8 minute/mile pace and with each “split” (one to 5 minutes each), I increase my speed to the point that I am running well under 6 minute per mile pace at the end of my run. The times I am achieving have gotten faster this year as a result of this program and the added miles per workout (begun in 2011 –from 4 to 7 miles per run) have made me a much more relaxed and efficient runner. I am on pace to run over 2100 miles this year with the addition of the 1980 I ran last year. This would give me a new two year record. The last two year record came from the period 1998 and 1999 (3850 miles) when I was in my early 50’s. Now that I am on pace for a new two year record (over 4000 miles) I am also on pace to record even faster 7 mile training times as well (I record all my runs in a runner’s calendar that includes times and splits etc. I have over 30 years of such records). The reason I am training on a treadmill at this time is to practice more consistent speed work and also to save “wear and tear” on my knees. So far I have suffered no joint injuries or other major problems as a result of almost 50 years of running!

Conclusion

I consider what I am currently doing to be a MINIMUM of what will be required to make the later years of my life meaningful and happy. I am looking forward to playing baseball and other sports with my 7 year old grandson and because I am so fit and strong, he will be able to learn through me the principles of fitness that have served me so well over the years – and that will prove to be my legacy for him. The memories of me swimming and competing on Maui as a boy have never left me. I NEVER wanted to be out of shape as I have grown older (not old) and I have made that my constant objective over the years – even when life threw me a “curveball or two”. The commitment to do what I am doing is possible for each of us BUT we have to make a PROMISE to ourselves that we will NEVER QUIT. If I am not injured or sick – I AM training – period. I have NO time to waste because I know that it can ALL be taken away from me in a heartbeat!

fit Man Meditating 5 Reasons to Live the Fitness Lifestyle

In my own experience as a fitness professional, I have found that people never really get the opportunity to truly live the fitness lifestyle because they were never exposed to the magic of being – and feeling – fit in their lives. The connection that I found missing in all of the people I trained over the years is that they NEVER felt fit in their lives and as a result exercise was to them – WORK – hence the word “workout” which even seems like a burden to me. Because this basic truth has never been satisfactorily explored by me, I thought it appropriate to share some of my thoughts with you on what it’s like to feel fit – and energized and how that can impact our lives for the better.

5 Reasons to Live the Fitness Lifestyle

1. You wake up feeling energized and open to life’s possibilities.

The idea of a good night’s restful and peaceful sleep has been shown to affect both our mental and physical capabilities. Sleep is essential for recovery and healing – and also for bringing clarity into our lives through our dreams. Our mental makeup and attitudes about life form in our subconscious minds and through sleep we can access this great gift of purpose and clarity. Being fit brings this important aspect of life into our experience and allows us to develop our purpose and make new commitments to our ongoing development both mentally and physically.

2. You look forward with enthusiasm to training physically (NOT “working out”).

Being fit means WANTING to plan for and enjoy exercise – and moving – in all its forms. The idea of movement is second nature to people who are fit. We believe in expending energy positively and challenge ourselves daily to reach new levels of accomplishment. Setting and achieving goals is a part of the everyday aspect of living an active life. They make moving fun and enjoy every opportunity to see what lies ahead in terms of becoming stronger or faster – and ultimately happier. Training involves the mind and the body because visualization and imagination are a part of the life of one committed to the fitness lifestyle. Exercise is like brushing one’s teeth – it is just something we DO every day.

3. Food is something we need because it fuels our bodies and so we look forward to eating – healthfully.

Eating and the fitness lifestyle are partners – as is proper hydration and rest. Eating healthfully just comes naturally to someone engaged in the fitness lifestyle because it is in eating a balanced intake of all the nutrients our bodies need that we can accomplish what we set out to do physically – and mentally. We look forward to eating because it is an activity which is not only essential to our lives but to our performance as well. We don’t count calories because the food we eat can be burned through movement. Food is good for us and is not the enemy. Thoughts of dieting are not in our thinking because we focus on allowing food to fulfill its purpose and that is to give us the energy to live our lives fully and with the energy that requires.

4. Enhancing our ability to create and the ability to accomplish our dreams become possible through the fitness lifestyle.

We can’t serve others if we don’t take care of our needs first. Our ability to create and to see more clearly (and think more optimistically about our lives) allows the inflow of greater ideas creating less stress and worry about the “little things” so many of us focus on each day of our lives. I find that the more I embrace my own health and fitness needs, the greater opportunities I create for serving others. Confidence in one’s gift and abilities rises with each accomplishment of our goals. Being driven by forces from within, fitness habits and activities create ideas and thoughts from which great lives are created. The inner results are as great as the outer results when it comes to the fitness lifestyle.

5. Attitudes and behaviors that help us respond to life – and not react – build inner – and outer – strength.

The many challenges that life can bring our way – whether they are physical, mental, emotional, financial or personal, are faced more honestly and openly when one does not have to worry about the little things of life. Being fit both mentally and physically drives people to see the value of sacrificing some immediate gain for a long term result that has lasting value. My own view of this aspect of the fitness lifestyle is expressed in the following way: I am in my 60’s training for my 70’s and in my 70’s I will be training for my 80’s (to run a 6 minute mile on my 80th birthday). In this way my attitude about remaining fit and strong in my later years is being fulfilled in the present through each and every training session. I am my “future self” every time I run or lift weights and that thought brings me comfort.

Final Thoughts

Attitudes, behavior, creativity, nutrition, the quality of our sleep, stress management, choices, aging and so much more are affected by our decisions and responses to life’s challenges. It is so much easier to face life being fit and strong than weak and sick all the time. Making the choice to embrace the fitness lifestyle makes perfect sense to me because we are cutting the odds in our favor when we say “yes” to our own health and fitness needs first. Everything is added after that because once we take care of our own needs we CAN serve others and that is what life is really all about – leaving our mark and a legacy of contribution because we cared about ourselves – and others as a result.

HEALTHY AGING & YOU: “What is wrong with this Picture?”

Nicholas S. Prukop

I wasn’t going to write any more articles on healthy aging for a while – my “magic” had run its course. Then I was sitting in Vons today following a shopping trip eating some soup in the “customer corner” when a man with a backpack walked in to set up his tablet and “scan his screens”. I was stunned – I guess I shouldn’t have been – but I was nonetheless. He was in his 40’s (at least I think he was) and very overweight. He was approximately 5’7” and 200 plus pounds with what looked like a 45-50 inch waist!

Why was I so surprised by this picture since I have been seeing it every day for the past 15-20 years? I felt sad and angry all at once and wanted so very much to ask him “what are you thinking?” What sort of answer would have I received? “I don’t know – I guess I am NOT aware I have a potentially lethal problem?”

This series for me has been about exploring what it means to grow older gracefully and remain FULLY engaged (mentally, physically and spiritually) for all the years that are available to us before “moving on”. People just DON”T get “it” – that life is precious and when we spend our days sitting, slowly destroying the only body we will ever have, there is  NO hope of recovery or healing. You can’t FIX overnight what took years to destroy!

This man – like so many people – assumes that his life WILL go on.  Even though there are no guarantees for ANY of us – even those like me who CARED – there is no substitute for a consciousness that says “enough”! Why can’t we hear the body’s messages and respond to them? Why do we have to experience the emergency before we take appropriate action to prevent it in the first place? It is as Martha told me earlier about her experience at Hoag Hospital – patients DON’T care – that is why they become patients in the first place! Prevention to me is the recognition that 50 plus pounds above your ideal weight and a 50 inch waist is UNACCEPTABLE! Changing something NOW – any ONE thing – is preferable to SITTING in that chair fooling around with that tablet computer every day as though there WILL BE A TOMORROW!

I AM drawn to the notion that through the years of running and effort on my part, that I am “cutting the odds” in my favor and that if anything were to happen to me – and I lived – I COULD come back and regain my strength, energy, and fitness because I had trained my mind to do so over the years of my life. This man sat there oblivious to the danger he was in and the risks he was taking with his own life – unaware of the habits and comfort zones that were trapping him and “disabling” him from a future of growth, happiness, and love.

I suspect the question I am raising for each of us is “with this picture and this reality in front of each of us, what DO we DO about it?” Could I have intervened and MADE him aware or was I just in a position of learning something for myself?  Is this what I want from the fitness professional? Yes! In the short term there is very little we CAN do about this crisis but in the long term it IS critical that we educate, inform, and inspire those that WE CAN help and insure that we touch someone’s life for the better. WHEN this man faces whatever he is going face in his future, he will become alerted to the potential choices he COULD have made and will it be too late? No one knows of course but I AM betting on US to make the difference so that others CAN choose before it is too late!

healthy older couple riding bike

Think about who you ARE…and Define who you want to BECOME

I admire talented people for the gifts they possess and share with the world, and one of my favorite actors (who is so natural in his acting that it always seems real) is Gary Sinese of CSI NY (also of Apollo 13 and Forrest Gump fame). In tonight’s show he made the comment to the suspect that “we ARE shaped by the events of our lives, but DEFINED by the choices we make”. I believe that statement goes to the heart of what I believe to be true about healthy aging and the impact our choices have on our lives as they unfold over time. Life is about choices and the freedom we have to make them.

The good news is that we have the power to choose a new course for ourselves at any point in time, but the “bad news” – if there is any – is that we have to live with the consequences – and results – of those choices. Choose wisely – as Indiana Jones did in the “Last Crusade” (the “holy grail”) and you have eternal life; or choose “poorly” as the knight told him prior to him making his choice (to save his father) and (after the “bad guy” chose the wrong one) – and you have death! I believe in the power of faith – and choice – now because I have learned through personal experience the pain and tragedy that CAN result from choosing “poorly”. I would like to address this issue in this article in the context of “reflecting on who you ARE”, and “defining who you want to BE” as you grow older because I feel it goes to the “heart” of being a “successful ager”.

Discussion

I have a good friend I just call “sir” (I know him through my workouts at my gym) because that is how he always addresses me in our conversations about all things interesting and valuable about life. He is 37 and a waiter at a large restaurant in Orange County that caters to large groups and special events. He is happy with his life as it is and he seems to have many friends at the gym who love to see him when they are there at the same time. I always find myself in a better mood after our conversations because I feel grateful for his friendship – even though we do not interact at any other time in our lives. He comes from a very large family – many relatives, brothers and sisters etc. – and he is the youngest. His mother and father live in Mexico and when he visits them he always has stories to tell me when he returns about his 90 year father and his life in the rural setting he calls home. His mother is a little older than me but I get the sense that she is not in the best of health. I sense in sir the joy he feels about his family and the closeness he loves – and enjoys – with his many diverse and interesting family members. They all enjoy their lives apart – and together – and when they can, they gather and enjoy each other’s company as only big families seem to do. His father defines himself through his world and the work he does as a farmer. He rises with the dawn to take care of the cattle and other livestock he owns and is TOTALLY happy with his life just as it is – and has been – for decades.

It is finally the life that we CHOOSE TO LIVE that matters most of all. The choices we make over time have the effect of helping us reach into the core of who we truly ARE and eventually (over time) CAN result in a life of fulfillment and joy. Sir’s father has two sisters – that he has mentioned on occasion – who are both in their late 90’s. They are BOTH independent and happy women living life as they choose and playing their own unique roles within the family. I suspect that I will never have that kind of a life because I – (we) – live in a different world. My future seems to be tied very closely to what I am doing right now writing these articles for askthetrainer.com, and in the years ahead my life will be defined by this work that I am choosing to do RIGHT NOW. I want to make a difference in people’s lives by sharing my gifts – through my gift of expression – and enable and empower people to reach beyond their current “realities” and consider the potential inherent in choosing a new – or expanded – path for their life’s work (no ‘retirement’ for me, remember?). Consciously making new choices with the best intentions that you possess can only be enabling and empowering, resulting in becoming the kind of person that is happy, strong, and courageous – and willing to risk stepping outside the comfort zones of our lives in order to achieve- and make a difference in the world.

Conclusion

Sir’s family has its own unique challenges (separation, age differences, cultural traditions etc) but in the end his family ‘works’ because they accept each other just as they ARE. ALL of us are at our BEST when we become what we were meant to BE and DO what we were meant to DO – and families can help us on this journey. It has taken me more than six decades to get to this point in time and in making the choices I am making today, I am defining – and shaping – the future I WANT TO LIVE – NOT someone else’s definition of what they think I ‘should’  DO or BE. This is the lesson I am learning through my conversations with sir and through others I admire and respect, but no matter what vehicle, relationship, event, or circumstance I encounter in my life, the choices that I ultimately make are MINE to make. It is a hard lesson to learn that ‘if’ we are living for another – or through another’s expectations of us, the more unhappy – and unhealthy (mentally, physically, and spiritually) – we become. So as the knight in the Last Crusade said to Indiana Jones, choose “wisely” and as he chose, he ultimately saved his father’s life – his MOST important choice of all! As you choose “wisely” your life WILL reflect the thoughtfulness and care that you gave to making your choices, and the result – and reward – will be a life “well lived” – happy and fulfilled – just like sir’s father!

7 Keys to Creating a Successful Fitness Program

7 Keys to Creating a Successful Fitness Program

The mystery of fitness programs to me is that there is no one right answer for everyone as to what works – or doesn’t work. It is very often trial and error that finally results in a positive result.

I have found in my own experience that once you decide that being fit is what you want to become, there is little that can prevent you from achieving your goals.

This article will highlight what I consider to be the 7 keys to creating a successful fitness program. I hope it helps you in planning for 2014 and inspires you to take a new path that reveals more of your true potential and abilities – mentally and physically.

7 Keys to Creating a Successful Fitness Program

1.  Define your goals clearly.

The biggest mistake people make in planning to start a fitness regimen is thinking “too small”. Losing 20 pounds is not a long term motivator and will never inspire compliance – even if you are doing what you enjoy. The best way to approach your health and fitness goals is to focus on what you VALUE about your life and the many things you enjoy doing – either alone or with others that you care about. Set your sights high and imagine the best result that you can envision. Getting results that are meaningful to you requires dedication, focus, discipline, skill development, effort and planning. Give your goals (vision) for wanting to become fit in the first place the proper respect they are due – and you WILL succeed!

2.  Define your priorities.

I like to think performance based training succeeds more often than fails because through accomplishing specific goals we inspire ourselves to strive for greater things in our lives as a whole. Setting specific objectives can help you in planning your fitness activities – and program. If you want to complete a 10K or simply walk a mile be willing to write it down – and follow through with ACTION. The simple act of writing your intentions down on paper will enable you and empower you to stick with your daily activities in support of what it is you wish to accomplish. Be willing to limit your list initially so that you can accomplish them in a timely manner and not become overwhelmed. Keep it simple and be willing to get excited!

3.  Define your primary activity.

Do you want to improve your ability to do the activities of daily living more effortlessly? Do you want to eat more healthfully? Do you want to sleep better each night? Do you want to deal with stress more effectively in your life? Do you want to respond to issues in your life in a more balanced way? These and other questions can be important to becoming someone who lives the fitness lifestyle for the right reasons – to live a higher quality of life – and enjoy the days of our lives more completely and fully. People have often neglected to examine their lives at all and as a result never really know how to deal with change intelligently and with compassion. Take a look at your life and decide what it is YOU want to do as your primary activity and GET GOING! Make the change to healthy living today and see what happens.

4.  Define your plan.

Clarify your activities in an easy to follow to plan. Decide how often you will train, what changes you will make to your daily routine including a healthy eating plan, how you will measure your progress and reward yourself for reaching milestones, and a method for tracking your results. I record my runs, my weight training sessions and keep the logs over time to review how I am doing relative to my goals. Writing down what you do, when and where you do it, your response to the program, recognizing your progress, or any other important variable is essential to maintaining forward energy and commitment.

5.  Define a variety of strategies for success.

Give yourself a break. Nobody gets it right the first time! Strategies are nothing more than pathways to your success and sometimes we choose the wrong path! Big Deal! When you find yourself a little lost or frustrated with your chosen activity – take a breath. Realize that even the best fitness professionals make mistakes too. Just recognize when you are NOT feeling right about something you have chosen to do and change course. If yoga is not right for you try a stretching class instead. If group exercise is not working for you, try training with a friend for a change of pace. Knowing there is always support available to you can take the sting out of those days when you seem to be lagging – and we ALL have those days. I just say to myself: “You are blessed to be able to do this” so just say thank you – and move!”

6.  Define your vision – “Think Like an Athlete”.

I always remember to appreciate TODAY because it is the only present I will know. Take a moment and envision the person you want to become – active, happy, lean, strong, excited, curious, engaged, imaginative, the adventurer, the “game changer”, or whatever captures your imagination. This is the most common technique used by the world’s greatest athletes. Yes, they are supremely talented and as in the case of the very best, they practice incredibly long hours. You too can create an image of who you want to BE and your mind (your subconscious) will support you in your efforts to achieve your goals. Getting your mind and body to work “as one” is critical to your eventual success. “Practice the presence of your inner power” and use it when you train. BE PRESENT everyday and train with the thought of WHY you have decided to become the person you deserve to be – and NEVER GIVE UP!

7.  Define the “Fun Factor”.

This last key is probably most important to the success of your program. It HAS to be fun or you will never be able to sustain your effort. I always think back to my days on Maui when I was a little boy and how much fun we had playing and enjoying our time together as only good friends can do. I think about why I became active all those years ago and remember the joy it brought me. Even though I sometimes forget to remember, I DO come back to the basic truth that being active SHOULD BE FUN or why bother, right? Let’s remember that at the end of the day being active and engaged in something you enjoy is ALWAYS the best medicine. Define your “fun factor” and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised and NEVER want to stop! Wouldn’t that be a great way to live?

Final Thoughts

I wrote this article because it occurred to me that no one seems to think much about WHY we do what we do as fitness professionals. Do we even know how to clearly explain to people what separates failure from success in terms of health and fitness programming? It is a conversation well worth having not only with each other but people of all ages as well.

My hope is that these keys will help all of us remember that we are human – and we will ALL fall short at some point in time. However, we ARE resilient and courageous too and isn’t this why the human spirit is so amazing? I think so. I wish each of us much success in the year ahead!

Top 10 Nutritional Mistakes Made by Active People

Top 10 Nutritional Mistakes Made by Active People

It isn’t just people who are sedentary who struggle with developing healthy eating habits – active people do too.

The reality is that we all struggle at times to consume healthier foods on a consistent basis and it is only made more difficult by the constant exposure to unhealthy options and the ever present advertizing that encourages us to eat “all the wrong foods”!

We can all agree on the benefits of adopting a healthy lifestyle. We will each approach “what that means” to us from our own unique perspective and decide how to proceed from there.

The following list of the “top 10 nutritional mistakes made by active people” can serve as a reminder for all of us and help guide us in making choices that empower and enable us to improve in all areas of our lives not just physically – but mentally and emotionally as well.

The Top Ten Nutritional Mistakes

1.  SKIPPING BREAKFAST

Not eating breakfast is like asking your car to get you to work without any fuel in the tank. Experts agree – skipping breakfast just means you will be hungrier later and make it more difficult to control both your diet and your weight.

2.  NOT EATING BEFORE A WORKOUT

Providing the body with food for energy allows for a better, more productive exercise session. A pre-workout meal consisting of carbohydrates, a little fat and some protein can also improve endurance and hand-eye coordination.

3.  WAITING TOO LONG AFTER EXERCISE TO EAT

One of the best things you can do to prepare for your next workout is eat a small meal that includes both carbohydrates and protein within two hours of your last session. The carbohydrates help replenish muscle glycogen stores (sugar) and protein facilitates the repair of damaged muscle tissue.

4.  REPLACING MEALS WITH ENERGY BARS OR REPLACEMENT DRINKS

They are convenient but too often energy bars offer little more nutrition than your average candy bar. Replacement drinks lack adequate fiber. When it comes to eating nutritionally there is really no substitute for healthy whole foods.

5.  EATING TOO MUCH PROTEIN AND NOT ENOUGH CARBS

The current popularity of low carbohydrate diets has many people trying to fuel their workouts with poultry instead of pasta or other healthy alternative (bananas etc.). Whether you are an endurance athlete or a body builder, carbohydrates are essential to a successful workout.

6.  TRUSTING THE ACCURACY OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENT LABELS AND CLAIMS

Because the supplement industry remains largely unregulated, manufacturers can make unproven and untested claims about their products. Don’t fall for the hype and DO your own homework before putting anything in your body.

7.  NOT CONSUMING THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF CALORIES FOR THE AMOUNT OF ACTIVITY YOU DO (i.e. too many or too few)

Your caloric intake should be sufficient to support your active lifestyle, but not so abundant that weight control becomes a problem for you.

8.  BELIEVING THAT EXERCISE MEANS YOU CAN EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT

Most of us learn this lesson the hard way. Whether you exercise a little or a lot, you still need to follow a healthy, balanced diet – and watch your portion sizes!

9.  NOT DRINKING THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF FLUIDS

Dehydration can pose a serious problem, especially if you exercise in hot, humid environments. Drink fluids before, during, and after exercise. This will help you maintain adequate hydration levels. Just don’t take it to extremes – drinking too much water is not recommended as it CAN become an issue as well.

10.  JUMPING ON THE LATEST DIET CRAZE IN SEARCH OF THAT ELUSIVE “EDGE”

It is tempting to believe that there is some magic formula out there that will dramatically improve performance or help us effortlessly lose weight – but it just doesn’t exist. So we try new plans, consume countless supplements and follow unproven protocols, even though we know the best thing we can do is follow the basic rule of moderation and eating healthy, whole foods, right?

The Bottom Line

The top ten nutritional mistakes are easy to make. We all want the least painful way to get in shape and sometimes we CAN lose our perspective as we make important changes to our lives. IT IS OK! We are human and we WILL make mistakes. Just don’t keep doing what has failed you in the past expecting a different result – that is the definition of insanity!

ANY change we make that is intended to help us live a healthier, happier life is a change worth making – just remember to check for results periodically – and if they aren’t there – make a new one and your life will be the better for it. So tell us, are you making any of these mistakes? Let us know in the comments below!

See Also:

Mindfulness, Meditation, Affirmation & the Inner Journey – Part III

Nicholas S. Prukop

Mindfulness is being present – emotionally, intellectually, mentally, physically – and even spiritually. I can honestly say that I observe more “mindlessness” in the world than “mindfulness”. We are consumed by cell phones, computers, pads, pods and all manner of technology that “connects” us to the universe (cyberspace) – but not each other. Today – and every day – I see people NOT being present because they are accessing twitter, emails, calls and messages – clueless as to what is going on around them. You would think we would want to be available to our own workouts and maintain a clear connection to our own programs. It is not what I see. We are falling behind every time we take our attention away from what we are doing and also to what is happening around us. I feel that by not acknowledging each other we are missing out on opportunities for growth and REAL friendships. This discussion will focus on mindfulness and being present through affirmation.

I am ALWAYS present during my runs. If running has taught me anything it IS focus. I am attentive to my legs, heart, breath, speed, distance, time and so much more. Today I started my run wanting to break 40 minutes (my usual 7 mile run) and average at least 5:45 per mile – or faster. I completed my run in 39:45 – a 5:42 per mile pace. I am ALWAYS “mindful” of my sessions because my results are very important to me and my overwhelming need to improve is always with me. The purpose of affirmations is to “bring us into the present” and also to help us re-program our subconscious minds. You cannot “free up” space in your mind if you don’t work on removing old belief systems or attitudes first. The idea of affirmations is to give us alternative messages that our subconscious mind can – and will accept – over time. The affirmations I use daily are the following:

“Today I am standing on the threshold of a new experience. Possibilities extend before me and I accept their magnificence. Through my spoken and accepted word I co-create with divine intelligence the plan for my life. Here and now I am open to the greatness yet come and I am ready for a miracle”.

“Today I accept that the light of God’s love is in, through, and around me. I feel its presence in everything that I do. I experience clarity in all things as this light guides my way into the unknown”.

“Today I know that I am in my perfect place. I rejoice and celebrate the awareness of the divine presence in, around and through me. I trust infinite wisdom to guide and direct me on my path. The fine art of getting there is being PRESENT in each precious moment of my life”.

These and other tools help me to remain “centered” – or present throughout my day. I NEVER fail to express my gratitude (internally of course) after each workout and run. I know that they could be taken away from me at any time and I don’t want to ever take any of my efforts for granted. There are no people anywhere my age that I have seen doing what I am doing. On a national level I suspect I am in the .00001 per cent of all people from a strength, speed and fitness point of view. This has not happened by accident – it was my INTENTION all along to arrive at this point in time with my current ability intact. As I said earlier I am training for my 70’s now so that I can still perform at these levels as I age. The practice of meditation, prayer, and affirmation is allowing me to be present during the day as I am moved ahead in my life. DO NOT take your days lightly and remember that without practice NOTHING is perfected. I am a student of these arts and I suspect I will be until the day I die. Always remain open and accessible to change because your greater good may just be around the corner!

What if life goes wrong? Charlie’s story

HEALTHY AGING: “What if life goes wrong? Charlie’s story"

Introduction

The idea that we will live forever is one that we carry within us when we are young – and nothing seems beyond our ability or knowledge – or reach. Life unfolds in many different ways for each of us as we grow into “our skins” and the surprise is that sometimes it goes incredibly well. At other times our lives can take a terrible turn and what we do at that moment of discovery determines how we face the time to come. In 1957 my family moved to Oahu. I was 10 years old at the time. Swimming programs did not exist on the windward side of the island so my parents suggested I try out for Little League baseball. I ended up playing for three years against some very good players – one of whom would go on to fame as a multisport athlete at Punahou School – the school I ended up attending for the final three years of high school. That player was Charlie Wedemeyer. He played three sports and was an all-star in all of them.

Charlie and I knew each other but I wouldn’t say we were friends – he played in another universe from all of us “mere mortals”. Charlie graduated in 1965 following my freshman year at Syracuse and went off to Michigan State where he played varsity football for the Spartans. His years of glory were definitely in high school, however, and some years later he was voted the athlete of the decade for the 60’s in all of Hawaii – an honor that would keep Charlie’s name in Hawaii sports history forever. In the years following his graduation from Michigan State he settled in a town in northern California and became the varsity football coach at the local high school. Life had a surprise in store for Charlie in the early 70’s – a surprise that would change his life forever.

Charlie’s Story

Charlie began to sense something was wrong before his 30th birthday – neurological and physical changes and symptoms he couldn’t explain. The progressive nature of the symptoms – balance issues, muscular weakness, and other related challenges prompted a series of visits to medical professionals.  Eventually he was given a diagnosis of “Lou Gehrig’s” disease – or “ALS”. Charlie had been delivered a “death sentence” since there is no known cure for the disorder. His life as he knew it “was over” – only Charlie chose not to look at it that way. He continued to do what he loved and even though his symptoms did progress he retained his “fighting spirit” – the one that had made him the special athlete he had been during his athletic career playing the games he loved. Charlie had a family – especially a loving wife that would not leave him – ever. Lucy had been his soul mate during his days at Punahou and their love never waned – even after they knew Charlie would never be the same again.

Charlie knew what was in store following his diagnosis – including the fact that he would lose his physical ability to move, speak or feed himself and eventually the progression of the disease would lead to organ failure – and death. Over the years that followed, Charlie lost his ability to walk, speak, and move without help from Lucy and his support team. He continued to coach through the help of surrogates including Lucy who learned to read his mouth as it moved and she subsequently learned to convey his instructions to the team. His players felt blessed to have such a role model as Charlie and they continued to prosper under his leadership – until he could no longer be with them.

He was honored in Hawaii on a number of occasions by Punahou and the sporting community of Hawaii and given additional honors for being an inspiration to the world. His story was told in a documentary in the 90’s (I believe) but finally, Charlie passed away in 2010 at the age of 64 (long beyond what his doctors believed he could live). The only reason that I can think of that made his longevity possible was that Charlie ALWAYS had a REASON TO LIVE – in spite of the pain and (I am sure)sadness that must have accompanied his every waking hour. His body eventually failed over time and there was nothing he – or anyone – could do about it – nothing. The athlete that had once been so special had to live the majority of his life in a wheel chair, unable to speak or take care of himself – and yet his life was a triumph.

I have often asked myself how would have I lived my life if I had been in Charlie’s place? Would I have been as resilient and strong as he had been? Where DID that strength – and resolve – come from that helped him overcome the many obstacles in his life and triumph in the end? The answer lies in his story – a story that demonstrates through his ACTIONS – that shows CLEARLY – the strength of the human spirit. He finally passed away, yes, but he left a lasting legacy of love, inspiration, and hope that is carried to this day by those he loved and served – his former teammates, players, colleagues, the school he loved and, of course, his devoted family.

The End – Or is it The Beginning?

From the time I first met Charlie when we were both in Little League – and in Pop Warner football as well, I knew he was a special player. We never became close friends but I always respected the way he played the game – and his enormous talents. At Punahou he was a starter on the football team at quarterback, a starter at guard on the basketball team, and finally, a starter on the baseball team for his three years of eligibility. He played every sport as if it was the only one he would ever play and was (through his natural talents and work ethic) phenomenal at everything he did. Losing that ability later in life must have been extremely painful for him. The only thing I can equate that feeling to is if my ability to run was taken away from me. How would I be? Would I triumph like Charlie did or would I “give up”? I hope I would “find a way” to be another kind of Nick – maybe the speaker or teacher? The point is that Charlie NEVER had the chance to be a “healthy ager” because it was taken away from him early in life and yet his life mattered. It mattered A LOT to those who loved him and worked with him (and valued him and his fighting spirit) every day!

When times get tough for me or I am not feeling particularly strong – or confident – or loved – I think of Charlie and how his life changed the lives of so many people while knowing he had lost so much in his own life. I guess the point of Charlie’s story is that “stuff” happens unexpectedly to ALL of us during the course of our lives, and it is in HOW we RESPOND to what life brings us –and NOT the circumstances themselves – that matters. Healthy aging is a GIFT – a gift of choice – and faith. Charlie had the most important part RIGHT – faith – faith in himself, his purpose, and his love for his family and the work he so dedicated himself to doing. I call that living “in spite of the circumstances of life” and the choices Charlie made throughout his life confirmed that. He was a winner over the course of his entire life and my hope is that I will carry his legacy forward in my OWN life and touch lives as deeply as he did with his!

man riding bicycle for fitness6 Keys to Becoming a Fitness Winner: Mastering the Basics

It occurred to me as I was writing the articles on running and training to become a runner, that as a fitness professional over the past 20 plus years I have seen many people of all ages make the attempt at becoming fit – either by themselves or with a coach/trainer. The reality I have observed is that most people are not adequately prepared to work out, make intelligent programming decisions, or create exercise routines that make sense for them.

I have watched many professionals attempt to start new clients on inappropriate exercises – including those that include advanced compound movements that their clients are completely unprepared to perform correctly. The outcome of these strategies is failure and the loss of an opportunity to make a difference in the life of one who cared and wanted to know how to truly succeed in pursuing a fitness lifestyle. I thought I would share some of my observations with you on this subject so that we could arrive at an agreement that “the basics” count MOST when attempting to change someone’s physical, mental, and emotional life for the better!

The 6 Keys to Becoming a Winner in Fitness

fit men and women posing for camera1.  Clarity of purpose

Clarity of purpose is the first key because until we arrive at a clearly defined “why” we will not be able to engage our “feeling nature” – attaching passion to our intellectual processes – AND setting reasonable, achievable, measurable and specific goals. This step in my mind is the first one we MUST all evaluate before we begin the journey to becoming truly fit because it will take ALL of our thought and effort to succeed in our programming – whatever that may end up being.

2.  Patience

Learning patience is a given when it comes to fitness goals – and programming –  because most often there are substantial needs to be addressed such as strengthening the heart, increasing lean mass, improving balance, addressing dietary issues and so much more. These are all long term processes and will ONLY be addressed over the long haul –and I mean THE long haul!

3.  Pacing

Pacing to me means being able to “take a step back” at key points during the process and allow oneself to remember that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Just because we want something NOW doesn’t mean we can get there by “speeding up the process”. “I gained 40 pounds over the past five years and now I want to lose all of it – and more – in the next 6 months!” Is that reasonable – or even achievable given the circumstances we are facing – OR can we “pace” the progress and get there without drama – or injury? Of course we can and this message must be “installed in the conscious mind” early in the transition on the road to becoming fit.

4.  Lifestyle

Lifestyle and its many contradictions and behaviors are most misunderstood because it DOES require forethought and intention to address these issues before we design the program. The issues related to lifestyle and its impact on becoming fit – and transitioning to the fitness lifestyle include: Emotional issues related to self image and diet, behavioral issues related to thought processes and choices, physical issues related to stress and its many implications on our health, health and medical issues including medications, drugs, illnesses, family history, injuries, medical procedures and surgeries and many more.

These key issues WILL impact the development of the fitness plan and MUST be a part of any conversation related to beginning ANY fitness activities – especially if you are inexperienced and have limited knowledge about these and other critical subjects. On many occasions I counseled people who had been sent to me by their physicians and ordered to “start an exercise program” (a good thing). Yet they arrived on my “doorstep” with absolutely no guidance – or information – on what they could safely perform – or any special concerns that needed to be addressed. I always sent them back asking for further information – with questions to ask – and most of the time I never saw them again!

5.  Fitness principles

In this area I call to your attention what one “CAN DO” – not what one would “LIKE TO DO”. If people are significantly overweight and de-conditioned, then why are they being asked to stand on unstable platforms to do balance work or “stepping up” to a stool with weights in their hands and doing curls as well? I see these and many other inappropriate exercises being attempted all the time by people who have no business starting with such difficult programs – and yet they are – every day.

I see overweight people trying to run on the treadmill when they should be walking or attempting strength exercises beyond their capabilities thinking that is a “good thing”. Primary education in the principles of fitness is KEY to successfully climbing the “fitness mountain”. It all begins with the basics: Learning to do a repetition correctly with the proper weight, with the proper pacing (the 2/4 count for example), the proper breathing technique, and the correct positioning of the body during the movement. There is so much to teach people in the beginning so why aren’t we teachers first? Training is teaching FIRST – and executing properly – with proper feedback and corrections so that the movement is learned correctly and can be DUPLICATED with or without assistance!

6.  The “mindset of success”

I call the mindset of success the ability to visualize and imagine the outcome BEFORE you ever start a particular movement or exercise. Athletes always prepare by visualizing what it is they will be doing even before they set foot on the “field of competition”. The greatest athletes all say it IS in the MIND where we win – or lose. Thought and feeling precede ALL action for the winners in life – and fitness as well. I spend as much time – and in many cases more time – thinking about and “feeling” the result – before I ever take the steps I wish to take on a particular day and before ALL of my training sessions. I couldn’t succeed if I didn’t take this step.

Training our minds FIRST precedes ALL results and this is the step that is most missed or ignored prior to the beginning of our efforts to train others on the benefits of the fitness lifestyle. Evaluate for yourself what it is you wish to accomplish in your own fitness programming and ask yourself this question: “Am I REALLY accessing my full potential mentally, emotionally and physically or am I missing something?” The answer may surprise you but you will gain an insight into your intention and maybe just give yourself the “edge” you have been seeking all along!

Conclusion

The above keys – clarity of purpose, patience, pacing, lifestyle, fitness principles, and developing a “mindset for success” – ALL play a role in helping not only ourselves – but others as well – achieve the best that the fitness lifestyle has to offer.

Preventing injury is only PART of the solution to “what ails us”. The majority of the effort is in proper preparation and implementation of a well thought out program that addresses critical needs and also takes into account the eventual “success criteria” that will inevitably be used in measuring progress – and goal accomplishment.

I hope this article gives you some idea of what CAN be accomplished given the correct information, motivation – and inspiration – we ALL need when we embark on this exciting journey we call the fitness lifestyle!

Examples, Myths, and Mythologies of Aging

Time has moved quickly for me over the past decade. The years of my 50’s have so quickly (or so it seems) turned into the years of my 60’s and now I seem to be staring at my 70’s in a very short time. With this acceleration in time I have taken to the idea that there are examples, myths and mythologies of aging that simply don’t “go away” – no matter how much we attempt to “debunk” them.

I sense a need in me now to follow in the footsteps of those I have admired over the years. They are my role models – people of integrity who lived – or are living examples – of what I call “the complete human being”. I think it is a good idea (sometimes) to follow the examples of those we have come to admire and live out of a genuine purpose and vision that creates or expands on an existing “framework of good”. The ideas I share here are designed to “pull you forward” on your own path of achievement, leading you to your OWN unique accomplishments and contributions to life.

John Wooden coached the UCLA men’s basketball program for over 35 years. He won more NCAA championships (10) than any other coach in history and in the process touched thousands of young lives. However, his greatest years probably occurred AFTER he retired as a coach because he was able to move beyond basketball through his “Pyramid of Success” and other thoughts he shared to help countless people outside of the athletic arena – particularly the youth of America. His example of honesty and humility – and intellect – stands the test of time. At his passing in his late 90’s he was remembered by all those his life touched.

John Wooden is a role model for me because if I get to be in a position as he was to help others hurdle life’s barriers I will feel my life has had meaning. This is what I mean by being “conscious” of the gift of life – and the opportunity to serve. It is in giving to others that we derive our strength and resolve for the years “beyond retirement” when our bodies are no longer capable of doing what they used to do. Find your role model and follow their example by carving out your own unique path while adhering to the principles that guided those whom you have admired and came before you.

Myths abound in today’s world about the aging process. The facts do NOT support these myths. Jack LaLanne broke the myths of aging LONG AGO by being active right up until the end of his life in his mid 90’s. He was NOT weak, frail, feeble, or “addled”. As a matter of fact he was probably MORE engaged in his life (i.e. selling his juicer and extolling the fitness lifestyle with his lovely wife for example) and happier than he had ever been. He knew his legacy would live beyond his life and the evidence against the idea of aging as “bad” or “scary” was proved completely FALSE through the way he lived his OWN life! I admire Jack for being “the lone voice” in the world over a half century ago urging people “to get moving” and to have fun physically and emotionally by becoming their own example of the fitness lifestyle. The myths of aging as being something “awful” are disproved every time you examine a life such as the one Jack lived. He was training 2 hours a day right up until the end of his life!

Vin Scully is the “voice” of the LA Dodgers. He is in his 63rd year of broadcasting Dodger games and is still in love with the team and baseball in general since he started calling games in New York in 1950! He has indicated that he will be back for a 64th season in 2013 because he wants to “see what happens” with the team as it is currently constituted (a new commitment to winning through new ownership. I can’t imagine Vin Scully ever retiring because as he has said repeatedly “he has been blessed” to have had such a life of incredible opportunity. He realizes that at 86 he is still valuable and appreciated – and loved – and he knows that he is open to experiencing the years to come because each one is a gift. His attitude, wisdom, focus, and passion are an example for me to follow. He was on stage with John Wooden at the Kodak Theatre in LA as a part of a unique evening where the two of them were interviewed and allowed to tell their “stories” to an audience for charity. It was a memorable evening with TJ Simers (“page2” as he calls himself – his reference to the page of the LA Times sports section where his column appears) serving as moderator. It was shown later on PBS and was one program – and moment – I will never forget. Thinking of those two amazing men sharing a lifetime of wisdom and knowledge (on the same stage) with all of us remains with me to this day.

I suspect in sharing these thoughts with you I am renewing my own commitment to do whatever I can in the years ahead to move not only their legacy ahead – but mine as well. I will keep their memories alive through my own work and down the road someone else may do the same for me because of the influence my work had on their lives!

Find your own unique “legends” to admire and respect. Follow the BEST of what they represented to you, and fulfill your OWN life’s purpose in the process – leaving the world a “better place than you found it” AND aging gracefully along the way! I know I AM!

The FITT Principle & Training for Results – Fitness 101

The FITT Principle - Training for ResultsIntroduction

The idea that training is not “working out” is basic to me. I see the world as existing on a scale of 1-10. Each of us is somewhere on this continuum depending upon how we have chosen to live our lives and the challenges that we face along the way.

Here is my take on what fitness looks like to me when it comes to “grading” people for strength, power, endurance, speed, balance and flexibility:

Level 1:  Sedentary (average aging American)

Level 2: Moving (Japan – walking/active)

Level 3/4: Basic exercising (gym member)

Level 5/6: “Working out” on a schedule (in support of an activity – cycling, running etc.)

Level 7/8: Consistent training for results (athletes, sports enthusiasts etc.)

Level 9/10: Competition (including pro/college athletes/Olympians – the “top 1 percent)

The 80/20 rule (put in the work “up front” and it will pay dividends in the future) applies to the world of fitness just as it does in many other aspects of life. You have to be committed to a comprehensive exercise program (cardio, strength, flexibility and balance) in order to get results. The idea that we can spend 30 minutes/three days a week and get a positive result is ludicrous to me. The demands on our bodies grow as we age and the necessary outcome of this process is a weakened muscular/skeletal system and compromised cardiovascular capacity. The FITT principle and designing a program suitable to one’s goals is the beginning point for changing one’s circumstances and becoming truly fit.

Discussion

To examine your current potential for growth in the area of fitness, take into account ALL of the variables that make up your current life. If you are on medications, have had surgeries, been dealing with a chronic disorder or medical condition (diabetes etc.), or any other factor that may be of significance, then you must take them into account when planning your activities and developing your program. The FITT formula is used by trainers every day when developing a client’s fitness program. The letters stand for: Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type. Examining your priorities and setting your goals appropriately helps you when designing your program’s parameters and MUST be constructed with RESULTS in mind so as to stay motivated and committed to your plan’s intention.

Deciding what you CAN – and WILL – do is part of the planning process. I have NEVER asked anyone to do more than they are capable of doing in the beginning so accomplishments and milestones CAN be met with little disruption to individual growth and development. Doing TOO MUCH TO SOON is a very common reason for failure in the initial stages of any fitness program so it is wise to set realistic goals. RAMS is an acronym for reasonable, achievable, measurable, and specific so use this type of thinking when evaluating what it is you wish to accomplish in designing your fitness program and keep in mind we ALL come up short when learning new skills – be patient with yourself and you WILL succeed!

Support and ongoing education are critical for success so keep your ears – and mind – open for new ideas and ways of doing things that interest you. If you begin a walking program learn more about walking and charting different courses for yourself. Challenge yourself periodically with an activity such as entering a 5k walk/run. It could prove to be beneficial in helping you stay motivated and engaged in your chosen activity – and be FUN TOO! This kind of decision can be supportive in moving us down the path to a new way of ‘living and being’ – leading to new and healthy behaviors. Remember, it takes 21 consecutive days in order to establish a new behavior so get going!

Developing new skills is the most important element to consider when developing the overall plan so focus on becoming better in your chosen activity. Being comfortable with your program will allow you to continue without a lot of drama so be aware of changes that you notice when they occur. This will help you in becoming more flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances in your life and you can make appropriate adjustments when necessary. If, for example, you wanted to start your program with a frequency of 5 days per week and you have found that too challenging then dial back that variable to four days until you feel capable of handling the additional exercise load.

Change one variable at a time and allow the change to take hold so that you can measure your progress. As a runner I might add a mile or two per week (over the course of a month) and see what happens or add an additional sprint session during the week to see how much progress I am making. Be careful to not revert to old patterns of thought and behavior in the early stages of your program so that you can give yourself a chance to experience the WHOLE program and ‘feel’ the changes as they occur. Obviously as in any programming where new knowledge and skills are required – BE PATIENT with yourself – and IF you are uncomfortable for a little while, it IS OK – it won’t kill you! Be open to change and IT WILL OCCUR over time!

Conclusion

Deciding to embark on the journey of achieving a higher level of fitness in your life is a worthy goal worth all of your attention and energy – and creativity. It is YOUR life after all, isn’t it? It is the only one we will ever have so let’s do this with thought – and include proper perspective as well. Yes, it will require commitment, energy, and focus in order to be successful but the time and effort it will take will be well worth it. I believe we need to train more intelligently as we age and not just follow “the pack”. Every one of us is different with different needs and goals in life so let’s honor that aspect of ourselves as we move forward and just see what is possible. Give yourself a break and be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day and your body won’t be reshaped in a day! I will discuss fitness in future articles as a way of helping AskTheTrainer.com expand its reach – and include nutrition as well. I am excited, are you?

See Also:

HEALTHY AGING: Physical Activity – Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Americans are not moving. They sit in their cars for everything including driving up to the ATM machine or purchasing their fast food meals! They sit at their computers for hours on end and now with tablet technology and phones that access everything in the universe of technology, they are sitting even more! What to do we do as a profession with all this sitting? How do we make a difference when all people can think about is sitting?

Our challenge is daunting, isn’t it? When I think of my first memory on Maui being in a swimming pool with a coach holding me by my stomach teaching me to paddle and kick my legs I smile. I know the days are long gone where parents could allow their children the same freedom I enjoyed on Maui with my friends – playing, swimming, competing, and generally having a ball! If the parents are sitting and the children are sitting the fat – and weight – will grow. The joy I felt as a boy about physical activity never left me as I grew into adulthood and when running became a part of the equation, I had my “link” to remaining fit! Today people don’t really “feel” any joy when it comes to being active – it is viewed more as “work” as in “working out”. We have to find ways to bring joy and fun back into being active and as I think of the tremendous challenges to come in the decades ahead, we will all play a role in solving this dilemma:  How do we bring the joy of physical activity back into the lives of families who have no clue as to its real potential?

The solutions lie in the programs and initiatives on all levels of society – from government (Michelle Obama’s work on childhood obesity, sports programs in the schools, fitness professionals working in tandem with local community groups and non profits, medical and professional organizations dedicated to improving the health of the community (Hoag Hospital’s outreach and educational programs for example), schools and family centers, and creative programming from foundations through organizations like the NFL, major league baseball, the NBA, the Tiger Woods foundation and many other examples I could name. My perception of the problems with obesity, the sitting of America, and the complexity of the issues that are resulting from this “new” lifestyle is that we MUST ALL begin an educational program that touches the lives of families at the grassroots level. I see children every day in my world with parents having “family time” at McDonalds or Jack in the Box. The food choices have improved of course but the predominant meal centers on French fries, hamburgers and other related foods because that is the way the parents eat! The children are starting to look like their parents at a very young age and I see the obesity starting to become apparent in kids as young as 3 or 4 but “they can’t see it” because they “don’t know what they don’t know”!

My daughter started my grandson in a new school today in Irvine, CA as a second grader. He is in a place we used to live in now (Woodbridge before my divorce) and my daughter was speaking to me on Labor Day at our BBQ about wanting me to become involved with Hunter as a grandfather teaching him to play baseball and run – and help him evolve in swimming as well. I am excited to know I will have a role to play in Hunter’s young life now that he will be closer to me and I will no longer have to drive to LA to see him. She indicated that he would be enrolling in a Karate class because he wanted to learn a martial art and I am impressed with the picture that is emerging for my own grandson. With Lisa thinking about these issues when planning for Hunter’s educational and fitness future he has a chance to become well rounded and healthy and choose a life that brings HIM joy. My hope is that I will be around in the years ahead to see how all this planning and thought turns out for him. I KNOW that my influence in helping to raise Lisa is assisting her in making sound decisions when it comes to Hunter’s future.

These “connections” – both family and institutional – (and what I will label as ‘understandings’) are what it is going to take for us to become a “moving” society and NOT a “sitting” society anymore. If we can somehow bring the joy and fun I have always felt when I am lifting weights or running – or just playing with Hunter – back into our lives we will indeed make a difference in the world of families across this country – and maybe even the world. Who knows? We MUST start now if we are to save the lives of all those children sitting with their parents at McDonalds eating all those fries! Now is the time for all of us in the fitness industry to become creative, passionate, and committed to a singular purpose: Taking the SITTING – and “bad” family time out of America!

older coupleWorry, Doubt & Fear – The ‘Big 3’ Roadblocks to Aging Healthfully

As I reflect on the aging process and its impact on the quality of life, I am reminded that what all of us will eventually face as we grow older, is the UNCERTAINTY of what is to come next in our lives as we lose our youth – and grow older. Some of us will be told that we have developed an illness such as cancer or a neurological disorder such as Alzheimer’s and our lives will be changed forever. While we fear what “might” happen we may be ‘creating’ the very thing that we fear and it will come to pass in our lives.

Others will be told that if they don’t change something in their lives there will be significant negative consequences that will eventually force them to choose a new path – or die. A lifetime of overindulging and consumption can spell trouble for even the “luckiest” among us and often by the time trouble arrives in the form of organ damage or disease such as diabetes, it is often too late to prevent the  further erosion of physical health and well-being.

With the obesity crisis that we are currently facing, the effects of neglect and poor choices by so many will be with us for years to come. Worry, doubt and fear are often the “drivers” of these negative behaviors and when allowed to remain “in play” over the long term, they WILL cause the results that we ALL want to avoid.

“The thing that I feared the most has come upon me” is true in many ways. It is the negative emotions of worry, doubt and fear that can cause us to override our “common sense” and behave in ways that eventually WILL harm us in ways that could have been prevented in the first place. It is worth examining the impact that that these three emotions have on our potential to enjoy a life that is healthy, fulfilled and finally, happy.

The “BIG 3”

#1. Worry

I have found myself in a state of “worry” many times throughout my life and worry is a common emotion we all share. It is grounded in a reality that is most likely not true and it plays a key role in the human experience. Worry is a fear that has no basis in fact – it is often “made up” in our subconscious minds and is rooted in the life we lived as children. What our parents worried about becomes “embedded” in our consciousness as we grow into adulthood. Over time the worries about family, money, health and so many other aspects of our lives, become a part of who we ARE and as a result, can hurt us in so many unexpected ways. Worry just “is” – it is never resolved by ignoring it – or pretending. We worry about taxes, becoming homeless, losing our jobs, getting divorced, losing a loved one and so much more. In many cases we don’t control our worries – they control us!

“Letting go” is the process of recognizing worry for what it is (nothing) and then allowing it to pass from our experience without any further thought. The question that might help us deal with worry most is: “What is the WORST thing that can happen if this “thing I am worried about” were to come true?” Very often “letting go” of worry can save your life from unnecessary pain and suffering and bring you a better understanding of how powerful you really are! Quiet time in meditation letting particular worries surface can often help us face the something that is “behind “ a particular thought or feeling allowing us the freedom to finally release it and move forward positively and with a new attitude.

#2. Fear

FEAR –”false evidence appearing real” – is the most common reason for us to NOT decide an issue in our lives. “Putting off until tomorrow” – or procrastination – is very often a signal that fear is controlling some aspect of our lives. Clients who came to me with little experience in fitness – and unresolved issues such as a lifetime of over eating and weight gain – were often in a state of fear (unconsciously of course) at the prospect of the changes that would be required of them in order to successfully meet their new goals. When fear strikes us it is often in response to something that we “makeup” and in so doing create a “cascade” of events that may confirm our worst suspicions. The mind is the most powerful instrument in nature and in turn creates our reality based upon our beliefs and perceptions of our life.

There is no difference between a “real or imagined experience” – they are BOTH considered “real” by the subconscious mind. The truth is that “as we think – and believe, so goes our life”. Living in fear can become a habit and create health issues where there were none. An example would be that your mother or father died of cancer so you too WILL get cancer – and die. This fear of being a cancer “patient in waiting” is REAL if you BELIEVE that it is TRUE for you. My father died of cancer but that does NOT mean I will too! Living free of fear is a GOOD thing – and yet it IS a natural part of life that MUST be recognized when appropriate and finally released when it is understood and acknowledged for what it is – false evidence appearing real. Fear must never be the reason we make choices in life. Arriving at a new understanding of ourselves because we are ALWAYS more than the sum of our fears is a worthy goal to strive for everyday of our lives!

#3. Doubt

For years I doubted myself and my innate gifts and talents and took on responsibilities I was ill suited to perform. The doubts I harbored never allowed me to “trust myself” and became a part of my everyday experience in life. Doubts always “creep in” to our consciousness – especially if we have failed or been denied something in life. We can always see doubt for what it is but sometimes it can be very challenging to “rid ourselves” of the habits created by doubting our power, talent, or capabilities. Because we doubt ourselves during periods of our life, we can begin to believe that we are “less than” and don’t deserve to be healthy, happy, prosperous, or fit! This is just not true!

Doubting ourselves is NEVER a good thing and to believe we “don’t measure up” in certain circumstances can lead to emotional “scarring” that becomes permanent in our thought processes. Trying something new such as starting a fitness program that achieves results is a way to overcome doubt. Believing in ourselves is the greatest challenge we all face in life. I thought about this idea today at great length and I have concluded that in my OWN life, doubt has ruled my decisions for a great many years. This has caused me so much unnecessary pain and discomfort over the years and I now recognize when it is “creeping back” into my consciousness because I now “ACT in SPITE of my DOUBTS or FEARS” and it always turns out well for me. These articles on healthy aging are an example of me overcoming my own worries, doubts and fears leading me to believe in myself even more strongly than ever before.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to our health, worry, doubt and fear can be destructive physically, psychologically, emotionally, and even spiritually. It is TOTALLY wrong for our lives to be ruled by worry, doubt and fear because in the majority of instances they are “made up” by US! Creating something from nothing is a waste of energy and if we are diligent and careful in our thinking and in “our choosing” these three “amigos of negativity” need not rule our lives. It is our responsibility then to “guard our thoughts” and responses to life’s circumstances and NOT overreact because of any one of them. We build confidence and faith in ourselves “one STEP at a time and one DAY at a time”!

It is in our thoughts and feelings that we can “channel” our energy toward the positive and by helping – and “being there” – for others and people that we love, we lighten the burden of whatever may be troubling us. Being PROACTIVE and RESPONSIVE to life’s challenges beats being REACTIVE and FEARFUL anytime!  Consider your past fears, worries and doubts and KNOW that they were “teaching you – about YOU”. They were not your enemies but “guides to your brighter and happier future”. Live THAT reality EVERYDAY and you will accomplish great things in your life and in the process help others do the same!

When do we become old?

HEALTHY AGING & YOU: “When do we become old?”

In this series on healthy aging I have addressed the process of growing older from a number of perspectives – mentally, physically, and spiritually. I believe in the power of the human mind to adapt to ever changing circumstances over time and also in the resiliency of the human spirit to face the inevitable challenges that confront us as we grow older. The question remains: When do we become old? I have thought about this question over the years as I trained clients from the ages of 14 to 95. The reality is that aging, in my opinion, is a “state of mind”. The mind controls our reality on both the subconscious and conscious levels of thought. Thought controls our behavior and forms the foundation for ALL of our belief systems and these systems determine the outcome of our future health and well being. The overriding reality of my OWN life is that I get OUT of my life what I put INTO it. Exploring the aging process in this manner has given me the opportunity to examine what is at stake for ALL OF US in the years ahead and also to clarify the factors that WILL MOST certainly define what makes someone old – or vital – regardless of the number of years they have lived.

Discussion

I have often wondered what “makes” someone old. I have seen examples of “older” people – like Jack LaLanne or Vin Scully of the Dodgers – who have lived (or ARE living) active and productive lives regardless of the number of years they have lived. I NEVER considered Jack LaLanne or Vin Scully OLD, and yet I have witnessed the decline of people (of all ages) through unconscious choices that yield the very result they are trying to avoid – dependency and infirmity – which I classify as becoming “old”. One of my last client relationships was with a woman by the name of Val who trained with me for approximately 5 years. She was in her late 70’s when I started working with her and with each succeeding strength training session with me she grew in confidence and ability building on the strength gains we created together. She regained some of her lost ability to protect herself and be balanced physically, insuring falls would be less of a prospect for her in the future. Slow, deliberate work on concentration and focus issues also contributed to these gains in balance, cardio capacity, and strength, but unfortunately there came a time when her adult children decided that she needed to stop working with me for financial reasons – and she gave in to their wishes! (I felt at the time that she THEN indeed would become OLD!)  I never felt that the work she put into her training – or the time we spent together – was ever wasted, but in the end she listened to her children and let them DECIDE FOR HER whether she would continue to work with me and I felt badly for her. I knew how much she loved coming to the gym and seeing what that “next step” in her journey might be, and now all that progress and dedication to her purpose would be gone forever

I have always believed that the life I want to lead – and the health I want to enjoy – is ENTIRELY in my hands, and I have always made the decisions about my health and fitness from my “gut” – or instincts – because I believe I am the ONLY one who knows what is BEST for me. We give away our power to decide our future EVERY day without knowing it is happening. Just as Val let someone else decide this important aspect of her life for her, she released the very power that had led her to improving her future health and fitness outlook in the first place. The tragedy in all of this is that today we are being led to an uncertain future by the drug companies, insurance plans, and medical professionals, who routinely TELL us how to live – and decide – this important aspect of our lives. The fitness industry is truly the LAST – and BEST – defense against this ongoing erosion of our personal power to decide for OURSELVES what IS in our best interests because our FOCUS is on training and developing the client’s TOTAL health and well being. The current reality of “prescription medicine” is one that I will be avoiding AT ALL COSTS and the definition of WHEN we become old will always remain a “moving target” for each of us that is dependent upon our current choices and the use of our OWN personal power to decide what is BEST for us.

Conclusion

When I think about my father and his death at 64, I am reminded that he was “old” before his time because of the way he CHOSE to live his life. I am NOT – nor will I become – a part of that thinking which subscribes to the notion that “someone else” knows what is best for me! I will not “shuffle” off this “mortal coil” through the door of medication and hospitalization because that to me is the TRUE “death sentence” and NOT the reality I am training for today – and in MY future. I am making my choices TODAY to live as actively and as engaged in living as I can be so as to NEVER arrive at a preconceived destination NOT of my making! The world of this 21st century will KILL individual power if we let it and I am going to fight for everyone’s right to decide for THEMSELVES what is in their OWN best interests.

When do we become old? The answer is when we let SOMEONE ELSE decide FOR US what is in our best interests – and THAT decision has no NUMBER attached to it. WHEN I run that 6 minute mile on my 80th birthday, I will be smiling the whole way knowing that I DECIDED for MYSELF LONG BEFORE that day to be in a position to accomplish something that by today’s standards IS IMPOSSIBLE! I will PROVE everyone wrong and in the process demonstrate what true human potential CAN BE at that age, and just as Charlie Wedemeyer demonstrated during his challenging lifetime, show the world that it is IN – and THROUGH – the human spirit that we are ALL unlimited and powerful beings to the very end of life itself!

Strength Training, Cardiovascular Conditioning and Balance

In the early 90’s I worked with an athletic coach at a sports club who believed that “strength training was the paycheck, and cardio was the bonus”. Being a runner I had many conversations with Doug about that idea and over time I have come to believe that he was right. When I used to think of what it meant to get old, I remember thinking that the “old people” were weak, frail, and forgot a lot”. Since I have lived to the point where I am now considered old, I have decided that being strong is preferable for me.

Weight training over the past 20 years has enabled me to continue running at a high level and the future looks bright because I am investing valuable time in preventing loss of my lean mass and creating safer, more durable joints. The “magnificent 7” characteristics of fitness (power, speed, quickness, strength, endurance, balance and flexibility) will be saved as long as long as I focus on a balanced approach to my training that features cardio, strength and endurance, flexibility and balance. What are the implications for all of us if we don’t become the “agents of change” that the world desperately needs?

Baby BoomersSeniors are the fastest growing segment of our society. Some 80 million of us are classified as “baby boomers” and in the next two decades the aging population will be a reality – dominating the financial and healthcare landscape. It is up to each of us to prepare ourselves for the surge of demand for fitness services. Prevention is a concept that is just taking hold in our collective consciousness but is in its infancy since it focuses on testing and medical intervention in advance of the onset of critical and chronic diseases and conditions.

Heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and chronic illnesses of all shapes and sizes CAN be prevented with proper education and information. Unfortunately, even with all our efforts at being the best “change agents” that we can be, there are challenges that only the individual can face alone. These include prioritizing the choices they make, the values they hold, the beliefs they have inherited from their pasts, and the implications they imply. It IS crucial for each of us to become as informed and knowledgeable as we can be if we are to make a dent in the obesity crisis. It will be up to each of us to prepare for these challenges and be able to “prescribe” the proper exercise and lifestyle recommendations that will enable and empower the clients we serve to not only succeed but thrive!

I am convinced that keeping records of my progress over the years has helped me stay on track to not only “stay even” but prosper and grow. I have running calendars dating back to 1978 (38,000 miles) that tell me a great deal about who I was as a runner – times, courses, results, conditions, my thoughts etc. and this information has fueled who I AM today. The Baby Boomer Lifting Weightsinformation in the years prior to 1978 was probably lost in moves and life changes but having 35 years of results has given me all I need in order to set new goals each year. The weight training records date back several years and include exercises I did, sets, weights, and totals. The record keeping discipline is one I would recommend to anyone who is serious about their health and fitness goals.

We need to give those we train all the tools that they can use in order to succeed and fulfill their potential and reach new goals. I am convinced that everyone in America MUST become engaged in some form of resistance training before their 40th birthdays in order to prevent the loss of lean mass – and balance – which is inevitable as we age. Dying from falls should never happen if people are aware of the incredible benefits of even the most elementary resistance training programs. The results in numerous studies on this process speak for themselves and this is TRUE prevention.

Baby Boomer JoggingMy years of running have prepared me for an active life beyond what most people consider our “declining” years. Like my idol Jack Lalanne I am training for my 70’s now and my 80’s following my 70th birthday – and beyond. My cardiovascular health is amazing. I ran 7 miles today in 41:25 – a moderate effort by today’s standards – and it felt EASY for me! My conditioning is such that whatever I choose to do in the future I WILL be able to do because the foundation was laid over DECADES of training – not just years. It has taken our country YEARS to get into this healthcare mess and it will take all of us – and just as long – to get out of it. We all will play a CRUCIAL role in the outcome and I can only say it again: We MUST all be the example of the change that we wish to see in the world or we will all pay a very heavy price indeed.

I am in this for the long haul and obviously my message is “let’s not waste a moment – or an opportunity – to make a difference in the lives of those we love and serve”. It is time for each of us to decide just how much we want to be a part of the process and become the solution to what lies ahead! I will share what I can with all of you and be your partner in change. Together we will form a powerful team and make a significant difference in the lives of those we touch. Isn’t that what our profession is all about in the first place?  Nick Prukop – [email protected]

Physical Activity – Where the Rubber Meets the Road – Part II

I met a 60 year old woman who was originally from Colombia at the gym today. Her name was Martha and we shared an interesting – yet brief – time together. She said she worked two jobs – one at Hoag Hospital for years to care for – and raise her three children who are now grown. She identified some of the same issues I raised in Part I of “Physical Activity” so I decided to explore in more detail some of the ideas I shared in that article. Her insights are quite interesting and she shares many of the same concerns I identified in my previous discussion.

First she mentioned the way people seem to have lost their way when it comes to their own health needs and inadvertently think that when the time comes and their health becomes an issue, (whether they live or die), that the doctor “will take care of them” (my father took such an approach with his cancer diagnosis in 1983 before he passed away). She noted the lack of concern shown by many patients at Hoag about the situation that many find themselves in – including the point that they may have contributed to their OWN predicament! I found her to be mostly on target when it came to the issue of weight and the obesity situation in this country. She saw as I did the nature of the problem resting in the hands of the parents who never set proper boundaries for their children and how hard she worked over the years to not only keep her children safe, but also teaching them to become responsible and accountable for their own lives. I was most impressed by her commitment to do whatever was necessary to help her children become independent and thoughtful adults who cared not only about themselves but others as well.

Finally, in working two jobs she was deciding FOR her family as a single mother and she was NOT going to FAIL! As she spoke I saw the years of sacrifice in her face – and in her eyes – and how she felt so strongly about family and its importance in creating the citizens of the future. I saw a woman of 60 who had done ALL she could for those she loved and now she was FINALLY taking care of herself. I could ONLY admire and respect such dedication and commitment – and love – and the power in that choice. I hugged her and commented to her that her children must really appreciate who she is and what she had done for them to insure their safe and incredible journey to adulthood! She had tears in her eyes and I felt that love on a very deep level as well. I will NEVER forget Martha and she is an example of what I was talking about in the part I of this article on Physical Activity. She provided her children with good food, good opportunities for growth, and lots of loving support in order to help them become MORE than she had been able to be in her own life. This is the beginning of turning the page on the obesity crisis – personal responsibility and accountability (her words).

I look at myself and my daughter and grandson as also being examples of what is possible in the future. Each generation “adds something” to the “mix of life” and subsequently new ideas and attitudes form as a result. The future rests in the ideas that have worked in the past and in the “seeds of new thoughts” and creative energy that are now just forming – and even in these words as I type them on my laptop tonight. For Martha and the countless “others”  “out there” who feel they are alone this HAS to be a commitment we ALL keep or this nation just won’t make it. The families may be lost right now but that does not have to be the case if we all pitch in and serve the greater good in some capacity. The fitness professional will play a significant role in this process in the years ahead because we ARE the principle teachers of how to access the fitness lifestyle and change lives “one at a time”. We ARE the example of passion and commitment to the health and well-being of this nation’s people. I hope all of you who are reading my articles will develop innovative ideas and new “ways of being” as a result in order to be a part of the solution to these and other challenges – and NOT a part of the problem. My goal is to remain in this fight to the end and hopefully I will be able to be a significant “partner in change” that makes a difference in the lives of people like Martha who had to endure so much of her journey alone. I am grateful I met her today. She and her story have made a difference in my life and I hope it has helped make a difference in your life as well!

What if….? An Exercise in Healthy Aging

an exercise in healthy aging

This series has introduced the concept of aging from a new perspective that is currently not well known – that of “healthy aging”. I believe that in the future we will be examining the aging process from many aspects that include not only the physical but the emotional, mental and spiritual parts of life as well. It is in the acquisition of a wide variety of belief systems learned and “embodied” during our earliest years that we become the adults we are going to be – and the choices we will make as a result. The fact is that we make critical choices throughout our entire lives and that from which we learn all of life’s lessons.

Most of the time we learn our greatest lessons from making mistakes – and by taking risks that may frighten us – but that can also inspire us to greater accomplishment. The courage to move forward (in spite of our fear of the unknown) and “try again” comes from the formation of the foundation that emerges during the process of attempting what we may think of as “impossible” but is really a belief in “I am possible”. This hope – and innate faith in our potential – is what I believe to be to the true essence of healthy aging.

It is in the “art” of aging that I feel we can truly embody the principles of healthy aging. Living without regret and practicing each day to become more – and do more as well – is a pattern I hope we will ALL embrace as we grow older – and NOT old. Let’s examine a way in which we can remain present and age well with each day – free of guilt and regret. I call this exercise “what if….?” It can give you an indication of where you are on your journey in life and key your thinking to making changes – and new choices – that will empower you and free you to take reasonable risks, enabling you to discover more about your TRUE potential than you ever dreamed possible.

Discussion

I have been asking the following question of some older people at my gym and it is challenging not only them but me as well. It is: “What if you could go back in time and tell your younger self anything that you think is TRULY important to know then, what would that be?” The answers have surprised me because they come from people who have lived a lot of years and are clear on why they are doing what they are doing in terms of activity now. One said I would tell my younger self to appreciate every moment to the fullest because time “speeds up” as we grow older and being “busy” means losing the power of the present. Another said I would tell my younger self to appreciate all that I can do NOW because the years have a way of taking from us things we have taken for granted and can only appreciate after they have been removed from our experience.  What then do we do about this issue of “losing” who it is we “think we are”?

I referenced my thoughts on this subject in my article on Charlie Wedemeyer who passed away in 2010 of ALS after years of being confined to a wheel chair – unable to live the life of freedom he must have imagined for himself when he started his high school football coaching career after graduating from college. I asked the question: What if I could no longer run the way I am now? How would that fact change my life? How would I BE if that ever happened to me? My life has always been partly defined by my athletic ability. I have been blessed to be able to maintain my skill through all these 66 years and have become increasingly grateful with every passing day because I know it could all be taken away in an instant. Charlie’s life embodied making choices that most of us will never be forced to make but it is worth acknowledging ‘what if…?’ Asking “what if?” can apply to EVERY aspect of our lives. In practicing the discipline of QUESTIONING ourselves every day, we allow “new thoughts” to take shape in our consciousness giving us the freedom to choose a new path that fulfills our dreams – and KEEPS US YOUNG!

I am planning to run a 6 minute mile on my 80th birthday not just because it is a HUGE challenge but because it fuels my imagination about the possibilities and potential that it COULD reveal within me. I could take this thought further by appreciating the friends in my life, the family that loves  me, the journey that I am on RIGHT NOW, the mission I am here to fulfill (sharing with you), and many other aspects of my life. It is in the daily “rituals” of life that we uncover our “true” passions and desires. The idea that we age “from within” appeals to me. It strengthens my resolve and the belief in the notion that I – and I alone – am in control of my destiny. The next time you find yourself questioning your capability to achieve – and be more – ask yourself “what if…” and see what emerges in your ‘mind’s eye’. Follow that wisdom because it IS your instincts “kicking in” – and don’t be afraid of failure because that is how we ALL learn in life.

Conclusion

Pretending to “look back on your life” and tell your younger self something valuable that you would want to know today as a result of your experience in life is a valuable tool that you can use at anytime in your life – or your day. In asking the question of the people at the gym today I found myself saying that I would tell my younger self to be patient – and appreciate the complexity of making choices that affect the outcome of my life. One such decision that I regretted for years was leaving the Air Force at the end of my four year tour as a Titan II Missile Combat Crew Commander. If I had thought through that decision instead of “reacting to the life I was living as somehow bad” I might have found myself living a completely different life than the one I found after I separated from the Air Force in 1972. The impact of that choice reverberated through the ensuing years leading to bankruptcy, divorce, multiple job changes, poor personal decisions and so much more. It could have ‘possibly’ been avoided if I had thought more carefully about what I was about to do.  Who knows? It is in the past but look how it still affects my life today! We never really lose ourselves along the way – we just learn how NOT to decide!

Examining your life NOW – and in every moment that is important to you – WILL keep you young and vital for the challenges that will inevitably come to you as you grow older – but not old. Don’t put yourself in a position where you are “reacting” and not “responding” to your life because your choices WILL be limited by fear and guilt – and regret – and that will DEFINITELY age you faster than you ever dreamed possible. People DO look OLD to me (in many ways) and in many cases they are YOUNGER than I am. I have been told I “look” 15-20 years younger than I am and it is probably due to my commitment to remaining present and hopeful while being “open” to life’s possibilities. Being fit has obviously been a HUGE advantage for me and I am sorry so many are suffering in their later years today. You have a chance to “get ahead” today by asking “what if…?” and preparing yourself for the life YOU want to live and not for someone else but for YOURSELF! Don’t do as I did when I was younger. Live fully NOW in the present, be open to change, and make the best choices you can TODAY! They WILL be reflected in your health and in your commitment to yourself – and your life will be full and happy as a result!

How to Use the Power of the Mind-Body Connection to Support Your Health & Fitness Goals – Part I

Illustration of the mind at work

The reality is that we use only a small portion of our brain’s capacity throughout the course of our lifetimes. The “actual” percentage is unknown of course but the best guess among the experts is somewhere BELOW ten percent! According to experts in the field, the prevailing wisdom is that the greatest geniuses of all time probably did not access more than 10-15% of their brain’s capacity while they were alive! Where does this leave the rest of us? It is my hope that we ALL develop our brain’s capabilities throughout our lives and through setting health and fitness goals every year of our lives we will give that opportunity for growth and expansion a REAL chance. I am exploring this area of health and fitness because we KNOW the mind-body connection is REAL. It definitely impacts our ability to achieve whatever it is we desire to accomplish and research is proving this to be true every day.

Discussion

Walt Disney is one of the people I have admired throughout the course of my life. He accomplished incredible things during his life that have continued to expand and grow because of his incredible ability to imagine and envision a future that did not exist during his lifetime. We have all been touched by his genius and yet at his death he had only accomplished a fraction of what he wanted to do with Disney the business. Decades following his death his team was still completing many of his goals and to this day Disney still lives because he used so much of the power of his mind. Unfortunately, his health suffered because of poor habits accumulated over his life such as smoking and eventually those habits cost him his life. What could have been possible had he lived? No one of course will ever know but the reality he created through his imagination will live on because he was so committed to his vision – and purpose.

Each of us has the same potential Walt Disney and other geniuses possessed but the difference is that many of us NEVER realize our potential due to circumstances and experiences that “drag” us off course and kill our spirits. Failure can become as real as success if we allow the effects of the world to dominate our thinking and control our behavior and choices. “What others think of us” is none of our business, however, what we think of OURSELVES is DEFINITELY our business.

So how do we think of ourselves? Is it positively or negatively? Is it with love or with criticism? The answers are contained in our subconscious minds. The subconscious mind is the driver of your life. From it comes your reality – your perceptions and beliefs of your life. Most of this information comes from others and determines in large measure the “way” in which you process information and experience. If you see the “cup half full” and not “half empty”, you most likely live your life from a hopeful and happy perspective – expecting good to come to you because of “who you are” on the inside. If you are a “half” empty sort, your life most assuredly reflects that negativity and you struggle with goals and setting a positive course for yourself because “failure” just seems to follow you no matter what you do!

The idea is to harness the power of your mind as Walt Disney did in his life and “see Disneyland” – not the fields of oranges others saw when they saw the land he wanted for his new theme park – the first one in the U.S.! Life delivers positive results to those who see “beyond the forest” so they can see the trees. “Changing your mind” is the BIG challenge in life because it requires self examination and honesty to arrive at your new “truth” – that you CAN indeed accomplish amazing things if only you provide yourself with the proper “mind set” and tools for their achievement. Health and fitness goals work the same way for you that Disney envisioned his most important projects and ideas and eventually they became a reality – not only for him – but for ALL of us who have loved going to Disneyland and experiencing his vision first hand!

“What you SEE, SAY, THINK, FEEL, BELIEVE, and IMAGINE yourself to BE you become. Actions speak louder than words and your actions always speak the truth that lies within you. If your truth has been failure, turn it into success “one step at a time”. “Inch by inch, anything is a cinch” was a favorite phrase by a famous minister and I hold to that belief to this day. You MUST as well is IF you are to become healthy and fit for life! Here are some questions you can ponder as you face your health and fitness goals for 2013 and beyond. There is no timetable for answering them – just “think on them”:

  1. Is it true? (that I can become fit)
  2. Do I believe it? (that I can DO “it”)
  3. Do I care about ACTING on this belief? (Will I quit at some point?)
  4. What you SEE is what you get – what do you see when you look at yourself?
  5. What you SAY is what you get – what do you say in support of yourself?
  6. What you BELIEVE is what you get – what do you believe to be true for yourself?

The four keys to programming your subconscious mind are:

Visualization – this process describes what I call the “Walt Disney” secret – “defining the new you”

Affirmation – this process confirms for your subconscious the “you” you want to become (ex. I am strong) and strengthens you through your words your deepest thoughts and beliefs about yourself

Imagination – “the child’s greatest gift” – imagining the possibilities without condemnation or judgment – this is the gift we lose almost entirely as we grow older (except for Steve Jobs etc.)

Behavior – How do your actions get interpreted by the world and do they reflect who you truly ARE?

Conclusion

The realm of the mind-body connection is still a great mystery to researchers and the world at large and yet we know IT MATTERS that we harmonize this connection in terms that we can interpret and embody in every aspect of our lives. This connection is the REAL definition of what it means to live abundantly and without regret. When Walt Disney died in 1966 at the age of 65 he had already accomplished so much more than most of us will ever dream of doing but that does NOT mean we can’t duplicate HOW he did what he did during his lifetime. I have more than dedicated myself to this project of writing for AskTheTrainer.com because through writing about what fuels MY imagination when it comes to my own fitness journey, I have only scratched the surface of what I have to say. Suffice it to say I will be exploring this topic in upcoming articles because if I had to pick just ONE topic I wished to explore more completely – it would be the exploration of the human mind and its incredible impact on our lives. I hope this journey fuels your imagination too and you find the path that has always been waiting JUST FOR YOU!

How to Use the Power of the Mind-Body Connection to Support Your Health & Fitness Goals – Part II

The goal in life is to maximize our potential by discovering and developing (and sharing) our natural gifts in order to leave “our mark” on life and the way to accomplish this is to become as healthy and fit (mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually) as we possibly can. The life that we want to live is dependent on how healthy and fit we are – and become – in the years ahead of us. In the final analysis how LONG we live pales in comparison to how WELL we live the years we are given.

As previously discussed in the prior article on this subject, Walt Disney died long before he completed all that he envisioned for the company he founded in the 1920’s. However, he managed to set in motion a vision that was so expansive and all inclusive that in the decades following his death in 1966 the many thousands of people who worked for Disney were still implementing what he wanted to accomplish had he lived beyond the age of 65. We cannot make excuses or assign blame if we are to make a difference in life – we are responsible and accountable for all that happens to us – and through us. Decide TODAY to explore your OWN mind-body connection and see what happens – you could be in for a very pleasant – and rewarding – surprise!

Discussion

The “Triple Winner”

This is a concept I developed in the 80’s (while teaching client centered marketing) and it is relevant to our discussion of the mind-body connection. It states that: “As I help you win, we win; as we win, those we touch win”. This concept relies on creating and maintaining a healthy and focused mind and includes being open and receptive to change, while having an understanding of ourselves on the deepest levels, AND having a healthy respect not only for ourselves – but others as well. The characteristics of a “triple winner” are: enthusiasm, patience, an ability to communicate both thoughts and feelings, a positive attitude, an ability to empathize with others, a keen willingness to listen, a willingness to form mutually supportive relationships, and a deep inclination to behaving honestly (and with integrity) in all that you say – and DO.

Knowing what we value in life and the priority we place on embodying these values sets us up to becoming congruent – “walking our talk”. Evaluating risk rationally and willingly embracing change is a key to setting reasonable goals – especially when it comes to our own health and fitness needs. Evaluating our current position – where we are now in our lives (physically, emotionally and mentally) – is always a prudent and healthy process. Our journey in life is bordered by such processes and it is out of this continuing need to review what we “see” as important in our lives that eventually leads us to a “course correction”  – BEFORE we have a heart attack, stroke or face some other life threatening event (my definition of prevention!).

Programming

Our minds work like a computer. We receive input and information (data) from the world as we go through life and we interpret our experiences according to our prior experiences and understanding of life as we have lived it. Our belief systems and self image develop from this ongoing process. The information gets stored on our subconscious “tapes” and becomes a part of our “permanent record” to be used in future circumstances that may require this “stored” knowledge. Our future actions are guided by this programming and they affect every aspect of our lives. The tapes cannot be erased but they can be “re-programmed” through replacing old instructions with new ones. This is how we can change our circumstances – by “changing our minds” about the ideas and beliefs that no longer serve us.

The real barrier to change occurs on the subconscious level because if you believe you are not likely to succeed in what you want to achieve, that belief will always win in the end. “What you see is what you get” is a true statement. If you are caring, hopeful, supportive, and positive about life, the world will know it through your actions. “What you give comes back multiplied” is one of my beliefs and this is true of how we treat others as well as ourselves. If we can’t put ourselves FIRST when it comes to our own health and fitness needs, then we will NEVER arrive at a positive outcome – no matter how hard we try. Our tapes can only support achieving our purpose IF WE HAVE one! BELIEVE you are worthy of achieving your purpose and through this one belief YOU CAN change the world! Be true to yourself FIRST and others will believe WITH you and SUPPORT you as well.

You can only change your outward circumstances when you “change your inner mind”. Remember your subconscious mind does NOT know the difference between a vividly IMAGINED experience and a “real” one you experience in life. You create the “picture first” of what you want to achieve and then move TOWARD it – just as Walt Disney did when he created Disneyland. This is how I am MOVING toward my own dream – writing about it in these articles and eventually I WILL act on the opportunities when they come my way. When your subconscious mind finally accepts the new programming, you will “feel a great difference” in your in life and be amazed at the incredible experiences that come your way.

The following open ended “thoughts” will help you re-program your subconscious by allowing you to “brainstorm” as many completions as you can for the following “core beliefs” you hold – and MAY want to change. WRITE DOWN ALL YOUR RESPONSES IN LIST FORM:

  1. I AM….(ex.) healthy, balanced, energized, persistent, growing, awake, alert, loving etc.(I have 100 completions to this first one)
  2. I VALUE…(ex.)my health, my running, my mind and heart, my creativity, my drive to succeed, my daughter, grandson etc.(I have 35 completions for this one)
  3. I CARE ABOUT…(ex.)myself, my future, inspiring others, my family, my training, my running, my life, my spirit etc.(I have another 30 for this one)
  4. I LOVE to…(ex.) write, run, sing, speak, teach, feel great, set my own course, develop new ideas etc. ( another 25 for this one)
  5. I FEEL….(ex.) terrific, abundant, hopeful, grateful, complete, alive, fulfilled, thankful, free etc.(another 30 for this one)

Conclusion

Set your course by defining your purpose and start moving toward your new self. Define your purpose and become “purpose driven” and don’t let anything stop you from achieving your health and fitness goals. Remember the subconscious will resist you through “old programming” but you KNOW you will succeed because you are passionate about your purpose and making your contribution – and succeeding. You WILL be healthy and fit because that is the only way you can live your life from now on. Be consistent, persistent, open to change, patient, and most of all forgiving when you fall short periodically – because we ALL fall short at some point on the journey to change.

The mind-body connection is alive IN you and all it takes is your recognition of its power to transform your life in all of its magnificence! Be alive to the possibilities of your life and be grateful that you are “the only you” in the whole world. Live from this truth every day of your life and you will never look back to the person that you WERE, but be amazed at the person you have BECOME!

How to Use the Power of the Mind-Body Connection to Support Your Health & Fitness Goals – Part III

Nicholas S. Prukop

The mind-body connection is critical to the process of remaining healthy and fit. I am convinced that the world is going in the wrong direction when it comes to “mindfulness” and being “present” in our daily activities has become a lost art. The technology driven mindset of the population is moving us further away from the source of our health and well being. I was born into a world without computers and satellite communications and was happy. Today is another matter entirely! It is a challenge just to have a conversation with another human being on a regular basis – in real life!

The idea of being “plugged in” 24/7 does not fit into my idea of being healthy and happy – and fit. All we have to do is walk outside and we will see people with their ears “turned off” to the world – and not acknowledging one another. I see it every day at the gym – no smiles, no greetings, no acknowledgement of each other. It is sad to see this trend extend into every aspect of our lives. Eventually we will ALL pay a price for this neglect and lack of caring for one another. I have given you my perception of the mind-body connection in my previous articles and now I would like to share with you some of the ways in which I maintain my OWN mind-body connection every day. It is the only way that I can see to survive in a world that sees “faster as better” and access to “more” as being beneficial to life.

Discussion

The reality we are living in today is largely the vision of a couple of individuals – Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The “interconnected world” of the future is here now and we are all players in the game. Buying technology and the latest advancements in connectivity have become the sport of the 21st century. People line up days before a new phone by Apple is unveiled as though waiting until its release was some kind of “built in stupidity”.

The result of this increased access to the universe of the internet and the world of FaceBook has drawn us further apart than ever and now conversations and other forms of communications occur within this realm of Twitter and other means of “connecting”. Cars go faster so we drive faster, diets come and go, the latest “gadget” or pill will solve my problems etc. The billions spent on advertizing “the latest thing” – whether it be for drugs, pills, diet programs, medical procedures, or lawsuits to recover for whatever wrong was done to us, fast food etc. – proliferate in all forms of media.

I see the evolution of life today as “taking us away” from our ‘natural state’ of health and well being. I see it in the obesity statistics and in the onset of once preventable and unknown chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and addictions to all manner of medications – a REAL rising threat to our nation’s future health. I believe the answer to these issues lies within us. This is why I have addressed the subject of the mind-body connection on a personal level because this is where the answers lie – within each of us. If you are increasingly becoming less “connected to your own life” then it is time to “take back” your personal power and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT TODAY. DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU GET A CANCER DIAGNOSIS, STROKE,  OR HAVE A HEART ATTACK TO ACT – TODAY IS ALL WE GET!

My Strategies for Staying “Connected”

1.  Meditation

I stay in connection with my heart and mind – and body – by exercising every day physically, mentally, and spiritually. I take time to “go within” – to listen to my thoughts and acknowledge the messages they are sending me. Much of my inspiration for my work today – and in the future – comes from spending my time “listening” in this manner. I use the silence to feel my breathing and heart beat – appreciating my life. I put no limitations on this process – or expectations – I just allow this time to “be”. The value of meditation is incalculable and is being used by holistic facilities treating cancer patients and is proving to be an invaluable tool in the healing process. We don’t “cure” disease but we can “heal” ourselves if we interact with our own inner healing power.

2.  Exercise

As a runner I envision my workouts BEFORE I engage myself in the process. I picture the speeds, cadence, stride, result I want, and my own joy as I prepare my workout. I know the joy I feel when I run so I make sure I maximize the time I spend doing it because I not only want to achieve something – but enjoy the journey as well. I record every workout in a log and track my progress – miles run, times, splits, distances, conditions, how I felt that day etc. I do the same with my weight training program because it draws my “attention” to what it is I AM DOING. “Being present” while training our minds and bodies TAKES WORK and our ATTENTION in the MOMENT. I see “ear plugs” in so many people’s ears today and KNOW they can’t be present because they are “somewhere else” – especially answering their phones or texting! Texting “while living” should be banned like “texting while driving” has been outlawed!

3.  Sleep

Sleep is critical to our health. Too little sleep leads to weight gain, depression, eating disorders, high blood pressure, heart problems and so much more.  I spend time with meditation and music prior to closing my eyes. I think on the day and how fortunate I have been to have lived it. I wonder about the lessons I am learning – or have learned – and am thankful for my health, my life, and the opportunities for growth I have had that day. I spend time with my thoughts – where I am going, what I am doing, and remembering to appreciate all I have been given. Then I release the day with thanks and go to sleep. I am convinced with sleep comes new ideas – through dreams and other subconscious pathways – and I get to use them in the days and weeks ahead. The ideas for these articles have come through this pathway and I will continue to use this time more creatively in the future as a result.

4.  Catch Yourself Being Present Today

I call this last strategy “catching yourself being present today” because people come into our lives and can surprise us in many ways. I spent an hour yesterday talking with Romero while at the gym for my weight training workout because he wanted to say hi to me. He is my age (66) and we talked about life, faith, family, health and fitness, and how we got to be who we are and at the end of the conversation we had become friends – REAL friends. This conversation happened because we are NOT tied to technology and are open to REAL life experience. I treasure that moment and look forward to seeing him again. How much are we each missing during our day and can we “catch ourselves being present”?  Only you can answer that question. I hope you WILL!

Conclusion

This is my final article on the mind-body connection. I hope you use the knowledge and experience I have shared in this series to your benefit and future growth. I am convinced the answers to our greatest challenges lie WITHIN each of us but we can only access that wisdom if we “turn off” the world for at least a little while and truly “listen” to our inner voice and pay attention to what it tells us!

7 Keys to Fitness Success

7 Keys to Fitness Success: Developing All Your Powers

I have thought a lot about the benefits I have derived from a life of running and weight training and it all boils down to being “the athlete” for life.

The seven keys to fitness are a result of my efforts over the years to retain and maintain my physical and mental abilities as the years have passed. I have decided that one of my presentations in the future will center on this information and inform audiences that they too can receive the benefits of a life that is full, healthy and fit!

My hope is that as you plan for your fitness future you will consider these keys as a way of setting your fitness goals so that you can see the results of a life well lived.

The 7 Keys to Fitness Success

Key #1: Strength

man working outStrength is the foundation upon which all the other keys are built. It implies a body – and mind – able to handle varied loads and stresses – capable of withstanding the many challenges life can bring us. I am convinced that after years of debate with myself over the value of value of cardio versus strength training that strength is indeed “the paycheck” and that cardio is indeed the “bonus” just as a former coach argued with me years ago. Strength can be attained in any number of ways – the most traditional means today of course being resistance training. Are you training for strength today? If not, you are losing strength by losing lean mass. The percentages are against us as we age – so get going! Do AT LEAST three days of strength training per week and see what happens to your body!

Key #2: Endurance

Endurance is the ability of the body – and mind – to train over time and implies a strong heart and cardiovascular system (and mental strength as well). Moving is natural to the body so let’s get moving! Walking, running, swimming, cycling, hiking and any number of activities strengthen the cardiovascular system and the result is a heart capable of  pumping many times the volume of blood and oxygen to the cells of our bodies over time. The many benefits of cardio are endless but the one I like the most is that cardio training creates more capillaries in our system so that we receive more oxygen and nutrients for our cells helping them thrive! This is the way to stay young in my book!

Key #3: Power

Power can be achieved by simply living well. I believe in the power of the human mind and spirit so through practice we can increase our power exponentially by focusing our attention on our mental and physical powers through meditation and prayer, yoga, tai chi, martial arts and many other forms of training that will encourage and support us in our development as “whole human beings”. This year I will be attending yoga classes at my gym in order to work on developing my mental and physical power. It is an investment well worth making and who knows where such training may lead us? I know it will enhance my ability to balance life’s challenges and that will be well worth it to me. How about you?

Key #4: Quickness

woman running for speedQuickness implies being able to respond to whatever life may have in store for us. Quickness of mind, body and spirit leave us as we age “in the traditional model” of today, but why does it have to leave us at all if we train properly? I am working on quickness through my running and stretching exercise programs – and of course will be in my yoga classes as well. “Clarity of thought” is a function of how we are using our minds each day and being tethered to our electronic “devices” is NO WAY to develop our minds – that is “mindless” behavior – in my opinion of course. “Thought” is where ALL human experience originates so be “quick” to recognize how you are using your mind each day and “respond” – don’t react to life’s “curveballs”! John Wooden used to tell his players to be “be quick, but don’t hurry”. Isn’t that great advice for all of us?

Key #5: Speed

Speed is a function of how well we are treating our minds and bodies as we age. I have developed speed physically as I have aged through my running program but there is also “speed of thought” as well. My mind is able to process information relatively quickly because I try to keep it “uncluttered” at all times and my body responds positively as well because it is healthy and able to “roll with the punches”. Drugs and illnesses sap our ability to be fast physically but our minds are resilient so let’s make an effort to be “conscious” of the role being fast may play in our lives. Older people are not fast and many people “wish” they had known early in life the value being of being fast. Joint replacement surgery and other debilitating surgeries that typically come with age to repair life’s damage we caused unconsciously must be avoided if we are to remain physically prepared for the years ahead!

Key #6: Balance

Balance is a goal I am setting for this year by taking yoga classes and meditating more – not less. Balance implies being able to withstand – and stand up – to the many unknown events and circumstances that WILL surface throughout the years. Being balanced to me means having a joy for the work one does, an abiding passion for life, friends and family who love us and care about us, money in the bank, time to play and have fun, time to travel and see the world we often can only imagine, time for personal growth and discovery – and so much more! How many of us live life like that – even a little of the time? I suspect time is our greatest ally – and enemy – we never have enough right? So make the time for yourself and see what happens. You may be surprised at how happy you truly can be!

Key #7: Flexibility

older couple performing flexibility exercises The final key really speaks for itself, doesn’t it? If we are flexible mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, how healthy could we really become? I would say the answer is that it is unlimited – like the human mind in all its potential. Being flexible implies being adaptable and willing to change and this is the challenge we all need to face each day as life unfolds in so many unknown ways before us. Being flexible means being accepting and forgiving and this in my estimation is the key to long term happiness. “I am flexible, adaptable, open, receptive, willing, forgiving and grateful” is something I put into my conscious mind in the morning and for my subconscious mind before I go to sleep at night. It is worth every ounce of thought to remember this every day and work toward “living” it as well.

Conclusion

Strength, power, speed, quickness, endurance, balance and flexibility are the seven keys to being fit mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Practice using them every day and you will eventually “embody” them – they will BE you and you will BE them.

Each year that I live I evaluate areas in which I may grow and develop further – both as a person and as a professional. Work these keys into your life and you will be surprised at how your life unfolds in health and well being. It is an effort that will pay dividends far into your future and bring you joy and contentment – and finally peace.

Thoughts & Insights on My Own Aging Process

Introduction

After writing 23 articles on the subject of healthy aging I felt it was time to take a “step back” and review for myself – and for you – just what it means to be older – and not old. I have explored many facets of the aging process in my articles on AskThetrainer.com – both from “within – and without”. I have stressed the importance of what it means to “choose wisely” in life – and accept the consequences and responsibility for those choices – and the outcomes that result from making them. I believe that our choices determine our path in life and “define who we become” as a result. The idea that we “just get old” and die does NOT resonate with me and so for the past twenty two years I have used my experiences as a personal trainer and fitness professional to better understand the “nuances” of aging through my work and just what we DO control in our lives when it comes to “getting older” – and not old. I further believe that what we eat, do, feel, think – and BELIEVE to be true – forms the basis of our understanding of our lives as they ARE – and that this knowledge “fuels” our desire to learn and become more than we have ever been. I felt it would be a good idea to share some of my thoughts – and insights – with you as to how I am addressing my own aging process and what we can learn about ourselves in the process!

Discussion

I have not seen very much in the way of information on the aging process other than some data on cell regeneration and the physical nature of the human body as it grows old. We still don’t know WHY cells die but they DO and some experts believe that there is a “clock” in them that “runs out” leading to eventual organ failure – and death. Research into the longevity aspects of life from studies of “old” people DOES provide some insights into the aging process, but it is typically “anecdotal” evidence leading me to believe that there is much work ahead if we are to truly understand what it is to age and why we eventually die. No one has ever studied ME so I KNOW there is a lot that we DON’T know about healthy aging and I suspect that the medical aspects of the process are NOT clearly understood as a result as well. So where are we on this “continuum” of understanding the aging process? I would say on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being TOTAL understanding, we are at a “2” today – meaning we have a LONG WAY TO GO in the years ahead to grasp the nature of the aging process.

I wake up in the morning thinking about my life and what it is I AM CURRENTLY doing to enhance my journey in life. I think about the choices I am facing – and making, the path I am on, the relationships I am forming – or not forming, my family, my health and fitness goals, my work, my evolving passion in the world of speaking, writing, and teaching and finally, I think DEEPLY about my spiritual connection to life – specifically MY life. So when I “check in with myself” I am “checking into my life” and just where it stands RIGHT NOW. I believe the “daily checkup” is CRITICAL to healthy aging and how many of us take this responsibility seriously at all? I believe the answer is NONE OF US because we are too busy “doing” and NOT “being”. The reality of aging to me occurs “in my mind” through my beliefs as to who I am – and want to become. Today MOST of us – not all of us – are concerned ONLY about “getting and spending” and finally – retiring. This aspect of modern life seriously displeases me because I KNOW that what we create on the “outside” is a merely a reflection of who we are “on the inside”, leaving me wondering just WHAT IT IS that we DO VALUE about our lives.

Do a mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual “checkup” EVERY day and you will find the “holes” in your thinking – and actions. To really understand yourself it is imperative that you spend part of your day examining just WHO it is you are and HOW you are living in the world. I believe the most important minutes of my day are spent in meditation and prayer and this is why I covered this topic in 3 parts during this series – and THAT only scratches the surface of the potential that can come from dedicating yourself to this practice.

Finally, and obviously, I am STRONGLY dedicated to my fitness programming and absolutely LOVE what I do as a runner and weight lifter. I believe in the power of our physical beings and as I train in my 60’s in preparation for my 70’s, I am beginning to see that I have limited myself in my past to a mediocre result. I never knew I could run 7 miles in under a 6:00 per mile pace until this year! I can now routinely run under 6 minutes per mile during my 7 mile run and this week I have done just that 3 out of the five running sessions! I am also committed to that 6 minute mile on my 80th birthday which is helping me tremendously during this decade to stay on track with my daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals (I passed 1700 miles for the year today – October 13, 2012 – on pace for 2170 miles for the year!). I am staying extremely strong through my resistance training program and the one area I need to more fully engage in is balance in my life. I want to develop more relationships and greater access to helping a wider audience in order to make a more significant contribution – and “touch more lives”. To begin a new life through practicing the principles of healthy aging just start NOW – and don’t put it off for even a day for tomorrow may not come after all!

Conclusion

Now that I have shared with you what it is that concerns me personally about my own aging process, the question becomes what do YOU want to focus your energies on as you grow older – and not old? What is it that “turns you on” or “gets you out of bed” in the morning? Is it just to go to work and get through the day or is it to accomplish something, to learn something, to give something, or to accept something? These and other questions – and priorities – are yours to address – not mine. I am taking the time to do the work that is necessary to “stay out of the hospital and not be on drugs” because I WILL NOT be a part of the medicated, “sitting of America” society! If you won’t do something about this massive dilemma, who will? I say ALL of us have a stake in the outcome of whether we TRULY will live healthfully – or die a slow, agonizing death! The time is NOW and the place is RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE! Let’s begin today to become conscious and “choose wisely” because tomorrow has a way of “showing up” faster the longer we live and isn’t that the REAL dilemma?

You Are What You Think, Eat, Feel & Do: Becoming Balanced Through Making Healthy Decisions

Introduction

The idea behind this article came from a speech I prepared in the early 90’s and gave on a number of occasions to corporate and professional audiences – most notably the Human Resources Managers who hired consultants to work with employee groups on a wide variety of issues. I was able to develop new client relationships because of this presentation and build a presence in the business and association community as well. The marketing plan I devised for the professional community had as its centerpiece a strategy of giving speeches and teaching seminars and workshops on a wide range of health and fitness topics that all related to prevention and living “health consciously”. The cost of healthcare in 1993 according to the data I uncovered was $500 billion and today that cost has risen to over $2 TRILLION dollars! I hope this article will spur your thinking on the importance of self examination and becoming “self aware” so that you can evolve your OWN thinking and decision making skills.

Discussion

You Are What You Think

Programming the subconscious mind requires us to work with our conscious mind throughout the day and create an “inner environment” for ourselves that encourages new thoughts and behaviors. Resisting the temptation to “fall back” on old “ways of being and thinking” will allow you to open up to the unlimited possibilities that inevitably present themselves to us each and every day. The invitation to become a contributing writer to AskTheTrainer.com came literally “out of the blue” just a little over three weeks ago.  I could have ignored it – or embraced it. Obviously, you can see the decision I made in the way I accepted the challenge of writing again and in the 18 articles (15 of which have been on line) that I have submitted to date. I have been exploring this new territory of online publishing since I decided to submit that first article on healthy aging and review the new territory of publishing my work online for the first time. I have been amazed by the surge of creativity and energy I have felt since that first article was accepted and posted online! Taking advantage of this opportunity has allowed me to think of myself in new ways – specifically as a writer who is now published and also as a speaker and teacher again – this time in the area I am MOST passionate about – healthy aging! THINKING is the most important activity – and aspect – of the human experience and remembering “to pause” during the day and examine your thinking is critical in forming your response to the events, experiences, and relationships that you encounter each and every day! A good affirmation to use here is: “I am happy, healthy & fit and LOVE my work”!

You Are How You Feel

Discounting your feelings is NEVER a good idea because “burying them” only leads to (at some future date) “digging them up again” and having to confront the pain they may have caused you in the first place all over again. I have learned to express my feelings when I feel hurt – or offended in some way – and try to be “up front and honest” about how what was said or done has made me feel a certain way as a result. Taking RESPONSIBILITY for one’s feelings eliminates any possible misunderstandings in the future. We can only change what we KNOW – not what we DON’T know, right? Be clear – and open to the other person’s feelings – and let the pain go when you feel you have been understood – AND heard. We all make mistakes and being open to what we have done – or said -, allows us the opportunity to release the hurt we may have caused (or vice versa). Being honest and open with people is always the way to go – even if you are uncomfortable for a little while! Feelings can also bring us joy and exhilaration and wonder and that is what makes life worthwhile. It is in “the ups and downs” of life that we can REALLY feel alive. It is SO worth the effort to be aware and open to our feelings and obviously also NOT let them run our lives. Practice makes perfect and perfect practice makes us a friend to all we meet. A good affirmation here would be: “I respect my feelings and honor them every day with a loving and forgiving attitude”.

You Are What You Eat

This area of life is very close to all our hearts and because what we “put in our mouths” each day literally WILL determine our future health, I suspect that we are always going to be students of what works – and doesn’t work – for each of us as we grow older with each passing year. My intention with every meal I eat is to make sure that I am focusing my energy on “nutrient dense and calorie deficient foods”. We know the drill right? If I eat those 1500 calories what will I have to do to burn them? That is 8-10 mile of running for me and the good news for me is I COULD run that far but the bad news is WOULD I run that far today? We know the life we are leading is far from perfect in “reality”, but it is in “consciously choosing” our food that we WILL win MOST of time. I want my training efforts to reflect my great choices and in turn allow me the opportunity to maximize my performance. Isn’t this what we all want? I want to set personal records in the future for distance and speed and I will be able to do that if I choose to eat healthfully MOST of the time. A good affirmation here would be: “I value my body and all it does for me every day and so I value what I put IN IT every day as well”.

You Are What You DO

“Doing” is what most of us DO every day. It is in “doing” that we discover WHO we are – and all our limitations and strengths as well. Choosing our activities carefully allows us to do what we NEED to do and frees us to NOT do what will not help us move forward in our lives. Prioritizing our activities and becoming aware of where we most often waste our limited time, can empower us to maintain a sense of accomplishment and achievement that sometimes gets “lost” in the “busyness” of our days. “I plan to fail or fail to plan”. We have REAL choices to make when it comes to what we are doing with our days and the old excuse of “I don’t have enough time” just won’t work anymore when we realize that we ARE in charge of our schedules and activities and we CAN and MUST be accountable and responsible for whatever comes our way. Exercising is like brushing our teeth isn’t it? It is a daily CHOICE and an important activity that MUST never be allowed to be omitted from our daily plan. “If I am NOT hurt – or sick, I am training”. Remember I mentioned this statement I made earlier in a previous article? This is my “mantra” every day and I have been living up to it without fail. Set aside time in your day “to be” as well (quiet, thoughtful, reflective etc.) A good affirmation here would be: “I am responsible and accountable for my actions and I embrace each choice I make today with enthusiasm and passion”!

In Conclusion

Remember to find joy and peace throughout your day. Be conscious of your choices and be aware of your thoughts and feelings and learn to appreciate their importance and impact on your life. We have only this ONE life to live – and this ONE body – so let’s learn to appreciate it with every breath and action we take. The consequences ARE real and the opportunities for growth unlimited! Enjoy them while you can because tomorrow is NEVER guaranteed and we have only THIS day to live – live it well and with grace! This is TRULY what it means to age “healthfully”!

Mindfulness, Meditation, Affirmation & the Inner Journey – Part II

Think of the human mind as resembling an ice berg. Only a very small portion of the ice shows above the water and the rest is hidden from our view (approximately 90% of the ice). I believe that in our dealings with other human beings we make judgments and other critical decisions about who we “think” others are without ever knowing the “real truth” about that person. This is also the way it can be when it comes to what we know and don’t know about ourselves and consequently we will almost certainly fall short of the truth. This phenomenon happens all the time in the world we live in and since we are mostly “off target” with ourselves, we are most likely also missing the mark when it comes to others. The idea that we can “re-program” our subconscious minds seems a little farfetched when we realize how little of our minds we really use. The research in this area of utilization is surprising since it shows we only use perhaps 5-10% of our mind’s real capacity. Scary isn’t it? Even the greatest thinkers and geniuses of all time didn’t access more than maybe 15% of their mind’s potential! Isn’t that incredible? So what of the gifts of contemplation, visualization, imagination, and change? Let’s take a look.

The belief systems we currently “own” were probably put there by someone other than ourselves from our past and when the time comes for us to move forward and change them to reflect our new circumstances, we either embrace the possibilities or we stagnate and prohibit our own growth. The idea that we can go “within” and free ourselves of the burden of outdated beliefs that no longer serve our current needs is incredible to me. This is the gift of meditation and affirmative prayer. We contemplate the “possible” while getting rid of the idea that our lives are impossible! It may take time and some trial and error but it is well worth the effort! Think of the word impossible and substitute “I AM possible” every time you are faced with negative programming from your past. Your past does NOT control your present OR your future unless you give it permission to do so.

Releasing old ideas you hold of yourself that continue to shackle you to your current circumstances is critical if you are to move forward from your present position. Releasing and accepting your new self as it unfolds is the reason for the inner work and when you “feel” the strength of your new choices you will become encouraged and hopeful – which yields even greater results! Being vulnerable and open to change moves the process along a more positive path since the point of this activity is to RELEASE your grip on what is holding you back from your own TRUE success. Accomplishing this task is what makes life worth living. We are NOT “static beings” – we are ‘human beings’ – not “doings”. Remember that as you face the struggle and feel discouraged – it is only temporary – because our subconscious minds (the ego) will resist and fight back. But the victory is inevitable when we truly believe in the process!

Complete the following phrases with whatever comes to mind and give as many answers as you can conceive: “I am”: (ex. love, happy, creative etc.); “I value”: (ex. myself, my health, listening etc.); “I care about”: (ex. my child, change, giving etc.); “I love to”: (ex. run, write, speak etc.); “I feel”: (ex. hopeful, abundant, grateful, joyful etc.). I have completed these sentences countless times over the years and this exercise will give you a “snapshot” in time about your current attitudes and feelings about yourself. Use your time to focus your attention – AND intention – in the present as much as you can everyday so that your behavior changes over time to include MORE of life’s blessings and richness – and diversity. Embrace forgiveness and gratitude without reservation for they are the foundation for a happy and fulfilling life. Holding on to resentments and bitterness because you want to” be right” is never worth the price you will have to pay when it comes to your health. I have carried hate, anger, guilt, and regret for years and they are indeed a heavy burden that need not weigh you down. The journey is tough enough without struggling to live with “baggage” from your past that could be permanently released into the universe through meditation, prayer and affirmation – freeing you to live your dream. I choose that for MYSELF right NOW. How about you? Dreams – and a vision of what is possible – “pull us forward” every day we are alive to the possibilities. They are calling each one of us to respond and welcome them into our lives. Today is the FIRST day of the rest of your life. How do you choose to live it? The choice is yours and only you can make it.

Author Profile: Nick Prukop

Website: HealthyHappyFit.com      Email: [email protected] Nick is an author, teacher, and speaker and has been a certified personal trainer and lifestyle and weight management consultant since 1992. He is currently recognized as a master trainer by the IDEA International Health and Fitness Association. He has been a runner since 1964 and has accumulated over 60,000 miles in that time.

Disclaimer: The views of the author are his or her own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ask The Trainer.



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