Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Wasted Energy of Semi-Committment

I started cross country skiing a few years ago in an effort to get out more in the winter, and keep the winter fat down. As it was the 'trend' at the time, I decided to skate ski instead striding with 'classic' skis.

Becoming somewhat efficient with skate skis has taken years and hundreds of kilometers of effort. I'm still nowhere near as proficient as I'd like to be. As it turns out, the tricky part of skate ski efficiency is the ability to glide on a single ski. The idea is to direct all of your poling and lateral ski pushing energy into a force that transfers onto a flat, single ski. Skiers call this committing to the ski. When done properly, you literally fall from your poles as you transfer all of your weight and momentum onto a (single) glide ski.

Unfortunately: 1) those skinny skis don't give you much ski to work with; 2) the absence of of a heel binding limits your control; and 3) mis-managing the outer edge of your ski could put you face first onto a snowy surface.

As a result, beginners tend to semi-commit to their glide ski by transferring weight onto an inside edge of the ski to reduce the risk of outer edge mismanagement (and falling). Consequently, much of the energy put into poling and lateral ski pushing is lost to the friction of an edge against the snow. Momentum is lost. As the skier's confidence builds, however, the level of commitment to the ski increases, and efficiency improves. But you need to 1st decide to commit for it to work.

Much of this lesson is apropos to reaching Health and Fitness goals. Are you willing to accept some risk and commit to a program, or will you waste energy by semi-committing to it? Can you make the commitment to scheduling your exercise 3 or 4 times per week in an unmovable place on your calender, or will you semi-commit and train as best as your 'busy schedule' allows.

Are you willing to set a concrete, meaningful, measurable goal in 2008? And commit to getting there? Or will you reduce your chances of failing by picking a 'soft' target on the inner edge.

Reaching your fitness goals will not happen casually. There are too many distractions. Too many obstacles. Too many excuses. Reaching your 2008 Health and Fitness goals requires a genuine, sincere, pull-no-punches commitment. You must commit to the ski.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

5 Tips for Surviving the Holiday Season


5 Favorite Healthy Holiday Tips to start BEFORE Thanksgiving

Soon after Halloween (the beginning of the end), many of you begin to think of the holidays and all the happiness, joy, stress and guilt that comes with them. So begins the media hype regarding eating, drinking, and overall indulgence that leads us to the average 10 pound weight gain that we believe is inevitable.

It’s an emotional set up people! The toxic messages begin….eat more, drink more, buy more. Aren’t most of you doing enough of all that already? Those messages, along with the long standing, powerful TRADITIONS of your particular family unit may lead you to overindulge throughout the holidays and leave you feeling tired, depressed and frustrated come January.

This Year can be Different! You CAN go through the holiday season with a spirit of joy and hope with lots of energy and enthusiasm. With just a few small “attitude adjustments”, you can sprint into January feeling refreshed and revitalized.

Here are my Top 5 Tips for making it through the Holiday Season unscathed:

1. Have a meal replacement shake before attending a party.

Holiday Parties are loaded with irresistible, high caloric, high fat content foods and drinks. It’s a party and it’s the Holiday Season! You will indulge. You should indulge. But the last thing you want is to show up famished and take down a quick1000 calories before the band even starts. And that wouldn’t take much. Here are a few examples:
1 Mai Tai – 310 Calories
1 Strawberry Margarita – 210 Calories
2 Fried Won Tons 620 calories & 20 g. fat
1 Cheese Ball 155 calories & 14 g. of fat
1 Bacon Wrapped Smoky Link 167 calories, 11 g fat
- Total: 1152 calories, all of which could easily be consumed inside of 60 minutes

So, take in a healthy, protein rich (15-20g) shake before you go to reduce your appetite to avoid the additional calories. And only have one won ton!

2. Don’t keep trigger foods in the house.

Trigger foods, which are typically high in fat, set the stage for unrestrained eating, and contain hidden calories that subvert weight loss efforts.
You don’t need them and your kids don’t either.
The displays in the grocery store can be compelling, but the rule is simple: Don’t buy them and they won’t be a problem

3. Begin or Maintain a Regular Exercise Program NOW

Lots of folks conveniently defer exercise until after the 1st of the Year when the mystic weight lost elves will miraculously help solve both years of unhealthy diet and exercise and eliminate the seasonal weight gain …all within the magical month of January!
It always was and still is a fallacy. The only thing you’ll gain by waiting to begin an exercise program until January is a few more pounds.
Get started in November!

4. And make your Holiday Weight Loss Goals Net Zero

That’s right – plan to loose no weight at all
But plan to gain none either – net zero
Enjoy a few extra calories during the season, but burn them all off immediately with 3 strength training workouts and 2 hours of cardio weekly
Seek the advise of a Fitness Expert if you are new to exercise

5. Make your Holiday Fitness Goals Cardiovascular or Strength Related

Especially if your Health and Fitness Related Goals are weight loss, establish and reach NON-Weight loss goals of improved cardiovascular conditioning or improved strength in December! Improving your cardiovascular fitness levels and muscular strength now can set the stage for accelerated weight loss in January. Adding lean body mass (muscle, bone, blood) now means that you’ll burn more calories both when you exercise as well as when you’re at rest.

Cardiovascular or Strength related goals can be simple:

Walk every day of the week, starting with 10 minutes and add 2 minutes every day – you will be up to 90 minutes of walking by December 31st!
Do 3 pushups 3 times a week – you should be able to triple your repetitions in 6 weeks
Do sit-ups 3 times per week – you should be able to double your repetitions by boxing day

Or more complex:

Have a VO2 Max test done now, then …
Run, spin, roller ski or skate twice weekly 40 minutes at moderate intensity
Run, spin, roller ski or skate once weekly for 20 minutes at high intensity
Test again in 6 weeks

Have a sub max bench press and pull-up test done now, then …
Complete 3 full body resistance training exercises per week
Test again in 6 weeks

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Career Limiting Fitness Maneuvers

Finishing up on another 60 hour work week last week, I finally decided to get some help with the back office work that's been burying me for months. As I crafted my Help Wanted Ad for a Marketing and Executive Assistant, it was natural for me to include the requirement that the candidate must have "... demonstrated exercise habits and have above average fitness levels for consideration". After all, I've written ads like this for years in recruiting trainers, and hadn't thought twice about it. But then I did think twice about it. Was it descriminatory to screen applicants who were actually overweight?

Concerned, I checked The Federal Equal Opportunity Employment Law posted by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. What I found was that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits "...employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." And that's it. For 45 years, this has been the written rule. Nothing about fitness or fatness. Perhaps the lawmakers of 1964 forsaw the health care epidemic we now face, and felt it fair to omit fitness from the statutes. (yeah, right)

I personally have no trouble telling candidates that FT MSP's simply not good fit if they're not fit - it's our job to be fitness experts AND role models. But I do wonder how many other organizations think and screen that way in making hiring decisions and simply don't say it. Or think and screen that way for promotions, and simply don't say it.

Career limiting behaviors are normally pretty easy to identify: having the boss unexpectedly overhear you bad mouth his decisions in a conversation with a co-worker; bumping into an exec on the golf course after calling in sick; manipulating the time clock; etc.

Less obvious, but likely more severely limiting career behavior is chronically inadequate exercise habits and fitness levels. Volumes of documents chronicle the benefits of regular exercise and fitness for employees: increased productivity; reduced sick time; reduced time off for doctor's visits; increased energy; reduced stress levels; reduced blood pressure; and elevated motivation. Everyone is more productive and more valuable to an organization if she exercises regularly. I'm not saying that women need to flaunt a size 2 figure, but they must regularly exercise. Men don't need to sport a 30" waistline, but they must regularly exercise. Yes, part of being fit includes body composition, but cardiovascular condition, muscular strength, flexibility, and muscular endurance are equally important.

Fit people walk more quickly to meetings, can take a flight of stairs to avoid elevator congestion, and spend less time in restroom. No job is completely un-physical.

Think about the promotions, lateral moves, sales calls, project bids, and proposals you've sought or pitched, but didn't get over the past 10 years. And what that may have cost you in earned income. Thousands, perhaps Tens of Thousands of dollars have been lost because of unspoken decisionmaking based upon fitness levels. Or think about the last outdoor vacation you took, and how valuable being fit (or unfit) was to you.

One of the more frequent excuses we get from people who come to us for a consultation, but then don't begin a program is that they "don't have time" to regularly exercise 3 or 4 days per week. Ladies and gentlemen, if you're serious about your career, your business, your family, or your spouse, you CAN'T AFFORD NOT TO exercise regularly.

A long time Minneapolis client once told me that she knows she's overweight when people stop opening doors for her. I thought she meant it literally, but now wonder if she'd been figuratively speaking all along.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Universal Health Care & The Fat Tax

I managed to catch a few minutes of the Democratic Party debates on TV the other night.

The one thing most, if not all Democratic Party Candidates appear to be in agreement on is some form of Universal Health care. What they tended to disagree on was the extent to which this entitlement would be implemented, and who would actually pay for it.

I looked pretty hard at Clinton's America's Health Choices Plan site and really couldn't find anything about exactly what this would cost, or exactly how we would pay for it, but I WAS NOT HEARING THINGS when she mentioned that at least some of the burden would be placed on employers.

This is understandable. It's wrong, of course, but understandable. Most Americans work for small businesses, and small business employers are far too focused on products, services, customers, clients, and employees to have any time left over to fight with the government. Only as Republicans are they potentially united.

But if Democrats want to make health care an entitlement, then the government should pay for it. And yes, that means taxes.

Fortunately, this is not a hard problem to solve for a Health Conscious Fitness Professional! It's called the Fat Tax, and it's pretty simple: foods sold with high volumes of fat or unacceptable levels of saturated or trans fats would simply be taxed appropriately.

"American Demographics" states that Americans spent $125 Billion in 2001 on fast food alone. If we suppose, very conservatively, that just 25% of this amount is unhealthy highly saturated fat or trans fat food, this amounts to $31Billion being spent annually on INCREASING the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, coronary heart failure, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and cancer. And that's where the big money is spent on health care. Not to mention the corollary costs like twisted ankles from lost dexterity, increased sick time, lost job productivity, and extra trips to the doctors office for medications.

Tax this $31B at 100% I say, and we now have $31 B./year to start with. Hillary's plan, if I remember right was $112B/yr.

But that's just fast food. Not counted in that are all the Oreos, Doritos and Ball Park Franks passing through the grocery food checkout lines. "American Demographics" states that Americans spent $665 Billion on food in 1996. Take population and inflationary factors into account and it's probably $800B now, but let's use the $665B for grins.

If you take out the $31B spent on Fast food, that leaves roughly $$634B/yr. on Other Food.

If we, again, very conservatively, say that just 10% of this other food has unhealthy levels of fat, we have another $63B of taxable food items. If we GENEROUSLY only tax this at 50%, we have another $31B/yr. in tax income.

Personally, I vote that we take this $62B and spend it all on exercise, nutrition, and food preparation PROACTIVE AND PREVENTATIVE PROGRAMS, at all levels of education and community, but that'll be my soap box for another day.

THE FAT TAX would, of course, require testing, verifications, policing, and policy, but if Wallmart can have a supplier in China INSTANTLY order additional aluminum to build a spoke that's part of a wheel on a bike that just passed through the scanner at the cash register in Fargo, we can build this system.

The technology is easy, and the argument makes sense. Really, this is no different than the tobacco and alcohol "sin" tax argument.

The problem and challenge is finding someone (or more likely a constituency) to stand up against the $665 Billion Food Industry in Washington. That's a lot of money and you can bet that Super Value, MacDonald's, Kraft, Hershey's and Frito Lay won't be nodding politely to taxing their unhealthy products. After all, they make a lot of money on selling products that increase health care costs. So did/do RJ Reynolds and Budweiser. But at least RJR and Bud are now paying their taxes.

The time has come for The Fat Tax. But where will we get the next Wellstone?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Got Press!

Great news! The Minneapolis Star Tribune did a Small Business Feature story on our growth. Check it out!

Star Tribune Pushing His Franchise Model to the Limits

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Learning to Commute on Your Bike

Kare 11 recently aired a story about how you can save yourself up to $5 per tank of gas by doing simple things with your car: maintaining proper air pressure in your tires; removing extra weight from your trunk; reducing your speed; and keeping the filters clean.

While respectable indeed, I'm here to help you save twice that amount AND help you get healthier in the process by riding your bike to work!

But before that, let me just say that I've been commuting by bike to work since I landed my 1st job at age 16 (almost 30 years). And if you want to count newspaper delivery, age 12. It's simply part of my life and who I am, but it doesn't need to be that way for everyone: riding your bike is as simple as enjoying the sweet smells of summer, lonely road sunrises in Fall, and the satisfaction of knowing that riding your bike is both environmentally and physically healthy. It's also a great way to build strong, lean legs!

And while on a tangent, let me also add that one of the most enteraining parts of my day these days is riding the greenway between the River and Uptown. Whatever it is, this stretch of bikeway s a constant parade of the variety and depth of the Twin Cities cycling community. I've seen: Dorothy with Toto in a basket; a Bride wearing a Wedding Gown; teen groups on bmx's with a boombox; more exposed skin than is otherwise acceptable in public; cruisers carrying uptown's uniqueness; recumbants with short, fat, tall, and; and very very senior riders on 3 wheelers. A photographer shooting A Day in the Life of the Greenway would have a very impressive book!

But, getting back into the bike lane, here are the things you need to know to get started with Getting to Work on your bike here in the Twin Cities:

1. The right Gear. You don't need to spend thousands on a bike or clothing, but you do need to have a well maintained bike and layered clothing. Go to your local bike shop to get set up (not Walmart or Sams). If you end up riding a lot (3+ days per week), you would do well to get fit for your bike - bike shop specialists match the geometry of the bike to the dimensions of your torso, arms, and legs. If you do $pend extra, spend it on rain gear: you will get caught in the rain, and being prepared to ride in the rain will help keep you in the saddle if you can only ride one or two days per week.

Despite the highly envied fashion appeal of bright, multi-colored jerseys, most cyclists really aren't pretending to be from theTour de France, but simply trying to BE SEEN and stay healthy on the roadways. And you should too. As it turns out, the best materials and workmanship normally do get tatooed with logos and sponsor graphiti (which helps pay for the garments), so they are indeed popular with experienced cyclists. What's important is that you own something very brightly colored to be seen on the road.

2. The right route. Planning a route is essential. You will discover and appreciate roads and neighborhoods cycling to work that you would otherwise never see, but some planning is required. Your local bike shop will, once again have local maps for commuters. First look for routes that overpass freeways where auto traffic does not interchange with the freeway, and plan the rest of your commute around those: the most dangerous part of any ride is crossing a freeway where cars and trucks are accellerating into merge lanes to jump onto the freeway. Bike pathways, bike lanes, and other wide avenues are normally well marked on local bike maps, but you will sometimes find residential street routes just as bike friendly.

Plan on trying a few different options: you'll need to experiment a bit to discover the best places to cross arterial roads, avoid traffic, avoid traffic lights, and feel separated from or safe with auto and truck traffic.

And perhaps most important of all - identify service organizations (coffee shops, convenience stores) along or near the route that might come in handy if you have a breakdown or need to rehydrate.

3. The right light. Lengthly Minnesota days are a true delight for cyclists. Mid summer you can start as early as 5:45AM and finish as late as 9:00 PM without the need serious lighting. For these hours, all you'll need is a $25 flashing headlight and a $25 flashing tail light. Buy and use these if you're riding before 8:00AM or after 7:00PM. While you may not notice any light from them, twilight hours, shadows, and sun glare make seeing cyclists difficult for motorists when the sun is low on the horizon. You'll need a more expensive halogen system if you ride earlier or later, and as daylight diminishes towards fall.

4. A change of clothes. Plan to sweat a bit, especially in humid summer conditions. You have two choices: you can either carry a pack, or bring a change of clothes to your office the day (or days) before your ride. Supply your office with soap and sundries if you are priviledged enough to work for an employer who has a shower and locker room. Stock it with a supply of pre-moistened handy wipes if not. HOT TIP! If you don't mind smelling a bit like baby powder, baby butt wipes do a fabulous job of cleaning the crevices and deodorizing after a ride.

5. The right place for your Bike. Many offices and office building have bike racks for daytime storage. It's plenty safe to leave your bike there if it is a well lit area with plenty of foot traffic. If it's secluded, however, or in a bad neighborhood, or if you have a really, really nice bike, or if you simply want everyone in your office to know that you are riding your bike to work (it is contageous!), you may prefer to stow it in your office or someplace nearby. In 25 years of riding to work, I've never been denied access to my office with my bike. You may get some curious looks, but no one will tell you that you can't bring your bike in the building. It is sometimes more convenient and less conspicuous to take the freight elevator or service entrance to avoid other workers arriving before you clean up and change. Unless you like mingling in tight biker shorts.

So there you have it! Enough to get started! Drop me a line if you have questions, or subscribe to our quarterly newsletter if you would like to get even more Minnesota health and fitness tips.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Surprise! Surprise! Diabetes Drug increases chances of Heart Attacks!

Last Tuesday a study released from a Cleveland Clinic linked a popular diabetes drug to heart attacks. The drug, called Avandia from drug maker Glaxo Smith Kline, significantly increases the risk of heart attack and death, according to the report.

Millions (only Glaxo Smith Kline knows how many millions) of type-two diabetics now take the drug to help control blood sugar.

Wow. Imagine that - a drug that has side effects. Guess that's not a huge surprise, but given that heart disease is actually a leading cause of death among diabetics it makes you wonder both 1: just how the heck can a drug company get this thing to market?; and 2: why the very department (Food and Drug Administration) in place to prevent this type of market risk didn't catch the seemingly overwhelming side effect evidence?

And this is not insignificant evidence:

Dr. Steven Nissan, the Cleveland Clinic physician authoring the report states that "Avandia appeared to increase the risk of heart attack by 43% and the risk of cardiovascular death by 64%." Whoa! Those are pretty big numbers.

As is usual when the dollars spent on this type of 'medication' are concerned (remember the Merck recall of the widely used Vioxx back in 2004?), Glaxo Smith Kline, is standing by the safety of its product and the Food and Drug Administration says they'll "investigate."

Doctors, the New England Journal of Medicine adds, should use caution before prescribing this medication. And so, while Glaxo is "standing by," a few thousand more diabetics will dropping dead from Avandia.

But here's the clincher:

Widely recognized to both reduce the risk of heart disease and improve the hormonal imbalances diabetics face, REGULAR EXERCISE AND WEIGHT LOSS could & should be the 1st thing doctors prescribe!

Sigh. Will there every be a day when the medical community simply says: go loose the 50#, and come see me in 6 months .... before putting a patient on drugs?

Visit Fitness Together for more information about starting up on improving your health.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

New Exercise Video Available

Check out our newly posted YouTube Video Titled 50 Exercises for 50 Bucks! It's also on our website.

Before Spending a Dime on Expensive Home Exercise Equipment, try this DVD, along with just $50 in home exercise equipment to see if you really can follow a home exercise program!

Randy Zarecki, An Advanced Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Together Personal Training Studio Owner, and frequent TV and Radio Guest, shares his 20+ years of fitness programming expertise within this interactive DVD. He introduces and demonstrates over 50 exercises that can be done with just $50 of home fitness equipment!

All waivers apply: don't do anything stupid.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Startling Infomation About Fitness

Constantly, we are hearing it in the news that there are more people that are obese than ever before. In fact, almost 65% of the U.S. population is considered to be overweight or obese. But at what cost is there to you if you fall in this category?

To begin, it will cost you about 37.7% more money in healthcare cost compared to someone of normal weight. You will spend more time at the doctor’s office due to diseases such as Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, cancer, and heart disease, just to name a few.

If you’re an employer think about the cost to you. Increased absenteeism, higher healthcare premiums, and high turnover. According to CNN Money, “one study found that businesses lose $47.6 billion annually due to indirect cost of obesity, such as lost productivity and higher absenteeism among excessively overweight workers.” Interestingly, a health promotion program perceived to be expensive would cost them much less.

As an individual, let’s go beyond the cost in dollars. The cost of quality of life is far greater. Recently, in Smart Money Magazine they featured an article called Live Long and Prosper. The article talked about 3 components that one must include in their life to “live long and prosper.”

First, you must eat right. This does not mean that you must go on a diet. “Diet” is a four-letter word. It has a different meaning than it used to. Everyone is on a diet. But if you’re on a diet of pizzas, ice cream, and French fries, you are not going to fair as well as a person on a diet of raw vegetables, fruits, and lean meats.

We have heard every thing is to be blamed. Dr. Atkins says its carbohydrates. Others say it’s fat. However, it appears to be all the above. It seems as if it doesn’t come from a box, a plastic wrapper, or through a drive through window, no one will eat it. The truth of it is, that moderation, variety, and balance are the key elements. It’s “okay to have your cake and eat it too.” That’s only after you eat what is naturally grown as the staple of your meal plan. You need these natural foods to fight obesity, cancer, heart disease, and many other diseases.

The second component that you should incorporate is cardiovascular exercise. This does not mean to do the “mall paced walk” you so often see on the sidewalk, or of course, in the mall. Instead, you have to walk briskly enough to break a sweat and get the heart rate up. Consistency is most important. Cardiovascular activity should be done 3-5 times per week, at a duration of 30-45 minutes. It should not be based on distance (i.e. 2 miles), but time. Keeping the intensity up will help you burn more calories and improve your cardiovascular health.

Last, but definitely not least is weight lifting. Unfortunately, this component is most often overlooked. Most people are either intimidated, fear that it will “bulk them up,” or simply don’t like the thought of lifting weights. Yet, it is the only form of exercise that helps you burn calories at rest. Cardiovascular exercise helps you burn more calories as you’re doing it, but weight lifting helps you burn more calories as you are sitting behind that desk. This is due to increased muscle tone. Three additional pounds of muscle can help you burn an additional 10,000 calories a month! Weight lifting should be performed 2-3 times a week, involving all major muscle groups. It can prevent and decrease obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis, injuries to joints and muscles, low back pain, and so on.

Do it for the right reasons. To feel good about yourself, improve your quality of life, and save money. They say, “Patience is a virtue.” Stay committed and set realistic goals. And, most important of all, don’t wait another day. Start now! -Randy Zarecki

Visit Fitness Together to find more information and to contact the staff to help you get started on improving your health.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Now through May 15th, 2007 we are having a Grand Opening Special for our Uptown location, that now extends to our other two locations in St. Paul and Northeast Minneapolis. Give us a call to get scheduled and have the opportunity to transform your life with our private 1-on-1 Personal Training.