Friday, March 26, 2010

Your Shorter Short Term Goal

When we speak in terms of goals, we have long term goals and short term goals. Long term goals are the things that change our lives and are measured in months, years, and, in some cases, decades.

Short term goals, on the other hand, are typically measured in weeks. With respect to fitness, 6 weeks is indeed enough time to observe measurable change in fitness levels, even if only slight. Things like increasing the total number of push ups you can do by one or two, or reducing your resting heart rate by a single beat per minute aren't life altering changes to your health and fitness, but the do matter ... on a couple of levels. For one, even those small changes require a level of commitment and dedication to your program. All progress, even a single added push up requires some effort and diligence. But more importantly, they help us take one small, measurable, postive step towards that long term goal that can sometimes seem intimidating.

Short term goals can be further broken down into weekly goals, daily goals, and, at the smallest possible measurable goal, an exercise workout goal. Oh, I suppose that that too could be broken down into your warmup goal, and individual exercise set goals, which do matter by the way, but in

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Latest Healthcare Reform Failure

Is it just me, or does anyone else believe that a bill requiring congressional tricks and tactics to get it passed is doomed from the start?

I hate to go off on a rant here, but this bus is missing a few wheels!

Project Ownership Incomplete

Most managers of personnel recognize that their best shot at completing a project or reaching team goals is getting collective buy-in from the team. People need to feel that they helped craft the vision and direction, and therefore consider it personal to see it through to completion. The team needs to feel some ownership of the plan.

But when a project begins with highly fragmented support, all of the many and guaranteed obstacles that arise throughout the project's journey become larger than they really are. People look for reasons to kill the project instead of looking for solutions for success.

With congress almost completely divided on the reform bill now at hand, this project simply doesn't have the necessary ownership needed to succeed. Completing the sweeping changes needed to fix the ailing system is going to take a lot of creativity, a lot of effort, and a lot of faith. Just half of us working towards that goal isn't enough to get us there. Though perhaps it's enough to get us to a place where we can make further progress.

Sugar Tax Funding Missing

Another puzzle piece missing from the bill (as I last saw it), are Sugar Taxes. Indeed, it was about this time last year when the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated the strongest correlation yet between artificial sugars and obesity. With legislation so closely tied to nutrition, not using this seemingly obvious funding resource (sugar tax) is unforgivable.

Fat Tax Funding Missing

And then there's the fat tax. As individuals we absolutely have the right to choose to eat whatever the hell we want ... deep fried foods, bacon, ice cream, and Twinkies included!

But consuming those things does hurt your health.

And if we, as taxpayers and employers are shouldering the burden of funding an increasingly socialistic health care system, then we, the taxpayers should be getting a little extra help funding the solution from those who continue to choose to make poor nutritional choices.

It only makes sense, that if we can tax alcohol, cigarettes, and (yes, according to the most recent bill), tanning studios, we can and should include taxing highly saturated and/or trans fat foods. They're every bit as detrimental to health, perhaps even more so for some.

Fitness Incentives Missing

Above all else, the plan fails to create any incentives for fitness.

Indeed, the most significant Obama initiative around fitness is Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative for kids. I like the idea, but feel strongly that it's largely the tail wagging the dog. Kids tend to be more active when their parents are, not the other way around. Getting kids moving is a good idea, but it's up to their parents and business leaders to provide leadership, example, funding, and structure. More important than all, it's also up to their parents to buy and prepare healthy foods. So while the idea sounds good, and is, it's only a piece of the puzzle.

Lastly, and I really didn't think it would make this generation of 'reform,' but the attendance based model of encouraging adults to exercise doesn't work. You know what I mean: your employer says she'll give you 20 bucks a month if you simply show up at your club 8 times per month. While I'll be the 1st to agree that simply showing up is almost always the hardest part of completing your exercise program, what tends to happen is that the people who would normally exercise simply do it for cheap. For those who are entirely new to exercise, or perhaps in the obese category, the 20 bucks isn't enough to make it work. At some point, and perhaps it will be a day after I've signed off for good, there will be ...

... an incentive based program to reduce premiums for people who are demonstrably maintaining or improving their fitness levels.

Tests will be done for blood pressure, resting heart rate, body composition, and functional fitness.

People who are maintaining acceptable fitness levels will earn an insurance premium discount for doing so. And deserve it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Muscular Definition Starts with Range of Motion in March

My good friends running bike and ski shops in the north woods of Wisconsin have a term called the 'brown zone.' It's that dead spot in the seasonal changes where it's just too cold and wet for a lot of us to enjoy cycling, and there isn't enough snow on the trails for good skiing. The trees are dormant and the ground is mostly brown.

While die-hards will bunny suit up to get into the saddle, or strap on the outback skis in search of snow-crust skiing, they're also missing out on the best time of the year to train indoors. And that, my friends, is right now!

In fact, now is the time to start working on that summer body. Work begins right now on muscular development becomes apparent when you loose those last few more pounds of body fat with increased Spring and Summer cardio effort.

But pay particular attention to form, because a strict range of motion with your resistance training in March goes a long way towards how you look in July!

In fact, one of the more common mistakes I see in the gyms is incomplete range of motion exercise. People get too hung up on the volume of weights, and end up jerking and throwing the weight through a shortened range of motion. As a result, they do, in fact, develop shorter muscle fibers than the disciplined lifter who exercises good form.

It takes focus and some practice, but if you're looking for a long, lean and toned muscular look, use smooth controlled muscle contractions, and be sure to keep good overall body posture throughout the exercise.

Trainers use the term Range of Motion, or ROM to describe how fully muscles and bones rotate around a specific joint. And complete ROM is your key to long, well defined muscle tissues. Allow the resistance to fully elongate the muscle fibers around the joint during the eccentric (recovery) part of the exercise. And completely contract the muscle fibers when shortening them (the concentric part). Not only does this tone and build tissue from tendon to tendon, but it also stimulates full fiber development up and down the muscle to avoid 'bulky' looking muscles.

And breathe! Exhale when contracting muscle and inhale elongating.

Then, when the weather finally does warm up, and you get get outside for extended periods of additional cardio to pull off a few more pounds, the emerging muscle tissue is beautifully developed and will emerge looking as good as the form you used to build it!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Surgeon General's tips for Minnesota's Business Leaders

Regina M. Benjamin, MD, the United States Surgeon General, is on a mission! She's calling on all Americans to live and be healthier through better nutrition and exercise in the 2010 Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation Report!

Within the very readable 13 page report are REQUIREMENTS for individuals, schools,the medical community, and business leaders to living healthier and put an end to the obesity epidemic.

I regularly rant on about what individuals can do for themselves to live longer and stronger, and mostly like what Dr. Benjamin says around that. It's all good stuff.

Additionally, as a parent of two high school boys, influencing what schools do for fitness ... or what schools do anything for that matter ... is like shoveling your driveway with a pair of chop sticks! I forfeit there.

And, thankfully, the medical community is figuring it out all by themselves! Most physicians now realize that they really don't want to be drug dealers for the large pharmaceutical corporations. These days, they prescribe more than ever, EXERCISE as a 1st step in treading many diseases.

So, Minnesota Business Leaders, this Blog's for you!

In May of 2008 Time magazine ran a story on "Mandatory Fitness." Apparently, various organizations around the world have a new sheriff in town. And she's wearing spandex with a bad attitude. According to the article, “… eighty four percent of Americans said that they’d get healthier … if (only) the boss insisted.”

So, at a few leading companies, the boss insisted. Verizon, Microsoft, and Dow Chemical, among others were actually offering cash bonuses for loosing weight.

Indeed, the data is overwhelming in favor of exercise programs. Employees are more productive, more energetic, use less sick time, look better, feel better, have improved self esteem, have reduced stress, reduce the risk of many diseases, reduce anxiety, have reduced blood pressure, and avoid depression with regular exercise.

Further, by being healthier, they help to directly improve your bottom line by utilizing ‘health care’ services less frequently, thereby reducing your usage rating and health care premium costs.

In short, everyone is more productive and more valuable to an organization when they exercise regularly.

Fit people walk more quickly to meetings, can take a flight of stairs to avoid elevator congestion, and spend less time in the restroom. They’re also more likable, and make better sales people (Cialdini, Robert B., Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion).

One of the more frequent excuses we get from clients 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 simply CANNOT AFFORD NOT TO exercise regularly.

Time report on Mandatory Fitness was almost 2 years ago. I'd be very interested in a follow up story on how well that's working out, though judging by the Surgeon General's report, it doesn't look like it's been a game changer.

The Surgeon General reports, in fact, that nearly 60% of all adult Americans are still either overweight (BMI > 25) or obese (BMI > 30). Wow.

So, what can possibly be done about that in the workplace?

Well, as it turns out, plenty!

For one, the Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) lab at Mayo Clinic developed a computer station atop a treadmill few years ago to get office workers more active within otherwise sedentary office roles. Office furniture maker Steelcase is manufacturing and marketing it commercially. Upsize Magazine reported in 2008 that Salo, LLC has a few of them on site here in Minneapolis.

Whether tossing worker bees onto the gerbil spinwheel, or offering cash incentives for weight loss, these types of programs require a significant change in corporate culture. And every corporate culture shift starts with executive management.

Here then, are my Top 5 tips for Corporate Executives:
  1. Schedule exercise into your calendar, and don’t move it unless there’s a death in the family. Make your exercise appointment the most immutable appointment of the day.
  2. Be accountable to someone. It helps if you have a personal trainer waiting on (and charging) you for the appointment whether you show up or not, but it is also helpful to have a training buddy/partner. You’re much more likely to show up when you know someone is waiting for you.
  3. Establish, write down, and publish a very specific health lifestyle goal for the next 3 months. These are things like: exercise for 90 minutes 3 times per week; or walk for 60 minutes 6 days per week; or make every scheduled exercise appointment. Lifestyle Changes.
  4. Establish, write down, and public a very specific, Non-Appearance related fitness goals for the next 6 weeks. While the body will certainly undergo composition changes with regular exercise, the initial 6 weeks should focus entirely on strength or endurance measurements: doubling your push ups; or completing 40 sit-ups within one minute; or completing a mile run in under 8 minutes. Don’t worry about the body weight or body fat at all just yet.
  5. Update your Corporate Values, Behaviors, and Ethics document to include the statement: Regular Exercise is a fundamental and necessary element of heath and happiness, and improves professional productivity.
Once the boss is engaged, all sorts of things are possible and things get easier.

10 More things that corporate leadership can do to encourage a better health and fitness culture within their organizations:
  1. Encourage and allow a 10-minute walking break every two hours. Not only will this burn a few calories, but it will energize and refresh the body and mind.
  2. Stock Fresh Fruit in your break room and lobby (Kwik Trip bananas just 49 cents/lb.).
  3. Strongly discourage staff from bringing in cookies and candies. They’ll just clog your heart and/or stick to your rear anyway.
  4. Grant allowances for exercise. Corporations won’t hesitate much when a parent dashes off to rescue their child from daycare at the end of the day. Neither should they question employees who dash off to keep their exercise appointments.
  5. Install a shower and changing room at your office bike commuters, and midday runners & walkers .
  6. Make sure bike commuters have a safe, indoor place to store their equipment (bikes, helmets, gear); See my Blog entry for more ways to get employees started with bicycle commuting.
  7. Offer cash compensation to employees who commute by bike and save you parking expenses
  8. Stage regular, monthly Health and Fitness Seminars with key expertise on getting more fit and healthy
  9. Sponsor a Get Fit Month twice annually, complete with awards and recognition for people who most effectively change their lives in positive ways
  10. Do it now! Having helped thousands of individuals improve their health and fitness over the decades, I can honestly tell you that the hardest part is just getting started!