When Cardio Isn’t

There was a commercial for a piece of cardio equipment that ran a couple years ago (I forgot the name of the machine). The ad shows people engaging in a variety of outdoor activities and then suggests that instead of having to do all those things, you can just use this revolutionary piece of cardio equipment for the same workout. It is a sad indication of our sterilized, antiseptic society that doing anything for pure enjoyment is a waste of time. The worst part is that you can have fun while also getting the benefits of a dedicated cardio workout. All you have to do is you think for yourself and abolish any fears of enjoying yourself.

    To be perfectly clear, “cardio” does not entail using a two-toned grey machine to burn calories. Cardio n the broadest sense of the modern vernacular is any activity that elevates your heartrate and keeps it there for an extended period. This is apparently critically misunderstood information. It boggles my mind when I walk into the gym on a gorgeous Saturday morning and see every piece of cardio equipment occupied. I want to grab a megaphone and ask “Don’t you people have anything more enjoyable to do?”

    Yes, I do consider the reasons some people may prefer riding a machine for an hour. Some like to be told what to do, especially when it comes to working out because of fear of injury, not knowing what to do, or simply enjoying a preset program,. Others think they’re getting the fastest and bestest workout because the machine said they’re burning 900 calories per hour, which will negate any bad eating done over the rest of the weekend (cardio machines are not time machines and cannot burn future calories that have not been consumed yet). Others hate the idea of being remotely athletic abhor sweat and want to be done as quickly as possible.

    However, I can also guarantee that every single one of those people has at least one activity that they like which counts as cardio. And I can further guarantee that they would enjoy doing that activity more than sitting on a stationary bike or riding an elliptical. In fact, the simple joy of doing something unstructured and free is probably the best solution for those who detest the very idea of exercise.

    For example, take the mythical “Roy”. Roy is 6’1, 320lbs and 32% body fat. Roy hates dancing, those girlyman workout machines and anything that involves running. From these desires, its clear that suggesting that Roy take a cardio dance class or do a half marathon is going to be met with an icy stare and possibly an incapacitating right hook. So we ask Roy what he likes in order to see if that sheds any light on the situation. Lo and behold, Roy loves sports, particularly football and baseball. Roy also likes the outdoors, such as when he goes bass fishing. Now its easy to come up with things that Roy can do that count as cardio but don’t look or feel like cardio to him.

    Let’s tell Roy its okay to go outside and play football with his friends for 30 minutes. It doesn’t have to be intense, just constant movement. Rules can be modified to allow for shorter intervals between plays. Alternatively, Roy can go to a batting cage after work to get a few dozen swings in. And since he likes fishing, perhaps he can paddle a canoe out to his favorite fishing spot next time rather than relying on an Evinrude outboard motor. By the way, all of those listed activities burn at least 500 calories per hour for a person of Roy’s mass.

    Roy is obviously a painfully stereotypical male pulled from the annals of sitcom character development. But he does illustrate that there are options for people who do not fit into the pre-cut molds that the fitness industry has selected for us. There are women who don’t like to dance and men who do. There are guys who don’t like basketball and girls who do. The takeaway message is that if you think outside the cube and allow yourself to be happy, there are literally hundreds of things that you can do that count as cardio but are infinitely more fun than standing on a machine for an hour.

 
 
The link below is a list compiled by Harvard University denoting the number of calories burned after 30 minutes of a given activity. Notice that even everyday actions such as mowing the lawn, cleaning, pushing a shopping cart and playing with kids burns a significant number of calories. This lends credence to the idea that the more automated a society, the easier it becomes for them to become obese. In any case, peruse the list and take note of activities that you enjoy (or may enjoy…try something new) and incorporate them into your life. Notice I didn’t say workout routine. This should be fun, not something you feel forced to do. The end result is the same with the added benefit of not having to dread the experience.
 

Calories Burned In 30 Minutes of Leisure and Routine Activities: Harvard Health Publications

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Liftlazy Whenevercast: Ab Circle “Extreme Fitness Rules” Review

Right click to download Mp3 file (29mb)

There is no magic. There is no shortcut. If you do things the right way, it doesn’t take that long to see results, but for some reason people are sold on the false hope of some instantaneous solution. The fitness industry spans the gamut from dedicated people who care about people achieving safe and lasting change, to fly-by-night hucksters with a pretty smile and inspiring vocabulary who only want to make sure your money ends up in their bank account.

In this 6th episode, I review a so-called “Extreme Fitness Guide” that is included as part of the Ab Circle Pro information guide. The copyright on this is 2008 so I am not sure if they’ve updated the information, nor do I care. The fact that this guide was given to me by a client shows that even old bad info can still affect people’s decisions (and many of her mistaken ideas about nutrition come from guides like these).

If any guide, book or program tries to dictate every single portion of your life, you will not be able to stick to it. Humans, especially Americans do not like to be told what to do for years on end. If however the “rules” are loose guidelines that teach you how and why the body works, then allows you to customize things for your own life, that is something that you can sustain for a very long time. Some fitness gadget guidebooks are short on real data and information and sound more like one of those “10 Reasons Never To Eat After 8pm” slideshows posted on websites these days. I don’t know about you, but my life goes by the John Locke mantra of “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.” Tell me why something may not be a good idea, but give me the raw data and allow me to decide for myself.

In any case, I do get into a bit rant on this clip but for a good reason. I do not want anyone to believe everything they read or hear. I always encourage you to look up anything that you don’t understand. That includes me…if I say something that doesn’t make sense, look it up or even call me out on it. I’m not a messiah that you have to follow to the tee, I just have a lot of experience with what works with peoples bodies AND minds. What I tell you is the best combination of changing your body and not becoming obsessive/neurotic over it.

Be discerning and don’t give up.

Email questions and comments to chris@liftlazy.com

 

 

 

 

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Liftlazy Whenevercast: Fun

I know it’s been a while.

In this episode, I talk/rant about fun and how it relates to exercise. It is not written anywhere that all exercise has to be the physical equivalent of a trip to an amusement park. Expecting to have fun every single time you exercise sets up a dangerous precedent. In the event that you don’t have fun, you’re more likely to give up on an entire program.

Want to have guaranteed fun? Go do something you like to do. If you like working out, great, you’re ahead of the game. If you don’t like working out, include things that you like to do while remembering to do the things you need to do. If that doesn’t help, I don’t know what to tell you. Either quit whining for 15-30 minutes and get it done regardless, or quit whining and be satisfied with your current body shape/state of health.

I wish I could have been nicer about it but really, there’s no way to sugarcoat it. I still like you guys though! Send questions or comments to chris@liftlazy.com

Right click to download mp3 file

Liftlazy Whenevercast: The Resolution Car Trip (Episode 2)

It hasn’t even been a month and already people are dropping like flies when it comes to their new year gym commitments. In this episode, I compare the mad dash to get in shape with a poorly planned car trip. It takes a little bit of time and effort before you start to make sure you don’t get “lost”.

If you have fallen off the workout wagon, have questions or just want to voice your opinion, send me an email at chris@liftlazy.com and I’ll mention it on the show.

Download mp3 here

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Liftlazy Whenevercast: Episode 1

The Whenevercast is my version of a podcast. A few things led to the selection of the name. For starters, I really wasn’t sure if anybody still used an iPod. There was also the need for a name that would stand out and wasn’t taken already. Thus, the idea of the audio show you can listen to whenever you want bequeathed Whenevercast.

Names aside, this ongoing audio series is geared towards the regular person. Not the pro athlete or bodybuilder or fitness model. I’ve noticed an acute lack of material on the internet for people of all ages who don’t have the time to spend doing two hour workouts, or may have an existing injury that prevents certain movements. You won’t hear a lot of fancy language, just a “Tell me what I need to know and shut up, Chris” tone to the Whenevercasts. It’s all by design to make it easier to understand the confusing parts of fitness. Currently scheduled for a bimonthly release, each episode will feature special guests of varying backgrounds to discuss fitness topics with me. And if listeners send in questions, we’ll answer some of those as well.

So here it is, episode 1 of the Liftlazy Whenevercast! The special guest this time is Mark Pryer, a strength and conditioning expert in the Dallas area. We discuss injury prevention, core conditioning, healthy eating during the holidays and how to ease into a workout regimen for the new year.

You can contact Mark via his Twitter #MarkPryer

Download mp3 here.

A Dream Come True

More often than not, when dreams come true, there is no huge fanfare. There is no parade, no party to commemorate the event. In some cases emotions range from indifferent to severely disappointed. If you think I’m a party pooper, I ask you to think about something you really wanted that wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Maybe it was a vacation that you were really looking forward to. The brochure showed a tropical beach with clear blue skies and attractive, smiling couples happily galloping through the water’s edge. But when you got there, it didn’t look much like the brochure. There were clouds for most of the day, there was definite photoshopping of the ocean colors and the only people walking down the beach were creepy old men in Speedos.

This expectation versus reception issue (EvR) plagues even the best of us. It takes a trained mind to be able to honestly notice and be thankful for a realized dream. Fitness goals are usually so poorly defined that when you actually attain them, what you see is nothing like what you expected. For instance, a person says she wants to lose 10 lbs because apparently, magic will commence the second she hit the new weight. So she goes on the South Bronx Paradise Diet and loses a total of 12 lbs in less than 2 weeks. But when she looks in the mirror she doesn’t see the difference. Why? Because the person she was expecting to see was a much more specific goal. The person she became is 5’4, 117 lbs and 24% body fat. The person she wanted to be was 5’4, 117 lbs and 15% body fat. See what happened? If you don’t ask for what you want, you’ll be annoyed and confused when you don’t get what you want.

I often get people who tell me “I need to lose about 10 lbs.” or “I want to gain about 15lbs of muscle”. My immediate response is “How do you know?” It’s not that I’m trying to be adversarial, but it’s in everyone’s best interest if they understand from the get-go what they actually want instead of spitting out random numbers that sound good in their head. I once had a gentleman years and years ago say he wanted to add around 10 lbs of muscle in a ridiculously short time (approaching spring break does horrible things to people’s sense of temporal possibilities). I mistakenly tried to help him pack on the mass but needless to say he came nowhere close to his goal. I don’t think it mattered to him since he got plenty of drunken girls to comment on how big his biceps were (at least according to his embellished stories), but I learned that it is a disservice to the client and to the entire fitness industry to allow people to hold onto unrealistic expectations.

Here’s a few ways to deal with slow changes and how to recognize that your dream has come true:

  • Use a tape measure: Ignore, throw out or burn your scale. Use a tape measure and your clothes as a realistic gauge of your appearance. You may gain a couple pounds, yet lose body fat in the process. If your mind is fixated on total weight, you’ll miss the fact that you’re getting healthier and more defined.
  • Quit checking the mirror 37 times a day. That’s putting unnecessary pressure on yourself to shape-shift overnight. If a stubborn area of fat hasn’t vanished in the last 12 hours, quit looking at it. Keep exercising and eating properly and check it in about two weeks. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
  • When you do look at yourself, pretend you don’t know who you are. Don’t see yourself as the high school football player version of you, or the post-childbirth version of you, or the “I used to be in such good shape” version of you. See yourself as a stranger and be honest in your appraisal of what “they” look like. No favorites, no enemies.
  • Punch your clock in the face (punintentional). You may have a cruise to go on or a wedding to attend in 4 weeks, but what about after that? Are you aiming for a short term fix or a lasting, lifelong relationship with healthy living? It’s very likely that the image you have in mind for an event 1 month away will actually take 3 to 12 months to achieve. Don’t get upset when the expected results do not occur according to your social calendar.
  • It may sound like fitness blasphemy, but understand that looking a certain way may not be worth the changes you have to make in your lifestyle. If you refuse to give up certain things, or start doing other things, then accept the way you look and feel as a consequence of those actions/inactions.

Results dealing with exercise occur slowly. Even when they happen relatively fast, they’re not instant. Be patient, know what you want and accept it when you get it.

Look for an an evolution, not a revolution.

Don’t Blame The Holidays

It’s that time of year. We’ve already passed Halloween and with Thanksgiving around the corner, more and more people are going to start blaming holidays for their eating habits (why we pick the last quarter of the year to keep track of holidays is a mystery to me…nobody ever said that Armistice Day added 3 inches to their waistline).

There are two ways around this issue. The first is to stick to whatever dietary plan you’re on come hell or highwater. The second is to eat whatever you want and not worry that an extra turkey leg is going to cause unchecked obesity.

In Option #1, you have to be a bit of a hardnose in order to make it work. You have your eating plan and you stick with it. Going to Aunt Tallulah’s house? I hope she isn’t going to be insulted when you decline the stuffing, cranberries and pie. You really should hope she doesn’t have a baseball bat in the house, because when you pull out your Tupperware container of grilled chicken breasts and avocado slices and say “This is my dinner, but thanks anyway”, she’s gonna be livid.

In Option#2, you eat as part of the celebration with family and friends. You don’t intentionally try overdo it, but there will probably be a photo of you passed out on the couch with your belt undone in a post-feast stupor. That’s not a big deal because you never tag yourself in pictures anyway. The next day, you don’t freak out and run for 2 hours on the treadmill to “burn it off” (that’s not how it works anyway). You just go back to your normal workout and eating patterns, psychologically unaffected by the holiday.

Which one is right and which is wrong?

Neither and neither.

The wonderful thing about being an American is that you can still do what you want provided it doesn’t cause harm to anyone else (real harm, not “OMG I feel bad because he’s in better shape than me but ate more than me” harm). So do whatever makes you feel better. Personally, I’d choose Option #2 because I like people and I like to eat. I also understand the relationship between the body and food so the prospect of taking in extra calories is not frightening in the least bit. Not to mention, Option #2 gives much lower odds of getting wacked by Aunt Tallulah’s baseball bat. But I could see myself using Option #1 if the house I was going to was ridiculously unhealthy…I’m talking hot lard on top of Twinkies unhealthy.

The bottom line is no matter which one you pick, you cannot transfer responsibility for your actions to an inanimate day of celebration. Eat or don’t eat, the choice is yours. Just make sure when you make that choice that you own it and the results of that action.

 

As for me, I’m going to get another serving.