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











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






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


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.

No Excuses

My clients know that I am the farthest thing from a drill sergeant there is. They never have a fear of me smacking them in the side of the head because they moved their right foot instead of the requested left foot. And to date I have never used the knife hand. They also know I’m pretty sympathetic to honest issues that may cause them to skip a workout. However, I do know how to identify an excuse and here are some of the better ones I’ve heard over the years:

“My body can’t do that.”

There are exceptional cases where some 6′ 13″ giant with T-Rex arms and giraffe legs may not be able to deadlift…or drive a car for that matter. For everyone else, please understand that you are not special when it comes to anatomy. Sorry that all those inspiration posters lied to you but thems-da-breaks. Do your elbows bend the other way? Do you have a foot where your hand should be? No? Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought.

You’re just different enough to be interesting, but not different enough to matter anatomically. Do adjustments have to be made regarding certain exercises? Of course! Any good trainer will take time to see why you’re having trouble with a particular movement. If they’re really good they will have done a medical history review to find out if you have any outstanding conditions that may contribute to the situation. And they will make the necessary corrections to ensure you can do the movement without pain. Which leads me to the next excuse.

“No. No. No. This hurts. I can’t do this. I have to stop.”

Pain is an automatic stop in my book. It’s like the big red emergency brake handle in passenger trains. However about 7 times out of 10, the “pain” is actually the muscles doing work*. These people were so used to the soft gooey center of the envelope, any displacement out of their tiny comfort zone triggered an alert system in their body to go off. Many times these were the people who didn’t want to be at a gym anyway, but a medical mandate from their doctor forced their hand (to grab a dumbell haha).

I can kind of sympathize since they really had no urge to improve themselves other than their doctor’s standing orders. The ones I never understood were the ones who wanted radical changes but with zero effort. As in, “I want to look like a bodybuilder/bikini model but I really don’t want to sweat or exert myself”. I bet they’re the same people who say “I want to travel the world but I really don’t like leaving my house.” Have fun watching Amazing Race ya hermit.

 *Working muscles produce anywhere from a mild to intense burning sensation. Anything else like sharp pain, and especially any popping or tearing sensation is an immediate reason to stop. Often being out of alignment can cause joint discomfort, which promptly goes away once proper alignment is established. Chances are if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.

“I don’t do ________ exercises. They’re bad for you.”

This is what happens when our education system makes health class all about anti-drugs, peer pressure and sex education. Nobody knows how their own body is designed to work or what its limitations are. As a result there are a lot of very smart people who through no fault of their own think that squats make your kneecaps explode, bench press makes your shoulders explode, and that the Smith Machine is the safest invention since the seat belt. Do you really think I could sleep at night if I gave people exercises that I knew would destroy their bodies?

If you or people you know are or were injured doing a particular lift, use the common sense test. Is it possible that a natural movement that has been around since humans started picking things up and putting them down is at fault? Or maybe it’s your interpretation of how it should be done? Find a good trainer to check your form. Have someone film you doing the exercise. You’d be surprised how different your perception of how you’re set up is from reality.

“I need to lose weight, but I have to do this on my own.”

Please grow up and leave the teenage self-discovery angst in the cheesy 80s movie that you got it from.

  1. You need help, or you’d already be doing it.
  2. You want help or you wouldn’t be talking about it.

But you’re also nervous, scared or intimidated by the prospect of actually doing it. That’s fine, but just admit it. Fear can be useful if channelled properly. It can also destroy you if left to its own insidious devices. Using independence as a reason to put off working out is convenient as it allows you to constantly delay action, but it is also very,very lame.

If you truly do not want to workout and you are not at risk of imminent demise, don’t workout. Learn to be happy with who you are and who you will not be. There is nothing wrong with a personal choice such as that. But you have to also stop complaining about your body. And looking at models and celebs as comparison. And being upset that you used to look better/thinner/stronger/etc. You want to be independent? Either go do it, or stop talking about it.

“Nobody is encouraging me.”

So what? Most great achievements on this planet were generated with notable opposition, in secret or with very little fanfare. Albert Einstien didn’t write on Niels Bohr’s wall and say “OMG these quanta are errrrrywhere!” Henry Ford didn’t start tweeting about going bankrupt and how unfair it was. Joe Montana didn’t have someone pat him on the back each time he went to practice. Your success comes from within. Anything external is just icing on the cake.

Nobody is going to hand you a trophy for showing up to the gym. Go anyway. Someone else may look “better” than you and workout far less intensely than you have to. Unfair? Maybe, but who cares. You may lose friends because as you start making progress, they feel left behind. Sad? Not really, that is their problem, not yours. If they are not mature enough to accept your positive changes, you have to be mature enough to move on. You will make new friends who are willing to help and support the new you. But nobody can take the steps for you. That part is up to you.

“Isn’t there an easier way?”

There are always easy ways out. I happen to be a fan of the path of least resistance. My whole workout mantra is to lift smarter so I can lift heavier. And heavy weights no matter what anyone says give you the foundation necessary to do 90% of the things that most humans want or need to do. I use laziness as a prompt to not waste energy so that my workouts are efficient. This is far different from trying to outsmart nature and physics.

To be clear, a shortcut may be a useful tool to someone else at a different point in their training, usually an advanced athlete who has to pass a certain plateau or make weight for a contest. But to wish upon some magic shake, workout video, Martin Lawrence rubber suit, thermogenic pill or some cleverly marketed marital aid to turn you into a superhero overnight is wasted wishing. Progress is a process. Don’t try to rush it.

Resistance to challenge, corrections and change is what makes you struggle. The day you stop fighting against yourself is the day that transformation begins.

Go forth and lift.