An Important Reality Check About…CHANGE

One of the reasons we ‘miss the gains we make while looking for the gains we are not going to find’ is change occurs from the inside out, not outside in as many of us have been lead to believe. 

What does this mean? It means you are first going to FEEL a change before you see a change.

Whatever your fitness level or skill proficiency, whether new to exercise or physical activity, restarting after a lay off, or an elite athlete, you are first going to FEEL any change that your engagement magically gifts before you see any changes in the mirror. And, the changes that you feel first are mostly about doing everyday things. As your activity level becomes more consistent or its intensity increases from notching FitBASE, FitBUBBLES and FitBESTS, it will hit you while moving through your day that physically, routine movement feels, dare I say, easier. Getting in and out of the car…getting up and out of furniture…lifting a case of water into your grocery cart…loading and unloading your groceries…carrying a load of wash to the washing machine…using stairs…reaching high into a cupboard…maneuvering your kids into their car seats…taking the dog for a walk…standing on the bus when the seats are taken…

As you notice these changes, take pause for a celebration. Throw a party if you want but most important recognize these changes for the significant gains they represent – you muscles ARE getting stronger, you cardio system IS getting stronger, your joints ARE becoming more flexible!

Then also celebrate that you ARE noticing the gains you make.

Structure your engagement around notching FitBASE, FitBUBBLES and FitBESTS, see your ‘Iron Footprint’ grow, and allow yourself to feel the magic that results.

Pay motivation forward – You just never know…

Consumer psychology tells us we are more apt to purchase a product or use a service if we see ourselves depicted in its advertising or promotion, or see others like us doing the same, a principle that also applies to activity engagement.  YOU have the potential to motivate someone else’s engagement regardless of what side of the coin your fitness level falls.     

Huh?

Seeing others succeed at or accomplish something gives us hope and confidence that we can do the same, including physical activity.  In fact, this can be a significant source of motivation, second in strength only to our own history doing the activity.  The sentiment is ‘if he/she can do it then I can do it too!’  But, it is especially impactful if we recognize similarity between ourselves and the person we are observing. 

For example, a twenty-something uber-fit, elite athlete who has just watched another twenty-something uber-fit, elite athlete hit a performance benchmark will be particularly motivated, ‘pumped’, to expend the energy to match the benchmark.  The same twenty-something likely would admire a fifty-something for shining at the Senior Games, but wouldn’t realize the same motivation stimulation as what it would be from watching a peer. 

The same goes for all the other sides of the coin.  A fifty-something soon-to-be-fitter exerciser could appreciate the super human feats of elite athletes but wouldn’t necessarily draw motivation from them because of their comparative other-worldliness.  But, watching another soon-to-be-fitter senior (safely) crank out 30 minutes on the treadmill would instill the    confidence to do the same.  

While paying it forward isn’t a novel concept, it’s particularly forefront today considering the platforms that exist to broadcast evidence of activity successes at all levels of engagement.  Social media provides seemingly endless access outlets that capture the nuances of life.  Yesterday I learned what mustard my friend puts on her sandwich and read a blow-by-blow graphic about just how sick another friend’s dog was – all over his house.  The usefulness of some information might be debatable, but not the opportunity to use platforms to inspire someone else’s engagement.                    

For the good of humankind’s activity motivation you hereby have permission to push the bounds of social appropriateness and give a shout out to yourself every once in awhile.  That’s right, let us in on your good fortune, publicize your milestones,

First, offer up a FitBRAG by using the mechanism on Ironfootprintfitness.com or emailing us at [email protected] or [email protected].  We will do our part to re-broadcast your feats on our digital properties.            

Second, the gym I attend frequently hosts fitness-related photo shoots.  While it’s interesting to watch the process then see the results on a magazine cover, it’s inspiring to watch the 70-something woman do her treadmill workout everyday and also keep an eye on the 60-something man who has transformed his body composition by dropping 100 pounds and adding muscle.  Like others, I can certainly appreciate a pretty picture, but since there tends to be little similarity between me and those pictured they don’t’ do much for my motivation.  So, along with offering up FitBRAGS also do your own photo shoot and if you are so inclined (hopefully) post the pics/videos for others to see.  Consider it your own public service announcement that pays motivation forward.

You may not ever know how it gets passed along, or for whose benefit, or the life it takes along its journey, but know that what you report to achieve during engagement DOES make an impact.  And, unlike my generation’s version of social media – you don’t need to meet at the playground swing-set to get caught up.        

 

TAKE, don’t do exercise

Alternate title: Control – Not just a 90s hit by Miss Jackson 

Get it all out of your system.  “Take it and … it.”…  “You know what you can do with your exercise!”

Ok.  Now we can move on.

From the vernacular of yesteryear, one ‘took exercise.’  It was playing tennis in a gender appropriate vested suit or long dress, and then sipping freshly brewed sweat iced tea in the garden surrounding the court extolling each other’s masterful skill.  Or strolling along the walkway under one’s best parasol, and then sipping freshly…  Or rowing across the lake and back from the boathouse, and then sipping freshly…  Or cycling down the lane on a bike with a really big front wheel, and then sipping…  Or grappling on the freshly cut lawn, and then sipping…     

How quaint!  How civil and gentile and lovely!  Can’t you just feel the warm breeze on your face and smell the blooming flowers as you fill your lungs with fresh air?  All the while knowing that killer sweat tea is waiting!  Not a cloud in the sky not a care in the world… 

This ‘taking exercise’ thing, what’s not to like?  Not meant to be a sarcastic statement about social strata, rather as a lead in to how if you think about it,‘taking exercise’ has a different connotation from ‘doing exercise,’ then wondering well, why can’t we too, ‘take exercise?’  

Riiiiight!  Let me get on that right after I drop the kids to school, pick up the dry cleaning, get groceries, give the dog a bath, finish the report that was due yesterday, THEN get to the gym but know I’ll have to fight for parking and wait for an elliptical because it will be after the group class lets out so they will get them first! 

Touché. 

Except, really, why do we sometimes relegate exercise as something we HAVE to do rather than something we GET to take in?  Before you respond with another sassy ‘Right!-Let-me-get-right-on-that…’ answer give it a listen. 

‘Taking’ exercise suggests it is looked forward to, purposeful, meaningful, intentional, of our control, and anticipated to be…fun!    

‘Doing’ exercise implies going through the motions at an arms-length emotional connection, being made to do it from an outside source, it will be tolerable at best but is anticipated to be…drudgery.  

You can probably guess where this is going next so just bear with me.  First, if you only DO exercise then that’s what exercise is always going to feel like – something you have to do, and second, the lack of emotional connection roadblocks you even considering any gains – you just count down the clock until the 30 minutes is finally over.  Really, un-fun!                                 

But, if you TAKE exercise, well now we are talking about a polar opposite experience.  Choosing just what you are going to take automatically creates light and bright enthusiasm – ‘I GET to (insert activity)’ – which brings about an emotional openness that anticipates good things will happen.  Now add notching your Iron Footprint to the mix and your intentional and purposeful mindset has a platform that intentionally and purposefully helps you identify and reveal ALL the achievement…that you already anticipate.          

Control can be a very good thing.  Starting today, ‘take’ don’t ‘do’ exercise.  Grab that parasol and stroll the walkway – of the treadmill set at a 15’ incline, jump on the bike and cycle down the lane – of the computer generated  ‘countryside’ course option on the stationary bike, grapple with a friend – during the boxercise group fitness class, or row across the lake – in 1500 meter increments on the rowing machine.          

Then sip sweat tea – made from your favorite powdered drink mix you add to your water bottle.

Hey, it’s a start!  

Pivots, Plate Spinners, Street-Cred. And Glue Guns?

Repeat after me everyone, “I am an Iron Cougar so I have ‘street-cred’.”  (Pause for the repeat.)   

 

One pillar of Iron Cougar Fitness is harnessing the power of 50+ women to inspire physical activity engagement.  Why?  Because you uniquely have the street-cred (short for street credibility) to influence values and behavior.         

 

Wow!  Who knew we had this unique power to influence and inspire?  And, street-cred!  We have street-cred!  Yippee!  Go us!

 

Wait, what is street-cred?

 

Hold that question for a second, we will come back to it. 

 

If you played or (hopefully) still play basketball, you likely know what a pivot step is.  Upon coming to a stop after dribbling, you may pivot on one foot in a 360’ circle to clear space between you and your defender to pass to a teammate or take a shot.  In other situations, after you receive the ball from a pass or rebound, and have not yet moved with it, you may use a pivot step to, for example, fake out a defender before driving to the basket.      

 

This means that while on pivot you need to take in a seemingly endless amount of dynamic stimuli then make the best decision possible about your next move – should I pass, shoot, dribble away, drive to the basket, or hold onto the ball and wait for a teammate to come to help?  It also means that the game is at a standstill until you make your decision and act (5-second count notwithstanding), all eyes are on you until you do so, and your decision can have great impact upon the outcome of the game.  

 

Street-cred?  Pivot step?  Endless dynamic stimuli?  Standstill?  Iron Cougar?  Where is this leading?

 

Think about certain dynamics of your life.  As an Iron Cougar (a 50+ woman), statistics show you likely are the pivot point for multiple generations of your family.  Sometimes called the ‘Sandwich Generation’, at the same time you are raising your kids (or grandkids, or ‘supervising’ your grown kids) you are also caring for your ageing parents, or have taken on significant responsibility to ensure the caregiving of extended-family members.  On any given day, you structure their daily life, all the while managing your own.  School, homework, play dates, sports practice, assisted-living programs, meals, organizing different layers of finances, then finishing the report that is overdue to your job – Yikes! Talk about a ‘seemingly endless amount of dynamic stimuli’!, for which YOU are the driver – literally and figuratively. 

 

As the pivot, you make the plan then make the plan happen, but until doing either life can come to a standstill, with all eyes upon you awaiting the restart.  By virtue of family system evolution and the position within we often come to stake, Iron Cougars are the drivers – but not before also mapping out the route, putting gas in the car and paying for its insurance.   

 

The ‘Iron-Cougar-as-Pivot’s’ range of responsibility is difficult to capture suffice it to say every day can bring more proverbial plates that need to be kept spinning by the ones who are the primary spinners.  Three words – Human Glue Gun, for that is what many Iron Cougars must feel like while keeping things upright!  

 

Back to street-cred.  It’s one thing to know all the pivot options and how to use the glue gun, it’s another to sense the RIGHT option and not spray glue all over the place.  Iron Cougars, this is you.  Repeatedly you do just the right thing by all those who for whom the right thing matters.  And so follows the street-cred recognition.  The gift of reverence so bestowed in recognition that you KNOW AND DO…day after day.               

 

Net/net, street-cred is an ultimate compliment recognizing your place at the head of the table.      It can’t be bought, studied for, or found on the internet; rather it’s the result of lots of pivoting and glue gunning.  So it is from this position, Iron Cougars, that you wield unique, unprecedented and powerful influence upon multi-generations, including that which determines values and behaviors toward physical activity.     

 

That doesn’t mean that your teenage or twenty-something kids or grandkids won’t look at you like you are speaking alien when you ask something of them or question their behavior, nor does it mean that they will gushingly thank you for your inspiration.  It also won’t prevent your friends from gossiping about you when you try to organize a walking group and refuse to take no for an answer.      

 

But fear not, Iron Cougars, for ‘tis but a flesh wound.  If we have learned anything it’s to stay the course and stay the course we do!  So we just dust ourselves off and stare back at them as they stare at us knowing we have the street-cred trump card and they don’t!  See, what you say and do can be THE thing that inspires then ensures physical activity engagement among the masses.  If I build it maybe they will come, but if an Iron Cougar builds it they WILL come – they know you mean business, and anyway are going to make sure they are in the car on time.  

 

The takeaway – don’t let up working on your ‘first step’ off the pivot and keep your glue gun plugged in.  

55 Million reasons to Start Kids Notching their ‘KidPRINT’ Iron Footprints – Today!

Alternate title: Yikes! – this is going to be a long post

It’s never too early to get kids started on notching their Iron Footprint, in fact for over 55 million reasons the earlier the better.      

Over 55 million?  The number of school-aged kids in the US.  We have work to do folks 

First, the facts – If I told you there was ONE thing that alone can optimize kids’ development you probably wouldn’t trust the hype.  Well, there IS, it is physical activity, and it uniquely and profoundly fosters physical, emotional and cognitive development, including physical vigor, motor skill proficiency, self-esteem, self-confidence, learning readiness, and attributes of emotional resiliency.  Regardless of genetic predisposition, physical activity is a SIGNIFICANT variable in optimizing development.      

The second fact is we can’t take kids’ engagement for granted; either that they will automatically engage without support or direction, or that the habits they form automatically cement and follow them across their lifespan. 

To illustrate, one measure of participation is the number of kids who play youth sports, a rite of passage for many – and we parents, but that’s for another conversation.  What is cuter than bumble-bee soccer, or t-ball, or mite hockey?  Equipment bigger than the kids, opposing teams clumped together as one herding the ball or the puck to a sometimes unknown destination.  Then the real highlight – post-game snacks, yet another topic for another time.  The memories are priceless, and these days able to be relived forever simply by logging in to one’s video download service and accessing any one of the…several you have captured for posterity, or better yet, for showing at your little darling’s wedding reception. 

More kids than ever are playing youth sports.  Good, right?  Great…for those playing and realizing a certain degree of success but the flip side is alarming – more kids than ever also are NOT playing, or quitting shortly after they begin due to feeling incompetent, which triggers underactivity that follows through adulthood.  At the ripe old age of early elementary school many declare their activity days done increasing the likelihood 10-fold they will begin to gain excess body weight and fall into the quality of life-robbing abyss of obesity.                  

 Over 12 million of our kids are obese dealing with very real adult health problems of heart disease and diabetes, and another 11 million are overweight on their way to becoming obese.  This is serious business folks for beyond the devastating health issues, they are bullied, miss more school, and according to statistics will earn significantly less than those of regular weight.  Net/net, 23 million kids are destined for a wholly diminished quality of life (and likely to put their kids at risk for the same).  AND, here is the kicker – the current generation of (all) school-aged kids is predicted to have a shorter lifespan than their parents – a statistic not seen in the US since the Civil War.  Think about that the next time you are at bumble bee soccer.

But take a breath because there is encouraging news.  While obesity/overweight can stem from a complex web of factors, energy balance is a primary determinant – eating more calories than exerting through movement.  With physical activity mitigation NOW most consequences are reversible, including the prospect of a long, healthy and satisfying life.  Balance-focused intervention delivered within schools has successfully leveled the prevalence and trajectory of childhood obesity and underactivity in three of the hardest hit areas (New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles) showing that once kids get moving (and address their nutrition) they are on track to reap the full spectrum of engagement benefit.                      

(Note – considering compulsory attendance, schools are the prime context to offer wide-scale engagement and can so through different channels:  physical education, intramurals, athletics, and before and after-school programming.  Sadly, across the country school physical activity time has been reduced to accommodate additional time for core subjects but it is critical for the public to understand two things: one, fit kids are better learners and do better in school than their less-fit peers, and two, sustaining physical activity time does not diminish a school’s academic performance.  We adults need to advocate for daily, quality school-based physical activity – yet another topic for a later time.)    

The other good news is we can help kids establish resilient engagement motivation just as adults by introducing them to KidPRINT, the age-appropriate version of Iron Footprint.  Mite hockey is sure cute, but the real trick is to ensure it’s but one experience of a LIFESPAN of engagement.  Imagine the density of an Iron Footprint that begins purposeful notching at an early age!  Milestone motor skill developments, clustered galaxies of FitBUBBLES, FitBESTS that show real evidence of physical maturation.  Most important, the displayed achievement fuels motivation to keep engaging!  Success begets success, regardless of age.    

(Please access the KidPRINT white paper on the website’s Iron Footprint Fitness Academy page for more information– email us at [email protected] if you have any questions or have difficulty downloading the information – thanks.)

Last, while the need for, response to, and benefit from is physical activity is gender neutral, archaic and altogether wrong wives tales, myths and folklore STILL exist about girls/women and engagement and the ‘ideal’ body.  (Please see a previous post about un-gendering activity for more detail.)  In your care-giving capacity with girls and young women, please make sure of the following: First, just as for boys, EXPECT that girls WILL be active and praise them for their achievement/performance.  This is hugely different from (merely) inviting girls to be active and praising them for their effort.  And, second, help girls become comfortable with activity and establish an achievement-oriented mindset by directly (and regularly) addressing the following:    

–Being sweaty is a good thing

–Being sore after lifting weights is a good thing

–It’s ok to feel uncomfortable / awkward when learning new skills – in fact, it’s to be expected

–Exertion can be (temporarily) uncomfortable – muscles burn, breathing hard – but from discomfort we get stronger, healthier, etc.

–Strong muscles and muscle mass are good things

–‘Toning’, ‘shaping’, and ‘sculpting’ have no relevance to health-related fitness.  These words need to be deleted from exercise/fitness vocabulary.    

If we each agree to take responsibility for the engagement of the kids that fall under our collectively speaking role of ‘dad’, no doubt we can stem the obesity and underactivity epidemics and  most important foster their best well being.  Between school and community-based programming, and KidPRINT the resources are there for the taking.   

So, are you in?  You better say yes or next post I’m going to list ALL the 55 million reasons we need to introduce our kids to KidPRINT…

Today’s Seminar Topic: Resiliency 101

Alternate title – MOTIVATION’S X-FACTOR: SUCCESS

 The great philosophical questions we ponder-

  1. What is the meaning of life?
  2. What is the purpose of humankind’s existence on earth?
  3. Why are some people able to stick to their exercise routine but not others???

Iron Footprint Fitness politely excuses itself from chiming in on questions 1 and 2 but submits the following response for question 3:  Resilient motivation.

Resilient motivation?  You know, motivation to engage in physical activity that doesn’t waiver, is consistent one day to the next, and repels negative self-talk or influences to NOT exercise.         

Oh sure!  Wait, what?  

Resiliency is one of those complex concepts we likely have a common interpretation of but use different descriptors to explain.  And, like fitness, its complexity can make it seem intimidating to approach without an advanced degree, not eased by the MULTIPLE pages of essay its exploration is ripe to generate.  However, fear not, for with all due respect to its intricacy there is a user-friendly depiction.   The ingredients of resiliency are HOPE, AUTONOMY and SOCIAL SKILLS, and its outcome is the likelihood to render decisions that foster personal and civic well-being (and resist risky or jeopardizing alternatives) – One will wear a seatbelt, refrain from smoking or chemical abuse, seek friendships with individuals of character, and attempt to contribute to society, etc.        

Ok, I get it, and so circling back to physical activity, we need to account for hope, autonomy and social skills to develop resilient motivation to sustain regular engagement.  Now if I only knew of an approach that could do this… 

Drum roll please, and cue Iron Footprint Fitness for its grand entrance.  Hope and autonomy are inherent to growing one’s Iron Footprint.  Why?  The X-Factor of… success.  Here is how.

Dialed down to its bare essence, hope is believing that good things will happen and so strengthened by…good things happening.  Realizing achievement in physical activity is a good thing and our approach reveals all the ways you CAN achieve and how to display all the ways your DO achieve.  Net/net, engaging to grow your Iron Footprint develops hope for showing how you have been, and instilling anticipation that you will continue to be successful.  Success begets hope – hope begets resilient motivation!   

Autonomy includes possessing a strong sense of self, degree of self-sufficiency and personal independence – meaning able to choose your course (from a ‘good’ selection of options) rather than having your course chosen for you or having limited options from which to choose.  Growing your physical activity self through notching your Iron Footprint helps you develop multiple/different physical activity identities—I am a runner, basketball player, yogi, weight lifter, etc.—self-identification not only for professionals making their livings doing said activities.  The result is an ongoing strengthening of your physical activity autonomy that helps to foster, you guessed it, resilient motivation to (continue to) sustain regular engagement.       

That concludes today’s lecture.  Your homework assignment is to do a FitBASE workout, trial a FitBEST event, or add a new FitBUBBLE to your ‘Footprint, and formulate your response to questions 1 and 2 as you do it…   

Note – ‘Social skills’ will be addressed in a different lecture, and don’t we know there is much to cover!  Until then I can only hope the person before me on the machine wipes it down.   

 

Own your ‘IT’-ness – CAUSE the physical activity of girls/young women!

OWN YOUR ‘IT-NESS’ – CAUSE the physical activity of girls/young women!

We have said it before but it bears repeating…and repeating and repeating. YOU carry the power to influence the physical activity engagement of girls and young women; both as an obvious influencer – mom, grandmother, aunt, sister, teacher, etc. – AND as one less obvious – the jogger girls see every morning while they are on the school bus, or the one they overhear at the grocery checkout line boasting about her improved 10k time…

You may not think they are listening or watching, they may never admit to listening or watching but they are, no small thing because their behavior-driving values about physical activity emerge from what they see and hear!

Why is regular activity so important to girls/young women? It sources their well being today and into tomorrow by uniquely and profoundly fostering positive self-esteem and body image, resiliency to risky behavior and health protection. Compared to those inactive, active girls/young women get better grades; have less teen/unwanted pregnancy, smoking and substance abuse; are less likely to be in an abusive relationship; have a lower risk for developing breast cancer; and have a more positive outlook on life.

Why the urgency?

The statistics about adolescent engagement are dismal. Around age 14 girls begin to engage less and less until many abruptly stop altogether, even if they have been active while younger! Millions miss out on engagement’s gifts of health protection and quality of life, but also its fun. Mostly this is sad.

But, chin up Iron Cougars for this is where we can shine. The good news is that with encouragement and a pipeline girls WILL remain active, if not even more so, and we have the ‘IT’ to be THE it. Girls can dismiss it as typical or expected when they hear boys/men talk about their activity or see them being active, not so when they hear about or see the same from other girls or women. While bumble-bee soccer today is as much a rite of passage for little girls as boys, we are still more drawn to activities where we see images of ourselves than not, meaning there is more punch to girls seeing/hearing about engagement from other girls/women than boys/men.

So, Iron Cougars by virtue of our ‘IT’, what we say, do, role model and prioritize CAN directly inspire a young woman to engage in activity today, and then again tomorrow and lots of tomorrows after. Think about it. How awesome that we can be the pipeline that reverses the sad trend and causes girls’ sports leagues to have to add teams! Iron Cougars, we need to own our IT! Lets us cause the need for lots of new uniforms and equipment to be ordered across the county to accommodate the increased participation by girls/young women!

Count me in! I’m ready! Lets go! What do I do? Where do I start? … But, wait, I’m not highly skilled and don’t have much experience playing sports.

Yikes!, some skepticism after all the hype and excitement? Fear not. An assurance before we get to the specifics – you DON’T need to be a proficiently-skilled athlete or trained physical activity professional to make a difference. Remember, you have the most important trump card – you are the IT! The following are ‘preferred qualifications’ to make a difference using your IT-ness:

(Note – ‘her’ and ‘she’ is both singular and plural)

 ROLE MODEL regular physical activity – talk the talk and walk the walk (literally haha)
 TAKE INTEREST in all aspects of her physical activity engagement
 PERSISTENTLY communicate the importance of regular activity and how fun it is
 COMPLIMENT all her activity attributes – cognitive and emotional as well as physical
 CONSISTENTLY deliver positive messages about activity – every day in not too often
 EMPHATICLY communicate the benefits of regular activity, including, it is fun
 INSISTENT that she is regularly active, rain or shine: ‘no’ is not an option

Feel better? You should, because no doubt you CAN be the IT!

Ok, I’m ready. What are some specific suggestions?

The following is how you can use your IT to cause girls/young women to realize the fun of activity today and establish their life-long commitment to regular engagement:

(Notes – Apologies if some things seem obvious – trying to avoid presumption; some suggestions may be more age-appropriate to those older or younger; ‘her’ and ‘she’ is both singular and plural)

 SUSTAIN your own regular achievement-oriented engagement – be active every day!
 TALK about your engagement whenever/wherever you have the opportunity – you never know where ears lurk
 START her notching her Iron Footprint or KidPRINT – success establishes resilient motivation to sustain regular engagement, the earlier the better
 PRACTICE skills together – catching, throwing, kicking, batting, shooting, dribbling, etc. (if you are not highly skilled you can be the rebounder, put the ball on the tee, etc.)
 WALK (or run, jog, bike ride) together at least once a week – rain or shine!
 DO A FITBUBBLE together at least once a month – she AND you both adding a FitBUBBLE to your Iron Footprints
 TAKE HER to girl’s high school/women’s college games/meets/matches
 GO to her games/meets/matches and practices
 MAKE SURE she has transportation to practices/games
 KEEP A JOURNAL/scrapbook of her competition results – e.g. times in events, game highlights
 PLAY SPORTS REPORTER and send her a written sports story about her games
 VOLUNTEER at a school’s physical education or after-school program
 SEND HER ARTICLES about women’s professional sports results/athletes – talk about current women’s sports events – college and professional – WNBA, LPGA, WPT, NCAA March-Madness and WCWS
 GIVE HER GIFTS that pipeline physical activity – e.g., equipment, clothes, tickets to women’s athletic event
 REMIND HER that information about female athletes or women’s teams/leagues is but a click away – facebook pages, websites, twitter
 ENCOURAGE HER to include activity engagement photos and stories on her facebook page
 ENCOURAGE HER to invite a friend to engage along with you – and the friend’s mom/sister/grandmother/aunt, etc.
 TEXT HER DAILY OR REGULARLY to remind her to be active or ask her about her activity – if/when possible

Whew, you are going to be busy, but what a great busy! Imagine the outcome with me – first, she WILL be active and reap its life-enhancing benefit. Second, she will learn to pay the encouragement forward ensuring the next generation of girls will be (even) more active than this one. Third, NO question she will become an Iron Cougar the second the clock strikes 12midnight on her 50th birthday.

And of course, know what this will do for your own Iron Footprint and your own IT legacy.

The best description I have heard for advocacy is persistence. Know that your persistence WILL serve the well-being of this generation of girls AND those that follow…

Now get your IT out there and CAUSE activity!

Women and the Fitness Glass Ceiling

Headline – Women Underachieve at the Gym.

What? Whoa! What? – Women Underachieve at the Gym

Ouch! Being a woman who dutifully goes to the gym that hurts. How dare you!

 But, what of it?

 First, don’t take this the wrong way.  Watch men at the gym compared to women. Men tend to aggressively lift weights to push their strength threshold, use treadmills not to jog but to run, and spin rather than leisurely pedal stationary bikes.  Men also seem to approach their gym time with a sense of urgency—they demand the most of their time—and they think ‘progression.’  Can I lift more?  Can I do more cardio?  Can I run faster?  Can I do more crunches today than yesterday?

Women, differently, seem to approach the gym much more casually tending to ‘tone,’ ‘sculpt,’ and ‘correct problem areas,’ a focus with appearance rather than performance improvement intent.      

Overstated?  Too generalized?  Exaggerated?  Unnecessarily polarized?  Perhaps.  But evidence suggests otherwise, a point that is perplexing, disturbing, and frustrating, but mostly sad – especially knowing that worldwide, women more so than men are dissatisfied with their health and more likely to contend with health problems, physical pain and sadness 1 – each conducive to mitigation through regular, achievement-oriented physical activity.

 Perhaps due to misguided perspective stemming from archaic notions about women and exercise, women inherently tend to UNDERachieve at the gym by not training to improve performance. 

 While it may be wholly unintentional, women create their own Fitness Glass Ceiling!    

 Not so long ago women’s professional aspirations were limited but for being female. Today, women command power across all sectors including positions that persuade our national government—and with one on the radar poised to run the country it seems only a matter of time before a she sits in the Oval Office.  Women are also now among the suits of the old-boys bastions of Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association.

 While pockets of inequity still fester, girls today can pursue the vocation of their calling.  The ‘glass ceiling’ predicament seems as outdated as yesterday’s tweets. More than less, gender has no bearing on conquering what is of interest to conquer and limitation but for being female is for history book depiction.

But how about the realm of physical activity?

 Unlike professional entities where others imposed limitation, women seem to underachieve in physical activity due to self-imposed limitation.

 Legal action (Title IX) and medical community assurance that the female reproductive system did not render women too fragile for vigorous engagement catalyzed equal opportunity within physical activity over 40 years ago, yet illogical thinking lingers, including the notion of the ideal female body.  Women underachieve in physical activity by falling prey to erroneous, archaic, scientifically refuted myths and wives tales about engagement, and yielding to the cultured ideal body.

 The big deal?  Self-imposed limitation IS cause for concern: 

  • Nearly ¾ of all USA women carry unhealthy weight and are under active.
  • Women (and girls) are proportionately heavier and less active than men (or boys).
  • Women are more prone to overweight/obesity than men due to our reproductive hormones and how we respond to aging.
  • Women are more prone to, and more women die of heart disease than men
  • Women risk osteoporosis and certain cancers (breast and colorectal) that regular engagement can reduce the likelihood of developing.
  • Women are more likely than men to have unhealthy nutritional habits to elicit quick weight loss.

Physical activity engagement can mitigate the dire health implications faced by many women but it needs to be sustained and achievement-oriented. The following describes ways in which the fitness glass ceiling is manifest:

Failing to weight train to BUILD muscular strength, mass, power or endurance

Muscular strength, mass, power and endurance impact vitality and vigor, and bone density and joint efficacy. Weight training to ‘tone’, ‘shape’, or ‘sculpt’ stems from seeking appearance rather than health-related outcomes, and the fear of developing masculine musculature. Seeking appearance outcomes has limited impact on muscular health. Women do not carry the same level of hormone as men to develop comparative muscle mass. 

Focusing gym routines on ‘hitting trouble spots’

Mass media (and perhaps a 12″ plastic female doll) has conditioned women to seek the (wholly unattainable) culturally defined perfect body (again, appearance goals) and ‘fix’ any part that falls short. ‘Glossy’ and women’s fitness magazines commit regular pieces to transforming ‘trouble spots’—thighs, abs, hips, and the back of arms—altogether impossible, at least for how it tends to be presented. The media schlop renders women self-adversarial, disgusted by their deficits and unable to regard their physical self positively.

Given physiology, ‘hitting a trouble spot’ will neither address the ‘trouble spot’ nor impact health-related fitness as could be otherwise. First, spot reduction is impossible! Weight is lost across the body, not in one area without loss in others. Certain areas may transform before others due to genetically determined adipose tissue (fat) distribution, but the energy in-energy out balance that mitigates body weight is systemic.

Second, the common strategy used to ‘fix trouble spots’ is fundamentally flawed. Resistance training of high reps with light weights (aka ‘toning’) will not transform physique. Body composition changes by reducing carried fat and increasing musculature. ‘Toning’ does not yield the lean tissue increase necessary for (realistic) physique transformation.

Attempting to transform physique to look like someone else, or the body parts of someone else—e.g., a certain celebrity’s or public figure’s arms or legs

Sadly, transforming into the physique of someone else (or the arms, legs or abs of someone else – usually a model or celebrity, or otherwise public figure whose image is a constant or instantly accessed on mass media platforms) is a prevalent gym goal. The genesis of this goal is infatuation with achieving the cultural notion of the ideal body.

Its pursuit frames the purpose of exercise sessions—at the expense of total body conditioning—which leaves health-related benefit to chance.  And, it’s unlikely that sculpting will result in precise specification given genetics’ determination of shape and contour. Motivation erodes with disappointed outcomes (even if unrealistic to begin with) which jeopardizes sustaining engagement.

Failing to address each component of health-related fitness—i.e., doing only yoga or pilates, or resistance training, or cardio

Exercise routines need to address each health-related fitness component with sufficient intensity to yield engagement’s optimum benefit.  A recent fitness trend is mind-body activity—yoga, pilates, etc.—but at the exclusion of other forms of engagement.  In general, mind-body activity fosters some health-related gains (e.g., flexibility) but less directly impacts cardiovascular or muscular gains.  Focusing solely on one form of activity means certain underachievement for how it limits health-related benefit.

Failing to monitor cardio intensity

Engagement will yield cardiovascular benefit IF the level of intensity (heart rate) is within one’s training zone (determined by a simple mathematical formula*).  Underachievement is avoided by knowing your training zone then regularly monitoring your heart-rate during engagement. Any engagement is always better than no engagement, and going for a leisurely walk or casual bile ride sure has merit, but intensity-appropriate engagement yields optimum cardiovascular benefit. 

(*Heart-rate training zone information is widely available on the Web. One site is http://www.runnersweb.com/running/hr_calculator_new.html.)

Failing to develop a short and long-range training plan; approaching a workout from a ‘just’ perspective.

Failing to plan (your routine) IS planning to fail (underachieve)!  Optimum benefit requires sustained engagement that appropriately addresses each health-related fitness component. Without plans, daily engagement can be haphazard which risks overlooking certain components, more likely given harried lives that leave us frazzled at the gym after long days. Plans also help avoid routines becoming ‘too routine’ and approaching engagement from a ‘just’ perspective.

‘Just’ engagement–‘I am just going to walk on the treadmill’ or ‘I am just going to do some weights’—means certain underachievement for its lack of purpose and implied lack of commitment.  It also conveys a focus on the minimum.  With sites set upon MAYBE reaping SOME benefits it’s only MAYBE that SOME benefit will be yielded—minimum effort yields minimum results.

Note -‘Just’ engagement, “I’m going to just get in some quick cardio” can yield benefit if it’s appropriately intense, and research shows that cardio can be effective when taken in segments during the day (e.g., 10 minutes three times a day).  Also, some days ‘just’ is as good as it gets. The 15 minute session of cardio sandwiched between a meeting that ran late and picking up your kids is sometimes the only engagement opportunity – and some activity is always better than no activity!

Working with a trainer who possesses a marginal understanding of health-related fitness, or is otherwise professionally incompetent.

The personal trainer whom we entrust our health-related well-being needs to possess adequate content knowledge to induce optimum benefit. More women than men work with trainers who are well-intended but mis-informed. These trainers tend to have personalities that make them very popular at gyms—they are friendly, outgoing, always pleasant, always smiling—but the smile needs substance for underachievement to be avoided because:

Content knowledge is the main factor that differentiates an expert physical activity professional from one who is merely effective

Working with a well-informed trainer increases the likelihood of optimum benefit.  Examples of incompetency include:

  •  The inability to clearly explain health-related fitness concepts using everyday language.
  • Using nonprofessional language about anatomy/biomechanics/physiology; and/or using gimmicky/dummied-down language about exercises, fitness concepts, and/or equipment.
  • Failing to develop or communicate a progressive training plan.
  • Failing to maintain records of routines or regularly assess performance.
  • Failing to provide corrective feedback.
  • Focusing on appearance results that ‘will make you look like’ a certain celebrity or body shape. (ie certain celebrity’s butt, legs, arms, etc.)
  • Repetitious routines – same thing day after day, over and over.
  • Copying what other trainers do without knowing the purpose of moves/exercises or their safe execution.

(As adapted from Certified or CertiFRAUD? Assessing the Professional Competency of Your Personal Trainer – Who’s Minding Your Store?  Also included in the book is a protocol to use to select a personal trainer.  Available for purchase at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=certified+or+certifraud+assessing)

Women rob themselves of the health protection and life quality engagement uniquely yields by imposing the fitness glass ceiling.  Unlike what many women have been led (or brainwashed) to believe, health-related fitness is not gender differentiated – what’s good for men is what’s good for women. Women need to be as aggressive at the gym as in other facets of life. Lift heavy weights and vigorously (and safely) do cardio!  It matters!

  1.  (http://www.gallup.com/poll/155558/Women-Health-Trails-Men-Former-Soviet-Union.aspx)

THE LEGACY OF DODGEBALL: OK IF YOU WERE THE BALL, NOT OK IF YOU WERE THE FACE

Ahh, Dodgeball.  The playground staple that some could not get enough of while others dreaded every (literally) painful minute.  It is perhaps the best example of physical activity as classic public theater, what with its man versus man theme and the clearly defined roles – protagonists, victims, martyrs – and of course The Ball and The Face… getting hit by the ball.  More often than not I was The Ball, but I will never forget being The Face at the hands of my 6th grade then boyfriend.  The breakup was instant. 

 For many of us, this public theater lasted all through our playground years.  If you were The Ball no biggie, but if you were The Face it likely seemed never-ending torture.  Also called Bombardament depending upon your playground’s geography, most schools across the country now prohibit this charming game so deemed violent, pugilistic, lacking educational value and otherwise evil.            

But its lore remains as damage has been done, for no doubt it likely is the root of many adults’ hesitation to engage in physical activity or lack of self confidence in their physical self.  Understandable.  It takes being The Face but once to question ongoing engagement in activity!  And, sadly, considering its place as public theater it was no secret who experienced the fate of The Face, often multiple for both numbers and occurrences!       

So, right now, say bad words to Dodgeball, “[email protected]#$ you Dodgeball,” despise every person who was The Ball to you being The Face, lawsuits? Now we are talking…

 Now breathe, and now let it all go.  Balls, Faces, old boyfriends/girlfriends…

The good news is if you struggle to engage due to having formed the absolute that you can’t succeed at physical activity you CAN, and it’s never too late to begin to grow your Iron Footprint and develop confidence in your physical activity self.  To use another classic playground institution, your do-over can begin now – both for how you consider activity engagement and your relationship to it.     

Too simple?  Not at all.  It is as simple as a do-over because engagement as Iron Footprint Fitness is target rich with achievement opportunities, you can capture all your achievement in your Iron Footprint, and in the process grow your physical activity self.     

Postlogue – adult Dodgeball has become a trendy, organized recreational activity across the country.  Use Iron Footprint to help structure motor skill practice then consider joining.  The do-over can also mean replaying those playground years, this time as The Ball…