YOUR HIGHLIGHTS OF 2013

Sports shows this time of year feature compilations of the years’ highlights and milestones, edited for their ultimate viewing pleasure. If you are a fan it’s always captivating to relive the amazing physical feats, come-back wins, and poignant moments, and wonder what twists and turns are in store for next year.

But with due reverence to Lebron, Serena, the Red Sox, Diana Nyad, and the missed field goal Auburn returned for a touchdown, what were YOUR activity highlights for 2013?

What were your fasters? Farthers? Strongers? Most ofs? What new did you add to your Iron Footprint? How is your Iron footprint different this year than last?

Give yourself the perfect holiday gift – take a moment to compile YOUR activity highlights for 2013. Even without ESPN’s research and editing support, your highlights are just as powerful considering their meaning.

And the best news, when the clock strikes midnight on December 31 your Iron Footprint DOESN’T reset. For as long as forever you get to build upon what’s already there.

In approaching fitness as Iron Footprint it’s always onward/forward, never re-start or reset. It’s one highlight just waiting for the next…

TO THE FITNESS HAVES AND THE HAVE-NOTS (soon-to-be-haves)

T minus five days to resolution day – and extreme demarcation between the fitness haves and have-nots at the gym.

To the fitness haves, the uber-fit, the regulars of the regular – be patient and realize no one intentionally took ‘your’ machine, or locker, or shower stall, or blow dryer. No dirty looks, or scowls, or comments under your breath.

To the fitness have-nots, rather, soon-to-be-haves – be assertive in getting your gym legs under you. Use your complimentary training session to become familiar with the equipment and make notes to remember. Of course don’t waste any time if you plan to hire a trainer. The more you act like you are a regular the quicker you will become a regular.

To the gym community – we draw motivation from each other whether working out as a have, or soon-to-be have. Pay it forward regardless. First, a smile, a friendly hello, a nod, a heads-up about a machine that’s not working goes a long way toward lifting spirits and creating an all-for-one-one-for-all environment. Second, understand your ability to positively influence others. Even with less fitness capacity, others can be lifted observing your effort or persistence. After our own past success, seeing someone else do what you are attempting to do is the next strongest source of motivation – ‘if s/he can do it, I can do it.’ And, don’t be fooled by headphones. Even though most of us are seemingly insulated, we all watch each other!

My gym undeniably lives its ‘mecca of body building’ reputation. Any given day it’s full of professional bodybuilders, and current and former professional and Olympic athletes – the best of activity’s best. But, it’s also THE most inclusive gym I have ever belonged to. There are as many seniors, under-fit, newly fit, sort-of-fit, will-never-be-fit-but-still-trying, as uber-fit; and a virtual united nation of race-color-creed-preference, those who wear the most technologically advanced (sponsored) fitness wear and others who wear – cotton!

The intermingling is respectful, fluid and effortless. We commoners do our thing – but aren’t afraid to say hi to a ‘big’ or offer congratulations for a recent achievement. The bigs use the equipment as any other, waiting their turn or working-in (and wiping it down after).

In an environment that has the perfect storm of ingredients for tension between haves and soon-to-be-haves there is none. We CAN just all get along.

THE NEW GYM QUEST – PART 2

THE NEW GYM QUEST – PART 2

In a perfect world, each of us has the means and opportunity to select THE perfect gym from several options. More likely, though, geography or price narrows the pool—the one geographically convenient is too expensive, or the one right priced is farther away than anticipated—leaving us in a quandary: wanting to join a gym yet knowing there are drawbacks to the one we can join.

Knowing upfront the poor fit could squeeze your motivation like wearing tight pants requires considering the alternatives or launching a proactive attack to neutralize the anticipated barriers. Either can provide resolution and most important protect your habit. Decide which strategy makes the most sense for you.

First, consider the alternatives to joining. You can create a home gym, and/or hire a trainer to come to your house. Outfitting a home gym can be costly at first then more so depending upon the equipment or media you add but once placed the pieces are set for reps and sets. Home gyms are appealing for their convenience but beware of how exercising at home can challenge your motivation. At the same time a home environment can distract you from your routine (e.g., phone, computer, etc.), it also offers little distraction when you are exercising (e.g., no fellow exercisers to talk to, etc.). (Please see a previous post on the benefits and drawbacks of home exercising for more detail).

If the challenges seem insignificant, investing in a home gym could be your solution to less-than-optimal gym membership options. If not, launch a proactive attack to neutralize the anticipated barriers. Use the following suggestions to get out in front of the situation.

–Hire a trainer if you are at all inclined to, but meticulously hire THE right one. A trainer’s expertise can ensure the most benefit from the gym’s offering. Make sure the trainer consistently engages in professional development to grow their capacity to optimize the provided equipment. Good trainers use equipment in a variety of ways to best serve their clients. Their expertise can also inspire you to make a schedule adjustment if that is called for. You WILL get up a ½ hour earlier if you know it’s worth it. You WONT get up earlier if it’s only for a marginal effect.

–Pay for a locker, stock it with clothes, towels and water, and pick one day a week to refresh the contents. This is especially useful if the gym is further away than is optimal. Knowing you have what you need there can prevent an unexpected delay at work, etc. from becoming a missed workout. Delays nearly always trigger a domino effect. Having a stocked locker prevents a delay from squeezing your gym time by first having to stop at home to get what you need.

–(If possible) arrange your work schedule so what you do either first or last is of your control. This way, if you go to the gym before work and get caught in traffic on the way, etc. you can get your workout in knowing arriving to work later than usual is only going to impact you. If you go after work you know that you can leave as scheduled and not get delayed waiting for a meeting to end, etc.

–(If possible) establish a regular schedule for getting gas after you have left the gym for home. Needing to stop while on your way to the gym can be that one extra thing that dissuades going.

–(If possible) equip your car with the highest quality hands-free phone device possible so if you need to take calls on your way to or from the gym the environment is conducive. Also, keep an extra set of ear buds in the car just in case. Make the most of your gym commute by using the time to finish work or catch up with friends or family.

–If you go to the gym after work, prepare as much of your dinner as possible before you go to work in the morning. Many of us look forward to eating but not preparing. If you know your meal is ready save the 5-minute nuke it can help you enjoy your workout without the pang of having to prepare it after dealing with your commute home.

Some suggestions may seem silly or way too obsessive-compulsive but the point is to make lemonade out of a lemon by controlling as much of the process as possible. And remember, Sam I Am grew to like green eggs and ham. Maybe you will find your less-than-optimal gym hits the spot.

RELIABLE, DEPENDABLE MOTIVATION – YES!

A reminder that resilient exercise motivation it IS possible, whatever your level of fitness.

Achievement feeds exercise motivation, and Iron Footprint Fitness fuels your motivation to stick to and grow your routine by revealing all the ways you CAN achieve, and how to display all the ways you DO achieve.

A reminder this IS realistic, and that simple, even if counterintuitive because of having learned to define achievement so narrowly (and unrealistically) it’s a target nearly impossible to hit.

Iron Footprint Fitness transforms the meaning of physical activity success by introducing engagement as multi-dimensional, and revealing how it occurs across each dimension. Simply, we succeed when we complete our daily workout, do an activity new to us or in addition to our daily workout, or set a personal record in a physical activity event. Three different dimensions of engagement – three different ways to ‘collect’ achievement, then track it as your ‘Iron Footprint’.

The result is a dependable and reliable stream of achievement that dependably and reliably fuels your motivation.

Never can be a big word, but if you approach fitness as Iron Footprint your access to the strongest source of motivation will never goes away.

NEW GYM FOR 2014? START INVESTIGATING NOW: THE NEW GYM QUEST PART 1

If joining a new gym is on your new year’s resolution horizon NOW is the time to do your research, yes research. With the investigative prowess of NCIS, Elementary, Monk, or Dragnet, don’t leave any stone uncovered to make sure the gym fits you, NOT the other way around.

This is Part 1 of a two part series that focuses on helping you make sure your gym choice makes sense for you. Part 1 identifies some key features to consider if you are planning to join a new gym. Part 2 identifies coping strategies to use if your gym is not optimal, but the best available option.

Location – be absolutely certain the location is suitable to your geography and exercise habit, meaning it ought to be convenient to either your home or work, otherwise getting there takes on the dynamic of a special trip…that needs to be planned…that becomes one more thing that can act as a barrier since it means extra effort to execute.

Accessible parking – nothing less than complete accessibility is acceptable. Like the nuisance of a rock in your shoe that’s tolerable for a few steps but not more, any parking annoyance WILL become a problem. Don’t talk yourself out of or minimize any parking issue you detect.

Hours – you know you better than anyone else knows you. Obvious. But many people join new gyms thinking they will be able to adjust to the gym’s schedule. If the hours would mean a change to your routine be very honest about your readiness to adapt a new time routine. Any hesitancy doesn’t make you a bad person, rather one who knows thyself.

Classes – just as above, you know your exercise-self best. If you enjoy group fitness classes make sure the line-up, availability, and frequency is a match. True, a new slate means the chance to notch FitBUBBLES, but if the classes prioritize forms of dance aerobics and you prefer forms of boot camp you will come to resent what’s offered due to missing what you really enjoy.

Cardio equipment – is it what you do? Does the variety suite your interests? Is there enough variety for you to cross-train? Does it seem maintained, e.g., free of rust and/or undue dust/dirt? Is it all working? Is there on-sight repair staff? Does it face the TVs for convenient distraction (or have TVs on the consoles)?

Weight equipment – is it what you do? Is there a full spectrum of free weights (dumbbells, barbells)? How many are there of the most commonly used dumbbell weights – 12lb, 15lb, and 50 lb? Are there enough weight benches? Are the weight benches in decent shape, e.g., free of tape that covers tears in the vinyl covering? Are the weight machines working?

Overall set-up and maintenance – is the set-up orderly or does it seem haphazardly organized? Is the environment clean or neglected? The former of both indicate solid, consistent management that understands how a gym is set-up determines the users’ experience. There IS rhyme and reason to equipment placement, which any reputable manager understands. Related, gym cleanliness is determined by how the process is managed, thus is a direct reflection of the manager’s competency. Neglected cleanliness is a sure sign of managerial neglect to other aspects of the gym operation.

Ambiance – are there convenient distractions in the environment, e.g., TV/ piped in music? Is the front desk staff friendly, attentive? Is there a trainer-identifier area that displays their focus/philosophy/credentials?

If the environment passes your muster, the next step is to give it a test drive.

Request a free pass—at least 3 days—then go the consecutive days to experience the realities. Obviously, nothing compares to living amidst what you would be getting yourself into, re: crowds, equipment availability, locker room environment, parking, commute from home or work, group class quality, etc. If your request is denied, well sadly for them your credit card doesn’t leave your wallet.

Hopefully after your test drive you RUN to the sales manager and lock yourself into a long-term membership deal and the rest, they say, will be history, or as we say just one ‘Footprint notch after another…

Part 2 will offer strategies to deal with a gym that’s less-than-optimal. Like the seamstress who deconstructs a garment into a tailor-made fit, there CAN be resolution to a challenging gym arrangement.

‘EASY’ FITNESS

Semantics, how words are interpreted, can sometimes get the best of us. Just the other day one of my students blamed missing an assignment due date on the semantics of ‘misinterpreting the date listed on the syllabus and the tone of how it was listed’. Hmm, I suppose I ought to applaud his creative, unique attempt at an excuse but there isn’t much interpretive wriggle room in ‘5pm December 16, 2013,’ so, ah, NO.

Maybe describing fitness as ‘easy’ is innocent semantics or just an example of its close relative – a figure of speech? Ah, NO. And no points for trying to make a creative excuse for misinterpretation.

Fitness isn’t easy. Easy implies no effort is required and any applied can be from a disconnected perspective – I can do it in my sleep without trying, and I don’t even have to think about it. Ah, NO. Fitness requires effort, both planning and execution.

Nor is fitness easy as in cavalier or whimsical. This implies that a lack of purpose is ok. Ah, NO. A ‘just’ approach is superficial, which might just result in benefit. Any activity is better than no activity, but that done needs purpose and intention.

‘Easy’ fitness also implies we aren’t capable of dealing with the reality that activity can be temporarily uncomfortable. Really! (Safe) exertion is a good thing and we are strong enough (literally and figuratively) to handle the discomfort.

Semantics and figures of speech belong in our language as creative iterations of words/phrases that help us communicate, but creative license is one thing and accuracy is another. It’s not fair to fitness or the gym to misrepresent fitness, mostly, it’s not fair to you because fitness depicted as ‘easy’ is the ultimate motivation killer. Easy is as easy does means underachievement, which sets us up for disappointment then kissing our easy routine goodbye.

If ‘easy’ actually means convenient, accessible, and barrier-free, well these are acceptable interpretations. My student turned in his work one day late but interpreted that acceptable according to different country’s time zone. Whatever, I gave him that one.

PERMISSION TO ACHIEVE, ONCE AND FOR ALL

Just because you juggle the gym with work, family, and untold other variables that slam your schedule doesn’t mean you are a second-class engager. Nor should you concede your own activity due to some creepy comparison-based pecking order.

You have as much right to: the weight machine as one who uses more weight… the good treadmill as one who goes faster… the more convenient locker as one who is there more often… mat space as one more flexible… group class space as one who attends every class

And

Achievement as one more fit.

Even if the gym is ONE of your commitments doesn’t mean it’s any less important for you compared to someone else who has more time to spend. Don’t concede your achievement, nor ever consider it gratuitous. After all, for all of us on any given day there is going to be someone who is stronger, or faster, or more flexible, or more whatever — even more reason that on any given day, rather everyday, we make it about us, and leave comparisons for toilet paper softness.

Dear Self,
I have permission to use each piece of gym equipment just as anyone else. Most important, I have permission to achieve at the gym just as anyone else.
Sincerely,
Self

HERBS, ENZYMES…AND APPS?

Yesterday I watched a trainer use an App to determine what a client should take to help lose the final 5 pounds toward their target weight.

Backstory, gym behavior being public, I was on a cardio machine next to the client so couldn’t help but witness the story unfold. The client complained about not being able to lose the final pounds even with ‘strict dieting and doing everything right’ so pleaded with the trainer to help. The trainer obliged by using their phone to access a nutritional App that identified weight-loss aids. Then, reading off the screen, advised the client to take an herb supplement and digestive enzymes. The identified herb is presumed to be safe, but isn’t known to offer benefit other than to promote regularity. As for digestive enzymes, well, there are different types, but the trainer just said (or should I say read) ‘buy digestive enzymes, then take one pill after each meal.’ Enzymes can help mitigate specific digestive issues but similar to the suggested herb, promote, you got it, regularity for those with otherwise normal function.

The client had a noticeable spring in their step with the advice – which I couldn’t help but wonder how long would last once the digestive effect of the herb AND the enzymes took hold…

I also couldn’t help but think how (likely) unnecessary the conversation would have been had the trainer been instructing the client to engage in cardio at more than leisurely intensity during their sessions. Again gathered from public gym behavior, the client’s cardio protocol was to walk on the level treadmill for 15 minutes at 2.5 mph. Because the client was able to hold a normal conversation with the trainer during the stroll with NO noticeable respiration change it can be concluded that exertion was low-moderate at best, most likely low. And from the conversation itself the client made it clear this was the only cardio activity engaged in.

Any activity is better than no activity, but more benefit is gained with intensity that is at least moderate, including weight loss. From this perspective, it’s not difficult to figure out why the client hit a weight loss plateau. That point aside, as well as steering clear of addressing the trainer’s lack of professional capacity, the point here is a cautionary tale about our increasing reliance on Apps to fix things or source answers, and do it NOW!, especially related to wellness/physical activity.

For some things, Apps are great – I sure don’t miss standing in line at the bank or writing checks to pay bills – and with technology continuously evolving it may seem there will be one for everything, EXCEPT to induce the magical benefit of physical activity engagement. Cheers for any App that helps sustain regular, achievement-oriented physical activity, but realize the finite limitation. You are going to have to breathe hard all on your own.

THE HOLIDAY SEASON EXERCISE BEAT-BACK

Warning: the holidays can be hazardous to your health.

Every holiday card, store entrance, and advertisement should be required to carry the warning. The obvious is for overindulging in the season’s trappings – food, drink, parties, and to-do lists. But the real hazard is when the season’s overindulgence is mixed with its under-indulgence – exercise.

The malls are packed, parking lots are impassible much less accommodating, holiday parties and other seasonal events cause the traffic to be different, the kids are restless with break approaching, and we are restless with unfinished shopping or upcoming travel…

Life is moving at warp speed and people are everywhere! – but the gym.

You are not alone if your exercise routine seems to have fallen into the hands of some maniacal meanie whose sole intent is to mess up the good thing you had going until the clock struck midnight on October 31 signaling the start of ‘the season.’

Irregular attendance makes the gym seem foreign when you are there, not to mention you might wonder if it IS your gym since adjusted schedules mean a different crowd than usual – it’s so annoying when someone is on your machine that the regulars know is your machine!

As for overindulgence – well, it’s silly and unrealistic to pretend abstinence, but moderation isn’t a bad thing. And for under-indulgence, try the following to beat-back the seasonal hazards to exercise and create better balance between the over and the under:

—Try a new group fitness class – or the same class at a different time with a different instructor
—Add new songs to your Ipod
—Sign up for an organized event that occurs soon after January 1 – but of a kind/distance that you don’t need more than approximately 4 weeks to prepare for. If the longest you can run today is 5 miles it’s unrealistic to build to a full marathon in 4 weeks, but spot on to find a 10K event. Create a training plan that begins today.
—Use the ‘Anytime-Anywhere-Anyhow’ approach to daily activity. If a holiday party is scheduled the same time as your usual fitness class and you can’t attend another, walk at lunch, or while your child is at their sport practice. Keep suitable walking shoes readily available, whether to use at work or in-between errands, etc.
—Establish a FitBASE workout award for yourself redeemable after January 1, e.g., you get to buy new sportswear if you complete 4 FitBASE workouts a week between now and January 1.
—Complete one new FitBEST event trial each week until January 1.
—Take advantage of extended hours and shop after going to the gym

I know, easy to say, blah, blah, blah. But, ‘the season’ doesn’t have to be at the mercy of overindulgence. The more you sustain your exercise routine the more you will enjoy all it’s sights, sounds, smells and tastes; and be the bigger person in the parking lot able to calmly extend peace, joy, and good will to fellow man as you scramble for the last open spot…

Need something more concrete – hang your swimsuit where you can’t ignore it.