FRIDAY FOOTPRINT FLASH – The ABC’s of March Madness

Whether avid fan or fair-weather spectator you are likely aware that we are smack dab in the middle of ‘March Madness,’ the annual three-week long tournament to crown the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball champions.

For parts of these three weeks, many of us rearrange our lives to accommodate game schedules. We (literally) ‘take a break from our regularly scheduled program’ (broadly considered), not to mention rescheduling meetings, etc. if not calling in ‘sick’ altogether. Good luck to the spouses or significant others who don’t follow the tournament. I guess it’s see you after it’s over.

That anything could captivate and hold our attention for more than 10-minutes these days is an anomaly, much less for three weeks. The phenomenon of the tournament is matched only by the phenomenon of viewership, yet for all its complexity, the reason for the madness seems as simple as ABC…

Accessibility – from the philosophy of ‘build it and they will come,’ it’s been built and we show up! With multiple platforms airing the spectacle, not only can each possession of action be seen, but also on the screen that best suits your needs, from smartphones to mounted TVs. Add to that the scads of print media that offer analysis and analysis of the analysis, well, let’s just say the coverage is comprehensive.

Brackets – an estimated 60 million of us fill out a tournament bracket. Some study all season long and use advanced predictive metrics to carefully select each game’s winner. Others play according to the seeding numbers, others yet by the uniform style. Whatever your strategy, filling out a bracket means you have a personal stake in each game. This isn’t just A tournament but MY tournament, as proven by the paper brackets that get tattered from so much handling or cell batteries drained from checking our electronic ones.

Compelling human interest – mix player and coach personalities, the unpredictability of teams that underwhelm and overwhelm, and the pageantry and spectacle of big-time sports and you have a diversion that sustains, not just draws attention. We hope for the underdogs while at the same time cheering the feats of the favorites. And having so much company watching the same drama unfold, we have common ground to connect with others.

For these three weeks, basketball is the conduit of the utmost in humanness – hopes/dreams/agony/ecstasy/conflict/resolution. That we can access others experiencing it, great, but better yet, work on your jump shot and find a league to play in. Or, if not basketball, softball, bowling or whatever else strikes your fancy. After all, capturing your fitness attention is as simple as ABC.

DON’T FORGET THE FUNCTION OF FUNCTIONAL FITNESS

If your gym follows trending fitness then no doubt it offers some rendition of ‘functional fitness.’ Whereas traditional strength training isolates muscle groups to induce strength, endurance, size or power gains (think barbell bench press), functional fitness is all about integration. It teaches muscle groups to work together, and the exercises almost always engage the core (think dumbbell shoulder press while standing one-legged on a Bosu ball).

Functional fitness is all about intra-muscular communication, especially because in traditional routines the upper body rarely connects with the lower body, and besides the antagonists talking to the agonists, other chatter is limited. Biceps day is biceps day, and any benefit to other muscles is (typically) incidental.

Functional fitness developed as a response to the seemingly improbable scenario of being able to bench press more than your body weight yet struggle to complete a benign task like putting an infant in a car seat. Physical activity professionals recognized that everyday movement was not isolative, thus overloading differently could optimize physical quality of life.

Fast-forward to now, and common to the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ dynamics that stir from lifestyle trends, functional fitness is the favored child while traditional strength training has been relegated to the dusty back rooms of gyms.

No doubt, the features of functional fitness make a significant contribution to wellness, cognitive as well as physical since control, synergy, and balance all stimulate different brain function than traditional strength training. But the all-or-nothing, or either-or stance is an ironic disservice to the very thing functional fitness touts – balance.

Like any approach to fitness, take care to engage in ALL of what we know to foster optimum wellness – cardiovascular exercise in its appropriate training zone, strength training to induce gains of strength, power and/or endurance, and stretching to sustain joint range of motion.
Mixing traditional and contemporary might be the ultimate in functional fitness since good old-fashioned strength, mass, and power training is beneficial just as that which induces synergy, balance, and integration.

Yep, and its ok to wear stripes with solids!

FRIDAY FOOTPRINT FLASH – Kids WILL use ‘active transport’ when it’s available!

Even though kids are far less physically active than previous generations, it’s important to realize its value is not lost on them. So, it’s not surprising that when schools increase access to different modes of ‘active transportation’ they take advantage of the opportunity.

Quick poll any group of third graders and they will recite the importance of exercise and a basic understanding of what to do to ensure wellness, only to be confounded about where and how they can do it, especially those in urban environments already plagued with disproportionate rates of obesity and underactivity.

Enter the Safe Route To School initiative that increases active travel to school by financing access features such as crossing guards, bike racks and sidewalks. More elementary schools than ever are participating and student active travel to school is 60 percent higher at participating than non-participating schools. At participating schools, over 1/3 of students walked or biked to school, a rate administrators contend will improve.

Kids themselves know the importance of exercise and can be the first to express frustration about barriers that prevent engagement. Safe Route to School shows kids WILL be active with access provided.

Source – Bridging the Gap, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s research arm

1-REPETITION MAXIMUM LIFTS – TREND THEM BACK

Remember when it WAS pc to talk about your maximum bench press or squat? Ah, the good ‘ole days! Today, the topic brings puzzlement or disgust, from either unfamiliarity or fear you will next strip down to your circa 1980 coaching shorts or leg warmers.

In contemporary fitness, the 1-repetition maximum lift (1-rm) faces extinction given the creation of various iterations of circuit training, and the evolution of weight machines that push free weights to the nether regions of the gym, rendering them prehistoric, almost museum-like in their (dusty) display.

1-rm’s, where it’s you versus a bar loaded with as much iron as a muscle group can successfully push or pull one time, are strength metrics. They are the epitome of isolated, one-dimensional down/up or up/down moves that make contemporary fitness-ists cringe, for there is nothing functional, integrated, or core about them.

Here though is a reminder of how valuable, powerful, if you will, 1-rm’s are to your exercise program, both for their contribution to your overall fitness and impact they have on your motivation.

Muscular development requires tasking your muscles with work that exceeds normal capacity. Called overload, muscles respond by calling in reinforcements to get the job done which results in enhanced fibers, meaning strength or endurance increases. Just as there are different types of strength training routines, there are also different types of overload. Adding 1-rm’s to your routine is a different type of overload than what your routine elicits. Different is good for how it stimulates a unique muscular response that leads to strength, endurance and/or power gains that otherwise wouldn’t be tapped.

1-rm’s gift to motivation lies in the simple objectivity of tracking strength gains. Last month’s 100lb bench press pales compared to this month’s 120lb bench press. Not only do we benefit from this aspect of improved fitness, our motivation strengthens from realizing the achievement.

1-rm’s may be down with contemporary fitness trending away from them, but never count them out. Let the old become new again for they can make a serious contribution to your fitness and exercise motivation.

SHOUT OUT TO ANYTIME FITNESS

Anytime Fitness doesn’t need me to toot its horn, but after using one of its clubs for the first time I’m tooting, loudly. At face value it’s a gym like any other. A hodgepodge of cardio and weight equipment, and clientele equally as diverse, some uber-fit, others new to fitness but realizing the magic unique to a 20-minute treadmill walk.

Deeper than face value is the primary pillar of its operating philosophy – members have 24/7/365 access to the club. 2am – yep. Holidays – yep. Anytime is your time to work on your Iron Footprint at Anytime!

To that, safety appears to be priority one, especially/obviously for patrons working out alone when the rest of us are sleeping. I imagine it’s the same across all clubs, but notices are posted to NOT open the door for anyone, and lanyards with an alert sensor are provided so members can summon help in an emergency.

Since I wasn’t part of the business development team I can only speculate about the model’s premise, but three messages about the approach stick out to me:

–We trust you (members) to use the facility safely and respectfully
–Fitness is so important we will eliminate the barrier of scheduled access
–Fitness is about you, not about us

Thanks, Anytime, for trusting me, eliminating the number one barrier to engagement, and sagely realizing you are a true conduit to my relationship with fitness, but not its definition.

FRIDAY FOOTPRINT FLASH – The Lets Move initiative is working!

FRIDAY FOOTPRINT FLASH – The Lets Move initiative is working!

Mrs. Obama recently marked the 4th anniversary of her (ongoing) Lets Move initiative. Concurrently, data revealed drastic improvement to the obesity rate of our nation’s 3-5 year olds.

While each is a win—sustained commitment to the mission and the improved health of millions of our youngest citizens—it shouldn’t be lost how the age-group demographic correlates to the length of time the White House has forefronted the initiative.

Today’s 3-5 year olds and Lets Move share the same birth year. Their world has been healthier than generations past thanks to coordinated, multi-platformed, country-wide canvassing about physical activity and nutrition, and improved access to quality activity offerings and healthy food.

The result speaks for itself, which isn’t necessarily surprising since wellness-spectrum professionals regard energy balance as key to healthy weight management. Complicating factors notwithstanding, balancing the IN by the OUT makes for a happy scale–even for the youngest among us.

A significant take-away of the good news is the physical activity of toddlers/pre-schoolers is captured perfectly by the initiative’s moniker. It’s Lets Move as much and whenever possible until directed by mom/dad/caregiver/teacher to let’s stop moving and sit down.

Lets Move is proving to be brilliant for its result and its simple directive. Take a page out of the playbook (literally) of the youngest among us and in the name of Lets Move, JUST MOVE! today, tomorrow, and lots of tomorrows thereafter.

FAMILY FOOTPRINT

Parents are THE strongest influences on a child’s physical activity habit. Whether playing catch, transporting to sport practice, or consistently messaging positive messages about activity engagement and offering encouragement, parents largely determine what activity is done, when it’s done and for how long—patterns that tend to follow across the life-span.

Hey, this is great news! With life hitting kids at warp speed these days, it’s comforting to know parents can be THE ones to influence/shape their attitudes, values and behavior about something!

So to help, Iron Footprint Fitness introduces an extension to optimize your family’s activity engagement – track your Family Footprint!

Just as your own Iron Footprint, chart your Family Footprint according FitBase, FitBests and FitBubbles. Here are some ideas to help you get started. Old-fashioned pen and paper is perfect for tracking. Display the chart where all family members can see it the most often.

Family FitBase – chart each member’s daily workout completion. Keep in mind that for kids, this means accumulating 60-minutes of moderate to vigorous activity. See how many consecutive days each member completes his/her routine.

Family FitBests – commit at least one day a week to trial an activity event to determine your family performance benchmarks. These can be strength (body weight exercises, e.g., total push-ups/sit-ups) skill (e.g., total made free throws), or cardio-related events (e.g., the time it takes to walk around the block). Take care to trial events that are developmentally appropriate for everyone!

Family FitBubble – chart all the different physical activities have you done together as a family (e.g., swimming, tennis, golf). Commit at least one day a month to trying something new. Don’t chart the collection of what each member has done separately, rather, what you have done as a unit.

These examples are just to get you started since once you begin you will find yourself, or the kids, coming up with more ideas. True to Iron Footprint, take time every month or so to celebrate your achievement. As time goes by invite other families to join the fun. Just think, approaching fitness from the Family Footprint perspective could help to improve the wellness of families across the globe…

MARCH – WINTER’S HUMP-MONTH

If you live in a snowy climate—this year who doesn’t!—March 1 is sort of like winter’s hump-month. Ever so slightly (especially since yet another widespread snow dump is in the forecast) the anticipation starts to grow about resuming outside workouts. Of course, some just ignore the elements, but many more prefer the forced heat comfort and stable footing of the great indoors—until right about now when with help from spring training being in full swing and the professional golf tours broadcasting from 80-degree courses, the outside itch starts to creep in.

Best of all, daylight savings just a day away – literally a light at the end of the tunnel!

Ride the March adrenaline uptick and allow yourself to get excited about the great outdoors again. But while you are at it, take the time to think about how you are going to re-purpose your snow shoveling time. Train for a distance running/cycling race? Recommit to tennis/golf? Get to the batting cage and join a softball team?

It’s pedestrian to mark the shift as the end of hibernation, but with the epic winter so many have endured it seems appropriate. A quick review, that bright thing in the sky is the sun and that green stuff under your feet is grass.

FRIDAY FOOTPRINT FLASH: Now this is more like it!

My post yesterday railed on the pathetic, blatant, ANTI-health promoting messaging I witnessed a teacher direct to her students on a playground. Thankfully, today we are back on the sunny side of the street, for it is with great enthusiasm I report recent research that shows unquestioned evidence that school-aged kids can be motivated to engage in physical activity by any adult who takes the time to offer encouragement, regardless of the adult’s own level of fitness or skill proficiency.

In the study, self-identified low fit and low skilled adults charged with supervising recess at a cluster of elementary schools were recognized by the kids as the one’s most influential in getting them to play every day. This proves what many of us have known anecdotally, that to kids, an adult doesn’t need to be an accomplished athlete or uber-fit to inspire them to be active. An adult simply needs to offer encouragement!

It also should dispel any anxiety adults have about their ‘qualification’ to inspire/motivate engagement, particularly if they perceive themselves (or are) low-fit or low-skilled. Kids DO respond to encouragement to play even when it’s from someone who may lack the skill to do the same.

While recess on a school playground is a nearly failsafe, barrier-free, ‘automatic’, activity environment, actual engagement can’t be taken for granted since millions of kids across the country don’t get the daily minimum of 60 minutes.

Find the chance to make a difference, today.

AND WE WONDER WHY SO MANY KIDS ARE UNDER-ACTIVE…

While on a school playground yesterday, I watched a 5th grade teacher set the physical activity advocacy movement back to its dark age.

After making it abundantly clear the playground was the last place she wanted to be and kickball the last thing she wanted to be dealing with—It was too hot (actually, a perfect high 70s), too dirty (just swept), too boring (fun), a waste of time (ah, no)…—the abysmal start deteriorated. Seeing she wasn’t worth any guidance, a couple of the kids began to divide teams. Nice!, I thought, except she couldn’t leave that alone and redistributed them—a total ‘in your face’ to the students. Then, she umpired the game from her chair under a tree a field’s length away from the class. Hmm, interesting. No surprise, her calls were grossly mis-judged and not according to the rules. When the kids respectfully explained the correct rules, they were admonished to ‘Sit Down And Think About It.’

Confused, perplexed, yet compliant, the kids took their seat. I could only guess what they were Thinking About. The game turned into five kids kicking the ball amongst themselves because in but a few minutes because everyone else was sitting along the sideline ‘Thinking About It’! Thankfully, the bell finally rang and the kids fled.

And we wonder why so many are under-active…