Thursday, April 27, 2006

I'm Too Cool For My Nikes.

I joined a gym today.

This is the first time in my life that I have paid to workout in a was difficult to sign that contract. I have taught thousands of fitness and kickboxing classes and have always had the perk of a free gym membership. Doing this was like throwing in the towel and giving up.

I waited and wanted to continue my classes here, but have yet to be accepted by the Austrian government as competent to stay in the country. Yes, I am married to an Austrian, so that should secure me a visa, but they want to know that I am not a criminal. So I have been dealing with bureaucracy for the last 8 months. I STILL don't have a visa.

I just got tired of waiting and working out at home. I have a Total Gym and some odds and ends in the free weights department. Enough is enough. With the warmer temperatures, bikini season is soon upon us, and with that thought, I ran in that gym waving my credit card and pen.

So I'm in. It has been 8 months since I worked out at a gym and it was really nice to just be out of the house and not have the threat of my 2 year old walking under my squat. Plus he doesn't like the upbeat music selection that I like to play at high volume. And I just don't get pumped up by the Baby Mozart soundtrack.

No more endless downtime while I change the dumbbells to increase the weight. Just kilometers (metric land here) of dumbbells. What I had forgotten about the "gym scene" is that it is kind of gross. Sweaty, stinky, and a germ haven. But I am willing to forgive all that because there is a serious squat rack.

But there are some disturbing things going on here in Austria. The first thing that comes to mind is the smoking in the lounge area. Indoors, people. Right there in the gym. So there is this smoky kind of undertone to the place. Like working out in a pool hall. Not to mention that it is just plain weird to see some guy all pumped up sitting at a table, puffing and drinking his low-carb fat burner.

I also don't get the flip-flops in the gym thing. I even mentioned it to the manager because it was just so weird to me, and his answer was only the muscle-heads do it because they aren't on the cardio machines! Have you seen someone squat 250 with flip-flops on?! Plus I just don't want to look at these guys' feet...sorry.

Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled and excited to be there! Perhaps I will embrace the flip-flops one day -- but forget about the smoking! Never.

America's Heart Health Report Card

Just read something worth repeating. The National Institutes of Health reports that only 3 percent of Americans practice what they call the "big Four" habits to prevent heart disease. You read that right: only three percent!

I'm always suspicious of statistics, but even if they were fudging a little to make a point, you and I know there's a big problem, on average, with America's health habits.

For the record, the NIH's "big four" health practices for preventive maintenance are:

1. Healthy diet
2. Regular physical activity
3. Proper weight
4. Don't smoke

Bet you could have guessed those. Pretty basic.

Click here to read more.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Heart Attack City

Apparently, our good "friends" at McDonald's and KFC are more generous with their trans fats in the U.S. than in some other nations. As the saying goes, "With 'friends' like these, who needs enemies?" Check it out here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Challenge

To All BFL'ers ( in lieu of your cardio day) and Fitness Folks:
I have a challenge!

All you will need is a deck of cards and a watch to make a note of your start and finish time. The goal is to do this as quickly as possible. I can usually knock it out in 20 minutes. Take the deck of cards, assign each face an exercise. I use:

Spades- burpees* (see below)
Clubs- push-ups
Hearts -sit-ups
Diamonds - alternating lunges

Shuffle the deck, flip each card and do the exercise according to face. The number of reps is the number on the card. I do 10 reps for the "royalty" cards. For example:
Jack of Clubs= 10 push-ups.
2 of hearts= 2 sit-ups
Set the clock and keep moving.

*Burpees are also not for the faint of heart. They look somewhat easy but use almost every muscle in the body and get the heart rate up there.

Begin in a squat position with hands on the floor in front of you
Kick your feet back to a pushup position
Immediately return your feet to the squat position
Leap up as high as possible from the squat position
Repeat, moving as fast as possible (for a live demo)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Another Diet Pill Warning

Anyone who visits my web site or reads the newsletter knows my opinion when it comes to diet pills: Unless you are under a doctor's care, don't mess around with them.

Most diet pills are worthless and some are dangerous. The only 100-percent safe way that I know of to normalize bodyweight is with portion control eating and a balanced menu of foods. Click here for a recent report on yet another highly suspicious diet pill.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Ode to Body For Life

First off, I love Body For Life. I love looking at the champions. I read the book, watched the videos, and pondered Bill's sexuality with my goofy friends. Seriously folks, the guy was walking around NYC in his underwear! Where I come from (San Francisco), the men that do that are batting for the other team.

I am all over the Body For Life Tracker and I have seen serious living proof that is works. My stepmother, shown here, made this incredible transformation. I know it works. I love the blogs written by those of you in the trenches. But the truth is I have never done Body For Life. I am not even sure why, because I know it's a great program, I know it works, and everyone is doing it, so there is lots of support.

But let's get down to business. I don't do Body For Life because:

1) The workouts are boring. Yes, I have done them with friends and I will be honest here...I find weight lifting pretty boring. I like more dynamic workouts. I like to mix it up with plyometrics or sports. I need diversity and consistent change. I will lift weights, but my schedule is more random than BFL.

2) I have food original! I have weird reactions to high protein diets. I have experimented enough to know how my body works and these eating plans (ahem...diets...oh god, did I just write diet?...slap me) with more than 30% protein start giving me problems. Long story, so I just don't do it.

3) OK, this one might get me in trouble, but it seems that it's not really Body For Life. Most people go off this plan and then start it over and over. I'm not perfect either. I also will follow a program for a set amount of time, knowing it will end and I can then look forward to returning to my normal eating patterns.

4) I'm a rebel at heart. Becoming more mature, and the big one, having two small children puts the kibosh on most of my swimming upstream tendencies. But I can refuse to jump on the bandwagon of BFL. I know, childish and stubborn... but to know me is to love me.

That about sums it up. Perhaps one day I will get over it and join the party. I am feeling kind of directionless. God knows, and so does Bill Phillips, that BFL is a solid strategy! And the Free Day...let's not forget the Free Day!!!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Running: There is Good News and Bad News

Many people I've talked to suspect that too much long distance running may cause arthritis in knee and hip joints. I have wondered about it, too.

Both my daughter and I have taught exercise classes in health clubs and have talked about the high number of distance runners we've met in our classes with knee, back or hip problems. We both think that overuse injuries may be more common among long distance runners than most other exercisers.

However, dedicated runners and joggers may be pleased to know that somebody with an M.D. after his name, an orthopedic surgeon to be exact (Nicholas DiNubile, M.D.), says that running does not cause arthritis. On the other hand, he says if you have arthritic knees or hips -- running will make things worse.

I used to be a distance runner myself, although never a very fast one. I enjoyed it and ran distances up to 15 miles. Yet, it seemed to me that too many runner acquaintances developed chronic joint aches and pains. So I naturally wondered if all those miles and prolonged pounding on their joints was the cause.

I can't be sure, either way. But I have to assume the doctor’s statements about running are based on scientific study, while my thoughts represent only my limited personal observations and a "gut feeling" about it. Yet this much I know: Running is a high impact activity generating forces five to seven times body weight on your knees and hips. So it is perfectly reasonable to ask, can this be beneficial after one reaches the age of 50, 60, 70 or more?

Personally, I rarely run for long distances anymore, so you know what I think. For cardio these days, I hike, a lot of it uphill, and do occasional sprints. If the weather is really bad, I'll go to the gym and hop on a treadmill or recumbent bike. Usually, I'll do sprint intervals, and I rarely stay on any apparatus over 25 minutes, and that includes my warm-up and cool down. I do not have arthritis; but my intuition tells me that the endless pace and pounding of long slow distance running is not such a good thing to do at my age.

My running friends probably disagree with me and would tell about somebody 80 years old or more still doing marathons. I wouldn't doubt them, and to each his own. If distance running or jogging is enjoyable and you have no arthritic problems, I say, fine. Go ahead and do it. But anyone experiencing chronic joint aches and pains should consider what the orthopedic doctor said: running will make arthritic knees or hips worse. If you are having chronic joint pain, find out if arthritis is the reason for it. If it is, switch to aerobic options that will not aggravate your condition.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Two Choices

The following came in my e-mail.

"Subject: Two Choices

"What would you do? You make the choice! Don't look for a punch line; There isn't one! Read it anyway. My question to all of you is: Would you have made the same choice?

"At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning disabled children,the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:

"'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection . Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?'

"The audience was stilled by the query.

"The father continued. 'I believe,that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes, in the way other people treat that child.' Then he told the following story:

"Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

"Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked if Shay could play, not expecting much. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'

"Shay struggled over to the team's bench put on a team shirt with a broad smile and his Father had a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the pot ential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

"At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible 'cause Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

"However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing the other team putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least be able to make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

"The game would now be over, but the pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

"Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the head of the first baseman, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first! Run to first!' Never in his life had Shay ever ran that far but made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

"Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!'

"Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to second base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball, the smallest guy on their team, who had a chance to be the hero for his team for the first time. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions and he too intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

"All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay!'

"Shay reached third base, the opposing shortstop ran to help him and turned him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third! Shay, run to third.' As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams and those watching were on their feet were screaming, 'Shay, run home!' Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the 'grand slam' and won the game for his team.

"That day, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world.

"Shay didn't make it to another summer and died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

"AND, NOW A LITTLE FOOTNOTE TO THIS STORY: We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people think twice about sharing. The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

"If you're thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you're probably sorting out the people on your address list that aren't the 'appropriate' ones to receive this type of message. Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference. We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the 'natural order of things.' So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up that opportunity to brighten the day of those with us the least able, and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

"A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it's least fortunate amongst them.

"You now have two choices:
1. Delete
2. Forward
May your day, be a Shay Day, sunny today and tomorrow."

Monday, April 03, 2006

Flab to Fab

One of my BEST friends in the whole world is Rebecca. She is 45 years old and has 3 children. When I met Rebecca it was the summer of 1989. I remember her brilliant green eyes and an enviable 6 pack abs! Well, 3 kids and some rocky roads in her marriage packed on the pounds. When I left California 8 months ago, Rebecca was over 200 pounds. She had done Body-For-Life, Atkins, Carb Addicts and I don't know what else. She had some results but the weight would always return. LOOK at her now! She has lost 70+ pounds and had gone from a size 16 to 4 in 6 months! I would not have believed it myself until I saw her just 3 weeks ago. In a word, AMAZING!
How did she do it? Food Addicts Anonymous. I won't pretend to know how this program works, except to say that there is no sugar (that includes alcohol) and no wheat. It is very disciplined, a 12 step program, sponsors and meetings. She is happy with this eating plan, feels satiated, gets lots of support and is a size 4!!!!
Here's to you Rebecca. I love go Girl!!!!