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Fitness: One small step… February 2, 2010

Posted by oktyabr in books, health, personal, television, video.
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Loose weight and build strength and endurance with only 15 minutes a day… sitting in front of your computer?  Ok, maybe it isn’t that easy…  BUT it’s a place to start!  Taking that first, small step is the key!

First off let me say the usual disclaimer that I am NOT a doctor, nutritionist, therapist, or any sort of fitness expert.  In fact I am quite possibly the wrong person to be taking advice on such topics from; I smoke, I drink, I don’t eat a balanced diet and I sure don’t get enough exercise… so there you go.  YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)!!!

Like many things in my 40+ years of life “fitness” is one that I’ve delved into… or at least made the attempt to delve into on more than one occasion.  It would be easy for me (probably MUCH easier) to write a long winded several thousand word post on this topic but I’m trying to cut back!  So I’ll nail the points quickly…  and yes, for those who were suckered into reading this by the first sentence…  that’s no lie!  I’ll go there too 😉  These aren’t tips I learned watching some “get ripped in 30 days” DVD or a book… these are just tips that I *know* from my personal experience matter:

1) Drink lots of water! My brother, an experienced wilderness EMT, once told me that “Most people go through their entire lives in a state of dehydration.”  In other words, we don’t typically drink enough water.  I don’t remember or take to heart everything my brother tells me but that one has stuck around for more than a few years… must be true?  Googling “daily water intake” will provide thousands of results, literally, but here is a good one I found on www.myfooddiary.com that has a basic formula to follow as a rule of thumb:  0.5 ounces x Body Weight in Pounds = Daily Fluid Requirement in ounces

That means that if you weigh 140lbs you need a daily intake of 70 ounces of fluid!  Of course there are many variables here to consider too… that’s why it’s called a rule of thumb!  Fresh fruit contains a lot of water… an orange is something like 80% water so what you eat will adjust that number too.  Things like coffee or caffeine loaded sodas (and energy drinks!) can actually work against you as caffeine is a well known diuretic which will make you pee a lot, perhaps dehydrating you even more!  Finally if you work outdoors or in hot enviroment (or even a cold one) and you are doing hard, physical labor your daily fluid requirements may be MUCH higher!  Water is essential to the well being and maintenence of every single function in the human body from your blood to your brain… you NEED water!

2) Try to eat right! Very few of us have the time, finances or stomach to eat what might be recommended by the experts so you won’t find any food pyramid here.  Just try to  think about your choices before you make them.  Do you need to supersize that fast food meal just because it only costs another 20 cents?  Pop tarts for breakfast or how about a piece of fruit?  A nice dinner salad once in awhile?  Splurge a bit and try fresh vegetables over canned or frozen.  How about microwaving or steaming those veggies instead of boiling the vitamins out of them (it’s easy to over cook vegetables when boiling them.)

Another dietary tip is that many experts believe that many small meals during the day are far superior to one or two large ones.  Speaking from an evolutionary standpoint we are “creatures of opportunity” meaning that eating when and where we find it, usually in small portions, throughout the day is the way we are designed to live… as opposed to a large carnivore that might gorge itself in one sitting and then not eat anything for several days after.  I know those are two extremes but in reality eating small and often is better for your blood sugar levels… not doing so can be a factor in developing hypoglycemia and even diabetes!  And I think you will find that you just feel “better” in general too.  I know I do.

3) Exercise! Last but not least!  Like eating, it’s all about choices.  Climb that flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator.  Park further away from the store entrance and just be careful to make sure you don’t get hit!  Go for a an afternoon walk and get a bit of fresh air instead of watching an extra hour of TV…  if you are “metro” go find a park or a zoo to explore… maybe a museum!  If you are reader go wander around the local library for awhile… just make the choice to move.  That’s all there is to it.

Ok, I said you could build strength and endurance sitting in front of the computer and I meant it!  Here is my story:  One day I hit a particularly interesting looking yard sale and ended up buying a bunch more stuff I really didn’t need… One of those items was a hand dumbbell with maybe 25lbs of free weights on it.  It sat around in a corner of my “cave” for a few weeks until one day I decided to pick it up!  I had recently discovered a crazy little mini-series on youtube called The Guild… a couple dozen episodes maybe five minutes long each.  I treated myself to a couple of these each morning while I woke up with my first cup of coffee.  The morning I finally picked up that hand weight I decided to use it!  I would do slow, casual reps with each arm, sitting in my computer chair, while I watched youtube and I’d usually switch off hands between episodes.  I tried this a couple of mornings in a row and I guess I overdid it because my triceps were sore.  Every other day seemed to work much better.  After a couple of weeks of this I became conciously aware that the weights didn’t seem as heavy and that I was doing more reps each episode… without even thinking about it!  I’m considering doing some “leg lifts” too, maybe on the “off days”… just hold yourself to your computer chair by gripping the bottom of the seat on each side and then raise both legs out straight in front of you, lower them, repeat.

I know some of you have memberships to the gym and maybe even use them so this article really isn’t meant for you.  It’s meant for those, like me, who probably don’t exercise enough (or regularly enough).  The gym can come later (maybe)…  The important thing is to make the choice to improve your health and then take that first, small step.  A small step is important because it’s much easier to fit into our “usual” daily routines and thus less likely to be abandoned.  One, small step… and then another!

BONUS!  Want to know MY favorite work out of all time?  Something most of you can do in your own home with out any costly equipment?  For those of you that read all of the rest of this post, you EARNED IT!

Before I reveal it let me qualify this post by saying that while my doctor (my job requires a physical every other year… and I recommend YOU get a regular one too!) thinks I’m over weight I DO have experience with serious, physical exercise.  A little over a year ago my “every other day” routine included 20 minutes on the treadmill (or two miles, which ever came first) and a half hour in a real weight room, when I still lived in an apartment complex with a “free” fitness center.  Over the last decade and a half that I have been doing road construction as a living I have spent more than one summer “hopping hubs” (basically jogging along side a road grader… for MILES), shoveling gravel, dirt and hot asphalt, or cleaning up “finish grade” with a “lute” (a fancy rake).  I used to tell people that sometimes my “job” (I’m technically a truck driver) was like going to the gym for 8-10 hours a day and getting paid to do it!  I’ve also hung drywall for a living and logged, neither of which are exactly “easy” lines of work.  When I was younger I was moderately interested in the martial arts and took more than a few lessons…  What I am going to reveal next is, in my opinion, a far superior work out to any of those!  If done properly and persistantly it will increase your strength, endurance, muscle tone, and flexibility beyond just about anything else out there… and you can do it in your own home in just about an hour a day.

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What I am talking about is…  Yoga!  (I can hear some of you right now shouting “I knew it!!!”)  Yoga is most thought of, at least by non-practitioners, as being a way to increase your balance and flexibility… and it certainly does do that!  But the transitions from one pose to another can be done quickly, generating heat in the body core, and can actually provide a VERY good “cardio” workout that is sure to burn calories as well!  Done slowly, and “holding a pose”, will build strength and endurance in your entire body like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.  The same routines are suitable for beginners as well as those more advanced…  you will find the difficulty increases as does your skill and proficiency.

Yoga is something you can do just about anywhere you have enough room to extend your arms and legs and lie flat on your back.  There are gyms and such where you can take real yoga classes but these are NOT needed to get started!  Just some room and some guidance.  I might also recommend a yoga mat which is just something soft to lie on.  You can buy a real mat for right around $10 at any big store, and a towel, long enough for you to hold the ends while your feet press against it, legs extended, is also used in some poses and practices.  It comes in handy to wipe away the sweat too!  Don’t forget a big bottle of water either!

The guidance…  plenty of stuff out there… videos online, DVDs, books, blogs, websites and magazines you can explore but I’ll cut to the chase and tell you the one program that I use…  If your television provider carries the “Oxygen” network you might be able to catch a daily yoga show called “Inhale” by Steve Ross.  It usually comes on very early in the mornings so either set your alarm clock or your DVR (what I do).  This is hands down probably the best yoga instruction on television and Steve runs his show with a unique sense of humor and wisdom that sets his stuff apart even if you aren’t doing the exercise.  The practice is done to fun music too… but be careful not to turn it up too loud especially if it’s 4AM!  LOL!

For those of you without the Oxygen network you should really contact your television provider and demand that they add it!  Unfortunately, although one has been in the works for some time now, there is still no legal way to get Steve’s show on DVD.  Looking around the web some should find you some of his program to get you started though… even youtube has a few clips.  Steve (errr… Mr. Ross) also has an excellent book out that I can personally recommend…  Happy Yoga: 7 Reasons Why There’s Nothing to Worry About…  it won’t help you do the exercise but it’s certainly an inspiring and uplifting read.

While Steve’s show “Inhale” is my favorite there are, as previously mentioned, other yoga shows and DVDs too.  Anything is better than nothing and I highly recommend you try it, although if you can catch Steve’s show… DO IT!  You can thank me later!

When I first started watching “Inhale”… and doing my own yoga practice…  I took advantage of the commercial breaks to catch my breath, mop up the sweat, and drink a bunch of water.  His show consists of phases or steps; a warm up, the hard stuff, a cool down, and finally a few minutes of meditation (my favorite part!)  Then one day I thought I might just fast forward through the first commercial break!  After all, it doesn’t look like his students take a break when those commercials come on!  In fact I suspect that during that the show is recorded non-stop, from start to finish!  So… take a break when the commercials come on but when you think the “show” isn’t challenging you enough?  Try to go through the whole thing, fast forwarding through the commercials!  I *guarantee* you will know you just had a real workout!

Peace!

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