This blog goes with our fitness web site. The intention is to document my application of the principles we espouse at

Doug, my accomplice in publishing Fitness Tips Over 40—who's a little closer to 60 than 40—is blogging his progress as well.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Following the Steps: Never Give Up

When I was younger, a friend of mine decided to quit smoking. He did really well for a week or two, and then he had a miserable day at work.

He worked the overnight shift, and I worked day shift. When I came in, he looked miserable.

I asked him what was wrong, and he told me about his miserable night. "I couldn't do it," he said. "I went back to smoking."

"Really?" I replied. "How many cigarettes did you have?"

When he told me just one, I told him he hadn't gone back to smoking. He'd just had one cigarette. As long as I knew him, he never had another one.

Humans Aren't Perfect

You've probably heard, or realized on your own, that humans aren't perfect. They fall.

Humans aren't perfect at succeeding, but they're not perfect at failing, either.

To borrow alcoholic terms, if you fall off the wagon, fall back on. To borrow an idiomatic phrase, if at first you don't succeed, try and try again.

Those who succeed at fitness and diet are not those that never slip up. They are those that try and try again.

That's especially true if you're among the unmotivated that don't have much willpower. You have to try and try again.

What About Yo-Yo Dieting

I'm sure you've heard that yo-yo dieting is bad for you. I've even heard it said--though I've never seen or heard of it being verified in real life--that if you gain and lose weight regularly, it becomes harder and harder to lose weight.

I'm sure it's true that yo-yo dieting is bad for you.

I'm even more sure that being 50 or 100 pounds overweight is bad for you.

The question is, which is worse.

The answer? Remaining overweight.

Researchers and nutritionists harp against yo-yo dieting for a reason that doesn't apply to you or me. If you live your life eating however you want for a few months, then going on a low-fat, low-carb, no dessert, or some other fad diet that you have no intention of sticking to, that's not a good choice.

Researchers, nutrtionists, and I want you to find a diet and exercise plan that you can stick to forever.

But a central part of sticking to it forever is starting again when you quit.

Starting Again

Start again as quick as possible. If you miss a planned day of exercise, get back to it the next day. If you miss five days, get to it again on the 6th day. If you miss two weeks, make some adjustments for the fact that you've lost some of your fitness—which can be quickly made up—and get back to it on the 15th day.

Planning for Forever

I devote at least two pages (here and here) on our web site to helping you plan for forever.

You can't do without desserts for the rest of your life. At least, I doubt you can, and I don't recommend it. You can avoid eating like you're a horse (or a horse-sized human), and there are ways to make eating right easier.

Most people also can't stick to one exercise program forever. For most of us, it will be important to switch from one program to another (even if you're making your own) regularly. While you're doing that, remember the exercises you like, and add them to your personal repertoire. Programs that you have made yourself or adapted to your personality and schedule will keep you interested and committed longer.

More exercise tips here, but my main tip for today is: Fall back on the wagon! You didn't quit dieting, you just took a break for a day. You didn't quit exercising, you just took a week off to let your muscles and joints heal and get stronger.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Following the Steps: Safety

Over the last two days, I've talked about following the steps that will allow us, the unmotivated and over 40, to find the time for fitness and to get healthy.

It won't do you any  good to succeed at that if, in the process, you injure yourself.


Warm-up is important.

Warm-up is light, easy, repetitive exercise for long enough to get your blood flowing a little bit. Five minutes is usually enough.


Warm-up is not stretching. Don't stretch cold muscles. You could injure them, and stretching before exercise provides no benefit in injury-prevention or in performance.

Stretching after exercise or in a stretching session separate from exercise will make your muscles more flexible and supple. In the long run, that will prevent injury.

Stretching is a good thing. If you watch TV or movies, that's an excellent time to stretch ... unless you're actually in the theater.

Smart Safety

I mentioned that day before yesterday I found some exercises from a Starbucks wi-fi ad.

One of them was not very exciting, but it was a pretty good exercise. It was just a jumping jack with a squat thrown in while your legs are out and your arms are up.

I wondered how that would work on a person's knees, and I found out on mine by the 2nd or 3rd jump. I started feeling a pain on the inside of my knee. I tried a couple more jumps and squats, and the pain was still there.

When I was younger, and stupid, I might well have made the effort to do the exercise differently or work through it. The pain wasn't great.

This time, I simply dropped the exercise and found a different one.

I recommend you do the same. Leave the exercising through pain to professional athletes with well-trained coaches who know what's safe. (I'd never trust the average high school coach to know what's safe.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Following the Steps: Variety, Part Two

I outline a number of steps to following through on exercise on our Fitness Motivation page. On this blog, I talk about applying those tips.

Yesterday I talked about variety. I want to add one other example of variety today.

More variety: walking around Sutter's Mill, where the gold that sparked the '49er rush was first found

Yesterday, I not only speed-walked for variety, but I took advantage of some advice from, um, I'm not sure who.

We're staying in an RV, and I'm usually up at least an hour before the rest of my family on the weekends. So I drove over to Starbucks this morning, which opens earlier than all the other coffee shops in Auburn. (There's several good ones, but Courthouse Coffee is the best.)

Anyway, I opened my computer there, and there's a "terms and conditions" page you have to get past in order to use their wi-fi. That page had a link to an article on 4 "fat-burning" exercises to help all of us get through the Thanksgiving weekend. I clicked on it.

They got the fat-burning idea right. The exercises are weight-bearing and required rapid movements. They will burn fat.

They messed the safety up bad. They forgot to say anything about warm-up, which would be desperately needed for exercises like these, especially for over-40 folks like me. (Actually, next summer I'll be over 50!)

Anyway, I exercised my brain a bit, too. I closed my eyes and pictured each exercises carefully so that I would remember all 4 of them.

When I got home I tried them. I really like the mule kick one. You get in a push-up position, then thrust your legs in the air, kick your butt with your heels, and drop your feet down below your hips, so you're somewhat in a squatting position, hands still on the floor. You then leap back up, kick your butt again, and and land back in the push-up position to complete one repetition.

The others weren't that great. I liked their little twist on a jumping jack, but I couldn't do it without pain, so I'll explain it in tomorrow's post on safety.

This is the actual saw mill where gold was found. Workers were clearing out a channel for the runoff when they found gold.

Today's point is not to miss those opportunities. It was something different to add to my repertoire. I save the good ones. I keep track of exercises that:

  • ... are fun
  • ... seem to provide better results than others
  • ... work a lot of muscle groups at once
  • ... can be done repetitively without being too boring to provide aerobic benefit
  • and sometimes exercises that make my daughters think I'm weird, just for  fun

You may have different reasons to like an exercise. Keep track of the ones you like that can either be part of a routine that is not dreary or that will motivate you to get up from your desk or TV for a couple minutes of flexibility and strength building.

I just thought you might like this picture of the river near the mill.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Following the Steps: Variety

Today was a day of following the steps that will bring fitness to the unmotivated.

Over the next few days, I'll address some of those steps. Follow them, and you can do the exercise you wish you were doing.

Stream on Wise Road in Auburn


It's difficult to find a place to run here in California. I'm out of state, so we're a one-car family. We're in the foothills of the Sierra, which is gorgeous, but nothing is flat.

The last couple days, variety meant calisthenics—some a little odd to keep me going.

An example of an "odd" calisthenic is a great all-body exercise I developed while I was playing on the island in our kitchen back home.

Get 2 chairs. Turn them so the seats are facing each other and there's just enough room for your hips between them. Kneel between them, and put your hands palm down and flat on the front edges of the chair (assuming that won't tip the chair).

Now try to lift your rear end back and up towards the ceiling like you think you can swing up into a handstand like a gymnast. Picture your shoulders and chest swinging up into a push-up position, except your legs can hang bent below you. Mind you, I can only move inches when I do this. Nonetheless, I can feel the work in my chest, shoulders, lats (middle back), triceps, and abs.

Today, I didn't want to do calisthenics; I didn't want to get very far from home; and I didn't want to run hills.

I thought for a minute about the fact that the house we're staying at has a long road front, some 300 yards. It is uphill to the end of the yard, but I thought I'd try speed-walking uphill. I like speed-walking as an alternative to running because it's easier on the knees. It also works the hips and glutes really well, which is something I need.

Actually, it's something all runners need. Having stronger glutes provides greater stability for the knee and prevents knee injuries when you're running. (You can learn how to do it here.)

I warmed up with an easy power walk to the end of the yard, uphill, then another easy walk back, downhill. The next two times, I timed the uphill. The second lap I just walked fast. The third lap, I concentrated on good race-walking technique and went as fast as I could. My thighs were burning because it was almost like sprinting uphill for 300 yards. I timed that lap as a goal to try to beat before I leave California. The fourth lap, I worked on long-distance technique, being as smooth as possible but not rushing. The fifth lap was more relaxed, and after that I took a short, gentle, warm-down walk on the most level road around and took pictures of a creek nearby (above).

By the time I add on injury-prevention exercises I try to do every day I'll have well over 30 minutes of at least moderate exercise today.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Heard of Beta-Carotene? How About Alpha-Carotene?

Bright yellow fruits and vegetables, as well as carrots, provide an antioxidant called beta-carotene.

It's well-known that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables results in lower rates of death from almost everything; heart disease, many forms of cancer, etc.

Nonetheless, taking beta-carotene as a supplement does not appear to be of any health benefit. So scientists have wondered whether some other carotene may be more responsible for the health benefit of the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables.

Now a large study has shown that people with higher alpha-carotene levels have a lower risk of dying from heart disease and cancer both.

This is just a preliminary result. It's reliable, as they followed around 15,000 people for 15 years, but it does not prove that alpha-carotene supplements will help. Nutrition is complicated and nutrients often work in tandem. Isolating our nutrition into pills is just not the direction to go. Supplements are only advised where we know that there is a tendency to deficiency.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Having Fun

One of the things I emphasize in all my articles about exercise is that having fun is important.

A few years ago someone mentioned to me that two of our friends were incredibly disciplined about exercise. I was told that both had exact routines that they did every day without fail.

I was impressed.

But after talking to them to learn the secret of their discipline, I found out it wasn't true.

Like everyone else, they were on and off. But because they were on more than they were off, the rest of us marveled at their consistency an devotion.

The Secret: Fun

For those two, it might not be fair to call their exercise program fun. It was, however, what worked for them. They did exercises that they didn't mind doing and that made them feel good because they knew they were staying fit.

I, however, need something more.

I'm not as motivated as them, so I need real actual fun.

We're staying on some land here in California that is very rocky. You can't did anywhere because you hit rocks very quickly.

Some of those rocks are above ground, and some are pretty large. So I found one that's about 30 pounds and easy to grab. Whenever I walk by it and have time, I pick it up and go through a routine of touching it to the ground, holding it over my head or out to the side, etc. I just move it around, trying to work my whole body.

For my back, I do a lot of twists with the rock. I do them slowly and carefully. It's the sudden twists that lead to back injuries. The carefully-planned, properly-executed exercise twists are great for your back and core muscles.

I don't count or time the exercises with the rock. I do them until I feel like I've done enough, and usually I'm gasping for breath within 3 minutes.


Right now, the rock is fun.

When it's not fun, I'll find a new exercise. I have some regular exercises that I'm tolerant of to use to pass the time until I find the next fun one, but I'm always looking for the next fun one.

By the way, I also make sure to include at least some easy aerobic exercise, squeezing walking, running, or even dancing into free minutes that I have at work or home.

What do those include? Well ...

  • One time, I found a log on a trail near our house. It was about a mile away. I would jog to the end of the trail, then drag the log on the way back. It was so big that I could only drag it 10 or 15 feet at first. Ants were eating it, however, so I dragged it over 100 yards the last couple days of the month it took to get it home.
  • I read a web site on paleolithic diet and exercise, and I borrowed one of their exercises. I bought a 50-lb. bag of sand from Home Depot for about $3, and I would walk a mile with it, carrying it however I could, sometimes even on my head. My wife eventually made a thick case for it that looked like a pillow case. She even infused it with myrrh so it smelled nice.
  • A really fun one is kick boxing the punching bag that my employees hung at work.

No exercise I've ever done has noticeably benefited me the way dragging that log did. I could see the difference in the mirror within a week.

If you've got kids, and especially a teenage daughter, then one additional benefit is the opportunity to embarrass her. Yesterday, she said, "I looked out the window, and there's dad with a big rock over his head doing squats." Then she rolled her eyes.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Failing and Succeeding at the Same Time

Fortunately, this blog is about applying the principles that are found at Over 40 Fitness Tips and not about how good I am at meeting fitness goals.

I haven't run at all this week; at least not anything significant. I'm in California, living in an RV for a couple months, working at a coffee shop, and running has not been convenient.

As a result, my exercise amounts have not been as good as I would have wished.

So, in the sense of carrying out my fitness plan, I'm failing badly.

However, in the sense of applying the principles of fitness found at Over 40 Fitness Tips, I'm doing awesome.

Dieting for the Unmotivated

I wrote on our Lose Weight for Free page that I had found a way to lose weight without going hungry and without avoiding snacks.

It's working awesome!

I'm still keeping the spinach leaves around, and I munch on them like I'm a rabbit or sloth every afternoon to help curb my appetite at dinner. (If that doesn't sound very palatable to you, I give many alternate suggestions.) I do the same in the evening if I get the munchies.

Fortunately, though, I've faced very little late night hunger because we end up eating supper so late out here, usually after 7 pm, sometimes even later.

Exercise for the Unmotivated

Although, I've not exercised as much as I've wanted, I have been exercising. At some point each day, I do a couple of the more important exercises we recommend at our site. Thus, pretty much every day I stretch, get some push ups and various ab exercises done, do some isometrics for the more difficult to work lat muscles, and keep my back supple and strong.

Yesterday, I had to get our Suburban repaired and get work done. So I threw my computer bag over my shoulder and walked a mile as rapidly as possible to a coffee shop that had internet access. Along the way I took a detour to the post office.

On Sunday, walked uphill a mile with my son to take pictures of a lovely creek that cascades down the mountain that we're staying on. We took a couple detours on that walk, too, following two trails to the creek that we hoped weren't on anyone's land (there's "no trespassing" signs everywhere out here on the I-80 corridor in the foothills of the Sierras).

On the way down, I forced my son to run with me some.

I've gotten in sets of deep knee bends and lunges while waiting around for people and events. There's always odd moments with nothing to do when stretches and exercises can be fit in. (In fact, the majority of some very necessary prayer has come in those odd moments as well while I'm here.)

So although I'm not meeting my plan at the moment, I'm not going backwards. When I get myself back on schedule, I'll be able to pick up right where I left off.

Better yet, because I've found out how to make proper eating so easy, I'm still losing weight and getting my blood pressure down.

You can do it, too. We can tell the motivated to look out, because we, the unmotivated, are on their heels!