Look to yourself for motivation not your dog.

Lets consider two scenarios:

1) Chuck & Bentley:

Chuck was retired when I met him. Chuck likes golf and walking his dog. Chuck told me an incredible story about how he spent seven years of his life unable to walk after a work place accident where he was crushed under heavy equipment. After seven years of not being able to walk he was told that he might walk again if he had metal rod put in his back. Even then his chances were not great, but he said he had been determined to walk again and he did. Chuck said sometimes it was hard to get moving in the morning because his back would be stiff and sore. This only got worse in cold weather (which is a big deal since we are in Canada). But he still got up to walk everyday. And he didn’t whine about it. When he retired his family gave him Bentley, an adorable Toy Poodle/Jack Russel X, to keep him company on his walks. Chuck walked Bentley for 30min three times per day around his neighborhood rain or shine, snow or no snow. His only exceptions were the mornings in the summer when he left before dawn for an early morning golf session. Those mornings Bentley got to spend the morning in the neighbors yard.

2) Betty & Holly, then Friday, then Boker:

When I first met Betty she had a gorgeous little wheat coloured spaniel named Holly. I would see Betty and Holly walking only some days. When Betty stopped to let Holly play with my dog she would bellyache about how hard it was to be motivated to walk Holly, and get up in the morning, about how she got Holly to try to help motivate her to get out more, about how she couldn’t be bothered to walk the ten minutes to the park with Holly because it was too hard so she had her husband drop her off in his truck so she only had to walk the ten minutes home.

A few months later I saw Betty and she no longer had Holly because Holly was just too exhausting. Holly had been returned to her previous owner. (For the record Holly was the lowest energy dog among all of Betty’s choices.)

I then saw Betty later with Friday, a  wonderful little Jack Russell Terrier who would not stop running (really if you picked him up off the ground his legs just kept going). Once again she said Friday was suppose to motivate her to get more exercise. But our occasional dog park visits were usually just twenty minutes of Betty whinging about how Friday was too high energy, she couldn’t keep up with him, it was too much work, she was to exhausted to walk him the ten minutes to and from the park. Awhile later I bumped into her and she told me Friday had been found a new home on a farm where he could run around all day.

Later I bumped into Betty again with a new pure bred puppy she had specially ordered named Boker. I can’t remember the exact breed but it was a type of working dog noted for its intelligence and stamina. I moved so I never saw Betty after that and I never got to see if Betty kept Boker or found him another home too. But given her track record and the fact that she again selected a high energy breed requiring lots of exercise I imagine Betty didn’t do any better with Boker than she did with Holly or Friday. Although I hope I am wrong and she did make it work.

What Chuck got right:

Chuck already had a healthy habit of regular activity established before he was given Bentley. His motivation was intrinsic rather than extrinsic. He looked to himself for motivation rather than his dog. Even if he had not been given Bentley he would still be walking and playing golf. When Chuck was given Bentley both man and dog benefited from Chuck’s already established schedule of daily activity and Chuck’s internal motivation to keep walking.

What Betty got wrong:

Betty looked to the dog for motivation instead of herself. As the dog owner all the control and power for both herself and her dog to be exercised lay solely with her. The dog can’t put on his leash and open the door on its own. In this situation the dog relies on its owner to be responsible and meet its needs. By relying on the dog to provide the motivation that only Betty herself could provide Betty set herself up for failure. Her failure then had an impact on her pets who then had to be found new homes when she gave up. (On a personal note: Betty’s behavior always pissed me off because she did this to pets she professed to love, not once but twice (and possibly a third time). She should have figured out the first time that pet owning and dog walking were probably not activities for her and tried something else sans the pet.)

In short, whatever your motivation is to be active that motivation needs to begin and end with you.

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Why does enjoying fitness make me a freak?

I enjoy working out. I enjoy planning workouts. I enjoy doing a workout and discovering I designed a workout that was way too much for me. I enjoy going back to that big workout at a later date and discovering it to be too easy. It feels great seeing that kind of indisputable proof that my efforts are paying off and I am stronger and fitter than I was before. Sometimes I have days like anyone else where I don’t really feel like working out. I may get past that feeling and workout anyway or I may not. But I still enjoy my workouts and always go back to them. This apparently makes me a freak.

As I mentioned in previous posts none of my friends are into the gym thing. Some of them play recreational sports like tennis in the summer or splash around in a pool for a bit but that is about it. Personally I despise sports. I don’t play them and I sure as hell don’t watch them. When I say this people then say something like “but I thought you were into fitness”. My response is always that sports and fitness are two different things. You can have fitness without the sports, but you can’t have sports without the fitness. And sports are something I hate. (You can thank several nasty judgmental mean spirited PE teachers for that.)

Anyway when I say I enjoy hitting the gym people often give me a look that makes me wonder if I suddenly sprouted glowing neon antlers out of my ears. To them the dreaded thing called exercise is a chore to be avoided. They want to know how I can keep doing it. My answer is this: I enjoy it. I like the post workout high. I like feeling strong and being able to carry stuff and hike up stairs without getting winded and sweaty. I like to not have a sore knees after standing all day at work. I have had chronic back pain for most of my life. Exercise relieves and prevents my back pain. I like being pain free.

If you want to be fit and healthy you need to remember four things:

1) Find something you enjoy. You don’t need to hit the gym or run a marathon to be fit and healthy. The point is simply to be active.

2) Be consistent. Regular activity is critical to being healthy. This is why finding something you enjoy is item #1. If you don’t enjoy your chosen activities you will not keep doing them and you definitely won’t keep doing them consistently. I happen to enjoy strength training and walking my dog so that is what I do. I hate sports so I don’t waste a second on them except to say how much I hate them.

3) Even if your friends are not into your chosen activity keep doing it. They don’t have to come along, participate, or watch you do it. Don’t tolerate them bashing your thing. Other people’s lack of motivation should not negatively impact your own.

4) Motivation often comes later after you have been doing your activity for awhile. Starting anything is always the toughest part. The trick is to stick with it long enough to turn it into a habit.

Not sure why enjoying my workouts makes me a freak and I don’t really care.

Keep walking the dog.

The BMI is bullshit.

I despise the BMI. I hate it. I want go get a copy of a BMI chart so I can train my dog to take a dump on it then flush it down the toilet.

The BMI is useless for everything except making people feel like crap about themselves for no reason. It is this annoying little chart that calculates a useless little ratio and tells you if you are a female of x age and x height you should have a mass of  x. If your mass is greater than x amount you are overweight or obese and of course unhealthy.

I have looked at the acceptable mass ranges they provide for my height. I doubt I will ever fall in that range. I have had my family doctor tell me I should fit into this range. When she told me what I should weigh I had to bite my tongue to keep from responding with “And that is in which planet’s gravity?”.

The BMI does not care about your healthy lifestyle comprised of regular activity and healthy mindful eating. The BMI does not care that you strength train and have more muscle mass then the soup can lifting 1950s house wives they measured to come up with these “acceptable ” mass ranges. (If you can think of another explanation for where they got their numbers please leave it the comments below.) The BMI does not account for the higher mass and increased density of muscle tissue compared to adipose tissue. It does not care that fit active individuals will generally have more lean muscle than non-active individuals.

I have met people who have accomplished so much in terms of their personal fitness goals who feel amazing about themselves and how they look and watched them be crushed when someone plots them on the BMI and they discover they still don’t fall in the “acceptable” range of this uncaring, impersonal, uninformed, outdated piece of crap chart. And if that is not bad enough their PT or doctor or whoever doesn’t know enough to tell them the BMI is completely inadequate as an indicator of health and they should not concern themselves with it.

Being healthy is so much more than a number on a scale or the numbers on a chart. The BMI does not show how we are fit enough to hike or jog several kilometers. The BMI does show that us we can do pushups and jump squats. The BMI does not show us we can kickbox or dance for an hour. The BMI does show how we make healthy food choices.

The BMI is bullshit.

Lift heavy and work hard or go home.

My workouts have evolved over time not only as I have built my stamina and strength, but as I learned more and more about how to workout effectively. When I first started working in fitness I was taught that if  you wanted to loose weight you had to do 45-60min of cardio 5-6 days a week and strength training was 2-3 days per week. No exceptions. That is a pretty grueling schedule to keep and I was never a marathoner in training. I have done that kind of time, and the biggest problems with doing that kind of training is that is boring and it de-emphasizes the strength training. It also eats up a lot of time. Intervals were encouraged but they were always just a couple of intervals just thrown into the middle of 45-60min cardio session. It is hard to really give your intervals the effort they deserve when in the back of your mind your trying to reserve energy for the remaining 30min of cardio. Once upon a time I would total 2-3 hours in the gym 5-6 days a week. I was over training but didn’t realize it.

I have to thank the fabulous Zuzka Light for teaching me that workouts don’t need to be long to be both challenging and effective. (This has earned her a permanent place on my list of awesome people.) You can get all your strength training and effective cardiovascular training done together. Cardio and strength training are not mutually exclusive. I found Zuzka’s original Bodyrock.tv website years ago when I was doing all my workouts at home and still follow her on her new site (https://www.zuzkalight.com). Zuzka is the queen of time efficient intense home workouts. She has a truly singular gift for designing effective, simple, and short workouts using minimal equipment. Because she keeps things simple you don’t have to worry about learning maniacal choreography or wasting time trying to coordinate yourself. You can get straight to working hard. And because she keeps her workouts short you can really give it your maximum effort for the entire workout. If you are a quivering pile of sweaty goo when you are done one of her workouts, you did it right. Dr. Sara Solomon also posts great home workouts on her site (http://www.drsarasolomon.com). Her shoulder workout really kicked my ass a few weeks ago.

Anyway the moral of the story is I am fitter and stronger than ever because I workout smarter rather than longer or more often. That doesn’t mean I never do cardio kickboxing anymore or never use a treadmill. I just use the treadmill for tabata protocols and am on it for no more then 10-15min. I do the occasional 30-60min kickboxing session because I enjoy kickboxing. But what I don’t do is do it so much and so often that it starts to feel like a chore. I put a greater emphasis on strength training by hitting the gym 3-5 days per week. I lift heavy for 8-12 reps per set. Each body part is trained once per week. I don’t waste my time with the pink barbie weights doing 15-20 reps (another common error that often goes along with the excessive cardio bunny workouts). I change my strength workouts every 4 weeks to keep it interesting. My workouts are finished within 60min. If I am too busy or tired to get to the gym I also don’t sweat it or beat myself up. I stay home with my gymboss and yoga mat and do a killer 12-20min HIIT style body weight workout Zuzka Light/Dr Sara Solomon style. If am I really tired I may just do a little yoga.

And of course I always walk the dog. Can’t forget that.

People I think are awesome.

Virtually none of my friends are into fitness. They are the generally the types who think having one good sweat once or twice per year “detoxes” them and makes them somehow healthier. It also serves to alleviate their guilt about not exercising the rest of the year. They also usually still have the ridiculous notion in their heads that lifting weights will make them huge and that women shouldn’t have muscles anyway. I mostly just feel sorry for them and keep my mouth shut because I have learned they just aren’t interested in hearing anything different. My sister is pretty much the only person I know who really appreciates the advantages of having a good workout (with plenty of strength training of course) regularly and consistently.

When I need motivation or some fresh workout ideas I go to my favorite fitness competitors. Thank you all for posting videos of your workouts and eating tips online. You are all amazing. Watching you kick your asses in the gym makes me want to go kick my own ass in the gym.

My favorite fitness competitors:

Victoria Adelus

Dana Lynn Bailey

Jodi Boam

Ava Cowan

Sara Fennell

Amanda Latona

Zuzka Light (I know Zuzka is not a competitor, but her online home workouts are awesome.)

Dr. Sara Solomon

Emily Stirling

I have listed these ladies alphabetically by last name because I can’t decide who I think is the most awesome. Each lovely lady has her own individual strengths, her own style, and her own sense of humor that makes her videos not only educational and motivational but also fun to watch. I love them all.

No such thing as “girl pushups”

Only a few things piss me off as much as hearing people referring to the mythical excercises “girl pushups” and “boy pushups”. I hate hearing people use these terms because they perpetuate the ridiculous notion that women are weak and/or have less upper body strength than men and therefore must have special pushups/workouts just for them.

There is no such thing as a “girl pushup” or a “boy pushup”. There are bent knee pushups, full-body pushups, and a whole slew of other pushup variations like the scorpio pushup, the press up, the divebomber, the reptile pushup, the spider pushup, the decline pushup, and the incline pushup. I know plenty of women who can do full pushups. I am one of them. I know men that can do pushups. I know men and women who can’t do a single pushup of any variation. I know men and women who refuse to even try a pushup because they have convinced themselves they can’t possibly do something like that. A person’s ability to perform a pushup has everything to do with their strength/physical fitness and nothing to do with their gender.

If you are a novice strength trainer and want to be able to do pushups, start on your knees and work your way up. Just don’t call them “girl pushups”.

Why move the dog?

I love working out. So much so that I taught fitness classes, worked in a weight room, and took a personal trainers course. I worked for 8 years in fitness part-time in addition to my regular work until I realized working in fitness was really ruining my fitness. I heard before that sometimes the most unhealthy people are the fitness instructors, the very people who are expected to be the healthiest. I didn’t really believe it originally. Then I spent so much time teaching and yelling at other people I had no time to spend on my own workouts and nutrition. I was working all the time and the only me time was walking the dog. So eventually I just had to give up the part-time work. I didn’t get back to my own workouts right away. That took some time but I did. I love lifting heavy, killing myself with plyometrics (admittedly it still doesn’t take much in the way of  plyometrics to kill me), and cardio kickboxing. I love designing my own workouts and telling myself what a workout genius I am. I love to hate to my HIIT training.

Why “move the dog”? I didn’t have a gym to workout in once I stopped working in one so I learned to do all my workouts at home in my living room with minimal equipment. I did this for several years and still do occasionally even now that I have access to a gym. And whenever I break out the yoga mat for a workout and leave it unattended (for seconds or minutes, it doesn’t matter) my dog plants herself right in the middle. Sometimes she doesn’t even wait for the mat, she lays down right where I am about to put the mat. Her little doggy brain can recognize when I getting ready to workout as well as it can recognize that I am about to take her for a walk. When I tell her move or try to push her out of the way, like any good sensible dog, she rolls over for a belly rub. Sometimes she comes back for seconds and wonders into the middle of my workout. She usually waits for me to be in the middle of a tough HIIT drill and I have to yell “Move the dog! Move the dog!” to my partner to get rid of her before she gets herself kicked or stepped on. Because I can’t possibly interrupt my tabata protocol. I mean if you were meant to stop the tabata protocol the GYMBOSS would have a pause button right? My dogs’ singular gift for getting in the way only gets better as she ages. I think of her younger days when she would run in terror of the stability ball with nostalgia, because I could use it as a barrier to keep her away from my workout. Because nothing ruins crunches like a 55lb dog sitting on your face. Maybe she is just reminding me that no matter how hard I workout I still have to walk her when I am done because basic daily activity is the backbone of any fitness/healthy living routine.