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Bemovelive.com Blog features the latest fitness and clean eating advice from John Holley, MS, CSCS. Blogs focus on exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress reduction and getting the most out of your workouts.

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HEALTH MYTHS THAT MUST END

John Holley

Welcome to get-fit-quick season! Advertisers are working as hard they can to pitch you everything from ab crunching widgets to weight loss pills to miracle diet plans and you’re buying. I predict it’ll be another big season for the diet and fitness industry. The fact that most of the widgets, pills and diets will not be the answer you’ve been looking for won’t be remembered in a year. My aim with this article is to dispel a few myths before you start making your 3 easy payments.

Crunches, situps or (insert the device here) will give you a 6 pack. Enough already! You can do crunches all day long and not have visible abs if your body fat is not low enough. Besides, situps and crunches with bad form, can lead to back pain for people who do not follow a sensible workout program. You can’t spot reduce!

More exercise is better. Sure, if you want to get hurt and have to deal with cravings and lose your friends because you have no time for them anymore. Look, we are made to move, but let’s use some common sense about intensity and frequency. Your body needs time to recover and this becomes more and more important as you age. Insomnia, an elevated heart rate upon rising, general aches and pains, irritability and headaches are all symptoms of overtraining.

Want to find a balanced and effective workout plan?

5 ESSENTIAL WORKOUTS

available on Amazon.

All fats are bad. First of all, this is basically marketing hype leftover from the 80’s when the low-fat/no-fat movement was in full force. You need fat as part of a healthy diet and to live. It is important for normal bodily repair, energy, absorption of certain vitamins, and protection of your organs. The key is to get as many healthy fats as possible from sources like grain products, fish, beans, fish oil and nuts. While saturated fats from animal sources should be kept to a minimum, the only truly “bad” fats are trans fats, which you’ll find masquerading as hydrogenated oils in boxed and convenience foods.

Carbohydrates are bad. This is another marketing misnomer, which has just enough truth to it, to give it legs. Refined (white) carbohydrates are best avoided because they are stripped of all nutrition and will spike your insulin levels. Sugar also should be kept to a minimum because of the affect it has on your cravings and your waistline if over-consumed. What are important are complex, unrefined carbohydrates such as oatmeal, brown rice, vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit.

The point I’m making is the only “secret” to weight loss and long-term vitality are moving every day, eating quality foods, getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night and living your life with purpose. Everything else is hype to sell you something.

DON'T ACT YOUR AGE

John Holley

Better Every Day.jpg

My dad lived 81 very active years. Carpentry was his profession and he also spent his nights and weekends remodeling the homes we lived in when I was a boy. Later in life, the 14 acres he owned in east Tennessee required year-round maintenance and he took pride in doing it himself.  This was the key to his good health. Despite the fact he smoked for 40 years and ate too much of my mom’s cooking, an active lifestyle protected him from many of the ravages of time. Here’s a decade by decade look at how you can stay in yard work shape at any age, from Better Every Day.

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.

(William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice)

The 30’s aren’t old unless you’re a professional tennis player or a supermodel, but they are important because of the foundation you can create for your health and fitness in later life. Your energy is still high, even with the kids, the career and the spouse all pulling at you. Your metabolism has dropped by as much as 10% from your 20’s, so the burger and fries you love might start to cling onto your waist. Simply watch your portions and limit your indulgences, while trying to maintain a healthy weight. A four or five day a week regimen of strength and cardiovascular training will protect you from injury and strengthen your heart.

You never slow down, you never grow old.

(Tom Petty)

The 40’s are when your lifestyle starts to affect your life. You still feel like a kid, except when you play touch football with your kids and can’t move the next day. If you’ve been working out in your 30’s you may have held off some of the 17 pounds the average person gains between age 30 and 40. However, the intense workouts you once pushed yourself through may require a little more recovery time. This doesn’t mean you can’t make fitness gains, but be sure to include flexibility work and balance exercises in your workouts to lessen the chance of injury. Also, since you require about 120 fewer calories per day versus a decade ago the food you eat needs to be more nutrient dense. So learn to eat your veggies!

Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle.

(Bob Hope)

The 50’s are when even the youngest at heart have to admit they’re not 17 anymore. No matter, because your kinesthetic awareness (bodily sense of space and movement) and biomechanical efficiency are still high, although your muscle mass and bone density losses may accelerate. The good news is a strength training regimen can prevent much of the loss. A three-day-a-week strength training regimen focusing on the major muscle groups is the best prescription. However, vary your routines by changing the exercises you perform and the repetitions and sets every 3 or 4 weeks. Your cardiovascular workouts may need to slow down and hydration is more important than ever because your kidneys aren’t as young as they used to be. According to the Institute of Medicine, nutrition recommendations for someone in their 50’s would include a daily calcium intake of 1200 milligrams and three to five servings of leafy green vegetables each day. 

Old age is always 15 years older than I am.

(Bernard M. Baruch)

The 60’s are when many people start thinking about their health again. Whether it was a lack of time or a lack of interest before now, it’s not too late. Whenever you start a regular exercise program you can make strength, flexibility and cardiovascular gains. These gains can help you ward off disease and improve your balance to prevent the falls which occur with a loss of strength and balance. Also, lifting weights can ease the discomfort of arthritis while you build muscle. Activities such as yoga or tai chi can help you maintain or regain your full range of motion. While foods rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids can also aid in reducing joint inflammation.

The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.

(Doug Larson)

The 70’s have been thought of as the decade when it all falls apart. Then again, maybe that is because we haven’t had a good sample of active, fit 70-year-olds to study until now.  A study which tracked a six-month weight-lifting program for people over 70, found subjects gained 60 percent in quadriceps strength. A separate 12-week study measured even greater increases in power.

Of course, research has confirmed that consistent exercise can add years to your life. More importantly, an active lifestyle lowers your biological age regardless of your chronological age. If you stay fit and healthy, you’ll never act your age.

IT'S THE SIMPLE THINGS

John Holley

The world of health and fitness is a cacophonous blend of good science mixed with bad ideas and topped with greed. Every year a new parade of ab machines, testosterone-enhancing pills, weight loss shakes and diet books appear, many of which purport to be the “answer.” So how’s that working out for you? Seriously, go to a thrift store and see how many diet books and unused exercise machines you see for sale. Or maybe check your pantry and pull out the unused shake mixes, protein powder and vitamins. Let’s look at how a new (old school) approach could make a big difference.

 Simply Eat

There are a lot of diets, which may help you lose weight, but many of these methods leave you hungry or taste funny or give you bad breath. Of course, you have to eat, so instead of using your precious time and energy to jump through the hoops of whichever diet is trending on Facebook, maybe keep it simple:

1.     Lose the white stuff like added sugars and processed carbs in the form of white breads, rolls, candy, juices, etc., which stimulate secretion of insulin and the storage of fat in your body. A benefit of fewer sugars and starches in your diet is fewer spikes in your blood sugar, a reduction in cravings and less bloating.

2.     Listen to your mom and eat your vegetables. Oh yeah, don’t forget clean protein and healthy fats. If you have vegetables with every meal, a clean source of protein and some healthy fats with every meal you will have all of the vitamins, minerals and fiber you need. Check out Clean and Simple: Healthy Recipes for Your Busy Life for these kind of recipes.

3.     Slow down and enjoy your food. Your body takes about 20 minutes to register fullness, so wolfing down that burger will leave you unsatisfied and craving more. Moreover, if you are driving, working or watching tv while you eat, you are prone to indulge more than if you just eat when you eat.

Simply Sleep

Are tired all the time? Are you gaining weight and you don’t know why? Do you find yourself irritable and forgetful? Adding more sleep into your life might be the solution to your troubles. Here are three reasons to turn off the tv and put your phone on silent a little earlier tonight:

1.     Sleep well and be well. Study after study shows link between insufficient sleep and serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. These issues might take years to manifest, but consider this one: Researchers have found those who sleep less than seven hours a night are almost three times as likely to get sick when exposed to a cold virus.

2.     Sleep and brain function are linked because sleep loss affects your cognition, attention, memory and decision making ability. Furthermore, too little sleep has a negative impact on your emotional regulation, so you will be more apt to snap at your spouse, burst into tears or laugh uncontrollably.

3.     Sleep is essential to losing weight. The precious seven to eight hours of sleep you need serves a purpose beyond keeping the dark circles away. One part behavioral and one part physiological, a good night’s sleep will stave off cravings because the levels of the fullness hormone, leptin, rise after a good night’s rest.

Simply Walk

 You didn’t see this one coming, did you? I’m not going to advocate the latest HIIT, plyo, CrossFit or yoga regimen. Rather, let’s discuss taking a walk:

1.     Walk away the pounds may sound like a slogan for a wellness program, but it is true. The HHS recommends striving for a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity a day, which can be split into 10-minute segments. My friend, Barry, has lost almost 100 pounds through a better diet, going to the gym a few times a week and daily walks.

2.     Track your progress using an app on your phone, a wearable device or a pedometer. Compare this to the amount of time it takes to complete the same number of steps and watch yourself get in better shape.

3.     Enjoy yourself when you walk. Just like any other activity, you are more likely to stick with it long-term if you enjoy it (even a little). Listen to music, walk in a park, take a friend along or follow the example of my friend, John, who listens to podcasts as he walks.

The lesson here is simple. If you want to have more energy, perform better every day and maybe lose some weight, eat clean, sleep more and take a walk.

 

DO YOU BELIEVE IN PERFECTION?

John Holley

There is a moment in every trip I’ve taken with my sons that is perfect. One was during a monsoon in New Orleans when we were huddled together under an overhang waiting for the squall to pass. The storm changed our plans for the day and the din of the rain and the wind made it impossible to talk, but being with them watching the oaks sway and the rainfall was somehow perfect.

I’m not writing this to laude my parenting skills (far from it!). However, these moments do make me wonder how many perfect moments are overlooked every day because they don’t look like we think they should. How much energy and angst do we invest in trying to steer the people and events in our lives a certain direction? Moreover, how do we whip ourselves for not performing to an arbitrary level?  What about all of the wasted regret over what we didn’t do or say?

As addictive as guilt and regret can be, there is only one way out and that is forward. You are welcome to stay right where you are, but if you desire a different outcome, you have to do something you’ve never done. That may sound obvious, or terrifying, or confusing, and the time to start is now.

What’s the next right thing to do?

 I love this question, which I am borrowing from Mathew Kelly, the author of many books including The Rhythm of Life. When I am stuck and unable to see any kind of perfection around me, asking this question can reveal the next step. Taking that next step is the practice, which can lead to perfection.

The next step can become a ritual you can rely on to take you where you want to go. Do you want to lose 20 pounds? You can’t do it in a day, but you can walk for 30 minutes every morning and not eat after 7pm at night.

Do you want to have more energy? You can establish a ritual of turning off the tv and taking a bath every night before bed, so you sleep better.

Do you wish to finish a half marathon? Today you may have to walk, but eventually you will run if you do the next right thing.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

To me, being caught in the rain with my sons that day was a perfect moment. This is a perfect moment because I am able to write this for you (and me). You know the next right thing to do, and even if every moment isn’t perfect, the practice of moving forward  will bring you a little closer to your perfection.

SLEEP TO FEEL BETTER

John Holley

One of the most effective actions you can take to feel Better Every Day is to do nothing. Give yourself the rest and sleep you need to recover and watch your performance improve.

FEEL BETTER

Sleep is an integral component to overall health. Most of us require 7-8 hours each night to be at our best. The REM cycles in particular are vital because this is when human growth hormone is released and muscle repair and growth occurs. Sleep is also important if you want to keep your metabolism burning at a high rate.

EAT BETTER

…something “healthy” other than salad. Think of the all the broiled, roasted and baked options you have so your new and improved diet doesn’t bore you. For instance, roasted vegetables are a tasty option any time of the year. Try frozen bananas or blueberries in a smoothie. And if you don’t like veggies, puree a few and cover the taste in that same smoothie.

MOVE BETTER

As your cardio intensity increases, form becomes more important. The knee is an amazing joint and handles enormous pressure with every foot strike, but it is also the place where overuse injuries can first occur. Remember to keep most of your weight in your heels on the elliptical machines or bicycles and try to keep your toes pointed forward, while landing on your mid-foot, when you walk or run.

THE NEXT LEVEL

John Holley

FEEL BETTER

Eat every three to four hours. From the time you get up in the morning until 7pm, eating small meals every three hours will keep you feeling full all day long. This will keep your energy level up and reduce cravings. A bonus is your body will be burning more calories throughout the day as it digests the food.

EAT BETTER

You can eat great tasting and healthy food like that found in The Art of Clean Cooking. Read your food labels and look for these nutritionally superior substitutions for higher-calorie foods:

Turkey bacon

Skim or 1% milk products

Whole or unrefined grains

Spinach

Flank steak, roast beef or tenderloin (with the fat trimmed)

7% fat hamburger or ground turkey

Natural peanut butter (fatty, yes, but the good kind without the sugar)

All fruit jellies and spreads

Sherbert or frozen yogurt (just watch the sugar content)

Marinara sauce

Baked chips

Thin crust or whole wheat crust pizza (two slices max)

California or tuna rolls

MOVE BETTER

Continue with your cardio, but instead of only going for time, try taking your workout to the next level during a shorter cardio session. Aim for an 7 or 8 on a scale of 10, with 10 being all-out effort. You will burn more calories and make your body adjust to something new.

TRY SOMETHING NEW

John Holley

Our focus this week for part 3 of Better Every Day, is try something new. So, if you haven't read labels in the past, or tried a clean, simple recipe for dinner, or you have no idea how an interval workout can burn a lot of calories in a short time, give it a go this week.

FEEL BETTER

Remember to pay attention to serving sizes and portion control. In short, focus on eating the right amounts of quality food. Junk food, i.e. foods with added sugar or fat or made with refined grains, delivers little sustenance and leaves you craving more, which leads to eating too much.

EAT BETTER

If you want to fill up with a low-calorie, but nutritionally potent dinner, combine baby spinach with a broiled or microwaved chicken breast. Top this with fat-free balsamic vinaigrette and vegetables, such as cucumbers and tomatoes. If you’re still hungry, try a baked sweet potato topped with plain, non-fat yogurt. This is a great source of Vitamin A, protein and fiber. 

My first cookbook, Clean and Simple, is filled with even more delicious, nutritious recipes.

MOVE BETTER

Cardio up to six days a week, and try new forms like trail hiking or dancing to add variety for your head and your muscles. Remember, the body adapts fairly quickly and will work more efficiently, thus fewer calories are burned. Now, click here that interval workout I teased.

 

ARE YOU BETTER EVERY DAY?

John Holley

The holidays are just around the corner and I know you wish to stay focused on your healthy lifestyle, while you enjoy time with friends and family.. This is why we begin a series of Better Every Day blogs designed to help you stay on track through the myriad of culinary temptations you are sure to face in the office and from your family this month. Remember, you can enjoy the holidays and stay on track toward your goals for your health.

FEEL BETTER

Your body craves water to simply maintain basic bodily functions related to metabolism and repair of tissue. This is why it is important to drink a minimum of 8 glasses (64 ounces) of water every day. Coffee, tea and juice are not substitutes for water because coffee and tea are diuretics and cause your body to lose fluids, while juice is loaded with sugar, which can spike your appetite and adds calories to your diet.

EAT BETTER

Clean foods are those you usually won’t find in a box or bag. Clean foods never wind up in the cookie aisle and certainly aren’t advertised during Saturday morning cartoons. Clean foods are nutritional superstars, which will make you feel better, get stronger and lose weight. Oh, and once you start eating clean on a regular basis, don’t be surprised if you begin to like the foods your mom always tried to get you to eat.

MOVE BETTER

Workout this week with higher strength reps (12-15 per set), with cardio intervals designed to keep your heart rate up, while burning extra calories. If you need workout ideas check this out:

 

 

 

5 MOVES FOR OFFICE ATHLETES

John Holley

Listen up office athletes! I know you are grinding every day shaking hands, making deals and building your vision, but are you in shape for the game? Just like any athlete, you will develop aches and pains, which can be become chronic and debilitating if you don't pay attention to your form. This video gives you five, easy moves to help you stay game ready:

3 KEYS FOR LIFELONG FITNESS

John Holley

Change is coming and there’s something you can do about it. No, you can’t avoid the changes to your body, which will come over the course of your life. You can’t stop time and be forever 21 (if you are, enjoy…) but you can accept changes as they arise, adapt your thoughts and actions to maintain your health and allow yourself to look at your fitness in a different way.

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell

It happened without warning when I was getting out of bed one morning. My left shoulder was seized by a sharp pain, which made lifting my arm over my head almost impossible. I tried massage, ice and rest, but the pain prevented me from lifting weights for almost a month. As a college student I had neither the insurance nor the means to see a doctor. This was also during my pre-exercise science/trainer era, so I didn’t possess the know-how to address what was a rotator cuff injury. Yet, I wanted to keep exercising, so I had to accept the fact it was time to discover new ways of staying fit.

I don’t remember much about my first yoga class in Charlotte, North Carolina, except I was the only guy there. No problem, let’s find out what yoga is…More than 20 years later, I still practice yoga several times a week and I can attest to it’s benefits for strength, mobility and stress reduction. I eventually returned to lifting weights, but my willingness to accept a new approach to fitness has paid lifelong dividends.

To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities.

Bruce Lee

Remember the barefoot running craze? There were books, clinics, races and “toe shoes” created to accommodate the barefoot runner. The theory was that eliminating the support of shoes would force a more natural running motion and allow the barefoot runner to remain injury-free. I dunno…maybe I did too much too soon or I didn’t warm up properly or Mercury was retrograde, but I injured my foot flexors (the muscles on the bottom of the foot, which curl the toes).  Basically, it felt like I was walking around with a tack in my foot. So, if I wanted to run again, I had to adapt my approach to preparation and recovery while my foot healed.

The first step was to invest in a pair of shoes fitted by a professional and experienced shoe expert. Yes, it cost a little more, but since I learned the best shoe for my movement pattern I’ve been able to go online or walk into any shoe store and select the best shoe without guesswork. Second, as my flexor hallucis longus ;) healed I also learned about the benefits of topical magnesium gel. This is a near-miracle cure for injured, fatigued muscles and I use it on my feet after every run or if I’ve been standing all day. The third change to my routine was the addition of moves such as banded walks to activate my hips, revolved triangles to stretch the hips and ankle mobility work. These adaptations to my workout have allowed me to continue running injury free.

I allow myself to fail. I allow myself to break. I’m not afraid of my flaws.

Lady Gaga

My biggest challenge to staying active and fit was an inguinal hernia, which was “repaired” over a year ago. Repaired is in quotes because the related pain returned several times in the year after the surgery. The discomfort was sometimes almost as severe as before the surgery, but after a negative test for a new hernia, I decided to approach the situation from a new angle: allow for a possible movement patterns, which caused the hernia, and do what I could to workout until I discovered the best way to correct the problem.

This is an ongoing story for me. Through trial and error, I have discovered a combination of back and hip flexors stretches, core work and shoulder flexion exercises, which seem to be working. Sometimes a lot of heavy lifting leads to some pain in the abdomen, but most of the time I feel great. Allowing this to be a bump and not a road block, has been a chance for me to learn more.

This is written for you if you’ve ever thought you couldn’t workout like you used to so you might as well give up. Keep moving! Accept where you are, adapt your approach and allow yourself to learn and grow.

 

STABILITY AND FITNESS

John Holley

The following is an excerpt from my book 5 ESSENTIAL WORKOUTS (available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1CaG9om)

Stability is the ability to remain at homeostasis under forces which are trying to promote a change.

What does that have to do with your workouts?

The first phase of any effective training program will include stabilization work. Static holds and slow, controlled movements build awareness of how your body moves when it is aligned and stable. The goal is to ingrain in your movement the optimal engagement patterns so as to eliminate muscle imbalances, which may lead to injury. In other words, when you deadlift, run or bend over to pick up a piece of paper (sometimes a dangerous, unconscious act) you are safe.

Stability begins with a strong core - but don’t roll your eyes because you’ve heard that before…The core is much more than the 8-pack, which is nice, but only useful at the beach. The core consists of muscles surrounding the spine and abdomen, including the glutes, paraspinals and hip girdle. True core stability is essential for proper load balance within the spine, pelvis and kinetic chain.

Why is stability important?

You might think of the core as everything from just above your knees up to your shoulders. When working properly, these muscles fire before your limbs move in order to support proper posture, balance and stability. This means your spine is held in its natural, curved position (neutral), your scapulas are rotated back and down (think chest up, shoulders back) and your pelvis is neutral, which gives you a slight curve in your lower back.

This correct, stable position enables the optimal transmission of force through your body because the core is your center of gravity and the area where all movement begins.  It also allows for better weight distribution, which reduces wear on your joints and bones even during dynamic movement. So, your body will move in a more efficient manner while producing more power whether you are going for a rebound in basketball or tossing a suitcase in the trunk of your car. In short, an exercise program which promotes stability may help prevent injury and it will make you stronger.

STRESS AND BELLY FAT

John Holley

You know what stress can do to your health. Stress raises your blood pressure, lowers your immunity and decreases your performance in every day tasks. Over time, chronic stress makes everything less enjoyable. Now don’t get stressed out, but stress can also make you fat.

When you are under stress, your body produces the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline “burns” quick and works with the sugar in your blood so you can fight or flee. Cortisol fuels the fire longer and tells your body to pump more sugar into your blood, so you have the energy needed to pull the deer back to camp or run away from the mountain lion. (Remember, our bodies are the same as they were thousands of years ago, when we did hunt and run to survive.) In contemporary terms, cortisol helps you click and drag the sales report before you run out of the office to take the kids to soccer practice. Of course, without the burst of physical activity, you don’t use the extra blood sugar. Guess what happens next.

A recent Yale University study found the more stress study participants experienced, the higher the levels of cortisol were in their body. Higher levels of cortisol correlated with higher body fat levels. To make matters worse, the fat was primarily stored in their bellies.

Want to lose that belly fat? Check out this great article from Mark Williams.

So, you’re stressed about work, you are playing chauffer to the kids, trying to find quality time with your spouse, and on top of that is your belly fat! Then you turn to rocky road or cheese fries to try to feel better. This is the natural response, according to a University of California, San Francisco study, which found a connection in rats between stress levels and pleasure seeking. In other words, you don’t want to feel bad, so you hit the drive thru.

Not so fast…Before you say, “supersize me,” in an attempt to temper the day’s angst, consider what happens when you gulp down another meal in a box. Fast food (really, restaurant food in general) increases the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes and heart disease and the list goes on…This is because these foods are loaded with fat, sugar, refined carbohydrates and mysterious additives you can’t pronounce with a doctorate in chemistry. Also, even a “normal” portion in a restaurant meal will be several servings, most of which goes straight to your belly.

In short, you’re exchanging short-term pleasure for long-term weight gain and the stress remains. The only real answer is to reduce the stress in your life. I’m not saying you need to quit your job, join an ashram and chant all day, but here are a few ideas you may incorporate in your life to improve your sense of peace and well-being:

1.     A good night’s sleep will not only change your outlook, but will give you the energy to face your challenges in a positive manner. As it pertains to fat loss, hormones released during deep sleep keep your metabolism higher.

2.     Deep breathing as part of a meditation or, maybe, during exercise provides your body with oxygen for your cells and has a calming effect. Simply sitting still for five minutes and focusing on your breath does the trick.

3.     Daily exercise provides a variety of benefits which are detailed in this article by Mark Williams, Fat Burning Workouts for Women: The Best Way to Lose Belly Fat.

4.     A spiritual practice of your choosing has been shown to significantly lower stress levels. The simple understanding there is something greater than yourself gives perspective to your challenges.

5.     Talking to a friend, counselor or advisor gives you the chance to see things from another perspective. Even if they do not say a word, sharing your burden with another can lighten your load. Maybe you can return the favor sometime.

In the end, your response to any situation is a choice. You can choose to engage in old ways of being, but that is what brought you to this point, isn’t it? Why not try something different this time and reduce the stress in your life.