Simplify Your Health and Wellness

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How many of us overthink our wellness, fitness exercises and health maintenance plans?

“Guilty as charged!”

Wake-up Call

I’m writing this blog post from the deck at a special friend of mine’s cabin on Washington Island overlooking Lake Michigan while on vacation with my loving wife and our two active young children; my son is 7 years old and daughter is 5 years old.  It’s been an awesome vacation for all of us.  No phone reception but plenty of wildlife, fresh cool air and the time to run, explore, exercise and play in the cold lake waters.

What does this have to do with sports medicine?” you’re saying to yourself.  Plenty….it has everything to do with enhancing our health and wellness in the simplest of ways.

Value of High-Tech?

I’m here in the woods with no fancy gym, no high-tech workout equipment, no warm ocean waters for long-distance swims, no tough-guy workout buddies or 90+ degree heat/high humidity weather to sweat my butt off in.

Instead, I’m in the beautiful wilderness with long days to have fun with my family while mixing in my daily workouts.  Brag time: my wife Samantha is a 2x Ironman triathlete so I’m certainly not the only parent in our home focussing on fun and fitness with our children!

Keeping it Simple

So much of our professional lives are busy and complicated yet we can’t do a damn thing about it.  With that being said, why do we choose to make our wellness/health/fitness plans equally as complicated?

It’s times like this vacation that wake me up to the reality that I need to lighten-up on my over-thinking and tighten-up my intensity on getting stronger, better conditioned and more limber.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci 

What I Learned at Summer Camp

I don’t need fancy equipment to kick my own ass to get a legitimate workout.  I simply used what I had access to while adding in a combo of creativity, grit and a playful attitude.

  • Logs to cut, lift and carry.
  • 52 degree lake water to swim and recover.
  • Rolling country roads to run and bike.
  • Trees for TRX, pull-ups and stretches
  • Children for resisted carries, pushups and shoulder presses.
  • Fields for burpees, crawls, planks, lunges, star jumps, crunches, agility drills and sprints.
  • Picnic tables for box jumps, dips and low crawls.
  • And my favorite training partner was here waiting for me: Mr. Gravity

Tips to Simplify our Healthy

Eat Better – More plants, veggies, water, fruits and lean meats.

Simplify – Add simple wellness exercises to your routine that force you to work hard for long periods of time while opening up your joints and muscles like crawling, rock climbing and  swimming.

Play Games – Smart phone off, smile on and sweat glands on…..playing fun sports like a teenager.

Do More – Change at least 50% of your present exercise routine, stop counting reps and shorten rest phases while focusing on generating lots of muscle fatigue, not joint pain.

Stop Feeling Sorry for Ourselves – Hundreds of millions of people with handicaps and injuries can only dream of having the physical abilities that we presently have.  Therefore, we all need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves so we can maximize the healthy blessings we currently have.  Amen.

Recovery Harder – If it hurts, ice it.  If it’s tight, stretch it. If it’s stiff, move it.

Set Hefty Goals Then Quickly Share Them – Dream bigger than big to set a physical goal(s) that will change your life. Before your find the how’s or the “what if’s” creep in, quickly post your goal on FaceBook and email your family and friends with the details so they will hold you to that goal.  Sure you’ll have sweaty palms typing the words but that person looking back at you in the full-length mirror will thank you for the rest of your life.

It’s time to get busy….

Taking the Brakes Off For Great Health

IMG_2896I’m in Atlanta preparing for our last preseason game against the Falcons. We’re just ending our press-season training camp which includes living in the hotel away from our families for about five weeks,  17 hour workdays and up to 90 players on our roster.

I went for a great run this morning with one of my coworkers Brandon Roth. As I finish my 7 mile run and watched the sunrise, I was overwhelmed with the reality of how truly fortunate I am to be able to run like I do. Just as I entered my hotel room, I received a phone call from a colleague and friend. When I told him I just got back from a run you could hear a sigh of disappointment on his end of the phone. He shared with me his recent extensive orthopedic issues and difficulties he’s been going through over the last two and half months.

He’s an avid runner with a very impressive running resume’. As I listened to his story I couldn’t help but reflect upon my thoughts 10 minutes earlier of how blessed I am to be as active as I am. I turned 50 years old this year and I’m committed to staying very active for as long as I’m alive.

Knowing What You Have

Like the old quote:  “You never know you have until it’s gone“, it’s never been more true than when we’re talking about our health.  When our health worsens and life’s daily activities becomes painful and/or difficult to perform, that’s when we truly appreciate our bodies.

Why do we take our bodies, our health and our fitness for granted?

We, myself included, are guilty of doing so.  When we do, it’s a grave mistake. If you don’t believe that just ask anyone you know who’s in chronic pain “What would give to be pain-free?”  After asking such a question listen to what they say and look into their eyes. Their dismay and frustration will be obvious.

Taking Care of Business

There are a few things we all need to do if we want to enhance our health and preserve an active lifestyle.  Both of these are very important to me and I hope they are a high priority for you as well.

Take the Brakes Off –  Stop limiting yourself because of your age, your schedule or your health. It can be as simple as thinking like a 15-year-old in setting a goal that is grand. “Take the brakes off” of your mind and your body and have some fun with it!

Count Your Blessings –  Look yourself in the eyes (not your belly or figure) in the mirror and realize what you have. From your health to your family to your friends to the quality of your lifestyle, you probably have more than 95% of all the people in this world. It’s time to do something to protect those gifts by making them better.

Learn to Move, Then Move –  Stop waiting for a great reason to be more active. Joining a gym or simply getting out for walk 1 to 3 times a day can change your body and your life. It doesn’t have to be a fitness plan, sometimes it’s simply the act of moving and moving some more. Stop making a complicated and just move.

Stretch Something –  Flexibility may not be as sexy as lifting heavy weights or running a three-hour marathon. As we age our muscles and tendons tighten and it’s our job to keep them loose. Stretching tight areas, be it your hamstrings or your hips or your shoulders or your ankles will make you feel better and allow you to move with much less effort.

Set Three Activity Goals –  Set three goals to accomplish in the next three months that involves some type of physical activity. Doesn’t matter what they are or how difficult they may be, just do it.

Find A Healthy Mentor –  Why reinvent the wheel when you have smart and healthy people around you doing what you want to do? Find a friend or coworker who seems to understand what to eat and what to do to stay healthy. Asking for help and support is all you need to do. You may  not be able to do everything they do but having them as a mentor will help you improve your diet, your workout routine and, most importantly, your compliance with both of these.

In closing… Today is the best day we all need to truly appreciate what we have and to take daily steps to showing our gratefulness by improving both our bodies and our minds for whatever tomorrow brings us!

Healthy Attitude + Healthy Habits = Living The Dream

Image by Carlos A. Fernandez 15225 SW 156 terr. Miami FL, 33187, (305) 252-3386I ran 10 miles yesterday morning with Dawn, Beth, Kevin and Rob.  It’s a great group of runners and even better people.  They’re optimistic, energetic, healthy, humorous and fast: just the type of workout partners I need to motivate me to get out of bed at 4 AM.

As I listened to their stories yesterday morning, something became very clear to me.  Although we all came from different parts of the country with diverse backgrounds and careers, we all had share a common bond of a healthy attitudes & healthy habits.  There’s never any bitching about work or the economy or how painful the run is.  The topics range from past races, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ upcoming NFL Draft options, ambitious future race plans and healthy stories.  All in all, it’s a group of well-conditioned friends with the type of outlook on life that we all need to be around more often.

The Lineup

Dawn is a marathoning machine in gymnast body.  She’s well organized in her approach to each race with the Paris Marathon in her sights next month.  I really respect this dancer-turned-runner’s drive to stay healthy.  The early riser approaches running, tennis, cross-training and life with the excitement of a 6-year-old on Christmas morning.  Dawn is the youngest of the group and we all appreciate her youthful enthusiasm.

Rob and Kevin are great guys and loyal Jaguars fans regardless of our Win-Loss record.  They enjoy the preparation for the 6+ races a year they compete in as much as they do the post-race parties.  Both successful businessmen, they know how important it is to stay healthy and they dedicate their mornings to enhancing their fitness.  I thoroughly enjoy my time with them because they are always upbeat about their lives as devoted husbands, fathers and athletes. Based on their healthy attitude and fitness discipline, I could see both of these young men running races into their 70’s!

Beth shared her blessings of having a strong marriage, a long and healthy gene-pool,  an exciting career and a sincere passion for being very healthy since she was a teenager.  She referenced a neighbor from her youth who exercised every morning and the positive impression it made on her 35+ years ago.  Her fitness level and athleticism is obvious and a result of her hard work and diligence.

Recently our early morning gang of running thugs on the “mean streets of Ponte Vedra Beach” is missing our official leader of the group, Rushton.  I ran my first Ironman triathlon with Ruston in Hawaii in 1994 and have ben close friends ever since.  She is one of the most motivated non-professional athletes I’ve ever know and I have a ton of respect for her as a person and an athlete.  She’s overcoming a recent heel surgery and we’re all cheering for her to recover in record time.  She’s not running now but we all know that she’ll be back winning her age group in road races by Memorial Day.

Lessons Learned

I’ve learned so much from my healthy friends and so can you.

Stay the Course – Consistency is a valuable variable with fitness.  Making the time to exercise and eat properly is priceless if you want awesome results compared to simply tying to find the time to workout.

It All Starts With the Head – Having a positive attitude about your body and what you want to do with it is the first step.  Unlike your car, computer or house, you can’t simply trade your body in for a shiny new one so you better work on making this one better.  When I’m running down the road at 4:30 AM checking out the raccoon in the grass or the moon-lit sky, I get excited about being extremely alive in my mini-adventure not envious of my warm pillow.

Like Charges Attract – If you want to be healthy and exercise properly, spend more time hanging out with people who do just that.  I love the quote: “Successful people consistently do what unsuccessful people don’t like to do.”  If you truly want to have outstanding health, have healthy friends who embrace fitness with a positive attitude.

Challenging Yourself – There’s only two ways to motivate yourself:  Pleasure or Pain.  Either something feels good (positive reinforcement) or it hurts (negative reinforcement).  In reality, most challenges in our lives encompass a combination of the two.  For me and my friends, competing in races and competition gives us a goal to prepare for to challenge ourselves.  Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself because it’s a great way to grow, to get stronger both physically and mentally and to learn priceless lessons on how to both win and lose…..such as life itself.

 

Burning Body Fat the Smart Way

I received an email from a follower with a simple and important question:  “How to I determine how hard to exercise when I want to burn more body fat?”

I loved the question and I want to share my answer.

If your main objective is to reduce body fat, your target heart rate (THR) zone should be between 70 – 75% of your maximum heart rate (MHR).  There are approximately 7 different methods to calculate one’s MHR.  To keep it simple and avoid the all-too-often “paralysis by analysis” found within the world of Wellness, I’ll make it easy:

Max HR = 220 minus your AGE

Your Fat Burning Target Heart Rate Zone  =  70 to 75% of MHR or MHR x .7 to MHR x .75

Examples:

  • 30 year old – MHR = 220 – 30 = 190 beats per minute (bpm)

Fat Burning Target Heart Rate Zone is 70 to 75% of MHR = MHR (190) x .7 to MHR x .75

190 x .7 = 133 bpm      190 x .75 = 142 bpm

The Fat Burning THR for a 30 year old is 133 to 142

  •  55-year-old – MHR = 220 – 55 = 165 bpm

Fat Burning Target Heart Rate Zone is 70 to 75% of MHR = MHR (165) x .7 to MHR x .75

165 x .7 = 115 bpm      165 x .75 = 124 bpm

The Fat Burning THR for a 55-year-old is 115 to 124

Biggest Obstacle

Boredom.  When working in this fat burning target heart rate zone, you’ll find it to be moderately intense but not overly fatigued.  Dust off the iPod because if you want to burn off the fat, avoid injuries and get ready for the beach, you’ll have to win the battle against a little boredom of the longer workouts.

Interestingly, that 70-75% of the MHR intensity for most runners is at a point where the runner can still carry on short conversations without being too winded.  In other words, at approximately 70% intensity, an average runner can say 5-10 words without catching their breath but not be so exhausted while running as to not be able to talk at all.  I’ve found this trick helpful when I don’t have my heart rate monitor on but I’m still interested in burning off that bowl of ice cream that I ate the night before.

Benefits of Working Out Within the Body Fat Burning Target HR Zone

  • You WILL burn the fat & drop the weight
  • You minimize the risk of injury compared to the traditional high intensity “huffing & puffing” workouts.
  • Your soft tissue (muscle & tendons) adapts to such workouts and tend to be more accepting to more work at any age.

Tips For Burning the Love Handles

  • Buy a heart rate monitor.  It will prove to be your MVP training partner.  It doesn’t have to be an expensive heart rate monitor with all the complicated components.  A simple heart rate monitor watch with beepers to warn you if your HR has gone too high or too low along with a timer to show your progress will do.
  • Find an activity that you enjoy doing and get busy doing it within your THR zone.  It doesn’t have to be running or lifting weights.  Whatever activity you can do to get your HR into the proper zone for an extended period of time will reduce your body fat.
  • Hydrate, hydrate & hydrate.  A well hydrated body burns 50% more fat than a dehydrated body.  A 50%/50% water to sports drink ratio is my rule for anyone exercising over 30 minutes.
  • Cardio exercise takes time.  The longer you exercise, within reason, the better.  45 minutes is better than 30 and 60 minutes is better than 45.  You get the drift.
  • Get excited about your fitness and reward yourself for both your effort and your results.  Having an upbeat and optimistic attitude will significantly enhance your results compared to the “I have to do this exercise and I’m not looking forward to it” mindset.  You have so many wonderful things to do in your life and reducing your body fat and controlling your pain WILL improve the quality of your life!
  • What you eat vs what you burn: It’s Simple Math. Decrease your fat consumption, avoid eating after 8 PM, create a habit of going for a walk after every meal, avoid all cream sauces on your foods, increase the amounts of fruits and veggies that you eat and master the art of “listening” to your body.  Your body is much smarter than we give it credit for.  Listening to your body will help you do what is needed to let your body do it’s job.  It sounds crazy but those that “get it” reap the rewards of a strong and healthy body.

It’s time for YOU to make the changes that gives YOU the body you deserve.

 

Why Mud Runs are the Best Way to Build Fitness

Let’s admit the obvious: Fitness takes time and it’s not always fun.

It’s ironic when you think about it.   In today’s fast pace lifestyle if there’ one thing we don’t have much of its TIME and if there’s one thing we need more of its FUN.

I’ve been a big fan of fun fitness for 35+ years and I’m always trying to find more interesting ways implement my Personal Missions Statement:  To Enhance the Health of Others.  I’ve found a great fitness tool to do that….in the mud!

Mud runs are one of the fastest growing sports in the country and for good reason.  I’ve always been a huge fan of off-road running and adventure fitness has allowed me to challenge myself, stay in shape, and enjoy getting dirty with my friends.

Here are my top reasons why off-road racing is the best way to build fitness:

1.  Dirty Fun – Instead of worrying about what you look like in those “pretty” races, the focus of a mud run is to have fun and to not look good.  It’s a nice change and that makes “working out” less tedious and more fun.  The emphasis is on more mud and more smiles, which is the perfect combo in my book.

2.  Length Does Matter – The length of time that most mud runs require is usually more than most mature athletes would spend working out.  That additional fitness time will improve your fitness, burn more calories and build more muscle.

3.  Top to Bottom – When you finish a mud run, you know that you’ve used muscles in every part of your body.  Getting through the obstacles, over the hills, through the mud and to the finish line will work your upper body, lower body and everything in between.  The result is total fitness.

4.  Power in Numbers – Let’s be honest with each other:  Having someone to challenge us brings out the best in each of us.  Having fellow mud run teammates and competitors in the race with you to push you, cheer for you, kick you in the butt and relying on you is VERY powerful.  That extra motivation will bring the best out of you and is often the #1 reason why so many mud runners continue to return to off-road races year after year.

5.  Out of Time – Not having an emphasis on your finishing time is a good thing for the non-competitive racers of the group.  Simply taking on the challenge of the race course and finishing is the main goal of many of the racers.   Not being compared to the young speed demons via the clock is important to most of the racers lining up at the starting line.

6.  Win-Win – A wonderful benefit of many of the mud runs is their affiliation with local charities.  Raising both awareness and money for those in need makes any endeavor extra special.

Muddy Finish

I love mud runs and adventure fitness!  I’m excited to get dirty again in 2012 after the conclusion of my 2011-12 NFL season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.  If you’re a mudder, come on out and join me for some fun in the mud.

If you’ve never competed in a mud run event, please give it a try.  Get your friends together, find a mud run to sign up for, come up with a crazy team name and simple set a goal to have fun with your friends and to finish the race.  I’ve literally seen friends do just that and it changed their lives by proving to themselves that they can succeed with such a challenge.

Take action today to become a mud runner within the next 6 months.  I want to help you complete a mud run with a smile on your face.  Follow me on www.mikeryansportsmedicine.com and on Twitter @mikeryanfitness for free sports medicine tips to train for a mud run while avoiding sports injuries.