Measuring Your Fitness Program With Gratitude

Measuring Your Fitness Program With Gratitude

How does an athlete measure his/her success?

High profile athletes have coaches, fans and ESPN to judge their performance.  Runners and bikers have the clock to gauge the results of their hard work.  The athletes determined to lose weight have the dynamic-duo of the mirror and the weight scale to determine if their efforts were successful.

I recommend a different measuring tool: Gratitude, defined as “a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation”.

The Busy Life Dilemma

Today’s typical lifestyle is crazy hectic.  Personally, I work seven (7) days per week from mid-July until the end of the season in early January or February.  If I’m real lucky, I will get two (2) days off during the Bye Weekend if the injuries are low and I can properly stagger the off days with my amazing assistant athletic trainers.  That sounds insane to most people but that’s the way it is in the NFL as a certified athletic trainer and physical therapist.  This is my 26th full-time season in the NFL, 521 games, and I’m very comfortable with that schedule.

With that being said, it would be very easy to say “I’m too busy to workout”.  That is an absurd thing to say because it’s the crazy schedule that makes the need for a workout extremely important to me.  I need some “me time” to workout away from everyone asking for my help.  Be it just 45 minutes at 4:30 AM, that workout time is exactly what I need to strengthen my body and my mind to handle my daily duties.

Happy Heart, Great Start

Stress management isn’t too high on most people’s priority list these days and that’s a problem.  Taking care of your body, your mind, your attitude and your heart will change your life….and it may ultimately save your life in the process.

Reality Check

Have you ever had an injury that kept you out of your favorite sport?  Standing on the sidelines sucks.  Soon you found yourself saying: “Man if I could only (fill in the activities) again, I’d be thrilled!”

It was about 1:00 AM, January of 1984 and I was laying on my back in a dark parking lot in Hartford, CT with a dislocated ankle and fractured leg.  I was a 3:58 1500 meter runner getting ready to start my indoor track season at Central Connecticut State University but now I was in serious trouble and I was scared.  In an instant I knew my life had changed when I heard the loud crack and I realized that both my right knee and the back of my right heel were both facing in the same direction.  I remember looking down at my mangled leg and wondering if I’d ever run again.

I have to admit, I was burnt out from running at the time.  I was often running over 100 miles per week as I trained and raced on the collegiate cross country, indoor track and outdoor track teams while working in the CCSU Athletic Training Room at least 20 hours per week along with a full class room schedule so I could graduate in 4 years.

Two surgeries later and with a very aggressive rehab plan, I was ready to try to run again.  It was exactly 10 weeks to the day of my accident.  I put my books down, limped down the bleachers where I was studying and walked onto the track.  I ran 1 lap, 400 meters, with a huge smile on my face.  It was March 13, 1984 and I was a runner again!

That accident was what I needed to truly feel grateful to be the athlete that I was then and what I am today.  It shouldn’t take a devastating loss of a physical ability or a blessing or a life to make us appreciate what we have.  Being grateful is my measuring tool and my “reality meter” for everything in my life.  I get on my knees every night to give thanks to God for what I have because I’m very grateful for what I have today and I know that tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Being Grateful…Now

NOW is the best time to appreciate your health.  Like everything else in your life, investing time and effort into your body and will reward you richly.  Stop taking your health for granted before you find yourself with an injury or ailment that puts you on the sideline watching others doing what you love to do.

The time to enhance your fitness is NOW.  It will test your patience so focus on getting better every day and celebrate your accomplishments along the way with passion.  There’s a new YOU out there and it all starts with you being grateful today while you work on being better tomorrow.

Taking the Brakes Off For Great Health

I’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!

(Lame) Reasons People Commonly Give for Not Exercising []

This is a fun and interesting article on the 10 most common reasons why people don’t exercise. It not only describes the lame excuses many people give for not working out but it also gives a solution to overcome those barriers. Whether by giving instruction on how to overcome the given obstacle or by added encouragement, this article breaks down common inhibiting factors of exercise.

Give it a read, delete these excuses from your vocabulary & get out there and move!  MDR


1.  I Don’t Have the Time to Exercise

Research documents the fact that exercising does not have to be time-consuming to be beneficial. For example, engaging in physical activity for as little as 15 minutes a day (either on a continuous, nonstop basis or cumulatively in several increments) can help you be heart healthy.

2.  I Don’t Know How to Exercise

Truth be known, exercising is not a particularly complex undertaking. The basic key is to just get moving. Walk, run, swim, join a group-exercise class. . . whatever rings your motivational bell. If you want sound advice and guidance on your exercise efforts from an expert, you should consult a health/fitness professional who has been certified by a credible professional organization (e.g., ACSM, ACE, NSCA).

3.  Exercise is Too Inconvenient

No muss, no fuss, no way. In contrast to the expectations of those individuals who feel that life’s rewards should be handed to them in a neatly packaged, effortless way, most things worth having are worth making some sacrifice (e.g., time, money, energy) to obtain. The health benefits associated with exercising on a regular basis are no exception.

4.  I’m Not Fit Enough to Exercise

Simply stated, you don’t have to be fit to get fit. Regardless of how physically fit you are at any given point in your life, you are never so out of shape that you can’t or shouldn’t exercise. You may not be a viable candidate for running a marathon, but you can engage in physical activity at a safe exercise intensity level that is appropriate for your level of fitness.

5.  Exercise Can be Painful or Even Dangerous

Exercise will not harm you. While you may experience some degree of discomfort (as opposed to pain), such a feeling is your body’s simple way of letting you know that there is a price to pay for certain actions, for example, doing too much exercise too quickly. In fact, the risk of injuring yourself while engaging in sound exercise is very low. The danger of dying while exercising is extremely rare.

6.  I Get Enough Exercise at Work

Unfortunately, too many people equate being fatigued after work with having a similar effect on their body as exercising. Not true. Your work may be physically taxing, but it is not exercise.

7.  Exercise is Too Expensive

You don’t need to spend much money to exercise. Other than buying a good pair of shoes, your wallet does not have to withstand an assault to pay for your exercise regimen. Furthermore, relatively speaking, exercising is a lot less costly than the array of potential downsides to a sedentary lifestyle (e.g., higher healthcare costs, lower levels of productivity, etc.).

8.  Exercise is Too Physically Demanding

Certainly, exercising entails a greater physical challenge than the vast array of sitting-on-your-heinie tasks associated with a nonphysical activity lifestyle. On the other hand, exercise need not be unduly tough or hard. The key is to engage in an exercise regimen that is appropriate for your level of fitness. All too often, the real challenge you face is to conjure up enough energy to get up off the couch and get moving.

9.  I’m Too Old to Start Exercising

The innumerable benefits of exercising on a regular basis are within the reach of individuals of virtually all ages. In reality, you’re never too old to begin exercising. Depending upon your age (men over 45; women over 55), you may need to see your physician prior to engaging in a vigorous exercise program.

10.  I Don’t Believe in Exercise

A healthy dose of skepticism about the existence of some things (e.g., the Loch Ness monster, the Easter bunny, an honest politician, etc.) is appropriate. The value of exercise, however, should not be one of them. The benefits of exercise are extensive and well documented. If for any reason you question the merits of exercise, you need to invigorate your life with a 3-G’s strategy – get real, get up, and get moving.

James A. Peterson, Ph.D., FACSM, is a freelance writer and consultant in sports medicine. From 1990 until 1995, Dr. Peterson was director of sports medicine with StairMaster. Until that time, he was professor of physical education at the United States Military Academy.