Category Archives: Fitness

Fitness / Exercise Related Posts

Muscles/Tendons – Lengthen/Stretching – Personal Injury Experience

I have been active most of my life, and have been consistently exercising for almost 25 years. During that time I continually research and learn. One aspect of exercising has been clear to me for a long time – the importance of lengthening and stretching your muscles. On April 17, 2014, I personally experienced the result of taking this important factor of exercising for granted, and not spending enough time warming up the muscles pre-exercising and regularly practicing stretching (and yoga).

A little over six months ago I started body building/weight training, a departure for me of over 20 years of mostly cardio. The benefits to weight training are easily researched – strengthens bones, builds muscle to lessen chance of injury, burns calories, body composition, etc. I was performing deadlifts (PR=335lbs), squats, shrugs, presses, etc., all with the intention of gaining some muscle mass and strength. On 04/17/2014 I was in a training session for some core/cardio. I was on my third set of jumping rope, when I felt nothing short of being hit on the back of the lower right leg with a baseball bat or rock or something. I went down and looked up at my trainer and asked him what I hit. The answer was nothing, and then I knew something was wrong. It was fairly obvious it was the Achilles I ruptured.


As I write this blog entry I am one day removed from surgery, with 12 weeks of crutches and 8-12 weeks of a walking air boot in my future. What I wanted to know was the “why” – what seems like an innocent exercise of jumping rope to cause an Achilles rupture. I’ve run 5K’s, done a Spartan Sprint, climbed Mt. Katahdin in Maine, weight training – no injuries. A side note – a few years ago I blew out my right calf muscles stepping off a picnic bench.

Figuring out the “why” was looked at from several angles. My cousin mentioned to me he thought is was the heavy deadlifts that weakened the Achilles which started me on my quest for an answer. I thought I was strengthening the Achilles with my deads and squats so in my mind I didn’t think my cousin was correct. Maybe it was just a freak accident, and the jumping rope caused the injury. But something in the thought process was missing, and then I put the pieces together to figure out the why. Although I know all about warming up and stretching and their benefits (flexibility, lengthening), in hindsight I neglected those on a regular basis and took shortcuts, blaming time as the major factor. A couple of minutes warming up, a few minutes of stretching afterwards – not enough.

My answer to the why – a combination. With the weight training I was performing, I was strengthening the muscles. But with the lack of warming up and stretching the muscles, I was not lengthening the muscles back out from the weight training, thus slightly decreasing my range of motion. So in the act of jump roping, I was continually stretching the Achilles, and since I had been strengthening them over the past several months without stretching them back out, like an elastic band I was asking the Achilles to stretch but they ran out of room and BOOM!! – complete rupture.

This is my personal experience, and from my research I will live and learn. As I progress through physical therapy, I will add stretching probably as a daily morning routine. I will spend no less than 10 minutes warming up before any exercise routine and will spend time post workout stretching. I also plan to add Yoga and Pilates to my overall approach. I won’t sit here and pull out the age card (I’m 54) although I know it’s a factor. In my case, this injury wasn’t from pushing too hard for my age, but was simply a procedural error overall.

My advice to all is to never neglect warming up and stretching.

The Key To The Healthy Lifestyle – Do What Works For You

When I titled this entry, I chuckled at its simplicity and duh factor. But at the end of the day, staying fit and healthy is a mental challenge, and you need to provide yourself the best method to stay in the game. Based on your daily life filled with work, family, social, financial, and other worries, it’s not as simple as it may seem. My last blog post was about resolutions and how I feel they can be a recipe for disaster as you can set an unrealistic goal for yourself based solely on a date on the calendar.

My definition of living a healthy lifestyle is one that you will see everywhere – good nutrition and exercise. It all starts with good nutrition, because no amount of exercise will offset bad nutrition. With that said, I have changed my viewpoint on nutrition, based on my change from a cardio based eat low-fat low carb mentality to a resistance training with some cardio and tracking macros approach. I find the latter to be more sensible, as it allows for more flexibility with the enjoyment of food. With bodybuilding, simply put, you calculate your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) which will provide you calories to eat to maintain, and then adjust your eating habits if you want to lose weight or gain mass (cutting and bulking in the bodybuilding world) by eating 10-20% above TDEE to bulk and 10-20% below TDEE to cut. Using an app like MyFitnessPal has been an invaluable tool for me, as I can control my weight fluctuation based on my daily food intake because I know pretty accurately what I am eating. You have to eat every day, so smart nutrition is a daily work-in-progress.

Exercise is the wild card, because each of us have different abilities and circumstances. You may like running, or weight training, or cycling, or indoor cardio, or taking fitness classes. There are almost endless possibilities in what you can do to stay fit. I could sit here and tell you based on my research that resistance training is probably the best method to stay fit, as you can use resistance training to gain lean muscle while still enjoying heart-healthy cardio benefits, all of which will help you with weight control. I’ve spent 26 years actively “working out” – started with a Nordic Track, did lots of cardio for decades with the elliptical, running, spinning, etc. Now I am weight training, using cardio only for its heart benefit and doing such 1-2 times per week. Muscle burns fat as well if not better than spending 1 hour doing cardio that might burn 400 calories, whereas after a weight training session your body continues to burn fat. I’ve proven this to myself, as I can control my weight better now than I used to on the cardio train.

At the end of the day, when I mentor others with their fitness goals, my only true objective is to find a program that a person wants to do every day. Regardless of all the research out there comparing various forms of fitness, if you are doing any form of fitness, it’s better than doing nothing at all. I may not personally like to run, but if that’s your thing, then you should be doing it. Exercise for me is a release. I enjoy it as it helps clear the mind and give me a sense of accomplishment, all the while knowing I am doing something good for my body.

Alcohol And Weight Training (Or Even General Fitness & Health)

For the past 7 weeks (of a 12-week decision), I made a choice not to drink any alcohol as part of my first time ever weight training program. Can I hold out for another 5 weeks? Hell yeah – it’s easy for me. But, will I? Should I?

In my case I only drink rum. From a health standpoint, rum has been linked to reducing stress and lowering blood pressure. I have no proof on that, nor do I deem it important enough to find research studies on the subject. There is more widespread belief that a glass of wine a day is beneficial. But alcohol dehydrates, and when trying to gain mass/muscle, you strive to have your muscles hydrated.

Here’s my take on alcohol in relation to my goals. I’m not training to compete, so I’m not taking my fitness to the degree a competitor would. But, I’m trying to maximize any potential gains by being smart with nutrition. That being said, there “may” be room for an occasional drink, but it has to be planned for. Alcohol is known as “empty” calories. There’s approximately 70 calories in a shot (1 oz.) of rum. At home you can control your pour, but at a bar, one drink might be 2 ounces or more. When you are weight training to build muscle, you major concern is the tracking of macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates, fat. In addition, based on scientific calculations, you want to achieve a specific daily calorie intake. So all that rum does is add calories and nothing else. And at the end of the day, excess calories is what makes you gain weight. Therefore, if I plan to go out and have a drink, I will assume an average of 2 ounces per drink (at my local watering hole, one drink is more than that) and have to figure about 150 calories of zero beneficial nutrition. That means in order to meet my daily macronutrient and calorie goals, I’ll have to make sure the rum calories are not in addition to my daily intake as calculated. I prefer to get my daily calories from healthy food sources (now that I am consciously thinking about and tracking nutrition).

For me, alcohol is more a social thing. I love the taste of chocolate. I like the taste of rum, and I don’t mind the “buzz” of a drink or two. But as I’ve progressed with my healthy lifestyle, alcohol doesn’t have it’s own place anymore – it’s just an add-on. I anticipate that only at particular parties or social events, I may have a drink and milk it all night. Other than that, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my “regular” Friday and/or Saturday night drinks. This past 7 weeks I’ve seen how easy it is not to drink alcohol, and I truly do not miss mornings of lethargy after a 2+ drink night.

Challenging Yourself – A Personal Perspective To Find The Fire Within

Don’t let anyone fool you – challenging yourself with working out and eating healthy on a regular basis is a huge undertaking.

I am currently weight training for the first time in my life, and here are my feelings at the end of week #1, as posted in a workout challenge group I am a part of:

This morning I don’t feel too sore since yesterday was rest day, but after Build:Chest/Tris that will change. As you’ve seen me post about a few times this week, I feel differently about the nutrition and it’s effect on my body and mind. I personally don’t enjoy eating this much food. Some of it is physical (stomach) and some is mental (coming from years of a lean approach). Tomorrow morning I will take my 7 day measurements which I’m not looking forward to (I know when I see the weight and BF% I’ll probably just shake my head and turn away mumbling “trust the system”).

Running a calorie surplus is the mental challenge for me. It took me a long time to get to the lean person I was happy with, and to switch mentality from lean maintenance to mass gaining takes a lot of discipline. With that post, I received a nice detailed response which leaned towards that person supporting and motivating me to continue on. Here was my response:

Thanks for the detailed reply. Let me make something really clear – I may voice displeasure with the calorie intake, but I hoped my words made it clear that I have no intention of straying from the system. I’m not adjusting anything from the guide, and will eat the calories with the proper portion %’s. You should understand that I’ve been at this for decades without a shred of outside motivation, no accountability partner, and lots of doubters. My dedication and commitment to my efforts is a fire that burns entirely within, and over the decades the flame only gets bigger.

It’s physically and mentally challenging doing any sort of exercise. Being it’s my first time resistance training, it takes some time finding the proper weight to use while working on keeping perfect form to minimize the risk of injury. Physically, I just push myself where the last rep I can barely complete while keeping good form. It’s the mental challenge that’s most difficult. I have no problem getting my workouts in each day, and I’m sticking to the nutrition plan. The difficult part as I stated above is I have spent years to get to the leaner/harder person I am today, and have approached nutrition to maintain the 150 lbs. and 12% body fat I was at. Now, at 2,800 calories per day, in my first week I gained 3 pounds and 1.3% body fat. I understand that I need calorie excess to gain mass, but it’s still hard watching decades of hard work “appear” to be going down the drain (I know that’s not true). But I have a goal to gain 10 lbs. of muscle, so onward I march.

The point of illustrating my mindset is the mental challenge to keeping up with your healthy routine of fitness and nutrition.  I have self trained myself over several decades to be dedicated and committed to living a healthy lifestyle. I have fought those internal voices that tell me to stop and have ignored the external voices from those who don’t understand, and realized that instead of channeling my efforts externally to find a support system that didn’t naturally exist, I needed to work on my internal support system – The Fire Within.

Get an accountability partner if you can. Hopefully you have many people supporting you. And reach out for motivation when you feel yourself in need. But you must work hard on the fire within, for at the end of the day, only you push that button to exercise and only you can control what you eat. It’s a challenge, but it’s worth it since you’re working on being a healthier you.

Vacations – Your Workouts and Eating

Vacation. The time to “escape” from reality and have some fun. But alas, it can also break that nice little routine you may have going with your workouts and eating. So how do you prevent a vacation from a setback?

The answer may not appear simple. There are so many vacation scenario’s – an all inclusive cruise or resort; a trip to a major destination (Hawaii, Paris, The Caribbean, etc.); visit family; camping….and more. Each poses it’s own issues with regards to keeping up with your workout program, and more importantly can really throw curveballs at your nutrition (I was just in Oahu, Hawaii, and the food choices were wide and varied and all so tempting – and I think Hawaii has the best food of anywhere I’ve ever travelled to).

But there is a simple answer. That simple answer is: Think ahead and plan accordingly. Think about your particular trip and what’s available to you, and adjust your plan of attack accordingly.

Here’s a few thoughts on scenario’s I have experienced first hand:

On cruises, many ships have fitness facilities, so there is no problem getting in some sort of exercise. You can jog around the deck or on a track if the ship has one. Also, see the next paragraph for in room ideas. Regarding food, you can order off the menu and ask for less butter etc. Just portion control, and hold back on licking the plate clean if the portions are large, and indulge in a few bites of the delicious deserts instead of devouring the whole thing. I haven’t been to an all inclusive, but I assume it’s somewhat similar.

If you travel to a hotel with a kitchen, great. Make your own breakfast and lunches to save $$, and maybe even a dinner or two. Make something fancy – you’re on vacation. At restaurants, try to order smart. Request cooking in little or no butter, get dressing on the side, don’t get desert. Look for hotels with fitness facilities as many have them, even if they’re small. Buy a set of exercise bands for travelling. You can find discounts at local gyms if there are any. You can jog. If there’s a pool, swim laps for 1/2 hour. You can find simple routines on the internet to workout in your room – combinations of crunches, squats, lunges, burpees, jumping jacks, push ups with variations, mountain climbers, sprinting in place. These are all things that can be done in any room without equipment.

Camping is no different. When you treat yourself to a restaurant, there’s usually healthy alternatives for you. And cooking and camping go well together. Chicken, pork, fish. Salads and steamed veggies. As far as exercising, same as with hotels (minus the fitness facilities). You can bring bikes along. Maybe you’re into kayaking. In my case, I take my exercise mat, DVD’s, and my laptop along and workout at the campsite.

In short, there’s really no need to treat a vacation much differently then at home. Maybe you’re escaping work, or family issues – a vacation is about cleansing the mind. But with your own body, nothing should be different. Nutrition wise it may be more challenging if your only alternative are restaurants, so you just have to commit yourself to ordering healthy and maybe not finishing everything. Any supplements you take at home should come for the ride and be taken every day as you always do. Maybe you have to modify a protein shake if you use a blender, but with ice and water and a shaker cup you should be at a minimum good to go. There is always a way to workout wherever you are. It may not be your regular routine, but something is better than nothing.