facing monsters on the trail

This post could alternatively be titled, "more reasons exercising outside is better."

So this weekend, Easter Sunday morning, I'm running along, minding my own business, when this "little" guy scampered over a couple rocks before eyeing me suspiciously.

chuckwalla lizard in thunderbird conservation park - glendale az

Wow! A Gila Monster?! (The only poisonous reptile in the United States!) Seeing him move that fast was enough to make me jump to the side of the trail (and out of my skin a little bit!) But I've never heard of a gila monster with solid markings, so I had to look him up later..

Turns out he's a Chuckwalla - a big lizard none-the-less, but completely harmless to humans.

Oh well, that was still pretty cool. Here's a picture zoomed out, so you can see the scale/size more clearly:

chuckwalla lizard in thunderbird conservation park - glendale az

Then it was back to the trail.

I ran Thunderbird Conservation Park, in what turned out to be my longest mountain-trail run ever. (not long by most runners' standards, but it was my PR.) I parked by the amphitheater and started east along the Coach Whip trail (which runs along 59th Ave), then I crossed the bridge and jogged up H2 (Arrowhead Point). After descending H2, I crossed back over the bridge and ran the H3 Summit (Cholla Loop), which took me around the mountain and brought me back to my car.

The views from both peaks are outstanding - panoramic views of the Valley. Either trail makes for a worthwhile hike (or run), but doing them on the same trek felt great.

Thunderbird Park - H2 Peak taken from H3 Peak
a view of Arrowhead Point and the H2 trail, taken from the top of the H3 Summit.

Arrowhead, Glendale, and Phoenix, all the way to the Estrella Mountains, from the top of H3 Summit.

When it was all said and done, I spent an hour and change enjoying the blue skies and warm sun. I saw a chuckwalla up close, soaked in some terrific views, met a few other hikers and runners (and a mountain biker), and felt good about what I had done.

My RunKeeper app says I climbed 1,159 vertical feet over the course of 4.79 miles, at an average pace of 13:55 per mile. (that includes stopping to take pictures and chat a little bit.) Overall, that was a great trail run - one I expect I'll come back to many more times.

What's the coolest &/or scariest thing you've ever encountered while out in nature?

-Chris Butterworth


how to be a friend to somebody with autism

April is Autism Awareness Month, so let's talk a little autism.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) now estimates that as many as 1 in 50 children being born in the United States today will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum. 1 out of every 50. That means you probably know somebody with autism. It means your kids most likely have a classmate with autism. It means autism is becoming more routine.

Unfortunately, it doesn't mean those with autism are being treated well. Or even that it's easy to make friends with them. But we, as a whole, need to do better; we need to try harder. And part of that comes from knowledge, understanding, and awareness.

Angela Haupt wrote an article for US News & World Report titled "How to be a Friend to Someone with Autism". It's a good article - definitely worth reading. Her take-aways are highlighted below (with my comments after each bulletpoint):

  • Don't assume he or she doesn't value friendship. He probably does, but making new friends can be a daunting task for someone with autism.
  • Be patient. It might take awhile to develop a relationship - that's ok.
  • Communicate clearly. Slang, nuances, and body language can be hard to understand.
  • Make plans (together). Everybody likes being included and feeling part of a group, autistic or not.
  • Respect sensory differences. Bright lights, loud noises, itchy long sleeve shirts - if they bother them, they bother them. Don't try to downplay it or figure out why - it won't make sense to you, but it's real to them.
  • Don't treat people with autism like a project. Don't pity them, and don't try to change them; just get to know them.
  • Stand up for your autistic friend. Bullying is common for those with autism; having a friend can make a huge difference.

That's a pretty good list. Maybe not all-encompassing, but it's a good place to start.

On a Personal Note

My oldest son has autism, and while he doesn't have a lot of friends, he very much enjoys the friends he has. Here are some pictures from this spring:

Ran into a long-time friend (also with autism) at a play presented for children with special needs.

At the Renaissance Fair with cousins

Sometimes it's just a boy and his dog.

This series is one of my favorites - doing a workout routine with his brother at the park over spring break. "Anything you can do I can do, too."


Thanks for reading.

- Chris Butterworth


finding the right path

There are so many different types of exercise available, how do you know which is the right one?

Weight lifting? Aerobic exercise? Cross training?

Long workouts, where you have to pace yourself? Or shorter, more intense workouts? And what about frequency - is everyday too much? Is once a week enough?

I've always been a jack of all workouts, master of none. I played every sport growing up, and I've cycled through various workouts as an adult. I never found the one that I loved, and I always felt like I was missing out on something when I focused on something else. I was a good short-distance runner when I was younger (I once ran a 5:04 mile when I was 14), but I always hated running.

Earlier this spring I ran a charity 5k race, where I bumped into an old friend. We ended up running together, at a fairly slow pace, and had a great time. I don't remember ever having enjoyed a run quite that much. The whole experience left me wanting more - I wanted to run more, and to enjoy running more - and I think a slower pace was the key.

Once I decided running was a path I wanted to follow, I began building up my mileage. At first I could only run a couple miles at a time, but over the course of the spring I increased it, a little bit each week, until I was able to run 6 miles without too much difficulty. (still at a slow pace, but also still enjoyable.)

The next question was, "Where?" Literally, what path should I run? And then I found it. Imagine waking up to this desert scenery:

Running through the desert preserve north of Loop 101 and east of Cave Creek Rd in Phoenix, at dawn.

The desert ends at a large soccer complex (Reach 11), with beautiful green fields.

My lone footprints across fresh dew on the fields.

Running back through the desert I'm treated to an awesome sunrise.

Yeah, choosing the right path of fitness can be the difference between success and failure. And choosing the right path for your fitness can lead to even more enjoyment.


gaining determination from setbacks

gaining determination from setbacks

A couple weeks ago, when it was my turn to cook dinner, I had a great idea - I wanted a fresh and flavorful dinner, and I wanted it grilled.

We had chicken sausage in the freezer (a package each of hot and sweet), and we had potatoes in the pantry. I stopped on the way home for some fresh green beans and asparagus. Mmmm, this was going to be a perfect spring-time dinner.

grilling sausage, potatoes, and fresh vegetables

I quartered the potatoes (so they would cook a little faster), and wrapped each one in foil with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Then I put them on the grill to start cooking.

After about 15 minutes I added the chicken sausage to the grill, figuring they would need about 25-30 minutes, and the potatoes, having the 15 minute head start, would be done at the same time.

While the potatoes and sausage were cooking, I prepared the vegetables. My younger son can be a little picky, so I cut the ends off the green beans. This should avoid any comments about "not wanting to eat sticks." My oldest son can't eat dairy, so I didn't use butter. I seasoned the beans and asparagus with the same olive oil and seasonings as the potatoes, and put them on the grill when the sausage had about ten minutes left to cook.

By now my mouth was watering, as I imagined how awesome this would taste.

Finally everything was ready, so I turned down the grill and brought the food in to eat.

That's when dinner went sideways..

Turns out the potatoes weren't done; they needed another 10-15 minutes. By now everybody was hungry and ready to eat, so we had to make the best of things while I put the potatoes back on the grill. The sausage got wrapped on a plate with foil, and the vegetables went into the oven to stay warm.

Ten minutes later I went out to check on the potatoes, and the grill had gone out. Apparently this was my grill's way of telling me I hadn't refilled the propane tank recently. Oops. In a span of 20 minutes I had gone from "everybody get ready for an awesome dinner", to "damage control time", to "full on improvisation mode."

The sausage was good, and the vegetables were great. I salvaged enough potatoes for the kids to eat. Then we hit the pantry for chips, pita bread, and whatever else we could find to round out our plates.

This was not my finest hour as a cook. But, just like anything else that doesn't go perfectly (like a skipped workout or a bad day of eating), it's just one day. Live and learn, right? And do better tomorrow.

For me, personally - that picture above has been staring at me, taunting me. I'll make this same meal again in a month or two, with a full tank of propane and more patience on the potatoes. Sometimes a setback just makes us more determined to get it right. I might even add some corn on the cob next time. Mmmmm, I'm getting hungry again.

-Chris Butterworth


craving soda in the summer

craving soda in the summer

Summer is just around the corner. At least it is if you live in Phoenix, where our 3 weeks of spring goes by in the blink of an eye, before giving way to five months of walking-on-the-sun heat. (I can't complain, though - I'm one of those crazy people who likes the hot..)

Think I'm exaggerating? Here we were a week ago:

74 degrees in peoria az
images clipped from weather.com

And here's what's coming up this weekend:

98 degrees in peoria az

This post might be a bit early for those of you still digging your car out of the snow, but your summer is coming soon...

Summer Cravings

I've already noticed my cravings changing, and I know they'll get worse as it heats up: soda, and fruit.

During the winter I can easily get by on one Diet Coke per day, or less. There are many times when I'll get to the end of the day and realize I didn't have a single soda. Or, I might have half a diet soda after dinner, just because I need something to put my bourbon in. (why can't I just learn to drink it on the rocks?) I drink plenty of liquids - coffee, water, unsweetened tea, water with a splash of fruit juice - but I rarely have an all out craving for soda.

Once the weather changes, though, look out!

cans of dr pepper, coke, and diet coke

I want a Dr Pepper first thing in the morning. I want a Coke at about 10:30. Give me a Diet Coke with lunch, and another one in the mid-afternoon. And I'd like to pour a Coke with dinner..

Mix in some grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, and a pear, and I could easily add 500-1,000 calories to my daily consumption. Uh oh.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not anti-fruit. Nor am I anti having a soda once in awhile. Remember, I'm going after being healthy (the 90%), but not necessarily being perfect (the last 10%). But they do contain calories, and calories add up. These extra snacks need to be accounted for, either by reducing the calories consumed at meals or other snacks, or by increasing the amount of active and passive fitness.

How to Fight the Cravings?

Realizing you're having these cravings is one thing. Stopping yourself from acting on them is something else entirely. Here are some of my techniques for fighting off these cravings:

1.) Food Journal. When I write it down, and I know I'll have to look at it for the rest of the day, I tend to have a better chance of not pulling the trigger. (or the pop-top.) This is especially true for the 2nd or 3rd opportunity - I'm not a big fan of failing, and seeing that failure on paper really gets me motivated to not fail.

2.) Chewing Gum or Breath Mints. If I can stall myself for five minutes, and my taste buds get something else to work on, I can usually pass through the craving without action.

3.) Smaller Size. Sometimes a couple sips is enough, as long as the rest of the can isn't sitting there taunting me. If I pour myself a small cup, and then throw out the rest, I'm usually good to go.

4.) Drink Ice Water. I push myself to drink a lot of ice water during the summer, which helps on a few different fronts. A) I'm not as thirsty when I'm fully hydrated. B) If I tell myself I can have a soda once I finish my glass of ice water, but drinking that glass of ice water takes awhile, my craving might pass on its own. C) If my body burns 50-100 calories per day just by warming itself back up, that's a little bit of an offset without me having to do anything extra.

5.) Will Power. Good old fashioned willpower. Sometimes I have to be my own parent, and just say "no, you can't have a soda right now."

That's it. I know I won't be perfect, but I also know I can't give in to every craving I have throughout the summer. A little moderation, a little willpower, a little extra exercise, and a little forgiveness when I fail, and I'll get through the summer just fine.

What do you crave during the summer? And how do you stop yourself from overindulging?

-Chris Butterworth


do allergies cramp your workout style?

do allergies cramp your workout style?

palo verde tree in full bloom
one of many allergy trees outside my office.

The spring bloom is in full swing - lots of pretty colors everywhere I look. Unfortunately, that also means I'm spending way too much time sneezing and reaching for a kleenex. (on the bright side, that's lots of extra ab-work, right?)

The strange thing is, my allergies have actually gotten less severe over the years, compared with many of my friends who never had them as kids but now they get knocked out for a few weeks each year. Regardless, though, there are a few days each spring when my body simply does NOT want to do a workout.

Here are some of the tricks I've used to beat back the allergy excuse:

Workout in the morning. Sometimes the longer the day goes, the worse my allergies get, to the point that all I want to do at night is take a benadryl and go to bed! This is especially true after a few days of pushing hard without enough sleep - once my body gets run down, it's all over. If I wait for a nighttime workout, and then start to feel sneezy and cloudy during the day, I've just set myself up for failure.

Workout indoors. As much as I hate treadmills, sometimes getting away from the wind and the pollen is enough to allow me to get up to speed.

Slow Down. I know I'm not going to break a PR on a day that's windy, dusty, pollen-y, and sneezy. So what - I don't need to break a record just to have a good workout. On top of that, I don't want to push my lungs to the point where I'm wheezing and gasping for air - pollen-filled air.

Cool Shower. A cool shower goes a long way towards calming my body down once the allergy symptoms have kicked in. Taking a shower after the workout is obvious, but I've even taken a shower before my workout, just to clear my head.

Just Go! Getting started is usually the hardest part of the workout, and I find that once I get going and my adrenaline kicks in, I don't even need the snot rag in my pocket. Or, I may have to slow down and take a few breaks along the way, just to blow my nose. It's not the end of the world (and who am I trying to impress? My wife already loves me, and hopefully she's not watching!)

Take a day off. Can't win 'em all - sometimes I actually listen to what my body is telling me, and I take a break. Missing a few workouts isn't going to make a bit of difference in the long run. Just gotta be careful not to form any new lazy-bad habits.


What tips and tricks have you used to stay in shape while fighting off allergy season?

-Chris Butterworth


friday motivation - make it count (video)

friday motivation - make it count (video)

Filmmaker Casey Neistat travels around the world in 10 days, and shows us what it means (to him) to "Make it Count."

Here's a link to the video, in case it doesn't embed in your rss feed.

I love this video - it's a great combination of scenery, exercise, motivational quotes, and doing something exciting and out of the ordinary. And it makes me want to Make it Count more in my own life (and film myself more!)

Have you ever done anything as crazy as this?

-Chris Butterworth


why the Boston Marathon?

why the Boston Marathon?

I had a post queued up for yesterday's Boston Marathon. I wanted to write a tribute to the Hoyts - the most inspirational father-son combo I've ever heard of. I wanted to write a more detailed follow-up story to the post I wrote about them 5 years ago ("Get Over It".)

bombs explode at the finish line of the Boston Marathon

But I can't; not today. Instead I'm left to wade through my emotions over yesterday's senseless bombings.

Why would someone do such a thing?

A marathon is a race, sure. But there are only a handful of people in the world who have a chance of winning. For everybody else, especially those taking longer than 4 hours to finish (when the bombs went off), the race is about achievement - personal triumph, overcoming challenges, celebration of loved ones. Why would someone choose to punish this group of people?

I'm shocked by it.

The images and video are shocking. The image in my mind is even worse. The instant change from triumphant joy to tragic pain is beyond unfair. Have you ever seen a child playing - running and laughing, when they suddenly fall down or run into something, and you can see their whole body and face change from joy to pain? This is like that, times ten thousand. Or ten million.

I'm not surprised.

I've wondered about something like this for years, ever since the Twin Towers on 9/11. Anytime I'm at a sporting event - Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Coyotes, Spring Training baseball - or a crowded office building, or even a jam-packed shopping mall at Christmas-time, I wonder if this is the time some douchebag terrorist is going to take advantage of a large group of innocent people.

Times have changed.

Crowded places become potential target zones. Random schools are outlets for troubled teens' wrath. It's no longer safe to let your kids play outside by themselves..

This is bullshit. My heart and thoughts go out to the victims in yesterdays bombing attack. But my anger is going much further. I want justice, and I want vengeance. I want punishment - swift and severe - for people who do bad things to others.

Sure I'm going down a slippery slope. Where do we draw the line? Rapists? Hang 'em! Armed robbery? Put 'em away! Burglary? White collar crime? DUI?

I don't have the answers - not today. Mostly I have anger, sorrow, and frustration. I'm going to spend some time today thinking about yesterday's events and the people involved. And I'm going to make a concerted effort to enjoy my own life, and my family, that much more, because.. You never know...

-Chris Butterworth


one move to fix your body - another dumb article

one move to fix your body - another dumb article

Get Long, Lean Legs Like Ballerina Misty Copeland
from self.com

ballerina misty copeland

From the article:

"Not only is the girl ridiculously talented and uber graceful, she's also got a strong physique and hot bod to boot. "It's one of the few art forms that you have to start at such a young age. It really takes years to shape and mold the body," says Copeland, who took her first ballet class on a Boys & Girls Club basketball court.
Since some of us may not be able to dedicate years to the craft, Copeland gives us a for-dummies-style guide to the first building block of ballet: the Plie. "The technique creates these long, lean muscles so you're incredibly strong but in a delicate way," she says. "Something as simple as the plie will strengthen your quads, inner thighs, and calf muscles." One move to ballerina legs? Done.

The article then goes on to describe the details and how to do the "Pile in First Position" move.

Really? Because I don't buy it.

1.) Let's start with the obvious. Misty Copeland is a soloist with the American Balet Theatre, and has been training long hours for at least 15 years. This puts her well into the 10,000 Hours category, described in Malcom Gladwell's book Outliers. (the theory being it takes 10,000 hours of training in a particular field to become a world class expert in that field.)

From Misty's own words in the article, "It's one of the few art forms that you have to start at such a young age. It really takes years to shape and mold the body..."

And yet, according to Self, you can knock out a few Pile moves and have legs like Misty's by next week. Awesome - my wife will be stoked!

2.) Next, let's step back and consider her diet and nutrition. Misty Copeland is a professional ballerina, whose physical body is her key for success. I'm willing to bet she eats very well - not just in the "less calories than you burn" way that's good enough for 90% of us, but in the "maximize the exact benefit of nutritional makeup from every bite" way used by the top 1% performers.

To put it more simply, those legs weren't built on cheeseburgers and pizza.

3.) Let's also consider genetics. We all come in different sizes - tall, short, thick, thin, and everything in-between. It would be impossible for some people to have legs like Misty, regardless of how many years they spent doing first position piles.

Most of us would be better served to work on the things we have the most control over: eating smaller portions, eating less processed food, and exercising more. That's a simple combination to make the most of whatever genes your parents gave you.

Bottom Line

Come on, Self. You have to do better. Nobody is going to get legs like Misty Copeland from doing one simple move. Why not use your platform to promote ideas for body shaping and lifestyle maintenance people can actually use?

Whatever. Maybe we'll have more luck Getting Scarlett Johansson's Superhero Bod in One Move...

scarlett johansson

-Chris Butterworth


does drinking ice water help lose weight?

does drinking ice water help lose weight?

Every few years I hear something about how easy it is to lose weight by drinking ice water, or how drinking cold water burns more calories. Can this really be true?

32 ounce cup of ice water

Well, according to the folks at lifehack, drinking a half gallon of cold water will cause your body to burn 116 calories of energy in order to reheat itself back to "normal" temperature. So, if you drink 64 ounces of cold water every day, you would burn 3,480 calories per month, which is almost the exact amount required to lose 1 pound of fat.

This may not be the best, or fastest, way to lose weight, but it could be another arrow in your quiver - along with eating smaller portions and active and passive fitness - for lasting, long-term, lifestyle changes.

Additional Thoughts

  • Drinking at least 64 ounces of water a day is a healthy habit, whether it's ice cold or not. It keeps your body hydrated, which helps your body flush out any toxins, and it'll reduce your want/need to quench your thirst with a sugary soda!
  • Drinking ice water is hard to do if you work in an office with an over zealous air conditioning unit.
  • If you drink your ice water quickly, and there's ice left in the cup, you didn't drink your entire allotment of ounces.
  • If you drink your ice water really quickly, you'll get a brain freeze!
  • Personally, I don't like living on the margins. If I'm trying to lose weight (or if I'm helping somebody else), I want to know that I'm eating fewer calories than my base metabolic rate. That way weight loss is guaranteed. Any additional calories I burn from exercising or drinking cold water become bonus calories, which just helps me lose weight faster.

ice cubes
image credit - microsoft clipart

Can drinking ice water help you lose weight? Sure.

Is drinking ice water the secret to easy weight loss without worrying about anything else (the magic weight loss pill)? Of course not.

-Chris Butterworth


does golf count as exercise?

does golf count as exercise?

I spent a few hours at Scottsdale Silverado Golf Club yesterday, at a charity golf tournament benefiting NMTSA and ACT School.

scottsdale silverado golf club - view from the clubhouse
view of the 18th green from the clubhouse balcony.

My wife was there helping run the tournament. My boys were offering water to golfers on the course. And I was tasked with... well, not much of anything. I think you could call it networking, but I was pretty much hanging out at the clubhouse and chatting people up. This gave me a unique vantage point to watch the comings and goings of various foursomes throughout the afternoon.

Some thoughts on golfing:

  • What a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
  • Being outdoors, in the fresh air, surrounded by beautifully manicured grass and trees, is refreshing - almost therapeutic.
  • People were generally friendly, and in a good mood.
  • It's kind of a mini-vacation - a few hours away from the hectic grind of the rest of the week.

Some thoughts on golfing as exercise:

  • Most of the distance is covered by golf cart, so the golfers don't get to do much walking.
  • I watched about 1/5th of the golfers light up and smoke. (not something I generally associate with exercise.)
  • About half of the golfers enjoyed the over-sized cans of beer the clubhouse served - before their round, after their round, and/or bringing a few with them to imbibe during their round. (not to mention how many ice cold beverages the girl driving around in the refreshment cart sold.)
  • Many of the foursomes had lunch at the clubhouse, which looked delicious but definitely not low calorie.
  • The golfers came in all shapes, sizes, and ages. And while I want to give them the benefit of "golf as exercise", it did not look anything like what you would see at a triathlon event.
  • I watched more than a couple golfers get winded from climbing the stairs to the clubhouse!

My final thoughts on golfing:

  • Golf is definitely NOT an exercise sport. Many of the golfers I saw consumed far more calories than they burned by playing. Add smoking to the equation, and their health was going in the wrong direction.
  • Golf is a time commitment. Get ready to play, drive to the course, hit balls on the range, practice putting, play a round of golf, unwind in the clubhouse, and then drive home - this can be a 5-6 hour block of time. You could do just about anything else and get more exercise than golf gives you.
  • All that being said, spending an afternoon at the golf course is a great way to unwind.

me and the boys at silverado golf club
me and the boys.

-Chris Butterworth


energy drinks changing labels to avoid FDA scrutiny

energy drinks changing labels to avoid FDA scrutiny

I wrote about energy drinks last year - see "are energy drinks bad for you?" I thought this was an interesting follow-up. From the consumeraffairs website:

energy drinks - monster, red bull, full throttle, rock star

Regulators and health advocates have been pouring scalding criticism on high-caffeine energy drinks the last few years following reports of death and illness unofficially attributed to the potent drinks.
But now the energy drinks are fighting back. Monster Beverage, makers of Monster Energy, and Rockstar Energy are changing their labels and product descriptions to wriggle out from under the jurisidiction of the Food and Drug Administration.
Henceforth, Monster and Rockstar drinks will be marketed as beverages rather than dietary supplements. Among the advantages of the change -- the companies will not be obligated to inform the feds when they learn of deaths and injuries attributed to their products.
Monster will also be disclosing its caffeine content for the first time and the results may surprise some critics. According to the company, a 16-ounce can of Monster's leading drinks contain 140 to 160 milligrams of caffeine, less than half the 330 mg found in a 16-ounce cup of Starbucks coffee.
The moves come as criticism of the drinks grows. Earlier this week, a group of 18 doctors and researchers urged the FDA to do more to protect adolescents and children from the possible risks of high caffeine consumption.

The article goes on to discuss the energy drinks' side of the debate, basically saying (and I'm paraphrasing) they don't believe their products are causing the deaths, they haven't seen proof, yadda yadda yadda.


Maybe energy drinks are killing people; maybe they aren't. Maybe they're partially responsible - just one of several factors involved. Either way, it's difficult to argue they're good for you. The best argument they can make is that they aren't involved in people's deaths.

The fact that they're changing their labeling tells me all I need to know. I'd feel better about them if they showed me their peer reviewed studies showing they were safe. Or if they showed me why, specifically, they weren't responsible in these deaths. Changing their labels is like saying "Get out of my face; I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and there's nothing you can do about it."

java monster mean bean energy drink

Should adults drink them? I think you can make a better choice. Here are 4 points from "are energy drinks bad for you?":

  • They have lots of sugar; I usually recommend cutting as much pure sugar out of your diet as possible.
  • They have additional ingredients which amplify the effects of caffeine, which may wreak havoc with your sleep, eating habits, or mood, if you're sensitive to caffeine.
  • They are high in calories; I'm generally against drinking your calories, especially if you're trying to lose weight.
  • And most importantly, they can rot your teeth.

Should teenagers drink them? I don't want my boys drinking them! For all of the above reasons, plus:
  • Teenagers tend towards excess rather than moderation. One can could easily become a 2-3 can per day habit.
  • Teenagers will drink these much faster than most people drink a cup of coffee, which would be like a caffeine-bomb in their body.
  • Teenagers will drink these with all sorts of crazy food-drink-activity combinations - candy, alcohol, during strenuous activity.. They'll find ways we haven't even thought of to put additional stress on their body.

Bottom Line - lay off the energy drinks. New label or not, there's no compelling reason to drink them.

-Chris Butterworth


chewing gum to lose weight

chewing gum to lose weight

Because a couple hundred calories a day can be the difference between success and failure.

Because a diet shouldn't leave you craving snacks all afternoon.

Because chewing gum can be part of a healthy lifestyle you can continue to live, even after you reach your target weight.

extra bubble gum

Let's say your base calorie level is 1,800 per day, and you're doing a great job of eating 1,600 calories' worth of food. You should be losing almost 2 pounds per month - maybe 3-4 if you're exercising regularly. But...

A cookie at lunch, a handful of M&Ms in the afternoon, a few bites of dessert.. Suddenly you're sabotaging your weight loss!

Have you seen all the new flavors of gum out there?

Sweet Flavors to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings:

  • Apple Pie
  • Bubble Gum
  • Lemon Square
  • Mint Chocolate Chip
  • Orange Creme Pop
  • Rainbow Sherbet
  • Root Beer Float
  • Strawberry Shortcake
  • Sweet Tropical
  • Sweet Watermelon

extra gum sweet flavors

Minty Flavors offer the antidote to sugar:

  • Spearmint
  • Peppermint
  • Polar Ice
  • Smooth Mint
  • Winter Fresh

extra gum minty flavors

And these are just the Extra flavors (my brand of choice) - feel free to check out 5 gum, Trident, Orbit, Stride, or whatever brand / flavor suits you best.

Chewing gum is easy. It's inexpensive, doesn't require a microwave or refrigerator, and portable - you can carry a pack with you just about anywhere. Next time you feel that sweet tooth craving, try chewing a piece of gum instead. If you can get that habit to stick, you'll make better progress towards your weight-loss goals!

-Chris Butterworth


slow and steady wins races

Everybody loves fast.  We cheer for the fastest runner, and we want our team to draft the fastest player.

We also want our life changes to be fast.  We want to lose 30 pounds by next weekend.  We want to get out of debt... now!  We want an extreme home makeover, or to pimp our ride, or whatever else - can you just get it done over the weekend?!

I'm not saying fast is bad; I like fast just as much as you do.  The trouble is that most people only have a limited amount of resources - time, money, and energy, available.

It wouldn't be too difficult to lose 30 pounds very quickly, if you could dedicate your life to that particluar goal, without having to worry about little things like going to work or "dealing with" your family.  Is it any wonder the contestants on NBC's The Biggest Loser all lose significant weight?  They get to put their real lives on hold while they focus 100% on losing weight.

And as for that extreme home makeover, no problem.  Just bring in a good contractor and designer, give them a 6-figure budget, and get out of the way.  Your house will look fantastic when you get back from vacation!

Some people out there are able to do it.  They're in the right place in their life, where they're able to put huge amounts of energy into the goal at hand.  Most of us, however, are not so fortunate.

The good news is that the same end results are possible, you just need to slow down.

Losing 30 pounds in a month or two would be amazing.  But wouldn't it also be amazing to lose 30 pounds over the next year? Imagine the difference next spring, when instead of shopping for pool party cover-ups you're excited to hit the beach! And that's only 2.5 pounds per month - totally do-able! 

Even better - the longer, slower process will only require you to make small, slow, modest changes to your current life - changes which won't impact every other part of your life, and which you can continue to maintain for years to come.

The same can be said for life changes in many other disciplines.

Did you want to read more books this year, but you can never find time to curl up without any distractions and power through a few chapters?  Try reading a mere 5 pages a night.  By the end of the year you'll have read about 1,800 pages - 6 full books, give or take!

Did you want to get stronger this year, but you can't find time to get to the gym everyday?  Try doing 15 push-ups in the mornings and evenings.  By year's end you will have done over 10,000 push-ups! (and anyone who can do 10,000 push-ups has to be pretty strong, right?)

The same holds true for learning something new - whether a foreign language or art history or playing the guitar.  20 minutes of practice each day leads to more than 120 hours over the course of a year. For reference, a typical college course includes about 50 hours of classroom instruction.  (I don't know about you, but I only paid attention for about a quarter of the classroom hours!)  The reality is you can learn the equivalent of 2 or 3 college courses this year by using the slow & steady method, 20 minutes a day.

Look - fast is cool.  Fast is sexy.  Fast sells.  But slow & steady works.  Slow & steady fits into your hectic life, wedged perfectly between getting the kids out the door in the morning, running errands at lunch, and getting home in time to cook dinner.  Slow & steady wins races over the long term.

-Chris Butterworth

results achieved - thanks to the process

A couple months ago I wrote about having gained some weight during the off season, and wanting to drop these extra fat-pounds before my race in May.  (see "the process creates the results.")

I had put into place a process:  eliminate mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacking, reduce lunch portions, eliminate sugar-sodas, and eliminate (or at least reduce) alcohol.  It wasn't a matter of counting calories going in; it was a matter of marginally reducing what I had been regularly eating.  Less calories in, coupled with long & intense workouts, and I figured I would drop weight quickly.  Unfortunately, I didn't.

My weight loss was slow - sometimes less than a pound a week.  But I knew I had the right process in place, and I knew I was heading in the right direction, so I continued to follow it.

Today, just short of 2 months later, and a mere 1 week before my race, I made weight!  Standing on the same scale, at the same time of day, wearing the same clothes, I've lost 8 pounds.  And considering I'm stronger and faster than I was two months ago, they aren't muscle-pounds.  Bye bye, fat.  Hello, race weight!

Slow and steady, create a good process and then follow through on it - all that stuff.  It works.

-Chris Butterworth

go ahead - eat a burger

From Men's Journal, please consider "Go Ahead, Eat a Burger":
It turns out it’s not how much carbohydrate, fat, protein, or sugar is in that double cheeseburger, but how many calories it has, if you’re looking to lose weight.
Researchers placed several hundred overweight people on four calorie-restricted diets that differed in proportions of protein, fat, and carbs. After six months, and again after two years, all participants lost the same amount of weight, even those who ate a high-carb diet. Researcher George Bray says “adherence to a dietary plan” is the biggest factor in weight loss; in other words, if you adopt a diet that makes you eat fewer calories, no matter what type of diet it is, you’ll lose weight. 
(emphasis mine)
I've been saying this for a decade (or however long it's been since I first heard about the Adkins diet.)  Think about it; the people who completely remove carbs from their diet probably weren't the healthiest eaters to begin with.  Now take an average restaurant lunch of a burger, fries, and coke (maybe 1,200 calories, give or take?), and remove the bun, fries, and coke.  You've just removed 75% of the calories from the meal - of course you're going to lose weight!  It's not the carbs; it's the calories.  I'm glad to see an official research study has confirmed common sense.

-Chris Butterworth

surviving a business trip - health on the road

I spent a few days this week on a business trip. Not a shoe-string budget, get lots of work done kind of trip.  More of a supplier throwing a party to say thanks and to ask for more business from its best clients kind of trip.  3 days of socializing, eating, drinking, being entertained, eating again, drinking, and eating some more.  After two months of watching my diet carefully in an effort to shed body fat before my race, this had the potential to be a big setback.

Here's a review of the key things to watch out for.  (some I did well, and some...  not so well.)

1. Fitness - ideally, you don't want the trip to throw you out of your routine.

  • Get in a good workout before you leave & when you get back.  If your trip is only a couple days, this may be enough to keep you on your plan.
  • Use the hotel gym.  It may not have every machine you're used to using, but it will have something there to help you burn off those extra calories.
  • Use the stairs.  Going up & down a few flights of stairs, a few times a day, could make a good substitute workout.
  • Walk to your meeting.  Depending on what you're carrying, and wearing, and how far away the meeting is..
  • I did great on this part.  I squeezed in a swim on Monday morning before heading to the airport.  I used the hotel gym for a long workout on Tuesday morning.  And I hit the stairs one time on Wednesday - 20 floors was enough!

2. Eating - vacation eating, especially business trip eating, can wreak havoc with your fitness game plan.

  • Order carefully.  One bad order isn't the end of the world, but a series of bad orders, spread out over a few days, could cause a major set back.
  • Portion control.  You probably didn't get to choose the restaurant.  You might not have even gotten a say in what was ordered.  But you do get to control how much of it gets stuffed down your neck!  Regardless of what ends up on your plate, there's no reason you have to lick the plate clean.
  • Eat slowly.  Take small bites, chew your food well, and make lots of conversation.  You'll find yourself filling up before you get to the bottom of that giant bowl of pasta.
  • Split the dessert.  Offering to share a dessert is a great way to show you're in control.  It's also a friendly gesture.  And you cut your dessert calories in half.
  • Meeting snacks.  They rarely offer a vegetable tray in a meeting or conference room.  Usually the room is filled with M&Ms, popcorn, yogurt pretzels, and other sweet & salty snacks.  The less of these you eat, the better.
  • I failed miserably on this part.  Although I was able to avoid the meeting room snacks, I stuffed myself at dinner as if it was my last meal. The food was good, and I was hungry.  I'm not proud of that.

3. Drinking - alcohol can be dangerous, and I'm not even talking about what it can do to your life (drinking & driving) or your career (bad judgement can have bad effects - you don't want to be the person everyone else talks about for years to come.)  Losing control while "business drinking" can be a double or even a triple whammy on your fitness plan.

  • Alcohol has calories.  The more you drink, the more calories you drink.
  • Mixers have calories.  If you're mixing with fruit juice, or sugar filled soda, you're doubling up on your calorie intake.
  • Alcohol impairs judgement.  A couple drinks with dinner, and suddenly that giant cheesecake sounds too good to pass up.
  • More judgement - The more you drink, the more likely it is that you'll stay out, and stay up, drinking - especially if you're with a big group of others who are all drinking.
  • Even more judgement - Drinking too much, and staying out too late, and suddenly your morning workout is in jeopardy; nobody wants to go running while hung over (or still drunk!) and only a few hours' sleep.
  • Helpful Ideas:
  • Drink Slowly - pace yourself.  No need to slam a bunch of drinks in a row - sip your drink and make it last.
  • Diet Mixers - for every Coke you can avoid, you save yourself about 100 calories.
  • Alternate non-alcoholic drinks - mix in a water, or a regular Diet Coke, in between drinks.  This slows down your drinking and keeps you hydrated, which will help lesson your hangover in the morning.  If appearances matter, and the bar serves different drinks in different cups, you can ask the waiter/bartender to serve your n/a drink in the same glass you were drinking from before.
  • Light Pour - you've heard of a "double", right?  This is like a "half" instead.  Ask the bartender to give you a light pour.  If you're trying to keep up with the heavyweights in the group, and you don't have the tolerance you used to, this can help you drink without drinking as much.
  • I did well here.  While I drank more than I would have liked, and far more than I do at home, I used a combination of the above techniques to keep myself in control.
Business trips are a hard place to stay on track, especially if it's a lavish event and somebody else is throwing the party.  But it doesn't have to derail you.  A little planning, a little moderation, and a little effort, and you can be successful while you're on the road.

-Chris Butterworth

intensity matters

Monday morning I swam a mile; same thing I've done the last 2 months of Mondays.  (well, 1,500 meters actually, but we'll round up & call it a mile!)  But over the last few weeks I've noticed that a small difference in my time can make a huge difference in how my body feels.  For example,

On my slow days I'll swim the 30 laps (up & back, 60 lengths of the pool total) in a time between 29:30 and 30:00.  That works out to about 59.5 seconds per lap.

On my fast days, I'll be under 29 minutes.  I've hit 28:40, 28:41, and 28:50 in the last month.  That works out to about 57.5 seconds per lap.

The difference between the two, in terms of time, is minimal:  2 seconds per lap.  Think about that for a minute. I swim all the way up the pool and back, at a personal record pace, and I'm only 2 seconds faster than the slow version of me. one one thousand, two one thousand.  That's it.

But the difference in my body is tremendous.  On a slow day I can get out of the pool and jump right into my day without a second thought.  I know how far I swam, so I know I got a good workout in that morning, but I don't have my body telling me what a good workout I had.  On a fast day, however, I feel that workout for the rest of the day.  I get out of the pool feeling lightheaded.  I shower & get dressed, but I'm still sweating.  I get to my office and I'm starving for breakfast.  I'm sore, hungry, and tired the rest of the day.  My whole body tells me, all day long, how hard I swam that morning.

2 seconds of difference; less than 4% in my time.  But a world of difference to my body.

For those of you thinking it's ok to just go through the motions, I'd advise that intensity matters.  A lot.  Make your workouts count.

-Chris Butterworth

bandit racing - so that's the name for it

The race I've been writing about for the last couple months is right around the corner - scheduled for May 13th.  But there's a problem with that.  A couple problems, actually.

First of all, that's Mother's Day.  Few things say Happy Mother's Day to my beautiful wife (and mother of my 2 boys) less, than to say "have a great day Honey; I'll see you sometime after lunch!"

Next up is the logistics.  This is an early race - the horn blasts at 6:30 am.  For me personally, that means waking up sometime around 4:00am to get up, get my wits about me, have a decent breakfast, and drive across the city.  Then I can deal with parking, getting my gear set up, and getting into the water with 900 other racers.

And finally there's the fee.  I get to pay $135 for the privilege of wrecking Mother's Day and waking up that early for a 3+ hour race.  Hmmm.

On the flip side, I've trained hard, and I want to accomplish my goal of running a race at this distance.  So my training partners and I came up with an alternate plan - let's run our own race!

We're going to set up a small transition area at the gym, with our bikes locked up & ready to ride, and our food/drinks/nourishment easily accessible.  We'll swim in the gym's pool, hop onto our bikes and ride a predetermined course, then lock up our bikes and run like the wind.  No entrance fees, t-shirts, or messed up holidays.  I'm actually excited about it.

According to Men's Health magazine, this is called a bandit race.  Cool - now I know the name for it.

-Chris Butterworth