january

you can change direction, but don't change course

Every now and then life will throw you a curve ball, or a change up:

  • New job
  • Moving to a new city
  • Moving into a new house
  • Getting married
  • Having a baby
  • Getting divorced
  • or any of a hundred others...


You'll have a perfect routine set up, where you're eating well, getting your exercise in, and making progress towards your goal, when suddenly - BAM! and it all gets messed up.

Here's the thing - Don't let it get messed up.

There are dozens of body weight exercises you can do anywhere, and a couple-few 20 minute workouts each week is all you really need to stay fit and healthy.

Eating a moderate amount of real food should be even easier than finding time in your new schedule to workout. But it's up to you to be successful.

"Go further than yesterday."

- Chris Butterworth

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300 posts ago: this one thing can make or break your day
200 posts ago: Fit-20 workout 07-06-12 - burpees, pull-ups, dumbell swings
100 posts ago: my car won't start - the yin and yang of emotions

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breakfast comparison - 3 choices out and about

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day", so I've heard since I was a kid. And while I totally agree with that sentiment, it's not because of what you might think - not so much because I want to fill my body with nutrients so I can start my day off right...

No, I can start my day off just fine without eating first thing in the morning. I've even written about the benefits of delaying eating breakfast.

For me, breakfast can be the meal that makes or breaks my calorie numbers for the whole day. A moderate breakfast of 350 calories (or so) leaves me a lot of flexibility in my choices for lunch, snacks, and dinner. On the flip-side, I usually break my calorie budget on days when I put down a 600-calorie breakfast. So, eating a "good" breakfast goes a long way in determining whether or not I'm going to win that day.

Here are some calorie comparisons of common, quick breakfast options while you're out and about:

Einstein Bros Bagels - Sesame bagel (300) with a shmear of cream cheese (150-300). Eating a full bagel with a big shmear of cream cheese is going to cost you 600 calories! However, eating half of that meal while saving the other half for tomorrow gives you a very reasonable 300 calorie breakfast.

Eating half a bagel with a big pile of cream cheese is one of my favorite eating-out (or people bring food to work) breakfasts. It's a filling use of 300 calories - enough that I don't need to eat again until lunch, but without giving me that full-belly, need to take a nap feeling. Unfortunately it can be difficult to stop at half, especially when it tasted really good and there's another half just staring at me.

Will power goes a long way on this one. Eating half for 300 calories is a great breakfast; eating the 2nd half for 600 calories - not so much...

McDonald's - Sausage McMuffin w/ Egg. This little treat isn't too far off the chart at 450 calories. But be mindful of the 860 mg sodium content, and reaching for the side of hash brown will cost you an additional 150 calories.

This is one of the few items I can eat at McDonald's without feeling a heavy gut after eating, but I still don't have a craving-desire to eat one of these very often. Plus, it's hard to not order a hash brown with it, and once I do that I've just used up 600 of my daily calorie budget.

Krispy Kreme - Maybe you stop for a melts-in-your-mouth donut on the way to work, or maybe somebody brings a box of them into the office. Either way they're pretty hard to resist. An original glazed provides 200 calories' worth of goodness, while a chocolate iced glazed will set you back 250 calories.

Eating 2 Krispy Kreme originals for 400 calories isn't the worst thing in the world - especially as a once in awhile treat, but I find they aren't the most filling calories, and I'll be hungrier sooner than I would be when eating other breakfasts. Plus, it can be hard to stop at two, and that third one's a budget-buster!

Summary

The biggest takeaway here is that knowledge is power. Knowing how many calories are in your breakfast budget, and how many are in your breakfast, is a key ingredient for a successful day.

- Chris Butterworth

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300 posts ago: running in the cold is hard
200 posts ago: portion sizes have become gigantic
100 posts ago: catching up to your goal - the tortoise or the hare?

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3 types of resolutions

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2016!

Millions of people will be making new year resolutions this year, trying to make themselves into a better version of themself. Unfortunately, today being January 2nd, probably about half of these people have already failed.

Here are some simple thoughts about the three different types of resolutions (goals):

Quitting: Trying to quit a 'bad' habit is the hardest of all the goals. Stop smoking, stop drinking, stop checking facebook, etc. These are excellent goals and will definitely make for a better, more healthy you.

The challenge is because they never end. Everytime you have a craving, you have to fight it off. And then, if you have another craving even 5 minutes later, you have to fight it off again. (It's kind of like the terminator in that regard.)

Don't take these goals lightly. Yes they are worth going after, but only if you have a full game plan in place and you're completely dedicated to winning.

Multiple Process Goals: Something like losing weight, which is an excellent goal and one which will have many positive impacts on your life, but it's not as simple as it sounds.

You'll probably have an 'eating' component, and an 'exercise' component, and each one of those can have sub-goals and daily opportunities for success or failure.

Single Task Goals: These goals are straight forward, easy to identify, count, and track. An example would be something like 'exercise 3 days per week'. You can plan for this, do it, and check it off your list.

These goals might not be easy, but they are more likely to be successful, because they can be tracked at the task level.

Summary

You can be successful at any goal you choose, as long as you can break that goal down into actionable (and trackable) events, and then you go after it with passion and dedication.

Happy 2016!

- Chris Butterworth

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the Starvation Diet

Imagine not having enough food to eat. I'm not talking about saying no to that third slice of pizza; I'm talking about literally not having any food to eat. Think of being lost in the wilderness, or stranded on a deserted island. My guess is you'd get pretty skinny, pretty quick.

deserted island
image credit to idr solutions (I couldn't find the original source of the image.)

Experts say that as long as you can stay hydrated, you can live for a long time without food. (which makes sense, since every pound of fat inside your body is 3,500 calories' worth of energy just waiting to be released from storage.) You could survive for 1-2 days per pound of body fat, depending on personal factors and your physical exertion rate.

I bet it wouldn't be fun, and it wouldn't be by choice either, but if you didn't have a food source available you would lose weight, very fast.

Is there any way we could take that concept and apply it to the real world?

I don't think any expert in the world would advise that actual, long-term starvation is a good idea, and I'm not suggesting otherwise. But what about a very low-calorie diet? You could still feed your body healthy nutrients and keep normal body functions in place, but force your body to burn fat for fuel. I decided to give this a try.

My Goal

I wrote not long ago about gaining some weight in the second half of last year, which culminated in my right knee aching badly. I was about ready to go see an orthopedic about my knee, but I decided to try losing weight first, and given the pain and annoyance involved I wanted to lose the weight quickly.

I set a 2-step goal for weight loss: First I wanted to lose 9.5 pounds as fast as possible, which would put me at 1 pound less than my normal carrying weight. Then I would lose an additional 3 pounds more gradually over the course of the spring. The result would put me at my super-trim racing weight from when I was running triathlons.

My Plan
  • I would try to limit myself to less than 1,000 calories per day. (Hopefully this would lead to rapid weight loss, which would be self-reinforcing.)
  • I would weigh myself everyday, using the brand new high tech scale at the gym, and chart my results. (Hopefully a downward sloping graph would be an exciting reward.)
  • I would continue with moderate exercise. (Hopefully this would keep my metabolism high and help my body keep processing normally. I didn't want my body to shut down functions or slow down my metabolism.)
  • I would drink A LOT of water, since all those survival guides say hydration is far more important than eating for short-term survival. (Hopefully this would help keep my body functioning properly.)

My Process

The process involved being hungry, pretty much all the time. A typical day looked like this:
  • Breakfast - a bowl of frosted mini wheats, without milk, and a cup of coffee. This gave me 200-300 calories in the morning, depending on the size of the bowl. I sometimes substituted half a bagel w/ cream cheese or a couple pieces of fruit.
  • Drinks - I added 2-3 oz of cranberry-grape juice to 12 oz water, and drank several of these throughout the day. I probably consumed 150 calories of fruit juice per day.
  • Lunch - a slice of pepperoni pizza, a small plain cheeseburger, or a small ham & cheese sandwich (or something similar - yummy, small, and not necessarily a "healthy" option), worth about 350 calories.
  • Water - a couple glasses of water w/o fruit juice in the afternoon.
  • Dinner - a few bites of whatever our family's dinner was, along with a medium sized salad. (I skipped dinner on nights when I went straight to coach soccer practice.)
  • Snacks - none, most days.

pepperoni pizza


My Result

As of this morning I am 1/2 pound away from achieving my first-stage goal. Hopefully the scale is cooperative tomorrow or the next day, and I'll finish this thing off. Then I can add food back to my diet and drop the last few pounds over the coming months. I'll probably settle in at about 1,800-1,900 calories per day, which should still allow me to lose about a pound per month.

I lost about 1/2 pound per week during the Holidays, and about 2 pounds per week since then. (Note - I couldn't stay under 1,000/day during the Holidays - too much good food and good family cheer.. Whatchagonnado?)

Oh yeah, and that knee pain? It's pretty much gone. I don't have the knees of a 20-year old anymore, but I did put away the orthopedic's phone number..

What I Learned:
  • This was very difficult to do - having the will power to simply not eat when there is food everywhere you look (and you're really hungry), is not for everyone.
    • Knowing that it was only for a short time period helped; I don't think I could have held up for an extended battle of wills against all food.
    • Seeing the rapid weight loss on my daily tracking sheet helped a lot; looking forward to tomorrow's weigh-in was enough to help me power through some of those tough decisions.
  • This is not a lifestyle change, since it's not sustainable. And if you don't have a game plan for what comes next you'll be very likely to put all that weight back on. And that would suck.
  • Your body does become more efficient at burning fat. I had big-time hunger headaches at the beginning, but they mostly went away as time progressed. This was my body realizing that it couldn't trick me into feeding it a bagel, so it just went to work at burning some fat cells instead.
  • Your body doesn't function exactly normally on so few calories. I noticed some changes - both mentally and physically - that I had to adjust to. (More on that in a future post..)

Overall I'm still not a big fan of "diets", as I'd much prefer a long-term change in habits which will lead to a lifetime of better health. But seeing fast results is very rewarding as well - a way to kick-start yourself down the road to a smaller you. Maybe there's room for ultra-calorie-reduction in the weight-loss arsenal after all...

- Chris Butterworth


Like this article? You might also enjoy:

On Amazon - here are a couple diet / nutrition / food books I've enjoyed flipping through:

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coming back from injury - attitudes and expectations

The second half of 2014 wasn't my best year. I fractured my ankle in June, and then pulled my groin in November. And I don't have a specific injury to site, but my knee has been tweaky and just hasn't felt right.

Add in the extra time commitments from coaching soccer and the holidays, and I had gotten off track (to say the least) on working out. I've even gained some weight from the lack of activity.

So, I get to the end of the holidays feeling a lot better, and wanting to get back into the swing of things, but still a little concerned about my knee. What's a good game plan for getting back into working out when you're not 100%? I decided to find out.

Aerobic Activity - I went for a jog with some interval runs mixed in - not full-out sprints, but a good running pace - and I felt ok. I went about 2 miles; not an endurance feat by any means, but enough to know whether my body would feel pain from the repetitive motion. Nope - so far so good.

Sports / Games / Competition - Next I played a VERY slow game of soccer. I did not push myself to the breaking point, selling out my body to save a goal or anything like that. I played mostly at jogging speed, with a few bursts of exertion to make a forward run or to get back on defense. No injury setbacks to report - check.

Weight Lifting - Finally I did a kettlebell workout, but I used my wife's 15 lb bell. It felt funny to use something so light, but it felt great to be able to get through the motions and put some stress on my body. I did swings, cleans, snatches, figure 8s, around the worlds, presses, and lawnmower pulls, and when I did them quickly and without rest I was able to get a great sweat going. Any pain? Nope - just some muscle soreness the next day, which was to be expected. Ok to continue.

It can feel a little scary working out again after injury, wondering if your body will hold up. It also takes a bit of a mental reset - you have to give yourself the ok to not max yourself out or hit a PR. In fact, if you're not ready for it, it can feel discouraging to run so slowly or to lift such light weights. But it also feels great to get back to exercising. Time will tell whether I ever get back to my previous levels or not. If so, great! If not, great - I'll set new PRs and new expectations.

I'm sure age plays a role as well. When I was in my teens and 20s I would have demanded a full recovery to previous levels from myself. Today, in my 40s, I'm happy to settle for fitness.

I'm looking forward to seeing where I can go from here - hopefully continued improvement without any setbacks. Cross your fingers for me..

- Chris Butterworth

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Football vs Football

The New England Patriots win the NFL!

Well, maybe not yet, but let's imagine a couple changes we would see if American football leagues (NFL and College) were more like English Football (Soccer, and the English Premier League).




League Champion

League champion in the EPL is determined by the best regular season record, and then by goal differential as the first tiebreaker. That's it. Done. No playoffs, no wildcards, no elimination games. Nada.

The NFL ended this regular season with 5 teams sharing a 12-4 record: New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, and Green Bay Packers. But the New England Patriots have the best point differential with 468 points scored and only 313 points allowed, for a +155 dif.

As we sit here ready to head into my favorite football weekend - the Divisional Playoffs, with 4 games on the slate, each of which has a win or go home at stake (Not to mention the first ever college football playoff championship game on Monday..), I couldn't imagine having already crowned a champion. That would be a travesty.

Even worse would be those seasons where a dominant team finishes 15-1 or 14-2 and wins the League Championship with two weeks left in the season. Yuck!

Promotion and Relegation

On the flip side of no playoffs is the most awesome system for rewards and punishment ever created.

Finish at or near the top of your division, and you get promoted up to a higher division. Finish at or near the bottom of your division and you get relegated down to the next lower division. This is the exact opposite of giving the first draft pick to the worst team. Instead of rewarding ineptitude, you kick it out of the league and bring in another team who has shown they can be successful.

This would be difficult for the NFL to do, because they don't have a minor league. But imagine the college football landscape:

In the PAC-12 Conference this year, Colorado finished 0-9 and Oregon St was 2-7 (tied with Washington St but WSU won the point dif tiebreaker), so CU and OSU would get relegated to the Mountain West Conference next year, while Boise St and Colorado St would get promoted from the Mountain West into the PAC-12 after having finished 7-1 and 6-2, respectively, in the Mountain West.

Taking it a step further, UNLV finished 1-7 in the Mountain West and Wyoming was 2-6 (so were San Jose St and New Mexico, but we'll use the point differential tiebreaker again), so they could be relegated to the Big Sky Conference next season, while Eastern Washington and Montana would get promoted from the Big Sky into the Mountain West.

Next season in that system you would have Montana playing against Colorado as a conference game! Wow, and if only...

Eventually the perennial doormats would end up in the lower divisions, while the dominant programs would have more challenging competition. Even better, every team would have the same opportunity to reach the top of the pyramid through successful hiring, recruiting, facilities development, and teamwork.

I'm enjoying soccer more and more every year. It's not football yet, but it's a good watch and it has some ideas to offer that could make our football even better. Just a little something to think about as we head into a great football weekend.

Enjoy.

-Chris Butterworth

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the over-crowded gym - new year's resolutions in action

New Year's Resolutions. Lots of people make 'em. Few people keep 'em. And most of the time they're the same resolutions over and over - lose weight, exercise more, quit a vice (smoking, drinking, whatever), be a better person, etc. (I'll talk more about how to be successful another time; today I'll hit a different point of view...)

To all of you who have shiny new resolutions about going to the gym this year - come on, who are we kidding?



This morning I went to the gym - I had to park further away and then deal with extra crowded facilities.

Yesterday my wife woke up and decided to sign up for a fitness class at her gym, but they were all booked out - no openings for the whole day.

It's annoying.

To each of you, individually: I really, truly wish you success. I hope you are able to make the lifestyle changes you're after - losing weight, getting fit, and being healthy.

To all of you new gym-goers as a group: can we please hurry up and get to February, so I can have my sparsely populated gym back?

Thanks,

Chris Butterworth

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13 thoughts on getting a better night's sleep


13 thoughts on getting a better night's sleep


waking up tired to an alarm clock
image credit Microsoft Clipart


I usually sleep pretty well. Maybe I'm lucky; maybe I've paid careful attention to what works and what doesn't. Either way, I've been able to fall asleep quickly and to sleep soundly for the last several years. Even though I don't get as much sleep as I'd like (life just doesn't allow for 8 hours a night), the sleep I do get is rejuvenating.

Today I thought I'd share my thoughts on what works and what doesn't.

13 thoughts on getting a better night's sleep

1.) Exercise

Working out gives my body an energy release, and by bedtime I'm ready for sleep. Morning and Lunchtime workouts are best; after work but before dinner works ok, too. Exercise too close to bedtime tends to keep me up, as my body is still pumping adrenaline and takes awhile to unwind before I can fall asleep.

Also, if I'm working out specifically to help make me sleep better, I'll work out as long and intensely as possible.

2.) Diet

A big, overstuffed dinner gives me the usual "food coma", and makes me want to take a nap on the couch right after dinner. But once I get into bed, I find I don't get the most restful night's sleep on a too-full belly.

I sleep best after a day of moderate eating - not too hungry, not too full.

Also, pay attention to how certain foods make you feel. I don't have much sensitivity to this, but I've met people before who can't sleep after eating spicy food, for example. (you might even want to keep a food journal.)

3.) Caffeine

Caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours. (Ever wonder why there's an energy drink that's named after this 5 hours..?) That means 5 hours later, you're body will still have about 1/2 of the caffeine in its system. If your body likes caffeine - as in you reach for a cup of coffee as part of your morning routine - it's probably best not to drink any caffeine after lunch.

I don't usually have coffee after lunch, but I imagine a coffee with dinner would keep me up. I'm ok with a Diet Coke in the evenings, though, but that's about the equivalent of 1/4 or 1/3 a cup of coffee.

4.) Alcohol

I have an after-dinner drink a couple-few nights a week. Call it dessert. Call it a relaxing way to reward myself after another full-throttle day. Call it a habit or a dependency. Whatever - it's one drink and you're not taking it away from me!

Having an evening drink definitely makes me feel sleepier at bedtime, but I've never been convinced it helps me sleep better. In fact, sometimes I wake up more tired than I'd like. Recently I've read a few articles where experts are saying alcohol hinders your body's ability to reach deep REM sleep. I believe that - it kind of makes sense based on what I've experienced.

If sleep onset is an issue for you, a drink might help. But if restful sleep is what you're after, I'd avoid alcohol if you can.

5.) Benadryl

I use Benadryl a couple nights a week as a preemptive strike on getting back to sleep in the middle of the night. Unfortunately my son wakes up overnight more often than not, which also wakes my wife and I up. Sometimes I can fall right back to sleep; other times I lay awake for awhile.

On nights where I don't want to risk laying awake at 2am, I take 1/2 a tablet of Benadryl (generic) before I go to bed. It doesn't do anything to help with sleep onset - I can take 1/2 tablet and stay up as late as I want, but it makes a big difference with waking up overnight.

see "read the label - Benadryl and ZzzQuil" for more information about Diphenhydramine HCI

6.) No Electronics

Computers, cell phone, tablets, video games - all of them. It takes me awhile to slow my mind down after working or playing with these; I can't just go from shut down to shut eye. I may do some computer work before bed, but I allow myself 15-30 minutes of quiet time before I'll attempt to fall asleep.

TV falls into this category, too. Either you're like me - who cannot take his eyes away from the TV (I'll watch 2 hours of a terrible movie late at night, just because I can't turn the damn thing off!), or you're like my wife - who can fall dead asleep in a matter of minutes after starting a terrible movie late at night. Both are bad - you either stay up late watching, or you get woken up later by the noise and have to turn it off after your sleep has been interrupted.

7.) Meditate / Think / Unwind

I'm not one who meditates with robes, flowers, and chanting while eastern music plays softly in the background. But I do take a few minutes while lying in bed to focus on my thoughts and let my mind go. Sometimes I'll think about challenges or goals, but only in the big-picture sense - I don't want to get wrapped up in to-do lists or details. I'll point my mind in that direction, and a few minutes later I'm peacefully asleep. And as an added bonus, I usually have a great idea about the challenge/goal when I wake up.

8.) Stress / Worry / Minutiae

I've been through enough stress and worry to last a lifetime.

These are the most wasteful things in our lives. You may have something really important hanging over your head, something so big it has the potential to ruin your life. Here's a secret - laying in bed thinking about it, worrying about the possible outcomes, stressing over every detail - that isn't helping you at all. In fact, it's working against you, making you tired and less able to function at your best (which is required if you don't want that miserable outcome!)

You have 2 choices: either get out of bed and do something productive towards your cause, or go to sleep so you're well rested and can attack it in the morning. That's it - choice A or B.

9.) Make a List

I remember having nights where I would lay in bed and millions of details would be circling inside my head like a tornado of information overload. I was self-employed at the time, commission-only, and responsible for a hundred processes on every client's deal. I would lay down for sleep, but instead would have a panic attack..

One time, late at night, I decide to get out of bed and make a list of everything that was swirling around inside my head. And you know what, the list was ridiculously short:

  • Critical - phone call to make sure Client A's paperwork was received.
  • Critical - review Client B's paperwork and deliver it to xyz.
  • Long Term - I need to do more prospecting. work on executable ideas for business growth.
  • Off Topic - I need a new pair of black shoes.
  • Is that it? it seemed like there was so much more...


It was almost comical how short my list was once I wrote it down.

Eventually I developed a habit of writing down my list every night before I went to bed, and these types of late night panic attacks went away.

10.) Money and Budgets

I've lived in a budget-surplus life, and I've lived in a budget-deficit life, and it's difficult to put into words how different the two are.

Not having enough money to make ends meet at the end of the month puts an enormous amount of stress and pressure (let's call it Stressure) on you. The kind of stressure that doesn't allow for sleep. The kind of stressure that makes you sick, lethargic, aggressive, frustrated, and a dozen other bad adjectives.

This isn't something you can fix at 10:00 pm when you're trying to fall asleep. But it's something you need to fix. Period. Get your finances under control, and you'll sleep like a baby forever more.

11.) Communication

Is there something you're holding inside that's bothering you? Or maybe you're trying to protect someone from something they won't want to hear? Bad idea. Better to get it out there and deal with the reactions than to hold it inside and lose sleep over what might happen.

It doesn't matter whether it's your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, buddy, boss, brother, mom and dad - whoever. Open the door, make the phone call, have the conversation. And then you can work on whatever it is together.

12.) Work, Hobbies - Be Busy

While it's nice to stop and smell the roses once in awhile, I find that I sleep the worst when I'm bored.

I realize that I'm an extreme example - I have a job, a hobby-job, a blog, one kid with autism who requires-deserves-gets extra attention, another kid who's deep into soccer, where I'm the team manager, a wife who I love, and I mix in some exercise a few times a week. Yeah, I don't worry about staying busy these days. (and did I mention I sleep well?)

But back in the day I remember taking days off from work just to have a "me day". I would be bored all day and then not sleep well that night!

13.) Retrace Your Steps / Connections

Another way I relax my mind is to try retracing my connections from the past. This works for me when I've been woken up at 2:00 am (and haven't taken Benadryl). Think of an event that happened today. Who was it with? How did I end up in that place? Who introduced the person who introduced us, and where / how / why? I can trace most events all the way back into childhood, but I'm usually fast asleep before I get there.

For example:
I had a meeting today with a new client, who was referred by someone I've met with in the past, who called me on a recommendation from a fraternity brother, whom I met only because my good friend and I agreed to pledge that fraternity together. I had met that friend because his younger brother and another good friend of mine, who was a year younger, became friends. I had met this other good friend years before, because we grew up in the same neighborhood together, which was only possible because my mom and dad had bought a house there. They bought that house because my dad used to ride his bike through that neighborhood while back in college and really liked it. He went to that college because (or he lived where he lived because)...
It's amazing where your mind can go, and how fast you can fall asleep, when doing this..!

I've read other people who have had similar success by retracing their steps throughout a day. What did you do today, specifically, step by step? Rumor has it you'll be asleep before you get through breakfast..

Conclusion

Remember how you slept as a kid? (or how your kids sleep today?) That's what we're looking for! No worrying, or staying up late at night doing nothing. Kids play hard all day, giving everything their full attention. Then they beg to stay up later ("C'mon, 15 more minutes..") Then they crash as soon as you turn out the lights!

sleepy child at bedtime
  image credit Microsoft Clipart


This list was pretty long; I hope you found something useful in there.

What did I miss? What tips do you have to help you get a good night's sleep?

-Chris Butterworth

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how often should I do the same workout routine?


how often should I do the same workout routine?


This is a good question, usually asked with the thought of "I like this exercise and want to do it more often, but I also want to make sure the rest of my body is getting worked out, too."

Here comes the stock answer: "It depends."

It depends on what your goal is, and why you're working out in the first place.

Are you trying to lose weight?

When you're after weight loss, remember that 90% of your success will come from your eating habits and your long-term approach:


Once you've got your nutrition/diet under control, you're already on your way to losing weight. At this point your workouts are just extras - helping you lose weight extra fast, and helping you develop muscle tone and shape so you look extra good. And if it's just extra, the exact type, routine, and frequency doesn't matter.

  • 20 minutes of high intensity exercise 2-3 times per week. (allowing your muscles to heal from being sore before blasting them again.)
  • Low intensity cardio: as much as your schedule will allow - there's virtually no such thing as too much!
  • Passive Fitness - simply moving your body throughout the day can help deliver your results.

As for repeatedly doing the same workout? I wouldn't do the exact same workout so often it becomes your only routine, but there's no rule saying you have to mix it up every day, either.

Some people enjoy the consistency and familiarity of doing the same thing, knowing what's in store for them as they get ready to start. Others get bored quickly and want to try something new each day.

My opinion - balance is better. But as long as you're getting sweaty, you're doing yourself good.

You have a bit more leeway to be repetitive with your cardio workouts than your weight training. In fact, I'll add 2 caveats regarding weight training and muscle building:

  • Balance. Don't work your chest and shoulders while ignoring your back. Don't work your upper body while ignoring your legs. Full-body healthy will require full-body attention.
  • Rest. Let your muscles rest and recover before pounding them again with another workout.

Remember, you're training for YOUR goal, so you get to choose your workouts. And as much as I believe in balance, I also believe in the principle of  "you can do anything, but not everything." It's ok to specialize.

Hopefully I answered the question. Or maybe I just made it all clear as mud. Either way, happy working out!

-Chris Butterworth

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kettlebell swing

kettlebell swing


If you're planning on doing a kettlebell workout, you'd better get familiar with the Kettlebell Swing.

The beauty of a kettlebell workout is that there isn't a break between exercises; the kettlebell flows smoothly from one exercise to the next. This is why it provides such a good cardio workout, in addition to helping you build awesome full-body strength. And the Kettlebell Swing is the center of it all.

Rather than try to describe the exercise and build a how-to article, I'm going to defer to others who have already done so (and done a much better job than I could do). You'll find below photos, videos, quotes from articles, and links out to my favorite sources regarding the Kettlebell Swing. Enjoy.

Posture and Form - images

Men's Health shows us the proper form:

kettlebell swing - up position

kettlebell swing - down position

These images were clipped from a terrific 2:31 video on menshealth.com with lots of instruction and demonstration - I suggest watching it here. (they don't offer an embed feature, so you'll need to click the link..)

Here is another image, where kettlebell expert Steve Cotter shows how you should be loading your hamstrings and glutes in the down position:

kettlebell swing - down position

That image was clipped from this video (embedded below). This is a great introduction to kettlebells video that I watched dozens of times when I was getting started a few years ago.



More Videos

Here are a couple other videos I've watched more than once..



This video is one of the most corny, kitchy, goofy music, home-made, youtube videos out there. But it's catchy, and it shows one man's story of how much strength he's gained, and how much weight he's lost by using a kettlebell. Once you start working with a kettlebell, you'll realize how strong this guy is!



Here is another video, with the same strong man (and the same kitchy music), only this time he has a friend - another super-strong kettlebeller, and the exercises they do together are very impressive.

a Compelling Case for Kettlebell Swings, from author Tim Ferris

I'm sure you've heard of Tim Ferris, uber-author of the 4-Hour Workweek, 4-Hour Body, and 4-Hour Chef. If you haven't read Tim's work, his blog is a great place to start.

The Perfect Posterior. Tim wrote a post last year titled: "The Perfect Posterior: Kettlebell Swings and Cheap Alternatives", in which he described stories and amazing results - for men AND women, and focused around the kettlebell swing as a primary (or only) exercise. The stories include:

  • a mother of 2 who lost more than 100 pounds while working out for only 20 minutes at a time.
  • a Samba dancer in Brazil who could balance a tequila shot on the top of each butt cheek.
  • a girl of Chinese ethnicity with a "surfboard-like profile" who was transformed and then voted one of the top-10 sexiest girls in her university
  • Tim's own story of reducing his body fat percentage and increasing his strength in the deadlift.

... All from doing Kettlebell Swings.

There's a lot in there - read the article!

Another strong opinion in favor of the Kettlebell Swing: Yavor at RelativeStrengthAdvantage.com, in an article titled "The Kettlebell Swing - Kick Ass Exercise for a Kick Ass Body", writes:

"The Kettlebell Swing is quite possibly the easiest and at the same time most effective tool when it comes to training the whole body for multiple fitness qualities at the same time. When done for high volume of reps it makes you sweat and huff and puff thus making you fitter and leaner at the same time. The high rep kettlebell swing burns tons of calories and trains your heart and lungs."

Conclusion

If kettlebells aren't a part of your workout routine, they should be. They build strength, endurance, and flexibility, all while using the Fit-20 principle of working multiple muscle groups simultaneously to maximize results while minimizing workout time. And the Kettlebell Swing is a great place to start!

Train hard,

-Chris Butterworth

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coca cola launches obesity awareness ads

coca cola launches obesity awareness ads


Coca Cola began running a 2-minute ad on cable tv this week (titled "coming together"), and will run another spot on American Idol tonight (titled "be ok"), in an effort to promote awareness of, and what the company is doing about, obesity.

From the company's press release:

“We are committed to bring people together tohelp fight obesity,” said Stuart Kronauge, General Manager, Sparkling Beverages, Coca-Cola North America. “This is about the health and happiness of everyone who buys our products and wants great-tasting beverages, choice and information. The Coca-Cola Company has an important role in this fight. Together, with willing partners, we will succeed.”
My first thought as I read the press release:
  • Sure - the company that has been a leading cause of the obesity epidemic, making billions of dollars in profit over the years, is now going to try to capitalize on the media coverage of that same epidemic to make even more money! (yes, I can be a bit cynical about big-business's motives)


Then I watched the commercial (below), and changed my mind:
  • The company never lied to the public about their product; they've listed the calorie count on their products for years. They've been reasonably responsible even while making insane amounts of money (unlike tobacco companies and financial institutions.)
  • It's not the company's job to monitor how much soda each individual consumes.
  • It's not the company's fault products like the Big Gulp, and portion sizes everywhere, have exploded.
  • The company is making a reasonable effort to educate consumers and be part of the solution.
  • The commercial states directly, “All calories count, no matter where they come from” and “If you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you’ll gain weight.” (emphasis mine)

I'm on Coke's side on this one; I think it's a good step in the right direction. I hope other food manufacturers and restaurants begin taking the same approach. The obesity trend will only reverse when more people understand the concept and consequences of calorie surplus eating.

Here's the video (with a link below).

http://youtu.be/zybnaPqzJ6s

What do you think?

-Chris Butterworth

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my 5 favorite workouts

my 5 favorite workouts


Let's keep a couple points in mind when talking about workouts:

A) Weight Loss - working out will help with weight loss, but your success depends on your diet more than your workout, and by a large margin! For 99% of the population (those who aren't professional athletes or first responders), a calorie is a calorie, and it's all about eating fewer calories than your burn.

B) Workouts can vary greatly in their intensity and duration - so much so that the same set of exercises can be easy in one scenario and impossible in another. Jog 3 miles at a leisurely pace, and you'll have jogged 3 miles. Run 3 miles at a 6:30/mile pace, and you'll probably collapse in a heap before the end of mile 1. Perform 3 miles' worth of 100-yard Sprint Intervals, and you'll find you've worked muscles you didn't even know you had!

So, with those caveats out of the way, here are my 5 favorite workouts:

1.) Kettlebell

  • very portable, takes little space - easy to do a KB workout anywhere, anytime
  • full-body workout - most of the KB exercises work multiple muscle groups, so a routine of 3-4 exercises will hit your entire body.
  • gain lots of strength, lots of definition, and a little size. KBs might not be your primary tool for body building or bulking up, but they're great for just about everything else.
  • workouts (and KB weight) can be modified to focus on strength, cardio-endurance, or a balance between the two.
  • 10 minutes is enough for a good workout. 15-20 minutes is exhausting. a 30-minute kettlebell routine is downright hard!
  • here is a really simple routine I did a few months ago where I incorporated a kettlebell.
  • low-stress workout - using good form and letting gravity help swing the kettlebell allow this workout to keep stress off my joints, ligaments, tendons, etc.
  • the downside - at approximately $2 per pound, they aren't cheap. Although you only need one, many people end up buying one a little lighter to start with, and then wanting a heavier one later. Or they'll want a 2nd KB to do some 2-KB exercises..


2.) Swimming

  • there's something meditative about swimming. It's just me and the water - even if I swim with a friend-partner, it's still just me and the water. And when I get a good rhythm going, there isn't another exercise out there that feels as refreshing to my mind, body and soul.
  • full-body workout, with the ability to change stroke, styles, and intensity depending on what I want to accomplish.
  • low-impact workout.
  • develops my lungs like nothing else.
  • intervals work great in the pool!
  • the downside - swimming takes a bigger resource commitment than just about anything else I do. I don't have a pool at my house, so I need to drive to the gym. (I have to pay my gym membership first.) Sometimes I can swim right away; other times I need to wait for a lane to open up. Once I'm swimming, since I've already committed a block of time to working out, I'm less likely to do a short, 12-minute session. (that's good and bad - longer workouts are better, right?) Then, when I'm finished, I need to shower, change, and get back to work. And finally, once I get home, I need to deal with my stuff - equipment, damp clothes and towel, etc. All in, it's probably a 90-minute commitment.


3.) Cross-Fit / Fit-20

  • the fastest way to burn the most calories, period.
  • can be done just about anywhere, with little or no equipment required.
  • can mix and match exercises depending on my mood or a specific body area I want to target.
  • the most mentally challenging workout I do. When working out at a high intensity, my mind and body will scream, begging me to quit about half-way through. Taming that beast is hugely rewarding.
  • can vary the challenge, even with the exact same routine. "how many sets can I do in 15 minutes?" "how fast can I do 75 of each?" "how fast can I do a ladder of 10-1?"
  • I see more muscle gain (size) with these than with any other workouts I do, which makes these great exercises for the spring - heading into the pool/beach season!
  • the downside - motivation. These workouts are physically and mentally challenging. It's not a problem when I'm after a specific goal, such as losing weight or gaining size/shape. But when I'm in pure maintenance mode, it's hard to get psyched up for these guys week after week.


4.) Versaclimber

  • if you're going to buy one piece of equipment for your home gym, make it a Versaclimber. My wife & I bought one in 2006, and we've been using it every week since then.
  • I know I'm working out. 2 minutes in I get that gut-check feeling - here we go. At the 6-minute mark I break a sweat, big time.
  • works my upper and lower body.
  • can vary the workout by changing my grip, stride length, body position, and pace.
  • small footprint - it only needs about 3 feet by 3 feet, which means I can put it just about anywhere in the house (or patio, yard, garage, etc.)
  • the downside(s) - cost (it's not cheap), mobility (it's not easy to move), and location-specific (you can only do a versaclimber workout where you have a versaclimber!)


5.) Running

  • as portable as anything - just go.
  • least expensive exercise known to man. (expensive shoes not required.)
  • can adjust time, distance, pace, intervals, sprinting.. based on time available and workout goals.
  • can use a known route or make up a new route on the fly.
  • hills and off-road trails add variety and different challenges.
  • some of my best and most creative thinking has happened while running. Anytime I get into a good groove - fast enough to make me work but not so fast that I exhaust myself quickly, where I can just Go for 30 minutes or so.. my mind gets to a place that's difficult to find anywhere else.
  • impact-wise - running doesn't take a lot of recovery time (extra-long and extra-fast runs not withstanding), so I could run moderately every day. Maybe it's related to my form, but I don't get sore or injured from running. If you do get sore/injured, I would look into working on your running form.
  • the downside - running isn't the best exercise for maximizing "calories burned per minute of exercise", nor is it going to shape / sculpt / build your body as well as the other exercises.


Honorable Mention - Shadow Boxing / Kick Boxing.

  • Ultra high-intensity!
  • another one of those where you'll be sore in places you didn't even know you had muscles.
  • can be really fun with a partner or group.


Not On the List

  • Cycling / Spinning. Uuugh. Boring. Takes too long to get a good workout. Focuses primarily on legs / calves and almost nothing on upper body. Try being 10 miles from anywhere and getting a flat tire..
  • Yoga. Sorry to you yogis out there - I find it slow and boring. (and I'm not very stretchy.)
  • Competitive Sports. I hate to admit it, guys, but your body doesn't work the same once you get to your 40's. Competitive attitude - check. Will to win - check. Ability to cut, bang, accelerate, jump, and recover - gone. I'll still goof around with the kids and the other parents, but as for playing full speed; this is an injury waiting to happen!
  • Weight Lifting. My days of spending over an hour in the gym, chest & tri one day, back & bi the next, legs the day after that - those days are long past. I've lost the desire for those results over the years, and I've increased my strength and results by doing cross-fit instead.
  • Anything else that's either expensive, complicated, cold-weather related, or extreme. 

That's my list. I wish I had more time to spend becoming an expert in all of them, but I'll have to settle for staying in pretty good shape instead.

What's on your list?

-Chris Butterworth

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size matters - portion size, that is

size matters - portion size, that is


Do you know what a portion looks like? Most of us don't; I've written many times about portion sizes having grown out of proportion. (see portion sizes have become gigantic.)

1/4 cup? 1/2 cup? 3 ounces? Eating too big a portion can easily add enough calories to push you over your daily limit, probably without even knowing it. That can be hugely frustrating - you think you're doing everything right, but the weight won't come off..

Take my trail mix example from last month. I know that 1/4 cup of trail mix has approximately 150 calories. But I can easily eat 1 cup of the stuff (or more), which is 600 calories. I've become familiar enough with 1/4 cup of trail mix that I know what it looks like in my hand, how it feels, how much it weighs, and how I'm going to feel after I eat it. I know it'll take the edge off and hold me over until my next meal, but I also know it'll leave me wanting a bit more.

Being that familiar with the portion size of trail mix has saved me from eating tens of thousands of extra calories over the years.

A few nights ago our family had to divide and conquer, so I was left to cook dinner for myself and one of my boys. I made a very simple rice and beans dish, and took the opportunity to take some pictures of portion sizes...


If you're going to keep track of what you eat, especially if you're counting calories, you should get yourself a set of measuring cups.



1/4 cup doesn't sound nearly as small as it looks!

1/2 cup looks and feels like a much better portion. Unfortunately, there are a surprising number of foods which list their portion size as 1/4 cup; eating 1/2 cup of these foods gives you twice the calories.




Back to my trail mix example.. Bunched up, it's about the size of a small handful. Spread out on a plate, I'd take 3 or 4 finger-full scoops to eat a serving.


As for our rice and beans, here's what 420 calories looks like on my plate. Add in some cheese, tomatoes, salsa, and guacamole, and the meal's flavor comes to life for another 200 calories (give or take). However, like my trail mix example above, I could easily eat 2 or 3 of these portions - and wash them down with a Coke or a beer, or two!

Size matters, and it matters a lot. Keep your portion sizes under control, and you'll take a big step towards keeping your calorie intake under control.

-Chris Butterworth

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there's much more room for failure - why it's easy to fail

there's much more room for failure - why it's easy to fail


First of all, let's get the facts out there on the table: Losing weight is all about the numbers - calories in vs calories out.*

Now let's look at an example: Assume a 45-year old man wants to lose weight. He's 5'10" tall and weighs 215 lbs, on a frame that's meant to carry 165.

We can see from the Calorie Calculator he needs 2,240 calories per day to maintain his weight.


Here's where we get to the numbers.

Let's assume our sample guy wants to lose 50 lbs this year. That works out to about 1 lb per week.

He'll need to run a calorie deficit of -3,500 calories to lose one pound. Since he wants to lose 1 lb per week, divide that 3,500 by 7 days (in a week), and he'll need to run a 500 calorie deficit per day. (which is exactly what the Results show in the screen clip above.)

This means he'll need to eat a maximum of 1,740 calories per day. (2,240 calories to maintain weight minus 500 calorie daily deficit.) 1,740 calories per day is very doable (I've written the Daily Diet series and have published real-world example diets he could use), but it will be difficult to get much lower than this. He might have a day where he only eats 1,600 calories, or maybe even 1,400. I doubt he'll get all the way down to 1,000 calories in a day.

The point is, he'll try hard to keep himself on pace: -500 calories per day. There may be days here and there where he'll eat even fewer calories, but not a significant amount. Heck, even if he fasts for a day, he'll only be putting 1,740 calories into his 'deficit bank.'

Over-eating, on the other hand, is almost unlimited. I've written recently about a poorly planned lunch at a restaurant where I ate 1,800 calories for lunch and was fortunate to keep my daily intake at 2,800. I've also written about how easy it would be to walk across the street and eat 3,010 calories for lunch! And the most extreme example: Michael Phelps eating 12,000 calories PER DAY while training for the Olympics.

Time to get to the point

1,740 calories per day is doable. However, it's far easier to over-eat than under-eat. And at the extremes, the most you can possibly under-eat is 1,740 calories, and that's if you fast for the entire day. While the most you can possibly over-eat is 10,260 calories (if you eat like Michael Phelps.) More realistically, though, it wouldn't be too hard to eat 5,000 calories in a day (3,260 extra.)

I talk about cheat days, getting back up after you fall down, being realistic with your goals, etc. And all that is true - after all, I don't want to see you quit just because you have a bad day. But realize that it isn't easy to make up for those bad days. 3,260 extra calories in one day? Our example-guy would need to reduce his already-low 1740 daily intake down to 1640, for an entire month, to get himself back on pace to losing 50 pounds in a year.

It would probably be better to write that bad day off as a loss, get back on the 1,740 wagon, and know it will take an extra week to reach his goal.

Success takes commitment and dedication, for the long term.

-Chris Butterworth

and, in reference to my first statement in the post..

* Yes, there are plenty of diet plans out there that try to move your focus to different sections of your food..

  • "Don't eat any protein."
  • "Eat vegetarian."
  • "Don't eat any carbs."
  • "Eat like a caveman would."
  • And all the proprietary plans' (nutri-ultra-slim-systems) "Eat our name-branded pre-packaged foods."

The reason most of these will help you lose some weight is because they help you eat fewer calories. The reason most of these won't help you get all the way to your goal is because their systems don't focus on the actual number of calories.

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This one thing can make or break your day

I've written about single tasking and single mindedness before - if you know what you're going to accomplish before you start, it's much easier to eliminate the pull of all those distractions. If you're just wandering through the motions, you might as well not even try...

from Seth Godin:
Let me guess: check the incoming. Check email or traffic stats or messages from your boss. Check the tweets you follow or the FB status of friends. 
You've just surrendered not only a block of time but your freshest, best chance to start something new. 
If you're a tech company or a marketer, your goal is to be the first thing people do when they start their day. If you're an artist, a leader or someone seeking to make a difference, the first thing you do should be to lay tracks to accomplish your goals, not to hear how others have reacted/responded/insisted to what happened yesterday.
I couldn't agree more.

-Chris Butterworth

running in the cold is hard

It's been just about 2 years since I decided to get off the couch and get into shape. My goal at the time was to run a triathlon in May 2010.

In the winter-spring of 2010 I did most of my training at about lunchtime. In winter-spring of 2011 I was training in the mornings, but it was mostly at the gym. This is the first time I've been training outside, in the mornings, in the dark and the cold (43 degrees this morning), and I have to say, it sucks.

It's harder to get out of bed, and it's harder to get motivated for a good workout. I don't know why exactly, and I've been successful at getting my workouts done. But my body/mind doesn't want to - it takes a little extra push every step of the way. I have to push myself to get out of bed. I almost talk myself out of working out before I start. Then I try to talk myself into cutting my workout short. By the time I'm actually finished, I'm exhausted - and only partly from the workout!

Hopefully it gets easier as I do it more. Worst case - March isn't too far away, and the mornings will get warmer & sunnier..

-Chris Butterworth