march

lifestyles travel with you on vacation

lifestyles travel with you on vacation


You may have noticed the lack of new posts around here lately. Well, I was vacationing last week with my family - and it was awesome. Six days of lounging beach-side, soaking up the sun, and letting life's hustle and bustle fade into the background. Ah, paradise.

the beach at coronado island


(never mind the double-work before I left, or the mountain of paper and email staring me in the face this morning. Gotta let that stuff go while you're "hanging loose.")

The best thing about this trip was that I never once had to "exercise" or "diet", yet I got plenty of exercise and I ate great food the whole week!

That's the power of slow and steady. I've spent the last year making small changes to how I approach diet and exercise, so that it's not about a system, a plan, a routine, or a specific type of diet.

Dieting - I eat what I want, when I want. When given a choice, I opt for the foods with fewer man-made chemicals and ingredients in them. I watch my portion sizes - I try to order the smaller version, or I'll try not to lick my plate clean.

As for exercise, I spend less time at the gym and more time playing with my kids. Sure, I still get to the kettlebells or a Fit-20 workout a couple times a week. But gone are the days of spending hours on the bike or the treadmill.

This week on vacation, I walked a lot with my family - up and down the beach and around the town. I raced my boys to whatever point ahead of us they wanted to run. I played smashball with my wife and younger son. I climbed on the rocks at the jetty. I played soccer at the park. Whatever and whenever - we got outside and had fun. It turned out to be plenty of exercise, without once having to do a workout.

the jetty at coronado island
rock climbing on the jetty

lunch with family at a beachside grille

smash ball on the beach

hanging out in town

goofing around at the local park


Overall, I learned two things on this trip:

1.) Lifestyle changes have a much stronger impact than diet systems. I can't imagine how frustrating last week would have been if I had been restricted by what I could and couldn't eat, or if I had had to find time to get to a gym.

2.) I need to take a vacation like this more often!

How about you - what have you had success with (or failure we could learn from) while on vacation?

-Chris Butterworth

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it's easier to lose weight in the kitchen than the gym

it's easier to lose weight in the kitchen than the gym


Let's say you're having trouble losing weight, or your weight loss has stalled, or maybe you're even gaining some weight. And you decided, right then, to double up your efforts in the gym - more miles, more weights, more everything!

Here's a secret: that's probably not the best use of your energy...

You'll get more benefit by spending 30 minutes reviewing what you've been eating, looking up calorie counts, and planning ahead for what you should eat tomorrow, than you would by spending 30 minutes on the treadmill.

  • Jogging 3 miles burns approximately 350 calories. (depending on your height, weight, and pace)
  • 4 Red Vines contain 140 calories
  • 3 Chips Ahoy cookies contain 160 calories
  • 1 Dozen boneless buffalo wings are worth 1,040 calories! (even if that's all you ate for lunch, that was way too much.)
  • Southwestern eggrolls: 770 calories
  • Even if you've been eating healthy foods, large portion sizes can sink your weight loss ship.

chilis boneless buffalo wings and southwestern eggrolls


Here are some more productive ways to use that extra 30 minutes:

  • Start keeping a food journal. What have you eaten lately? What are your weaknesses? What time of day is causing your failure?
  • Look up the calorie counts of the foods you eat most often.
  • Go online and check out the nutrition guide for the restaurants you frequent.
  • Write up an eating game plan. What could you eat tomorrow for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
  • Consider using a snacking diversion.


Let's look at a real world example:

A 39-year old woman, 5' 4" and weighing 185 pounds burns about 1,800 calories in an average day (assuming little or no exercise).



The math is simple: she can eat 1,500 per day to lose 2.5 - 3.0 pounds per month, or she can eat 1,600 calories per day to lose about 2 pounds per month. (assuming some, but not a lot, of exercise.)

1,600 calories per day shouldn't be too difficult:

  • 400 calories for breakfast
  • 500 calories for lunch
  • 500 calories for dinner
  • 100 calories for snacks, twice a day


Running for 30 minutes to burn an extra 300-400 calories won't do you any good if you're over-eating by 500 calories.

I love exercise and think it's an important part of life. It helps lift my mind, body, and spirit. But using exercise as the primary weight loss tool requires A LOT of exercise - like, the kind of exercise you don't have time for!

Better to work smarter, not harder, and reach your goals by creating habits you can keep for the rest of your life..

-Chris Butterworth

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financial incentives help people lose weight

financial incentives help people lose weight


A study, published by Science World Report, had a group of people try to lose 4 lbs per month for a year. At the end of each month, those who lost the weight earned $20; those who did not had to pay $20.

money stacks of bills


"The participants were told to achieve the goal of losing 4 pounds per month up to a predetermined goal weight. The researchers kept track of their body weight every month for almost one year. The researchers told the participants in the incentive groups that they would receive $20 per month if they achieved the goal. And those who failed to achieve the goal would need to pay $20 each month that gets into the bonus pool. Participants in both incentive groups who finished the study were entitled to win the pool by lottery. 
The researchers noticed that 62 percent of the participants in the incentive group achieved the goal, while just 26 percent from the non-incentive group hit the target. The mean weight loss of participants from the incentive group was 9.08 pounds and the mean weight loss for the non incentive group was 2.34 pounds. 
"The take-home message is that sustained weight loss can be achieved by financial incentives,"

I'm not surprised that having some skin in the game would increase your results, but I am surprised by how big the differences are with just a $20 penalty. ($40 marginal swing). I know plenty of people who pay that much for a gym membership and never set foot inside the place.

So what was the difference? Being involved in the study? Paying money into a pool that somebody else would win? The competition behind it? All of these are factors of public accountability, which is a great motivator towards achieving goals.

Regardless of the reason, the results are undeniable: 62 percent vs 26 percent; 9.08 pounds vs 2.34 pounds.

If you're trying to lose weight, maybe it's a good idea to get a partner involved and put some money where your mouth is...

-Chris Butterworth

image credit: Reuters

Hat tip to Freakonomics' Paying People to Lose Weight, where I first read this story.

xbox kinect - can you really get a good workout from a video game?

xbox kinect - can you really get a good workout from a video game?


We finally hooked the Kinect receiver up to our Xbox this weekend, and I was blown away by how big an impact this thing could have on our lives.

xbox kinect sensor

For those of you who aren't familiar with Xbox Kinect, here's the basic rundown: You hook a little sensor-receiver (the Kinect) up to the xbox, and it sits in front of (or above, or below) your television. That sensor then watches your movements, and translates them into the video game. In effect, you play the video game without having to use any controller - your body is the controller.

What did I think of Xbox Kinect?

Yes, the graphics are as good as you would expect.

And yes, the technology is amazing - kind of a science fiction, Minority Report meets modern day living rooms.

But most of all I was impressed with how active a video game can be. I was doing stuff around the house while my 8-year old played Kinect Sports, and each time I walked by the room he was doing something different - running, playing soccer, boxing, playing beach volleyball.. By the time 30 minutes had passed he was covered in sweat and ready for a break! (when was the last time a kid ever said he was tired of video games?!  :)

working out with xbox kinect


A quick look online this morning shows a wide selection of games, ranging from dancing, to sports, to sport-specific training workouts.

xbox kinect your shape

xbox kinect zumba rush

xbox kinect ufc trainer

xbox kinect sports

xbox kinect dance central

xbox kinect active 2

I'll write more about this after Cheryl and I get to "play" with it a few times. Can we burn 500, or 1,000, calories per hour? Can we get a really good workout in without leaving our living room? Based on what I saw yesterday I can easily see this becoming part of our workout rotation..

And on top of that, I just think it's too cool / ironic to be able to tell my kids to go play their video games as a way to keep them fit!

Has anyone else out there tried Kinect yet? What do you think?

-Chris Butterworth

all images clipped from the xbox website.

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race day to be May 13, 2012

I did some soul searching this weekend after writing about the difficulties I was having with trying to accomplish 2 major goals at the same time (see it's hard to serve 2 masters), and I've decided to postpone writing a book while I spend this spring training for my olympic length triathlon.  That means I have 8 weeks left to get from reasonably good shape (training for an hour at a time) into awesome shape (the race will likely take me 3.5 hours to complete.)

That also means I'm going to put the vast majority of my energy into this effort, including this blog.  As much as I love productivity, goal setting & achievement, organization, and efficiency, I'll mostly be writing about fitness & exercise over the next 2 months.

I'm heading into this 2 month journey with 3 goals for race day:

1. Complete the swim without incident. *
2. Complete the race without stopping or walking.
3. Beat my two training partners!

Wish me luck!

- Chris Butterworth

* My last 2 springtime triathlons with open water swims have included (2010) a kick to the head which split my forehead open & gave me a concussion (I think), and (2011) a charlie horse in my leg and toes from the 58 degree water that was so bad I thought I was going to drown.

it's hard to serve 2 masters

Right now I'm working to accomplish 2 different goals.  Both are bigger than anything I've done before, and both will be my first of their kind.  In addition to my full-time job, my hobby-job, my family, and the rest of the daily grind, I'm trying to:

1.) Train for an Olympic length triathlon race at the end of May - a 1 mile swim, 28 mile bike ride, and 6.2 mile run.  If I'm in top shape and push myself to my limits, I could probably finish in less than 3 hours.  (that's my goal, anyway).  Realistically, though, 3.5 hours is more likely.

I've run plenty of triathlons over the last couple years, but none has been longer than about 2:15, which is just about the time your body needs to start burning its own fat as a fuel for exercise.  This will be my first event where I'm likely to "hit the wall" and have my body completely change fuel sources, and I'm both nervous about it and excited for the challenge.  But most of all I want to be in good shape - ready both physically and mentally for whatever race-day might bring..

2.) Write and publish a book.  I've been jotting down notes, snippets, and ideas about productivity and time management for quite awhile, and I set a goal for myself to compile, write & publish this as a book by the middle of 2012.

Unfortunately, it's hard to serve both masters.  When I'm training, I'm thinking about writing my book.  When I'm writing, I'm feeling guilty and stressed out about skipping a workout.  Something's gotta give - I can't keep juggling all these balls in the air while simultaneously putting this much effort into both big projects, each of which is going to take 100% of my best effort over the next 3 months.

Looks like it's time for some soul searching over the next week or two...

- Chris Butterworth

scatterbrained? try single tasking

I have too many lots of things to do at any given time.  In fact, here's what's rattling around in my brain right now:

  • Finish and publish one of the half-written posts I have for this blog.
  • Write up (and publish) some of the thoughts I have for my real estate blog.
  • Start writing my monthly email newsletter.
  • Scan (and tag) into Evernote the pile of papers on the corner of my desk.
  • Follow up with the loan officer regarding a potential real estate purchase.
  • Book the free trip to San Francisco my wife & I got for sitting through that time share presentation.
  • Purchase season passes to Wet n Wild for the summer.
  • Respond to several emails.
  • Read (or at least skim) the scores of posts waiting for me in my feed reader.
  • Dozens of other smaller things to do.

Each day I have a block of time to work on this stuff in the morning, and another block of time in the evening after the kids to go bed.  In addition, I have short snippets of time during the day - 3-5 minute stretches here & there while I wait for a report to run or for an email to be answered.

I find that whenever I look at the list as a whole, I get overwhelmed thinking about all of them, and I usually don't get much of anything done.  However, when I single-task and focus on one item exclusively, I get it done and am able to move onto the next item.

The trick is to plan ahead.  I review my list, either at night or first thing in the morning, so I know which items are critical, which will take a long block of time, and which ones I can work on during my 3-5 minute drills during the day.  When the time is right, I pick a task and give it all my focus and energy until it's complete.  Then I can cross it off my list and move onto the next one.  In fact, I'm going to cross that top one off my list right now!

- Chris Butterworth