may

2 examples why playing sports is GREAT exercise

Yesterday after work I convinced my 11-year old to go for a jog with me. I didn't want to burn him out or push him too hard, so I thought we'd go at a nice easy pace for about a mile and a half - "let's see what the kid's got", I thought to myself. I upped the ante by telling him if he wants to bring his soccer ball we could stop at the park on the way home and kick the ball around.

youth soccer - club soccer


Now, this is a kid who plays club soccer, which means he's playing soccer almost year round, a couple times a week (or more). So I assumed a 15-minute jog wouldn't be too much for him. Well, that was the understatement of the week!

Example #1: The soccer player was in better shape than the moderately fit guy.

While I jogged along at a moderate pace (probably about 9:30/mile but I wasn't timing it), my son was dribbling a soccer ball - zig-zagging back and forth across the path, stopping and starting, doing fancy moves, sprinting ahead of me before stopping to juggle the ball, etc. It was ridiculous! I would have been completely gassed if I had been doing what he was doing.

Granted he's 11 and I'm... much older. But still - that kid is in great shape even compared with other 11-year olds. Playing a high-intensity sport like soccer, consistently - week in and week out, is a great way to stay in shape.

Example #2: Playing soccer was much harder than running.

Once we had run our loop and ended up back at the park, we started kicking the soccer ball back and forth with each other. Kick the ball, trap the ball when it comes to you, dribble once or twice before kicking the ball back to the other guy, run a few steps so the other guy can pass to a moving target, cut back when you receive it and pass with your other foot, etc. etc. It was a lot of short bursts of energy - no more than a couple-few seconds at a time.

After 15 minutes of goofing around kicking the ball back and forth, I was far more tired than I had been after jogging. My heart was racing, I was covered in sweat, and I was panting for air. Not to mention I was using more muscles with greater intensity and range of motion.

If I had to choose which exercise would burn more calories and give me the best full-body workout for a given amount of time, I'd say playing soccer beat running yesterday - and by a large margin.

- Chris Butterworth


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On Amazon - here are some sports gear ideas to get you going:

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youth soccer tryouts and placements

It's that time of year again...

For the families of kids who play competitive soccer, this is one of the most stressful weeks of the year (at least here in AZ). Our little Peles or Mia Hamms have gone through tryouts, and now we're waiting the results, with far more questions than answers:
  • What team will my son play on? Did he make the "A" team, or will he get relegated to the "B" team?
  • How about his friends from last year's team - where will they end up?
  • Who will be coaching this year?

Then, as word starts getting out and parents start talking to each other, the gossip really flies:
  • Did you hear about that family we all really like - they won't be on our team next year.
  • I heard that family nobody likes might be on our team this year.
  • So and so told me about what's his name who is moving to a different club this year - good for them. I hope they find a better situation.
  • Gabby Gossip told me we're getting a player from that other club, and he was asked to leave that club because his parents yelled at the coach.
  • There's another family moving clubs - bunch of idiots think the grass is going to be greener over there?!

On one hand, this is completely ridiculous. The kids care about who's on their team and who their coach is, sure. But really they just want to go out and play soccer. The parents, on the other hand, sometimes care a little (or a lot) too much. We can get so over the top about the whole thing that the season becomes un-fun.

I do understand it to a certain extent - you're spending a lot of money for your child to play competitive sports, so it makes sense that you want your child to be on the most competitive team possible. Your family also has at least a little competitive streak, or you wouldn't be here in the first place. So year, I get it - you're competitive and you want what's best for your child. But even so, let's try to keep things in perspective, shall we?

Overall I'm happy with Jason's club and team, and I love watching him play. We're looking forward to a great season come fall...


photo credit: 4DsCreativeSolutions



-Chris Butterworth

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200 Calories' worth of food - photo essay

200 Calories' worth of food - photo essay


I saw a photo essay over at boredpanda.com, showing pictures of 200 calories' worth of 63 different foods, and I wanted to share some of what jumped out at me.

Here are 4 things I noticed about 200 calories:

1.) You can eat lots of fruits and vegetables for less than 200 calories.

Apple Slices
apple slices - 200 calories


Carrots
carrots - 200 calories


Broccoli
broccoli - 200 calories


Grapes
grapes - 200 calories


2.) Simple, whole foods - without toppings and fillers, can go a long way on 200 calories.

Pasta
pasta - 200 calories


Turkey
turkey - 200 calories


Black beans
black beans - 200 calories


Eggs
eggs - 200 calories


3.) Toppings, fillers, and sugars add up fast.

Butter
butter - 200 calories


Blackberry pie
blackberry pie - 200 calories


M & Ms
M & Ms - 200 calories


Canola oil
canola oil - 200 calories


Peanut butter
peanut butter - 200 calories


4.) Some junk food is ok, as long as you control your portion size

Snickers bar
snickers bar - 200 calories


Cheeseburger
cheeseburger - 200 calories


Doritos
doritos - 200 calories


Bottom Line

To your body, 200 calories are 200 calories, regardless of what they look or taste like. They can be a fulfilling snack that lasts throughout the morning. They can be a bite of something sweet, or the extra flavor you add to something else. They can make your diet, by helping you through the cravings in-between meals. And they can break your diet, turning your meticulously crafted lunch into a budget-blowing feast.

1,600 calories a day allows you 8 servings of 200 calories: 8 pats of butter, handfuls of candy, and glasses of soda will leave you very hungry, while 8 servings of turkey and/or vegetables will fill you up.

Think before you eat; make each 200-calorie choice wisely.

-Chris Butterworth

all images pulled from boredpanda's post; see all 63 photos at "What 200 Calories Look Like".

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getting enough sleep can make you feel like a superhero

getting enough sleep can make you feel like a superhero


Let's talk about sleep. Better yet, lack of sleep. Or, more to the point, exhaustion. I learned this week just how close to exhaustion I am most of the time, and it was quite an awakening. (yeah, that's a terrible pun.)



I have plenty of excuses for not sleeping enough - work, kids, hobbies, exercise, household chores, writing a blog - but they're not much different from the same excuses everyone has. We're all busy, and we make choices to do the things we feel obligated to do, or to relax and watch mindless television, rather than sleeping.

My body prefers getting 7.5 hours of sleep each night, but I rarely get that much. This means I run a little sleep deficit each day, which builds up as the week progresses, so that by Thursday and Friday I don't have as much pep, or focus, as I should. Then I count on getting some extra sleep on the weekends, just to recharge and get myself back to "normal."

Well, last week was brutal. We had a lot on our plates, and I didn't get more than 6 hours of sleep once. As expected, I was run down by Friday. Unfortunately the weekend wasn't any better, and a full night's sleep wasn't in the cards. By the time I got to Sunday, I was completely fried. Tired, sore, impatient, frustrated - just plain miserable, and not a lot of fun to be around. I knew I needed sleep, and not just one night's good rest, so I made a concerted effort to get more sleep over the next few days.

I slept 8.5 hours Sunday night, and Monday night I logged another 8 hours. Tuesday night I got a little over 7, and then I got a full 8 hours again on Wednesday night. Then it hit me:

When I woke up on Thursday morning, I felt great. Not just good, but great - Superman great. No ailments or cobwebs. Nothing but physical energy and mental clarity. This is how Peter Parker must have felt after getting bitten by a spider! Throughout the day I felt a surge of energy - I could easily handle whatever the day might throw my way, and follow it up with an awesome workout to boot.


The whole sleep-experience of the last two weeks made me realize I haven't put nearly enough emphasis on how important sleep is as part of a healthy lifestyle.

For me, personally, 8 hours of sleep every night is unrealistic. Nighttime, after the kids are asleep, is when I can get some work done, or focus on the family admin tasks. Or, on other nights, it's the only quality time my wife and I get to spend together. All of these are important, and worth giving up some sleep for. But, after what I experienced this week, getting enough sleep has moved up on my priorities list!

-Chris Butterworth

Related Post: 13 thoughts on getting a better night's sleep

images: 1.) Microsoft clipart. 2.) Man of Steel movie poster, by Warner Bros  (2013)

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Fit-20 Workout - Kettlebell with Stairs

Fit-20 Workout - Kettlebell with Stairs


Last night I was going to workout upstairs, but my kettlebell was downstairs. As I carried the kettlebell up the stairs, I had an idea for a new workout...



For those of you new to the Fitness Gazette site, Fit-20 Workouts are workouts designed to give you a full-body workout, muscles and cardio, in about 20 minutes, using little or no gym equipment. Ideally you can squeeze a workout in before work, or at lunch, without squeezing your family out of the picture. Click here to see a list of past Fit-20 Workouts.

Today's Workout

  • Stairs. Carry the kettlebell up and back down a flight of stairs. Alternate which hand holds the kettlebell each trip. (Easier - alternate going up or down, not both, between each exercise; Advanced - up and down twice between each exercise, once with your right hand holding the kettlebell and once with your left.)
  • 2-handed Kettlebell Swings - 18. (Easier, do 12; Advanced, do 25)
  • Stairs
  • Kettlebell Cleans - 12 Each Hand. (Easier - 8; Advanced - 16)
  • Stairs
  • Kettlebell Snatch - 12 Each Hand. (Easier - 8; Advanced - 16)
  • Repeat for 4 cycles
  • Time yourself. Your goal the next time you do this workout should be to beat your time, and/or to do more repetitions of each exercise.

To your fitness,

-Chris Butterworth

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grilled cod with potatoes and vegetables

grilled cod with potatoes and vegetables


I always hear about how healthy fish is, but truth be told, I don't eat it that often. It's one of those foods that's awesome when it's prepared perfectly, but you can ruin the whole meal if you miss by just a little bit - either under or over-cooking, or by mis-seasoning it. (unlike a burger, where you've got plenty of margin for error on either side of medium-well..) Plus, my wife isn't a big fan of having the whole house smell like fish for the rest of the day.

That being said, once in awhile I get a craving for fish, and this weekend was one of those times. I had an idea in my mind about halibut with asparagus and rice pilaf, so Collin and I went off to hunt at the local grocery store.

It turns out they don't carry fresh halibut (and if they did it would be about $25 per pound, says the fish butcher), so we settled on cod - a 3/4 pound fillet for $4. The asparagus was priced high at $4 per bushel, so we reached for fresh green beans as an alternative ($2.50). As for the rice pilaf, Collin voted for french fries, and after last month's potato debacle, I've been looking forward to my next chance with the little spuds. We agreed on home-made steak fries. (a bag of red potatoes was $3.)

grilled cod, green beans, and red potato steak fries


This time I cut the red potatoes into steak fries. I placed them in open foil with a little oil and seasoned them with Montreal Chicken, then let them cook on the grill for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. I wrapped the fish in foil with some oil, water, sea salt, lemon pepper, and a pinch of garlic powder, and set it on the grill for about 15 minutes, flipping it a couple times throughout. The green beans got an oil spray with salt and pepper, and about 10 minutes on the grill.

* Note - my son Collin eats gluten-free and casein-free (basically no wheat or dairy). We try to modify our recipes to account for this, as a show of support and because it's easier than cooking multiple meals. If this wasn't the case, the fish and green beans would have been smothered in butter! :)

The Results

Awesome - This meal turned out perfect.

grilled cod, green beans, and red potato steak fries


CalorieKing says each serving contained 326 calories. (119 fish, 123 potatoes, 44 beans, and 40 oil.) Our servings of fish and potatoes were a little larger, so we might have been closer to 500. Still, this was a dinner that was fresh, healthy, less than $10 for both of us, and well within moderate calorie guidelines. I'll make this again later in the summer for sure.

collin enjoys a fresh grilled dinner


Would you want to try this meal, or do you have any recommendations for making it better? Come back and let me know in the comments!

-Chris Butterworth

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why trail running is better than regular running

why trail running is better than regular running


There's a desert wash near my house. It's about a quarter-mile wide, and runs for miles in either direction. These natural washes criss-cross the city, and carry water run-off (usually in the form of a flood) on those rare occasions when we see water falling from the sky for more than an hour or two.

desert wash in peoria az


Due to the size and use of these natural, dry riverbeds, it's very expensive for a city to develop them; they typically remain native desert, with minor enhancements for the structural safety of nearby homes and businesses. Instead, the cities use these natural corridors to build an awesome network of bicycle and walking paths. (at the top of the riverbank, obviously.)

I've been on these paths thousands of times over the years for running, biking, walking, skateboarding, riding scooters - basically anything and everything, exercise alone and recreation with my family. But a couple days ago I had a crazy idea:

What would happen if I actually ran IN the wash?

desert wash running through a neighborhood in peoria az

rocky riverbed in a desert wash in peoria az

a desert washes passes under deer valley road in peoria az

After running the wash for about 45 minutes, it was easy to make favorable observations comparing it to running on the regular sidewalk:

1.) Harder Work - easier pace. I found myself less worried about my pace and timing splits, and instead just enjoying my run. My pace was significantly slower than usual, but I could tell I was getting a good workout by how much I was sweating!

2.) Full Body Engagement. I had to adjust and plan for each step, using balance, dexterity, my core, and different muscles in my legs. (mostly to make sure I didn't break an ankle!) This was a significant departure from the repetitive, piston-like motion of legs pounding on smooth pavement. By the end of the run I felt rejuvenated and exhausted at the same time.

3.) Better Form. Small steps, feet underneath you. Easy, light, smooth, and fast - I could feel exactly what Caballo Blanco meant when he said "if you think you need 2 steps, take 3," while teaching Christopher McDougall how to run trails in the book Born to Run. "Easy. Light. Smooth. and Fast. You get the first three, and you won't have to worry about being fast." (I'm quoting from memory, so even if the quote isn't exact, I'm still giving credit with quotations.)

4.) Intense Focus makes time and distance pass quickly. I found myself focusing on the ground in front of me for a few minutes at a time. Then, I'd look up and see I had suddenly run for 5 minutes and had covered quite a bit of distance. That was so much better than the sidewalk, where I usually look ahead at the same streetlight for what seems like forever and wondering why I'm not getting anywhere.

5.) Changing Terrain. This is sort of a combination of the first 3, but the fact is every step is different. In 20 minutes' time, I ran over big river rocks, small river rocks, gravel, dirt, and sand as thick as a luxurious beach. Each surface required different muscles, and a different pace. And the surfaces changed every few minutes.

6.) Better Scenery. Short and sweet - trail running can get you further into nature, to places the rest of the joggers don't get to see.

7.) More Calories Burned per minute. The chart below is part of a much larger chart I found on the MyCaloriesBurned website. I'm not sure if I believe everything on the chart (ie: swimming laps and kick boxing burn less than cycling..?), but at least it's an objective 3rd party saying trail running burns more than regular running.

calories burned per hour for various exercises


So get out there and give trail running a try. Then come back here and let me know what you think..

-Chris Butterworth

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one thing all centenarians have in common

one thing all centenarians have in common


A Centenarian is a person who lives to or beyond 100 years. 

I read an article earlier in the week about a 105-year old woman who claims eating bacon is the reason for her longevity, and it got me to thinking...

centenarian who loves eating bacon
image from an article at vibe.com

So I did a little poking around the google, and started reading article after article about centenarians, along with looking at scores of pictures. What I found wasn't really surprising, but it was smack-you-in-the-face obvious:

Centenarians are a subset of people who are not obese.

If that sounds confusing; let me explain. Think about this:

All dogs have four legs, but not everything that has four legs is a dog. (I know - spare me the comments about your dog who was different. We rescued a three-legged dog in college - that's not the point.)
All centenarians are not obese, but not everyone who is not obese will live to be a centenarian.

centenarian
from the photo essay "Happy at One Hundred: Aging Can Be Beautiful."

I gathered that most centenarians like to stay busy and active - they have hobbies they're passionate about, they read and watch movies, and they socialize with friends and family members.

I learned all different types of diet tips, which makes sense considering there are centenarians living throughout most of the world.

But for all the information I devoured, I couldn't find one picture, article, or mention of someone living to be 100 years old who was obese.

What can we learn from our centenarian society?

I write about health and fitness from a long-term perspective.

I don't care about having 6-pack abs, or being able to deadlift three times your body weight, or running a six-minute mile. I don't care whether you eat more protein, or carbs, or the right number of vegetables. None of those things has a direct correlation with living a longer, healthier life.

Carrying around too much excess weight is the only thing that has a direct impact. More fat equals more trips to the doctor, more medications, more stress on your joints, more difficulty moving around - especially as you get older, and more certainty that you won't live to be 100.

If you want a chance at a longer than average life, eat modest portions of less-processed foods, and move a little more. You don't have to look like a super model or a professional athlete to be healthy - but you do have to stay reasonably thin..

family celebrates grandpa's 102nd birthday
my boys and their cousins celebrate grandpa's 102nd birthday.

More information

7 Inspiring People Over 100 Years Old

Top 10 Oldest People Ever

Happy At One Hundred: Aging Can Be Beautiful

105 Year Old Woman Says Bacon Is Her Secret to Long Life

Wikipedia: Centenarian

-Chris Butterworth

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monday motivation - the making of make it count (video)

monday motivation - the making of make it count (video)


a few weeks ago I posted a video called Make it Count, which was sort of a documentary-motivational-advertisement all rolled into one.

Recently I found a sequel shwoing why and how the video was made.


Here's the link, too, in case your rss or email strips the video.

I'm not usually moved to purchase by an advertisement, but I'm finding myself wanting a Nike fuel band. Anyone out there using one? What do you think?

Stay tuned...

-Chris Butterworth

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is a 24-hour fast a good idea?

is a 24-hour fast a good idea?


Earlier this week I did a 24-hour fast. I'll be honest on this one - it wasn't entirely on purpose, and I did cheat a little bit. But, having gone through the exercise, I spent some time thinking about what I had done, and whether or not fasting could play an important role in overall health.

fasting - a plate without food
image credit: Microsoft clipart


Here's how it happened:

I ate more than I normally do for lunch, to the point where I felt really full. (and since I usually do a good job of eating moderate portions, it was easily noticeable.) Then, that evening, something came up at home, where I had to run a few errands with one of my boys. It ended up getting late, so we stopped at a Chick Fil A for dinner (one of his favorites.) I decided not to order food for myself, since I had already over-eaten at lunch, but I did eat two or three of my son's waffle fries.

By the time we got home and ready for bed, I was a little hungry, but not enough to justify making a dinner that late at night, so I just went to bed.

The next morning was one of those out-of-the-routine mornings, because I had a meeting scheduled at an odd time. I had half a glass of orange when I woke up, figuring I would eat breakfast with the boys later that morning. Unfortunately the morning got away from us, and I had to leave the house without eating. again.

I could have stopped for something on the road, or raided the office snack bins, but by this point I was 21 hours into a 24 hour fast; no way I wasn't going to see this thing through.

Lunchtime came, eventually, and I ate a modest-size lunch, thus ending my fast.

What did I learn from this fasting exercise?

I learned, or was reminded of, 4 different topics regarding how our bodies burn energy:

1.) I Did It. The word "Fasting" is intimidating. How could I possibly go without food? Well, there's breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Eat one of those three, then skip the next two, and you're done. It's not as bad as it first sounds.

2.) Calorie Reduction. If you're eating 1,500 calories per day while trying to lose weight, skipping two meals plus snacks will save you somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,100 calories. That means you can go over your 1,500 goal a couple-few times during the week, and still hit your calorie-goal for the week.

3.) Teach your body to Burn Fat. Remember that every pound of fat in your body is 3,500 calories' worth of energy just waiting to be released. Our bodies were designed to store energy (fat) in times of plenty, and burn that energy when food was scarce. However, it's easier for your body to get energy from a steady flow of carbs than it is to convert fat into energy, and our bodies were also designed to be efficient. This is why our bodies give us hunger pains - our bodies are basically saying "hey, I'm out of the easy fuel - can you throw a bagel down your neck?"

Last year at this time I was training in the mornings for a mid-length triathlon, and I would workout for 2.5 hours without eating first. I would drink a juice-water mix and eat a little apple sauce while on my 90 minute bike ride, then run a 10K with a small water bottle. During this time, my body got very efficient at using fat as a fuel source, and for the first time in my life I wasn't getting hypoglycemic-type symptoms if I went an extra hour or two without eating a snack.

We could all survive on water alone for quite some time, if we were stranded on a deserted island. Skipping a couple meals isn't the same thing, but it kind of is..

4.) Brad Pilon's "Eat Stop Eat". This whole exercise reminded me of Brad's blog, where he's spent a great deal of time and energy honing the craft of "intermittent fasting". I'd recommend this as a good resource if you want to explore this topic further.

In Summary

Can a 24-hour fast be part of your healthy lifestyle? Sure. I think there's something to be gained from letting your body function in its natural state.

Am I going to make intermittent fasting part of my weekly routine? Probably not. I may skip a meal now and then, and I might even challenge myself to another one-day fast once in awhile, but I don't see this becoming part of my weekly routine.

Can you be healthy without fasting? Of course. Just eat good food in moderate portions, and get some active and passive exercise.

Are you going to try a 24-hour fast, or have you ever? Let me know how it went.

-Chris Butterworth

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burpees

Burpees are one of those love-hate exercises - you'll hate doing them, but you'll love what they do for you. Burpees are a simple exercise, don't require any equipment at all, and work just about your entire body, very quickly, with just a few reps.

How to do a Burpee
  • From a standing position, squat down and place your hands on the floor next to your feet.
  • Kick your legs backward, so you're in a push-up position.
  • Pull your legs back to their starting position, and explode upward, ending with a jump into the air.


Here's a quick video demonstration


Learn More:  There's a great write up with more information, and even some additional types of Burpees, on the Art of Manliness website. (this is a blog worth subscribing to, by the way, so check it out.)

Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.

Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

Evernote - goldilocks uses notebooks AND tags!

Evernote - goldilocks uses notebooks AND tags!


Do you get confused in Evernote about whether to use notebooks or tags? I've found using both notebooks *and* tags gives me the best of both worlds. Here's why:

Background

I signed up for Evernote in the fall of 2009, and began using it heavily in 2010.  I currently have about 3,600 notes in my Evernote account, spread across various areas of my life: day job, hobbies, blogging, family files (cars, medical, insurance, etc.), kids' stuff, and more. And I've gone through a few iterations of how to organize my notes/thoughts over the years.

Notebooks

I started out using Evernote as if it's a digital version of a paper filing system, where each note can be filed into one, and only one, place. This works great, until it doesn't.

Notebooks
Benefits Drawbacks
Mirrors paper filing system; each note has a place Can only nest one level deep
Easy to move notes from one notebook to another Must be consistent in where to file different "types" of notes (ie: does auto insurance get filed under auto, or insurance?)
Can group notebooks from similar subjects together into "notebook stacks" No keyboard shortcut to move/select notebooks. (not yet, at least.)
Selecting a notebook stack shows all notes in all notebooks within that stack
For those old enough to have worked with paper files, notebooks feel more natural

Once I wanted my notebook filing tree to resemble a file-tree in Windows, I was sunk; notebooks just don't offer this level of nesting. So I began moving everything "into" tags. Another problem was being consistent in filing - did a hotel receipt go under vacations, or receipts? How about my auto insurance policy - insurance, or auto?

Tags

Next I created one big notebook to store all my notes, and I replicated my notebook structure with tags. Then I started modifying and adding new tags. Tags allowed me to nest my filing system several levels deep. They also allowed me to add multiple tags to each note, which is the mind-blowing equivalent of storing a single piece of paper in multiple folders at the same time!

For example, I could have a high-level tag for Household, then a sub tag for Insurance, then more sub tags below that for Auto Insurance, Life Insurance, Health Insurance, etc.

Another example, I could scan a receipt from an oil change on my wife's car, and I could label (tag) that note with Auto, Accord, Cheryl, and Receipt. I would then be able to find that note by perusing any of those 4 tags.

This was like seeing the light for the very first time, and I began multi-tagging most of my notes.

Tags
Benefits Drawbacks
Can use multiple tags for each note, effectively "filing" a single note in multiple locations Tags don't always appear in nested, file-tree order. In some places they are alphabetized
Able to nest tags several levels deep Tendency to over-tag, both on a per-note basis, and by using tags at a very granular level
Keyboard shortcut (Ctrl + Alt + t) allows selection of single or multiple tags without leaving the keyboard Cumbersome to "move" from one tag to another - lots of keystrokes involved to add one and remove the other
Selecting a parent tag does *not* show all notes from all of the children tags

9 months and 1,200 notes later, and I started having panic attacks about my notes - too many tags in too many places with too many choices. Ick. Information overload! I longed for the simplicity of notebooks. I also realized I was spending more time thinking about what tags to assign a note, and where I should look to find a note, than I used to do when I used notebooks. I decided tags were making my use of Evernote less efficient.

Notebooks AND Tags working together

I have since moved back to using notebooks as my primary filing tool. I use notebook stacks to group notebooks around their various themes, and I spend a second or two thinking about where to file each note.

I have an Inbox Notebook which is where everything is captured, without thought. Then, each day or two, I review & file my inbox items.

I also use several higher-level tags. I have a tag for each member of my family, for example. This allows me to use broader notebooks, and combine them with tags. For instance, I used to have notebooks for Medical-Collin, Medical-Jason, Medical-Cheryl, Medical-Chris, etc. Now I have a notebook called Medical, and all medical-related notes are dumped into it. I also have similar notebooks for School, and for Auto. I can then tag those notes with Collin, Jason, Receipt, or Accord.

This combined system has left me with fewer overall choices, and I feel like I'm processing my information faster and easier - both for storage and retrieval. My guess is this is what Evernote's developers had in mind all along... It's like they wrote the program specifically for Goldilocks!

How do you use notebooks and tags in your evernote?

-Chris Butterworth

take the work out of working out

take the work out of working out


Have you ever wondered why working out is so much work? Work - as in a job; as in something you have to do; something difficult, boring, not fun. Why can't it be "play" instead of "work"?

Last weekend I played with my kids - their games, their speed. I kicked a soccer ball around with an 8-year old, which morphed (as it always seems to do) into a competitive game of 1 on 1. I swam in a wave pool at a water park with a 12-year old, swimming and goofing around for as long as he wanted to. I slid head first 25 feet across a slip-and-slide in the backyard, over and over again.

Want to know what I didn't do this weekend? I didn't work out. Yet I got more exercise than I usually do, and I feel great.

I'm not saying we all need to break out the slip and slide to get in shape. (although it wouldn't hurt!) But I do think the more fun our workouts are, like playing games (play-outs?), the more likely we are to continue doing them over the long term.

-Chris Butterworth

Fit-20 Workout 05-30-12


Fit-20 Workout 05-30-12


This is the first 20-minute fitness workout, and I think you'll like it. This is one of my personal favorites, because it seems so easy at the beginning, but then it gets frighteningly difficult, quickly.

What is Fit-20? A program made up of 20-minute fitness routines designed to be done just about anywhere, anytime, and with minimal equipment. Read more here.

Warm up (2-5 minutes) - jogging, jogging in place, jumping jacks, slow shadow boxing, or anything else.. whatever works for you.

Workout

start. do:
9 Sit-ups
9 Squats (body weight only)

Repeat as many times as you can in 16 minutes. Rest as little as possible between (and during) sets.

Run - 1/4 mile run (2-5 minutes) - finish up with a strong 1/4 mile run.
end. catch your breath.

Notes
  • Pull-ups - spot yourself as much as needed. When you get to the point where you're using more legs than arms, switch to a chin-up grip.
  • Squats - if your legs and butt aren't feeling the squats by the 4th or 5th set, you can start adding weight by holding dumbbells.
  • 16 minutes too long? - if you can't complete all 16 minutes, switch to cardio and finish the 20 minutes with more running, jumping jacks, shadow boxing, or dancing. (whatever you like to do that keeps your heart rate up.)
  • Log your workout - keep a log of your workouts, both the quantity of how many sets you did, the time it took you to do it, and how you felt during it.
Good luck, and train hard!  Let me know how it goes..

-Chris Butterworth

Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.

Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

generic brands don't always have the same ingredients

Have you been buying more generic brand groceries than you used to? It seems like many of us have been, probably in response to the economy tanking in 2007 and being very slow to recover. In those same few years, a lot has changed with generics. Retailers have given more shelf space to their own store-branded labels, there have been a proliferation of money-saving and coupon-cutting websites, and the generics seem to have improved their quality.


I use the generic brands pretty often these days. In fact, I've gotten to the point where I stopped reading the labels, and just assumed the generic was the same product sold at a lower price. However, last week I was wrong.

I normally buy the name brand juice. Last week I saw both juices on the shelf (see picture above), and figured they were the same thing, but the generic was 45 cents less (about 17%), so I bought the generic. Then, at some point during the week, I read the label while I was pouring some juice.



Wow - not the same ingredients. The name-brand uses cane sugar, while the generic adds high fructose corn syrup!

I'm not on the anti-hfcs bandwagon, per se. I'm more concerned about overall balance and total calories, rather than specific food groups and ingredients. I think most things are probably ok in moderation. But when given a choice, I'd prefer to eat the natural version over the man-made version, every time.

So, keep this in mind the next time you're grocery shopping. The packaging may look the same, and the products may be named something very similar. But that doesn't automatically mean they have the same ingredients. It pays to take a closer look.

-Chris Butterworth

Happy Memorial Day - 2012

I'm taking the day off today; I hope you are, too.

Hopefully you're spending time with family and good friends. Maybe you'll mix in some sun, water, and bar-b-que.

What would be even better is to continue to moving yourself forward, even on a day of (sort of) rest.
  • Get a workout in before everyone comes over.
  • Eat (and drink) in moderation, with smaller portions.
  • Spend a few minutes working on your goal / hobby / project.
  • Meditate and reflect. What's been working well for you? What should you focus on changing?
  • Be happy - Have fun - Enjoy yourself! (and you friends, and your family!)
Back at it tomorrow!

-Chris Butterworth

Introducing Fit-20 - 20-minute workouts

I've been talking for awhile about doing a series of 20-minute workouts that can be done just about anywhere and require little to no gym equipment; I've been thinking about it for even longer. Well, they're here!

Beginning next week I'll start posting Fit-20 workouts, which you can use as the basis for your own workout routine.  Here's a quick synopsis:

Fit-20 Workouts WILL:
  • Provide a road map for getting your body moving on a consistent basis.
  • Provide a workout you can do just about anytime and anywhere.
  • Work your entire body, from head to toe. (unless you're already in great shape, you will be sore!)
  • Get your heart pumping, aerobic style.
  • Tone your body, working your muscles while making your heart pump, lungs gasp, and sweat glands go into over-drive.
  • Be flexible, so you can do them according to your own ability.
  • Most will require simple, or even no gym equipment. Those that require equipment can be substituted for other exercises.
  • Be published 3 days per week. Those of you who want to work out longer, or more frequently, are welcome to. You can add time or repetitions to the posted Fit-20 workout. You can add an aerobic exercise before or after the workout. You can stack multiple Fit-20 workouts back-to-back if you're so inclined.
  • Be a great compliment to a sensible diet and a long-term weight loss &/or fitness plan. (ie: goals measured in months, rather than weeks.)
  • Be a basic building block to overall fitness.
Fit-20 Workouts WILL NOT:
  • Pretend to replace a 90-minute daily workout - if you're looking for 30-day results like you see on a TV infomercial, you'll need to look elsewhere.
  • Spend lots of time "sculpting" a specific body part - we can't spend 30 minutes on your shoulders or abs during a 20 minute workout! You'll see lots of fast-paced movements, and not so many "hold that pose for 90 seconds" activities.
  • By themselves, Fit-20 workouts will not cause you to lose weight. They'll make a great compliment to a good eating plan (which is coming soon!), but if you're over-eating, 20 minutes of exercise probably won't change your weight.
  • Get you into specific event performance shape. Want to run a marathon? You'll need to train for a marathon!
You can learn about Fit-20 Workouts in more detail on my Fit-20 page. You can sign up here to receive them in your email inbox each day a new one is published.

Coming soon - Food & Diet ideas to compliment your Fit-20 workouts on the way to long-term success. Stay tuned...

-Chris Butterworth

log your workouts for better performance

One of the great feelings that comes with doing something consistently, whether that be exercising, eating right, or learning any other new skill, is the pride of forward progress. And one of the best ways to see forward progress is to write down what you were able to do at each workout.

A good log will have notes for: how much weight you used, how many reps or sets you did, how fast you went, and how you felt during &/or after the workout. Over time, you should see improvement in every area, and in every exercise.

5 Reasons for tracking your progress

1.) Confirm you're moving forward

Sometimes you need to find that little extra motivation when you're facing the prospect of another tough workout, knowing you're about to feel tired, sweaty, and probably sore the next day. It would be discouraging to think you're beating your brains in without making forward progress. But when you see your results, you'll know your body is getting something out of the effort you're putting in. And the more time that goes by, the more progress you'll see.

In addition, you'll see a consistent entry of dates, showing your consistent approach towards your goals. If you open your log and notice a large gap in dates, you'll know you're getting off track, and you can take the opportunity to correct your course.

2.) Pride and Motivation

Seeing how much weight you could lift when you first started, or how fast or far you could run, or how many sets you could do, can be a source of pride when you know how far you've come. It can also be a great motivator for even further progress - once you see the proof that what you're doing is working, you start to believe in yourself even more, and push yourself a little harder.

3.) Benchmarks for bad days and good days

Some days you'll struggle to find your motivation for working out. Maybe you don't feel well, or you're tired, or you've got other things on your mind. These are the days where your log will show you what is minimally expected of yourself. You know how much weight, or how many reps, you did last week and the week before, so you'll use those as goals for today's workout.

Other days you'll be in a great mood, ready and excited to dominate your workout. These days you'll look at what you've done over the last couple of weeks and know you want to hit those numbers and *then* start counting your personal records!

4.) Finding patterns

Are your workouts better at night than in the morning? Do your numbers get worse every time you do a particular exercise? Do your workouts get better, or worse, as the week progresses? Finding patterns in your workouts can help you make adjustments to your routines to better suit your body.

My log showed me that I perform better in night-time workouts than early morning workouts, so I shifted to evenings after the kids went to bed. Then, however, it wasn't long before I realized that I felt exhausted all the time, so I switched back to morning workouts. By working out in the morning, I'm giving up a little bit of top end performance, but I feel better throughout the day.

Bonus - if you're also tracking your eating, you might even find cross patterns, where you'll notice better or worse performance depending on what and when you eat!

5.) Knowing where to start

You don't want to waste your workout time searching for the right weight, or wondering how many of something you're supposed to do. This is especially true with cross-fit workouts, where you might go several weeks before repeating an exercise or routine. A quick glance at your log shows you what you did the last couple times you did a similar workout.

Conclusion

It doesn't really matter what method you use to log your workouts, from paper & pen to highly sophisticated computer program, you'll realize many benefits to keeping track of what, and how, you're doing. And you'll see that, just like hiking, small steps add up to great distances over time.

-Chris Butterworth

5 keyboard shortcuts to make Windows easier


Have you ever watched someone work with a program where you know how to do it better/faster/easier? It's maddening! These 5 shortcuts are easy to use and are available throughout the Windows environment - Word, Excel, Internet, Evernote, and so on.

1. Copy (Ctrl + c)

Whether you're trying to copy a letter, word, block of text, photo, or file, reaching for your mouse and searching around for menu options is so tedious. Once you select the text, just hit the Ctrl key and the "c" key, and Bam - your text (or image, or file) is copied to the clipboard.

2. Paste (Ctrl + v)

The copy shortcut is great, but you get to finish off the 1-2 combination by quickly and easily pasting whatever it is you just copied.

3. Select All (Ctrl + a)

Selecting long blocks of text may be one of the most frustrating events you do during the course of the day - you're holding down the button and dragging the mouse, wondering if you started in the right place, or if you you're going to be able to stop at the end. Don't do that anymore! Just place the cursor anywhere in the block of text, then hit Ctrl and "a". (probably immediately  followed by Ctrl + c, right?)

4. Find (Ctrl + f)

Being able to quickly find a word in a document is very helpful. It's even better when you trying to find something specific buried within a long web page or PDF file. Press Ctrl and the "f" key, and you'll see a pop-up box asking what it is you're trying to find.

5. My Computer (Windows Explorer) (Win + e)

From anywhere within Windows, press the Windows key and ā€œeā€ to open up a new instance of My Computer - ideal when you're trying to find a particular file, or when you need to copy a file from one location to another. (using ctrl +c and ctrl + v, of course!)

Conclusion

These are the most common things that drive me crazy when I'm watching somebody else work inefficiently within Windows. i bet you'll feel the same way too, once you get used to these..

Fluency + 1 - I wrote about fluency not too long ago. It's easier to add one new thing to your current workflow than it is to try to remember 5 things you should be doing. I'd recommend picking one of these 5, and start using it today, like Now! Then, as it becomes 2nd nature, come back to the list and try adding another one.

What are some other good shortcuts out there? Do you have a favorite I didn't mention? Let me know..

-Chris Butterworth

be prepared. work hard. be successful.

Have you heard about Les Brown and the Miami Dolphins? Last month the Dolphins signed Brown, hoping he'll make the team and become a dominating tight end over the next few years. No big deal, right? Every other team has been signing players as well. But this is a bigger deal than most, you see - Les Brown is an accountant who hasn't played football since high school, about 8 years ago!

There's a good write-up of the story in the Seattle Times:

This time a year ago, Les Brown was working behind a desk at Huntsman Gay Global Capital's West Palm Beach office. He was planning to return to school at Westminster College in Salt Lake City and finish his finance degree. Long-term, his goal was to work for an investment bank or a consulting firm in New York.

The NFL was something he watched, like a second religion, Sunday afternoons. In high school he got offers to play football at Oregon, Washington State and Brigham Young. Instead, he chose to play basketball, the sport he always loved most, at Westminster College, an NAIA school.

It was a longshot, but the precedent already has been set. San Diego's Antonio Gates and New Orleans' Jimmy Graham made the transition from college basketball player to NFL tight end. Brown, at 6 feet 4, had that same prototypical pro look.

"I would never undersell this kid," Ikei said. "He's a very intelligent kid. Has a great work ethic. He won't be afraid to ask questions and make mistakes and pick himself up and do it again. It will actually surprise me if he doesn't make the roster."

Now he is living his life completely, without regrets. He's taking a chance, unafraid of failure, unafraid of miracles.

"I hope that my story, albeit a very nontraditional one, can be helpful to people," he said. "I hope it can help people realize that, hey, it doesn't matter if you're two years removed from playing college sports and you're sitting behind a desk. If you put your mind and effort into something, you can make your dreams come true."

It's a great story, regardless of the ending. Maybe he'll make the team and become an all-pro tight end. Maybe he'll get cut and never play a down in the NFL.

But look at what he did.
  • He kept himself in great shape, even after his fleeting college basketball career was over.
  • He was willing to elevate this goal above everything else, giving it his absolute focus - so much so that he moved 3,000 miles away from home, to a place where training would be the only thing for him to do.
  • He was given an opportunity, and he seized it with both hands. No hedging, no fear of losing, no regrets.
I realize Les Brown possesses some physical traits most of us do not, like a 6' 4" frame coupled with a 4.4 40 and a 39" vertical jump, which is why he's shooting for the NFL while most of us are excited just to watch the games on TV come September.

But that's not the point. Last week I wrote "where preparation meets opportunity." This is the same story - just with different names and different places.

Be prepared. Be focused. Be dedicated. Be willing to answer when opportunity knocks. Those are the points.

If Les Brown can go from accountant to Miami Dolphins tight end, what can you do?

-Chris Butterworth