changing safety with the changing seasons

I can tell the seasons are changing, although here in Phoenix the change is subtle - it'll be 106 today, but it won't feel as hot as we're used to. (and look at what's coming next week - especially the lows!) It's also been dark outside in the mornings for the last few weeks.

But with the changing seasons comes changing needs, especially safety needs.
  • Maybe you were visible on your morning or evening run when the sun was out, but now the cars can't see you. Are you wearing reflective clothing?
  • As the temperatures continue to fall, maybe a change to mid-day is a good idea.
  • You might not need to carry as much water or sunscreen, but that should leave you room for your sweatshirt (once you're warmed up.)
  • That neighborhood or parking garage might have been mostly safe in the daylight, but you don't feel comfortable now that it's dark? Time to change your route!

Earlier this week I was running on the desert trail behind my house when I came face to face with a coyote - less than 20 feet away - and I had an uh-oh moment. He looked at me for a few seconds before moving nonchalantly off the trail. I turned around and headed back into the neighborhood (while hoping not to get eaten by a coyote or crushed by a falling Acme-branded anvil..)

image credit:

I've been on that trail a thousand times before, and there always seems to be other runners, dog-walkers, and cyclists. But not this particular morning at this particular place and time - it was just me and a coyote, in the dark, in the desert. Who knows if he had any buddies watching from the side of the trail..? I was completely alone and exposed, even though I was 25 feet away from the back wall of my neighborhood.

Change of plan: I'll be doing a "city run" during the winter - out the front of my neighborhood instead of the back.

Seasons change, and our safety needs change with them. When you go out for a run, your first priority should always be to make sure you get back home!

- Chris Butterworth


200 posts ago: shadow boxing

100 posts ago: change 4 life obesity advert


should you use a fitness tracking app on your phone?

If you're trying to accomplish something specific, such as losing weight, gaining strength, or running a marathon, it's important to keep track of your progress.

There are scores of smartphone apps available to help you keep track. The question is: should you use one, and which one should you use?

I love tracking data, and I love technology. But these apps are only useful if they make your life better or easier.

I've been using RunKeeper to track my running for almost 5 years now. It works for me because I like having my phone with me when I run (just in case I need it), so I don't have to do anything extra except push the start button, and RunKeeper does the rest.

I've tried using LoseIt! and My Fitness Pal as food journals, but I've found myself spending too much time trying to log my foods. Since I spend most of my working day in front of a computer, it's just faster and easier to look things up online rather than on my phone.

The key is to do what works for you. Smart phone app, computer spreadsheet, pencil and paper - it doesn't matter.

Have a plan, keep track of how you're doing against that plan, and adjust as necessary. It's that simple.

- Chris Butterworth



pizza for lunch on a diet?


Success comes more from how much you eat than what you eat, so you just need to eat the right amount.

Trying to find the exact calorie count for a slice of pepperoni pizza is an inexact science - I'm finding numbers ranging from 300 - 400 calories per slice at most places (330 for a large slice of Papa John's.) I usually eat slices from Barro's - they're near my office and they have a great lunch special, but since their slices are thicker and heavier than average, I'm going to ballpark a 400 calorie number from the high end of the range for my example.

Now, how much pizza can I eat?

400 calories for a thick slice of pepperoni pizza.

600 calories if you can stop at one and a half slices.

800 calories if you eat both slices.

You have to start by knowing what your calorie budget is for the day.

I burn about 1,900 calories per day without exercising, so allowing for 2,200 (give or take) on a day when I run is a fair number. If I drink a 350 calorie fruit juicee for breakfast, I can eat 2 slices of pizza for lunch, and still have over 1,000 calories available for snack, dinner, and dessert. This also gives me flexibility to adjust how much pizza I eat according to how much I'm going to eat for dinner, or whether I skipped a workout, or even if the scale showed a bigger number than usual that day.

If I was trying to lose weight, or if I was a 5' 3" woman trying to maintain weight, my daily calorie budget might be about 1,500. In that case, 2 full slices would probably be too much pizza on a regular basis, but 1 slice should be ok. I could even get away with 1 1/2 slices if I managed the rest of my day really well.

On the other hand, someone trying to keep their daily calorie intake down to about 1,000 calories would find a 400 calorie slice of pizza as their large meal of the day - a feast of a meal. But even in that ultra-restricted scenario, a half slice of pizza would be a filling way to spend 200 precious calories..

What I like about pizza - other than that it tastes awesome! - is that it's a filling use of calories. It's a good blend of carbs, protein, and fat, which gives your body plenty of short-term and long-term fuel.

So go ahead and eat some pizza. Enjoy it. Savor it. Just don't eat too much. And don't wash it down with a large soda!

- Chris Butterworth


200 posts ago: running for time or distance

100 posts ago: Happy Thanksgiving - my mental, physical, and emotional approach


my fitness plan 092015

You're only in shape for whatever it is you're in shape for. These days I'm trying to stay generally fit - I don't have a big race on the horizon, and I'm not hiking the canyon anytime soon - I just want to stay healthy and fit.

So what's my current workout plan, and why?

  • 10 miles per week, or more.
  • at least 5 runs per week (and preferably 6).
    • Mon - 2 miles fast
    • Tues - 2 miles slow
    • Wed - 1 mile fast
    • Thurs - 3 miles slow
    • Fri - 18 minutes of 1-minute intervals (one minute running fast; one minute recovering at a slow jog; repeat)
    • Sat or Sun - 2 or 3 miles slow, or a nice trail run.
  • I typically run early in the morning, first thing, before eating or drinking anything. I just get out of bed and go.
  • Stretching - I'm enjoying some stretching while cooling down after running on most mornings. This is a big change for someone as non-flexible as me - maybe one day I'll be almost flexible...

  • 3 times per week, do one or the other (alternate exercises each time)
  • 3-4 sets at a time, in rapid succession, of as many as I can do.
  • Add in some extra core work if I have anything left in the tank.
    • For pull-ups, this means knee lifts or leg raises.
    • For push-ups, I can do planks or dozens of other variations.
  • I generally do these in the evening after work.

Why this Plan?
  • The running / push-ups / pull-ups combination gives me a good mix of cardio and strength training.
  • I did this workout a lot over the summer and really enjoyed it.
  • I like how I feel when I'm in "running shape", and I like how I look when I'm in "pull-up shape".

Why these distances / reps?
  • A goal should be attainable, but not easy.
  • I've used RunKeeper to track all my runs since 1/1/2011, and the data shows I've run 10 miles in a week 20 times since then (out of 247 weeks.) I haven't run 10 miles in a week yet in 2015, and I only did it 5 weeks in all of 2014 - with the last one being in May 2014 (approx 67 weeks ago.)
    • This goal is doable, since I've done it many times in the past.
    • But it won't be easy, since I haven't been able to do it very often. Getting 10 miles in on a consistent basis will be challenging, and hopefully rewarding.
  • As for the reps on push-ups and pull-ups - I want to feel sore enough to know I worked out, but not too sore to be comfortable the next day. I also want to get stronger over time, but I don't need to look like a body builder to feel successful. Enough is enough - no need to overdo it.
  • I wrote about the optimal amount of exercise a few months ago - this should be more than enough to stay fit and healthy, without being excessive.
  • I'm thinking this might be a worthwhile plan for the next year, but I'm going to commit myself to it for the next 10 weeks, and re-assess from there.

Eating is King

As always, diet has a larger impact on weight than exercise, unless you're working out for several hours a day. So I'll want to continue to eat a reasonable amount of real foods (or as close to real as practical) to maintain my target weight. Running several days in a row does not give one free license to eat unlimited amounts of fast food!

So there you have it.

Simple, but not easy. Attainable, but not without consistent dedication. And rewarding - I should be in "fit and healthy" shape when my 10 weeks are up (the week after Thanksgiving, coincidentally, and speaking of eating reasonable amounts...)

- Chris Butterworth



200 Posts ago: Fit-20 Workout 06-27-12


which is the healthiest bread?

I started thinking about this article while enjoying the irony of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on toasted artisan-crafted bread. (believe me, it was a really good PB&J..)

What is bread, really? At it's most basic form, and it's been around for thousands of years, we're talking about milled grains (wheat), leavening agents (yeast), and water, mixed together and heated (1). Yet considering what a simple product it is, there are so many choices at the grocery store it makes my head spin!

Why so many? And which one should I be eating?

Some quick thoughts about bread:
  • Prices range from really cheap (about $1 per loaf) to really expensive ($5 or $6 per loaf). Feeding a family who eats lots of sandwiches at $6 for a small loaf seems excessive - buy the bread you can afford.
  • Cheaper options tend to have more man-made ingredients in them; this helps the bread last longer before going bad.
  • More expensive (and healthier) options tend to have ingredients you've heard of, such as flour, water, salt, and yeast. Maybe they'll add some nuts, garlic, herbs or spices, but it'll still be whole ingredients that you know what they are (2).
  • Whole wheat, fortified, organic, multi-grain, 11 grain, white, wheat, sourdough, rye, gluten-free, artisan...
  • Lots and lots of choices

More thoughts about bread:

  • Buy what tastes good. If you buy the ultra-organic, 46-grain bread with all the healthiest nuts and seeds baked into it, but then you don't eat it, why bother?
  • Eat bread with fewer, if any, man made ingredients.
  • Don't get caught up in the arms race to healthiest, because you can't win.
  • Your bread is simply a nutrient delivery tool - what you put ON your bread will have a much bigger impact than what is baked IN your bread. (plus all the other food choices you make throughout the day.)
  • If you're eating the super-healthy, most expensive bread because it has 3 grams of fiber, consider that's less fiber than a serving of broccoli (about 5 grams), raspberries (8 grams), or lentils (15 grams) (3). Maybe you could scale back the bread and pair it with a better side dish?

In the end, there is no perfect choice. There are better choices, sure, but there's no such thing as perfect. Eat moderate portions of real foods, and mix in some exercise, and you'll be on the road to healthy.

Meanwhile, all this talk about bread has me craving a turkey sandwich on sourdough with havarti, lettuce and tomatoes...

- Chris Butterworth

Sources cited:


around the web 090315

I've read a few articles this week that were interesting enough to share..

Caffeine Crisis

Caffeine has been the stimulant of choice around the world for thousands of years. Now, suddenly, Americans are overdosing on caffeine in record numbers.

Here's the full story:

How America’s love affair with caffeine has sparked a crisis of overdoses — and what the FDA is trying to do about it

More calories end up in those "bring your own grocery bags."

A study of thousands of grocery store shoppers found that those who brought their own "good for the environment" bags purchased more organic foods. They also bought more cookies!

Here's the full story:

Omega-3 fish oil supplements do not boost brain activity

After studying 4,000 elderly subjects over a 4-year period, researches have determined that any perceived benefit from taking fish oil supplements is only a myth.

Per the article: "It is possible that eating foods rather than taking any specific single supplement may have an effect." Further study on this is needed.

Here's the full story:

Have a great Thursday,

- Chris Butterworth


from 30 for 30 short films: Arnold's Blueprint

from 30 for 30 short films: Arnold's Blueprint

"This 10-minute film focuses on the years before he was the "Universe's Perfect Specimen," when a young Schwarzenegger seized upon an opportunity to use the sport of bodybuilding to catapult himself to international stardom."

Arnold's story is amazing, not just because of his ultimate size and definition, but because of the dedication and determination he needed to make his journey. In fact, Arnold had ALL the traits of achievement:
  • a Clear Vision of his Goal - He could visualize his goal with such clarity that it motivated his every action.
  • Elevation of his Goal - He put his goal first, and everything else second. Food, sleep, punishment, working conditions - it didn't matter. Action towards The Goal was the most important part of his day.
  • Amazing dedication - Nothing was going to stop him. After running 20 miles in combat boots in the morning and doing infantry drills in the afternoon, the rest of his platoon-mates crashed in their bunks. Arnold would start his 3-hour workout when their day ended.
  • Time - He didn't do it overnight. In fact, he kept this goal-driven fire burning within him for several years.
  • Persistence - he worked at it EVERY DAY for over a year before things started going his way. Then he worked EVEN HARDER!
  • Support - He made progress on his own, but he didn't reach the summit until he had people in his corner.
I've always been blown away by Arnold's physical build - who hasn't? But I sort of assumed he was simply a meat-head from the early days of body building - spending all day pumping iron in an old-school gym. Today I have far more respect for him than I ever did before.

Thanks, Arnold, and congratulations on everything you've accomplished. And thank you, ESPN, for sharing this.

-Chris Butterworth

Related Links


Fit-20 Workout 09-28-12

Fit-20 Workout 09-28-12

Yesterday's workout was a good one, so I wanted to share it with you.

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.


5 Rounds, for time:
  • 5 Burpees 
  • One-arm Kettlebell Swings - 8 per arm, switching arms at each swing. Bonus points if you give the KB a little toss in the air as you switch arms. Double bonus if you can "flip" the KB, so the handle spins around in mid air before your other hand catches it.
  • Kettlebell Shuffle* - 5 times. Set up 2 cones about 5-10 yards apart, and place the Kettlebell on the ground at cone 1. Pick up the KB and run-jug-shuffle to cone 2, where you set it down. Run back to cone 1, then run back to cone 2. Pick up the KB and run-jog-shuffle it back to cone 1, where you set it down. Run back to cone 2, then run back to cone 1. That's 1 time - do this 4 more times.

*Note - I don't know if Kettlebell Shuffle is an official name. I came up with the exercise last night, and LOVED it. You can bet I'll be doing more of these in the future!

I finished in about 15 minutes. I was winded and my heart was racing, but I wasn't muscle exhausted, so I spent a few minutes trying to do KB curls and presses (with the KB facing away from the handle/body) - those are hard. Next time I do this Fit-20 routine I will add one more exercise to the mix, just to get a little more muscle work in and to make it last closer to 20 minutes..

Train hard,

-Chris Butterworth


no wealth like health

no wealth like health

Mather and Company Posters - the original "successories".

I just learned about Mather and Company posters recently (thank you, artofmanliness), and I can't get over how cool these are - it's a case where the vintage, 1926 version has more impact than the so-clean-they're-sterile posters produced over the last 20 years.

What's really interesting is that, for the most part, the messages are still valid today, 86 years later.

A message that lasts for a century is probably worth practicing.

-Chris Butterworth


Samsung tv commercial takes aim at Apple

Samsung tv commercial takes aim at Apple

This is off topic, but I wanted to share..

Have you seen the new Samsung commercial? 

I LOVE this commercial.

I have 4 complaints / frustrations about Apple (below), and this commercial hits squarely on two of them:

1.) Proprietary and Restrictive - Apple keeps just about everything "in house", making it difficult or impossible to use their products and/or share (your own) data files with your non-apple machines and devices.

2.) Marketing - I've always hated the marketing tactic where a person/company touts a specific feature to get attention, as if they're the only one who has that feature, when in fact that feature is commonplace. It may work, because the public doesn't always know the whole story, but it plays on people's ignorance, which I find demeaning and annoying.
  • I see Realtors do this routinely: "I can get you a list of foreclosure properties in your area!" Yeah, so what - any Realtor in the area can get the same list.
  • Apple has amassed a huge cult following by using this principle, when in fact the overwhelming majority of their "awesome new features" have been found in other products already.
3.) Price - Apple computers are generally 2-3 times more expensive for the same amount of computing power.

4.) Apple Fan Boys - Similar to #2 above. People who have their heads so far up Apple's .. (** ahem **) that they can't see things for what they really are annoy me. Even more annoying is how loud these guys can be.

And to show I'm open minded, I have 3 praises about Apple:

1.) Customer Service. Apple wins - enough said.

2.) iPhone Camera Shutter Lag - It's the fastest phone-camera I've ever seen; it simply works great. When we're out and about, and want to take a quick picture of the kids, we use my wife's iPhone instead of my Droid Incredible. Full disclosure:
  • Getting the pictures from my wife's phone to my computer's hard drive, where I process, share, store, and backup all of our pictures, is a pain in the butt.
  • Her iPhone is 2 months old; my Droid is 2 years old. I would expect this to be an unfair comparison. We'll have to see if things change when I upgrade my phone this fall..

3.) Special Needs Apps - This may be more about the app-development community than the company itself, but it doesn't matter. My son, who has autism and is non-verbal, can do amazing things with his iPad by using apps which aren't available (and don't have a substitute) on the Android tablets.

Bottom Line

Personally, I'm not an Apple guy, and I loved seeing Samsung throw this in Apple's face.

I have a couple techie-programmer-blogger-type friends who use Apple exclusively. I have other techie-programmer-blogger-type friends who wouldn't touch Apple if you paid them to. And yet these guys all produce top quality content and can do just about anything with a computer. I don't think either one is "better" - you just have a preference or a need for one over the other. (I prefer Windows computers and Android devices.)

My household of 4 is currently home to 6 Apple products, 4 Windows computers, and 2 Android devices. (original iPod, iPod Mini, iPod shuffle, iPod touch, iPhone 4s, iPad 2; ancient desktop computer, old laptop, new laptop, netbook; Droid Incredible phone, Samsung Galaxy 5 Player)

Back to regular programming soon..

-Chris Butterworth


why fad diets don't work

why fad diets don't work

Last week I wrote a post called Why Fad Diets Work. Here's the summary:
  • They ask you to eat fewer calories than you burn. Calorie deficit = weight loss, every time.
  • You're more likely to pay attention to what you eat.
  • Many have you keep a food journal.
  • They provide a road map, which makes it easier, which increases your odds of success.

why fad diets don't work!

Unfortunately, not everything about fad diets (and weight loss "systems") is so great.

Long Term. Are you going to be on that diet system for the rest of your life? If not, the transition back into "the wild" can be as difficult as the start of the diet was. You'll need to take everything you've learned and learn how to apply it in different situations with different foods. This is a point of failure for many people. In the end, if you're going to have to learn how to eat right, and in the right portions, why not just do this from the beginning, without a system?

Inflexibility. Business lunches, social gatherings, and a hectic family life centered around the kids' activities are all potential pitfalls for a diet system. What do you do when the restaurant doesn't offer what your diet plan calls for, or when a drive through is the only opportunity for dinner that night? If you take the time to learn calories counts and portion sizes for the foods you eat, you won't have any trouble making good estimates in these situations.

Variety and substitutions. Cutting out an entire class of foods (carbs, grains, etc.) can lead to problems, unless you do a good job in replacing those missing nutrients from other foods. If you're going to spend extra energy figuring out which foods can help replace or offset other foods, why not just spend the energy learning calories and portion sizes? And for me, personally, the thought of never eating another slice of pizza just isn't in the cards..

Cost. Those proprietary "systems" aren't free. (Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Medifast, etc.) You're either going to spend money on them for the rest of your life, or you're going to have to learn to eat in the wild. This is the same as "Long Term" above - at some point you're going to have to learn to eat right on your own; why not do it at the beginning of your journey?


Fad diets and diet systems can be a great way to help you lose weight. But they're probably not going to be your "forever" diet plan, which means you're going to have to learn to eat on your own at some point to avoid failing. Why not just learn to eat fewer calories right from the beginning? You'll then have the skill necessary to be successful for the rest of your life, eating any and all types of foods!

-Chris Butterworth


Daily Diet 09-21-12

Daily Diet 09-21-12

Real world menu choices for real people trying to be calorie conscious throughout their day.

Tips for using the Daily Diet effectively:
  • Have a calorie goal for the day (and every day.)
  • Keep a food journal so you know what you ate (and how many calories.)
  • If you're eating at a different restaurant from what's featured here, do the best with what's available. Look for a similar entre, or read the nutrition guide and order something which fits within your calorie budget.
  • Keep in mind - every pound of fat in your body is 3,500 calories worth of energy, just waiting to be released and burned. If you're still a little hungry throughout the day, that's great - it means your body might just be tapping into that excess reserve.
  • Check out the Daily Diet page for more details, information, examples, and links.

Today's meal plan
  • Breakfast: Cereal w/ skim milk. (Honey Bunches of Oats)
  • Morning Snack: Pretzels
  • Lunch: Paradise Bakery - Thai Chopped Salad w/ cup of low-fat soup
  • Afternoon Snack: grapes
  • Dinner: two ground beef tacos
  • Dessert: 1/2 banana

Total Calories: 1,200 - 1,400 (depending on portion sizes)

It's not easy, but it's doable. And once you reach your goal, "maintenance mode", where you can eat as many calories as you burn,  and which should last the rest of your life, will feel like a change from fasting to feasting!

-Chris Butterworth


best available choice - part 2

best available choice - working out

Earlier this week I wrote about making the best choice when you're eating and your normal options aren't available. Well, the same holds true for exercising and being active. In fact, the whole day is nothing more than a series of choices.

The impetus for this post was a comparison (and contrast) of two days from a vacation my wife & I just got back from.

Day 1
  • Eat a filling breakfast
  • Lounge by the pool for awhile
  • Order lunch & drinks from the poolside waitress
  • Take a cab 1.5 miles to our evening destination
  • Eat a gigantic dinner; order more drinks
  • Watch great entertainment
  • Take a cab back to our hotel

We took advantage of being away from our regular, busy life with too many things to do at any one time, and enjoyed our quiet time without distractions. Not surprisingly, we both woke up the next day feeling sluggish and gross.

Day 2
  • Eat a small breakfast
  • Relax (and recover) by the pool for awhile
  • Swim 20 minutes of sprint-intervals: swim fast across the long hotel pool, recover for 30-45 seconds, then swim fast back to the other side.
  • Take a cab 2 miles to our destination. (this time it was because we were too late to walk.)
  • Give ourselves a walking tour for about an hour.
  • Eat a medium sized, late afternoon, lunch-dinner combo meal.
  • Walk back to our hotel
  • Enjoy the hotel's evening entertainment
  • Call it a night

Not surprisingly, we both felt 100 times better after Day 2!

It's hard to imagine two more different days than what we experienced. Both were fun, both were kid-free, and both were low-pressure and relaxing. Yet Day 1 was not very healthy (a lifetime of those days would be a short, obese, health problem-filled lifetime), and Day 2 was extremely healthy (a lifetime of those days would lead to a long, wonderful life).

Don't use disruptions to your normal schedule to have a Day 1. Instead, use them as an opportunity to have a Day 2!

-Chris Butterworth


why fad diets work

why fad diets work

Fad diets, trendy diets, diets with specific names, diets with books written about them...

why do fad diets work?

You've heard of the diets, and certainly the concepts - Adkins, South Beach, Paleo, Primal, No-Carb, Low-Carb, Vegetarian.. You could even throw the systems like Slim-fast,  Jenny Craig, etc. into the mix. These diets can all work - for one primary reason, and several secondary reasons. And it doesn't matter what principle they adhere to - high carb, low carb, or anything else - they all have the same underlying reasons.

Why Fad Diets Work - Primary Reason

All these fad diets and diet systems have one thing in common - they ask you to consume fewer calories than you burn throughout the day. Some of them do this indirectly (ie: "eat all the protein you want without counting calories"), the beauty is it's not too often you find yourself in front of a never-ending meal of steak. (Brazillian steakhouses excluded!) 

Calorie deficit = weight loss, every time.

They all have a different ideology and road map, but they all get you to the same place. In addition...

Why Fad Diets Work - Secondary Reasons

Fad diets have a few other things working in their favor, too:
  • Paying attention - once you're "on" a diet, you're more likely to pay attention to what you're eating. That means fewer calories, and that's a win.
  • Food Journals - many of these diets will have you keep a food journal, which is awesome. Studies have shown people who keep a food journal do better than those who don't.
  • Road map provided - many of these fad diets give you step by step directions of exactly what you're supposed to eat. This takes the thought out of it, which makes it easier, which makes you more likely to be successful.
  • Practice makes better - the longer you do something, the better you get at it, and diets are no different. Things get easier after the first couple of weeks - you get used to what foods you can eat, and how you're body is supposed to feel.

So fad diets are good, right?

This list makes a pretty good argument in favor of fad diets. But there's more to the story than meets the eye. Yes, Fad diets are better than SAD diets. (Standard American Diet). But they may not be your best option.

Stay tuned for a follow-up post titled "Why fad diets don't work."

-Chris Butterworth


making the best available choice

making the best available choice

Sometimes the perfect meal isn't available.

Maybe you're with friends and you didn't get to pick the restaurant. Maybe you're traveling. Maybe the day got out of control and you just realized you didn't eat lunch, and now you're about to shove anything you can find down your piehole..

So what should you do in these situations? Do the best you can.
  • Portion Control - the best defense against both "over loaded with calories" restaurant-type food and "empty calories filled with crap" foods from a bag. Take a few bites - eat enough to hold you over, and limit the damage.
  • Liquid Calories - you know about sodas and sweetened drinks. But don't forget about sauces, cremes, dressings, etc., just waiting to sneak calories into your body.
  • Less Processed - the closer you can get to "real" food, the better. Whole is better than parts, and grilled is better than breaded.
  • Fewer Adjectives - the more spectacular the description, the more calories. Ultimate usually means gigantic. Deep fried and smothered with cheese means run away as fast as you can!
  • Salads and vegetables - If these are available, load up on them first. You'll take the edge off your hunger without doing damage to your nutrition plan. (but beware of "salads" that are more mayonnaise than vegetable..)
  • Skip a meal - If you're looking around and thinking the best choice available is 1,000 calories' worth of cheesecake, remember you do have an option to skip the meal entirely. Even if you eat a larger than normal dinner, you'll still be ahead for the day.

Health is a journey.

Some days are great; some aren't so great. But health comes from having lots of good days and not too many bad days. You don't have to be perfect every day, but you do need to make good choices consistently.

-Chris Butterworth


what happens when you get off track?

what happens when you get off track?

Life happens. Work gets busy. Kids get sick. Family visits from out of town.

Sometimes the best laid plans go astray. It's what you do after they go astray that matters.

burger and soda icon

Since we're shooting for "healthy", not for "healthiest", and since our goal is to be better six months from now than we are today, all you have to do to get back on track is to start making forward progress again today - even if it's just a little tiny bit. You don't have to commit yourself to perfection, and you don't have to change your lifestyle inside-out to get there. You just need to assess where you are today (accounting for what has caused you to lose your forward momentum), and then make today better than yesterday. That's the beauty of continuous improvement.

My three weeks of crazy

I'm having one of these moments now - not with fitness, but with my writing. In fact, if you scroll down the page you'll notice I've written very few posts so far this month. Instead, I got hit with a quadruple-whammy - mostly caused by me - which has wreaked havoc with my schedule.

1.) Things had been going so well here at Fitness Gazette that I decided to make an honest effort to spend more time meeting other people with similar interests on Google Plus. Big surprise - this took more time and energy than I expected it to.

2.) I had volunteered my time to two different groups, and both of them took an enormous amount of time from about mid-August through yesterday. I'm committed to both of these groups until February - March, but fortunately the hard work is now behind me. The rest of the fall shouldn't take more than a few minutes at a time for either group.

3.) People in my office have been taking vacation time, which has caused my workload to balloon. That means I've been working a little bit longer each day, with fewer breaks throughout the day.

4.) My wife has been taking classes and studying for exams to get her real estate license, which means I've picked up some extra "dad" time around the house in the evenings and weekends.

These four actions, each seemingly small and a regular part of life, have combined to throw me completely out of whack. I've managed to eat well and to exercise almost as much as I'd like to, but everything else has been chaos. Not enough sleep, too much stress, constantly feeling like I'm running full speed but not getting anywhere. I've only managed a couple blog posts in the last couple weeks, and I've all but abandoned Google Plus and Facebook.

The good news is I survived the storm.
  • My wife passed her exams last weekend. (she's as smart as she is beautiful!)
  • My two volunteer projects have both past their apex, separately but almost at the same time. Last night I was able to deliver a finished product which had taken lots of hours to put together.
  • Today the last of the missing colleagues returns to work, and we're back to full staff.

This experience has been frustrating, and stressful. I've been feeling helpless, as if all my hard work over the past six months was falling by the wayside while all I could do was watch.

But you know what - I've only been off the wagon for two weeks. And I'm climbing back on today. A couple weeks from now I'll be back into a groove, and six months from now it'll be just a minor blip. That's the power of the long term - the process of continuous improvement.

Feels good to be back. What are you doing today?

-Chris Butterworth


links I like - 09-11-12

links I like - 09-11-12

A run and a chat with Ultra-marathon man Dean Karnazes, via Karnazes has been running ultra marathons - not just running, but running them faster than just about everyone else on the planet - for a couple of decades. I found a two points from this article to be very interesting:

1.) Dean uses body-weight exercises and cross-training to keep himself strong and flexible enough to be able to run a gigantic number of miles without getting injured. "Running only provides strength in one plain." ** Body weight might not be enough to win a Mr. Olympia contest, but body weight is great for getting healthy.

2.) Dean skips the powders, supplements, and vitamins, and instead gets all the nutrition he needs from his food.  ** If Dean Karnazes can run 100 miles in a single day without any supplements, we can probably put away the protein powder after hitting it for 30 minutes at the gym.

Race Report: Hopi 10k, via BarefootInArizona. This is a really cool first-hand account of a race, run by ancient people along ancient pathways, which very few "white men" have ever seen. The Hopi are a running people, always have been. And this story helps to understand why and how.

image from John McClung's Barefoot In Arizona blog.

If your happiness is based on always getting a little more than you've got..., by Seth Godin. If you want to be happy, truly happy, you have to come to terms with the fact that happiness doesn't come from a bigger car, a bigger vacation, or a new pair of shoes. You've got to get off the treadmill of always wanting the thing that's a little better than the one you've got. ** It took me 41 years to get off that treadmill, and life has been more enjoyable ever since.

I hope you found something in here that made your day, and your life, just a little bit better..

-Chris Butterworth


shorter workouts for better weight loss

shorter workouts for better weight loss

You're ready to lose weight, and you're working up the details of an ambitious exercise plan to help you do it. I'd recommend to slow down, take a step back, and look at the overall picture before you set yourself up for failure.

Diet beats Exercise

I've presented in both my Daily Diet series and my Fit-20 series that exercise, while highly recommended and very important, plays a smaller role in weight loss than your diet. Losing weight by exercise alone is like writing a novel by hand, in ink. It can be done, but it's going to take a lot more time and effort than you're probably willing to commit.

Worst Option - No Exercise

You can lose weight without exercise; you just need to eat fewer calories than your body uses for its sedentary lifestyle. However, exercise (and movement throughout the day) will not only help you accelerate your weight loss, but your goal for losing weight probably includes some component of "being healthy", and exercise/movement go a long way towards making you more healthy.

Good Option: Long Workouts, an hour or so at a time

Obviously you'll burn more calories in a 60-minute workout than a 20-minute workout, right? Not so fast my friends!, as Lee Corso would say. Longer workouts have a couple hidden pitfalls to watch out for:

1.) Intensity Level. 60 minutes may be 3 times as long as 20 minutes, but you can't workout at your highest intensity for 60 minutes (at least not until you're already in great shape.) You'll either need to slow your pace down, or you'll need to take lots of breaks, just to survive your 60 minute workout. On the other hand, you can push hard-core, high-intensity, for a 20-minute workout.

2.) I deserve it. 60 minutes is a long workout, and many people have a tendency to eat back the calories they burn, plus some! 60 minutes makes you hungry, and you end up fighting that "I deserve it" feeling the rest of the day. In addition, protein shakes and sports drinks can contain big calories.

3.) The numbers. All that extra time on the treadmill helps you burn about 300-400 calories, depending on lots of variables. These can easily be wiped out by one snack. Add in an order of fries and you're actually going backwards!

Better Option: Shorter Workouts - 20 minutes at a time, 3-4 times a week, along with more mobility during the day, everyday.

High Intensity Interval Training. Cross-Fit. Combining strength training with cardio. Doesn't matter what you call it, these workouts are very effective.
  • Gets your body moving
  • Increases your overall activity levels
  • Builds muscle mass
  • Builds body "shape"
  • Builds cardio endurance
  • Provides gains in strength, performance, speed, and endurance.
  • Moves your average daily calorie burn rate up by about 20%

Another Better Option: Playing Sports

The mental aspects of playing sports are a lot different from running on a treadmill - sports are fun. Go play an hour of tennis, basketball, or soccer with your friends, and you'll get a great workout disguised as a game. You won't have that same "reward yourself" feelings, because you don't need to be rewarded for having fun!

If you have the time available and the opportunity to play sports, either with friends or in a league, it can be a terrific part of your weight loss regimen.

Best Option: Really long, intense workouts - like Michael Phelps!

Michael Phelps photo
AP Photo
Michael Phelps eats 12,000 calories PER DAY during the peak of his training. Michael Phelps also trains, at a higher intensity level than most of us have ever achieved, for 6 hours per day.

Go ahead and try it. Swim for an hour or two in the morning. Then hit the gym, or go run about 10 miles, after lunch. Then get back in the pool for another couple hours in the evening. You'll be able to eat whatever you want and still lose weight!

Bottom Line

You'll lose weight as long as you eat fewer calories than your burn. And exercise will help. You have lots of options available - just pick the one that matches your lifestyle / desire / ability / plan / whatever, and go do it!

-Chris Butterworth


Passive Fitness - getting started with basic movement

Passive Fitness - getting started with basic movement

Before I get too deep into diet, nutrition, and exercise, I want to talk about getting your body moving. You see, there are two types of fitness - active and passive.

Active Fitness is your workout routine. You get dressed in the right clothes, put on your exercise shoes, and head out the door. You plan your day around it, and you expect to sweat. You also know your muscles are going to be sore tomorrow. This is an important part of fitness; I've talked about it many times before and will again many times in the future.

Passive Fitness is your regular movement throughout the day. Walking to the bus stop, or across the parking lot; walking from your desk to the bathroom; jumping with excitement when Dave from marketing brings a dozen donuts to the office (doh!) - that kind of thing. It doesn't seem like much, but getting more passive fitness into your day can have a dramatic impact.

a brief History Lesson.

Compare our human evolution with our societies' evolution:

From the beginning of time through the mid-1700s, life didn't change all that much. Most people's main concern was putting food on the table, literally. And since there was no refrigeration, part of each day was spent gathering food and preparing meals.

The Industrial Revolution from the late 1700s and into the 1800s was a time filled with unprecedented changes. Electricity and the railroad industry made things possible which had never before been considered. Steam and coal were used to produce energy, along with new iron-making techniques. Communication, travel, farming machinery, distribution - life was still hard work, but it was now on a larger scale. People moved from the farming lands in the countryside to the cities in droves.

The 1900s took the momentum from the Industrial Revolution and accelerated it. Assembly lines, factories, steel mills - these became the new jobs, and productivity on a large scale went through the roof. People still worked hard, and they still spent most of their time on their feet, but the results of this work provided easier living.

Finally, during the last 60 years, we've become an electronic nation. Television, and then computers and electronic games, have consumed our evenings, slowly at first, and then with increasing intensity and duration. We now work mostly by sitting down at a desk for hours at a time, before going home to sit in front of the TV.

Now, let's get back to that concept of Passive Fitness.

From the beginning of human history, some 2 million years ago, our lifestyle required us to be active throughout the day, and our species evolved to accommodate this active lifestyle. And throughout this 2 million years, obesity was virtually non-existent. (except for the very well off, who could afford a lifestyle more like what we have today, with lots of food and less exercise!) Then, over the last 60 years, we've become a species who sits around a lot, while at the same time eating more than we ever have before in our history. Yet our DNA remains the same - do you think you're genetically different from your grandparents? Heck no!

Bottom Line

Our bodies were designed for movement. Our muscular and cardiovascular systems, our balance and vision, even our brains and creativity are the product of 2 million years of adapting to and with movement throughout our environment.

For all the talk about Diet and Exercise (Active Fitness), our bodies still need Passive Fitness to function at their best. So get up and walk around the office a couple times an hour. Park further away from the door and walk across the parking lot. Stand up and stretch throughout the day. Give your body some Passive Fitness, and the road to healthy will be easier.

-Chris Butterworth