30,000 steps

Last month we did a lot of walking on our vacation - a lot of walking. My wife's pedometer read 30,000 steps one day, and I'm not even sure that was our longest walking day.

The walking site tells me I walked 15 miles that day, which means I blew through about 1,875 extra calories, if we assume 125 calories per mile. But that doesn't tell the whole story of the day - I could still have either gained weight or lost weight, depending on how much I ate.

So, let's see how I did:
  • Breakfast (600 calories). I brought a bagel with me and grabbed a mocha from the hotel's Starbucks.
  • Snacks (900 calories). I ate a few energy bars during those in-between times. (mid-morning 225, noon-ish 225, 5:00ish 290.) I also had a few handfuls of some of my boys' sweets.
  • Lunch (500 calories). We ate a late lunch, and I split a plate with my wife.
  • Dinner (1,200 calories). We ate dinner at a restaurant, where I enjoyed a full meal - and licked my plate clean!
  • Total Consumption for the day: I consumed about 3,425 calories.
  • Total Calories Burned for the day: I walked off 1,875, plus my normal 1,900 calories per day at rest. Overall I burned about 3,775 calories.

This means I burned off 350 more calories than I ate. 350 calories - that's all - on a day when I walked 15 miles! This helps to make a few points:
  1. It takes a lot of exercise to outrun your daily eating, but it's possible.
  2. I was able to slow-drip food all day long, so that I was neither hungry nor full throughout the day.
  3. Restaurant meals are too big. Even with 15 miles of walking, splitting lunch was the difference between net loss and net gain; I would have eaten more than I burned if I had ordered my own lunch. And that restaurant dinner.. I would have been way on the good side if I had eaten a non-restaurant dinner.

Most of us aren't able to walk 15 miles in a day; it simply takes more time than we have available. But the lessons learned can be applied to our everyday lives.

Move a little more. Eat a little less. Snack strategically. And be careful in restaurants!

- Chris Butterworth



don't fall for justifying eating big

Yesterday I took my family to a theme park. The park was not quite a mile from end to end, and we cris-crossed the grounds several times over the course of the day. I wouldn't be surprised if we walked 8 miles or more around that park - at 140 calories per mile, that's about 1,100 extra calories we were burning!

So if my body normally burns 1,900 calories per day (not including exercise), I could have eaten somewhere around 3,000 calories yesterday without adding any extra surplus to my fat reserves.
3,000 calories sounds like a lot when you're used to eating 300-calorie sandwiches, but they add up fast when you're eating fast food and snacks.

Unfortunately the theme parks don't make it easy to make good choices; we were constantly walking past vendors selling churros, giant pretzels, ice cream, frozen fruit smoothies (with plenty of added sugar I'm guessing). Add in the "value" combos for lunch and dinner, and we could have easily eaten more than 3,000 calories while we were there.

In fact, I'm guessing there are a number of people who would justify that chocolate covered churro and strawberry fruit slushy by thinking to themselves "I've walked so much today, I deserve a little extra snack." What a bummer that would be - to spend the whole day walking around and then to end up gaining weight.. No thanks.

We were fortunate enough to have planned ahead. We brought a backpack with plenty of snacks and water, which helped us to avoid eating gigantic amounts of calories while we were there. (and spending gigantic amounts of dollars to do so!)

Just because you're on vacation, or because you're doing something out of the ordinary, isn't a good reason to close your eyes to what you're eating. You're body doesn't know the difference, and processes the calories the same way it always does.

- Chris Butterworth


South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon

I have been wanting to hike the Grand Canyon for a long time, but when we took a family sight-seeing trip there this spring break it became less "I want to" and more "I'm going to". Well, last weekend I did it - my brother and I hiked down, and then back up, the South Kaibab Trail, in the same day. It was an awesome experience. Some thoughts below, in no particular order:
  • The vastness and the beauty of the Grand Canyon is un-explainable. Pictures don't do it justice - it's one of those things that you need to see with your own eyes.
  • It was 38 degrees at the south rim at 4:45 am, and over 100 degrees at the bottom (the high at Phantom Ranch was 106 that afternoon). That's a huge temperature swing - if I do this hike again next year it'll be in May or even April.
  • The hike has 4 different sections - Rim to Cedar Ridge; Cedar Ridge to Skeleton Point; Skeleton Point to Junction / Tip-Off; and Tip-Off to Bridge / Canyon Floor. Each section is similar to hiking Camelback Mountain or Squaw Peak in Phoenix.
  • The trail is well-maintained, so the hike isn't technically difficult, but it is a long, long, steep, staircase-type of climb. Did I mention it was long? Going down, on the other hand, was surprisingly easy; we got to the bottom without exerting too much energy.
  • The approach to the canyon is unlike any other climb you'll do. There isn't any anticipation factor from seeing the mountain in the distance, which keeps getting bigger as you get closer. With the Grand Canyon, you're driving across a desert plateau, and then suddenly the earth simply ends - and you're there.
  • The sense of accomplishment is more pronounced then most other hikes as well, because you can see the trail below you (and where you just were not too long ago) very clearly. It's amazing how fast you ascend, yet also how long it takes.
  • As for training, I did a lot of trail running, for 60-90 minutes at a time, on and around the local mountains and preserves. Next year I will incorporate the revolving staircase in the gym into my training as well.


South Kaibab Trailhead, 5:10am

South Rim at dawn. (the smoke in the canyon is from a wildfire burning on the North Rim.)

An eagle soars over the canyon at sunrise

Early in the hike. (I can tell because we still look fresh and clean!)

After crossing the black suspension bridge

Cooling off in the Colorado River. (the water was very cold!)

Finished! The ice-cold Coke and turkey sandwich waiting for me at the car never tasted so good.

If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, go. It's a must see. And even if you're not up for hiking down to the bottom (and back up), it's worth the effort to hike down 30 minutes or so - the views are spectacular.

-Chris Butterworth


lifestyles travel with you on vacation

lifestyles travel with you on vacation

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

the beach at coronado island

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

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

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

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

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

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

the jetty at coronado island
rock climbing on the jetty

lunch with family at a beachside grille

smash ball on the beach

hanging out in town

goofing around at the local park

Overall, I learned two things on this trip:

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

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

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

-Chris Butterworth


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


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


surviving a business trip - health on the road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Chris Butterworth