Saturday, January 31, 2015


If you were to visit my profile page, you will learn that I've been a member of the Skimble community since March 2010. That means I've been around for almost 5 years. I was surprised to see that I've been around that long. Lot of recording and a lot of photographs have gone up on that site.

So Skimble, what is it, and why do I like it enough that I bought a tee-shirt, besides the fact that I buy nerdy tee shirts. At least in this case it's an exercise & fitness nerdy tee-shirt. Skimble is a fitness/workout tracker, it's a series of apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone that allows you the flexibility to record your exercises and also through its other apps, you can use it, to quote David Prager from appjudgment, to be your personal trainer. He did a review of the first app that had come out, and while this is a few years older, it does give an idea.

When I first started with Skimble, it offered what is referred to as the GPS Sports Tracker app, in other words, an app by which you could log in your various workouts. From rock climbing, which the founders are very involved with, to a myriad of other sports and activities. There was a lot. As you recorded, you received points. Those points were important as this was a social media platform, you would make friends and over the course of a month, you could see how you compared with friends, and also you could compare yourself with the rest of the Skimble community. In other words, there was built in a very method to get involved in friendly competition. The points varied by the workout or exercise, as I was doing weights, you would gain 2 points, it would not matter how many sets or reps, it was two points. If you walked, or hiked, a different scale was used and so on and so forth. It was great to get started and realize there was a reward, as it were by exercising. After recording it, you could check and compare. I remember one time there was a challenge and if you ended up in the top 20 for that month, you would receive a prize of KT Tape. I managed to work out enough that I got some in the mail. That was exciting. I would go to the gym with my Ipod Touch, which I had downloaded the app and record all my workout which I would upload when I got home.

The point system was a strength and a weakness of those early days, the strength, you were motivated to workout. This would be especially true if someone in your friends group had sudden surged ahead of you and that would annoy you. The app would also record all the date so you would know how far, how long and how much of your workout. Since starting with Skimble, I recorded my run, as of the day I write this blog, I just surpassed 2000 miles of running. By the way, Skimble makes allowance for both imperial and metric. At that time I was simply using it for recording after the fact since I didn't have a gps devise.

As for weakness, in some way and there were a lot of complaints, the point system seemed unfair. After all, it wouldn't matter if I did 2 or 3 or even 4 sets of weights, I would only get 2 points. I could use as little as 5 lbs or set a record, which by the way Skimble does acknowledge in a brief message when you upload, it would still give you 2 points. Of course this led to some gaming of the system and if you were wanted to gain the points, you could record each set as a separate workout and get the 2 points for each set. I supposed some may have recorded each rep and got the points. However,the personal records were good to use as motivation and to determine progress. Later when I got a smartphone with GPS capacity, I was able to use skimble to record walks, bike trips and runs. When complete, a map was added to the workout as well, you could give an opinion of the trip. There are charts and graphs that will record the amount of weight a person has lifted, for example. That's a lot of reps by the way.

All my devises have the GPS sports track app on them, if it's allowed. I now take my smartphone to the gym to record and upload my activity immediately.

I'm not sure if they still do it, but every so often they would ask members to give a quick bio of themselves, such as what they do, where they were fitness wise and the goals for the future. I was fortunate enough to be asked to give my story.

The people of Skimble did not rest of their laurels but have since expanded. I think one of the most exciting and one that has truly enhanced the site has been the workout app. This is the one David Prager was reviewing in the above video.

This is going to sound a bit odd, but I didn't jump on the workout component right away. I reasoned I was doing enough and didn't need to get into anything else. It took a while before I decided to add this app.

The workout app has a free and a paid component to it, while the free gives enough there is limitations. Some of the workouts are for the 'pro' group and others are for free. Although the people at Skimble always make sure there are as many free workout as there are those available for the 'Pro' group. Also, there are only certain voices, or trainers for the Pro group. You might have heard the complaint of the mechanical voice, those tend to be for the free explanation. Now I did come to my senses and commenced using it, I seem to recall one of the first workouts I did was the 2 minute elbow plank. I thought to myself that I do a lot of resistance training, how difficult would it be to hold an elbow plank? Yes I lasted 30 seconds, barely. I was chastised for my arrogance and decided I needed to do more of these workouts. I began to incorporate them in my weekly workouts. After a while I decided to upgrade to Pro, which I do on a regular basis, the accounts are only for a year. I don't mind doing this, since once done, it means on all platforms, the workout app is in Pro mode. It doesn't matter if it's Android, iOS or even Blackberry, through Android, it can be downloaded, installed and used. Another motivation was people who used the workout programs were gaining way more points then me, don't underestimate the power of competition. I believed if I was to stay competitive I needed to start doing workouts. At this juncture I should say that my personal mantra for Skimble is:

I exercise: to get stronger, to lose weight and to gain Skimble points

This is quite an app. The workouts range from one exercise to a workout program. Whatever your target or goal, there is a workout program. If it's Core or Abs, Arms, Legs or Cardio, there is a workout. From equipment to body weight workouts, there is a program. It can be used at the gym for a series of workouts, or at the home gym. The time of the workouts can be as little as 15 seconds to over an hour. If you want a Yoga program, there are a whole lot of them for you to choose. The great thing is by putting together a series of workouts, one has an entire program which can be used monthly or even daily. For example my daily routine is all based upon Skimble workouts.

While the people at Skimble put out there own, there is also opportunity for the user to come up with their own workout. Once constructed, they can be shared by others. Each workout is categories by the level, from casual- meaning easy, to intense meaning, intense. Each week there are now programs both as I said, for free and for Pro members. So no one should feel left out. If a person wants to do training in a specific area, there are training programs which give a person a program lasting so many workouts over so many weeks. These are paying only, but the costs are reasonable. As of the writing of this blog, I haven' sampled any of them, but I should suspect they are all good. I use both the Skimble ones and the workouts created by others. While the Skimble ones tend to be consistent, the user generated ones are both good and dare I say, not so good. Some seem to be posted before a lot of review and refinement has taken place and as such either lack detail or don't make any sense. Some workouts seemed to have been composed to deal with a specific workout done by the individual, and they can be good. Some of the workouts are timers, recording a workout that might have been from another source. At least you get the points for working out. Each workout comes with static pictures or videos showing the workout and a trainer to encourage you along the time. There is also a 'timer' which give only the time and no other words. This is good if you've been doing a specific workout and don't need the instruction. The trainer give not only instructions but encouragement. They're good. However I'm still not sure how singing will pass the time as you wall-sit. It doesn't matter if you are new to a specific workout or been doing it for a time, there is a program. So you can develop by changing and by making the time longer. One of the features included is the search, you can search by name or you can see what others are doing and if it looks interesting do it yourself. On the app, you can even download workouts for later use. So it's very handy. Also when recording a workout, or review same, there's always a list of workout recommendations. So you are without excuse.

Skimble has two other apps, Fitness Flow, which provided HD videos for the tablet or smartphone, and Coco's Workout World:

Since I've not used either of them, I can't review.

Skimble is always making upgrades and changes to their apps. If you have issues, it might be a case of wait for a bit and the bugs will be fixed and new programs added. They have changed the layout and look of Skimble over the years. It's not difficult to navigate and check things out. When people ask me fitness questions, my pat answer is "Skimble". It is versatle. The fact that it fits on a smartphone means you carry your workout anywhere you go. As it saves, you don't have to keep a written log. Also when posted people can give words of encourage and 'like' what you did. Always do the same, like and get liked. There is a forum which has both a place for motivation and questions. You can also post pictures of the things you do:

Skimble: it's worth you while and it's how I roll.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Social Media and Fitness

Like most everything, social media has had an impact on the world of fitness. I would say for the most part it has been positive and enhanced the experience. There might be some who would disagree with it, but I think if you're involved in fitness, you appreciate social media because there is a feedback mechanism which makes working out something to be enjoyed.

Of course not everybody agrees, a few have posted comments, not on my stuff, but on others about the wasted space of always posting the times you've been to the gym, or what you did- the number of squats or burpees. By the way, for the record I had burpees. There I said it. However I think people who complain don't understand the reason for this. It is shared because others who are interested in the same fitness plans are interested in the work of others. Should a person be new, then it's opportunity for others to be cheerleaders or give words of encouragement. For some, it's a place to ask questions and seek advice. It's also a place to post medals and make the rest of us jealous that we can't run in such a cool race and get a medal like that.

Beyond Twitter and Facebook, there are all sorts of sites that incorporate fitness and social media in the same place. This is indeed good because it's where like are dealing with likes. In other words, you're on these sites because they deal with fitness and they are filled with people of the same or different levels of fitness, or different ways on the fitness path. It's where you can hang out and talk the language others will understand. There is usually no judgment, because we are either at the level, approaching it, or can remember when we were at that pace. So there is potential for a lot of camaraderie and sharing of experiences. Also the questions usually are of the nature of type of shoe, or training programs. Also announcing of up coming races and how they are feeling about it.

For all the positives and feels like a great cheering platform, what they all tend to do is have you make friends and then post your achievements and scores against your friends. Remember it's all friendly. Oh it is, and if you get ahead of me, then I will have to push myself a little harder over the next few days to ensure I catch up and pass you. I see you ran 12 km yesterday and got x number of points, well I think I have a 13 km'er scheduled and let's see how I do. Although most sites will mention about 'seeing how you compare with your friends', don't miss the unmistakable sign of competition. You did how many push-ups for how many points. Well, I'm going to have to better that the next time.

One of the better aspects is usually these sites have their own apps, so instead of bringing paper, pen or pencil to the gym to record the weight and number of reps, you can just as easily record through the app on your smartphone. I mean it's probably safe to say that most of us have a smartphone in our possession and so using them to record results should become a natural part of life. I don't write anything down, I simply find the exercise I'm doing and do the record right there. That way it's on the website and I will get some points. That's another fun thing, the points you get per exercise. Not only points, but it keeps record of the overall status, such as miles complete, weights lifted, and this can be fun at times. Have I really lifted all those pounds? Also there is usually a calculation of calories. This is important for obvious reasons, especially if weight loss is part of the overall plan of fitness. I personally find that it's far easier to carry my phone to the gym and do my recording that way, since it's size is small enough to fit into the pocket of my shorts. Plus I use the phone as my messenger and to listen to podcasts.

Workout programs are also part of the attraction, usually tailored to various parts of the body or goals; if you need a workout program, they are listed someplace. Not just the workout, but usually photos and videos to help with learning the program. So it's a good way to get educated and to gain ideas.

I'm going to review a few sites I hang out on and give you an idea how I use them, over the next few blogs.

Until then, keep fit.

Friday, January 23, 2015


So while riding the recumbent bicycle at the gym this past week, one of the headlines on the CP24 newscast declared 56% of people who sign up for gym membership never ever go to the gym. Now I had to wonder about that statistic, is it one of those 'over half the planet has never made a phone call' statistics that get bandied about as if it was true. As for the phone call thing, it might have been true at one time, but now that we are living in the mobile age, there's probably only a handful of people who have never made a phone call. I believe at the time the consideration was based upon land lines. We know that the way to go is mobile, the costs for infrastructure is far cheaper then running phone lines everywhere. I digress.

It is also known gym owner enjoy this time of year, all those people rushing to get membership because they've made yet another New Year Resolution that contains the words 'lose weight', 'get fit'. It's also why most of the parking lots of gyms are crowded during the peak hours and for regulars, it's a time to curse. Or we wait until the end of March, when things return to normal.

I realize this sounds a bit cynical, but it's nothing compared to one article I found entitled Why We Sign Up For Gym Memberships But Never Go To The Gym. The author mentions the fact that one gym franchise averages 6500 members, but can only hold and this is also due to fire regulations, 300 members at a time. Which means a lot never go, or they are amazingly fortunate at the stagger rate. In some ways, this is not fair, with most gyms going 24 hours at least most of the week, you can have 300 around the clock and discern that the majority of members do use the facility. Although I should point out the last paragraph of the article does give this good word:

The reason gyms can charge so little is that most members don't go. People who don't go are subsidizing the membership of people who do. So, if you don't work out, you are making gyms affordable for everyone. If you are one of the brave few who actually do go to the gym, you are getting an amazing deal.

As a person who goes to the gym at least once a week, and usually twice may I say 'thank you' to all those who make it possible for me to enjoy $10.00 a month membership. I used to go more often at another gym, but it was far closer. It was a plain gym, resistance machines, some free weights and cardio. There was also a place for tanning, for a few extra dollars. It worked because the understanding was that this is a place to workout that was basic, if you wanted the latest and greatest go somewhere else and be prepared to spend more money.

This may be a dangerous time, the ads are still out there, the colourful brochures still appear in the mail, which may be good because in them they need to disclose some of the cost, such as monthly fees and initiation fees. One came in the mail, I won't say which one and it stated the initiation fee was $149.00. They still charge over $30.00 a month for membership and apparently they have a lot of hidden fees for different things. I have family that use the chain but may I suggest one thing, stay away.

By the way, I did find the source of the number, it is here. So it comes down to this, if you want gym membership, do your research, check out the place and ask some questions. I don't mean questions about the layout or the equipment but important questions,

1) Will I use this membership. In other words, can I put this into my weekly schedule. Forget the nice equipment or interesting classes, or other things such as juice bars and cool t-shirts. Will I actually show up. Perhaps the way to figure this out is to sit down with the calendar and start looking at the days of the week, what days are usually the ones with the least interruptions over the course of a year. Can you find two days like this, and can you put this into your weekly events. This is where lifestyle changes come into play, will I incorporate health and fitness into my life.

2) Can I afford it and, what will it really cost me. Do the research. This means looking at all the cost. For example usually gyms will include an extra payment or two throughout the year- the idea presented is this goes to upkeep and new equipment. If the new equipment comes, no problem. How long is the contract, figure for a year you are locked in, and then discover what are the steps to terminate, Usually they are not onerous. A letter might suffice or just a notification.

3) What do I really want to do there? What is my strategy and what do I want to do. If the place had an open house or gives a coupon allowing so many visits before deciding, then figure out what you want to use to achieve the results you want. One great site, called Nerd Fitness has an article entitled: How to Work Out Properly In a Commercial Gym. It's worth the read before signing anything.

At the end, if you decide to join a gym then one word of advice. Use it. Even if it's only an hour or two a week you will feel far better and just getting there will do more for your will-power and lifestyle change then anything else. If you don't then the key-fob that gives you entrance will stare at you each and every time you pick up your keys and it will have one message for you, and that message is "Loser". You will have something that reminds you that you can't even do something simple as go to a gym. Do you want that? No you don't. You want to pick up your keys and say to yourself, 'right after work, I have time to stop at the gym'. Right then and there, pack the gym bag that has the name of the gym on the side and then head out the door. You will feel far better about yourself and you will have something to think about throughout the day. I believe if there is already a plan, it has already happened in your mind. The whole thing of getting there is now secondary. For once you will be in the minority and glad you are.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Kettlebell Training

I've been writing more about running then any other form of exercise. I know that is sometimes the problem with runners, we're so fixated with running, we don't do anything else. This can be a problem that is easily rectified. There are all sort of exercises that can enhance the running experience and will actually help with the mechanics of running. You got to have some strength when running.

I've been thinking about this theme for a while. I'm one of those people that also uses Kettlebells when working out.

What can one say about the kettlebell? It's a new style of exercise equipment that's been around for a few hundred years. A couple of years, it was viewed as a bit of a fad. Yet, anyone who uses one, or two understand that it adds and enhances the exercise program. The kettlebell is quite versatile for use as a piece of exercise equipment. What I like about it, is the fact that one can use it with so many different forms of exercise. When I'm at the gym, I use a lot of dumbbells for the various curls and extenstions, and when I get home, I will use my the kettlebell for some work. What I do like is that with the form, it is not as simple to curl or press like dumbbells. In fact it is the instability of the form that enhances the exercise. It is the case you do use different sets of muscles all during the same time. This is the difference between kettlebell and resistance and dumbbell. The latter two tend to isolate the muscles. You use the biceps or the triceps, and that's about it. With the Kettlebell, it feels that you are using the entire body during the exercise.

If I can give a quote from a website:

kettlebell exercises demand the use of multiple joints, which engages all the larger muscles of the body. This burns calories faster than isolation moves, which only work one muscle. “Kettlebells are also effective because they target all aspects of fitness, including strength, endurance and power,” says Mike Bell, a personal trainer at willSpace, a New York-based gym.

Men's Fitness has more then a few exercises dealing with the Kettlebell.

There are also a great variety of exercises one can use. Of course, it has to be said, there's always the caveat of misuse. If you misuse a kettlebell, there is the risk of a wrong extension and hurting yourself in the process. That holds true with all exercise programs, make sure the form is good and you minimize the risk of injury. However, once you get used to the style of the kettlebell and check your form, then it becomes a part of your program.

There are your core exercises that will help. To give the list: the first will be the Swing. Simple to do, with two hand you take the kettlebell and swing up and down.

To give an idea, I found this .pdf file a few years ago and have followed the information. It's called the Kettlebell Cardio Workout. This is another place where the Internet can be such a handy place. So much information can be found by doing a search on "Kettlebell". There also a number of videos which will give all the hints on good forms. I found this video:

I have to give some good for Scott Iardella and his website He has an interesting podcast. Yes he sell material for the kettlebell, then again everybody needs to make a living, so nothing wrong with supporting people who are doing good.

One of the coolest exercise is called "Pirate Ship". I mean any exercise that uses the words 'Pirate' and 'Ship', has to be good. So here it is:

with this bit of information, and I encourage you to read more by yourself, the kettlebell can become a positive part of your home gym. They are easy to find, check any fitness store, and you will find them. Like anything else, variety of styles, variety of price. Look around and add some kettlebells.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Soleus GPS Fit 1.0 Watch

As I've attended a number of runs and races, I noticed that more then a few runners had GPS watches as part of their equipment. There are also a large number who have their phones with them, either holding in hand or an arm band. More then music, the probably have their GPS function going. For the past few years, I've also been one of the individuals who has their smartphone with them, and usually more then simply for the music, or audiobook. I've been using GPS function as well.

But I've noticed those with the GPS watch. For some of them, they seem rather large and a bit bulky on the wrist. I wonder how they manage to feel comfortable wearing one. Still it was something I had started to consider over the past year or so. I figured I should look into purchasing one of them, since I wasn't sure I would be comfortable carrying my phone with me at races. I have been, because I do like to keep a record of where and what I've done with regards to running.

As Christmas came, I was fortunate enough to get a gift card to The Running Room. Being familiar with The Running Room, through the number of races I have done and registered with, I went to check out the website. Looking for GPS watches, I came across the Soleus GPS Fit watch. The price was very reasonable, only $75.00, plus free shipping if I order through website and have it shipped to a local store. Done and done. Just had to wait a few days and it arrived.

I had a few choices, and decided for the black with lime green colour. Got it, charged it up and waited to give it a try.

Right at the start, got to say a few things, the connecting to which I both link and charge the devise can be a bit finicky. If it's not on just right, you might not be able to either link or charge. It just takes a moment or two until that happens. The battery does charge at a reasonable speed, and as it instructs, before using charge it up for a couple of hours. The watch is a reasonable size and feels comfortable on the wrist. It may seem a little larger then the average wrist watch, but it's not overly bulky, so it will pass as simply another watch. The screen is a good size and the font for the numbers is also a good size. You can quickly get the right time and date with simply a glance. It is a watch after all, and that still remains the first function of a watch. One of the reasons I chose this color is the fact the important button is also lime green, you can't miss it.

when the box arrived, it contains the watch, usb sync cable, adaptor to plug devise into a wallplug and a quick start manual, plus a few other pieces of paper. Once charged you're ready to go. One thing I felt is that the quick start wasn't that clear on instrutions and almost begs you to get the full manual. Might as well get and download the .pdf, you will use it to get started.

Getting started by getting the right time is easy, turn on the GPS function and point the watch in the right direction, you will get the time and date. Once the watch is powered, you add all the personal data, such as age, weight, height and then it uses this information to calculate the result of calories. As for getting the right time, there is a manual way, or the easy way which is to turn on the GPS feature, find the satellite and you will get the right time. I sort of found that out by accident, by pressing all the buttons in different intervals. By the way, the manual is worth getting and downloading.

It has a back light feature, which makes it very usable at night. While thicker then the average watch, again it does not feel heavy on the wrist. As I said, the font on the face is good and makes everything readable.

It is a GPS device and so I was able to use it a couple of times this weekend during my runs. The first time, it was a bit hit and miss and I had to go to the manual to get the feel as to the right buttons to press. Like every other GPS device, it takes a few moments, or seconds to latch onto a signal. At least with the watch, I'm simply holding my arm and turning myself around to get the right angle. According to the guide, the antenna is at the bottom, or 6:00 position of the watch. So you simply stand there and wait. When searching, there will be a scrolling action at the top of the face, once it stops and becomes a solid line, you have a signal and are good to go. I should say, to get everything going, press in my case, the lime green button and once signal acquired, push it again and you are good to go.

Due to the cold weather and the multiple layers, I haven't looked at the watch during the run. From the manual you can change what information is visible on the fly. I should say, when you start with GPS you have two options, 'GPS' or 'Indoors', the latter doesn't turn on the GPS feature and you just have a regular timer. When the run is over, simply press the lime green button again and you are done. Pressing another button will get you to scroll through the information. You can read, your start and stop time, distance, calories burned, average pace, max pace, average speed, max speed and you can get the time for each lap. In my case, a lap is every kilometer. You can review each lap to learn the time and pace per lap. This can be handy when you go back to review.

At the Soleus site, you can download the sync software, which allows you to download the information from each run. When it's up on your computer, you can send the information from the watch, and if you wish, delete once downloaded. You plug the watch in, start the software and you will see the word 'Link' on the screen. When that happens, simply click on the computer screen the 'download' button and the information is on your computer.

What one has, is the pertinent information, start time, stop, distance, time, pace, speed and lap information. You can review your run to each second of the run. If you stopped or had a walk, you can do the calculations. There is also a map feature, so you can check your route. One more feature, you can download the file as a either a .TCX or a .GPX. You can then upload the information to whatever fitness program, such as Although any site that you can upload the .gpx file to, you can do the same. By the way, I'm Paul28922440 on Mapmyrun. We can follow each other.

So far, I'm very satisfied with the watch. It functions well and is very accurate with distance and time. As I have said, it's a bit larger then standard watch, not much more. It looks good, feels good and functions well. The battery holds a charge for a reasonable time, it seems after an hour run, to lose about 20% of power. Since I'm usually uploading the information quickly to the computer, it's just as easy once that's complete to leave the watch attached and let it power up. The syncing cable can be temperamental at times, but I suspect after a time it will become second nature to click it in place. With the fact I can also plug it into an outlet, rather then always charge through the computer, makes it easier. I know some may think, it's another cable I've got to worry about, well, I suppose get over the fact. It is water resistant, but I don't plan to use it in the shower or bath.

The price was right and while it doesn't have a heart rate monitor feature, personally I can either take that or leave that, should I need my heart rate it's fingers to the neck and count for 15 seconds. For a person starting out with a GPS watch, it is a good introduction to the type of watches out there. Perhaps it doesn't have the same features as a watch costing hundreds more, but that applies to anything anyways. I can see it being an important part of my running gear, as it will be just a regular feature on my wrist.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Winter Running: the Good and the Bad

Winter running is something either you do or you don't. For some once the temperature drops, the darkness and snow fall it's time to move inside. There are a lot of options for people who wish to continue their cardio workouts indoor. From the eliptical, the recumbent to the Treadmill, there is no reason to stop exercise. A person can make the investment in the equipment to establish a home gym and the great thing about this time of year is the sales on exercise equipment. If not, then there's always gyms. Here the temperature is controlled and there's a good selection, plus there is TV.

Still, with some fortitude, dedication and desire, one can continue to run outside throughout the year.

This post is dedicated to all those people who put on the toque and continue to run. It's Saturday night, so it's not going to be that profound.

The good: you don't worry about being too warm, nor does that whole 'dress to be cool in the parking lot' mean anything. Dress to keep warm, get on as many layers as you can. You can never be warm enough.

The bad: my fingers are numb. Why are my fingers numb? No not numb, they're frozen, I can't move them! Will I ever feel my fingers again? Plus it now takes you about 20 minutes to get dressed to go for a run. It's not grabbing your running shorts, it grabbing four layers of clothing and insulation.

The good:crispness of winter air. There's something delightful about that cold crisp air. It is so fresh and invigorating.

The bad: it's so cold you've got a scarf, or a neck gaiter on. Then there is the whole balaclava thing. You look like a robber and you also have been breathing in all those fleece balls. Crisp air? What crisp air? I really need to wash this thing.

The good: Snow looks so nice, the world is under the blanket of white snow. It looks wonderful. Look at it on the trees and shrubs. Also, when the snow falls, it brings a quiet to world around you. It's just you and your thoughts when it snows.

The bad: Doesn't anybody around here own or know what to do with a snow shovel? Why are the sidewalks covered under a foot of snow? Then there are the curbs at the road. Oh super the plow's been down and there is a ridge of snow 1 foot high and two feet wide. Great, now my shoes are full of snow. Want one more? Two words: 'snow' & 'squall'.

The good: no one bothers you about how running is bad for your knees and other joints.

The bad: they now warn you about freezing your lungs and developing frostbite.

The good: to other runners, you are the man, the woman, the stud. You exhibit machismo or machisma. You are one totally bad dude.

The bad: to the community at large, you are a lunatic. Your family and friends will meet and plan to have you committed.

The good: you appreciate things such as the sun coming out.

The bad: when the sun comes out that means you are in the middle of another polar vortex. The temperatures have plummeted and here you are running. Oh yeah, and that 'cool' breeze is now the cause of a soul sucking wind chill index.

The good: The sunsets you will witness. The colours, the way the sky looks. A winter sky is a whole new canvas for Nature to paint it's beauty.

The bad: The sun sets at 4:40PM, and you've barely started your 10K run. Oh great, it's going to be dark and you have to cross two busy roads.

The good: that orange reflector vest looks good on you. It looks good with everything you wear. Plus the security and safety know that you are visible to traffic.

The bad: that orange reflector vest will never look good.

The good: ice. Nothing good about ice. It is your mortal enemy. Wear those running shoe slip-on studs.

The bad: ice. It is your mortal enemy. It's either hidden under snow, or it's black ice on the road. You will find it, you will slip and fall. The good news, whatever part you land on has long since lost the sensation of feeling. You are numb, you won't feel any pain.

In December, you run under the glow of Christmas lights. They look spectacular. they brighten everything up. You'll probably stop and take some photographs. It is good to be a runner in December.

A Resolution Run. What better way to start a new year then gathering somewhere with other runners and going out for 5K or 10K run? You have done something positive to start the new year.

I will admit, winter running is not for everybody. If you got to go inside, then do it. It's all positive and will make you feel great. If you decide to try to run in the winter, start small, perhaps try running once a week outside, you will be amazed how quickly the body adjusts to the cold. Plus you now have an excuse to buy all that neat cool weather running gear. When you take a 'selfie' to prove you went for a run, that frost ring around your toque is your battle stripe. You earned it. You want a couple of more reasons? Consider these, warm beverages always taste better and hot showers feel even more heavenly. In fact, you will live for that hot refreshing shower.

So get out there and try a run.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Getting Started

There comes the time when motivation becomes action. When getting started with an exercise program, the first question asked, is what do you want to do. The second is, how do I do this?

If you watch commercials, you might think that to get in shape will cost you money, and perhaps a lot of it. After all, you can't get in shape without buying some really cool equipment, or take out membership at a gym, or even get onto some sort of diet plan. All of which has its place.

However, I want to suggest that no matter what you want to do, you can get started with a minimal amount of equipment and a minimal amount of cash. I'm going to later discuss gym membership, but let's just get you going. If you decide to start a program, there is a lot you can do to get going. There are a few words which need to be a part of your vocabulary. The are: push-ups, crunches, planks, wall sits. You might remember all these from those long ago days in high school gym class. Take a few moments to stop the hyper-ventilation from recalling all those memories that you thought were repressed. Yes, we do all remember those times in gym class. Listen, there is no one going to judge you, it's just you and your exercise. One good thing, is that through these exercises, you discover that the best gym you can have is your own body. The Push-up is a great exercise to develop the arms, shoulders and upper back. Abs, and let me say, there is a great variety of these exercises, work on the abs. We all dream of the six pack. The plank strengthens the core, the mid-section of your body. The wall sit, looks after the glutes and legs. Four simple exercises will get you started and develop some of most challenging parts of your body.

If you want to establish a home gym, or home exercise area then you can start with those four types of exercise. May I suggest spending some time with YouTube and look for the variety and types, as well as programs. Another source of workout programs is my favourite site, Skimble. I've been a member since 2010 and I enjoyed how they've developed from simply a site where you log your exercises, to one which has workout and workout programs. There is a pro membership, but it's only $10.00 a year. Of course there are other things for them to raise money, but for what they offer, it is worth the investment. I'll probably talk further on the subject of Skimble in a later blog post.

Back to the subject of home gym; what you can acquire is a small exercise mat, probably a yoga mat since those are popular and the cost is whatever you want. Have an area where you can set up your equipment that gives both room and doesn't bother anyone else. Some suggest in a TV room, and if that works, go for it. You might just need a place for you to play music. I play relaxing meditative music. It works with what I do, I mean if I was lifting twice my body weight- it would be Marilyn Manson, but for what I do, this is sufficient. You may want to purchase either dumbbells or kettlebells. Or both, they can be had for a reasonable price. I like kettlebells. They give you a different style of exercise then dumbbells. Their form and the way they are used uses more muscles and give a better workout. It's through the shape, with the handle, the exercise is not smooth, but because of the movement, uses more muscles. Buy a number of them of different weights so as to develop and increase your ability to exercise. If you aren't sure what to do with kettlebells, there are again, a lot of exercise programs available through the Internet and you can watch them in action through You Tube videos. Don't dismiss Youtube as the source of cat videos or crotch shots, there is a lot of good material out there, and it is all free. Don't underestimate the material either, there are some trainers out there putting their work out there for you to use. Take advantage of it. To give you an example, go to BestKettlebellworkout. This site has a beginners manual you can download and print. This way, you can have a program.

You may think and if there is room, a weight bench and some free weights could also be added. This will help and you can further expand what you need to do. Everything you purchase need not be top of the line either, simple equipment or when the season comes about, check out garage sales, there's always somebody getting rid of the weight bench and weights that have been clogging up space in the basement.

Something else you may consider is downloading and printing free weight training and workout logs. Here you can keep a record of what you've done and when you've done it. This help you mark your progress and acts as your written conscious. Haven't used it for a while? It sits there as a silent witness. Get using and filling it out! There are also apps you can install on your smartphone to help you with the exercise.

There is no reason not to get going and no reason why you have to spend hundreds of dollars. If you start simple, you can get going for less then $100.00 and be able to put together a good program that will get you going and give you a good workout. We have the resources out there, we just need to spend a few minutes finding it.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Resolve: Getting Started

I talked about motivation and the desire to get out and do something. One place to start is an exercise that is within your abilities and something you like. Can you walk? Good, go for a walk. Do that today, then when tomorrow comes, go for another walk. Keep doing this for a week or so, making sure you keep track of your miles, or kilometers, you will notice something, a small something, but something. Perhaps it will be nothing more then the fact you can walk a little farther. Or you might notice that your clothes are starting to give a bit of room. There, you have started doing something. Then it begins to impact other parts of your life, you don't sit as much, at the least, you're heading out for a half hour walk. When you finish, you reach for water, not pop and that fills you and satisfies. If not water, then juice, or a piece of fruit, then all of a sudden you don't have room for that bag of chips. Whoa, you're becoming healthy.

You might think, is it truly that simple? Here's a little secret that no one wants to share, it is. Not easy, because there are so many factors fighting against you wanting to become fit, but it is simple.

The issue of exercise is based upon Newton's First Law of Motion: "an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force". If you are at rest, shall we say a couch potato, the universe is doing everything to keep you in that state. Something needs to act upon it, and that is motivation. While that is more internal, rather then external, it is a force that comes into the equation and gets you to desire to move.

Since I'm into running, I'm going to use running as the basis, but the same applies for everything else. Let's say you decide to become a runner, you think you can do this running thing, perhaps like me you see an announcement for a fun run. Let me suggest if you use a race as your motive, then may I suggest a nice 5K. It might be something like a Color Run, or a Color Me Rad or any one of a number of 'colour' based races. These are a good place to start because 1) they are very popular, 2) there is no clock so you don't have to worry about how long it will take you and 3) you do get a t-shirt out of it, plus the atmosphere is high energy and fun. I've done both those and once you get used to the idea that people are throwing coloured food starch every kilometer or so, it's a lot of fun. I understand from reading that a lot of people use these races as their starting point. The Color Run advertises itself as the "Happiest 5K on the Planet" and it is. There are always going to be detractors but at the end, it gets people running. I notice the Color Run has "Shine" as its theme and is showing glitter in their promotion video, this could be interesting. One thing about Color Runs, prepared to have various colours of skin tones for a few days, one shower doesn't quite do it.

When it comes to running, it is good to set a goal and a time frame, which is why I recommend runs as your challenge. You have a date, you know how long it is away, and you know what you are training for. At the same time make your goal one that is both realistic and fits your present, you may think that running 26.2 miles is a great thing and you see there is one coming up in a couple of months and after all, you can drive that distance what's the difference with running? Okay, quick word, don't. The risk of failure, injury and the inability to walk or move for a week is too great. Pick 5K, it is a good distance, one that's far enough to be challenging, but one short enough so that you can do it with the right amount of training. As for training, I have no plan for you, but I can recommend one idea, look for a C25K program. If you have a smartphone, be it Apple, Android or Blackberry you can find a whole lot of programs, which by the way, stand for Couch to 5K. The strategy is to take someone who doesn't run and get them to complete a 5K within a set time frame. I went to the Color Run site and they have a list of free apps to get you going.

So you go and register for your first run, and I'm saying it's a color type run. The statistics state 60% of the people who run will be newbies. If you feel awkward, don't. You have a lot of company. In fact there will be a lot of people there. If crowds bother you then look for a small community type of run that might have a fund-raising component. One thing about runs, you pay for them, so when you put your money down, there's a commitment that is in your wallet. So you signed up, put in your credit card and now you have a date. Circle it on your calendar and download a program to get your started.

You now have your motivation, now it's up to you to get started and get going. One of your first runs will be to your local sports store or maybe you'll venture into a running store. Yes, you will need a good pair of running shoes. You will need them, what you have on your feet right now are not sufficient. You want something that will be comfortable, give you support, look good and will help you. Look, there's enough ways to encourage aches and pains when running, but if its caused by bad running shoes, you will give up very quickly. Talk to the people in the store, let them know what you are planning to do and your needs. They will recommend something good. Personally I'm a Reebok guy, so I will stick with that brand, except this time, I'm Saucony right now. After the shoes, buy some good sweat wicking socks, more then one, then a good running shirt ( technical) and a pair of running shorts. Perhaps the tee and shorts can wait, since early on there is more walking then running. But the shoes and socks are a must. One word, blisters. 'Nuff said.

After the shoes, start. Find a time that works for you and you can incorporate the schedule in and do it. About this time, mention to friends, family and co-workers your plan. Tell them you heard about this thing called "The Color Run" and you've signed up. Give them a description and say you've heard from others that it's a lot of fun. Take them to a computer, get the homepage, show them the video. You just don't know, perhaps an office team??

Don't get discourage. No matter what keep your eyes on the prize. Let me tell you another thing about running and exercise. It is hard work and you will feel it. You are using muscles that haven't seen work in years, you may have times when you are sore and stiff. Here's a little mantra for those days "Pain is weakness leaving the Body". You are changing your body, using muscles, you are rebuilding, it will hurt at times. Power through it. It is worth it.

Keep track. All sorts of online places to mark it down. Make your own spreadsheet. Find your calendar and a pen, mark you distance and time, if you want to go old school.

Drink more water. You are using more energy, water is part of your fuel.

Every time your accomplish a goal, celebrate. Fist bump yourself, buy yourself a nice technical t-shirt. Head over to One More Mile and buy something with a cool saying that fits your triumph. Have an extra special yogurt to cheer yourself on.

Let me give you one more mantra, and running has a lot of them. This is an important one:

The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start
John Binghan gave us this quote. Read it, remember it, read about John.

Remember, you are changing yourself. Power through it.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Resolve and Resolute

I was talking to the person cutting my hair, we were talking about fitness training and trainers. She said her husband told her they were going to sign up with their fitness trainer friend on the 2nd. I thought about it and that is a good idea, both getting a fitness trainer and starting on the 2nd. After all, most people have enjoyed the New Year's Eve celebration and don't need to start anything right away.

So take the 1st off and don't worry until the next day, or the first weekend of the new year. That way you will have plenty of time to get something going. Plus the first few days can be to some research and develop the start of a plan.

As I watch TV, there are a number of advertisements that refer to the need to exercise. I had and I don't know if I want to use the word 'opportunity' to watch the Dr. Oz show and the topic was health and dieting. The problem express had to do with the yo-yo aspect of most diets. It seems there is no problem losing weight, people do it all the time, the problem is keeping the weight off.

I'm not going to be an expert with anything like programs but rather consider the important of any exercise or diet program and that is, to get motivated and inspired to start a program. I came across a statistic which states that 60% of people who start and exercise or diet program will succeed with it. Mind you, they mentioned the failure rate, but let's be positive, you can start a program that will work.

It all starts with motivation. Do you want to get healthy, do you want to lose weight, get the cholesterol rate down? Do you want to gain a level of fitness that you think is in the past? If so, the good! You have got the first step. Motivation is a powerful incentive, because it comes from within. If you can convince yourself you need to get something going in your life, then the rest can be done. I know the problem with this time of year, is that we get into the whole 'resolution' idea and we get inspired by whatever we see on television- some program which promises a way to get at control of our life. We do something and then we begin to lose interest, or it doesn't go as well as we think it should. Then we simply give up and go about doing what we did already, although we might be a bit down on ourselves, because we couldn't meet our resolution.

I looked up the definition of the word 'motivation', and here is what one dictionary came up with:

Internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested and committed to a job, role or subject, or to make an effort to attain a goal. Motivation results from the interaction of both conscious and unconscious factors such as the (1) intensity of desire or need, (2) incentive or reward value of the goal, and (3) expectations of the individual and of his or her peers. These factors are the reasons one has for behaving a certain way. An example is a student that spends extra time studying for a test because he or she wants a better grade in the class. Read more:

The first part is what it gets going, I have a desire and need, to lose that weight, to become healthy, to develop an exercise and lifestyle plan that will work with me and my life. This is all starts in the mind and brain. I need to do something, I now have the desire to do something.

The next part, the incentive is the goal. When planning the exercise and diet, you need a goal. The usual goal is the 'lose weight and become fit'. That's laudable, but it's basically a nothing goal. What does it tell me? A goal needs a target. So instead of saying " I need to lose weight", consider another goal, "I want to lose x pounds by, three months, six months or at the end of the year. So now there is a goal. When I started running at first, my goal was to do a 5K fun run. I've never run 5K in my life, but I thought it would be something fun to do. I had a goal and I had a target, to run this race when it happened near the middle of September. This meant I had to start the program immediately, and the way I would know how successful I was is that I entered and completed the race. I did it. Then next time I started running and got serious was after my sickness and ending the medicine I was taking. I knew I had to change my lifestyle and take control of my life. My goals were based upon health, and while I might not have had a specific goal, my goal was to get control. In some ways this is an open-ended goal and one I can constantly monitor.

The third point is the expection, or the timetable if you please. I need to do something, I know what I need to do and now I plan to achieve my goal by the date I have settled. I also know what I want to do and I will seek to gain that goal. If there is one point is that we develop a goal that might be a bit too challenging. I want to lose 100 lbs in three months. Let's say it might be possible to do that, but there are concerns. Or it might be unrealistic and you will fail because it's too much too soon. It is possible to lose a lot of weight in a short period of time, but that usually happens with a fad diet and there are all sorts of problem, such as the body entering into starvation mode and so if you end the diet you immediately put all the weight on and more.

Also one must consider the fact that you are entering a lifestyle change. You are now deciding to be fit and healthy. You have reached the conclusion that you must do something and take control. That could be your goal, you will take control of what you eat and what you do with your life. This is the key to it all, you are now taking control of your life.

I should say that and I know we hear it over and over again, seeing a doctor before starting an exercise program is a good idea. A physical can give you all the details you need to know, and if you are losing weight and getting healthy, it will mean you have a benchmark and you will know if you are getting healthy. After all, if your rates are high, or on the border then you will know how you are doing by each check up.

But it all starts within. You want to do something, you know what you need to know, you set a goal that is realistic and has a time frame and then you get a plan.

I'm going to keep the theme going for a few blog posts so read on over the next few days.