Cancer and Exercise- Must Watch Video!

Anyone with a family history of cancer should watch this video – it makes a great argument for exercise!!   It’s only 2 minutes but packs a powerful punch!


Bicycling is Awesome!

I love to ride my bicycle.  bikeI have been riding a bike since I can remember.  I grew up in a small town where if we wanted to go anywhere, we could walk or bike to get there. I biked to school, to the pool in the summer,  to the shopping centers, anywhere and everywhere.  It was safe, lots of wide sidewalks, and everyone knew everyone.   At the time, it was the best mode of transportation, before we were old enough to drive.   We didn’t care what we rode – we dressed them up, with streamers on the handle bars and baseball cards in the spokes.   I even had a tandem bike that I rode with my twin sister all over town- oh the fun we had with that!tandem

When I got out of school and got a job, I rode my bike 10 miles to work every day, and 10 miles home again.  I would load my kids up onto my trusty Fuji bike and drop them at the babysitters, then off I would go to work.  Fortunately I lived in Houston where is is mostly flat.  Unfortunately I lived in Houston where it is mostly hot and humid. Fortunately I had showers in my office so I could be presentable for the day.

I became hooked on cycling.  I went to the Velodrome in Houston every Friday and watched the races. I subscribed to Bicycling magazine and read every issue cover to cover.  I signed up and rode in several 150 mile charity rides as well as some centuries. I never tired of being on my bike.  Both of my sons grew up on bicycles, and would join me in my long treks around Texas.

When I moved to Virginia, I was introduced to hills.  To me they were mountains.hills My 15 year old Fuji went up on hooks in the garage and stayed there for years.  I finally decided to start riding again about 10 years ago.  I bought a new bicycle and off I went.  I haven’t stopped riding since.  I have ridden all over Virginia and Maryland.  There are hundreds of great places to ride and many I haven’t discovered yet.   Whether it is road cycling or mountain biking, it’s great for riding!

Why do I like bicycling so much?   Once you get over the sore butt and nether regions it is the most freeing activity I know. Much like swimming, it is a solo sport, but so much better.  life is betterYou see things that you never notice when you are in a car.  You smell things that you never smell when driving (and believe me sometimes you don’t want to smell).  It is not as hard as running, but just as beneficial.  It never feels too hot while riding, because there is always a breeze.  It’s so much better for the environment too.  Bike To Work Day has become a huge thing here in Virginia and D.C.  It shapes your legs and butt.  It saves money on gas, as it runs on fat, not fuel.  Life is just better on a bicycle.  So get out and ride – you will love it!

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We are Unstoppable!

Have you ever felt like just giving up?   Like all of your hard work at the gym is not paying off?  I sometimes go there, but then I tell myself to shake it off – I can do anything!   I am unstoppable!

I will be turning 60 years old this year.  I could just decide that I am too old to continue exercising, that my arthritis and my osteoporosis and other “old age” ailments are making it too painful to continue.old age   But instead, I have decided that I need exercise more than ever. I need to spend time every day at the gym to fight the diseases and discomforts of old age. I will not let them defeat me.   I am unstoppable!
In fact, I have decided to get my certification as a group fitness instructor.  I realize that there are many older adults that want to exercise, but can’t keep up the way we could when we were in our 30s.  So I want to help others to realize that we don’t need to give up. We just need to adjust our way of exercising and we need to keep at it.  We are unstoppable!

I have been exercising most of my adult life, and I do not suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, or many other ailments that I see my friends and family suffering.   Exercise cannot ward off all things, but it sure helps! I have an identical twin sister who does not exercise, and she does suffer from many of these things.  She has finally started a walking program and is reaping the benefits.  She is unstoppable now!

So do not feel down, do not give up.   You are unstoppable!   You can be anything you want to be.  You may not be a senior citizen, but you may have other reasons that you want to throw in the towel.  Do not do it.  Find a way to continue, to make it fun.  When you get to be a senior citizen, you will be glad that you stuck with it.    Let’s be unstoppable!

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5 Tips for Exercising in the Heat

This summer seems to be one of the hottest on record.  My area reached 100 degrees yesterday, with a heat index of 110.  If you live in a climate where this is the norm for the summer, it’s not big deal for you.  But here on the East Coast, this is unheard of. So is it safe to exercise outside in this heat and humidity?   It depends – if you are smart about it, it can be safe.  Following these 5 guidelines will help.

  1.  Avoid dehydration / heat stroke.
    Our muscles regulate heat by sweating.  But when we sweat we lose fluids. hydrate When you have been sweating and you weigh yourself after a workout, you should not have lost 1 to 2 pounds. If you have, you are not staying hydrated enough. This is the most important rule for exercising in the heat.  If the humidity also is high, it pushes your body temperature even higher because sweat doesn’t easily evaporate from your skin. Professionals recommend drinking 20 ounces of water two hours before exercise, at least 8 ounces of water shortly before getting out in the heat, and then a gulp every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise even if you are not thirsty.
  2. Get plenty of electrolytes and salt.
    In addition to water, your body  needs electrolytes and salt.  These are elements found in sports drinks such as Gatorade. electrolytesIf you are doing a short workout, this is not as important, but any long, sustained time spent outdoors and sweating requires replenishment of these.  My husband worked outside on road construction, and always drank plenty of water.  One day, in a rare heat wave, he only drank water and did not intake any salt.  That evening he began to vomit and passed out.  He was rushed to the emergency room with severe dehydration.  It can come upon you quickly and without warning, so make sure the electrolytes and salt are included in your fluid intake if outdoors for an extended period of time.
  3. Exercise in early am or late pm
    Avoid midday workouts (10am-3pm) when it is hottest. early exercise Unless you are training for an event that will take place in midday, and you need to acclimate to the heat, it is best to work out when the air is cooler and the sun’s rays are not as intense.  If you must work out in the middle of the day, be sure that there is plenty of shade along your route so you are not constantly in the sun’s glare.
  4. Wear light weight, light colored breathable clothing
    Light clothing will keep you cooler,clothes as dark colors absorb heat.  Loose fitting, breathable clothing helps the sweat evaporate.   Do not wear clingy clothes as they hold the heat in.  Also, make absolutely sure to use sunscreen on all exposed body parts.
  5. Don’t try something new
    If you have never done a certain exercise before, the hottest days are not the time to try something new.  If you have been walking, do not start running now.  Do keep up your walking, using common sense in the heat.   Understand that you may not be able to do the same amount of work that you are able to do in cooler weather.  If you cannot run the same 5 miles that you run during the spring, that is ok.  Do not over do it!

The Mayo Clinic lists the following signs and symptoms of heat related illness (heat cramps, dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, as well as actions to take if affected by the heat:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sweating extensively
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Visual problems

“If you develop any of these symptoms, you must lower your body temperature and get hydrated. Stop exercising immediately and get out of the heat. If possible, have someone stay with you who can help monitor your condition.

Remove extra clothing or sports equipment. If possible, fan your body or wet down your body with cool water. You may place cool, wet towels or ice packs on your neck, forehead and under your arms, spray yourself with water from a hose or shower, or sit in a tub filled with cold water. Drink fluids — water or a sports drink.

If you don’t feel better within 30 minutes, contact your doctor. If you have signs of heatstroke, seek immediate medical help.”

So go ahead and exercise in the heat, but take it easy and follow the guidelines.  Most importantly, if you feel off, STOP!  Stop.jpg

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Carefree Days at the Beach


I just returned from a week at the beach.  When I am on vacation, it is really hard for me to stay on an exercise program. I stay up late, I eat and drink too much, and I am feeling carefree and lazy.  I always promise I will rise with the sun and go for a run, or that I will swim in the hotel indoor pool, or do some other cardio activity.  But when the sun comes up, I am sitting on the hotel balcony drinking coffee and watching the waves roll in.  Seriously, I’m on vacation – who stays healthy on vacation?

Then in retrospect, I realize that I did exercise, and I exercised a lot more than I gave myself credit for.  Every morning, after coffee, we went for a walk on the beach.beach pic1  (You can tell its early morning because the beach is virtually empty.)  Just walking in the sand is an excellent way to tone your legs, especially the calves.  And we walked several miles without even feeling it. We bent over often to pick up shells, getting some ab work in.  (We also picked up trash along the way – amazing how much trash goes into the ocean everyday!) In the afternoon, when we went into the water to cool off, the resistance from fighting / jumping the waves is an excellent workout for the legs and the core.  Just lugging the umbrella, towels, cooler, chairs, suntan lotion, etc. from the hotel to the beach is a workout. So is hopping around to get out of the hot sand quickly.  Then another walk in the evening along the boardwalk to find a place for dinner. All in all, it is possible to do a lot of exercise and enjoy it without even realizing you are exercising.  So have a carefree vacation.  Don’t beat yourself up for not exercising – you may be doing more than you know!

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Exercise or Extra Fries?

I saw this T-shirt recently extra frieswhich I thought was funny at first, but given the rate of obesity in our country, it’s actually rather sad, but true.  There are more people who would rather have the extra fries than do any exercise.

I find this so hard to believe.  There are so many ways to get exercise which don’t involve joining a gym, or spending lots of money.  It can be done inside or out, and you don’t have to kill yourself doing it.  I can’t stand to be still all the time.  I want to tell everyone “Just move!”

Here are five tips which anyone can follow:

  1.  Find a park (  There are thousands of local parks, national parks, state parks- find one and go for a walk or a hike. parkThere are such health benefits to walking, it’s free and only requires a pair of walking shoes. An added benefit is getting to enjoy nature while you are walking – it almost won’t seem like exercise.  For more on the benefits of walking, see my previous post “Walking is Man’s Best Medicine”.


2.  Find a free fitness app.   They make apps for every conceivable type of exercise from yoga to running to tai chi to strength training. app  These apps are with you wherever you go, so you can do them anytime.  They can monitor your time, your heart rate, your distance, your speed, and lots more.  When you can set a goal and track your progress it gives you encouragement to keep going. Find an app for an exercise that is enjoyable to you and go for it!

3.  Join an exercise or fitness community on line.   Many of these communities offer challenges for fitness and / or nutrition.  communityYou can earn points, win awards, and get support from others in the community.   You can also just get information, tips and healthy recipes.  Most health related magazines have an on-line sight, and most offer some type of fitness community you can join for free.  Just Google “fitness community”  and you will see all of the choices so you can pick one that fits your needs.  It is really a boost to know  you are not doing it alone.

4. Join a gym.  Rates are usually much lower in the summer so negotiate a deal with a local gym and then commit to get in there at least 3 times a week.gym  The more you go, the more you will want to go because you will see and feel the results, which is a great motivator.  A good gym will have something for everyone, including weights, cardio equipment, and a variety of group exercise classes.  Mine even has a pool, which is a must for me.  Visit several gyms and choose one that makes you feel most comfortable.  If you feel intimidated, you won’t be inclined to go.  Just remember, everyone had to start somewhere, so don’t be shy about asking others for help.

5.  Perform body-weight exercises.  If you can’t afford a gym, or don’t want to make a long term commitment, work out at home or even in your office. bodyweight  These exercises are very beneficial – think squats, lunges, jumping jacks, crunches.   There are so many ways to do body weight exercises which can target every muscle in your body, all with no equipment.  Again, just Google “Body-weight exercises” and you will get thousands of choices for any muscle group that you want to attack.

Bottom line – get off the couch and do something.  Have fun with exercise.  Do not sit all day and stuff extra fries in your face.  It does take some effort, but the payoff of good health is so worth it! (And once in a while you can eat fries guilt free if you have earned it- but all in moderation!)

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Mythbusters: 5 Exercise Myths

There is so much written out on the internet about fitness, it’s hard to know what is true and what is not true.   I try to find scientific proof of every claim, but even the scientists don’t agree. So sometimes, we just go with what works best for us. Below are some common exercise myths that I have tried to debunk.   Disclaimer:   This is based on my own non-scientific personal experience, with some scientific backing. 

  1. Morning exercise is better than afternoon exercise:    I am a morning person. I am up early every day, even when I don’t have anything to do or anywhere to go. morning I regularly went to the gym at 5:00 am every single working day, for at least 10 years.  Now that I am retired, I still go to the gym early.  Some people need more time to wake up and get going.  If they are not morning people, a morning workout doesn’t make much sense. My husband is an afternoon exerciser.  He cannot even consider going to the gym before 4:00 pm.   So which is better?    There are benefits and drawbacks to both.   For me, the energy and adrenaline rush that I get from exercise give me energy for the entire day.  It wakes me up and keeps me going. I am in a much better mood after I exercise.  Testosterone levels also are higher in the morning, for all you males body builders out there.  If I exercise in the afternoon, I can’t wind down and go to sleep easily.  However, strength and flexibility increase as the day goes on.  Strength peaks in the evening.  Another argument for afternoon training is that you will already have two meals in your system, providing additional fuel for your workout.  In the end, you have to do whatever works best for you.  A lot depends on whether you are a morning person or a  night owl.  Here is an interesting study on the subject.
    Conclusion:  Plausible 
  2. More weight is better than more reps:  This is a sticky one. Low reps with heavier weight build muscle, thereby helping to increase metabolism and burn fat.Higher reps with lighter weight builds strength endurance and help tone and define. In reps1either case, you have to work the muscles to a fatigued state to get any effect.  In other words, if I can do 100 reps with a 3 lb. dumbbell, but my muscles are not fatigued, what have I gained?  A lot of boredom and not much else. I see women all the time in the gym doing bicep curls with 3 or 4 lb weights for 10 reps.  They are not gaining anything with this.  Ultimately, once your muscles have become accustomed to a certain weight or a certain number of reps, you need to increase either weight or reps. You need to work to failure of your muscles.  At some point, it is impractical to continue to increase the number of reps, so you will need to increase the weight.  The best bet, in my opinion, is to mix up your workout.  Do some days with lots of reps, and some days with lots of weights.  I prefer to do more reps with lighter weights because in the end, I am a lazy strength trainer and hate lifting heavy weights 😦
    Conclusion:  Plausible

  3. Strength Training is better than cardio for weight loss:  cardio Everyone knows cardio is good for weight loss.  It is also much better than strength training for heart health.  But as a weight loss aid, in fact strength training is better.   Cardio (running on a treadmill, for example) is effective if done for a long enough period of time, at a high enough intensity, over a long period of time. However, high intensity training, strength training, or lifting weights, increases your metabolism and fat-burning for up to 36 hours after a workout (known as the after burn).  So even when you get home and are being a couch potato, the fat loss continues.   Weight training allows you to build lean muscle mass, which serves as a constant calorie burner.  Cardio burns fat and reduces muscle mass, so that you are smaller overall.   Strength training is so important to your workout regimen, so even if you hate it, like I do, try to fit in at least 2-3 sessions a week to alternate with your cardio.
    Conclusion:  Confirmed

  4. Muscle weighs more than fat:  A pound is a pound is a pound.   A pound of muscle weighs exactly the same as a pound of fat.   However, muscle is much denser and therefore takes up less space than fat under the skin and between organs.  So you will look leaner, with increased muscle mass. fat-vs-muscleWouldn’t you rather have a pound of lean, smooth muscle under your skin instead of a pound of gelatinous, bulky fat?    I know I would.  Of course, lean muscle mass may weigh more as a cubic inch of muscle weighs more than a cubic inch of fat.  So as the volume of muscle mass increases, there may be a weight gain, but it is not because muscle is heavier. The truth in the end can be seen in how your clothes fit, how many inches you lose, and how good you feel!
    Conclusion:  Busted

  5.  Chocolate milk is a better recover drink than a protein shake:   This one is easy.  Hands down chocolate milk wins.   Who doesn’t love chocolate milk?  chocolate milkAnd who really likes those chalky protein shakes that remind me of barium (what, you’ve never had a barium shake?  You don’t know what you are missing!  Count yourself very, very lucky!)  There have been some studies done showing that chocolate milk is the best recovery drink.  It does not have nearly the protein that a whey protein shake has, but unless you are a super athlete, the chocolate milk provides all the nutrients needed for a good recovery. If you want to read the gory details, click here.  But for me, chocolate milk it is!
    Conclusion:  Busted! (IMHO)

There are thousands of articles on the internet that agree or disagree with the above. These are observances that I have noticed in myself during my training life of fitness.  I hope that you will find whatever works for you and get healthy!

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