Benchmarking Your Fitness Level

You never know where you are going if you did not benchmark where you started and know where you are today. Therefore it is  critical to make sure that you know where you stand today so that you can make plans for tomorrow.

There is truth in those statements but it is important for you to make sure that you are following certain numbers, and not just weight on the scale, but I have run into a couple of people over the last few days that are not sure if they are moving forward or not.

One Benchmark you can use is BMI

One girl that I know says that her stays in a five pound range and she started working out a couple weeks ago and says she is at the high end of her five pound range.

The other person was watching the X-Weighted TV show and wanted to know how they exactly did the testing at the beginning of the show.

So here is a few things to look at today that will help you in benchmarking your fitness goals.

Most people trying to change their habits and get in better shape have a few things that they care about, Weight, food intake, strength, flexibility, and fitness stamina.

So when you start or even starting today you need to start a diary or journal where you can do weekly updates of a few things to know where you are today and tomorrow.

Weight Gain and Weight Loss

Easy enough here, you should weigh yourself once a week and see where you are at. This to me is only one thing that you should take into account when measuring your fitness.

Of course weight will change over time sometimes muscle will go up or down and sometimes fat levels will go up or down. So the important thing to consider with your weight is that when it changes you need to relate that to your food intake and types of exercise you are doing.

Food Intake – How Much, How Often, And What Kinds Of Food

Food journaling is something that every big diet from the Zone Diet, Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers all have you do. It is important to know from one day to the next what you are eating and why. If you track your food intake then you can tell where your weaknesses are and always able to look back to see what you were doing bad and well in the past.

The best things to look at are the macro nutrients. Checking how much protein, carbohydrates, fats you are taking in and how they will relate to each other. How often you are eating and when during the day that you are eating are also very important benchmarks for now as well as for the future. This is best done on a daily basis and an app like MyFitnessPal is a great way to get started with this.

Strength – How Much Can You Lift, Push, Or Pull

Strength is a very easy to measure stat. Find a range of exercises that you can do. You can do the easy things like number of squats, crunches, push ups or calf raises.

If you have weights available to you then you have a huge range, you can do bench presses, bicep curls, tricep extensions, as well as many other weight bearing exercises.

There are two ways to track. The number of reps that you can do at a certain weight, or the amount of you can do for 10 reps. To me there is no difference in these two types of benchmarking and you can do one or the other or mix them up. If you are working out on a regular basis then your strength and muscle mass will increase. This affects your weight as well.

Flexibility – Improving How You Move Through Life

Flexibility is one of those things that no one seems to care about but is incredibly important to your overall fitness and your lifestyle.

Having flexibility is hard to test at times so this one is single reps and seeing where you are.

Some examples of flexibility are stretching your calves down and see how far down you can stretch your calves, also stretching over to one side and the other at your hips and in front to see how far down you can reach to touch your toes. If you do not do much exercise and then jump right into it your muscles will become sore and for a short period of time your flexibility will suck, don’t worry, your flexibility will get a lot better over time

Fitness Stamina – Moving Faster While Keeping Your Breath

Fitness stamina is another easy to track set of exercises. How fast can you go a mile, running or walking? How long can you stand on one leg? if you are in the top of a pushup how long can you stay up? How many miles can you bike in an hour?

You have to start tracking the changes in your life if you have not already started doing so. Wouldn’t you love to know in a month or a year or 5 years how much better your stamina has become?

You do also have bad days as well as good days and on those bad days you need to be able to look back and see that you are doing great and pick yourself up again.

So today, tonight, or even tomorrow make sure that you have done some of these tests for the first time so that you can have a starting point. Once you do all of these tests a few times over the next few weeks and months you will have discovered what a great tool that benchmarking your fitness level is  for seeing progress in your health lifestyle.

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Change Your Life With A Bunch Of Little Questions

If you want to make changes in your life you need to look at two places, where you are today and where you want to be in the future. The trouble with these two questions is that they are far too wide ranging, are these really fair questions or is there an easy way to break them down.

I have asked this question of myself many times because it seems that some people make great strides in changing their life and some people seem to be stuck in a rut for years at a time.

I myself have occasionally made big changes but my life but just like most people these changes are a bit more random than I would like.

So what is the secret to making changes in your life that are lasting and are what you really want? What do you really want?

Well a little while ago it dawned on me, the real secret is to make the small decisions in all parts of your life and then incorporate those changes.

What Do You Want In The Future?

Look through your day and see what you want to get out of it. Go through your weekend and see what you want to get out of it. Go through your workday and see what you want to get out of it.

Take a look at your life in general today. How does it look? What are you happy with? What are you disappointed about. Take a day and write these things down (You didn’t think nirvana was a 10 minute process did you?).

Let’s say that you now have a broad idea of what you would like to keep and what you would like to change in your life. This is a very broad list so do not get hung up on it. The list is a general direction that we can look at and then apply then next step to try to put our life into alignment.

A Lot Of Little Questions

The next process is 100 questions or so that you need to ask yourself in a deliberate manner from the moment you wake up in the morning until the moment you go to sleep at night. Some of these questions you ask too often and some of these questions you never ask yourself.

This is the stuff of your life and once you question it you can make 100 little changes and your life will never be the same

Here Is The Question List

Morning

  • What time did you get up?
  • Should you get up earlier or later?
  • When you woke up what did you think, and I mean the very first though? Positive or negative?
  • What did you do next? Shower? Eat? Exercise?
  • What do you want to do?
  • Get in shape?
  • Sleep more?
  • Organize before work?
  • How long is the time that you take to get from bed to leaving for work?
  • Would you like some relaxing time?
  • Do you get too much relaxing time?
  • Do you eat at home?
  • Do you read the paper?
  • Watch TV?
  • Listen to the radio?

Going to work

  • After leaving for work do you stop to eat?
  • Do you go to a restaurant for breakfast?
  • Do you have enough time to get to work?
  • How do you get to work?
  • Do you take a bus?
  • Do you drive?
  • Do you walk?
  • Do you carpool?
  • Do you go to the home office/ desk and work?
  • Once you get to work do you plan your morning?
  • Surf the net?
  • Have a meltdown because everything hits you at once?
  • Look at email?
  • When you get into work do you eat breakfast?
  • Do you drink coffee?
  • Do you have a donut or Danish?

The Workday

  • As you go through your day at work do you get hit with tasks or do you create your schedule?
  • Do you go to meetings or set meetings?
  • Do you allocate your time or do you just get hit with whatever is someones bad planning?
  • Lunchtime hits, do you go out for lunch?
  • Did you bring lunch?
  • What kind of food do you eat?
  • Do you have lunch at your desk?
  • Lunch with others?
  • How long is lunch, 30 minutes? An hour? 2 hours?

After Work

  • After you get off work do you go straight home?
  • Out for drinks?
  • Out to a park?
  • Out for dinner?
  • Stay at the office until you are too tired to work?

Evening Schedule

  • In the evening do you stay home to watch TV?
  • Do you go out to the bar?
  • Do you go to a hockey or baseball game?
  • Do you rent a movie?
  • Do you have friends over?
  • Do you go over to other peoples homes to visit?
  • Do you go to a gym or fitness center?
  • At night do you read a book?
  • Watch TV some more?
  • Fall asleep watching the tube in bed?

Sleep and rest

  • Now that the day is over do you sleep 6 hours, 8 hours, 10 hours?
  • Do you get enough sleep?
  • Do you pack the sleep in on the weekends and sacrifice weekday sleep?

Was that a lot of questions or what? Actually that is only about 63 questions so you could ask a lot more if you would like. Now in answering all of those questions do you think that you have a better method of changing than just using an affirmation of  “I want to lose ” or thinking about exercising? This method should really give you a better set of ways in which change can be made

Time Is On Your Side

I think that realistically we all have about 16 hours of time between the time we wake up and the time that we go to sleep and even if you go to work for 8 or 10 hours a day this still leaves a lot of time that we have a lot of control over. These are just all of the questions for a weekday. You can probably do the same for the weekends, or planning vacations, or changing jobs to something that you want to do more.

The essential thing is that if you are not happy with the answer to anything in your life then ask yourself more and smaller one or all of the questions what do you do about it? You have the opportunity to change any part of your life and just by asking a lot of small questions you will make those big changes that you want to make but do not know how.

I am sure that this process is the easiest way towards change. If you want to lose ask all those eating questions and exercise questions and research a good answer. If you are single and want to change that ask all the questions of the things that you do yourself and get others involved in them. If you want to take more control of your life ask all of those questions for work and home that you let others dictate and answer them the way that you want.

The real key to all this is to go to those first few questions that I said to ask about your life and what you want. The really broad questions are a direction and get hints from all of these little questions as to what you do next to make that big thing happen.

After 40 years of living a happy as well as unhappy life I wish someone had told me to ask as many of these small questions as I have laid out here. I hope that all these little things do in fact change you life into the type of life that you are looking for.

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Echinacea for Anxiety?

I received an email a little while ago on the power of Echinacea for Anxiety. I did not know this before but we have all heard in the past that Echinacea taken just as you are getting a cold can cut the amount of time that the cold lasts.

A new breakthrough in treatment for anxiety comes from a surprising place. One of the best-known herbal remedies in the world is Echinacea, widely-known for support of the immune system.

Recent clinical studies by scientists at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences found that anxiety relieving compounds from a unique strain, Echinacea angustifolia, can significantly reduce feelings of anxiety and tension with no side effects.

Echinacea Research

echinacea flower

echinacea flower

The scientists report that Echinacea angustifolia root contains substances that bind to specific brain receptors that signal our bodies to reduce anxiety and restore calm. Dosage levels have been found to be very important. At high levels (hundreds of milligrams), echinacea acts as an immune stimulant.

However, anxiety relief only occurs at low doses. Typically, no more than 20 mg at a time is necessary for significant stress, tension and anxiety relief.

An extract of this special echinacea was tested in human volunteers experiencing increased anxiety and tension. After only one day of use, the participants experienced a significant reduction on the anxiety measurement scale, which increased to a 25% reduction by day 7.

The participants did not have issues with drowsiness or confusion, and there was no interference with their daytime activities.

In another scientific study, echinacea extracts were compared to the prescription anti-anxiety drug, chlordiazepoxide (Librium). Echinacea angustifolia extract reduced anxiety comparable to the prescription drug.

It was found to not only meet or exceed the drug anti-anxiety effects, but did not cause drowsiness, a common side effect of prescription drugs for anxiety. So perhaps it is time to try using echinacea flowers for anxiety.

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How Meditation Helps to Reduce Stress

Whenever you have just 10 minutes of free time, you can lower your level of anxiety, reduce stress and enjoy a much more relaxed state of being.

That is all the time that is needed for the Relaxation Response meditation technique to calm you down, and it also improves your cardiovascular health.

Created by Harvard physician and bestselling author Doctor Herbert Benson in the 1970’s in the United States, the Relaxation Response delivers the exact opposite physical reaction to your natural “fight or flight” response.

When your mind perceives some type of stress or threat, you receive an adrenaline rush, your blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate increase rapidly, as does blood flow to your muscles.

How To Do The Relaxation Response Meditation

meditationThe Relaxation Response meditation method helps to reduce stress by slowing down your breathing, blood pressure, metabolism and pulse rate.

  1. You sit quietly with your eyes closed in a quiet environment for 10 to 20 minutes.
  2. Visualize your muscles relaxing, beginning at your feet and moving up through the top of your head.
  3. You silently repeat a word or phrase, or have a particular sound repeated, that triggers a relaxing response in your body.

By continually training your mind to deliver this sense of calm and peacefulness when a particular word is repeated, you can easily access this stress-relieving tactic anytime and anywhere.

Develop a phrase or word which has special meaning to you, or one that sounds relaxing, such as “peace” or “restful”.

This works because your brain switches conscious efforts to unconscious habit after several repetitions.

Your mind is an amazing machine, and when it notices a certain behavior accompanied by a particular response happening on a regular basis, it does not spend any time thinking about possibly delivering a different response.

Your mind automatically and unconsciously does what it has been taught to do.

When you are first training yourself to benefit from meditation and the Relaxation Response, understand that this takes time. It takes multiple repetitions before this becomes an automatic behavior.

You should also wait at least 2 hours after eating a meal before trying this process, as your digestive system can interfere with your success.

Do not set an alarm. The harsh sound of an alarm bell could undo all of the stress-relieving, anxiety-cleansing benefits you are enjoying.

It is acceptable to open your eyes and check a clock to see how long you have been meditating. Practice twice a day for 3 to 4 weeks and you will find it easier and easier to drain the stress and anxiousness out of your hectic lifestyle.

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Medium Chain Triglycerides for Weight Loss

Medium-chain triglycerides (also called MCT) are a kind of fat that has been shown is a few studies to help with loss through the burning of more calories and the way that they are able to burn calories more efficiently.

I was reading an article by Silicon Valley investor Dave Asprey where he talked about the rejuvenation he felt from drinking Yak butter tea after a really tough session of mountain climbing.

medium chain triglyceridesNow, I have never had Yak butter tea but I have been looking into the biological effects of medium-chain triglycerides, so the first thing to understand is the difference between short chain, medium chain, and long chain triglycerides.

Dietary fats are made up of three fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone. These fatty acids consist of chains of carbon and hydrogen.

The way that we designate the difference between short, medium and long chain triglycerides is by the number of carbon atoms that makes this fat cell longer or shorter.

You can have as few as one and as many as 18 carbon atoms (sorry for the crazy cellular biology) 🙂

Here are the three types of Triglycerides

Short-chain Triglycerides – Milk products are the biggest form that we think of when we think of short term triglycerides. These milk products are digested in the stomach.

Medium-chain Triglycerides – Most of the most exciting dietary fats are medium chain Triglycerides, these include Coconut oil, butter, and palm kernel oil,

Long-chain Triglycerides – Most fats and oils in our diet are long-chain Triglycerides and these are broken down in your intestines and need bile to be broken down

Why Take MCTs?

There are a few reasons why MCTs are good and lots of diets and research are showing that it is super good no matter that it is fat and has been demonized for so long.

A growing body of evidence indicates that Alzheimer’s disease (AD), its precursor, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and other conditions that interfere with cognitive function, can be added to the list of “diseases of civilization” that largely result from diets and lifestyles…via Medium-Chain Triglycerides: Offering Up Brain-Boosting Ketones …

Also there is a lot of fat loss reasearch going on

The saturated fat found in coconut oil is a particular type of fat known as MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides). MCTs are metabolized in the body differently from other saturated fats. …via Coconut Oil for Weight Loss? | Jonny Bowden

 

Where can you get These MCTs

MCT rich foods are of course Coconut oil, palm kernel oil (not palm oil), Full fat milk (cow, goat, or sheep), and Ghee

  • One cup of whole milk has 0.55 gram of MCTs
  • 1 tablespoon of palm kernel oil 7.4 grams of MCTs
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil 7.9 grams of MCTs

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Antioxidants in Fruits an Nuts

We are all looking for more antioxidants to add to our diet. In case you are not aware the role of antioxidants in your diet is to make antioxidants are substances that are capable of counteracting the damaging, but normal, effects of the physiological process of oxidation in animal tissue.

Antioxidants are nutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as enzymes (proteins in your body that assist in chemical reactions). They are believed to play a role in preventing the development of chronic diseases.

Antioxidants in Fruits an Nuts

Antioxidants are nutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as enzymes (proteins in your body that assist in chemical reactions). They are believed to play a role in preventing the development of chronic diseases.

Oxidative stress

Oxidative stress occurs when the production of harmful molecules called free radicals is beyond the protective capability of the antioxidant defenses. Free radicals are chemically active atoms or molecular fragments that have a charge due to an excess or deficient number of electrons.

Examples of free radicals are the superoxide anion, hydroxyl radical, transition metals such as iron and copper, nitric acid, and ozone.

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Is a Measuring Tape Better Than A Scale?

The need to lose is something that many of us have. The truth is, however, that we should be seeking to lose fat specifically. Muscle is fine, but from fat is not.

The problem is that it can be hard to measure your progress when you’re making effort to lose weight. This is especially true if you work out regularly as part of your loss process.

If you incorporate strength training three to four times a week, you may gain muscle, which will add to your . This is not a gain in fat, but in muscle.

The Problem With Scales

scalesIf you use a scale to measure your progress, you can never tell the difference if the you lost or gained is water , fat, or muscle.

This is why a measuring tape is more appropriate to track your loss progress. By using a measuring tape, you can see if you are losing inches off your body.

When you lose inches, chances are you are losing fat. And ultimately, that’s the whole point of losing weight.

Does this mean that you should throw away your scales and rely completely on a measuring tape?

Not necessarily.

Use both to measure how far you’ve come with your loss efforts. Use the number of the scale to see if you are heading in the right direction, and reconfirm whether it is fat that you are losing with a measuring tape. This way, you get a way better picture of how things are with your loss.

Weight varies from day to day, but fat loss is less variable.

Go Beyond The Measurements

Besides the scale and the measuring tape, what else can you use to measure your loss? Well, you can judge by whether your clothes are becoming looser, and whether you feel lighter and fitter.

These may be more subjective, but sometimes all you need to confirm that you are losing is the fact that you can fit into your old jeans.

Many people also report feeling more energetic, and generally happier and more confident in themselves.

So, even if the scale shows slow progress, don’t discount this kind of evidence when it comes to motivating yourself by knowing that your efforts are paying off!

If you want the most accurate measurements possible then there are more ways to measure body fat – calipers, for example. Just know that, by tracking your progress every day or every week, you’ll help keep yourself motivated to continue.

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10 Healthy Eating Tips

My Favorite Oatmeal Breakfast

I love my morning oatmeal. I always know that I have something special in the morning but oveer the last few days my oatmeal seems to be even better.

I was apparently taking my breakfast for granted.

I used to eat Nutella on a raisin and cinnamon bagel but after a while I got tired of it and switched to apple flavored oatmeal. I realized that I really did like the taste of oatmeal and it wasn’t just that it was good for me.

Getting Started With Oatmeal Again

I started getting a bit more serious a couple years ago about my breakfast and realized that the flavoring in the oatmeal was really not much more than apple flavored sugar(how the heck do they make flavorings anyway). So I decided to find some better stuff to put in plain oatmeal.

I started with just oatmeal – no sugar even

Then I added some berries. Blueberries initially, then dried cranberries (much easier to travel with)

Then the seeds. I love pumpkin seeds, and I know that other seeds would add lots of nutrients and healthy fats.

And finally, just a few months ago when making my home made granola bars I realized that coconut flakes would be really great as well.

So here is a picture of my favorite Oatmeal. This is my great breakfast meal

Special Favorite Oatmeal

Looks pretty full of stuff doesn’t it? I have to admit that I was a little surprised but not too worried about how high the calories are in this. It tastes really good, is super healthy for you, and is quite filling.

Here is the Nutritional Breakdown for my Special Oatmeal

Ingredients Calories Carbs Fat Protein Sodium Sugar
Oatmeal (Dry), 60 g 225 41 5 8 0 2
Raw – Pumpkin Seeds, 2 Tbsp 82 3 7 4 0 0
Sunflower Seeds – Raw, 1 fluid ounce 102 4 9 4 2 0
Chia Seed, 1 tbsp 60 5 3 3 0 0
Kroger – Unsweetened Coconut Flakes, 10 grams 70 3 6 0 0 0
Light Brown Sugar – Kroger, 1 tsp (4g) 15 4 0 0 0 12
Dried cranberries – Dried Cranberries, 0.19 cup 98 25 0 0 8 21
Total: 652 Calories 85 grams carbs 30 grams fat 19 grams protein 10 grams sodium 35 grams sugar

This really is a substantial breakfast but it is a really great one with lot so nutrients and great flavor.

How Did I Take This For Granted?

Oh, and earlier when I mentioned that I was taking this for granted? I always make this as a big bag of oatmeal. I make a week or two worth at once and then just pour it out of the bag each day for a serving. Friday things changed a bit.

On Friday I had run out and decided to have something different – a sausage and egg bagel form McDonalds. The taste was great but the fat really slowed me down and it still did not energize me as much as the oatmeal.

Then over the weekend I was eating bagels with natural peanut butter – again tasted good, again not satisfying and did not fuel me like I am used to on a daily basis.

So try this out. Go to the local bulk section and get some seeds and add mix up a bowl of hot oatmeal. I always use water never milk – but try hot milk if you would like, see what you think.

If you try this for a few days you will find it is the best breakfast and you will never want to go back to boring cereal or donuts again.

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