Monday, August 17, 2015

NYC Triathlon #4-The Race

I posted my first and only blog just before the race to let you know you know that I , in fact ,was racing this year.  I had so many people asking me if I was racing.  I claimed in my blog that I was not nervous and that this whole triathlon thing was like putting on a pair of shoes.  That is true and it’s not.
In the week before the race, I had a major light bulb moment. As an age grouper, we are not allowed to dive into the Hudson River. Diving would bring immediate disqualification. Age groupers are only allowed to jump in. This brings about an interesting turn. Once you jump in you can’t see.   My first year running I met some park guys that told me you can actually touch bottom in the area where we race. It was comforting to know that I could touch if I needed to touch. Knowing there is no way to practice swimming in the Hudson, the least I could do was practice jumping into the water. 
The week before the swim, I fixed myself at the deep end of the pool and simulated jumping off the barge into the water.   It  turns out it is just as difficult to see in pool water as it is in Hudson River water.  
For the last three swims of the week, I practiced jumping in and breast -stroking away from the barge.  It may have been a late discovery, but it helped.
The goal for the rest of the week was: don't get hurt.
Success!  By the time Saturday night rolled around, I was uninjured. There is always a small part of me that wished I would be injured so I wouldn't have to race. But in reality I would be broken hearted if that were truly the case.  Race day nerves start on & off for at least two weeks before. The night before I felt relatively calm. The hope was that I had been through this enough that I would get a good night sleep.  So that didn't happen.  Bed at 9 up at 3 and really no deep sleep, just always right there at the surface.  Experience has allowed us (The Husband & I) some insights. Tri-tats go on the night before, no breakfast gets eaten not even choked down and inevitably something will happen during the race, whether it be nerves, splinters, blisters or something forgotten.
We also like to think we are pretty smart people and have micro plans throughout the day mostly about logistics around the race. The plan: he drops me off at transition and parks the car,  we meet at transition for the walk back up to the start.  Plan executed. I practice my transition setup so often that it take me 5 min to set up in T1 on race morning. I always think there is something wrong or that I forgot something because to me  everyone else seems to take forever inside transition. We head up to the start. Along the way we meet a woman, her first tri, who forgot her timing chip. I give her the DL on the course and wished her luck.  
Once at the starting point, I hit the porta-potties.  4,000 people racing. What are the odds that I get a porta-potty that has not been used yet?  Apparently pretty good, it happened 3 times. My race nerves come out in pee, so I got three new ones but after that, my luck ran out. Trust me I didn't just pee three times, it was more like 30. 
I had at least an hour to hang out.  Transition closes at 5:15 am. At first, the start area was quiet and I figured I was going to be on my feet for the next couple of hours. I should sit.  So we sat in the grass and watched the start area fill up once transition closed.  The first year I ran this race, waiting in the start area was so intimidating. I watched everyone lube up (I had no idea why at the time), saw people storing their goggles & swim caps on their person and walked around like they knew where they were going. What a difference a little experience makes. Soon enough people were sitting in the grass all around us.  I was surprised. I never saw people sit before. It was interesting that we were trend-setting and comfortable enough with the race to be able to sit.
At 5:40, it was time to move.  Racers are supposed to be in their start corral by 6:00 am.  The process of putting on a full triathlon wetsuit in high humidity is a workout all by itself and should take a solid 5 min.   Lube the ankles, most definitely the shoulders & neck (learned that the hard way) and wrists (also the hard way). I get my wetsuit half on and make my way into the start corral. The energy in the start corral always gets me going.  I always feel bad for The Husband at this point. He, who has stuck by me and sacrificed his weekend, usually starts getting ignored at this point. A) He is not allowed in the coral and B) it’s time to race.  
Waiting to move up, we watch the pro and elites.  They are impressive.  I wonder out loud how can they move their arms so fasten. Collins finished the 1.5K swim in 12:01. I am sure he is disappointed. Last year he finished in 11:03.
While we were waiting, I met Liz.  This was Liz's first triathlon. She was nervous and it showed.  I verbally walked her through the course telling what to expect along the way:  fast swim, if you get tired, float. A hilly ride, mostly shady until you head back with 3 brutal hills and a hot hilly run with the two worst hills coming at the half way point. Did I mention the blistering heat? That comes at the end part of the run. 
I kept Liz by my side as long as I could. We sat on the barge together. I wished her luck and the whistle blew and into the Hudson River we went.
This year, I swam. I mean I really swam. There was no moment of panic, no “oh my God, what am I doing here” or “what was I thinking”.  The only thoughts I had were “Damn it! Why am I always at the left end of the barge?” A much better thought and one of confidence.  
Out of the water (for a lovely 800 meter barefoot jog) to T1. Onto the bike and off we go.  My plan is to wait for 8 minutes out to start consuming calories. I usually use Gu and this day is no different.  Gu tends to be very sweet so I need water to wash it down.  I grab my water from the back of the bike and for some reason instead of putting back in the back I move it to the front water cage.  I have a second bottle in the back racks holding Nuun ,an electrolyte replacement. I find I don't need it until I am about mile 13.  
I reach behind and grab the water bottle fille with Nuun but there is none left in the bottle.  I can also see a burn hole in the bottle itself.  I have no idea how this could happen. The bottle is useless but I put it back in the rack. I am not happy that I don't have any extra fluids for what is supposed to be the hottest day of the year so far.  Within minutes, I hear metal crash behind me.  My first thought was a crash. Turns out it was my dual water cages now on the West Side Highway.  I certainly was not going back for them it would have been too dangerous to pull over and try to grab them out of the middle of the course with hundreds of people on bikes moving anywhere from 12- 30 MPH. I said good-bye to the holders.  

Did you know that New York City is laden with hills?  My hamstrings can tell you all about it.  I finished the ride without further incident and thought about how fortunate I was that I left the one water bottle in front. As I pull into T2 my hamstrings are tight. Really tight.  Before I head out for the run, I try to stretch them. They are tight enough that I cannot even bend over to get my shoes on. shit shit shit. I can't DNF. I squat and get them on and start limping to the run out. The first bit of the run is a steep hill out of Riverside Park. I can't run it. I walk it with my hand in between my legs trying to massage out my hamstrings and continue to make forward progress.  The race photographers have beautiful shots of this by the way. 
I hit 72nd Street and I get a blast of heat. Ugh. The race volunteers are trying to keep us inside the cones but that is where the sun is. No one that I can see is listening to them as we all need shade. At 9:30 am it was already 90 degrees. The first mile for me was ugly with a capital U. 
I was moving at a 14 min mile due to the heat and the hamstring. When I hit mile 1.5, I got a shower from the spray guns, a bit of water to drink at the aid station and I continue on. The whole race was a late start, instead of starting at 5:50 I believe the pros went off at 5:55 or 6:00am so by the time we all hit central park it was completely covered in sun. The second half of my run was no better than the first half. I was moving faster just not by much.  By mile 4, I had dumped so much water over my head and down my back my shoes were squishy.  The last water station went by and I knew I could make it.  And I did. Hot, broken, and tired.  
I found out later the heat was too much for people. They shortened the course for those who started later. Apparently if you were not at the 1.2 mile marker by the time the announcement went out you were directed to the finish. I love the people who organize this event! It was the right thing to do even if it did disappoint some of the participants.  
The Husband and I met up and grabbed some food before heading to our respective errands. Me picking up the bike (which only I can do, their rules not mine) and him picking up the dog before heading home to pack up for vacation and do a little celebrating.  
I love this day and I hate this day. I love the planning and the prep and finishing. I hate the nerves on race morning. If it were not for them...
On Tuesday morning after the race, I received an email from NYC Triathlon. Liz, the lady I stayed with during the start corral sent me an email through NYC Triathlon, thanking me for waiting with her to jump in the water. She said the waiting to jump was a daunting experience and my kindness helped her get through it.
The email made me cry. It is awesome that I was able to share my experience with her to make her day better and successful! 

Until next year...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Triathlon Training. Race #4

And so it begins which is how I started this blog entry on April 9th.

In reality, my training started March 22 and only got around to starting a blog entry three weeks later. Here we are 12 weeks after that and I am just getting back to finishing that blog entry.

I did not realize how many people have read my Tri training blog. Over the last few months I have received many inquiries on whether or not I was racing this year.  The answer is yes I am. As a matter of fact, the race, the New York City Triathlon, is this Sunday (July 19th). 

I thought that maybe I would not blog about my training this year.  I picked up a new client early on in my training who likes to train at 5:00 am. When I say early on, I mean, kind of almost the day I started training. By the time we finish up in the morning and then get my own training in then head to teach my classes, well, there is  just not been enough time and training sessions got longer. I was more interested in napping than writing.

My original blog started 3 years ago. Is was to document my triathlon training and to share what it was like to train for a triathlon.  I have shared my experiences on potholes, arrogant bikers, rude swimmers and distracted runners. I have written about wind, rain, injury, exhaustion, tears, blood, triumph and personal revelations. Here we are again. This time, not the start but nearly at the end of a new training season. I am ready to do it all over again on Sunday.

The training season started off with a split start. I was scheduled to start training March 29th but I was also scheduled to be away at the ACSM summit that same week. I started biking and swimming the week before and ran while I was away in Phoenix. I was also simultaneously training for the More Magazine half marathon (April 19th). To say it was chaotic was an understatement in those first few weeks.

Once the half marathon passed, I became Tri focused.  Swimming, biking and running three times a week plus strength training. During my training this year, I realized how very different it felt this year and so very different than it was the onset 3 years ago. What was scary and new has become familiar.  What seemed impossible is now easier. Training that seemed so hard and long, has become routine. I spent a great deal of time in the gym strength training over the winter focused on becoming stronger and leaner.  I feel that has paid off tremendously.

Swimming that seemed almost impossible for me, has become easier.  Easy enough to the point where the dread of the 3000 yard swim is not fear that “I can't do it”, but how long it’s going to be and how “I wish it were just over with already”.  To make such long swims less boring, I found a waterproof shuffle.  SWIM CHANGING! not life changing, but boy oh boy did it help. 

The true pain and dread showed up around week 13 just as I was coming into peak training. The runs are long, the rides are far and the swims seem to last forever. By week 14, I asked The Husband to remind me to defer until next year, I needed a break.  Of course now that we are at taper week, and I feel good, ready to go and unlikely to defer until next year. 

Training this year has been completely different. Triathlon is not new anymore. It is just what I do. Don't get me wrong, my race day nerves will show up, some already have. I started panicking about two weeks ago. I will always be nervous before jumping into the water. I don't know anyone who doesn't have some kind of nerves on race day no matter what the race. 

The biggest difference is this year I am looking beyond the race into the week after. A serious vacation awaits and I will not be solely focused on the all-consuming triathlon.

See you in the Hudson!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Make a Plan

I have been working on this blog for nearly four weeks.

In the first draft, the tone was too angry. It was not much better for the second draft nor the third. Finally now, weeks later, I have found the proper tone.

It all started with a rash of cancellations from my personal training clients and my cleaning lady.
I love routine. And when my routine is interrupted, it drives me crazy. (My nickname is not Gumby). That’s not to say that I am not flexible, I am. I just prefer to stick to the plan.

The first week my cleaning lady cancelled, it was because it was too cold for her to be outside. It was well into the single digits and I understand that standing around waiting for a bus or a subway is not ideal. The same week, a client cancelled because she was sick. I get that too. Sick is sick. No one wants to jump around and push themselves when they are under the weather. A second client cancelled two days ahead of her scheduled appointment because she was tired. Seriously? Two days before and you are already too tired?! I know she just didn't want to train. To make my week complete, a third client cancelled because she had too many other things going on that week. Poor planning on her part.

Cancellations drive me batty. Mainly because it changes my week. (Have I mentioned how much I hate change?) I have a set schedule for my week. Because my week takes coordination, it is easier to have an idea of when/where I need to be and when. I learned my discipline from my mother early on (she consistently packs her lunch the night before and lays out her clothes) and then from my Sensei later on in life (instilling discipline, drives self-discipline). And let's not forget The Husband, the project manager. He plans for a living. When I come across people who fail to plan, well... I just don't get it.

Please allow me to help. This is not just fitness advice but perhaps a little life advice. Although it sounds rigid, having a plan is a good thing. If you have a plan, you can make time, plan alternatives and not rush. Things don't get forgotten. Planning and organizing actually gives you time to relax. It may sound forced but scheduling down time works.

If I know I have a client in midtown at noon on Friday, I am not going to book another in the Bronx at 1. I go so far as to sit down Saturday mornings and create a food plan for the week. So when I hit the grocery store, I have a list and no extras make it into my cart. I don't have to think about what I am going to eat during the week. Everything is laid out in front of me. Of course there are last minute invitation to lunch or dinner but, with a plan, 80% of the time I eat better. I shop at the same time more or less every week. I work out at the same time every day.

A plan does not have to be strict (I know the husband will disagree here [Editor’s note: I actually agree]) but at least a guideline for what your week/day/month look like.

Since I write about fitness, let's talk about planning your workouts. Start with your goals: weight loss; increase strength; improve endurance, etc. Define the time frame and be realistic. It takes at least three months before you will see results. With that done, how do we get there? Pull out your calendar. We already know you work. That pretty much eliminates Monday through Friday from 9-5 plus commute time. That leaves us with mornings, evenings and weekends. Is there a gym near your office? Could lunch time work for you? We have to explore all options.

Personally, I prefer morning workouts. You say “Laura, I have to be in the office at 8:00 am, and I have no time”. Let me ask what are your expectations of a morning workout? A morning workout can be 20 minutes and not an entire hour. Save the long workouts for the weekends.

Have heard of HIIT (High intensity interval training)? You can burn colossal calories in a short period of time. Without getting into specific protocols of the different types HIIT training, let me give you an example of one. Get on the treadmill. Start at your normal pace. Run for 3 minutes, at the top of the third minutes, turn up the pace. If you usually run at 5.5 or 6, take the pace up to 9/9.5/10 and sprint for 30 seconds. Recover for 30 seconds and then go back to your regular pace. During the course of 20 minutes, you will sprint 4 times and gain a great calorie burn. There are so many types of HIIT. You could do a lifting circuit in those same 20 minutes. With the right intensity, 20 minutes can feel like an hour.

If you want some help putting together a 20 minute morning routine whether it is for the gym or your living room, email me: You can use the same idea for a lunch time workout during the week. Save your long runs or cycling for the weekends.

Back to my point, get your workout on the calendar. Monday at 5:30 am. Wednesday 7:00 pm Friday 6:00am. Whatever works for you? It might be different every week, and that's ok. But you should treating this time to be as important to your day as any doctor appointment or work meeting.
You only get one body. You cannot trade it in and replacing the parts gets expensive. Preventative maintenance is easier and less expensive.

Clients complain all the time about not seeing results. It drives me crazy. I would like to shake them. Remember that appointment that you cancelled last week and the week before? Training consistently will actually get you the results you are looking to achieve. Working out once a week or once every other week makes your workouts more of a chore than enjoyable. It’s like starting over again every week. As you build stamina and strength, your workouts will get easier, then they become fun. Your body needs to be taxed in order for it to adapt to new stressors. You just need to do the workout.

There is no such thing as a perfect week. Life gets in the way, kids get sick, people call out cold & tired and bosses demand some crazy after-work meeting at the last minute. Knowing that, and having a plan will allow you to get other important things done, like taking care of yourself. If you don't take care of yourself by dedicating some time every week to your workout, you won't be able to take care of those kids or attend that meeting or cover for an employee that is tired & cold. Make the plan, it’s a start to a successful week. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Vegan, Vegetarian or Carnivore

I have been toying with the idea of going vegetarian for at least a year now. Over the weekend, I watched a documentary Forks over Knives, which got me thinking of potentially going vegan. I like to skip steps. Why walk when you can run?

I truly believe in the benefit of a plant-based diet and if I could save a few animals along the way...

The first reason I dismissed the idea is The Husband's ex-wife is a vegan. I could never be like her. I actually don't know her but who wants to be like your spouse's ex? They are ex's for a reason right?

The second reason I dismissed the idea because I thought of the things I would have to give up. Meat for one. Ice cream, honey, cheese. How can a person live without cheese? I love cheese. Doesn't everyone love cheese? What is better than a glass of Cabernet with a big ol’ stinky cheese? My mouth waters just thinking about.

I began writing this morning in hopes to work out my dilemma.

There are many types of vegetarians. Ones that eat eggs, ones that don't. Some that eat fish. Some that eat cheese. Others eat chicken and abstain from mammals. For some, the rule is don't eat anything with eyes or parents. It can all get to be a bit much. For the most part, I think we all know that vegetarians are people who don't eat meat.

Taking plant-based eating to the extreme are vegans. When I picture vegans, my mind sees a group of people in military fatigues standing with shotguns all of who are painfully thin. I know this is absolutely not true. Vegans, by definition, are vegetarians who omit ALL animal products from their diet.

When I picture carnivores, the picture isn't much different. I still see a group of people. They are just standing next to large slabs of meat hanging over a fire, sporting their 10 gallon hats. All of them are overweight but they too have shotguns (who says media has no influence). This too I know is not true.

Now that you see what I see, back to the dilemma.

The biggest problem with our meat today is that it is mass produced. Industrial animal factories. This is not a term that makes me comfortable. Our chickens, cows and pigs are bred to produce meat, the bigger and faster they grow, the more valuable. They are held in confined feedlots where they eat high protein grain-based feed and other unmentionables. This feed contains growth hormones and antibiotics. Once a cow gets to be 1400-1600 lbs., usually as a teenager, it is transported for slaughter. During the transportation process, the living conditions get worse. The animals are not used to being moved and often vomit and get diarrhea in the process. Not to mention they are deprived of food and water during the transport. I cannot describe to you what happens next as it is too upsetting. Needless to say, this is not the meat I want to eat. There is a week's worth to say about the antibiotics and hormones and the long term effects on us and our children.

Cows should eat grass.

On the flip side, we humans have been eating meat throughout evolution. Unprocessed meat is loaded with healthy fats and grass-fed animals contain up to 5 x's Omega 3 as corn fed animals. Meat contains high quality protein that is crucial for the function of muscles and bones. It is also delicious. If you choose to eat meat, look for grass fed, organic. You know the smaller farmer is also slaughtering his animals in a more humane way.

With that said, what are the benefit of going plant base? First, by eliminating processed meat from your diet you also eliminate saturated fat and cholesterol. The benefits of a plant-based diet range from nutrition:
·         Increasing fiber,
·         Reducing saturated fats
·         Adding phytochemicals
·         Vitamin C
·         Folate
·         Potassium

To disease prevention:
·         Cardiovascular disease
·         Type 2 diabetes
·         Colon cancer
·         Breast cancer
·         Macular degeneration
·         Arthritis and osteoporosis

And physical benefits:
·         Lower BMI
·         Weight loss
·         More energy
·         Healthy glowing skin
·         Less migraines

Again, on the flip side, there are people out there to claim to be vegan but don't know how to eat healthy. French fries (most likely cooked in animal fat) are not health food. Potato chips fall into this category too. The whole idea is to eat healthier (have you met the spiralizer yet? LOVE IT. Parnsaffles and zuchetti, yum!). At least that is my take on it. Not to forfeit food for a cause and be so militant in the lifestyle that you wind up alienating family & friends. Vegan cooking is less difficult with resources like Pinterest and Google with 1,000's of vegan and vegetarian recipes. Every day I search for vegan & vegetarian recipes and have made some wonderful discoveries.

Vegetarians on the other hand seem to be a bit more flexible. Cheese and eggs are allowed (if you are Octo-lacto). Wine is also allowed (thank goodness). Fish is allowed if you are pescatarian. It seems you can make up some rules for yourself instead of staunchly following vegan guidelines. I mean really, how to you sweeten tea if there is no honey in your life. I think I can fairly rule out veganism for me.

I think the best I have found so far is the flexitarian, mostly vegetarian but allows meat once in a while. The rule is you decide when and how you add meat to your diet.
I have found no hard and fast rules for flexitarians. Mark Bittman recently published a book: Vegan before 6. It’s worth a look.

In the end my dilemma is partially solved. Be mindful of everything you put in your body: choose organic meat, eat more plants, and choose what works for you and your lifestyle.

Monday, January 26, 2015

How Do I Get Through To You?

I now understand how frustrated my mother was with me. The wisdom that age and experience sees in the younger and less experienced is exasperating. I watch the people in my world sit, literally, and do nothing. If you think I am talking about you, you're right. I feel like a broken record. Sorry Mom.

How do I get through to you?

I could scare you, a tactic used by many. I would say everyone one of my managers in my former corporate life used this approach. If you don't exercise you will die! Not my style. 

I could nag you. Did you do it? Did you exercise today? Did you sign up for class? Did you register for that race? This is a little more my style (I prefer to call it tenacious). 

I could lie to you. It would be easy to convince you if that if you just used my contraption, device or drank my elixir you will be fit and trim. I could tell you it’s going to be easy.

I could shout from the rooftops. I would probably get arrested before you would hear me and I believe that sound travels up. Although the publicity Inspired! Personal Training would receive on the news might be worth it. Hmmmm... I could conceivably shout in the subway, however I might be mistaken for a pan handler despite the fact that I would smell much better (pre-workout).

I could let you figure it out for yourself. You would probably wind up back on the couch with a bag of chips.

Instead I write endlessly about the benefits of exercise and my adventures in triathlon in hopes that, somewhere down the line, something I say encourages you to try and try and try until you find the thing you like that you will do regularly. 

In all of my blogs, I use myself as an example. There is reason for that is 1) I know me so it’s easy and 2) I am a regular person. I grew up in a house with divorced parents, I was an average student, I did some cheerleading (quiet yourself now). I was not a jock nor did I have any special sports talent that made me a stand out in the fitness arena. I played soccer & took gymnastics in grade school (I was not as good as the girl I went to gymnastics with but I was good at soccer. 9 year old champs BTW), perhaps that is where my competitive streak started.

14 years ago, I started training in what was then called karate. It was hard. It was confusing. It challenged me and gave me an escape. I made friends. I trained with broken toes, sprained ankles, and a fractured wrist. It also fed into my competitiveness. In 2010, I tore my ACL & meniscus in a skiing accident (headed to lift I was). There was no martial arts training for 8 months. Let alone walking without pain. Forget stairs! I did my rehab and headed to the gym in a full leg brace and crutches. I was determined not to let an injury get the best of me. Looking back now to all the pain and rehab and dirty hair (no showers in a full leg brace), I am so happy to be in good shape today.

10 months afterwards, I went back to karate class. I was terrified. I was good before my injury. I was in the process of training to test for my second degree black belt. My first day back, everything was so hard. Despite what you may think, martial arts is total body. In order to throw a proper cross punch, or any punch, you need to twist your entire body, I couldn't twist anything, or so I thought. I was afraid to stretch. I was afraid to punch. I was just afraid. I cried. Not only did I cry because I was scared, I cried for what I once was able to do. 

I went back the next day and the day after that and the day after that. By November of 2011, I was running 5k's again. I saw something on that caught my attention, NYC Triathlon. I have always wanted to try one. I had heard of triathlon. I had heard of Ironman. I read the registration form. 10K run? I can do that (having run my first half marathon in 2008, I knew I could). 40K bike ride? I have done the 5 Boro bike tour, that is 40 miles. I know I can do that too. The swim? Hmm, I didn't actually know how. So I learned. I took the complimentary lesson at our local JCC. I swam every other day for 9 months.

At first, I could barely make the length of the pool. I would stop in the middle, take a breath and continue (there is a beginners lane, I was not disrupting anyone else’s swim.) I timed my breaks at each wall so I could get better. By sticking to it, I was able to do 1 (ONE) whole lap at the end of three (3) weeks. My confidence grew. Eventually I was able to swim 100 meters without stopping. (For details on how my first tri went back in 2012 check out my other blog.) 

Last year, I completed my third Olympic distance triathlon setting a new PR. It was not easy. Nothing worth doing is easy. In training, not every run is great. Not every swim goes smoothly (I have swallowed a pool's worth of water trying to figure how to do a flip turn on my own) and almost every bike ride includes its own drama (flat tires, flying water bottles, sunburn, tourists, cars, other cyclists). The sense of accomplishment at the finish line makes up for every blister, every ache, pain and tourist I have run into.

How do I get through to you?

I write endlessly about my trials and tribulations in hopes that something I do will inspire you to try your own adventure in fitness. 

I could scare you. If you don't exercise you will die! You won't die. You might feel like you are dying but it will pass.

I could nag you. Did you exercise today? Did you sign up for class? Did you register for the race? You will thank me later.

I could lie to you. But I won’t. It’s not easy. It sucks sometimes and always worth it in the end. 

I could shout from the rooftops. Instead I am choosing a more civilized approach. I wrote this!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Snake Oil

Happy New Year!

I love this time of year because it is a fresh start for everyone. I know I am not alone in saying au revoir to 2014 and don't let the door hit you in the a%# on way out.

People are excited to start their new diets/fitness regimes/ race planning for the upcoming year (maybe that is just me) the optimism is contagious.

There is plenty to do outside this time of year: skating, skiing, sledding, snowshoeing.... If you don' embrace the cold, the winter can and will be long and harsh. (Please don't post to me about cruising and tropical winter vacations.)  I have found that most people who complain about the weather are inappropriately dressed. Technology exists in clothing. Coats are lighter & warmer. Base layers are & technical and let's not forget hand & foot warmers. If you are dressed appropriately, outdoor activities will be fun.  There is nothing better than spending an hour or five (again, probably just me) outside in the cold only to come indoors to cuddle up by the fire and sip hot chocolate.  Hot showers feel like warm blankets and you get to cocoon into the sofa under your favorite blanket (try doing that in July). I have just discovered how much I love winter and what a wonderful Norman Rockwell visual I just verbally painted.

Although the gyms are packed, this is still a great time of year to go and try a new class at your local gym or studio.  Instructors are prepared and have written new classes to get you in and keep you interested. Good instructors will make it challenging enough but most important, fun.  If it is not fun you won't go back.

And then there is the dark side...the reason I find this time of year so unpleasant.


Something here probably caught your attention.  They all catch mine and make me want to change the channel.  Marketers are smart and good at their jobs.  This is why I hate this time of year. Marketers prey on the ready-to-change, willing-to-spend crowd and desperate for something to actually work.

All the diets that are out there work. Anytime you restrict calories you will lose weight.  Whether this is done on your own through an app like fitness pal or you join a weight watchers or Jenny Craig,  again, restricting calories and watching everything you consume will results in weight loss. Which is also why they fail.

The real key  is a matter of what is sustainable for your actual life.  There is trial and error to find out what works for you. Do you prefer to eat two large meals or six smaller meals, high carb, no carb or no gluten? In the end, if you can't do it every day and eat foods you like how you like them, you won't do it.

As a naysayer of "big" diet and "big" exercise, if I had to choose I would err on the side of diet.  Even though some of the diets are ridiculous, (cabbage soup anyone?)  I do believe that you can learn something from each and every one of them. Even if it is only that the food in Nutrisystem is disgusting and bacon is not diet food (Atkins anyone?). The exercise side of this equation is as vastly different as it is dangerous and absurd.  We are not even going near the topic of diet supplements like Lipozene, raspberry ketones or garcinia cambogia. On these we could probably write a book.
What do I mean by absurd?  The Flex Belt (one of the newest for me although they say they have been around for 15 years), the shake weight, thigh master, the hula chair, Tae Bo, body blade, and yes even BowFlex (I Desperately wanted one of these back in the 90's).  All promising to help you shave inches in the shortest time imaginable.  We can also include on this list 8 minute abs, leg magic X, slender tone. Let's not forget Richard Simmons with his sweating to the oldies and his deal-a- meal.  My point is we are all looking for the quick fix, the magic pill or a short cut. You know, a passive solution.

One of the most prominent this New Year’s commercial fitness saturation is The Flex Belt.  Snake Oil if I have ever seen it.

The commercial opens with Brian Wade, actor and fitness trainer. He is slim and he is trim.
The claim: wear this belt you will get 150 ab contractions in just 30 minutes. . The product is endorsed by Lisa Rinna, Denise Richards and Jill Wade, Brian's body-builder, fitness model wife. An A-list set if I ever saw one.

How it works: the belt contracts your muscles comfortably over the course of 30 minutes giving you the ab workouts you dread with no effort from you. This is an FDA approved device and 100% of the people who have worn it have strengthened their abs.

AND it is all TRUE.

Allow me to explain.  The Flex Belt works from EMS (electric muscles stimulation).  If you have ever been to the chiropractor or physical therapy you have probably have had those little sticky pads applied to your skin. They send and electric pulse. If you have ever have experienced this you know that if they turn it up too high, your muscles will contract hard. They spasm and it’s uncomfortable. This is what is happening when you put on the flex belt.  The electronic pulses mimic the action potential coming from the central nervous system. EMS has received increasing attention in the last few years, because it has the potential to serve as: 1) a strength training tool for healthy subjects and athletes: 2) a rehabilitation and preventive tool for partially or totally immobilized patients: 3) a testing tool for evaluating the neural and/or muscular function in vivo: 4) a post-exercise recovery tool for athletes (Wikipedia).

The FDA approved two types of OTC (over the counter) devices for home use and prescription devices mostly used in physical therapy. The OTC devices are marketable for muscle toning. There are actual medical uses for the device such as re-education of atrophied muscles and increasing blood circulation and relaxation of muscle spasms.

So yes, the Flex belt does do everything it claims. However picture speak louder than words and the picture they display on their website and in their TV ads lead you to believe something completely different.

The real secret to six-pack abs are 1) genetics 2) lose fat & build muscle 3) sacrifice 4) patience 5) time.

The people they use in their ads to represent their product paint a very different picture. The company has chosen models, actors and fitness gurus. These people are already in excellent physical condition with very low body fat [Editor’s Note: As well as a need for cash and low self-esteem]. This is something the flex belt cannot deliver. 

The ads for the flex belt never tell you will look like these models and athletes but by using them in their ads they certainly imply that you will look like them if you use their product.  The bodies advertising the flex belt were not created through flex belt but through a disciplined diet, dedication to exercise (even the hard stuff) and the gift of genetics.

The second most bothersome ads of “resolution season” is The Daily Burn.  The daily burn is a website that allows you to download a workout every day and works from the devices you may have in your home like an Xbox, PlayStation, iPad or TV. It is also absolutely free for 30 days and you can cancel anytime (right, good luck with that).  

I had high hopes because I saw Bob Harper.  I used to like Bob Harper very much.  He was the anti-Jillian, the good guy. Now I realize all he ever wanted was Jillian's endorsements deals.  The daily burn puts Bob in the front of the ad and at the top of the website to draw in the fans. Once on the site, they walk you through a series of questions to determine what type of person you are, how much you have to lose and how fast you want to lose it.

My fictional self-need was to lose 100lbs and I was only allowing myself to workout 15 minutes a day but I wanted to workout out with high intensity.

For fitness pros out there, we know this is a potentially dangerous situation.

I ultimately did not sign up for the daily downloads. Of course I didn't. I just wanted to see what they were all about.  I did click on each of the types of workouts.  Once again I was visually bombarded with fitness professionals and models who have bodies that won't quit and were visually stunning.  Most of the workouts required a high fitness level (my fictional self was prescribed the workout called Inferno) and promised fast results.  Almost every 30 second to 1 minute clip described the workouts and used words like: “15 minutes in 15 days”, “maximum results in just 30 days”, “get toned in just 2 weeks”, “ballistic training”, “fast, fast, fast”, “quick, quick, quick”.  According to the daily burn you can have s trainer's body by the end of the day, well at least in two weeks’ time.
I heard something recently about broccoli.  Wouldn't it be great if you could eat broccoli only once and get all the health benefits of a life time? I wish that were true but only because broccoli is not my favorite veggie. That is sadly not the case. It must be eaten often, just like exercise needs to be done.
January is an ideal time for these ads to appear, when everyone is resolving to change and looking for a way to do it. They have beautiful sales people pitching their wares for the latest and greatest fitness inventions. Promises of Hollywood bodies in a short period are offered when all they are after is to separate you from your dollars.

To become truly fit, you need to exercise. To lose weight, you need reduce your calories and exercise. To be healthy, you need to accept who you are, accept your limitations while striving to be a better version of you. Don’t let the charlatans take you hard-earned dollars. There is no magic pill, formula or device that will do it for you.

It hurts sometimes to pay the gym membership but if you actually use it, it's not nearly as expensive. And isn’t that better than paying Lisa Rinna to lie to you?