How’s that fitness resolution working for you?

It’s January 26th and many New Year’s Day fitness resolutions are already shot.  Why is that?  I’ve done it, you]ve probably done it, we’ve all done it.  It’s easy to quit a fitness program, but why do we let it happen, sometimes, over and over again?

I have some thoughts on that subject.  As with anything, there are many reasons why.  Let’s go over a few and see if they fit:

  1. The place where you exercise is not convenient.  It’s too far from home, or too far from work, or it is too crowded.  Sound familiar?
  2. You are too sore from the first time you hit the gym.  Been there, did that.
  3. You injured yourself, working out too hard or incorrectly.  I did that too.
  4. Your exercise program didn’t fit your goals.  In other words, you want to lose weight but are lifting heavy weights in a manner that builds large muscles.
  5. Lastly, I’m too busy and tired to exercise.  Very common.

The good news is that all of these challenges can be overcome.  First and foremost, figure out what you want out of exercising.  What is important to you?  Most people forget that it is important to your overall health, both physical and mental.  Keep that in mind and make it a top priority.  Then determine what you want to achieve.  Weight loss, a toner body, lose the muffin top, prepare for a particular sport, increase muscle mass, etc.  Just remember, in a world of instant gratification, results from exercise can take time.  It is a marathon, not a sprint.

The next step is developing a plan that will help you achieve your goal.  That is where an instructor can come in handy.  A good plan will build on itself.  You will start slow and work on core endurance first, and then go from there.  Each phase will last about 4 weeks.  This can help eliminate the old, I’m too sore excuse typically experienced in the first week, and lower the risk of injury.

Now that you have your new plan, determine when and where you can exercise.  Maybe some of the exercises can be done in your own home, removing the inconvenience of going to the gym.  Many exercises that can provide various benefits do not require weights or machines.  They are posture bearing or cardiovascular based exercises.  Determine a schedule and mark it on your calendar.  Treat this calendar item the same as you would an important business meeting.  In other words, don’t miss it.  Having a workout partner can also help.  It makes it more fun and each person can put a little pressure on the other not to back out or miss a session.

You definately want to keep your workouts interesting and challenging.  You can do this by using different pieces of equipment for an exercise.  For example, you might use a kettlebell for a specific exercise for a couple of weeks, then change it up to dumbbells.  Keep increasing the intensity of your exercises every few weeks.  That not only challenges you, but it pushes you through plateaus to where you will see improved results.  It is also popular to add music or TV to your routine when possible.

There are tips and tricks to help ensure that you stick to your workout routine.  But when the rubber meets the road, you have to want it.  You should want it, after all, it will most likely lead to improved health. Most importantly, as with anything in life, you have to be disciplined.  Now get your butt to the gym!

 

 

Stress and politics, it is really a matter of your heart!

 

I try to avoid politics in my writing, and I believe that although politics is mentioned, the main message in the blog is not political at all, it is truly about heart health.  Heart health is my mission.  It is what our organization is working for, that is fewer heart disease related occurrences.  It is believed that 80% of heart disease related occurrences can be prevented.  80%, that is an amazing statistic.  When I read that, I realized that what we are working towards is achievable.  We can make a difference.

 

One of the causes of heart disease is stress.  Stress can adversely affect your body, specifically, the toll it can take on your heart.  In the big picture, what has been more stressful lately than the recent presidential election and subsequent inauguration?  Two sides bitterly opposing the other.  The Facebook arguments, what the media chooses to highlight, the non-peaceful protests, the fake news, the strong opinions, and the spin and twisted truth, it is surrounding us, maybe even consuming some.

 

I’ll have to admit, I didn’t sleep all that well the night of the inauguration.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t so much about who is now our President, although it does bring some trepidation, it would have no matter who was elected,  I was restless because of concern for what we as a society have become.  We have become a society of know-it-alls, and that is scary.  What this means to me, is that very few people are truly objective and willing to have open minded discussions before forming an opinion.  We have become intolerant to people with opinions that don’t mesh with our own.  That is dangerous for many reasons, including a lack of growth as a person and how we interact with others.  Of course, not everyone falls in this category, but it is prevalent in today’s society.  How did this happen?

 

I have my theory, and of course I am going to share it, otherwise what’s the point of writing this blog.  LOL.  Let’s do it like this, let’s imagine these two candidates in 1950, or 1930, or 1830 for that matter.  What would we know about them?  We would know their accomplishments, what they tell us, what we heard with our own ears, or read about in a single newspaper, a newspaper that most likely reported factual information (what a novelty).  We may not have all the information about the candidates, but what we would have known is most likely credible.  At the very least, it would have been based on our own rational thoughts and feelings.

 

Today we are bombarded with the opinions of others, factual or not; blog posts factual or not; media reports (many of which have a biased spin); memes (most of which are contrived, are biased, or filled with lies); and publications, many of which have an ulterior motive.  We are supposed to sift through it all to know what to believe.  I say it is impossible. 

Just as an example, there was a video on Facebook of Bill Clinton at the inauguration looking off into the distance.  You have probably seen it.  Hillary looks at Bill, with a funny look on her face, Bill catches her glance and then proceeds to look back in the original direction.  Hillary looks to be a bit put off by it all.  The caption represents it as Hillary catches Bill staring at Melania Trump, insinuating that he can’t keep his eyes off good looking women.  Nowhere in the short video is Ms. Trump.  Nowhere is there proof that Bill was looking at Melania and not something else.  What I found interesting were the comments.  People bought it hook line and sinker.  That’s what scary, because they are basing their opinions on information that may not be credible.   

 

To reduce stress in your lives, I think it is important to know that most information available to us, needs to be fact checked and read with a bit of skepticism.  In other words, we need to remain open minded and know that what we are reading is probably not 100% factual.  Know that you most likely aren’t a political expert, and most likely don’t know all the facts.  I will give one more example, I questioned the US giving Iran $150,000,000,000 (that’s a lot of zeros).  I have an opinion on it, but really, what do I know?  Was I involved in every sit-down discussion with the Iranian leaders?  No.   Was I in the internal US strategy meetings to discuss how to handle the situation?  No.  Do I have all the information I need to form an educated opinion?  I doubt it, and guess what, our leadership isn’t going to give us all the information in every situation, often times in order to protect us. 

Why then get all worked up over it, and argue with someone who may know less than me about a subject, should they have a different opinion than mine.  That type of rationale, recognizing that we are not experts in every matter, is becoming rare in our society and it needs to change fast.  I’m not saying you cannot have an opinion, it is ok to have an opinion, just keep an open mind that the reasons you believe in a certain thing, may have been based on flawed information for no particular fault of your own.

 

I for one, am going to take a deep breath, do my homework, try to forge my opinions (political and otherwise) out of knowledge and facts (notice I said try), and not engage with others if they happen to have an opposing opinion, unless, and here is the key, unless they are as willing as I am to admit that we are not experts in the matter, and willing to be open minded.  Less stress will result, and less stress is better for the heart.

 

Thanks for reading, and I hope our society can someday see the light.

 

Chuck Woolaver

 

It Starts with the Heart!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything is Temporary

Remember the movie Top Gun?  Sure you do, everyone has seen it.  There is a scene where Cougar turns in his wings after losing his nerve following an air battle with a Russian Mig.  His reason, he was holding on too tight.  Holding on too tight to his wife and the new-born baby that he hasn’t seen yet.  He lost his edge.

I started thinking, I know, that is dangerous.  The question arose, as to whether we lose our edge in our daily lives over things far less important than our spouse and child.  Naturally, a second question then arose, as to whether or not we place too much value on these “things”.   Lastly, I had to ask myself why that happens.

In pondering these questions I realized that I have been guilty of sweating the small stuff in life, and in turn thinking that many trivial things are of vital importance.  Don’t put your feet on the coffee table, it might get scratched or dirty.  Make the bed a certain way so it looks nice.  Nice for who?  Who in the heck is going to see my bed except me?  My wife and dog?  Do they really care?  Why is it so important?  Things like that. Silly, isn’t it?

Continuing to think through this line of questioning, it dawned on me that everything is temporary.  In 4 billion years or so, the earth itself will be gone, dust, actually, not even dust.  Our lives, for that matter, are temporary.  Thinking about these two things put a different light on “things”.  What I mean is that just about everything else really isn’t that important.  We place values or importance levels on “things”.  Sure, there are important items in our lives.  We need to be prudent about paying our bills, eating right to maintain good health, etc., but, in regards to many other things, are we holding on too tight?  Is it stressing us out or stressing out relationships with others?

Thinking about the fate of ourselves, and the earth, I found a new perspective on most other “things”.   My maker, my family, my friends, my health, not necessarily in that order, are what I hold dear.  Everything else, they are just “things”, and I am learning to manage them accordingly.  I’m finding less stress in that, which is really good for the heart!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fitness, stick to it

I’ve done a lot of exercising in my 55 years.  Some was well thought out and planned, and other times, well, not so much.  The first step everyone should complete, before a dumbbell is picked up, or the tread mill is stepped upon, is to have a goal.

What is it that you want to achieve?  Do you want to lose weight?  Do you want to pack on muscle?  Do you want to firm up those abs and that back side?  There can be quite a few goals when it comes to exercise.  Now that I am 55 and still fighting coronary artery disease, my objectives have changed.  At one time in my life I wanted to build muscle.  This meant a regimen of lifting heavier weights.  The amount of sets and number of reps in those sets, along with the rest in between was designed for muscle-building.  That is a completely different program than what would be designed for someone looking to lose weight, or simply “tone” their body for golf or other similar sports.

There are many variables that go into exercising, and many different exercises.  They all lead to certain results.  So, you decide you want to get in shape, which is the first step, and before you step one foot into the gym, think about what it is you want to accomplish.  It is at that point you can construct a workout plan that helps meet your objectives.  Your choice will be to do it on your own, or get help from a personal trainer.  With the complexity involved in exercising, the latter is recommended.

I will finish with this, moving is better than sitting still.  For those wanting to lose weight, it is simple, burn more calories than you consume.  Understand this, most people start a program and somewhere along the way, stop.  Heck, many New Year’s resolutions are probably already broken.  Secondly, fitness planning is a very complex subject for the average person.  I always recommend to get help.  After learning what I now know about fitness training, I realize that I made some major mistakes in the past when it comes to working out.  Those mistakes led to injury and loss of motivation.  That is what you want to avoid.  You want a sustainable plan, where you can see positive results, and a plan that avoids injury and leads to long term success.

So best of luck in reaching your fitness goals in 2017.  If you need help, give me a shout.

Chuck

 

 

 

 

 

Awareness

 

There is an excerpt in my book, Chuck, My Walk Through Life, about having perspective.  For me it was a bit of an epiphany, and it was as simple as gaining an appreciation for many of the simple things in life.  Things like the beauty of the green trees swaying in the wind with the sky providing a deep blue back drop.  The warmth of the sun on the back of your neck, on a rather chilly day.  Things like that.  Things that we often take for granted.  They were always right there in front of me, but I often wasn’t aware of their presence, or their importance.

I also recently wrote in a blog post about heaven on earth, and what we imagine heaven to be like.  Love, serenity, peace, etc., are all part of heaven, and they are all part of this earth.  We just need to let our senses do their jobs.   We simply need to be aware.   Aware that love is right in front of us, or that we can find peace in a quiet moment.  It is amazing, once you’re able to gain awareness of the great things that are going on around you.  I’m not talking about being a Zen master, or playing Jedi mind tricks.  I am simply referring to slowing down and smelling the roses now and then.

I can’t take credit for the following passage, as it was made available to me just yesterday. But when I saw it, I realized it perfectly described the message I was attempting to convey.  It goes like this:

A fish was looking for the ocean.  If it could just find the ocean, it thought, it would be fulfilled and realize all its potential.

One day another fish pointed him to a third fish, saying, “That fish over there is very wise.  He will be able to tell you where the ocean is.”

Excitedly, the fish swam over to the wise old fish and asked, “Can you tell me where the ocean is?”

The wise old fish responded, “The ocean is what you’re in.”

Disappointed, the little fish swam away.  “But this is just water,” it thought.  And to this day, the fish is still searching for the ocean.

What is it that you searching for or missing out on?  Is it happiness?  Love?  Peace?  Serenity?  What ever it is, look closer, you just might find that it was right there all along.

 

Medication vs a Healthy Lifestyle

Cholesterol reducing drugs are very popular these days.  There are known side effects, but in general, they do what they are supposed to do; lower cholesterol.  The million-dollar question is, should a person take them, or can they control their cholesterol by living a healthier lifestyle?

Well, I guess I could be a one-person case study (small sample size I know, but it never stops me from sharing my story so it can help others make better decisions regarding their situation).  My cholesterol was off the charts bad, and I didn’t know it until I turned 50.  Sure, I led a relatively healthy lifestyle, which to be totally honest, probably saved me from the great beyond.  I exercised 3 to 4 days a week, ate reasonably well, and I don’t smoke.  All good stuff.  Still the genetic cholesterol was wreaking having inside my arteries.

When I turned 50 I had a physical examination with a doctor I hadn’t seen in years, and he told me I had high cholesterol.  I don’t recall the HDL and the LDL numbers at that time (of course that is vitally important), but the total cholesterol number was 269.  He recommended I go on a statin, but I knew better (sure I did).  I thought I could affect the cholesterol numbers in a positive way by doing more of the good things, like staying active, and eating less of the bad stuff, like fried foods, etc. 

It worked to some degree.  I reduced my total cholesterol down to 229, but I have come to find out, my LDL, which is the bad cholesterol, was near 200, which is really, well, awful, and my HDL, the good cholesterol, was too low at 36, which is also, well, awful.  The perfect storm. 

So, in my case, I have found that lifestyle changes would not help me entirely.  I was a candidate for statin medication and fought the notion.  I am much more educated on the subject these days after my run in with heart disease, and that is what is critical in terms of making better decisions than I did in the past; information and rational thinking.

Moral of the story, know your numbers and know what they mean.  Honestly assess your lifestyle and determine if you can commit to truly living heart healthy.  Also, if possible, know how long you have lived with high cholesterol.  If it has been years, as in my case, you may need more help than just changing your diet and exercise habits, as damage may already have been done.

Afflicted? Nah, not me!

53 years old, healthy, good diet, lots of exercise and bam, and I am diagnosed with heart disease.  The cardiologist asked me how it got so bad while shaking his head. Am I a dead man walking?  Seven stents later to clear out the widow maker artery, a kidney, and both legs and I am good as new, or am I?

What does it mean to be diagnosed with heart disease?  It doesn’t have to be a death sentence, does it?  How much do you think about it?  What are your limitations?  How has your lifestyle changed?  All very good questions and here are my thoughts, along with answers to these questions and more.

The word afflicted came up in a recent conversation.  I used it.  I said that a year after I received a stent to open the left anterior descending artery (the widow maker), which by the way was 95% blocked, I don’t feel afflicted.  Am I though?  Probably, but I choose not to look at it that way.  I look forward to each day and the next chapter in my life with optimism and happiness.  It is a choice you know.

Sure, I am lucky.  I was young enough and fit enough to resume most of my usual activities, mainly golf.  I walk a lot, bike ride and things like that.  My days in the weight room are over basically due to time and choice.  I am not really sure that lifting weights is good or bad for me and my arteries, and I plan to get back to that in some form or fashion.  I also plan on adding swimming to the activity plan (the pool is about 8 miles away).  I guess the thing is that you have to start somewhere.  Start walking and tracking your steps.  Set goals.  Increase your distance.  Talk to your physician and find out what you can and can’t do (should or shouldn’t do), but don’t let it stop you from living.  We can all get stronger and healthier with a little work (and some fun).

So, how much do I think about my issue?  Everyday.  It becomes the new normal, the new lifestyle.  Not necessarily in a bad way.  Sure, I have to remember to take a couple of pills a couple of times a day, and I have to be cognizant of what I eat and drink, even more so than before, but that’s not a big deal.  I tell myself not to stress over work or get too worked up.  It really is all about coming to the understanding that you are going to live and enjoy life.  I know one thing for a fact, which is that none of us get out of here alive.  The key to me is having a good quality of life now in my 50’s and do the things that will allow me the same luxury in my 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and who knows, maybe even my 90’s.  Create a system, work it, and let the other stuff take care of itself.

Talk to your physician, figure out what you are both comfortable with doing from a physical standpoint.  I approached it that I am going to remain as active as possible (within reason).  Heck, I’m not 20 anymore, heart disease or not.  But that is what I enjoy.  It is more a frame of mind than anything else.  Heart disease is not a death sentence.  Today’s medical advancements are unbelievable and are only getting better.  If your heart is strong, as I was told mine is, then why not work it?  Mind over matter, if you don’t mind, then it doesn’t matter.

Chuck