Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gyms and Trainers in the New Year

First, I recognize that blogging once a year is a pot/kettle situation relative to my comments below.

Second, there is some sarcasm here and the rest is a little pointed. I recommend if you find yourself offended, stop reading.

It struck me this week that next week is the week that everyone shows up at the gym as part of their New Year's resolution to get in shape, lose weight, etc. As a regular gym-goer I'm always glad when we get past the first couple of weeks of January and 80% of the additional traffic subsides. My suggestion, if you're not going to make it out of January on the road to better health, don't bother with the gym membership - save some money and try something else (fad diet or something).

On that topic, let's talk about fad diets. Here's a question you need to ask yourself before you start any diet program: What happens when I reach my goal weight? The problem I see with most diets (fad or otherwise) is that they don't seem to do much in the way of changing behavior or teaching people how to avoid putting the weight back on. There are dozens of diets out there that will result in weight loss (if followed), but most aren't doing much to help people live a healthier life (minus that 20 pounds) when they are done dieting. Remember, a diet is a means to an end. Fad diets are particularly bad because they focus on getting people to do things they would never do normally in order to get rid of the weight rather than teaching them better habits in the first place.

Back to gym issues. If part of your resolution includes hiring a trainer let me save you some money and frustration. A few important rules in trainer selection:

1. If the trainer you're about to hire doesn't look the way you want to when you're done, don't hire them. Sorry, that's a little rough. If you are hiring an opposite gender trainer this would apply differently. The point is that if the person you're about to hire is either overweight or a current body-builder they probably aren't the right person if you're goals don't include either of those things.

2. If your trainer spends time on the phone during your sessions, shows up late, leaves early, juggles other clients (if that isn't part of the agreed up on arrangement), FIRE them and find someone else.

3. If you tell the trainer your goal is to get in shape and/or lose weight and all they have you doing is strength-training, FIRE them. If those are your goals, in order to be successful you need to be spending about 75% of your time doing cardio of some sort. That's not to say you'll spend that much of your sessions doing that. It does mean that needs to be what they are teaching you as an overall approach along with teaching you how to eat better and avoid un-doing the good you're doing at the gym. Watch The Biggest Loser, notice that the strength-training they do is almost entirely done as a circuit drill - which is really cardio in disguise. To lose weight you have to get your heart rate up and keep it elevated for extended (30+ minutes) periods. It's important to do weight bearing exercise (strength-training) as part of your program, but doing a set and sitting and chatting for 2 minutes isn't going to help you reach your goals.

4. If you are serious about hiring a trainer and I can't talk you out of it, there's only one I'll recommend to you by name upon request. But fair warning, this guy doesn't mess around and he is a Marine.

That's it. That's the sum total of all I'll say for a very long time on this topic. I'm not a trainer. I don't use a trainer. I don't regularly give diet and exercise advise. And I don't do group workouts - got sick of waiting on people and no-shows. So take all this for what it is worth.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

10 Things I learned in 2010

Eric Epperson - a friend from work and fellow native Oklahoman - suggested I come up with a top-10 style list of the things I learned in 2010. The following is what I came up with. He had several people do the same thing and posted all of them on his blog. There were several insightful things that others had learned, definitely worth a few minutes to read their thoughts. Thank you for the invitation, Eric.

10 things I learned in 2010:

10. That I didn’t really know what exhaustion was until I became a dad.

I have put in some late nights and early mornings in college. I have worked some fairly rough weeks at MOVE. I’ve driven through the night two nights in a row in a box truck. I’ve done all sorts of ridiculous physical exertion activities. But frankly I had no idea what sleep deprivation or exhaustion were until we had Drake. Day after day and week after week of very little sleep combined with constant motion and a whole new list of responsibilities that I was initially terrible at (my wife might debate whether I was only initially terrible or continue in my futility) definitely taught me a little more about what it means to truly be exhausted.

9. The importance of listening, asking questions, then speaking with half the intensity I feel.

To say I learned this needs to be qualified. I was reminded of this truth and daily struggle to live up to it. James 1:19-20 comes to mind, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” I came to the realization that I am much more likely to speak first and harshly when I am exceedingly tired. As a friend whose office used to be across the hall from mine can attest, January and February of 2010 were rough.

8. That when you have a child all the character flaws and bad habits that others tolerate or you just keep to yourself suddenly see the light of day.

The enormity of this hit me one day in traffic as I was explaining to another driver (from inside my wife’s car with the windows up) why he was a complete idiot and the state of Missouri should never have issued him a license. There in the rearview mirror smiling at me was the 10-month-old version of myself. I can hear it now, “Daddy, what does spineless wiener mean?” “Daddy, why did you call that man an idiot?” Not good. 2011 will be make or break in terms of me “unlearning” some bad habits.

7. That Dave Ramsey is right when he says you’ll spend less if you spend cash.

I don’t agree with him on everything, but he is right that you will spend less when you spend cash (actual currency). I had long maintained that if you were disciplined and only bought the things you needed/planned to buy then the form of payment did not particularly matter. After switching our discretionary expense items over to cash in 2010 I now see that he was right. We are spending less on those items because we are looking at what is left in the “envelope”.

6. That small changes can make a big difference in your budget.

When we decided that Brittany would not return to work in the fall of 2010 we had to immediately start looking at our spending and figure out where to reduce it fairly significantly (to us). There were some large, easy things that came first. There were some adjustments we could make (to things like the tax withholdings in my paychecks) that helped. There were a few conscious decisions (the call to Dish Network comes to mind) that we still feel occasionally (like when the entire BCS schedule ends up on ESPN). Ultimately, however, over the course of a few months we started finding ways to save a few dollars here and there (in groceries especially) that made a big difference. A couple of dollars a week doesn’t sound huge until you multiply by 52 (okay, that’s still not huge, but it starts to look a little bigger).

5. How blessed I am by the generosity of those around me.

We have been incredibly blessed as a couple (now family). With both of us working good jobs, while we weren’t purchasing any vacation homes we were able to do things we needed to, many of the things we wanted to, and save for the future. We weren’t particularly dependent on anyone. If we needed something we went and bought it. We have been humbled and greatly blessed by the way God has provided for us through the generosity and love of family and friends as we stepped through each new phase Drake entered in the midst of learning to be more frugal than was required in the past.

4. That weddings are a dangerous thing.

I was in one wedding, supported a wife in 2, and attended a couple of others in 2010. Here’s what I learned, you have to be careful as the bride and groom or you’ll end up with less friends after the wedding than you had before. Over the last several years I have watched and listened as a handful of well-meaning couples made being a part of their big day such a royal pain that their relationships with family and friends suffered as a result. A suggestion: It is your big day, but that doesn’t mean you should walk all over the ones you “love”.

3. That letting go can be difficult.

Prior to 2010, I had supervised the MOVE interns for 4 summers. According to Luzadder I had “worn” it for the program – meaning I owned it. The decision was made in late 2009 that I would hand over the reins in 2010. That sounded good, a little less running crazy all summer. In reality it was tough to give only solicited feedback and advice while watching someone else run it (very capably though differently) than I would have. I’m guessing that’s a lesson I’ll have to put into action again later in life.

2. That people have very strong opinions of how you should care for and raise your child(ren).

Whether it’s names, cloth v. disposable, bottle v. breast (feeding), or any other of a litany of important (though in some cases overblown) decisions you make as a prospective and new parent the one thing you can count on is that everyone you know who has had a kid, might someday want one, or has ever seen one on TV will have an opinion about the decision you should make. Not only that, they’ll be strong opinions in a lot of cases, to the point that it’s personally offensive if you don’t agree with them and make the choices they did or think you should. My advice: Listen to their perspective, learn what you can, then make the right decision for your child and your family. God made you and your spouse the parents of your child and with that comes the responsibility to make choices for how best to care for that child’s needs. Don’t delegate that responsibility and don’t apologize to others for the choices you make.

1. That getting older doesn’t always mean you can’t, but it may mean it’s going to hurt more.

I’m 31, which isn’t that old, I get that. But I’m not 23 anymore, a fact I’m reminded of by the growing colony of gray hair staring at me in the mirror each morning. A jog through Oklahoma City in April reminded me that being several years older than the last time I tried it didn’t mean that I couldn’t still do it (though that day will come too) it really just meant I’d be a lot more sore the next day than the last time. The point here would be that in light of this truth I have to choose wisely when it is and is NOT worth it to prove that I still can.