Back to Back Issues Page
The Bullhorn, Issue #007 -- Monthly Motivator for October 2006
October 15, 2006

Just the right push to succeed!

Play with what you’re dealt!

Is there really such a thing as innate talent? Are we born into a fitness caste system, or do we control our own destiny? Not many people are dealt a royal flush in terms of health…we all have to work at it to some degree. Many will applaud the hard-working athlete that claws their way to the top, while others will stand in awe at the talented athletes that seem to effortlessly win their events or sports. What portion of their success to you think is attributable to genes and what is a product of their hard work?

I still laugh when I overhear people talk about Kenyan distance runners, as if they win because of their genes. Rarely do these discussion include any of the facts: No mention of the fact that they usually run twice a day almost every day; No mention of the fact that their runs are on hilly terrain at an elevation of 7,000+ feet above sea level; and no mention that their moderate diets include mostly vegetables; fruits, eggs, milk, and a small amount of meat. What do you think contributes more to their running success? There’s an interesting human performance paper by Noah Beardsley that studies the training of a small group of runners from Kalenjin, Kenya.

While I don’t deny the genetic differences that make us individuals, I think we put too much stock in the affects of genes and not enough stock in the merits of hard work. We’ll likely never be able to truly decipher the point where talent stops and where hard work begins. As we look down the path of our fitness plan, each of us was dealt a different hand: our starting point. We’ll each set different goals and take a different route to get there. And while we all like to look at those envious athletes and swim suit models and say, “They’re just lucky”, we’ll never really know if that’s the case or not. Who knows what they were dealt and how they’ve played their hand? It’s easy to focus on our differences and make a blanket excuse for ourselves such as, “Running just isn’t for me”; “I just have a bigger frame”; or “All people in my family are large”. Yes, we’re all different, but everyone is capable of improvement in some area or habit. Work hard to change those habits and you might just be the one that changes that family stereotype and empowers your future generations.

We all have some genetic momentum and hurdles to deal with in life. Some may have been dealt a pair of deuces while others were dealt a full house. What we do from that point on is up to us. We can control the effort we put into our health and fitness habits and the priority we place on improvement. Work hard at being better tomorrow than you are today. Our long-term success depends on how we play the cards we were dealt.

Take a look behind the scenes

More often than not we only concern ourselves with that which we can sense. We want to lose weight to look and feel better. There’s nothing wrong with these motives, but what about all those things we can’t readily see like our blood pressure, cholesterol, body fat, and blood sugar. These ‘behind-the-scene’ factors have a strong influence on our overall health, yet most of us don’t concern ourselves with them until a doctor ‘flags’ a certain reading.

While I certainly wouldn’t encourage a society of hypochondriacs, I would also warn that apathy can be a lot more hazardous. Below are some discussion points and tips on how you can improve and maintain your behind-the-scenes health factors:

  • Blood Pressure
    The pressure in your arteries is greatest after the heart beat (systolic – top number). The pressure then decreases between beats (diastolic – low number). The cause of many cases of high blood pressure is unknown. But what is known is that hypertension, stress, poor diet, and a lack of exercise put an undue strain on your heart and your circulatory system. This increased stress on your heart and arteries can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or other unwanted symptoms and diseases. What can we do? Most physicians will first recommend lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure. Smoking, alcohol, and caffeine can all raise your blood pressure. Lowering body fat can reduce your blood pressure. And exercise can reduce your stress levels and increase the volume and health of your heart and arteries.
  • Cholesterol
    Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels can lead to many unwanted conditions that could reduce the quantity and quality of our lives. Our livers make cholesterol to aid in the digestion of fat. Our cholesterol levels are a combination of that which is made by our liver and that which we eat. Cholesterol is found in foods derived from animals only, not plants. What can we do?Lowering our body fat and watching the types of foods we eat will help us reduce our cholesterol levels naturally. Diets high in fiber and supplements like niacin can also help naturally reduce your cholesterol levels. For more information, check out this informative cholesterol link.
  • Body Fat
    I read a recent article that discussed how our society has adopted new terms and standards of obesity. We are now describing our obese children as ‘husky’ and ‘built’, almost endorsing their health tragedy. Body Fat is often mis-measured, mis-understood, and rarely used as a meaningful gauge. We allow frame size and muscle mass uncertainties to be a loop-hole for discounting the entire measurement. What do we do? Use the BMI calculator to see where you are. This is a fairly accurate gauge. If you don’t like what it says, try taking some simple body fat measurements with a measuring tape and look up your body fat percentage on the chart. If these two numbers classify you as overweight or obese, it’s time to take action. Aside from gaining the enormous health benefit of losing unnecessary body fat, you’ll feel a lot better, too. Imagine what your day would be like if you had to carry around a gallon of milk everywhere. That’s only 8 pounds! Imagine the relief when you didn’t have to carry it anymore. Losing weight to get into a healthy range has so many physical and mental health benefits, it’s worth taking the effort to modify your lifestyle.
  • Blood Sugar
    Our bodies convert the foods we eat into energy (glucose) and transport this energy in our blood stream throughout the body. In response to the glucose levels, our bodies make insulin to use and store this energy. Some people’s bodies don’t make insulin (Type I Diabetes); while others don’t make enough to handle big blood sugar surges(Type II Diabetes). What can we do? If you have Type I Diabetes, you’ll likely need some form of insulin shot as a part of your day. For the rest of us, our diets can really help us control the levels of blood sugar throughout the day. Because carbohydrates are converted the quickest to energy, we’ll need add a healthy mix of foods that provide a gradual release of energy such as foods high in fiber and protein. If blood sugar is something you’re grappling with, there are many good resources on the web for diabetic diet plans.

As you stay focused on your fitness goals, be sure to monitor those behind-the-scene numbers. The good news is that most of these issues are inter-related and as you adopt healthier long-term habits, you’ll also be reducing your risk in many of the above factors.

Exercise of the Month:
Flutter Kicks!

Crunches are a great abdominal workout, but sometimes we need to mix it up a bit. Flutter kicks, a military-training favorite is a great abdominal and hip flexor workout. You start by laying flat on your back and placing your hands under your butt. Raise your legs straight off the ground with your feet approximately 6 inches off the floor. Start with your left leg and raise it swiftly upwards, then down, then repeat motion with your opposite leg. It’s really a great ab workout! For added torture…I mean…enjoyment…finish the exercise and hold your feet 6 inches off the ground for as long as you can! ;-)

Keep up the great work & stay focused on your goals. Best of luck!

Encouragement to Succeed!

P.S. - Please feel free to forward this to a friend!

Back to Back Issues Page