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The Bullhorn, Issue #042 -- Monthly Motivator for September 2009
September 15, 2009

Just the right push to succeed!

Enjoy What You Do!

Did you ever notice that kids can run at what seems to be light speed for hours and laugh all along, while we adults seem to labor and huff and puff going up just one flight of stairs?? Is their secret in their youth or their attitudes? I recently read a great book, Born to Run, and it reminded me among other things to enjoy running. What a concept! We live in a society that seems to pride itself on “working our fingers to the bone” that it has become so easy to write-off "fun" and despise our daily routines. Think about it. Most people’s dream is to hit the lottery so they can…do nothing. How remorse!

Somewhere there lies a happy balance of rest, work, and pleasure that should be enjoyable…and so can be said about enjoying our workouts. One reason that most of us look forward to the end of workouts (myself included) is because they’re too intense! I’m an engineer and I love to focus on the numbers…so much so that I can find myself more focused on my watch some days than the beautiful blue skies and summer breeze that I'm blindly running by?! It’s usually on my long marathon training runs where I forget the time and go out to cover the distance that I find myself having a good time, enjoying the surroundings, and often times running a quicker pace than I expected!

Does this mean to plod along the elliptical and treadmills with ease and focus on fun? Perhaps not that care-free, but we can approach the same workout with far less dread if we go into the gym with some eager anticipation: I want to be here…I love that feeling when I get into full stride and get a good sweat….I love that feeling of a warm shower after a muscle-depleting workout. Sound masochistic? Well that’s where we need to recalibrate ourselves! Our bodies were designed and meant to move (as Born to Run elaborates on scientifically). Treat exercise as a dreaded must-do and you are missing out. Staying in bed might feel great as first, but you’ll have to get up eventually and you won’t feel ½ as good as that person whistling down the hallway at work that went for a pre-dawn morning run. It’s true.

We all have to balance a myriad of competing priorities in our life, but no one says that they all have to be chores. Schedule your workouts with giddy anticipation and go out there and have a good time. Eventually that attitude may follow you in other aspects in life and you may even enjoy…work (I’ll let you know when that happens ;-). Happy running!

Cholesterol Matters

Why does Cholesterol matter? I mean, really…what’s the big deal…it’s just a number, right? Yes..and no. Cholesterol is fat in our blood, made by our liver to send energy through our body. And for more than half of us (adult Americans), it’s higher than it needs to be. And sadly, high cholesterol levels in our blood are one of the few indicators of heart disease that we have – and heart disease is still the leading killer of modern society. So, yes, my friends…cholesterol matters.

What’s behind that cholesterol number?
The number that most of us are familiar with is the total cholesterol number which is a sum of high-density lipids (HDL) + low-density lipids (LDL) + 1/5 of Triglycerides. LDL Cholesterol is called the “bad cholesterol” because it is sticky and can stick to the walls of our arteries causing a build-up of scar tissue (plaque). Too much restriction raises the risk of heart attack and stroke. Depending on your health risk factors, a number of 100-140 ml/dl for LDL is considered to be ‘acceptable’. HDL Cholesterol is the “good cholesterol” and values above 40 ml/dl are usually sought. Being that HDL is higher-density (tightly packed), it moves through are blood vessels without sticking to the walls and can actually help lower levels of LDL. And Triglycerides (you ask)? Well this fat is a bit different, it’s an energy product produced by the excess carbohydrates that we eat (processed sugars, breads, pasta, etc..). All of those extra calories from carbs that our body doesn’t need get processed into a loose and sticky fat that can amplify choleserol problems and the build-up of blood vessel plaque (bad thing). Normal Triglycerides numbers are below 150 ml/dl. So add it all up and you have an ideal total cholesterol of around 180 ml/dl…and “acceptable” ranges in the 200-240 ml/dl range. Medical experts have estimated the risk of heart disease to double between patients with levels below 200 ml/dl to those with levels of 240 ml/dl and above!

What makes my cholesterol level higher or lower?
This is where the answer gets unique for each reader. There are multiple factors some that we control (diet, exercise level, body weight)…and some that we do not (hereditary). And while the drug manufacturers are quick to say things like, “when diet and exercise are not enough…”; I say, “...Well, keep trying!” For me, personally, I have high cholesterol in my family. I also have noted a correlation between my BMI and my cholesterol level…and a glaring one at that. I’m in the process of completing my number crunching and graphing (and will be posting a page soon), but I am comfortable saying that my BMI (Body Mass Index) and cholesterol appear to be directly related. I have had approximately 10 blood tests over the last 15-20 years and I have been going back in my training logs to match up my weight and activity level with each one.

So…what’s the bottom line??
You are in control of your cholesterol level to a large degree. If you are starting a fitness routine or diet, schedule a blood test with your doctor as part of your goal and watch the hidden benefit as you snuff the silent killer. Experiment with different foods and try to substitute plant-derived foods with high fiber (especially soluble) into your diet and reduce foods with animal fats such as dairy and meats. We’re all different and there’s not much we can do about our genes…but we can control what we eat and how much we move!

Book Review of the Month:
Born to Run

Born to Run

This week’s product review is a motivational book that every runner, aspiring runner, or fitness enthusiast should read. It’s written by a very entertaining and witty author who finds himself on a writing assignment in the Copper Canyons of Mexico only to see sandal-shod and injury-free athletes as he winces at the pain of his running injuries and the cost of his running shoes!

The story line is very entertaining; the characters are very real; and the science behind the movement has led my training to include among other things….barefoot running (OK…I lied…I wear these Vibram five-finger shoes…and my XC team makes fun of me…but I have noticed some positive changes in less than a week…more to follow on these shoes in the October Bullhorn’s product review!)

Sorry to digress, back to the book: Between its story line of the great Tarahumara tribe in Mexico and the attempt to organize and run an ultra-marathon with the world’s greatest distance runners; and the woven wit and research of the author throughout the pages – I loved the book.

And...I have to credit my Mom for recommending this book to me after hearing a talk show by the author, Christopher McDougall, back in May…thanks, Mom! (this will also serve as a good test to see if she actually reads my newsletters ;-).

If interested, check out the full book review on Born to Run.

Exercise of the Month:
Get a Grip!

This simple, yet powerful isometric exercise can help improve your grip strength, develop powerful forearms, and increase your overall cardiovascular health. As far as fitness equipment goes, handgrips are pretty cheap ($5 - $10 pair). You can even use something as simple as a tennis ball or racquetball. The muscles of your wrist and forearm are often overlooked in exercises, yet are commonly used in day-to-day activities such as opening doors, driving a car, opening containers and having a strong hand shake. They are also critical muscles for athletes that play golf, baseball, tennis, and other sports. Strengthening these muscles will also help avoid common injuries such as tennis elbow. Put a pair in your bedroom, at work, in the car…in just minutes a day you’ll see and feel the strength in your forearms. You can 'squeeze' this exercise into your busy days while watching TV, sitting in traffic, riding the train, sitting at your desk, etc…

Sound Off!

If you have any feedback (positive or negative), success stories to share, or suggestions for future articles, please feel free to drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you and we take all feedback, suggestions...and yes, even criticism very seriously. We’ll use this information to improve our newsletter and The Fitness Motivator site to help you and others like you attain your fitness goals.

Encouragement to Succeed!

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

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