Healthy Living

Today’s Workout Inspiration and Motivation (and 7 reasons why its important)

This one here is all about inspiration and motivation.  Right now, in Chicago and most of the country (east of the Rockies), it’s freaking cold.  High 7F, low -15F.  It’s almost March and the 10 day forecast doesn’t show a single day above freezing.  We are also due to get a ton of snow this weekend.  But summer is coming and you want to look good.  The mantra is “I will do today what others won’t, so that tomorrow I can do what others can’t.” Yes, that means taking off your shirt when it’s warm out and feeling really good about it.  We have a vein, materialistic culture and that’s a rant for another post, another time.  Right now it’s about feeling good that you went to the gym when it was cold out.  And feeling good that you got a good workout in while others stayed home and ordered in some junk food.  Today is about you feeling good that you stuck to your commitment or resolution and the pride that comes with it.  Don’t say, “f*** it, it’s cold” instead say, “f*** it, summer is around the corner and this will pay off.” 

My workout today consisted of:

  1. 10 deadlifts
  2. 10 squats
  3. 20 kettlebell swings (28kg)
  4. 20 kettlebell shoulder swings (18kg) – 10 forward/10 side to side
  5. 15 box jumps (box slightly higher than the tops of my knees)
  6. 2 elbow/toe army crawl with kettlebell advancement (18kg – crawl over a kettlebell on your elbows and toes, rise to your hands, lift kettlebell forward with one hand, get back down to your elbows, crawl over it again, lift it with the other hand)
  7. Do this set 3 times with minimal rests in between exercises and sets.

Why this workout important:

  1. Most of your power and strength comes from your lower body.
  2. The largest muscles are in your lower body. Just by having muscle burns calories.  Working these muscle groups out means that your are burning way more energy in your off time.
  3. Deadlifts are among the top/best exercises  you can do for all around health.
  4. This workout will increase your heart-rate and burn more calories both during and after.
  5. You are hitting the slow and fast twitch muscle groups.
  6. Your ‘rest’ sets (army crawl/shoulder swings) are hitting your core, shoulders and back, but not to a point where you can’t work them in on your upper body day (tomorrow : ).
  7. and maybe the most important reason to do this: You don’t want to be these guys.
Quit whining.  Now's the time so you don't wish later that you just did it.  (Like how I worked in that sunrise pic?)

Quit whining. Now’s the time so you don’t wish later that you just did it. (Like how I worked in that sunrise pic?)

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Is Organic Food Better for You?

USDA Organic

 

Is organic food better for you?

The three most important deciding factors when it comes to the consumption of food are if it tastes good, if it’s attainable, and its nutritional qualities.  Simply, people need to eat food with nutrients to keep them alive and they need that food to taste acceptable and be attainable so they will put it in their body.  

Does organic food taste better?

My favorite pro-organic description of taste was provided by the former head of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (found here).  He explains how taste depends on so many factors, but, if all variables were controlled for, he would still assume organic tastes better.  A large part of this belief comes from the story of freshness and higher quality that consumers assume of organic food.

So, for those who believe organic food is more fresh and of higher quality than conventionally-farmed food, organic food will taste better.  From our current understanding of taste (summarized well here), an underlying belief in the food has a large effect on if we will eat it.  

Is organic food attainable?  

Yes, however, it tends to be more expensive and is sold at fewer places than conventional food (general info here).  So organic food is less attainable than conventional food.

Is organic food better for you? 

When it comes to the nutritional benefits of food from organic farms vs the produce from conventional farms, organic food is not better for you.  This was the conclusion of the following 3 peer-reviewed, academic papers reviewing over 50 years of scientific literature on that topic.

Study #1: Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review (found here)

Conclusion: The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Study #2: Nutrition-related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review (found here)

Conclusion: From a systematic review of the currently available published literature, evidence is lacking for nutrition-related health effects that result from the consumption of organically produced foodstuffs.

Study #3: Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review (found here)

Conclusion: On the basis of a systematic review of studies of satisfactory quality, there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs. The small differences in nutrient content detected are biologically plausible and mostly relate to differences in production methods.

[If you’re into reading more about that last study, here is a fun back and forth that the Chief Scientist at The Organic Center had with Dangour et. al about their results. Keep reading and you’ll see Dangour et. al’s response as well]

If these studies and their results make you mad or think that this whole mess is crazy, get involved and link in the comments to examples of peer-reviewed systematic review studies from other reputable academic journals that disagree with these results.  

In conclusion, compared to conventionally-farmed food, organic food may taste better to pro-organic people, it’s less attainable for more people, and it’s not nutritionally better for you.

The Productivity Straddle

It seems that we have developed a split personality in the past couple of decades. One side of this personality has developed thousands of productivity apps for your smartphone and tablet, and calendar management tools, and ways to maximize one’s time for optimal productivity. The other side of this personality can be seen in the huddled masses directly consuming and using this new technology while not producing that much useful content. In many cases, we have a BlackBerry for work and an iPhone and iPad for home and family in addition to the PC and/or Laptop (one for home, one for work). With all of this stuff it seems like we should be getting LOADS of stuff done!! Our production of useful services and ideas and work should be off the friggin charts! It certainly isn’t for newer generations that are coming of age now.

There is a trend among younger people to spend an enormous amount of time tweeting, posting pictures on facebook, playing social games, and just all out wasting time on things like choosing ‘which Instagram filter to use.’ These young people spend tons of time cultivating these online personas, these hyped versions of themselves for others to consume. In this article/ video short a couple of guys talk about how the millennial generation is going to be a sort of ‘lost’ generation; but also the ‘cool’ generation. Our self absorption and involvement in our online lives lends itself to a giant distraction from reality in which we place more importance on immediate, but utterly meaningless ‘rewards’ that feed the reward center of our brain much like drugs and alcohol.  However, if someone is at least getting drunk with friends and playing games like bags or beer pong, we can say that at least they’re doing something that requires some measure of spatial perception and skill and at least that person/those people doing something ‘real’; they’re having real experiences involving space, time, and other humans in the same area.  Somehow I feel that a ‘real’ experience like that is ultimately more rewarding than many screen based experiences (at least you’re thinking, acting, and reacting in real time and on the spot).

It’s like tech savvy humans are split between the productive, interesting idealized versions of themselves and the black hole of time wastes available at their finger tips. Most people can effectively manage their desires to feed the Reward Center in the brain with feedback (comments, likes, pointless games), but there are a whole bunch of people out there who succumb to a technology addiction. Do a Google search for ‘technology addiction’ and you will find an assortment of articles and studies that illustrate the issues presented by it. I may sound like a crabby old grandpa, but I’m equally guilty of being tied to my iPhone, iPad, laptop, and work laptop also. However, I’m not guilty of compulsively tweeting, facebooking (of any kind), instagraming (of any kind), or saturating my social interactions by retreating to my phone when I feel uncomfortable. Yeah, I see this happening to a lot of people.

My stance and approach to my devices is that of a boss to an assistant. My phone and tablet are there to serve me. My phone will remember things, allow me to find restaurants, remind me of things, play music, educate me (podcasts, Zite, etc.), tell me when the next bus is coming, save articles of interest, act as a library for books, tell me what song I’m listening to, what time X movie is playing, wake me up in the morning, and take photos of my life. It’s best to describe me as a heavy tech user. However, I differentiate by the way that I use my technology. I’m using it to enhance my real life, to make my real life easier and more manageable, and to maximize my time and experiences with my friends and family. I am not, at any point, trying to escape my real life by involving myself with an artificial online community, or by embellishing an online persona and/or version of myself.

The flip side of this is that some people’s real lives suck. The online game/version of themselves allows them to feel good about some things in a world where they are allowed a bit more control. But shouldn’t they be spending their time trying to make their real lives not suck? Shouldn’t they be learning an instrument, or creating art, or playing a sport, or programming something, or writing something, or anything to make their life better?? Isn’t that what people have been doing for hundreds of years? Are we as a society being robbed of cool creations and contributions to the world because people are instead spending their time doing something fake and – arguably – meaningless?? Are we experiencing a loss of creative productivity?

Please share your thoughts. We read every comment and I’d like to hear what other people think about this. Am I off base? Am I judging this wrong? Is old man Rob just not hip with the times? I see, somewhat often, tables of young people where everyone is on the phone at once (like 4 + people) and I just want to yell at them (in a comical fashion) “Don’t any of you have anything f***ing interesting to say?? Be important here and now to the people in front of you, not someplace where your physical body is not.”

What are your thoughts about this?

8 Quick and Easy Habits to Help You Lose Weight and Feel Better

There are millions and millions of articles aimed at helping people lose weight, get fit, and all the rest. “Eat this superfood and lose weight!!” “Do this one/three/five things and shed the pounds!!” The cold hard truth that doesn’t sell magazines is that it requires a lifestyle change. The upside is that it doesn’t have to be difficult and painful. Incorporate some or all of the below into your day to day and watch the difference that it makes. ALL OTHER THINGS EQUAL these habits, when practiced daily, will help you lose some weight and keep it off. Starting with the easiest first and ending with an example of a healthy day in the life.

MORNING

1. Water

This is the most important and often overlooked part about staying healthy and weight loss. DRINK LOTS AND LOTS OF WATER. To maximize your results, this habit begins before you go to bed at night. Get a large cup of water (16 oz – can’t be less according to a study) and keep it next to your bedside. I keep my Nalgene bottle at hand – always. When I wake up, I make sure to drink at least half and if I stop short, the measurement on the side sets me right.

2. Protein

Within 30 minutes of waking up – get some protein. Eggs, Morningstar veggie and black bean burger with an egg (ready in 10 min or less), or a protein shake, or whatever else you can think of. Just get protein into your system. I drink a small serving protein shake every single morning. The Boathouse Farms mocha to be specific. I just keep it in the fridge and hammer some of it down before getting ready. Giving your body a boost of protein helps you begin your day by fueling your muscles, boosting your metabolic rate, and it triggers your digestive system and your brain to begin functioning normally and efficiently. It is very, very important for weight loss.

3. Caffeine

If there is one habit here that you can do without, it’s this one, but it should not be discounted as part of the weight loss morning habits. Coffee, in moderate amounts, and the caffeine that comes with it, is very healthy. Not only is it packed with antioxidants, but the caffeine also helps boost your metabolism.

The result

Combining all three of these metabolism boosters right when you get up in the morning will put your body into an efficient, fat burning machine. It’s like a one-two punch followed by an uppercut of antioxidants and caffeine. But you have to remember to keep your protein low fat and minimize the sugars in your protein and coffee. It’s best to consume part 1 immediately after you get up, and part 2 within 30 minutes of getting up. All three steps are super easy and take very little preparation. Just having the protein shakes that you buy from the store (under $4 for 2-4 servings) in your fridge takes care of breakfast, and sleeping with water next to your bed is so easy there’s no excuse not to do it. The time and preparation for all three steps is minimal. Just figure out your little system and stick with it.

During the Day

1. Water

Looks familiar…. And that is because it is. I can’t stress this point enough – DRINK LOTS OF WATER!!! If room temperature water isn’t for you, ice it up. Just drink lots and lots of water. 8 cups a day won’t do s**t for you. You need to be drinking a lot more. Get a large water bottle for work and a large bottle for home. 32 oz. I use a giant soda cup (I never drink soda – cut that out of your diet and watch the pounds vanish – but I use the huge cup for ice water) and a Nalgene bottle for home. Lots of water helps your body get rid of fat and keeps everything moving along through all of your systems nicely. Additionally, it prevents you from getting unnaturally hungry from dehydration.

2. Move, move, move

Take the stairs. Park as far away from the door as possible. Get up and walk over to a co-workers desk rather than call or IM them. Just MOVE. Do whatever you can throughout the day to move around. It doesn’t matter what it is, just do it and do as much of it as you can. Before you eat, do a flight or two of stairs. It will boost your metabolism right before you intake food, therefore making your body process it better. If you work in a tall building, take the stairs back part way from the cafeteria. Or walk to the restaurant and back for lunch. Whatever it is, just get movement in. Super simple, super easy, big difference.

The Gym

1. Just get there

It doesn’t matter what happens when you’re there, just get to the Gym regularly. There are no excuses not to go. After you’ve done it for a while, it will be second nature. I can promise you that. Pick the time of day and just go. If you spend 5 minutes on the bike and then hit the showers, that’s fine. Just conquer the battle of your internal tendencies and get to the gym. Shower there in the morning before going to work (Less people, less traffic, more time to yourself) and maybe do 5 minutes of activity before you get in the shower. It doesn’t matter, just get there regularly. This alone will make a huge difference in your body composition and your health (mental and physical).
Side note: The main thing to remember when choosing a gym is to actually choose something that is going to work for you. Someplace that you can actually get to. Many people choose a gym based on price and perceived convenience, and the practice proves to be much less desirable (“this isn’t that far out of the way; I’ll make it here.”). Then they are stuck in a contract paying money for a service that they never even use. Don’t lie to yourself. Find something close to work, on your way to work or home, or someplace that is just too convenient to pass up. And then start getting there.

2. Keep the heart rate up

Ok, so you’re getting to the gym regularly, now what? Focus on doing exercises that keep your heart rate up. Not just cardio, but all over stuff. I looked at a few articles and the exercises that are linked are the best at really burning fat and increasing endurance. It’s the most bang for your buck workout. Even if you can’t do these exercises, just move somehow that keeps your heart rate up for a while.

3. Try different stuff

You see somebody doing an interesting exercise? Try it. You read about a workout that is supposed to give you chiseled abs? Try it. Your buddy says that he/she gets results doing X? Try it. Working out is your recess. It’s supposed to be fun and different. Just try new things whenever you feel like it. If you’re doing a back day, and you see someone doing a crazy kind of leg exercise, save it for the next day….or just try it. It’s fun to challenge yourself and test your capabilities. And it’s fun to try new things. The gym is all about your body. When you are in the gym, you are there for you. Going to the gym is the most important gift you can give yourself each day. If you are having a stressful, sad, challenging, disappointing day – go to the gym. I promise you that you will feel better when you leave. If you are having a great day, even better!! Go to the gym and your work out will be so much better motivated by the positive energy and you will leave walking on clouds. The gym is the one place where you can go to push your physical limits, shower, sit in the sauna or steam room, get in the pool, and feel better at the end of it all. Treat yo’ self by making it a part of your every day routine.

So what’s my point??

It’s pretty obvious, just make some simple habits part of your routine and it will lead to you becoming healthier and feeling better. Now, there’s no substitute for good nutrition, but that’s another article. Right now, just focus on trying some of these, or challenge yourself to try all of them. Try it for a week. See what the results are. To simplify it, below is a step by step guide to doing this stuff in a day.

  • Wake up: Pound down 16 oz of water.
  • Go to the fridge and drink a protein shake.
  • Get coffee and begin the commute – do not shower, do not finish getting ready, just get out the door earlier than you would normally leave.
  • Do not sit in traffic and get frustrated – because you left the house earlier and the traffic isn’t nearly as bad as it normally is.
  • Get to the gym; work out; keep that heart rate up; sit in the sauna for a bit; shower; get ready for work at the gym; feel like $1 million; get to work.
  • While at work take the stairs as much as possible. Drink tons and tons of ice water. Take the stairs every time you refill your ice or get food/coffee. Move Move Move.
  • Go home. Have fun. Be active. Ride your bike. The rest of the day is yours. You’ve gotten all the hard stuff out of the way. Go about your life like you normally would. Just don’t eat KFC or WackDonalds or any garbage like that. Enjoy being healthier.

REMEBMER THIS:

There are NO excuses. You have a choice. You can choose to be the best version of yourself. You have it in you. You are not the person that you may have been in the past. You are not a quitter. You WILL succeed. No excuses.
– Rob

Don’t let ’em win.

In the wake of the recent events in Boston, it doesn’t feel right to craft a post that does not touch on them. I have chosen write about an aspect of these events that is likely going to be a pivotal offshoot of this madness (if history has taught us anything).  

Recently there has been significant news coverage of the US government debating the use of unmanned drones to strike targets on American soil.  With the controversy that dilemma has created, it has divided many people.  Post 9/11 many of our rights were signed away “because we are at war” and to “save American lives” and to “prevent another terror attack.” While I find any acts of terror despicable, abhorable  and downright cowardly, I don’t think that justice should come at the cost of American freedoms, which we hold so dearly.  

If we take a look at what happened to our airports during the last decade, it is evident that our reaction to 9/11 is a barbaric security process. Last year the mismanaged TSA was described as broken by it’s former head.  It doesn’t have to be this way.   

I would enjoy nothing more than to rest easy each night, content with the knowledge that the two individuals involved in the Marathon Bombing are suffering the same fate promised to Zed by Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction.  “I’ma get medieval on your ass.  You hear me talkin’, hillbilly boy! I ain’t done with you by a damn sight.”  That’s the kind of fate that people who bring down a couple of towers or bomb a marathon deserve. I couldn’t imagine cheering at the sidelines for my girlfriend or her friends, hearing an explosion, and then waking up in a hospital without an arm and a leg and powder burns covering 78% of my body.  I just couldn’t.  Writing that seems, just….foreign.  But that’s the reality that dozens of people are living through right now.

It’s stories like this tend to get sensationalized and are used for sometimes nefarious means by individuals pursuing an agenda.  As unimaginably terrible as the aforementioned scenario is, in America, situations like these are one off and generally unrepeatable events and the bottom line is, we can’t let the terrorists win by allowing our freedoms to erode with the political reaction to each event. Plenty has been written and discussed with regards to what was taken away from us by the Patriot Act (A quick Google search of “Patriot Act freedoms lost” will provide you with more info than I could ever link to in this article) and we can’t let that happen ever again.  America is great for all of the freedoms that we enjoy.  Our lives led here surpass the wildest dreams of millions of people.  There is a lot that makes this country great and the cornerstone is the freedom that we enjoy every day.  Taking away our freedom is the same thing as allowing the terrorists win.  Enough of us need to stand our ground to protect our rights and freedoms.  When we lose our freedoms, we lose our greatness.  When we lose our greatness, the terrorists will have won.

checkmate.

   

 

Narcissism, Gym Etiquette, and the Most Important Person in the World: You

I read this article today about how we are becoming more narcissistic with the increase of electronic devices and services catering to the individual.  Long story short, with our little ‘bubble worlds’ revolving around us, our interests, our likes, and our social networks, we have begun to believe that the rest of the world revolves around our needs and desires and wants to deliver everything it can to our Id.  Well, I have news for you, buddy: YOU ARE NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE WORLD. 

"She is the most important person in the world. Are you her?"

“She is the most important person in the world. Are you her? Y/N”

Let me restate that: You are not the most important person in the world. <Period>  End of story.  You are part of a multitude of human beings – about 7 billion – and you are far, far from the most important.  There is a long, long line of other humans who came before you, and an unknown number who will come after you.  You are here for a short period of time in which you will participate with other humans in the Great Human Experiment that is testing our species to see if we can keep our shit together, or if we are going colossally fuck up and end ourselves.  You live on a small ‘marble’ hurtling through space, not unlike many other ‘marbles’ orbiting around many other stars.  What happens on this earth is of little consequence to anything else in this universe; it only matters to us humans and the flora and fauna that we share this world with.  So stop thinking that you are so important.  Seriously, stop it.  The only thing that matters is your usefulness to other humans and the way that you impact the rest of humanity. That is the only way that you can effect any meaningful and positive change in this this world.  In tandem with that thought, we are all part of the same ecosystem, and our ability to use resources does have a large impact (of course when multiplied by a lot of us) on the present and future of the world. 

Which brings me to my point on proper gym etiquette.  Every single weekday I go to the gym.  Every single weekday morning finds me there getting ready for work.  And every single day I am forced to watch these narcissistic, oblivious schmucks waste gallons of water as they leave the hot water on full blast while they shave or brush their teeth.  I’ve seen guys go back to their locker because they forgot something or walk away to do something unrelated and just leave the hot water running.  To demonstrate the inconsideration for the larger world and others around you is most certainly improper etiquette. There is absolutely no reason for flagrant waste. It is the absurd sense of narcissism and entitlement referenced above that these fuck-tards embody to the fullest and fosters waste proliferation. (Note: these are also some of the same guys who somehow manage to get more water around the sink than in the sink and just walk away without cleaning up after themselves. If I catch someone doing this in person I’ll slice them open with the disposable Bic razors provided by the gym (and I don’t use)).   Water scarcity is real and so is the threat of having widespread freshwater concerns during our lifetime. It is not ok to waste resources. Simple, simple shit like turning lights off when you are not using them, not running the water while you brush your teeth and shave don’t take much effort, but throughout the course of a year, your lifetime, it adds up.  Now multiply that times thousands of oblivious narcissistic self-enshrouded, cock-gobbling, scrotum-cupping douchebags and that behavior results in a profound impact on an ecosystem.  Flagrant waste is not ok.  It is a cardinal sin against the world, humanity, and it goes against the role that we have as members of Earth and humanity.  This is only exacerbated by the fact that millions of people are forced to do without every day (referring to water here, but it applies to much more).  Now before you go on to comment about the plastic and rubbish and food that we waste every day and that giant, fucked up garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean, just let me make my point.  If we – if every single person – dropped the narcissism and behaved with the idea in mind that they are part of a larger group that either suffers or benefits according to their every day choices, then we might actually reduce the negative impacts that we are having on our only home world.  

I know it sounds like Communism, but if we fuck this planet up in the next hundred years, maybe the rich will escape to a Mars colony, but the rest of humanity is going to choke to death on our decisions while sun burned on an uninhabitable rock.  It’s not about me, it’s not about you, it’s about US.  And its about us thinking about us and trying to be better for good of everything. It takes very little to be mindful that you share this world every day with tons of other people and your behavior has an impact.  Whether you think it does or not doesn’t change the fact that your decisions have consequences.  The ‘bubble world’ that we sometimes live in, might keep certain things out, but it doesn’t stop our shit from stinking.