How to get in shape – 3 different styles to consider

get-in-shape-1

I love seeing people get excited about learning how to get in shape. The more people take steps towards improving their fitness and health, the better. I’m a firm believer that any exercise is better than no exercise, but I’m also a believer that knowing your exercise goals greatly increases your chance of succeeding.

In an effort to help people better figure out what it is they want to achieve, I’ve split it up into three broad styles. Obviously there’s a lot of differences within each style, but each one defines a distinctly different mindset when approaching exercise.

The first 2 styles to consider when deciding how to get in shape:

  • Style 1 is a complete focus on muscle and weight gain. 

    This style consists of people who believe the only reason to lift weights is to gain muscle. With this style, all energy is put into consistently gaining weight and muscle. There’s nothing wrong with deciding to focus 100% on this, but it’s a decision that needs to made consciously. Complete focus on weight and muscle gain means losing the benefits of cardiovascular exercise. 

  • Style 2 is a complete focus on losing weight. 

    You can visit pretty much any gym and see this style in action. These people walk straight past the weights and hang out in the cardio room for a bit, and then leave. Cardio and losing weight are both awesome, but you’d miss out on the awesome benefits of lifting weight if you focus on them 100%.

These two styles represent complete opposite ends of the spectrum. The first one represents the end where you’re completely focused on building muscle, while the second one represents the end where you’re completely focused on losing weight.

The problem with these two styles are that they’re extreme. It’s hard work to achieve anything with exercise, regardless of what direction you go. The difference is, when you go to the extremes on either end, you put unnecessary stress on you’re body. Finding the mid-point between these two styles is ideal.

The 3rd (and best) style to consider when deciding how to get in shape:

  • Style 3 represents what I call an “athletic” build. 

    Using this strategy involves splitting your time between lifting weights and cardiovascular exercise. It’s a happy medium between the other two. You might not end up competing in any body-building competitions, or walking down any runways with this style. You’ll be better off for it though because your body won’t be subjected to those extremes. The problem with shooting for an athletic build, is it’s difficult to find information on.

Why break it down into 3 styles? Doesn’t that over simplify fitness?

Most people simply want to get in shape; not gain mass amounts of muscle, or lose every ounce of fat on their body. Most people just want to become healthier and simplifying fitness into 3 styles makes it much easier to define what the goal really is.

All that’s needed to really make a difference in your health is a simple grasp of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Stay tuned. The next 3 posts will be going into these three styles in more detail.

-Adam Conway

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Check out my new site!: Simplify Adam

Photo Cred:http://www.top-dating-coach.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/get-in-shape-1.gif

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Could You Live Without a Car?

Empty Garage

I’ve been looking forward to writing this sentence for a long time now. I haven’t let myself say anything until it’s official, but now I’m allowed to:

I can officially say I’m living without a car.

It might not sound like much of an amazing declaration to some, but that’s ok. Living without a car is, at the very least, a great challenge. I’ve been using my bicycle as exclusively as possible for the past 5 months, so there’s really nothing different now, it’s simply a matter of principle. Lots of people ask why I’ve been doing this. If your curious, check out these two articles that start to explain why:

There’s a few factors working against me:

  • I commute to a college that’s in a different town Tuesday through Thursday. It amounts to a 30 mile round trip.

  • There’s a major lack of bike friendly streets/trails. There’s one trail that goes through the middle of town and that’s about it.

  • There’s majorly lacking (read: none) public transportation. I think there’s a city bus system, but I’ve never used it and never intend to. Biking gets me places faster anyways.

  • Living car-free isn’t accepted as normal like it would be in a big city.

    Exhibit A:          

Exhibit A

Not owning a car is freeing. I don’t have to deal with gas, insurance, upkeep, or repairs. I get to focus on things that matter. I feel more free than I have in months.

As you probably know, cars cost quite a bit. The sticker price certainly hurts your wallet, but all the costs associated with owning a car are what really take its toll. You better be well prepared for all the things that come with owning a car.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with owning a car. I just believe people worship their car as if they can’t live without it. I want more people to experience the freedom that comes with not relying on their car. I’ve been experiencing that freedom lately and my hope is that more will!

How about you? Do you think you could ever give up your car?

 -Adam Conway

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[Note: I do have a motorcycle that I use once every few weeks to avoid over training. I’ve spent 60 dollars in gas the past 5 months which illustrates how often I use it. Riding my bike over 100 miles a week for 5 months starts to add up.]

Photo Cred: onelowerlight.com

Cycling Against the Wind

windy-cyclists

After a weekend rest, I’m mentally preparing myself for another weeks worth of riding. Four days just doesn’t feel long enough to recover from the accumulation of miles that comes with biking 30 miles to school and back three days in a row. On the verge of the next three day stint, it’s all I can do to get pedaling. Wait, I should check to make sure I have everything again. School supplies, check. Water, check. Food, check. School supplies, no I already made sure of that. Well let me re-adjust my backpack and tighten the straps for the 17th time. Ok, well if I have everything, I guess that means it’s time to go…

The jarring caused by the transition from curb to street is the cyclists’ starting gun. I take the first of many breaths of fresh air this crisp winter morning has to offer. Fumbling to attach my shoes to the pedals is the final ingredient in the cycling stew. A quarter of a mile down the road and I’m certain somebody injected cement into my tires and they must have left some bricks in my backpack for good measure. My muscles start to warm up and things are starting to get slightly better. Traffic is whizzing past me, taunting me to go faster and push harder. With a competitive spirit, I answer their taunt with speed and agility of my own. The wind is my friend as I whiz down the road, navigating the obstacles of the street. Every light I pass is green and my energy seems endless. The world seems perfect; what could go wrong? After making it through town and into the country, the joy continues. A chirping bird flies next to me for a brief second (literally), followed moments later by sounds coming from a hawk gliding above. After arriving at my destination I check the time and to my delight, it’s taken 50 minutes, a new record! What a wonderful adventure life is! How could anybody ever not be happy?

Optimism is practically oozing out of my ears as I mount the speed demon otherwise known as my bike. Can I break my record twice in one day? Maybe successfully navigate the 15 mile ride home without ever touching the handlebars? Suddenly stumble upon the cure for cancer? These all seem like real possibilities. I joyfully attach my shoes to the pedals and ride off, sprinting at top speed. One mile down and I feel the fatigue that comes with not pacing myself. I’ll just set a decent pace and I’ll be home in no time. Keeping the pace I settled upon seems a lot harder than it should be, but I chalk it up to tired muscles from the quick ride to school. That should go away once I get loosened up. A couple more miles and I’m completely spent. Why is this so difficult? An American flag on the roadside gives me an answer to that question I don’t want to hear. The flag frantically waves directly in my direction so violently that it looks as if it might rip off it’s pole, symbolizing the cyclists’ mortal enemy: wind. This ride just got a lot tougher than anticipated. The wind speed only increases once I make it out into the country. At the halfway point I struggle to hit 10 MPH and after checking the time, realize it’s already been 45 minutes. Traffic speeds by, rubbing their superiority in my face. It doesn’t seem fair that they get to avoid the effects of the wind, while I feel the full force of it. Every light I come to is red which gives me a little break from the wind, but kills any hope of gaining momentum. After expending so much effort with little to show for it, I feel empty of any energy. At least an empty stomach means less weight to carry, right? Checking the time as my journey concludes reveals a disappointing record time of an hour and 40 minutes. I did set a new record on my way home, it just wasn’t the one I was aiming for. The jarring caused by the transition from street to curb is the well-welcomed finish line. Why would anybody ever be happy to do this to themselves, knowing they’ll be back again tomorrow?

Simple Workout

Simple

Keep workouts simple

When looking for information on working out, it’s easy to feel completely buried in a mountain of information. Every place you look says something different. Lift this way or eat that way. There are millions of free and paid exercise programs to follow, so where should you start? The options become too many and varied so you end up getting overwhelmed and giving up. Why should you even start something when you don’t know if it’s right?

Here’s the easiest way to get in shape:

Start with none of them. Start simple.

The simpler something is, the easier it is to understand. The easier it is to understand, the easier it is to follow.

Doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Do something you actually like doing, even if you hear its not as good as X (whatever workout everyone else says is better).

Here’s a list simple things you can do. I’m not writing down a “program” that should be followed. This is simply a list of simple ideas to get moving:

  • Walk.
  • Run.
  • Jump over/on stuff.
  • Climb up things.
  • Bike.
  • Your favorite sport.

Here’s a list of some simple workouts that can be done anywhere:

  • Push-ups.
  • Pull-ups.
  • Planks.
  • Bodyweight squats.
  • Lunges.
  • Wall sits.

Please comment with your favorite simple workouts!

-Adam Conway

21 Reasons to Bike

Bike lane2

Earlier, I talked about how I got into cycling. I didn’t touch on why I bike though, which is a much more important topic!

There are many different reasons why I ride ranging from surface level “it’s fun” reasons, to deep “purposeful” reasons. I started typing out this list without any regard for numbers. Incidentally, I came up with 21 reasons…1 for every year of life so far!

Biking everywhere…

  1. Is fun.Jumping on my bike and riding off with the wind against my face is exhilarating. Traveling around town on my bike makes every day feel like an adventure.
  2. Is simple.Unlike cars, bikes are simple. There are no Thermal Reactors or Harmonic Compensators. All the parts needed to make the bike work are visible without much investigation.
  3. Is a great way to get moving.There’s no better way to wake up in the morning than to jump on my bike and go for a ride. Likewise, when my day is stuck in a rut, jumping on the bike and riding around the block is a great way to get moving.
  4. Keeps me in great shape.When biking everywhere you need to go means you’re doing >100 miles a week, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to stay in shape.
  5. Saves gas money.With the national average gas price being $3.33 as of writing this post, gas is terribly expensive. I didn’t start biking specifically to save on gas, but it is a welcomed benefit. Going back through my checking account, I’ve spent $60 in the last 4 months on gas. That’s just over 18 gallons of gas used in 4 months
  6. Always gives me the opportunity to challenge myself.Should I ride for speed? Should I try to do the whole trip without touching the handlebars? Should I see how many miles I can do in a day?

    These are the questions I’m constantly asking myself when I’m on my bike. Some challenges may seem silly (I did make it all the way across town without ever touching the handlebars!), but the opportunity to push my limits is always available. I don’t always have to take it, but it’s always there.

  7. Teaches me to always be alert to my surroundings.Riding forces me to pay attention to lots of variables to keep safe. In addition to all the things you have to pay attention to while driving, there’s tree branches, rocks, potholes, and unaware drivers to look out for. This focus translates well into other areas of my life by teaching me to be aware of unseen circumstances
  8. Is easy on the body compared to many other forms of exercise.I compete in a lot of different sports in addition to lifting weights and other things done on my own. I love competing, but it can add up and put unhealthy strain on my body. Biking is a great exercise that doesn’t have the same level of impact as other sports.
  9. Lets me spend more time outdoors.I love being outside. This was one of the main factors adding up to getting a bike. Biking everywhere allows me to be outdoors more instead of moving around in a box closed off from nature.
  10. Gives me satisfaction knowing I used my muscles to transport myself.There’s something so satisfying in getting to your destination and knowing you propelled yourself there.
  11. Is much easier to fix than all the moving parts of a car. (See #2)Cars are quite complicated. Any repair more serious than an oil change usually means one of three things. Intricate understanding of mechanics, sending it off to a shop, or trying to follow a complicated manual. In addition, all cars are different and each one has different parts and configurations. It’s true that all bikes are also different and some repairs may take a bit of knowledge and/or tools. Most bikes are configured similarly though, so once you learn, it will always come back to you. It’s as if “it’s like riding a bike.”
  12. Allows me to see my world from a new perspective.The world got somewhat foreign from inside the walls of my car. Getting outside allows my to see things from a completely different angle.
  13. Is completely worth it if all I get in return is the look on people’s face when I tell them I don’t drive places.This point deserves story time:Once upon a time, I pondered the drearily waterlogged scene that awaited me outside the front lobby of my gym. I was just finishing my mental preparation for the wet ride ahead when someone came up beside me. He asked in horror if I “had” to “ride home in that downpour?” Did he think I would melt away thanks to the rain as if I were the Wicked Witch of the West? No, that couldn’t be, I thought to myself, as I had no pointy hat or big nose. “Heck yes,” I responded gleefully, as I opened the front door. As I turned to say bye, I witnessed a look of terror on his face unrivaled by few horror film actors.Ok, that was just an excuse to practice my story writing skills. But seriously, it’s pretty fun to see people’s reaction when I tell them I ride my bike everywhere.
  14. Keeps me from getting comfortable.Being comfortable is what many spend their whole life chasing. Being comfortable isn’t what grows us though. Sometimes we have to get a little uncomfortable if we want to truly succeed. These two posts do a way better job at describing this than I ever could:
    Read this: Never be comfortable

    And then this: Discomfort

     

  15. Helps me realize that just because people say things are impossible, doesn’t mean they are.There‘s a lot of things out there that seem impossible to people. It’s different for each person, but this can be anything from getting a six-pack, to writing a book, to living car-free. When you start doing one of these “impossible“ things, people will inevitably tell you its not right/safe/realistic/possible/whatever else. Biking has made me realize the only way to find out if they‘re right or not is to actually do it. More often times than not, it‘s not really as impossible as it seems. Advice is great, but you just have to be careful about whose advice you listen to.See this: Things they have no right to tell you
  16. Inspires others to take steps towards their health.Getting on my bike give me the opportunity to inspire others to do the same or figure out their own ways of getting in better shape. If biking inspires others (which it has) and continues to be an inspiration (I’m hoping it will), then it’s all worth it.
  17. Teaches me to pack lightly.When I go places, I can’t really haul a ton of stuff. At first it seems like a curse and something to be overcome, but after a bit it turns to a blessing. It’s led me to realize I don’t really need that much stuff, and that it’s way more relaxing to not be buried in things. The following post isn’t about cycling specifically, but it’s about clutter, and applies exactly to what I’ve come to realize: Living simply
  18. Forces me to slow down and “smell the roses.“Slowing down and not rushing does wonders for stress levels and health. Being on a bike forces me to slow down and not rush. I can only go as fast as my legs will allow, and sometimes that’s pretty slow.
  19. Has made me much more patient.In conjunction with the last number, riding places by bike is obviously slower than driving. That difference in speed though has helped me to develop more patience. Whether it be with friends, strangers, or time itself, I find myself being way more patient in other areas of life.
  20. Doesn’t contribute to smog/pollution/rising gas prices.Gas is expensive and the air in some places are terrible. I don’t pay for very much gas as is illustrated in #5. Here in the Central Valley of California, the air is pretty bad, but at least I can say I don’t contribute to it near as much as others. Whatever environmental issue irks you, commuting by bike on a large scale can help fix that.
  21. Has eliminated any “road rage.”When I ride, there’s a handful of drivers that don’t pay attention to what they’re doing. There are lots of great drivers too, but that small percentage of unaware drivers gets real annoying, real quick. It doesn’t do much good to get angry with them because by the time I get angry, they’re long gone.

If any of these reasons sound like a good enough reason to you to get a bike and ride, biking might just be for you. Just a thought though.

For anyone who asks why I choose to bike when I could just as easily drive, this list is a good start. Actually sitting down and writing this really helped put my thoughts into something concrete.

The real question here though is-
When was the last time you sat down and actually thought about why you do what you do?

-Adam Conway

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Simple Guide to Calories

The feared nutrition facts label (a.k.a. gibberish)

The feared nutrition facts label (a.k.a. gibberish)

Learning about nutrition is a tricky thing that people tend to sweep under the rug. It’s confusing, complicated, and impossible to master 100%. In an effort to educate people by starting simply, this is an intro to the absolute basics of nutrition. There is much, much more to learn and will be covered in more detail later on. Here are the questions that will be answered today.

The Questions
What exactly are calories and what do they do?
What determines how many calories I need per day?
How many calories do I actually need per day?
Where are calories actually found?

 

What exactly are calories and what do they do?

Calories are energy. They provide our body with the fuel it needs to keep running. As our body uses calories to perform actions, it gives off heat, much like a car. When a car is started, gas is used to run the engine, and in turn, heat is created. Giving off heat is what’s commonly referred to as “burning calories.” The body at rest burns a certain number of calories specific to each individual, while exercise burns off even more of them. Similarly to a car using gas to power the engine, our body uses fuel (a.k.a. calories) to do everything from powering our heart, to running a marathon, and everything else in between.

While calories are needed to sustain life, more calories doesn’t equal more life unfortunately. Knowing the relationship between calories and a healthy body is the first step in getting healthier.

Simply put, when the body gets exactly the amount of calories used in a day, it neither gains nor loses any fat. When the body gets more calories than it uses in a day, the excess is stored as fat. When the body gets less calories than it uses in a day, it uses the fat that was stored earlier to make up for that deficit.

The relationship between calories and fat is a tricky one, but the easiest explanation to understand is that a pound of fat in the human body is equivalent to 3,500 calories. Based off this number, when someone consumes 3,500 more calories than is used through any number of days, the body stores a pound of fat. Visa versa, when someone consumes 3,500 less calories than is used through any number of days, the body loses a pound of fat.

 

What determines how many calories are needed per day?

How many calories are needed in a day is completely different for each person, but at it’s simplest level, it’s made up of two different parts:

  1. The first part is the basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is the absolute minimum amount of calories needed. We’re talking how many calories would be used when lying in bed for 24 hours without moving a muscle. BMR is the minimum amount of calories it would take to run all organs necessary for survival in that situation. BMR is influenced by factors such as age, weight, gender, and genetics.
  2. The second part of the equation is any action done in addition to simply lying in bed for 24 hours. This action can be anything from watching TV, to vigorous exercise. This part is more easily controlled and is where we have the biggest opportunity to improve our health.

Example: Spending all day watching TV while making frequent trips to the fridge and bathroom will increase the amount of calories you burn over your BMR but it’s a tiny increase compared to other things you could do. In this example, the use of your legs while walking around in addition to using your arm and fingers to use the remote slightly increases the amount of calories your body uses. In contrast, exercising and being active greatly increases the amount of calories one burns on top of your BMR

 

How many calories do I actually need per day?

Figuring out the exact number of calories needed per day can cause a headache. There are multiple formulas, equations, and tables to help figure it out. Constant research and debating over which one is the most correct can lead to an overwhelming feeling followed by giving up altogether. In an effort to avoid that pitfall, I found a calculator I liked and simply went with it.

Here’s the one I use: http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm
If you don’t like using this calculator, that’s fine by me. Just find a different one and go with it!

The only way to get an exact number of how many calories needed per day requires visits to medical professionals specializing in the field. In addition to the enormous cost of that, caloric need changes quite often which makes those professional consultations time consuming and expenses. Using any online calorie calculator is going to give a rough estimate of what you should be consuming, which is good enough to get started.

The best way to determine if the numbers the calorie calculator are giving you is correct is by listening to your body. Are you putting on more weight or are you losing it? Do you feel so deprived all day that you have no energy or are you so stuffed you can barely move?

Paying attention to signals your body gives you is the key to succeeding.

 

Where are calories actually found?

Calories are a sort of nebulous idea but where are they actually found?
While calories are found in other a few other sources, the most common source of calories is found in Fats, Carbohydrates, and Protein. There’s a vast amount of different options within each of the three categories, but at its most basic level, we get the majority of our calories from fats, carbohydrates, and protein.

These three categories make up what is known as macronutrients. I will be doing a follow-up post on each of these macronutrients, but to wrap up this post, here is how each one relates to calories:

  • Each gram of fat is equal to 9 calories
  • Each gram of carbohydrates is equal to 4 calories
  • Each gram of protein is equal to 4 calories

This information is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to nutrition. I will be going into more detail on every aspect of nutrition in the future so check back!

Thanks for reading!
-Adam Conway

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References:

Cycling

How I started cycling

For a few years, I have been the proud owner of a 2001 Honda Civic, and a 2006 Kawasaki 250 Ninja. This is the story of how I ended up shunning both of them in favor of a much more gas-efficient 2012 Specialized Tricross.

My bike
There came a point about 7 months ago in June, 2012, when I got tired of driving everywhere. On the surface, the costs add up with gas, insurance, repairs, and oil changes. On a deeper level, I realized that I simply enjoyed being outdoors as much as possible. Part of the reason I love being on my motorcycle is that it allows me to be outdoors while traveling. There is something particularly irking about traveling inside that little metal box. After getting new running shoes, I went through a two week period where I ran everywhere. I ran to the gym, I ran to church, and I ran anytime errands needed to be done. It was a great time of seeing it was completely possible to live without a car. Over the next two months I filled up the tank in my car once, opting to ride my motorcycle almost exclusively.

After I filled up the tank in my car again two months later, I realized it wasn’t enough. I needed more adventure. I love the idea of running everywhere, but it wasn’t sustainable. While my body isn’t made for lots of long distance running I still loved the idea of using exercise to get places. Cycling seemed like the best bet and something I knew I would enjoy. I had cycled often as a kid, but had my bike stolen a year earlier.

After thinking about it for a week, I decided that I was going to search for a nice bike I could call my own. I went to a local bike shop that had exactly the bike I was looking for. I thought about it for a day, deciding that to make it work I would need to forego my car for the most part and sell it if possible. I ordered the bike the next day and waited for it to arrive. I got the bike in September and immediately began logging miles. My goal was to keep a 10 mile a day pace, but once I started riding to school (30 miles round trip), that pace became a walk in the park. Before I knew it, 61 days had passed and I’d ridden 1,000 miles.

On my way to 1,000 miles I thought long and hard about what my new goal should be. Spending many hours in the saddle caught me dreaming of doing a cycling trip across the world, the first leg of which would be from where I live to New York. I figured I might as well combine those two goals and make my next mileage goal the distance of that first leg. My new mileage goal would come out to be 2,900 miles.

So far, my car hasn’t sold off of Craigslist, but it will sooner or later and I’m still 100% for getting rid of it. There’s many reasons why I like the idea of having no car which I’ll go into later and cycling is just one of them. I still have my motorcycle, with no plans of selling it, which I use when I need to get somewhere quick (which isn’t that often).

I’ve encountered a lot of opposition along the way. I’m not quite sure why people are so opposed to the idea of only transporting yourself by bike, but it only fuels my drive. People have said I’m “fung shwaying” my life, selling my car isn’t a good long term strategy, and even that I’m going to get pneumonia riding through the winter. I think people just fear a little bit of uncertainty, but a little bit of fear and uncertainty isn’t bad, it’s invigorating and exactly what I’m searching for.