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

Consequences of Not Sleeping

Sleeping

With a new college semester looming, I thought it was appropriate to look at the love/hate relationship we all have with sleep. When life gets busy, sleep is often the first activity on the chopping block. There always feels as if there’s so many other more important activities than laying in bed doing nothing. Phrases such as “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” frequently cross our minds when other activities take precedence.

The problem with this mindset is that getting less sleep than your body needs has a long list of unfortunate consequences that include:

  • Less energy (obviously).
  • Problems with remembering things.
  • Weight gain.
  • More susceptible to illness.
  • Body doesn’t repair itself as effectively (including muscles after working out).
  • Higher risk for heart complications, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.

Obviously we want to avoid those things as much as possible. The problem with sleep is, without knowledge of what’s “too much” or “too little,” it’s hard to avoid these consequences. In an effort to help people understand sleep a little more, here are a few questions I’m going to answer.

The Questions

Why is getting enough sleep good for my health?

What happens if I don’t get enough sleep?

What constitutes “enough” sleep?

I have troubles falling asleep, so how can I possibly get enough of it?

 Why is getting enough sleep good for my health?

For many people, enjoying the act of sleeping is a good enough reason to sleep as much as possible. Luckily for those that would rather be productive than “waste” time, there’s many other benefits as well that may change your mind. These benefits range from simply having energy, to getting stronger and staying healthy.

The most obvious benefit of sleep is that you have energy. This is pretty obvious so I don’t really feel like wasting a ton of time talking about it. Getting a full nights rest gives you energy, focus, and happiness. Who doesn’t want that?

A benefit most don’t think about is the repair your body does during your sleep. While your awake the body is repairing itself, but it has a lot more information to process and things to worry about. When sleeping, a lot of these distractions are gone and the body uses the down time to repair itself. The body is constantly replacing dead cells with new ones and keeping itself running smooth. When there’s an injury, illness, or internal problem the repair process goes into overdrive while sleeping. Without this it’d take a lot longer to get healthy again.

When it comes to working out and exercising, getting enough sleep is a really important part that many people ignore. Whether it be lifting weights or running; whenever muscles are used, microscopic rips happen. When the muscle repairs itself, the space in those rips is filled in and the muscle comes back bigger and stronger. Sleeping is the period of time when the majority of that repair occurs.

What happens if I don’t get enough sleep?

It’s easy to forget how crucial to our health sleep is. In addition to not gaining the above benefits fully, quite a few negative consequences happen. Lack of sleep contributes to memory or focus issues, weight gain, and serious health complications.

Getting a new memory to stick in the brain and being able to remember it involves 3 phases. The first phase, called acquisition, is when you actually learn the memory or skill. The second phase, called consolidation, is when the memory or skill gets implanted in the brain. The third phase, called recall, involves having the ability to remember the information later on when you need it. Of these three phases, acquisition and recall happen when you’re awake. Consolidation, however, happens while your sleeping. Gaining new information and skills to stick in the brain require an adequate amount of sleep. Without enough sleep, we would have a much harder time remembering the things we learn. (Sleep 2013.)

Lack of sleep can also have a huge effect on our weight. When we don’t get enough sleep our hormones get all out of whack (even more than just hating all human beings and life in general). Two hormones in particular, named Leptin and Ghrelin, get affected. Leptin is the hormone that sends the signal to your brain that you’re full and satisfied. When sleep is lacking, leptin levels drop, which means you don’t feel satisfied after eating. Ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates appetite. Ghrelin levels rise when sleep levels are low and this results in an increased appetite. These two things combine to set the stage for overeating. (Colette 2013.)

Serious health complications can also creep up when there’s a reoccurring theme of not sleeping enough. Through lots of studies, scientists have shown that people who don’t sleep enough are more susceptible to serious health issues that include heart complications, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. These are all things the body works against while sleeping. Not getting enough sleep opens the door to these serious health issues.

What Constitutes “Enough” Sleep?

Just like everything else in life, “enough” sleep varies widely from person to person. One person may be completely healthy with six and a half hours of sleep a night and another my need to get eight to stay totally healthy. The interesting thing about sleep, is that negative health issues arise both when you get too little sleep and too much sleep.

Some places such as sleepfoundation recommend adults getting between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, while others such as time, recommend six and half to seven and a half hours of sleep a night. Having such a wide range can confuse people. Why are they so different? Whenever you read about any amount of sleep being recommended it’s usually tied to some kind of research study or experiment. These studies are typically testing to see what effect the amount of sleep has on different consequences (heart disease, diabetes, etc.). Each different consequence has had it’s own study done and because of that, you will see a wide range of “optimal” sleep ranges.

When you look at each recommendation as a whole though, you start to get a feel for what’s a good target to shoot for. Taking all the different sources I researched, anywhere from 6.5-8 hours of sleep a night seems to be the best. Anything under 6.5 hours and you open yourself up to health problems. Similarly, anything over 8 hours and the possibility for problems also arises.

I have troubles falling asleep, so how can I possibly get enough of it?

Many people experience problems falling asleep. I’ve often sat there worrying about not being able to fall asleep, which causes me to not fall asleep. It’s a vicious cycle. The following are a few things I’ve either used or read studies on to help falling asleep get easier.

Don’t read, watch, TV, or eat in your bed. Basically, don’t use it for anything other than it’s intended purposes. Personally, I even try to avoid spending long periods of time in my room throughout the day. Doing those things while in bed associates the bed with things other than sleeping which makes it hard to fall asleep at the end of the day.

Take an hour or two without electronics before bed. Just relax. If you’re staring into a screen moments before hopping into bed, your brain isn’t going to be in the ideal state to go to sleep. Take some time before jumping in bed to just relax. I like to read a bit (just not in bed) before going to sleep.

I saved the best for last. Exercise! Everyone knows the feeling of being exhausted from running around and being active all day. Make sure you get some exercise in during the day and you’ll fall asleep much easier. Personally, I find that only the days where I have trouble falling asleep are when I don’t exercise at all. If I’ve done any exercise throughout the day, I fall asleep within minutes.

What are your favorite ways to fall asleep easier?

-Adam Conway

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http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-deprivation-effects-on-memory

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/lose-weight-while-sleeping

http://lifehacker.com/5802650/how-many-hours-sleep-do-you-really-need

http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

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

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.