Thursday, September 18, 2014

Warrior Dash and Me

I love challenges, especially physical ones. Like this year's Warrior Dash, held recently in Crawfordsville, Indiana. I think it's because as a child, I had asthma so severe, the doctors wouldn't let me participate in any physical activity at all.

They were pretty worried I'd have an asthma attack at school, and there wouldn't be any help for me. This was back before they'd developed the rescue inhalers that are so commonplace now.

For many patients, asthma gets better as the child grows up, or goes away altogether. In my case, it got worse. So they kept me away from physical exercise and steered me towards music lessons. Years of piano, violin, and drum lessons, and it worked, too. I kind of had a gift for it, and I've never, ever had an asthma attack while playing the piano!

As I got older, they developed some drugs to try and prevent the attacks from happening, but they weren't very effective, especially in my case. The years after high school graduation were the worst.

When I was 19 and 20, I had several hospitalizations and even a couple life-threatening episodes. Part of this was due to the seriousness of the attacks, but part was due to me just having had enough.

I wanted to move. I needed to be move. Back then, I didn't understand it, but I had what experts call a "felt need" to get moving. So I did. I started martial arts and working out in the gym, despite the asthma.

I trained a lot and made some progress, but every now and then, I'd have an exercise induced asthma attack. Sometimes they were so serious that rescue inhalers couldn't help.

So I'd have to go to the hospital for breathing treatments in the ER. The respiratory therapists wheeled in this machine that looked like C3PO from Star Wars, and I'd get a 20 minute treatment. Often, I'd also get a shot of epinephrine from the nurse.

Usually, near the end of the treatment, I'd feel my airways start to open back up, and I could finally relax a little bit. But sometimes, the treatments wouldn't work, and they'd have to admit me for a day or two.

By this time, they'd developed home nebulizers so you could give yourself breathing treatments. One time, I happened to inhale some smoke while putting wood in a stove. It took two full treatments before I finally felt I wasn't going to die. Literally.

The medicine kept getting better, but it wasn't fool proof, especially if I went above a certain intensity. I remember driving to the ER after one of my earlier black belt testings. That was just the way it was. I carried inhalers everywhere, and used them all the time, but they didn't always help.

Then, about 10 years ago, they came out with a new class of preventative drugs. These actually kept the adverse chemical reactions from happening at the molecular level. It was life changing, for me and many others.

Finally, I could go as hard as I wanted, without fear of an asthma attack. I no longer had to worry about allergic reactions (most of the time). After 30 years of making sure I always had an inhaler with me, now I no longer needed one.

Suddenly, the sky was the limit. I could spar at 100% without worry. I was able to run far and even run fast. I could grapple much larger guys, and not only not gas out, but not choke out either (unless they actually choked me out)!

So I did sparring tournaments, 5K's, and then full and half marathons. Then CrossFit training, grappling tournaments, and finally, mud runs like the one last weekend.

Warrior Dash is a 5K (3.1 mi) obstacle run with a bunch of obstacles to challenge you along the way. It was also particularly muddy this year. From start to finish, the trail was covered in mud, often several inches deep. This requires extra leg effort, especially when you're going uphill. It also requires extra focus to keep your footing.

There were hundreds of participants all day long, running up and down muddy hills, crawling through trenches, climbing over walls, traversing narrow beams, jumping over fire, and slogging through the obligatory mud pit. Of course, the harder you push the pace, the more difficult it is.

This wasn't the first time I'd participated in Warrior Dash, but for some reason, it was my best one. The training leading up to the event went really well, and right from the start I felt great. So I ran right on the edge, all the way through. I can't tell you how nice it is to not have to worry about breathing. I was able to just focus on the run and having fun!

It's not the toughest mud run out there. Spartan Sprints typically have more difficult obstacles, and Tough Mudder and full Spartan Races are quite a bit longer, around 10-12 miles. I even have a friend that does 50K wilderness runs for fun. That's more than 30 miles, without trails. They simply take a compass, some snacks, and off they go.

But this Warrior Dash was very empowering for me, as it was for everyone else I talked to. There's just something about just getting dirty and sweaty. Especially with most of our time spent inside these days, sitting at computers.

For many, the goal was to come and just have a good time, while completing the course. This time for me, it was a chance to try and blast through as fast as possible (without getting injured).

I figure I'm making up for all those early days. Dad says if I could have been in athletics back then, I'd probably be a professional musician with those years of lessons. Instead, I train people in fitness and martial arts, and do Warrior Dash.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


I've been fortunate to work with a lot of people in the gym over the years. While many have wanted to reshape their bodies or improve their fitness and conditioning, most really just wanted to lose some weight. So how do you do it?

At this point, there are really just two approaches. You can either add some activity to your day (exercise), or you have to start watching what you eat (diet).

I've seen people get decent results with either, although it's not automatic. You have to be pretty good at it, and you have to be very disciplined. Miss a day of working out, or have a bad day with your diet, and you can easily undo the progress made the day before.

But the best results always come when people attack it from both ends. By adding activity AND watching what they eat. Here's where you have substantial power for change.

By using both strategies, you can slip a little in one area without it costing you too much. You can miss a few workouts, but if you're on it with your diet, it won't set you back too much. In fact, you can still make progress.

On the flip side, if you have a bad day with your diet but you're nailing your workouts, you're also insulated from disaster. You may not lose any weight that week, but you won't necessarily gain any either. You'll keep even.

That's why I believe the best approach is to go ahead and overhaul both areas. You don't have to be perfect at either, but you can still get good results. And if you can get good at both, watch out. You're on your way to becoming a weight loss warrior!

This approach has worked well for our latest Biggest Loser, Mark Clark. He really dialed in his diet early on and lost quite a bit of weight. Then after losing only 2 1/2 lbs last week, he doubled down on his workouts this week, even "jogging a little bit."

It worked, because he was our Week Eight winner, losing an amazing 8.0 lbs and 2.7% of his body weight. This brought his eight week total to 36.0 lbs. What's even more impressive is that he joined us in Week Two, missing the whole first week. Mark has lost 36 lbs in just 7 weeks. Now that's the way you do it!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Stick To Your Guns

"Stick to your guns." The phrase is typically used as a metaphor for not giving up on an idea. Or not stopping, once you've started something. Like a lot of old phrases, it's interesting to think about where it originally came from.

According to the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs, it means "to remain firm on one's convictions, to stand up for one's rights. The dictionary refers to a soldier staying on the line, ready to fire their weapon, "even when all appears to be lost."

When you were about to be overwhelmed by a superior force, and you were clearly in danger, you still stuck to your guns. Even if all was lost.

This meant that there was a higher purpose at stake, even than your own life, or those of your compatriots. You held the line, whatever it took. If you were overrun, they could flank the main army, or take the city, and then the battle was lost.

Pretty serious stuff, I know. But does the phrase still retain it's early meaning? Does it still carry the same weight of conviction? Probably not.

So why do we still say it? Start a new diet or exercise program and someone like me will say "You've got to stick to your guns." When our kids are thinking about making a change because practices are getting tough, we tell em "You've got to stick to your guns!" And when someone challenges our position on something, we're encouraged to stand up and "Stick to our guns."

Sometimes we stick. But all too often we don't. Life intrudes, pressure comes to bear, and we yield the field. We simply give up.

But what if it were life or death? We'd hold the line. Whatever it took. When we can convince ourselves something is that important, we'll hold on. When we can find that level of commitment, we'll find a way. We'll stick to our guns!

Buddy the Wonderdog Loses Weight

About four months ago, during a routine visit to the Vet, we got some alarming news. Our Golden Retriever, Buddy, who was fourteen months old at the time, needed to lose ten pounds. If he didn't, he would be at risk for serious illness and injuries.

We'd suspected that he was getting a little big, but we hadn't realized he needed to lose that much weight. It snuck up on us, just like it does with our own bodies. We attributed it to two things: The extremely cold winter made it hard for us to get him outside, and we'd been following the portion sizes on the dog food bag.

Now, we should have found a way to work him out despite the cold. But the dog food? That was a shocker. We didn't realize it was almost twice what he needed. I should have known better, because eating too much with no exercise always makes us humans fat. Of course it would make Buddy fat too.

So Kathy and I embarked on our new journeys as doggie nutritional coach and puppy personal trainer. She started reducing the amount of dog food, and naturally, I jumped all over the exercise part of Buddy's Biggest Loser campaign.

Originally, he was getting two cups, twice a day, as per the recommended amount in the bag. So Kathy slowly cut it back to 1 3/4 cups, then 1 1/2, and finally 1 1/4 cups per meal. He always seemed satisfied, though, because she replaced the high calorie dog food with some nutritious "filler" foods.

At breakfast, he got a sliced banana with his meal. At the same time, she started giving him 1/2 cup of sliced carrots or green beans with his afternoon meal. He gobbles them up. He also gets an apple at lunch, which is also inhaled. These fruits and vegetables give him some vitamins and minerals, and lots of fiber, which I think is helping at the other end too.

To get an idea about his workouts, I asked some friends how they ran with their dogs. They gave me some guidelines, and one told me her husband actually swims across the lake with their Golden Retriever!

Buddy had gained several pounds during the winter storms, but once Spring arrived, we started jogging outside again. At first, just five minutes did him in, but little by little, we added to it until he could go twice as long.

I have a trail about 3/4 a mile long, that runs through the woods and back up around a field. We worked up to where I could run a whole lap with him, another one without him (while he took a break), and then another with him, and so on.

He was much faster out of the gate, but I could always outlast him, especially early on. But after a couple months, I realized that while I was running, he was just really trotting, which wasn't much of a workout for him anymore. If I wanted to keep his speed up, I was going to have to try something different.

So one morning, I hopped on my mountain bike, grabbed his leash and said "Come on, Buddy!" We took off down the lane at twice our usual speed, and he was out in front leading the way. Our country lane is about a quarter mile, there and back, which is like running around the track at the football field.

Since then, we've worked up to about a mile and a half every morning out on our country road. Me on my mountain bike, with Buddy on a leash, loping along beside me. We'll go fast for awhile, and then I'll back off to give him a break, just like I do with the Biggest Loser groups and their High Intensity Interval Training.

I do have to be careful, because sometimes he gets a little excited if he spots some birds. That can lead to unexpected direction changes! He's getting better at staying on track, though. Of course we still have to pull off the road when cars come along.

He's getting stronger too. I'll often do another shorter ride with him later on the day, or I'll run with him, so he can have an easier pace. At night, we'll play chase, and rough and tumble in the house. It's like having a lion coming at you, without the claws and fangs, of course. Just a big wet, slobbery tongue!

We had Buddy clipped so he could take the heat better, and with eight pounds off, he's looking pretty trim. As we move into the fall season, he's becoming quite the doggy athlete and his agility is astonishing. We just had his follow up visit, and the vet was very happy with his turnaround.

Over the years, I've seen lots of people lose weight by getting moving and watching what they ate. But this is the first time I helped an overweight doggie do it. Now Buddy's got his body back, and he's going to keep it that way, too!

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, September 06, 2014


Our latest group in Biggest Loser "21" has just reached the halfway point of their twelve week journey. It's a real milestone for several reasons.

With half the course behind them, they've shown they can stick. There are always lots of things to pull us off track. But if they can make it halfway, they can finish, no matter what comes up.

By now, they've got their diet dialed in. Remember, this is a diet that's really no diet. Eating right just means eating the right things, in the right amounts. It also means avoiding the junk.

The group has also gotten used to working out. By now, it may even be a habit. They've learned how to use the weight machines, along with several dumbbell free weight routines.

They've had a variety of cardio workouts on the Treadmills, Ellipticals, Rowers and Bikes. They've also learned how to push themselves with several different High Intensity Interval Training workouts. They've even had a Kickboxing workout.

So for most of them, they simply need to keep doing what they're doing. Whether they're averaging one pound or five pounds a week, it's becoming predictable to them. All they have to do is maintain their discipline and stay the course.

That said, there's a wrinkle that often comes up in the second half of the program. Weight loss begins to slow down and motivation starts to falter. The plateau that follows can either crush you, or propel you on to something more.

At this point, you have to take action to help you get past it. Regroup when you've made mistakes. Double down on things you know that work. And keep looking for new ways to shake things up.

Above all, remember that old saying: "Winners never quit, and quitters never win." The participants that can find a way to do this will not only finish their program, but they'll finish with style!

Our Week Six Winner of Biggest Loser "23" was Krista Krabel, who lost 3.6 lbs and 1.6% of her body weight. Polly Colter was second, losing 2.1 lbs and 1.4%, and Dale Colter placed third, losing 1.4 lbs. Shelly and Keith Borchers were fourth and fifth, both losing a pound.