Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ski to Sea 2011 - A Race for the Ages!

Ahh, Memorial Day Weekend!  For most people, it is a 3 (sometimes 4) day weekend where they don’t have to work, or it means time and a half pay.  For others, it has special meaning.  Especially to those in the US Armed Forces and their families.  Currently, my sister and her husband are serving in the US Navy and I’ve met many of their friends who are serving as well.  Our grandfather is a Pearl Harbor Survivor, stationed aboard the U.S.S. Maryland, as well as several uncles who have served in various branches.  It is a day of celebration and remembrance. And it is a day to say "Thank You" to all the men and women serving as well as those who have served in the past.

For most, it is a chance to break out the grill and pig out on food; which is what I did among other things.  For me, not only is it a day of remembrance and celebration, it is also a day of competition.

Competition?  Memorial Day Weekend?  Yup, you read correctly - read on!

The 2011 Ski to Sea Course Map
Every year for the last 100 years in Bellingham, WA, there has been some form of a race that has evolved over the years.  In its current state, the Ski to Sea race is a 100 mile long relay race with 8 members to a team, 7 different sports, all competing to get from the Mt. Baker Ski Area to the finish line in the Fairhaven district of Bellingham.  This year, 500 teams competed - what a blast!

Here's how the race works:
There is one timing chip for each team that is passed between teammates at exchange points.  Beginning at the Mt. Baker Ski Area, the first leg begins at promptly 8 AM with cross country skiing.  The cross country skier glides through the trees for 4 miles around the base of the ski area, going up some minor (although our cross country skier will dispute this description) hills before handing the chip off to the waiting downhill skier.  Oh if only this competition was kind enough to allow us to ride the chair up for this leg.  

Yeah, right.

The “uphill” skier receives the timing chip, skis a couple football field lengths to the base of the slope and looks up the hill wondering what the heck he got himself into (can you tell I did this leg before?).  The skis come off and thus begins the long hike, all 1500’ elevation gain.  After reaching the top, the “uphill” skier finally becomes a downhill skier and skis back down to the base where the chip is handed off to the runner.

Ooh, running?  The run is 8 miles long.  I  can hear you saying, “Pfft, 8 miles?  That’s nothing.”  You’re right, it isn’t much.  But try it with a 2200’ elevation drop and get back to those who have done it.  If you’ve ever gone skiing in the mountains, you understand how steep the road can get.  It is murder on the quads.  At the finish line, the road cyclist is waiting for the burning thighs to cross the exchange point and get started on a 42 mile bike ride.

Egads, 42 miles?!  While I’ve never done this leg, it can be quite a challenge, especially if people aren’t avid cyclists.  However, people who compete live for this leg!  They ride from the Washington DOT building on Highway 542 and head towards Riverside Park, in Everson where they pass the timing chip to the canoe team (the canoe leg is the only leg with two people).

Canoeing sounds fun, doesn’t it?  We all remember going for canoe rides at summer camp at the lake, very leisurely, right?  This is a competition.  There’s no leisurely pace here, folks.  These people mean serious business, despite paddling for a distance of 18.5 miles down the Nooksack River.  Conditions have an impact on the race, such as high water levels, winds (this year’s race had windy conditions).  When the canoeists reach Hovander Park after meandering through the bends, they hand off the timing chip to the waiting mountain biker.

Bobbing and weaving through single-track, getting bogged down in marshes, dealing with the jackhammer sensation of riding on train tracks, grassy fields that act like sludge slowing down your bike, these were no easy 20 miles.  The majority of the mountain bikers looked like they had a blast - covered head to toe in mud.  At the finish line (the official finish for the mountain bikers, anyway), they hand off the chip to the kayaker.

After sprinting 200 yards from the mountain biker/kayak handoff point, they must find their kayak among a whole sea and carry their kayak down to the dock.  This is the final stretch!  The calm conditions inside the marina are misleading - once they’re out in open waters, there’s high waves and strong headwinds.  The course is lined with boats of the Whatcom County Sheriff Dept, Bellingham Police, and even the US Coast Guard, ready to bail out any who needed help.  On this day, quite a few people capsized due to the conditions.  After paddling for 5 miles, the finish line is finally in sight, lined with teammates and supporters cheering everyone on.  Getting out of the kayak is harder than it looks, especially when you’ve got sea legs.  There’s a short sprint of 20 yards up the beach, where the kayaker rings a bell to signal the team’s completion of the grueling 100 mile race!

In the last two years I’ve done this race, we’ve had two different, but unique groups that made up the team.  One of the best things about these teams we’ve had is sometimes we are meeting for the first time ever, and we finish the weekend feeling like old friends.  Our team, DEAFinitely Awesome, was compromised of 8 incredible individuals (7 of 8 have hearing losses of varying degrees), mainly from the Pacific Northwest, with one woman from Iowa City, Iowa, and another woman from Washington, DC.
Kevin (in center, wearing all black)

Kevin Meirose of Tacoma, WA was our team captain the last two years and competed in the cross country leg both times. He set the pace for the entire time here and had to fight through a mass start that contains a few former Olympians.  This race, he improved his time by 6 minutes - incredible!

Jason (in all black) climbing

Jason Tang of Bellevue, WA did the downhill skiing leg and was a first time racer.  He enjoyed it tremendously, despite the challenges (and a couple of amazing photos!) Next year, he vows to be back even stronger.  Also, he improved on my time from last year’s race by 5 minutes - great job!

Lindsay smiling
Lindsay Buchko of Washington, DC is another first timer, but a veteran runner, smoked the 8 miles of running down the mountain and improved our team position by 44 places.  Rock on, girl! And she can do it with a smile on her face!
Trevor has his game face on
Trevor Kosa of Olympia, WA and a competitive cyclist who won a gold medal in the Deaflympics competed in the road biking leg.  This was his first time and he crushed the field, passing 129 cyclists - what an animal!

Sara Beth and Corky Collier of Portland, OR returned with a vengeance on the canoe and came back stronger than ever, making 45 canoeing teams eat their dust.  Or wake, however you want to call it.  You guys are a force to be reckoned with!
Corky and Sara Beth trying to pass

Gotta add something in here - during the transition between the canoeists and mountain biker, Carly ran down to the river to help Sara Beth and Corky carry their canoe up to the exchange area since their arms were going to be tired from paddling 18.5 miles. As soon as the canoe reached shore, Sara Beth jumped out and starting lifting the canoe on one side while Carly helped on the other side (on the front end, mind you) before poor Corky even had a chance to get out. He managed to get out and carry the back end up the hill, but not for long. Both Carly and Sara Beth felt the canoe dragging so they looked back and saw Corky had trouble keeping up with these determined ladies! Only wish this whole thing was captured on video, otherwise I'd post it on here.

Carly breezing through the woods
Carly Armour of Iowa City, Iowa (land of no mountains) competed on the mountain bike leg for the first time.  Despite losing her water bottle in the early part of the leg, she managed to finish strong and vows to squash the competition next year!  Bring it, girl - wouldn’t want to get in your way next year! Plus she had to ride an additional 4 miles to the actual finish line - wow!

Andy in the final stretch
Andy Nelson of Bremerton, WA competed in the kayak leg for the first time (he did the downhill skiing the previous year), and despite helping two people who capsized, passed two people on the way to ringing the bell for a final time of 9:46:35.  He plans on doing even better next year!

Since each year is a different story as far as conditions go, participants, no two races are alike.  This year, race officials and the Coast Guard made the decision to stop allowing kayakers enter the water after 4:30 PM due to high winds and large waves.  We got lucky, I was able to start my leg at 4:17 PM; nearly half of the teams were unable to finish the race.

Here’s to DEAFinitely Awesome in 2012!  I look forward to having each and every single one of you guys back on the team and I enjoyed spending an incredible weekend with y’all!

DEAFinitely Awesome 2011 Team (L to R, back row: Corky Collier, Sara Beth Collier, Jason Tang, Trevor Kosa, Lindsay Buchko; L to R front row: Andy Nelson, Carly Armour, Kevin Meirose)

Til next time,

Regular Joe Cool can be reached at regularjoecool@gmail.com. Shoot him an email - he'll think you're cool.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dissection: The RESET Program

Don’t you wish your body had a RESET button?  Well, the good folks at USANA Health Sciences have created one for those who can’t seem to break away from those gluttonous cravings.  I pressed my own RESET button two weeks ago and posted my results daily on Facebook.  Several people asked exactly how it works, and here’s the long awaited response!

There are two ways you can purchase RESET; purchase a RESET kit and it has everything you need in it, plus a light workout DVD, a daily chart and some extras.  It also has a variety of different flavors of the Nutrimeal shakes (5 Dutch Chocolate, 5 Strawberry and 5 Vanilla).  I personally am not a fan of strawberry or vanilla shakes, so I purchased each item separately.

RESET Kit contains:
  • 15 servings of Nutrimeal™ (available in a variety pack of Dutch Chocolate, Wild Strawberry, and French Vanilla)
  • 5 Peanut Butter Crunch Nutrition Bars
  • 5 Oatmeal Raisin Bars
  • 5 HealthPak 100™ AM/PM packets
  • 1 RESET program guide
  • 1 RESET magnet

I’m a self-proclaimed chocoholic and I’m pretty proud of it!  Since I mentioned that I’m not a fan of strawberry or vanilla shakes (even the real milkshakes, too), I purchased a couple pouches of USANA’s Chocolate Whey Nutrimeal.  It costs a couple dollars more per bag than the other flavors (which include a blend of soy and whey protein), but I’m crazy about the rich chocolatey taste!  All of the Nutrimeal shakes contain 230 calories, 6 grams of fat, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fiber, and 15 grams of protein.  I’ve also gotten big on natural foods and there’s no artificial ingredients in Nutrimeal which is a huge plus for me.

What I began the RESET program with:
2 Bags of Chocolate Whey Nutrimeal
1 Box Oatmeal Raisin Bars
1 Box Chocolate Fusion Bars (yeah, I love my chocolate...)
1 Box HealthPak 100 AM/PM packets (I get this every month anyway)

In addition to the kit or purchasing separately, whichever method you choose, the directions also state that you eat one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetables each day you’re on the program.  However, you have some leeway here - if you’re hungry, grab some fruit or veggies.  Make sure they’re low-glycemic, though.  No potatoes!

Each day, your meal plan (according to the directions) is as follows:

Breakfast Shake with AM HealthPak
Snack (Nutrition bar)
Lunch Shake
Snack (Nutrition bar)
Dinner Shake with PM HealthPak
Bonus Snack

I ate everything to the letter each day, adding fresh fruit to my shakes (a handful of strawberries or raspberries and blend with shake).  Lunch, I supplemented my shake with an organic salad mix with cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach and a light splash of Italian dressing.  Dinner time, I had a shake and depending on how I felt, I either had another salad or a chicken breast.  In between meals, I had one nutrition bar.  I also drank 3-4 litres of water each day (something I do every day regardless) with no other drinks, not even juice, soda, or tea/coffee.

So...how did I feel?  First day, I’m not gonna lie - I was hungry as hell.  But that’s to be expected since I’m so used to eating whatever is available without any thought to the consequences on whether if it is nourishing me or just filling me up with empty calories.  Thank god for eating as much fruit and vegetables - that helped me.  Whether it was physically helping or psychologically helping, I’m not sure - that’s up to science.  As each day went on, my body adjusted and I noticed that I wasn’t feeling tired or sluggish.  Not even in the least bit.  And something interesting happened, not something I had planned for.  Mentally, I was scrutinizing each food that entered my mouth - is this good for me?  Where did this come from?  Is it as natural as possible (minimally processed)?  Will this make me feel good or like a fat slob?

Now, before you freak out at this whole mental aspect of interrogating each piece of food that enters your mouth, think about this: food is fuel for your body.  Nothing more, nothing less.  So many people put an emotional attachment to food, cultures revolve around food, food is an integral part of people’s lives.  Once the emotional attachment can be separated (and granted, this may be harder for most), you will be able to see food for what it truly is: fuel for the body.  After all, you’d put the best possible fuel in your car, right?  You wouldn’t put sludge in your car because it’ll wreck your car.  And yet people constantly put sludge in their bodies!  See my previous post on Fast Food Nation and Dr. Dixon’s experiment with fast food and its affect on his blood.

“Okay, just get down to it - what were the results??”

I weighed myself first thing each morning after doing my business because I wanted to be consistent.  Weight fluctuations can simply be water weight and not your actual body weight, so I wanted to expel as much as I could before weighing myself.  Probably TMI for you, but if you’re looking for accurate results, you’ve got to be consistent and this is how I attempted to be consistent each time I stepped on the scale.

In my bathroom, I have a digital scale which is kinda cool.  Here’s a breakdown of my weight each day:

Beginning: 192.8
Day 1: 189.2 Loss: -3.6
Day 2: 188.4 Loss: -0.8
Day 3: 187.6 Loss: -0.8
Day 4: 187.8 Loss: +0.2
Day 5: 187.0 Loss: -0.8
Total Weight Released: 5.8 lbs in 5 days

Despite actually GAINING on Day 4, I released a total of 5.8 lbs in 5 days - not a bad start!  This release, coupled with a newfound mentality of scrutinizing the food that I put in my mouth, has helped me continue to release weight.  Two weeks later, I’m down to 185.2 lbs and I have been preparing my own meals every day.  Only twice I ate crap - one was because I was at a bachelor party and my choices were pretty limited so I figured I’d enjoy one of the best burgers I’ve had in months, and another was what I consider my free day.  I actually gotta say - its been pretty awesome!

So how the heck does this work??  Calorie deprivation?  Nah - not in that sense.  For the scientific stuff, I’ll let USANA explain:

How RESET Works

It’s no secret that the key to effective weight loss is making positive changes in diet and exercise. That’s why USANA scientists developed the RESET™ weight-management program—to help people jumpstart healthy eating habits and begin to make a clean break from unhealthy, high-glycemic foods.*

Low-glycemic foods often provide greater satiety and sustained energy. By virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, low-glycemic foods can help control appetite and delay hunger.* All of USANA’s foods are clinically proven to be low glycemic. The glycemic index is the key to controlling your cravings.  It isn't necessary to starve yourself to lose weight. In fact, consistently eating less than 1,000 calories a day may actually slow down your metabolism and make it harder to lose weight. You do, however, need to make smarter choices about what you eat.

When you eat high-glycemic foods it can cause your body's blood glucose levels to quickly spike and then crash, leading to feelings of hunger sooner and seemingly uncontrollable cravings.
A better choice is to eat low-glycemic foods which keep blood glucose levels more stable, helping to reduce carbohydrate cravings, leave you feeling satisfied longer, and control your appetite more easily. All of USANA's Macro-Optimizers are clinically tested and guaranteed to be low glycemic, and nearly 95 percent of RESET participants report significantly reduced carbohydrate cravings after completing the five days.

More information can be found here. In addition, for those of you who are really into clinical studies and scientific charts, bars and graphs, Dr. Ray Strand, author of Releasing Fat: Developing Healthy Lifestyles That Have a Side Effect of Permanent Weight Loss has a 12-week clinical study with participants beginning with the 5-Day RESET program and moving into the transition phase. The results are here and his website is www.releasingfat.com.

The first couple days were hard for me, but any time you make a big change, it will be hard at first.  Soon, you gain momentum and it gets easier.  

Til next time,

Regular Joe Cool can be reached at regularjoecool@gmail.com. Shoot him an email - he'll think you're cool.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fast Food Nation

We created fast food, dang it.  And we're damn proud of it!  Don't believe me?  Is there a town where there isn't a McDonalds, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Wendy's, Arby's, Carl's Jr, Hardee's, Chik-Fil-A, KFC, Taco Bell (I feel like I'm thanking my NASCAR sponsors here), and it is pretty evident of the influence the fast-food industry has here in America, and they're exerting their reach overseas as well.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Brian Dixon, Senior Scientist at USANA Health Sciences give a presentation.  He is not your typical scientist, geeky, labcoat-donning, thick rimmed glasses nerd.  This guy loves life, and lives it to its fullest.  When he's not in the laboratory, he's in the mountains or at the gym.  He's one fit guy, and his educational focus was on oxidative stress so he knows his stuff when it comes to antioxidants.  In fact, you can read some of his official biography on USANA's website, http://www.usana.com/dotCom/difference/experts.

You hear about oxidative stress and antioxidants through the media on a daily basis.  We're constantly bombarded with oxidative stress that create free radicals which alter cellular structures.  And you're probably wondering how you can escape the effects of oxidative stress.  Bluntly, you cannot.  You can run, but you can't hide.  Antioxidants can help you hide better, but eventually, oxidative stress will find you!  I'll explain more about free radicals and antioxidants in a later blog.  For now, we'll touch up on two points that Dr. Dixon brought up in his presentation that are pretty interesting and important to know.

First off, you've heard of the RDA, right?  The Recommended Daily Allowance in our nutritional intake that the government has set for us.  It is on the nutritional label on nearly every food product on the grocery store shelves that people quickly glance over to see the caloric content, fat, sugar, carbs, or whatever the one thing they're focusing on.  Lots of numbers and percentages, oy.  What you probably don't know is that the RDA was set back during WWII since resources were used for the war effort and thus became scarce for civilians and military alike.  The RDA set the minimum nutritional requirements just to sustain life and was used in the development of MREs for the military.  A lot has changed since the 1940's and today in terms of improved nutrition research, advanced technology, soil that's virtually devoid of nutrients, the development of highly processed foods and a mindset of convenience, not what's best for the body.  So what does this mean for the RDA?  Well, you know the Poverty Line, right?  Created by (drumroll, please...) the government.  It loosely defines the minimum standard of living based on income and the ability to purchase necessities such as food.  According to Dr. Dixon, "The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) set by the government is like the government setting the poverty line for dietary intake."  Yikes!  Even if you get 100% of everything in the RDA, you're STILL not getting the optimal nutrition intake needed to be healthy!  In other words, would you be able to have the lifestyle you want with an income at the poverty level?  Thought so.  Neither can you with poor nutrition intake.

The next thing Dr. Dixon talked about is the dangers of fast food.  We've all heard it, right?

     "It's bad for you."
     "It'll clog your arteries."
     "It's a heart attack waiting to happen."

And a whole litany of warnings pertaining to the dangers of fast food.  However, in the sake of convenience, we turn a deaf ear to those warnings.  I'm more of a visual person myself and THIS experiment is more than enough to convince me not to eat fast food ever again.  I haven't eaten fast food, other than Subway, in years, and there's a reason for that - it is nasty!  Dr. Dixon's experiment proved this.  Just to show you what a cool scientist Dr. Dixon is, he used himself as a guinea pig for this experiment.  


Dr. Dixon had a blood sample taken from his arm and this was used as the control.  

Next, he ate a supersized meal at a fast food restaurant, complete with a big burger, extra large fries, a large soda, the whole nine yards.  While some people are probably salivating while reading this, I was trying to squelch my gag reflex as Dr. Dixon showed us the video clip of him eating this...crap.  By the looks on Dr. Dixon's face, it didn't look like he enjoyed it much either.  After this "meal" was digested, he had a blood sample taken again.  

A few days after the fast food "meal", he ate a healthy meal, complete with chicken breast, salad, fruits and vegetables.  This looked quite good, to be honest with you.  Again, another blood sample was taken after this meal.

All three blood samples were spun in a centrifuge to separate the components (blood cells and plasma).  In the first and third samples (control and after healthy meal), the plasma was clear.  However, the second sample (after the fast food meal), the plasma was so cloudy, you could not see through it.  Oy vey!  All that processed stuff, chemicals and who-knows-what is in fast food winds up in the blood!  

As you can see in the diagram, the plasma contains "a dilute solution of salts, glucose, amino acids, vitamins, urea, proteins and fats".  The bold text is what fast foods primarily consists of and is virtually devoid of any positive nutritional value.  I don't know about you, but when I used to eat fast food, I have NEVER gotten a burger that looks as good as they have in the pictures.  Have you?

Bottom line: you are what you eat, and this experiment shows this!  Whatever you eat will wind up in your blood and your body will do whatever it takes to get rid of it.  However, if you keep loading your body with fast food junk, highly processed stuff and unnatural foods, it will have a hard time processing all of it, and not only will it show up on the scale, it will show up in your blood.  I highly suggest avoiding fast food places, but if you have the insatiable craving for that greasy burger and fries, sugary soda, then by all means go for it.  Just do it once in a while, not on a regular basis.  Your wallet will thank you, and so will your health.

Til next time.

Regular Joe Cool can be reached at regularjoecool@gmail.com. Shoot him an email - he'll think you're cool.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gotta Love Technology, eh?

I realize that its been a few months...yes, months, since my last post. My apologies, if this is not enough to satisfy your carnal craving for undying attention, get a puppy. I have my reasons; yes, reasons, plural. First and foremost, I'm unemployed and am loving it! This means that my restaurant sold and I am free! Unemployment can be scary for a lot of people, which is understandable.  Loss of income, lots of uncertainty, etc.  I was fortunate enough to know this was coming and was able to plan ahead.

The second thing, and perhaps the more important: my favorite sister married an incredible man. I am proud of my sister and it was hands down the best wedding I've been to. (If I was at your wedding, I'm a little biased and don't take any offense - I'm sure your wedding was incredible, as they all should be!) One of the best parts is my new brother in law has a huge family and they all live in Michigan.  No one in my family had met any of them, except my sister - obviously. When we first met, it instantly turned into a huge family reunion atmosphere and we all had known each other for a long time. Can't put a price on that!

Another reason, my brother and I expanded our household. We adopted the sweetest 5 year old boxer, Lady.  She is quite the handful and keeps our other boxer, Louie, on his toes. Dogs really are amazing - especially with Lady and Louie. No matter what kind of day you're having, as soon as you walk in they door, these two are always there to greet you with wagging tails and begging you to play with them. You can't help but have a smile on your face! They're one of the greatest mood enhancers!

I will be updating this blog a lot more frequently than I have done in the past.  It should be noted that I'm writing this post entirely on my EVO phone and am just merely trying out the Blogger app.  So far so good. Now I don't have any excuses since I always have my phone on me.

Til next time,
Regular Joe Cool

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I hate you, Tony Horton! But I love you!

I hate you, Tony Horton . . . but I love you!

If you don’t know who Tony Horton is, that’s okay.  He’s cool.  You’ll find out more about him later on.  He’s been kicking my ass for the last week and will continue to do so for the next 83 days and beyond.  If you’re anything like me and are a night owl (and damn cool, to boot!), chances are you’ve seen his informercials for the insanely brutal P90X workout regimen.  Before you scoff, “Pfft…a late-night informercial peddler?  Can’t be much better than those ‘Set it and…FORGET IT!’ deals,” I’ll tell you this right now – this workout will kick your booty.  Hard. 

What is it with people and their health and fitness?  We are literally the fattest nation on earth.  And this definitely isn’t something to be proud of.  Back at the turn of the century, no not this century, the one before – 1900, the leading causes of death were from infectious diseases such as influenza, measles, smallpox, diphtheria, to name a few.  Now, with the advent of modern medicine and improved vaccination programs, these diseases have either been virtually eradicated or survivable.  Today, the leading causes of non-accidental deaths lead off with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and yes, obesity, just to name a few.  What do these causes today have in common?  They’re affected by lifestyle choices.  True, there are cases where genetics play a role, or some other thing outside of our control has caused these diseases, but the majority of them are a result of the way we live our lives.

Given all the information we have today, all the research, knowledge, experts, etc., why do we continue to get fatter and sicker?  Recall my first post – people won’t make the changes they need to make unless the pain of not changing becomes greater than the pain of making the change.  We are creatures of habit, we dislike change.  Much like the city of Seattle disliking Clay Bennett.  Bring back the Sonics!  Ok, I digress, but we humans do dislike change.  There are gyms everywhere, weight loss products, classes, support groups, nutritionists, dieticians, sports doctors, trainers, personal trainers, aerobic trainers, low fat foods, low sugar foods, low glycemic foods, high protein foods, exercise gizmos, NordiTracs, Total Gyms; I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the point.  Despite spending billions of dollars on health and fitness, we still continue to get fatter and sicker.  Isn’t it enough to pull your hair out?

It all boils down to just getting off your butt and moving.  Right?  If only it were that easy.

I’m no psychologist here, and even my PSYCH 101 class didn’t provide enough information on this area, I’ll do my best to explain.  Yes, I’ve mentioned pain before.  What if there’s no pain anyway?  What if you feel as if you’re in decent shape, you are one of the few that work out at least 3 times a week for more than 30 minutes (if this is you, give yourself a pat on the back)?  What will motivate you to keep going to the gym, or even just going for a run in your neighborhood, going for a bike ride, going hiking, anything?  I couldn’t tell you, but I’ll tell you what motivates me.

As a kid, growing up, I loved playing sports.  I played baseball, soccer (even though I never understood the rules of soccer, other than not using your hands), football, track, mountain biking, swimming, and my passion, snow skiing.  I loved the competitiveness, and still do today.  One of the best jobs I’ve ever had was being a personal trainer in Chicago.  The best part of it was the women.  Oh yes, and helping educate and motivate people in taking care of their bodies and their health was an important aspect of the job.  I have seen far too many people neglect their health and their bodies, and seeing the pain they go through.  Not only for them, but the pain their families go through watching a loved one suffer.  And the kicker is – it could have been prevented, or at least minimized through a healthy diet and regular exercise.

We’ve all heard the same old “Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly” diatribe over and over that it has become boring and moot.  For one thing, every ‘expert’ has a different take on what a healthy diet is, and what exercises should be done; it confuses everyone and their mother.  I’ll be the first to tell you – even though I used to be a personal trainer and I love staying active, I’m not fanatical about it at all.  In fact, I love those lazy evenings, plopping my butt on the couch to watch a movie.  I also have a huge weakness: chocolate.  I love all things chocolate.  I am far from perfect, I do not have the 4% bodyfat, ripped body that can run a sub-4:00 mile and bench press 315 pounds.  In fact, my bodyfat is most likely in the 25-28% range at the moment.  Damn holidays.  Hence the reason I’m doing Tony Horton’s P90X workout program.  And I’m also doing it with a beautiful woman.  That makes it pretty enticing, doesn’t it?  I’m 5’8”, and currently weigh 193 (just weighed myself now, literally).  The heaviest I’ve weighed was 204 and that was a ‘holy s**t!’ moment for me.  This was last year, in 2010.  I tend to go in cycles, I’ll go through a period of inactivity and I feel like a big, weak blob of lard, so I start working out again until I start feeling awesome.  Then I slack off. . .and repeat.  This is one of those times where I’m feeling like a fatty and start working out again, and man, let me tell you this:  I feel great, even though it has been only a week.

Why am I telling you this?  It has been my observation, and in conversations with friends and family, that whenever people start working out and eating right, they do great for a certain period of time until it happens.  They break down and eat that chocolate chip cookie.  They skip a workout because they’re too tired.  Then they feel like they’ve failed, and there’s no point in continuing their healthy eating/workout routine anymore because of the one minor slip up.  I slip up all the time, folks.  I try to limit myself to one or two dozen chocolate chip cookies a day, but if I wind up eating 3 or 4 dozen, no problem – I just tell myself “Tomorrow’s another day, today I slipped and can start over tomorrow,” and get back on track without the guilt.  I haven’t failed because I’m still working out and still trying my best to eat right.  If you seriously think I eat that many cookies a day, well, take the ‘dozen’ off and that’s how many I eat.  J  The majority of the foods I do eat tend to be healthy – low fat, high protein, low glycemic and as minimally processed as possible.  I haven’t eaten McDonald’s for years, or Burger King.  My wallet has thanked me, and I hope my arteries have, too.

There’s no sense in being fanatical about eating right 100% of the time and sticking to a workout routine 100% of the time – no one is perfect.  I’m far from perfect.  It is making the effort to watch what you eat and making the effort not to go more than two days without exercising – most of the time, that counts.  If you have an off day, suck it up, tomorrow is another day and get back on the wagon.  Just don’t make a habit of making every day an off day.  That is where you get in trouble and your doctor becomes richer because of your choices.

Next time, my posts will be a little shorter, unless it is a deep topic.  The first two are pretty introductory and should give you a brief background of where I stand.  Next post will touch on motivation.  What motivates you to do something?

Til then, I’m Regular Joe Cool
AKA Andy

Regular Joe Cool can be reached at regularjoecool@gmail.com. Shoot him an email - he'll think you're cool.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Welcome to Regular Joe Cool

First of all, my name is not Joe, nor is it Joseph. No, not Regular, either. But I am definitely cool, or at least that's what my mother tells me. And she named me Andrew, which I've conveniently changed to Andy. You can call me Regular Joe, too...just remember to keep the 'Cool' part at the end. If not, I didn't get your comment - just missing in space.

We're nearly a week into the new year. Why is it that everyone wants to start fresh every single new year that gets rung in by some oversized ball covered with lights dropping with thousands of drunken bastards hooting and hollering and giving each other PDAs that the Motion Picture Association of America wouldn't dare approve? But we all approve anyway, so what the hell, right? Ironically, the New Year also marks the beginning of something so incredible. I'm talking about the New Year Resolution. Admit it - you have one. We all do, it is just too cliche'. Take better control of my finances. Lose 15 pounds. Find the woman I'm going to marry. Make a career change. Quit smoking. Quit abusing drugs. Quit having sex. Ok, not quite that far, but you get the gist of it. Those are typical New Year Resolutions.

What happens when next New Year's comes around? You make those exact same resolutions all over again! What the hell happened? Did you not make any changes? Why not? Simple - you did not experience any pain greater than the pain of not changing your current lifestyle. In other words, people will only make changes when the pain of change is exceeded by the pain of their current situation, whether it may be their fitness level, fiscal level, or relationship status, or anything that one deems important in their lives.

You may resolve to improve your financial situation. That is respectable - I'll admit, I am doing the same thing. However, I can tell you this: this is not a resolution for me. It is a lifestyle change for me. And I will tell you why. In mid-November, my car had a horrible case of the shakes. It literally felt as if I was a porn star handling two vibrators. Yes, think about that for a second...violent shaking, uncontrollable movements. I lamented not having my car checked out earlier. I was scared - my credit cards were maxed out and I was living paycheck to paycheck. Certainly I was not financially prepared to get this emergency taken care of. I knew I had to change the way I think about money, the way I handle money and manage it. If you're anything like me, you probably have a book or two on personal finance, possibly written by Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey, or even Kevin Trudeau. While these folks have made a name for themselves in the personal finance realm by dispensing your run-of-the-mill advice (i.e. skip the latte and save $3 a day! Or renting is bad, purchase a house and invest for the long term.), how many of you have actually given up your daily latte?  Or opened up a Roth IRA?  Instead, I was reading the blog of author Timothy Ferriss and came across an incredible post on automating your finances, written by guest blogger, Ramit Sethi. Holy crap, Batman! I devoured this post! I printed it out and devoured Ramit's website, www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com, which is, incidentally, the name of Ramit's book, I Will Teach You to be Rich. While I'll admit the title is somewhat misleading. No, there's no quick bullet, no magic investment that will make you millions overnight or anything like that. But it is practical. And it makes perfect sense, especially to us 20 and 30-somethings (who are still single, although there's great advice for couples here and there in the book).

So what does this mean? It means that the pain of not having enough money to get my car fixed became greater than the pain of not caring about my finances, and not changing anything, for that matter. It forced me to change something because I knew I cannot live this way any more. I knew emergencies like car trouble, parking tickets, unexpected job loss, or any other doomsday scenario, can be planned for ahead of time. It may not happen today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week or next month. If you're lucky, it may not even happen at all. But chances are highly likely that you will experience some sort of hardship, regardless of time, place in life, or financial strength, and being prepared does help. Despite it being December, the hell called Christmas shopping season was upon us, and I had to get my car fixed (which, thankfully turned out to be a lot more minor than I had expected and was just a stitch under $300 for repairs), I managed to save $250 in savings AND pay down my credit card debt by another $250. AND I still had some money left over at the end of the month. Wow! And why did I choose to start in December, and not in January like everyone else?


You will find that I am not one to follow the masses. I tried the college thing. Dropped out. Tried the 9-5 gig, not for me. Before you go saying, "Geez, a college dropout with no job, what a slacker," trust me, I'm no slacker. I've held a job since I was 15 years old, I've been working the last 3 years as a co-owner/manager of a family restaurant, working 60-70 hours a week. Hardly a slacker, but not everyone is cut for the 9-5 grind. Hell, I don't even think any of us are cut for the 9-5 grind, but that's what society has dictated. Go figure. Second thing; this is NOT a New Year Resolution for me, this is a lifestyle change for me. To me, if I could make this change NOW instead of waiting for "the perfect time", and stick with it, chances are greater I will follow through on this. So far so good. This month, I've already created a plan for my paychecks, predetermining where each dollar goes before it is even spent. And the best part? Using Ramit's methods, it is all automated. All my savings and monthly payments are automated. So far, according to the plan, I will be out of my credit card debt by August, and I cannot wait!

So what are you waiting for? Go check out the blogs of Timothy Ferriss and Ramit Sethi. There's a treasure trove of information in there, but you do need to actually apply yourself in order for it to work. One of my sayings is, "Take Action TNT!" Take Action Today, Not Tomorrow! So many people wait for "the perfect time", but guess what? I'll tell you when "the perfect time" is. It is right now. Not next week, not after the holidays, not after your 40th birthday, NOW. If you take action now, you will already be ahead of the game.

Next time, I'll talk about one of my passions: health and fitness.

Til then, I'm Regular Joe Cool
AKA Andy