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