What to Look for in a Treadmill or Elliptical in 2015

Fitness equipment- as a business- continues to evolve and more and more of the transactions are occurring online. Plenty of purchases still occur in physical stores but when you consider that only a few years ago there were over 1,100 fitness specialty store locations and today we estimate that the number is now under 300, it is easy to see that the dynamics of where treadmills and ellipticals are bought has changed rapidly. Many more units of fitness equipment are bought on the web and in mass-market stores.

As far as how the market divides, we have seen a shift in dollars spent as well. It mirrors much of what has been reported in the broader economy. The very high end of the market has done well and actually expanded. On the more economical side, more and more purchases that used to be at the $2,500 level have moved in the $1,000 to $1,500 range. Much of the business that used to be at the $1,500 price point has moved lower too. Places like Amazon.com, Sears, and Dick’s Sporting Goods commonly today sell machines that are in the $1,500 price point or higher and just a few years ago, it was uncommon for these retailers to sell anything above $1,000 and most of their sales were at $799 or below.

What does this mean for you? First, you will find better quality in the mass market. Joggers on treadmills and moderate users of ellipticals are now able to get on a machine as low as $1,000 without significant problems. The one caveat is that most treadmills in this price range have ¾” decks and those can break with a runner since they put a pounding on a deck. That’s why we have developed a deck reinforcement kit so if you are a runner and get a machine with a ¾” deck, we would recommend our reinforcement kit or simply buy a machine with a 1” deck. The ellipticals in this range typically use bushings instead of bearings on the major load points so you will have less life engineered into the machine but the elliptical will cost significantly less and you can easily stay with the latest gadget trend with a new machine in 5 years.

At the $1,500 price point, you can get a durable machine. More and more people report to us that they are 5k and 10k training on a $1,500 machine! Icon has put great pressure on the mass market and has effectively grabbed a huge share of the market under $2,000 and now they are moving into higher price points. The company that once dominated the under $1,000 price range now makes home treadmills that cost as much as $4,000.

With all of the turbulence, some matters that were not terribly important in the past are incredibly important today. In the past, manufacturers and distributors had leeway in operations since there were only a few companies and missteps could be easily corrected next year. Competition is now so cutthroat, in all price ranges, that a small misstep could mean your company won’t be around next year to service your treadmill or elliptical. Never fear! We are here to help you make sense of this mess.

The point is that you should consider the channel that you are buying from and the company that makes your treadmill as much as you should consider the model. In our overviews of companies, we give our opinions and thoughts about the stability of the company as well as how we expect them to do over the long run. Check the local BBB (Better Business Bureau) to see how the retailer takes care of their customers. You may also want to check the factories with the national BBB. Since product support is very important with fitness equipment, pay careful attention to our outlook for the brands and consider our comments in regard to their long-term prospects.

Many people email us each year asking about specific components, most notably motors and rollers in relation to treadmills or should I buy a front-drive or rear-drive elliptical. Component buying is almost always a trap that you don’t want to fall into and these are two areas of a treadmill or elliptical that has been muddied over the last 10 to 15 years. First, the motor situation is almost laughable. Since there is no accepted standard for rating treadmill motors, it is easy for a company to put virtually any rating they want on a treadmill motor. With some fear and trembling, we launched a new motor standard four years ago. At first, we had some big players wanting to help out but this fell apart when some factories realized we were going to tell the truth so we have had to go it alone. When we rate the motor, we attempt to rate it based on the size of the windings in the armature in relation to the permanent magnets. It is the only good way to determine the actual horsepower of a treadmill motor and that is why our power ratings may vary significantly from a manufacturer’s stated ratings. In other words, don’t buy a treadmill based upon what the factory claims in HP rating.

Another related point is treadmill roller size. Factories claim a bigger roller is a better roller. In theory, the larger the roller, the slower it will turn causing less wear on the bearings and less stress on the walking belt since the belt can operate at a lower tension. The truth is that many larger rollers have just as many problems as smaller rollers (and some larger rollers have more problems than smaller rollers) because companies skimp on the quality of the parts used to make the rollers, so overall quality is much more important than size of the roller so pay attention in the reviews to the quality ratings. This is just an example of how factories can muddy the waters.

In summation, the market has improved again this year; especially for the consumer because you can get more quality for your money. Some of the mass-market brands still have a way to go in regards to their customer service but the quality of their products has improved so much that in most cases poor service is a moot point. Treadmill Doctor suggests selecting carefully and make sure you pick one from a company that has good prospects to be around for a long time so you can get the parts you need in 10 years. If you are buying from a specialty retailer in order to receive a higher level of service, double-check the retailer’s service level with an organization like the BBB to make sure they take care of customers because if you are buying a high priced treadmill or elliptical, you deserve the best service.

7 Critical Criteria That You Must Know Before Buying a Treadmill or Elliptical This Year

Treadmill Doctor Tips

1. The Internet is a Great Place. 

The great disrupter for the fitness industry has been the internet.  10 years ago, the industry was packed with companies that simply no longer exist today due primarily to online competition. With that said, it is also a great place to do your research and then go to a local store and try to have them match the price.  Keep in mind that the delivery of a treadmill or elliptical from an online seller is much different than when you buy from a local store.  Curbside delivery literally means that.  Most people find that paying extra for “white glove” or inside delivery and assembly is well worth the cost.  Also, it is much easier for a single unit to be damaged in shipping rather than when you buy from a local store so inspect your box carefully before accepting delivery.

2. Unbundling Isn’t Just for Airlines Any Longer.

An ongoing trend is to get very aggressive on the price of the machine but take away things that were once free and that you would expect to be included in the price…remember there is no free lunch.  Just like the airlines now charge for bags, drinks, snacks, a seat larger than a thimble, and breathing (we’ll maybe not breathing yet but it wouldn’t surprise me) and Ryan Air is trying to charge to use the restroom.  Some companies have so aggressively priced their products that they have essentially priced the product where they don’t have the ability to effectively service the product.

3. Don’t Buy on Specs.

Especially if you visit a specialty retailer, you will get all kinds of facts and figures thrown at you…typically at the mass-market retailers all you will hear about is the motor HP.  All of these figures are about as helpful as a fire hose for a drowning person.  These facts and figures are, many times, designed to confuse most consumers because HP ratings can be manipulated wildly and bigger is not necessarily better.  You are better off looking only at quality brands from a quality retailer and not let your head get too clouded with all the hyperbole.  We help you cut through the nonsense with our quality ratings.  We also have our own standard for motor ratings because there is no standard in the treadmill business and we wanted you to have an apples to apples comparison.  Keep in mind that even if a company uses good parts, if it is assembled or engineered poorly, the parts won’t work well together.

4. If It Sounds Too Good to Be True It Probably Is.

Some companies will talk about LIFETIME warranties and other come-ons that sound great but if the factory is no longer in business, you can take the warranty and use it for toilet paper because that will be all that it is worth.  Others claim massively inflated MSRP’s with a “sale” price that is only good for today.  If you feel pressure to make a decision today, you are probably getting the short end of the stick.  Get all your ducks in a row and learn all you can (and the new habit- pull out your smartphone and check prices on the net while you are in the store).  Try out different models because this is an important purchase…we are talking about your health here so it is important to get a good product that will support your fitness goals, weight loss goals, heart health, etc.  This is a great business because it improves people’s lives but remember there are sharks in every business.

5. The Quality is Getting Better & Better at the Low End.

Just as other consumer products are getting better while the price is going down, treadmills and ellipticals are no exception.  Just a few years ago, you had to spend $1,500 to get a decent treadmill and $1,500 was the minimum on an elliptical too.  That is no longer the case and in fact, the $1,000 machines on the market today are better than the $1,500 machines from just a few years ago although we still recommend $1,500 for runners although for those people, we used to recommend a minimum of $2,000.  Sears has really stepped up in quality; as have some of the big sporting goods companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods.  On the whole, the consumer is the real beneficiary. If you want something for occasional, light use, you can really save some money on a lower-end unit.  If you are a marathon runner or someone who pounds the heck out of a machine, still be prepared to shell out the bucks for something that is a long-term treadmill.  If you put 10 miles on an elliptical every morning, you will want to shell out more for a better quality machine.  If you want the best, open up your wallet and be ready to spend thousands but the lower end is as strong as it has ever been in this business.

6. Don’t Expect a Cheaper Machine to Be Perfect. 

We regularly get an email from someone that bought a warehouse club machine and they comment that it has plastic on the side rails or doesn’t feel as sturdy as the model at the club…here’s a news flash- when you buy a $999 from a club or even a $2,500 model from a fitness store, they aren’t the same as a $8,000 club model.  That’s right, list price on most club models is now approaching or over $8 grand and there are now models over $20,000!  You get what you pay for.  With that said, the cheaper units don’t have as high quality components overall as the more expensive machines.  Many of the lower end units are now using the same motors as the higher end units but they cut corners on the quality of the heart rate grips, cut quality of the rollers, use a thinner deck, cut as much expense out of the electronics as possible, or use an incline motor that is slower than the ones on the more expensive machines.  If you want a great machine with no disappointments, you have to pay for that.  If you are willing to make a few compromises, you can get a heck of a deal on a cheaper machine.

7. Figure Out the Angle. 

We are always ready to let you know that we accept advertising from factories and the links are clearly labeled as sponsored links- just like on Google.  We know Google makes piles of cash but NOT our little advertising program.  Our advertising program is finally getting to the point where it helps cover costs…we make our money by selling replacement parts and we are the leader on the Internet in parts sales so that’s how we make a living.  We’ve been doing this for 17 years now so if we were trying to push an agenda or trick the public, we would have been figured out a long time ago- especially how it is impossible to keep a secret on the internet- just ask Miley Cyrus.  Our policy has always been to tell people what we would buy if we were standing in the consumer’s shoes.  As always, we NEVER accept any compensation in any form for the reviews we do.  When we finally figured out that we were spending six figures on the reviews, we knew we had to accept advertising because our readers told us they didn’t want to pay for it.  Reviews like Consumer Reports are also easy to figure out and are above board.  Many affiliate sites are on the web and they get paid if you click through from the affiliate site over to the manufacturer to buy the product…many times they get hundreds of dollars for a single click.  Even Runner’s World has moved to the affiliate model! No wonder they push certain products.  A recycled idea is for factories to start doing their own reviews.  Some have tried to create an arms-length arrangement to make it look independent but you need to ask yourself a simple question; “how does this site make money?”  If you see a well developed review site, it costs a bunch of money and they have to get it back somehow.  Many unwitting sheep are getting served up as lamb chops when they don’t ask this simple question.

Treadmill Doctor’s 11 Tips for Buying a Home Treadmill or Elliptical

1. Remember when you are buying a home treadmill or elliptical, that in most instances a specialty dealer will have more ability to work with you on price than a mass market store.  Usually at Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, Academy Sports, etc., you have to wait on a coupon, sale, or closeout if you want a discount.

2. When buying exercise equipment, make sure to consider where you will put the machine before you buy it.  If you are locating the equipment in a garage, porch or other area that is not climate controlled, expect problems.  Since most models use lubricants that can freeze or lose their ability to properly lubricate at very high heat or extreme cold, you can run into problems on both extremes.  Other problems you will experience in an open area is dust and dirt…these are the #1 reason for failure, not to mention corrosion and other problems associated with areas that have high humidity.  Additionally, arid climates quickly evaporate some belt lubricants for treadmills and joint lubricants for ellipticals.

3. Be sure to buy machines that are built sturdily enough to handle the workload that you want to give them.  Usually the higher the original list price, the better the engineering, the better quality of components, the better overall machine you will get for your money.  Conversely, if your budget is tight, don’t buy more of a machine than you need.  Our grandmother had a cheap $500 treadmill that received very light use every weekday.  Since it was lubricated and cleaned, it didn’t have a single problem in over 10 years.

4. For treadmills- We are starting to temper our view on orthopedic belts.  With that said, we still don’t recommend them because 1) a good pair of running shoes provide more cushioning 2) they hold in heat which shortens belt life, motor life, and electronics life 3) the increased weight of the belt shortens bearing life in the rollers.  We have tempered our view somewhat because the manufacturers of these belts have thinned them a bit which makes them weigh less and the backings have become much more friction-free on many models which has lessened the stress the belt places on the system.  The best way for the average person to see the effect of the belt is stand on the treadmill without any power to the machine and manually walk the belt to see how much friction it has and then compare it with a treadmill with a regular belt.

5. Do your research and get several price quotes from several different stores.  Typically, the more you deal with the various companies, the better deals they will come up with such as discounts, free accessories, financing specials, etc.

6. Tread carefully when buying over the Internet.  Some companies, like Landice will void your warranty if it is not installed by a dealer and some have restrictions on delivery distances from an authorized dealer.  As more factories face the reality of the Internet, this is becoming less of a problem.  If in doubt, contact the factory.  Another issue related to Internet buying is delivery.  Many of us in the business know how difficult it is to ship a single treadmill or elliptical without having it damaged so deal with a company that has been doing it a long time and has already learned how to do it.  Another issue to keep in mind is what you are going to do if you don’t like the machine.  Most companies accept returns but the cost to ship the treadmill or elliptical back to the factory can easily cost hundreds of dollars so it is quite an expensive trial test if the machine is returned.  Also curbside delivery literally means what it says…the trucking company will sit it on the curb and it’s your problem to get it into the house so either purchase inside delivery or have help ready.  Another issue is service…some have good service networks and others don’t but remember that you probably won’t get the type of personalized service you should expect from a local dealer.  The best in the Internet business in our opinion are Icon- makers of the Epic, Gold’s Gym, Healthrider, Image, NordicTrack, Proform, Reebok, and Weslo brands, Johnson- makers of Horizon, Matrix, Merit, Tempo, and Vision brands, Lifespan, Precor, Sole, Star Trac, and True (listed in alphabetical order, not in any order of preference).

7. Do take care of your treadmill or elliptical.  Whether they require quite a bit or little maintenance, keeping the treadmill or elliptical clean and the walking belt lubricated on the treadmill can be the difference between either having a great machine or having a money pit.  Refer to our Treadmill or Elliptical Care Pamphlet for maintenance instructions.

8. If you are considering used machines, really do your homework, then do it again.  We do rebuilding jobs for local health clubs all the time and do this work occasionally for people who are buying health club models for the home but to do it right costs quite a bit and if someone is telling you they have a used or rebuilt at an amazing price, you typically aren’t getting the entire story.

9. Since buying a treadmill or elliptical is a huge investment for most people, choose your dealer and factory carefully.  As with any product, a brand new company may not be around in a few years and parts can be very specific to machines and spares may not be available if the factory isn’t around.  A dealer for a reputation for high quality and personalized service is necessary for some people.  Other people feel confident in servicing their own equipment, so figure out which one you are and buy accordingly.  If you know one end of a wrench from the other, you might want to save a few dollars with an Internet or warehouse club or department store purchase.  Others may need to pay for the full-service price you should get from a local dealer but if you pay the higher price, demand the higher service level.  Many of the Internet shippers are now offering an additional installation service to try to mimic the style of personalized installation you get from a local small specialty store.

10. Treadmills and ellipticals are different than many other home appliances.  Remember, we rate a treadmill average if it has a breakdown only once every 5 years…that’s average!  Extended warranties can make sense if the manufacturer has a short warranty and if you get it from a reputable extended warranty company.  Remember the dealer is typically not the warranty provider and many have gone out of business over the years and others are hard to deal with.  For instance, UTS (Icon’s warranty company) is one of the best on the market.  If you get an Icon machine, buy the UTS warranty…it will be well worth it.  UTS’s number is 800-677-3838.  Also, Sears has a good extended warranty program and typically pays for itself if you use the machine.  On the other hand, we have had problems with the company called N.E.W. and many others have gone out of business so do your research on your warranty company if you have never heard of them.  We now also have our own extended service program now too so it is available for any purchase you make up to 90 days past the date of purchase.

11. A great final tip is if you want to save a bit of money.  Since treadmills and ellipticals are becoming more commoditized, they are getting better and better while the prices are dropping.  The machines being made today in the $1000 range are much better than the $1500 machines made 10 years ago.  If you need to save a few bucks and your doctor says it is OK, use a few degrees of incline always when you use your machine.  If the machine is well maintained and if you use a bit of incline (on the treadmill), you can get by with a bit less of a machine than you might need otherwise.  The incline allows gravity to take over quite a bit of the workload from the drive system.  We are able to measure this by using a simple AC/DC ammeter.  The amp load (thus the load on the electrical system) is reduced when using even a degree or two of incline.  A treadmill used with just a slight incline will last much longer than a comparably cared for treadmill that is used at level.  Plus, if you are going green, you use fewer amps and that translates into less electricity.  If you keep it clean and keep the walking belt well lubricated, that keeps the amp load lower too.

Why Our Minimum Wage Will Be $15 Per Hour

Treadmill Doctor Minimum Wage

Treadmill Doctor has announced that we will be gradually raising our minimum wage from $12 per hour on January 1, 2015 to $15 per hour on January 1, 2018. Today our minimum wage for a full time employee is $11 and when I looked at the payroll report several weeks ago, I found that if we tightened our belt just a bit and found ways to save, we could easily afford to raise our minimum wage to $15 per hour.

To put it into perspective, our town, Memphis, TN is one of the cheapest major metro areas to live in the United States. So using CNN Money’s cost of living calculator http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/, you find that making a minimum wage of $15 per hour in Memphis is like making nearly $80,000 in Manhattan, nearly $50,000 in Los Angeles, or nearly $60,000 in Atlanta.

Our goal is not to make a social statement but to help the people on the lowest rungs of the ladder in our company to have a standard of living that is above average for our area. This is not something for everyone. If I operated a burger stand instead of Treadmill Doctor, I don’t know what I would do. We aren’t trying to be an advocate for a higher minimum wage but I do think that from a personal perspective, our society ought to use a modicum of common sense. If your people can’t afford to buy your product, how are you going to prosper?

What I would encourage is for business owners to take a look at your next payroll report and see what is possible. I looked at our payroll report and then had a conversation with my brother about what is possible, so we decided to raise our minimum wage. This was what we believed was right for our business and our people.

Needless to say, the news has been well received in our company. When you know that every one is going to be paid fairly- whether they make the big decisions or they sweep the floors, it makes it easy for everyone to move the company in the right direction.

You Have the Life You Want

This week I attended a multi-day meeting with a gentleman, Steven Memel, who is becoming a friend and he made the statement “things happen in your life. It is not your fault but it is your responsibility.” He annunciated much more eloquently than I have a belief that I have had since late adolescence; which is, you have the life you want.

You might say that you don’t have any control over where you are born, where you grow up, or if you have a life-changing accident and if you say those things, you are absolutely correct. What I am saying is that when events happen in your life, you have a choice to overcome.

Tim (names are changed) was my first college roommate and a heck of a guy. We worked our first summer together at a truck dock on the graveyard shift, loading all kinds of heavy materials onto trucks during the night, lifting weights and running during the day, and doing the normal partying college things in-between. We were on the same college football team and we really “clicked” when we first met and he always had a good time in life no matter what he did.

Towards the end of the summer after a bunch of work, a bunch or working out, and a bunch of fun, we said goodbye at the end of a shift at 6 am at the truck dock and both got in our separate trucks to go home. That would be the last time I saw the Tim I had grown to love. To make the story short, a drunk driver ran a red light, smashing into his truck, and severing his spine- paralyzing him from the waist down.

I visited Tim in the hospital daily for a while but when he started to recover he pushed all his friends away. He dropped out of college, went home, and slowly died.

I had another friend in high school, Joe, that had almost the identical scenario happen to him and after he recovered from the drunk driver assault, he finished high school, got his accounting degree, and created a home-based CPA firm. He worked tirelessly to become the best CPA, studying tax law changes, to get the best deal for his clients and his practice grew exponentially. His income afforded him the ability to buy a large home built custom to accommodate his paralysis in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Memphis.

The difference was that Tim decided to give up on life and Joe said to himself, OK I’m in a mess not of my own doing but I’m in control of the rest of my life. Circumstances are not going to dictate that I am doomed to a lesser life.

Face it. We all have disadvantages in one way or another- unless you are Paris Hilton but I would suppose hers is that she has no shame. The same holds true for your fitness level. Did you know that they make fitness machines that will accommodate you if you have paralysis, or even less major disabilities?

We have been doing testing for a company called Alter-G that makes a weight assisted treadmill, essentially supporting the weight of the user so they can rehabilitate and slowly regain the ability to walk on their own. The world is filled with people who are trying to help anyone in any position. You just have to decide to start.

I like to say there is no tomorrow. There is only today, and more specifically there is right now. What are you doing right now to make the life you want? Are you Tim or are you Joe? You have a choice because as my friend Steven says, “things happen in your life. It’s not your fault but it is your responsibility.” Overcoming is a choice!

Vaping- Is it Good or Bad?

Nicotine vaporizers, also known as e-cigarettes, are starting to take the public by storm. The process of using a nicotine vaporizer is known as Vaping. Why is Vaping and why are e-cigs popular and are they good or bad? The answer to the second questions is…it depends.

The answer to the first question is Vaping is simply inhaling a vaporized combination of of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine, and flavorings. (Wikipedia) To the uniformed, that sounds like dangerous chemicals but all of these with the exception of nicotine, these have been used in food products for decades. We will leave the debate about those components for another day.

It simply takes the liquid mixture and vaporizes it in a heating chamber and then the process of inhalation allows you to absorb the nicotine into your lungs. If you think this doesn’t sound healthy, you are right…it isn’t! Studies have been done that show that the reaction to inhaled Vaping fluids is almost unrecognizable in regard to cellular damage as tobacco smoke (Clinical Cancer Research). The difference is that Vaping liquid does not contain 69 known carcinogenic components while tobacco smoke does (American Lung Association).

So why would we discuss Vaping as a healthier alternative to smoking? Because it is. In an unscientific series of conversations with people who have been long-term smokers who have tried Vaping, they have all reported that it is the easiest method they have ever used to try to quit smoking. Treadmill Doctor’s head of Information Technology has smoked for decades and while he works out regularly, he has been concerned about smoking and has tried patches, nicotine gum, etc.

Two months ago, he started Vaping and since you can control how much nicotine you include in the liquid, he has been able to slowly dial the nicotine down to zero. Now he says that he has to solve his oral fixation without overeating but he has seen a real difference in his pulmonary functioning and he says he has more energy and is sleeping better as well.

Another person that I have known for almost two decades started Vaping about 3 months ago and he has lost nearly 20 lbs, has stopped using the e-cigs altogether, and said he was bordering COPD and now his doctor says that he has seen a massive reversal and improvement in his lung function.

So to fully answer the second question, we would recommend that if you don’t smoke, don’t start Vaping. Nicotine is a dangerous drug and contrary to the tobacco company CEO’s, we all know it is highly addictive. Even a small teaspoon of highly diluted Vaping fluid is LETHAL to some people. In small doses, it has causes vomiting, seizures, and even death when absorbed through the skin. When inhaled, it can cause the arteries to narrow and constrict. (WebMD)

If you do smoke, I have seen firsthand evidence that it is very effective at helping you quit smoking but it isn’t a great long-term replacement due to the health effects of nicotine exposure and the possible side-effects of Vaping liquid. There is a push to regulate e-cigs and from the research, it looks like that is a good idea. (How Stuff Works)

3 Reasons Why You Are Worthy

With our focus on fitness, we sometimes forget some of the basic tenants that we need to remember about life. It is amazing what just a bit of encouraging can do for people. Most people don’t know that Hitler was twice rejected as a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. How would the world be different if he was encouraged to become an artist instead of a monster.

Remember that while you are pursing excellent health, you should also pursue personal excellence as well. With this in mind, I came up with three statements that I believe you should keep in mind on a daily basis.

You are worthy to be loved.

We sometimes forget our value to the human race and not only are you worthy of love,    you are also worthy to give and receive love. My guess is that is why a dog is such a popular pet. He poops in the middle of your floor and then you angrily shoo him outside to cool down. In 10 minutes when you open the door, he is ready to be your best friend again…which brings up my second point.

You are worthy to be forgiven.

What I found years ago is that the hardest person in the world to forgive is yourself. We    carry around the baggage of things that we have done for years. No matter what your stance is on spirituality, it is cathartic to forgive yourself. It is also cathartic to forgive others. When you carry around a grudge, typically you are the only one that knows about it. Yes, there are the curmudgeons that let you know about everything that you’ve done but they are the exception. Forgiving yourself and others will feel like you set down an 80 lb. weighted vest that you were carrying around.

You are worthy to be your best.

If you remember that you are worthy to be loved and you forgive like there is no cost, you are ready to be your best. Your best is different for every person but that’s what is great about freedom. You can choose your path and then pursue it with reckless abandon. When things don’t work out, forgive yourself and move on. The world becomes a better place when people are pursuing excellence and focusing on what drives them.

The world would be a different place without Steve Jobs but think about how different his work became when he was staring death in the face. Having massive obstacles makes us focus like nothing else. What is your massive obstacle. Is it losing 50 or 100 lbs? Is it betting it all on that business idea you have had in the back of your mind forever? Is it making that call to the old friend that let you down 10 years ago? Whatever it is, remember that you are worthy to be loved, forgiven, and to be your best.

13 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dog

I saw this list on SimpleCapacity.com written by Nikola Gjakovski and it just struck a cord with me. You can find the full article and the one point I left off at the link below. My comments are listed below each point and express my experience with my Golden Retriever whose name is Cooper.

http://bit.ly/1tDhfpP

1. Never pass the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Cooper loves joyrides, in fact he took one with me yesterday!

2. When loved ones come home always run to greet them.

Cooper never misses a chance to greet a family member. He learned not to jump when a puppy & since he can’t contain his enthusiasm, he spins around in a circle.

3. Never pretend to be something you’re not.

Cooper never puts on airs. What you see is what you get!

4. When you want something, look at it until you get it before it’s gone.

My dog follows this point exactly! Look at the desired object and then me, back to the desired object then me, object – me, object – me…success!

5. Take every opportunity to run.

Cooper does a victory lap around the yard every time he gets let out of the house.

6. Take every opportunity to nap.

This is his specialty. If its raining, its a great time for a nap. A bright sun that makes you sleepy…great time for a nap. Just finished a brisk walk, time for a nap. Eat breakfast…nap time!

7. Delight in a simple joy of a long walk.

When Cooper sees a leash, he gets an excitement that equals a kid at Christmas. He loves taking a walk.

8. When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

Cooper is one of the rare dogs that squints when he gets happy so in addition to everything wagging, he squints on top of it.

9. Never pass up the chance to snuggle.

If you imagine someone that loves their soft bed, Cooper would be at the top of your list.

10. Always kiss the ones who are mad at you to make it better.

His favorite thing to do when he makes somebody mad is to lick their hand as his bid to bed for forgiveness.

11. Listen attentively and don’t offer a solution.

The one thing I always know is that Cooper won’t tell me that my opinion is wrong. If he does, we are going on tour.

12. Be brave, optimistic and completely present.

Cooper always lives in the moment. He always has a happy demeanor. He completely fails in regard to bravery.

13. Give and accept love with every breath.

The most important lesson I learned from Cooper is that he always loves and wants to be loved. From when he put his head in my baby’s lap and let him pull his ears or his concern and peering at me over the bed edge when I was sick, Cooper loves people.

Why Am I Gaining Weight When I Am Working Out to Lose Weight?

One of the most de-motivational and unsettling occurrences is when you start to work out to lose weight and you step on the scale after two weeks of PERFECT discipline and you GAIN weight! A typical response is to cry yourself to sleep while emptying a box of donuts or getting a new bag of chips out and finishing off a quart of salsa that you have been denying yourself.

Do not fear! Stick with your program and you should quickly lose the extra weight and then start to lose weight. There are been many theories about why new exercisers start to gain weight. Some claim it is an increase in muscle which I would think gaining a few pounds of muscle in a week is highly unlikely. A more plausible argument would be that your body is retaining water as a reaction to new muscle activity. Another argument is that the body is going into a fight-or-flight type of reaction to the immediate increase in muscle activity and your body is storing additional fuel for the activity.

Regardless of the reason why, I know through experience of helping thousands of people that if you stick with it, you will see results. For some people this takes the form of shaping up your body BEFORE you see weight loss and others you will see weight loss BEFORE you see a big change in body shape. The net result is that we know from the experience of millions of people that if you stick with a regimented diet and exercise program, you will lose weight.

The caveat is if you have a medical issue so if you don’t quickly lose any gained weight or if you have had a sustained exercise and diet program with no weight loss and no change in body form, please see a doctor.

How to Achieve Balance in Your Life

Do you work too hard? Do you play too hard? Do you mix Grey Goose and Red Bull because nothing beats two sets of wings?* I’ve heard all my life how we need to have a “balance” in our life. I suppose it is my generation’s (Gen X) reaction to the Baby Boomers that work like dogs but the succeeding generations have realized that there is more to life than work.

The trick is how do you do it. How do you know when you have reached a “balanced” state? The reason most people struggle with this answer, including me in the past, is because we typically work toward a balance that someone else has recommended. In other words, someone else’s idealized image is what you struggle to meet. It is similar to when your doctor who is 50 lbs. overweight tells you that you need to lose some weight.

All of it started for me with a talk by Holly Green, who is the former CEO of The Ken Blanchard Companies. Ken is the author of the One Minute Manager. She simply was asking what does winning look like to your business? I simply extrapolated that to the rest of my life. What did a winning relationship with my kids look like? What did a winning spiritual life look like? What did a winning personal fitness life look like?

Let’s start with the assumption that most people want to tell you how to live your life. Everyone wants to tell you what to do- politicians, your boss, your significant other, religious people, and don’t forget your mom! If you don’t define success for yourself in every major area of your life then someone else will. So do it now! Right now! Don’t wait! Do it immediately! (For those of you who appreciate sarcasm)

Remember when you were growing up, you were advised to get an education, work hard, get that college degree, buy your first car, get married, buy a house, have kids, etc? Every one of these pieces of advice was given from a perspective of an idealized image of what was best for you- by someone else. If you followed the advice, you might have a good life to the outside world, but is it your life?

  1. Figure out what winning looks and feels like to you for each major area of your life. Just a few examples of broad categories are:

a. Family

b. Relationships

c. Work

d. Children

e. Interests/Hobbies

f. Spiritual

  1. Make a chart outlining what winning looks like to you in each area. Some people like to write it down, others prefer a mental chart.
  2. Review your chart each morning before you start work.
  3. Make all of your decisions with your “winning” picture of each area in mind. Ask yourself when making a big decision, “is this going to help me win?”
  4. Know that you are achieving “your” balance and let everyone else who has a different idea of balance pound sand.

At the end of your life, you only have yourself to blame if you don’t feel you lived life the way you wanted to do it. This sounds simple but you get the life you live and if you don’t have any idea of where you want to end up, any road will get you there but you probably won’t like it.

If you are pursuing your ultimate goals to win in every area of your life, you will achieve your balance. Will that be balanced for anyone else? Who knows but if it works for you why should you struggle for someone else’s ideal?

*@takinnotstirred