Your Ticking Time Bomb

sitting at work

Sitting for long periods of time is essentially you sitting on a ticking time bomb! There was a great article in the LA Times this week by Melissa Healy about a topic we have covered in the past. The difference with this article is that it is based on a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine Journal this month.

This study was a review of 47 different studies on the phenomenon of being sedentary at work and the development of health problems. They concluded that even for those people who are physically fit and have activity during the workday have an increased likelihood of early death.

According to the LA Times article, “The likelihood of dying from cardiovascular disease rises less dramatically (about 18%) with long hours of sitting, as did the risk of cancers (between 13% and 16%). Studies observed higher rates of breast, colon, colorectal, endometrial and endothelial ovarian cancer among those who logged long hours in a chair.”

The question on everyone’s mind is “what do I do?” The answer is easy with technology. Although we aren’t saying that you have to get a treadmill desk or a standing desk (we have both of them at our company) you can also do something very easy to prevent debilitating conditions. Set your smartphone to buzz or chime every 30 minutes and then get up, walk around, go up and down a set of stair, go to the snack machine (just kidding), etc. but get some type of physical activity on a regular basis throughout the day.

Not only will a short burst of activity help prevent health issues but there are also studies showing that moving regularly increases productivity so you should be able to get more done even when you take a quick break to move around. Apparently life is supposed to be lived in motion of some kind on a regular basis. Who knew?

The conclusion of the study was “Prolonged sedentary time was independently associated with deleterious health outcomes regardless of physical activity.” http://bit.ly/1CB28je The great news is that you can do something about it very easily without interrupting your work life and you might just help not only your health but also your work.

Income Inequality is Not the Problem

greed

If you are used to our normal blog posts on fitness and that’s what you are looking for this week, you might want to quit reading. Lately, all the press on income inequality has driven me to the point of wanting to drink incessantly.

Imagine if you visited a city where there was a bacterial outbreak and chest congestion was rampant. If all you could talk about was how we needed to get everyone to stop coughing without addressing the underlying infection, you would have the parallel with all the talk about income inequality.

You might ask what expertise does a fitness guy have on this topic? It just so happens that I have an advanced degree in the topic area of the root problem and spent 3.5 years in school earning this degree. Income inequality is not the problem, greed is. Since our entire society is built upon greed, it is hard to attack the root problem without damaging our economy, our legal system, and almost every major component that constitutes our society.

Greed is not exclusive just to those who have more than others. Some of the most greedy people I have ever encountered have little in terms of worldly possessions. First, let’s address the elephant in the room- income inequality. As long as we have the compensation systems we employ, we are going to have income inequality…it is a symptom of the fact that some people do work that is more valuable than others. For instance, if I tried to play in the NBA (trust me, they wouldn’t let me try out), the teams would pay me much less than Lebron James because the output of Lebron’s work is far more valuable than mine.

If I spent 10 years getting a medical degree and specialized training, I would expect to earn more than if I skipped college and decided that pushing a broom is my goal in life. There is not a problem with people doing what they want to do work wise, but those who spend the time to make their skill set more valuable will generally be compensated more than those that don’t. It is a fact of life.

My issue is the greed of many people. Leslie Stahl was interviewing Jeffrey Romoff, the CEO of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. When asked why he deserves $6 million a year and why 23 executives make over $1 million a year, his response was that the board of directors set the salaries. As an aside, Leslie Stahl makes $1.8 million a year according to Wikipedia.

To justify your salary by passing the buck was not the answer I was hoping to hear. Neither was Jeffrey Romoff’s other response that the compensation of executives was less than 1% of revenue. What is does not address is that his exorbitant compensation is done while many “non-profit” hospitals bill people $1.50 for a single generic aspirin or bill $10,000 a day for a room.

Compare that with the average Joe on the street. Our company vehicles have been involved in a couple of fender benders over the years. We had one that stands out in my mind where our employee’s foot slipped off the brake pedal and he rolled at about 2 MPH into the car in front of him. Both passengers immediately called one of the “billboard” lawyers and our insurance company paid a few hundred dollars to each person to get them to go away.

Wikipedia defines greed as “the inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one’s self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort. It is applied to a markedly high desire for and pursuit of wealth, status, and power.” As the definition implies, you can be greedy in many areas of life and we see this all the time with politicians, executives, celebrities, and even clerks in a discount store.

Until we tackle the underlying problem of people who want to “get all they can, can all they get, and sit on the can (Adrian Rogers)” we won’t successfully address the symptom of the turmoil in our society today.

The 5 Secrets the Fitness Factories Hide Inside

sausage

I’ve never been one to want to see how sausage is made. When I was just a tot my grandfather took me to a slaughterhouse because he raised cattle and wanted me to know that my food doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. I’ll give you the rest of the story later.

The recent Runner’s World issue had a treadmill review section and as they had in the past, the writer consulted with us before writing the story. We explained how the sausage was made and they printed it so since the cat is out of the bag, we thought we would provide additional insight.

Our hesitation about sharing the sausage making process in the fitness industry with you is that it could scare you away from making any choice. Hopefully this doesn’t scare you but remember, you have been forewarned.

Secret #1- price really makes a difference. As was reported by Runner’s World, to get the cost down to the magic price points consumers love, you have to cheapen the wire harnesses, use plastic in the construction of the rollers, go with the cheapest bearings or bushings possible, etc. Although you can overpay for some of the brand names, typically you get what you pay for. You aren’t putting it over on your neighbor when he buys a $2,000 elliptical and you get the $599 Costco special. There is a reason for the price difference.

Secret #2- quality is typically hidden. People still ask about motor size, roller size, stride length, programming, etc. but the key factor is always quality. If it breaks down when you get going on your routine, it is very hard to remain consistent. We know which factories get their bearings from which suppliers for instance and we also know the quality levels of the different suppliers. We get weekly reports on these shipments, so we are always up to date on the quality different companies are using.

Secret #3- many brands are made by the same factory. You might say, “I know this one!” Most people know about Icon but they don’t know about Johnson, Dyaco, and the multitude of Asian suppliers that interchangeably make most of the other machines on the market. Most people don’t realize it but if an Asian supplier has a hot model, they might have another factory help supplement production so even if you think one factory made it, another might have done so.

Secret #4- the same part can have different components. I ran into this about 20 years ago. I was working for one of the largest fitness companies and was talking to one of the purchasing agents and although we were buying the same motor for multiple machines, depending upon which model that part was going into, they might specify different brushes, different bearings, different metal qualities, etc. You really have to know what you are looking at in order to determine quality.

Secret #5- most people don’t use their machine. The dark secret of the fitness business is that only about a maximum of 20% of the people who buy a machine consistently use it. That’s why when I am conversing with a newbie, I typically encourage her to buy down in the line and then if they find they are consistently using it, trade up to a more suitable model.

So now that you know how the sausage is made, I’ll get back to my story. Fortunately my grandfather only showed me the cow going in one end and us picking up steaks and hamburgers at the other end of the facility. He got his message across and one thing I know is that I never want to see how my sausage is made.

The Most Critical Point of Exercise is Almost Always Overlooked

hoka one

I recently had a friend who bought a Boston Marathon treadmill and absolutely loved the machine. He got a couple of workouts in and then he started having incredible pain in his foot so he went to the doctor and found out he has Plantar Fasciitis. Similarly, I recently started having pain from an old football injury in my foot so I asked a personal trainer friend if there was something he would recommend.

He told me that he tried a new pair of shoes recently and recommended that I buy a pair of Hoka One One shoes. I was skeptical but figured it was worth a try. More on the Hoka shoes a bit later.

The two major issues we commonly see with an exercise routine is:

1)    getting started and

2)    keeping it going

Getting started may be a New Year’s Resolution for you. We can cover point #1 at another time but I have found that if you get the ball rolling, #2 can be the bigger challenge.

There are a number of reasons why you might stop a workout routine but what I have found is that it is usually an issue of an injury or the equipment interrupting the workout. That’s why cushioning is so important in a treadmill. You might ask, “if cushioning is so important, why do you steer people away from an orthopedic belt?” The answer is always that a good pair of running shoes does much more for you than a softer belt.

That’s where I get back to the Hoka One One shoes. My skepticism disappeared after the first day. I wore them to work because my foot was hurting so bad it was keeping me awake at night. After the first day of use, my foot pain almost went away. I started using my treadmill again the second day and wore the shoes around the clock.

By the third day, I ordered my second pair of Hoka One One shoes. My wife saw the improvement and asked me if I would get her a pair. She has an issue of tiredness more than pain but in a single day or wearing her shoes last week, the tiredness was gone.

Not sure if these are going to solve my friend’s Plantar Fasciitis but I just texted him my experience and I hope it will help. The point is that you need to do everything possible to keep your routine going because if you get injured, you are going to have a hard time keeping a good thing going.

Now, I need to find the contact info for Hoka One One and let them know I am being an unpaid spokesman for them. Since we aren’t in the shoe business I don’t have a dog in that fight. All I can tell you is this is the best pair of running shoes I have ever owned and I increased my treadmill use yesterday to 50% more than my workout level in the prior-to-my-injury period.

I hope the shoes last and don’t wear out quickly because I will keep using them no matter what as long as the good times with my feet keep going.

The Hardest Workout Time of the Year

Merry Christmas

Working out at Christmastime is, in my estimation, the hardest time of the year. You feel pressured to get things done, your schedule is all messed up because you are trying to pack everything into every day. You could possibly be traveling and so at this time of the year, there is no set routine.

Add to that the fact that everyone seems to lose their mind this time of year. As @pattioshankable on Twitter posted today, “Husband is yelling. Teens are bickering. 6 is melting down & the damn cat is puking up tinsel. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!!” It is enough to make you want to run to the wine store and get a few cases of wine and lock yourself up in your bedroom.

What has been very helpful to me is that I move my workouts to as early in the day as possible. I’m not a morning workout person. I’m not sure if that was due to my experience of playing football in high school and college. We always had our heavy workouts during the afternoon and my weight training was done at the same time so I got used to even cardio training during the afternoon or evening.

Regardless of what caused me to like workouts during the later portions of the day, I have found that this time of the year, the morning is the only time that works. What I have found over the years, is that if I don’t move my workouts at Christmastime to the morning, something always comes up during the afternoon and the workout doesn’t get completed.

So my gift to you at Christmas is to give you the advice to embrace the madness! Use the opportunity of the earthquake called Christmas to shake up your schedule and try something different. Move your workout, try a new workout, do a bit of cross training. Making the workout different might expose you to a way that you like better and it might keep you interested at Christmastime.

Treadmill Doctor hopes you have a great Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail And What to Do About It

new year

I know it isn’t Christmas yet but just around the corner is the time for New Year’s Resolutions! Some people swear by them and others swear at them but very few people have a neutral feeling about the matter.

Personally I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions because I don’t want to wait to make a change when I know I need to get it done. That’s the main reason New Year’s Resolutions fail. If it can wait until New Year’s Day, then the pain to change isn’t bad enough. If the pain of something is too big for you do keep doing what you have been doing, then change now. Don’t wait for the calendar to flip over to a new year.

Most people simply say a few words or make a few statements and the really bold write down their resolutions but then quickly fail to keep them. A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol concluded that nearly 90% of New Year’s Resolutions fail (Wikipedia). That figure sounds just about right to me.

If you really want to make a change, you need to apply something that I learned in B school. You must have a roadmap to make a change and the way that has worked for me is through the acronym SMART.

S- Your goal must be specific. The more specific, the better to enable you to reach your goal. Visualize it and make it as real as possible. If you want to lose 25 pounds, picture yourself weighing 25 lbs. less. If you have an old picture of you at the lower weight, put it up on your bulletin board to give you a visual of where you want to head.

M- Your goal must be measurable. If you can’t measure it, you won’t know when you have reached your goal. If you want to limit your sugar intake, you can’t have a goal to simply eat less. You need a measurable goal like a 25% reduction in your sugar intake and need to know how much you are intaking currently.

A- Your goal must be attainable. Setting a goal that you cannot reach will quickly devolve into a situation when you lose hope. You must be able to attain it in a reasonable amount of time and if you don’t, most likely you will simply give up.

R- Your goal must be realistic. If you want to lose 90% of your body weight, that is simply not realistic. Make a crazy goal is the mindset of some people but what scientists have found is that the less realistic, the less likely that you can maintain your goal.

T- Your goal must be timely. If you make a goal that cannot be reached for 25 years, how motivated are you going to be to work on it every day. That’s why people don’t save as they should. It just takes a little bit of effort every day or a Herculean effort in a small amount of time according to the thinking of most people. Make intermediate goals if you have a long-term goal but people who can’t celebrate regularly won’t celebrate at all.

Hopefully these will help you make a resolution that will stick and the great thing about following this acronym is that it will work any time of the year, not just on New Year’s Day!

3 Tips to Avoid Overeating During the Holidays

cupcake

Have you ever gone into the holiday season around Thanksgiving saying, “this year I’m going to be good?” As you were finishing off an entire pumpkin pie you promised yourself that you would do better at Christmas. You had a passing thought about that promise as you were polishing off an entire box of Godiva chocolate!

People ask me how I lost nearly 100 lbs. 4 years ago and how I have kept the weight off. I used these tactics:

1.    Freeze your hunger.

I took this from Dave Ramsey. He hates credit cards and tells people that if you keep one, put it in a frozen block of ice in the freezer so you give yourself time to think about it while the card is thawing out. Let’s say you love Godiva chocolate and your whole family knows this so you get 3 boxes for Christmas. Put them in the freezer. If you have serious control issues, eating a frozen caramel might burn more calories than eating an entire stalk of celery. When they are frozen, you have to put it out and let it sit for a couple of hours at room temperature to be ready to eat. Don’t pull out the entire box, only a single piece at a time.

2.    No treats from Costco.

I love the deals at Costco, don’t get me wrong but if you buy treats at Costco, you get a MASSIVE quantity. I know it costs less per piece than from the convenience store but if you buy the 5 lb. bag of Hershey’s Kisses at Costco, you will eventually eat the entire bag. Do you really need that pallet of holiday cookies. I know they are a great deal but unless you want to be moved around by a forklift on a pallet, buy your treats in single serving sizes and pay more per ounce. Also, when you only buy a single serving, remember that a half gallon of ice cream is not a single serving size. Which brings us to our final point:

3.    Half it up.

When I lost my weight, people asked me how I did it. The secret included more exercise and a good diet but I didn’t deprive myself. When I wanted a piece of chocolate, I got one. When I wanted ice cream, I would go and get a single scoop. The key was a simple piece of advice my doctor gave me, which was when you pull what you want from the box or bag or when you serve out your food on a plate, put 1/2 of it back. He said he had other patients that would half it on their plate and only eat half but I found when I tried that, I ended up just taking an extra bite or two so I just put 1/2 back every time. This worked like a charm and it will for you if you don’t double the portion on the front end.

Keep these in mind when you are having that Christmas or New Year’s party or if you decide to treat your shopping exhaustion with an entire package of Mrs. Field’s chocolate chip cookies.

3 Secret Hacks of Celebrity Fitness Trainers That Can Make You Into a Fitness Star

personal trainer

I hear the excuse all the time that Jillian Michaels, Bob Harper, and the like “can be fit but I’m not a fitness freak and I’m not an elite athlete.” People use this excuse so they can continue to eat whatever they want, lay on the couch, and continue to waste away and harm their quality of life, develop health issues that seriously limit their lifestyle, and eventually die prematurely from the havoc these issues eventually cause.

After people make these excuses, they flip on The Biggest Loser and see “reality” TV and say what I say, which is “if I did daily workouts like those on this show, I would have a fatal heart attack!” What they don’t tell you is that you don’t have to do this type of workout to be seriously in shape. There are shortcuts (hacks) and you don’t have to hire an expensive trainer or spend thousands on equipment. These hacks are:

  1. Start slowly. I tell people all the time that you would try to run a marathon without training for it. I know a number of marathon runners and they always follow this secret. Even they start slowly and build up with the event as their training goal. You can’t train at full speed all the time or you will burn yourself up just like you can burn up a motor by running it at full speed all the time. Most people don’t realize it but F1 racing engines have to be rebuilt after a single race. The same holds true for you if you try to max out ever time you workout.
  2. Develop consistency. The key to fitness success is consistency. It is also the killer of fitness success. If you want to feel good about fitness, do what a great number of people do and spend $500 on a machine and then set it in a corner and forget about it. If you want to get in shape, get the job done every day. If you set your schedule, meet it regularly and don’t use excuses and certainly don’t lie to yourself. Remember, that they Grand Canyon was amazingly made by water erosion but it didn’t do it overnight.
  3. Set achievable goals. The biggest secret is that people want to look like Jillian or like Brad Pitt within one month. It doesn’t work that way. The people you see on TV and the movies that have ripped abs and can run a marathon started with achievable goals. They started slowly and worked consistently, and made achievable plateaus. Remember to reward yourself but don’t do it all the time. Remember Christmas comes once a year but it wouldn’t be special if you had Christmas every day.

What most people don’t realize is that many of these trainers are celebrity trainers because they too were severely out of shape and in some cases, bordering on serious health problems from their overeating and sedentary lifestyle. The reason they have a passion for it is because they know the power of these three secrets.

You don’t have to have the goal of having your own TV show to be a fitness star but you must have these three key hacks to achieve any level of fitness success.

Tell Your Personal Trainer to Jump in the Lake!

Personal Trainer

Personal trainers can be a passionate lot. I know of one personal trainer here in our town that was an Olympic Gold Medalist and she runs her personal training sessions in a way that you would imagine an Olympic athlete would do. It is simply crazy and, if you want intense, she’s your gal but most of us would be scared of that kind of workout and personally, I’m a bit scared of her!

I’ve had a number of friends over the years that are personal trainers. Most trainers absolutely love exercise and that’s why they are training people. I’ve known a number of professional athletes that become trainers after their professional career is over. What most of these people lack is perspective.

If you want to be the next Carl Lewis or Michael Phelps, you might need a trainer with the intensity of a Marine drill sergeant but the average person has nothing near that level of need. Most of us just need to get moving again.

That’s why if you need help from a personal trainer and you run into someone that chews on anvils for breakfast, your best bet might be to move on to the next one. The ugly truth is that most people in the world are sedentary and the more developed the society, the greater chance that you have the daily movement of a Redwood tree.

I’m not trying to shame anyone and I speak more for myself than anyone else. I made some big changes a few years ago after a health scare and I want you to get moving without having to have the boot of a health emergency kicking you in the rear.

What you don’t want to do is start off with such intensity that you get it firmly planted in your mind that working out on a regular basis is for a select few rather than for everyone. So, if you have had the exercise pattern of a garden slug, you might want to start out with something as simple as 5 or 10 minutes of sustained walking. When you start out slowly, it is easy to increase your effort.

I know of a few people who have started out with a simple stretching routine and once they regained some flexibility, they started doing a brief workout routine. The important thing is to start moving because movement is life.

So when you decide to get started and want some help from a professional trainer, make sure to get someone that understands where you are and wants to slowly bring you along and hopefully can motivate you by making exercise fun.

It is similar to when you change your eating patterns. When I started eating salads (I still hate salads), I told myself that eating salads were a PERMANENT change for me. I wasn’t going to do it for 4 weeks or 6 months, but rather for the rest of my life. The same is true with exercise so you want a program with which you can live. So, if you get a trainer that seems like they are preparing to cast you in the next Rambo film, tell your personal trainer to jump in the lake.

How to Simply Solve the Internet Sales Tax Problem

sales tx

Here’s a solution that most people on either side of the issue won’t tell you…the whole issue of collecting sales tax on internet sales can be solved without hurting small businesses. My simple solution?

Have all larger internet retailers that sell $20 million or more online collect sales tax.

You might ask, “won’t that leave a pile of money on the table?” The simple answer is no. If you want the complicated answer, read on.

The proposed Marketplace Fairness Act does not create a level playing field, but rather just picks new winners and losers. For instance, under current international trade agreements, the individual states do not have the power to require foreign companies shipping from outside the USA to collect tax on individual transactions. Due to the reciprocity agreements with the USPS, foreign retailers would have a natural price advantage with US retailers pushing more business and more jobs offshore.

Additionally multi billion dollar companies like Amazon.com would have a HUGE competitive advantage over small businesses like ours because they have the volume to amortize costs of collecting and reporting tax to 50 different states. Within some of those states, multiple taxing jurisdictions exist- Alabama alone has 49 separate reporting authorities (http://1.usa.gov/106Jdzb). According to the Washington Post, a minimum of 7,600 different tax rates exist and some estimates top 14,000. The reason they can’t give us an exact number? There were 259 rate changes alone in 2012. (http://wapo.st/14MxEQu)

There is a $1 million dollar exemption in the Marketplace Fairness Act for small businesses but that exemption is laughable. Any small business can tell you that if you are internet based and have less than $1 million in sales, you are not a business but rather a hobby. Since margins are typically small with online businesses and since large businesses like Amazon make up the vast majority of online sales, a more reasonable exemption would be along the lines of Internet Retailers Top 500 list (http://bit.ly/106K2bd). For 2013, the last member of the Internet Retailer Top 500 had $21,375,000 in sales.

These Top 500 retailers comprise over 97% of all 2013 online sales (latest published year) so assuming an average sales tax rate across all jurisdictions of 7%, states would collect nearly $18 BILLION in uncollected sales taxes if the cutoff was being a business the size of a member of the Top 500 retailers, the only cost to states would be roughly $10 million per state in uncollected sales tax and would save numerous jobs from retailers that will simply be put out of business due to compliance costs associated with collecting sales taxes in a myriad of jurisdictions. See individual sales tax rates here http://bit.ly/106L4UC.

In summary, the proposed Marketplace Fairness Act will:

1. Place a heavy burden on tiny businesses that will close companies and cost jobs.

2. Unfairly take from small businesses and give to the giants like Amazon.com (that’s why Amazon heartily supports the proposed Marketplace Fairness Act).

3. Collect an amount from small businesses so tiny that it is a rounding error in most state budgets.

What should be done:

1. Pass a bill that exempts businesses with less than $20 million in online sales.

2. Collect between 97% and 98% of sales tax that should be collected.

3. Quit trying to steal from small businesses and give to big businesses!

Using California as an example, their budget for 2014-2015 is $156 billion (http://wapo.st/1FZTZIC). If companies less than $20 million in online sales were exempted from collecting online sales tax, California would collect over an additional $2.3 BILLION in sales tax and would only lose less than 1/2 of 1% of the state’s total budget and small businesses would be SAVED from a punishing compliance burden.