Ways to Stay Fit in the Winter


For even the most ardent of fitness enthusiasts, the winter months tend to be a dedication-draining time of year. Dark sky for the morning commute and any existence of the sun is long gone on the ride home from work. Not only is Jack Frost nipping at your nose, he might also be packing pounds onto your stomach or backside.

The holidays don’t help either. Gift shopping can easily replace an evening workout while Christmas parties present a mine field of belly-busting dangers.  A few extra helpings here. Sampling one (or five) desserts there. And who can resist throwing back a few glasses of eggnog?

So if you fear waking up to a lack of motivation and an expanding waist line in your stocking on Christmas morning, here are a handful of ideas to keep the pounds off and the gym flame burning this winter.

Hire a Personal Trainer

Personal trainers do far more than just count repetitions. The right one will teach you proper lifting technique (form is everything) while designing workout regimens that will increase your fitness and add strength along with counseling you about proper nutrition. Your body is like a furnace and the right foods keep the fire burning.

The best trainers are also master motivators. They know when to push and when to back off. Trainers also provide accountability. If you’re sticking to your workouts and eating healthy foods, your trainer will know. If you’re not, there will certainly be more cardio in your future.

Mix Up Your Routine

Variety is the spice of life. That doesn’t apply to just pizza toppings and beer. If you’re a creature of habit (a lot of fitness disciples are), repeating the same routines over and over will sink your motivation. So, step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Check the schedule at your health club for calorie-torching classes such as cardio kickboxing or studio cycling. After 60 minutes on the stationary bike, watch the sweat pour off you.

Other training styles such as interval and Tabata offer different combinations of weights and cardio that will leave you physically drained but mentally recharged. Or, completely overhaul your gym schedule by working out first thing in the morning. There’s nothing like crawling out of bed early enough to find yourself cracking a sweat by 5:00 AM. A good, hard workout will stir up that endorphins pot so by the time you get to work, you’re mentally on fire!

Bikram Yoga

Counteract the bone-chilling effects of winter with sweat-inducing heat. Did I mention each class is 90 minutes long in a 104 degree room? This style of yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury. It’s 26 postures that give your body an entire workout while benefitting your internal organs, veins and ligaments. And for the guys, don’t turn your nose up because this is yoga. You’ll work as hard as you ever have with any of your usual routines.

Hard Work Pays Off

Toiling in the gym for hours a day, weeks on end, all year long is demanding and challenging from a physical and mental standpoint. The reward for such dedication pays off in the form of reaching your desired fitness goals: weight loss, increasing your bench press, or having that bikini body when beach season rolls around. So why not pay yourself monetarily too for all of your sweat?

Get yourself a Health and Wellness Jar (yes, I have one). Use a ceramic jar with a cork top, a child’s piggy bank, or stuff a sock under your mattress. The concept is simple. After each workout, place a dollar (or more if you choose) in your jar. Let it sit there. Before you realize, you’ll have a pile of cash that you’ve earned through hard work and dedication. Staying loyal to your gym routine will pay off quite nicely!

Be Good to Yourself

Being committed to your fitness plan isn’t easy. The daily complications of life see to that. So reward yourself for staying the course. Get a massage once a month. Find a local spa that has hot tubs and give those sore muscles a well-earned soak. Splurge on your favorite not-so-healthy meal every so often. Or save up your Health and Wellness Jar funds to spend on something you’ve wanted but couldn’t quite work into the budget.

The bitter cold and snow is upon us. That’s a battle Old Man Winter wins every year. But that doesn’t mean your fitness level has to drop like the temperature. With the right planning, determination and good old stick-to-itive-ness, you’ll be in your best shape ever!

Four-Legged Family Members


My beautiful wife, Lauren, and our best furry friend, Layla.

My beautiful wife, Lauren, and our best furry friend, Layla.

 

For as long as I can remember, the notion that pet owners treat their lovable balls of fur like full-fledged family members was something I couldn’t wrap my head around.

Until I became one of them.  A pet owner, that is.

Growing up, we weren’t pet people in my family.  Well, scratch that.  For a year or so, we had two parakeets.  One died and one escaped.  End of that experiment.

During my brother’s teen years, a large fish tank occupied the dresser in his room.  Yeah, they were mildly interesting, with the different colors and all.  And watching the algae-eating suckerfish hangout (literally) and clean the inside of the tank held a morsel of interest.  When Ed went away to college, guess who got stuck cleaning the tank every week?  Boooooooo!!!

While we did have those two minor excursions into the pet world, we never ventured into the big leagues of pet-dom.  That being, cats and dogs.

I’m not quite sure why.  If I had to hazard a guess, the reason rested somewhere between mom not wanting to walk the dog (or change the kitty litter box) when Ed and I whined and dad not wanting to step in dog crap while mowing the lawn.  Fair enough.  They paid the mortgage so they got to call the shots.

Back to the now.

My wife, Lauren, adopted Layla when she was a mere eight weeks old and could fit in the small of her lap.  That was a year before Lauren and I met.

Layla is a twenty pound, two foot long puggle.  One half pug, one half beagle.

She’s affectionate like a pug (and eats like one too) but has the nose of a beagle.  And she knows how to use it.  I often tell Lauren that Layla can smell what the people four units down the hall are cooking.

As she approaches her fourth birthday, Layla does not want for much in life.

She’s spoiled with affection and treats, has more toys than the average elementary school child, and enjoys walks in the woods on her 25-foot long leash.  Did I mention that she gets scooped up and carried to bed when she’s exhausted?  Toss in the fact that she manages to take up more space in bed than me despite a considerable size difference, and it should be abundantly clear that young Layla has the world by the proverbial throat.

What Layla gives back to Lauren and me in terms of love, companionship, and laughs is immeasurable.

So, you can imagine our despair when a typical evening walk a couple of weeks ago resulted in a trip to the animal E.R.  While out and about, she swallowed something off the ground.  That is pretty standard for Layla as that beagle nose tends to lead her down the trouble’s path.

When she started to cough and hack in an attempt to make herself vomit, that’s when we had an inkling that all was not well with the pup.

She started pounding water from her bowl in an effort to clear some type of blockage.  Breathing wasn’t difficult for her since she showed no signs of distress, but something was obviously not right.

As our concern grew, we called a local animal hospital.

Lauren talked to one of the vet techs and she advised us to bring Layla in for a check.  Fortunately, the hospital was open 24-hours (since we were now past dinner time) and we live not even ten minutes away.

Layla still wasn’t displaying any signs of distress.  In fact, she seemed more excited to be going for a car ride.  But, she still was attempting to self-induce vomiting.  Something had to be wrong.

We got there, checked her in, and grabbed a seat in the lobby while Layla was taken outback for some x-rays.

Soon enough, Lauren and I were summoned to one of the exam rooms to meet the doctor (and get Layla back).  The doctor explained that the x-ray revealed a small piece of bone resting “comfortably” in Layla’s belly.  Her stomach acids would dissolve the bone in time and Layla would suffer no ill effects from shoving her inquisitive snout where it didn’t belong.

Still, the doctor wanted us to monitor her for the rest of the night and if she did vomit or show any other signs that something was wrong, we were to rush her back.  We had to keep her on a strict diet of bland food the next couple of days (chicken and white rice) but Layla isn’t one to complain no matter what we put in her chow bowl.  She’s a trooper like that.

Walking out of the animal hospital we were as relieved to have Layla with us as she was to be trotting alongside Lauren with her tail wagging from side to side.  We settled into the car and headed home after a nerve-wracking few hours.

Ever the concerned dog mother, Lauren stayed home the next day to keep a watchful eye on Layla.  She had a little more pep than the night before but was still rather calm and sedated.  A day of cuddling on the couch while her mama watched bad TV was just the remedy.

By the time I got home that night, the hyper, playful Layla who almost always greets us at the door with some item of clothing clutched in her jaws (we call that “the presentation”) had returned.

All was well in dog world again.  And, with a few well-placed licks to my face, Layla reminded me who I had become in just three short years.

A pet owner.

Brewing up coffee thoughts


Are you one of those people who in no way shape or form can begin each day until that first sip of piping hot caffeine goodness crosses the barrier of your lips?  Is pouring that first cup of coffee a sacred ritual?  Are you on a first name basis with the employees at the coffee shop down the street from your home?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, rest easy, for you’re not alone.  I’d hazard a guess there are millions of you out there.  You come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, and you live in all four corners of the country.

Be honest.  You probably have your own special name for coffee.  Let me guess.  Java.  Joe.  Mud.  Jamoke.  Just a small sampling (pardon the pun) of its many aliases.  Taste buds salivating yet?

Why does a beverage, mostly associated with breakfast but hardly limited to morning consumption, go by so many monikers?  What is it that obligates society to worship at the coffee altar?  Seriously, we can’t seem to get enough of our beloved coffee.

People drink it everywhere they go.  In the car or on the subway.  Waiting in line at the bank or while pushing a carriage in the supermarket.  Sitting in the stands watching Little League or reading a book on the beach.

In businesses all over the country, does anyone really gather around the water cooler anymore or is it more like mill around the kitchen impatiently waiting for the coffee maker to yield its daily catch?

How many office folk have their own personal cup that they consume the precious Colombian plasma from?  Sure, there are all kinds of coffee mugs.  Some have the name of its owner while others have a picture of a loved one printed on the side.  The real pros on the coffee circuit certainly have some type of verbal coffee reference along the lines of “caffeine addict: please refill” imprinted on the outside of their sacred ceramic chalices.

Now here’s the rub, at least for me:  Try as I have, I just can’t get into coffee.

Nope.  No can do.  Aint happenin’.  Just doesn’t do it for me.

Oh, it’s not for lack of effort.  I mean, New England is Dunkin Donuts’ country.  I’ve lived my whole life in one of the two coffee cauldrons (Seattle being the other) of the nation.  One doesn’t have to drive very far around here to come across a Dunkin Donuts.  They are as common as Boston accents and cases of road rage.

But I still don’t get the fascination.

At first, I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was.  For a wet liquid, coffee tastes awfully dry.

So I started experimenting with the coffee condiments.  Cream, milk, and skim milk.  Sugar, Equal, and Sweet and Low.

After dawning my mad scientist hat, I finally settled on ordering my coffee (from Dunks, mind you.  NOT a Starbucks guy.  We’ll get to that in a moment, rest assured) with extra cream and three Equals.  Yes, I know.  Break out the “you want some coffee with your cream and sugar?” jokes.  I found that particular combination of sweet and fat transformed coffee from bitter and dry to, well, sweet and fat.  Coffee for me had become a coffee-flavored milk shake with caffeine kick.  The metamorphosis was complete.

So why order strictly from Dunkins, you ask?  Well, let me answer by telling you why I refuse to order from Starbucks.  Simple.  I’m not foo foo.  And Starbucks is foo foo.

For starters, they make their coffee way too strong.  Thanks, but an ulcer of the throat didn’t make the top ten on my Bucket List.  Put it this way, if you’re sick of gas stations inserting the Hoover into your wallet every week and turning it to level “suck up every last cent and the threading that holds the wallet intact, to boot”, then I have the perfect solution for you.  Pour a pot of fresh Starbucks down the gas tank hatch and watch your car go from zero to 60 faster than Usain Bolt.

Furthermore, this is New England.  And in New England, we don’t order coffee by asking for a “grande triple crappachino latte mocha bajocha with four shots of espresso and topped with organic whipped cream”.  That, my friends, is the text-book definition of “foo foo”.

In New England, here’s how we order coffee:

“Welcome to Dunkin Donuts, can I take your order?”

“Yeah, meedyum reg-u-lah”.

For those of you who aren’t educated in the dialect known as the Boston accent, that customer ordered a “medium regular”, which is code for hot coffee with milk and sugar.

And if Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks weren’t already locked in an epic battle for coffee supremacy, a new player has upped the ante.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the rise of the Keurig coffee maker (pause for dramatic entrance music).

Just press and go.  You have your K-cups and your V-cups.  What the difference is and why those two letters were chosen, I don’t know.  I’m more curious about why the other 24 letters got the shaft.

Yup, coffee has become an industry.

But it’s still not for me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a cup of tea. With honey.

First post…..


Testing, testing…..hello? Is this thing on? OK, good.

So this is my first entry after deciding to take up residency in the world of the blogosphere (yeah, let’s see spell check try to nix “blogosphere).

The funny thing is, for someone who loves to write and whose father once told him, “you’ve been known to take a quote and shove it up someone’s “backside”, I really am at a loss with regards to the topic of my first entry.

I’m not going to ramble on about who I am, what I like, my hobbies, etc etc blah blah blah because this isn’t the “About Me” page on an internet dating site.  Hopefully, the content’s quality will do that for me.

So without dragging this out much further, I’ll close by saying that, like the rest of you other bloggers, I share a love and a passion for writing and I look forward to sharing my thoughts and views on a variety of topics and reading some great writing by the rest of you.  Let the journey begin.

Now, back to those TPS reports….