10,000 Steps a Day

Walking the dog is a fun way to get those steps in.

I read an article about where the 10,000 steps a day trend came from. It turns out that some company making fitness watches thought that it’d be a good, round number to set as a goal that is roughly two or three times the number of steps people normally get in a day. Is there any basis in 10,000 steps a day being good for you? Not really. It’s not bad, but it’s not going to help you lose weight.

Don’t get me wrong; getting steps is good for you. It’s better than sitting all day, but not for the reasons most people try to get steps. Here are some reasons it’s good to get those steps in (and to get up and off your butt!):

  • Getting up helps your hips and back by allowing you to stretch them. Staying in one position for long periods of time can lead to muscle pain and even back problems due to poor posture most of us have when sitting.
  • Moving helps your body digest. That’s why walking after a meal is actually very good for you!
  • Sitting for long periods of time has been linked to heart disease. Why? There are many reasons scientists think they are linked, but the fact remains that people who sit for long periods of time tend to have heart disease. Or is it people with heart disease tend to sit a lot? I’d rather get those steps in.
  • Diabetes. Believe it or not, insulin resistance is higher after sitting or laying down for long periods of time. People with higher body weight tend to have more problems with this.
  • Getting up and walking for a bit a few times a day helps relieve neck and shoulder strain from looking at your monitor all day. It also helps relieve eye strain.

What 10,000 steps a day will not do, however, is allow you to eat whatever you want and lose weight. 10,000 steps a day won’t even actually help you lose weight unless you change your diet (at which time it’s actually your diet that’s making you lose weight, not the steps). The 10,000 steps can help your heart if you make those steps brisk, but to get really true benefits from exercise, you have to either lift lots of weights or get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes.

So, get those steps in. They won’t hurt you, but don’t think that walking 10,000 steps a day will replace a solid fitness plan. It just won’t.

Finding Victories

There are days when you’re hoping or expecting to make progress in one measurable metric or another (like weighing yourself on the scale, or measuring your waist) and you don’t see the results you were looking for. This is disheartening, and makes you question yourself, your dedication, the effort, and even the program itself. This is natural, and you’re not alone in this thinking. It’s also where your will, determination, and perseverance are tested. This is the moment that separates you from everyone else who tried and failed.

I find that if I don’t reach a goal in one area, I look to other areas to find victories. So I didn’t lose any weight? Well, at least my clothes all feel good. I didn’t lose any inches off my waist? Well, I’m eating better and I feel more mental clarity. My BMI is still unacceptable? That’s okay: I’m doing all the right things, and this is just a plateau. Plateaus are natural, and soon, I’ll be off of it.

What separated me from all the other people who started down their health and fitness journey when I did and failed is that I stuck with it and kept putting in the work. Putting in the work might be as simple as just continuing to food prep, to eat the right foods, and to get the exercise in. It might mean reevaluating what I’ve been doing and adjusting as necessary. Either way, I never quit.

Did I question myself? The process? The Diet? Sure. But I only let it go so far as to question whether I was properly adhering to the process and diet. If there was anything not being done right, I was pretty certain it was me. And sure enough, I either wasn’t getting enough sleep or maybe not even eating enough (did you know that not eating enough can sometimes stall your weight loss? Crazy, right!?!?!).

Find the victories. Sometimes, when you can’t find one, the most basic one will always hold true: at least you’re doing something to improve your health, get fit, and lose some weight. At least you’re an active participant in your health, and you’re not surrendering. And that’s a lot.

The Missing Components to Fitness: Slow Progress and Rest

Me in my first week of weightlifting.

Throughout the years, I’ve tried unsuccessfully to exercise regularly. It wasn’t until three years a go when I began running with a careful and well-thought out approach that I was able to stick with it successfully. What was the difference between all the times before and now? Two things: slow progress and rest.

Slow Progress. In the past, every time I went to the gym with a fellow Marine, they pumped hard. So hard, in fact, that they would often leave the gym unable to lift a soda to their faces. They took this as a badge of honor, and would proudly proclaim their spaghetti arms to anyone who was within earshot to listen. “I pumped it HARD!” When I thought for a brief moment that I’d like to join them, they pushed me into their same routine as if I’d been working out with them for years. That was the first mistake; there was no learning moves with lighter weights, no getting familiar with the routines or allowing my muscles to gain the all-important muscle memory. Worse, exerting to 100% on the first day guaranteed DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This soreness was so acute that I couldn’t wash my hair the next morning in the shower; I couldn’t lift my arms to my head! This also made me want to never go back to the gym and lift another weight again. The experience was so bad, I stayed out of gyms for the rest of my Marine Corps career as long as I had a choice, and I didn’t return to one until 24 years after leaving the Corps.

Rest. This is a curious topic, because I had forgotten that even in Marine Corps boot camp, days of rest were scheduled in between the running days. As a “Admin Private,” or “Secretary” in boot camp, I was responsible for hand-writing the training cards, or what the Drill Instructors called “T-Cards” each day for the Drill Instructors to have with them in their pockets. These were 3”x5” cards they carried in their pockets and would pull out from time to time to help them stay on-task and on-schedule. I remember seeing the entire schedule for the platoon all the way from day 1 to day 88. This information was considered secret, and I was forbidden from sharing it, but I do remember seeing a pattern: running day was followed by non-running day. Sure, the Drill Instructors would still make us do push-ups, bends and thrusts, and other exercises as punishments for mistakes, but I remember that these sessions were much shorter on our rest days. Of course, the Privates/Recruits never knew that these were calculated rest days, but the Marine Corps was in the business of building men out of soft boys, and they had perfected the craft.

When I was putting my own fitness plan together, I remembered how bad I felt after my weightlifting experience, and I decided to start slow and light and build naturally. I remember the advice given to my by Gunnery Sergeant Whiteman, a marathon runner. When I asked him how I should get into long-distance running, he said, “Walk for 30 minutes. When your body is ready, you will find yourself wanting to jog. As you jog, your body will want to push faster and harder, and the next thing you know, you’ll be running. Whatever you do, just do it for at least 30 minutes.” I took his advice, and added the wisdom of Marine Corps Boot Camp to it by implementing rest days between my exercise days. Within three months of starting, I was running sub-8 minute miles comfortably and was able to join the National Guard after a 20 year absence from the military.

A month ago, I began weightlifting. As my Achilles heel is still recovering from an injury over a month ago, I decided I had to do something to not only keep exercising, but to build strength. I began looking into exercise plans and found one that seemed to echo my own exercise philosophy exactly: StrongLifts 5×5. I started in earnest and studied the plan, the different lifts, and techniques. I have been diligent in sticking with the plan, and the result is that a month later, I’ve more than doubled my squat weight and I’m now nearly deadlifting my body weight. This progress has been slow and calculated, but steady and impressive. I experienced a little muscle discomfort in the first week, but that was more due to stretching muscles in a way they hadn’t been stretched in a very long time (squats) and the pain went away with each session in my gym.

I see too many people try to do boot camp sessions or hard-core cardio sessions and then end up never going back. I get it; I’ve been there. The problem is that too few personal trainers or coaches take the time to let you ease into a routine, to allow you and your muscles to learn the different moves, to get accustomed to the new lifestyle of being active. Then, there’s the fact that too many people think that day after day is the best way to go about getting results without thought to giving the body time to rest. It is during rest that the body heals and builds. If you’re always exercising, you’re always tearing down without time to build and recover.

In my one month of weightlifting, I’ve realized incredible results I thought were impossible to achieve in this short period of time. I’m much stronger, my joints feel better (contrary to what I thought would happen, frankly), and my clothes even fit better for the first time in years. Even through running, I didn’t see this dramatic of a change in this short period of time. I attribute that to good genes (my sister is also proof of that) but also to sticking with the plan and eating a good, natural, and consistent diet of meat and vegetables, eschewing anything with added-sugar, grains, legumes, and dairy.

Slow it down and build rest into your fitness routine. It may be the missing link between where you are now and where you see yourself.

Finally Noticing Changes

Yes, that’s me making silly duck face. It’s not just for the teenage girls anymore.

It’s taken four weeks, but this morning, I was finally able to see a little difference in my body composition. My waist is a little smaller, my stomach a little flatter, my shoulders and arms a little bigger, and my pectorals (my chest) doesn’t look quite so sad.

As a guy who lost 150 lbs, my chest looked sad. I had what some guys refer to as “Breasticles;” dad-bod chest. I hated that, but no matter how much weight I lost or how many push-ups I did, they didn’t get smaller. How, however, it looks like they are filling up; with muscle.

The best part is that they aren’t just getting bigger; it’s flattening out my chest and the extra skin I had there from being obese is now helping make my chest look normal and strong. It’s actually quite motivating!

I’m going to wait a while before posting photos; probably another two months. I want the change to be clearly evident. I remember when I began losing weight and I posted photos of me after losing 50 lbs, and honestly, it was hard to tell. Only after I lost 70 lbs and more was it evident that a change was happening. I think the same applies here.

However, there’s an important lesson that I learned: meaningful and great change is gradual and slow. What I’m after isn’t just weight loss. I’m after a complete reconfiguration of my body and strength. I know from my weight loss journey that it takes time, but in this case, it takes time, effort, and strict adherence to making workouts and not skipping. I’ve started a very strict day-on/day-off routine that doesn’t include more than one day of rest. This is going to present a challenge in a few weeks when I go on vacation, but I am going to try to find a gym to drop-in at. It will cost me some time and money, but I can’t give up on my progress now.

Final point of the day: make health and fitness a priority. It has made my life richer and has served as a foundation for so many positive things in my life. When you are not worrying about your weight and fitness, your mind is less cluttered and able to concentrate more freely on the things that truly require your attention. I no longer have to consider my ability to help someone lift a box, help them move, or to take on a home improvement project. I know that I can handle any physical task put to me.

Four Weeks of Weightlifting

I just completed my first month of weightlifting and I’ve made some solid gains:

Squat: 45 lbs to 110 lbs
Bench Press: 45 lbs to 75 lbs
Deadlift: 95 lbs to 155 lbs
Overhead Press: 45 lbs to 75 lbs
Barbell Row: 65 lbs to 95 lbs

I’m not going to be entering any Strongman competitions anytime soon (or ever!), but I’m happy with these solid gains. The numbers are getting respectable. In another month, the numbers will almost be impressive. Two more months, and I’m sure I’ll have hit a plateau and will have to de-load to continue.

The bottom line is this: the program works. I’m not interested in bulking; I’m after functional strength. I need to be strong to do what I do. This is helping me get there.

Start Now

My wife Sherry and I started carefully and slowly and have been healthy for four years now.

For those of you already on a diet and fitness plan, this may be a boring post, but many who read this blog are still in the research phase of their health journey. They’re compiling information, looking for the right thing to do, or even looking for that motivation to get started. Let me help those folks: start now.

I started my first Whole30 over four years ago. Now, I’m at the healthiest I’ve been in my life. I’m at a good weight, and I am fit. I am a runner (on hiatus due to injury) and a weightlifter (active). I am a National Guard Soldier, and according to my semi-annual physicals, in excellent health. This is all due to a decision I made over four years ago to get healthy.

A month ago, I started weightlifting. Today, I’ve already doubled my starting squat weight and nearly doubled my bench press and overhead press weights. My deadlift is almost up to my body weight. None of this would be possible had I not started with the light weights and worked slowly.

Don’t start with a boot camp fitness program. That’s the WRONG way to go about starting a fitness plan and will likely lead to you not going back due to the pain. Don’t start with a super-restrictive diet like chicken breast and lettuce. You’ll get palate fatigue and have cravings and you’ll start binging.

Whole30 is a great way to get into cutting a sugar addiction, and can be started with minimal planning. Just eat meat and non-grain/non-legume vegetables and make sure nothing has added sugar. Of course, visiting whole30.com is the best source of info.

StrongLifts 5×5 is a GREAT weightlifting program to get into increasing your functional strength. It starts you off easy and light and you work up to heavier weights as your body gets used to the movements and the weight. Best of all, there was minimal muscle aches and no real pain.

Running is easy enough to get into as long as you don’t overdo it and try to run 4 miles on your first stretch. You can start with brisk walking, get yourself into light jogging, then fast jogging, and finally into actual running. That’s how I did it, and again, I felt no pain.

The key for me and fitness was recognizing two important facts:

1. Your body needs rest. You need to NOT workout the day after a workout. Your body builds muscle on the rest days, NOT on the workout days.
2. Your body needs sleep. At least 7-8 hours a night. This is a priority, and you have to make sure you can get this.

Start now, but start smart. Don’t overdo it. The diet part, for me, was pretty easy to get into. Fitness is easy to get into as well as long as you go slow and steady. That’s what I’ve been doing, and I’ve kept going where many others have quit.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results

Just a black and white photo of an old PaleoMarine.

This quote is often attributed to Albert Einstein, although it appears that this is not true. The earliest match for this quote in all sources appears in a 1981 Narcotics Anonymous organization newsletter. However, when it comes to diet, health, and fitness, it applies.

I know many people who have been trying the same thing over and over to lose weight. Low fat, lots of whole grains, long sessions in the gym without changing their diet, or trying powders, pills, patches, or other products, and yet, they either don’t achieve the results they were working towards, or worse, they see the opposite results. Yet, after a failure, they go back to the same formula and try again.

I know how maddening this cycle is; I did it myself for many years. Each time, I figured that there was something wrong with me or how I was going about implementing these plans. Surely, the information I had wasn’t suspect, so it had to be me, right?

WRONG!

The problem is that the information we’ve been operating with has been wrong the whole time, yet we didn’t know it. When you have the mainstream media, the government organizations and departments, and even the medical community all telling you one thing, it’s hard to believe that they could have gotten it all so wrong, yet they did. Low-fat is killing us. The diet industry is getting rich off of us making little or no progress. The government is in bed with the diet industry and the medical industry is slow to move when it comes to accepting new information that contradicts anything they’ve believed as fact for so long. Yet, the evidence keeps stacking up that low-fat/high-grain diets are what’s killing us.

Once I ditched the conventional wisdom and adopted the low-carb life, things have turned around 180 degrees for me. During my first Whole30, I lost 20 lbs in a month. Afterwards, on the Paleo Diet, I continued to lose 10-12 lbs per month for the next 11 months culminating in a total of 130 lbs lost in one year. I did that without exercise and without suffering. I did have to give up some of my favorite foods, but it was more like a breakup with a bad girlfriend. It hurt in the beginning, but after time, I realized how much better my life was without her.

Stop repeating the cycle of failure. If doing the same thing over and over hasn’t been working, it’s not you; it’s the program. Try something different. You might be surprised at how well and quickly it works!