by @kelsocks

Category Archives: Healthy Lifestyle

Which DVD Workout Works For You? Reviews!

Due to the positive response to my post about why I love DVD workouts, I decided to write some quick reviews comparing the series I have tried.  Hopefully this is helpful to someone! (please enjoy this terrible photoshop job)

Important tips before starting a new fitness routine:

  • Assess your strengths and weaknesses. Try to find a series that’s appropriate for your level, but don’t be intimidated by challenge.
  • Consistency is key.  If you do any exercise regularly, you’re going to see results.
  • If everything goes according to plan, you’re going to be watching these videos… a lot. Find someone you can stand to listen to for an hour a day.
The following are all coincidentally programs by Beach Body.  I don’t work for them and I’m not getting any kind of kickback for gushing about them, all I have to offer is my personal experience. Also it should be noted that I haven’t done these “programs” by the provided schedules. Rather, I’ve kept it loosey goosey by just integrating these workouts into my own routine.

Six Crappy Excuses For Not Getting Fit

It took me a while to figure out how to get (and more importantly how to stay) in shape, so I understand where people are coming from who can’t seem to get it together.  But more often than not, people self-sabotage to get out of taking care of themselves. So here are a few common excuses and why they shouldn’t be a roadblock to a healthy lifestyle.

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You’re Rubber, I’m Glue….Bitch.

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
Winston Churchill

Not to brag or anything, but I am preeeeetty good at talking shit.  It just kind of happens when you combine average intelligence with a certain level of observational skill and firsthand experience of people being sucky. This isn’t a skill I’m proud of or anything, but I used to think shittalking was fine as long as I reserved my judgments for things worthy of criticism.

Recently I had a change of attitude, but you’ll have to follow me on this train of thought. I was considering how we are only capable of processing and interpreting the outside world in terms of our own understanding of it, which is based on knowledge and experience.  We are the lens through which we view the rest of the world.

I can’t remember who I was talking (or thinking) negatively about when it hit me that  I had been upset about something I knew I, too, was guilty of on occasion.  From there I ran through a list of all the people I’d been critical of recently and the nature of what my problem was, and blammo– these were things I’d done in the past, was currently doing, or potentially might do in the future:

I was annoyed when a car cut me off in traffic.

I had been upset with a girl for bending over backwards to please a less interested guy.

I mentally rolled my eyes at someone for vaguebooking.

One of my friends was too wrapped up in her own personal drama to listen to my problems.

I laughed at a sloppy drunk chick for making a fool out of herself in public.

I railed against Americans for being lazy, fearful, self-medicating overconsumers.

And finally…

I told a friend he would get more converts to his political cause if he didn’t act like such an abrasive asshole. Ha! (If you’ve been my Facebook friend for a while you’ll understand why that’s rich.)

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of similar criticisms- big and small, justified and unjustified– that pop into our heads.  I realized that all these criticisms I was making were reflections of my own shortcomings.  I was able to adeptly rip people to shreds because I had firsthand knowledge of these flaws in myself.  This hypothesis was bolstered by looking at how the people I admire most as “genuinely good people” rarely speak ill of anyone.

I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only person for whom this phenomenon holds true.  Like Julian “I’m Perpetually Late to Gigs Because I Don’t Respect My Fans’ Time” Casablancas (sorry, it jut spills out sometimes) sings, “We’re so quick to point out our own flaws in others.” In criticizing, it’s as if we hope to distance ourselves from our own flaws.  It’s like saying “Hey, look over there! That’s where the problem is, not here” or “I couldn’t possibly be guilty of that because I obviously disapprove of such behavior.”  It’s a deflection.

Aside from just being a dick move, this behavior is problematic because when we hide from our shortcomings, we can’t fix them.  So now every time I think something critical, the next thought is “What am I really upset about? Is this actually something I don’t like about myself?”  It’s a worthwhile exercise.  Of course this doesn’t hold true for every situation (I’m not critical of seal furriers because deep down I secretly want to club baby seals to death), but it is worth exploring in your personal relationships.  Changing my pattern of thought from criticism > dismissal to criticism > red flag > self-examination has been helpful for me, maybe it can help you too.


**Special thanks to Mr. David Hook for his drawring skills!

Workout DVDs, How I Love Thee

Let me begin by saying I spent the first 19 years of my life avoiding any kind of exercise.  Then, as with most of us, as I grew up my metabolism slowed down so I began to take fitness more seriously.  Spurts of athletic enthusiasm and periods of guilty procrastination punctuated the first several months of my attempt to get in shape.  This was my basic strategy: 2-4 days a week begrudgingly attempt jogging or one of my mother’s outdated workout tapes. Then, feeling a false sense of accomplish having gone through the motions of working out, overeat and destroy any potential benefit I may have had from exercise.  Needless to say I wasn’t getting the kind of results I wanted.  I had no idea what it took to be committed to a healthy lifestyle.

Then, as cheesy as it sounds (I hate the fact I’m about to publish this– I sound like a fucking infomercial), I came across a workout series that changed my life. I received Tony Horton’s P90X as a gift (shoutout to Rocks).  I’d seen the infomercial late at night and was intrigued by the straightforward, no shortcuts, results-based approach to fitness.  Unlike so many frivolous As-Seen-On-TV products promising unbelievable results, Horton’s attitude of was different. He didn’t try to sugarcoat the amount of work it takes to get fit.  Soon after consistently integrating P90X workouts into my routine, I started seeing the results that have since kept me motivated for the long term.

For the past four years I’ve kept it tight using at-home workout DVD series like P90X, Slim in 6, TurboFire, Chalene Extreme, and Insanity, and I can’t praise them enough.

Here are 5 reasons why DVD workouts are great:

1) Privacy.  These workouts are fantastic for the socially retarded, gym-shy, and the self-conscious because you can do them in the privacy of your own home.  Most of these workouts require little equipment (weights or bands and a yoga mat will suffice) and a minimum of about 5×8 square feet of floor space.  For the past two years my gym has been a square of carpet next to my bed.  It’s not fancy but it works (and it’s free).  You also don’t need to worry about looking gross or stupid so you can more fully concentrate on what your body is doing.

2) Engagement.  With so much competing for our attention these days, one roadblock to fitness can be having to disconnect from the world to focus on physical activity.  These videos help curb athletic A.D.D. by grabbing your attention in much the same way any other TV show does– dialogue, music, quick cuts, catchphrases– all there to keep you engaged in your fitness.  I can’t speak for everyone, but if I try sitting in a quiet room to count off squats or crunches by myself, I always magically end up sitting back at my computer fucking around on the internet, so it’s extremely helpful to have cues provided by an instructor.

3) Accountability. Part of why these DVDs have so many success stories is because they create a sense of accountability towards oneself and the program that will keep you coming back each day until it’s a fully integrated habit. Not only do they provide calendar style workout plans, but the fitness gurus will keep you motivated toward consistency.  They’re charismatic, positive, educational, and inspirational (although not everyone will like every instructor’s personality– it’s important to find someone you can stand listening to for an hour a day).

4) Thoroughness & Versatility.  A lot of people get going with fitness but poop out from boredom when they hit a plateau. Sometimes this is because we get in the habit of only working on the things we know we’re already good at (Runners only running, weight lifters only lifting, yogis only yogiing, etc.) because we feel confident in those areas.  It’s an easy trap, but we can only improve if we get out of our comfort zones.  That’s easy to forget if you’ve been active for a while because when you do the same thing over and over, you get so good that you can’t remember what it feels like to struggle.  These DVD workouts involve an array of activities to keep the body challenged (cardio, strength, martial arts, dance, yoga, plyometrics, interval training…) as well as tips on how to intensify each workout to challenge you as you progress, thus warding off dreaded plateaus.

5) Education.  Finally, and perhaps the most important key to long term success, is how these programs attempt to educate viewers so they have the tools to make healthy decisions on their own.  Being healthy is a 24 hour job, so that’s 23 hours away from our instructors that we are free to sabotage their good influence.  I’ve found that these programs not only provided useful information (by way of the literature included with the DVDs as well as the tips given throughout each video), but they also catalyzed a desire to learn more on my own.  I’ve since taken fitness and nutrition classes and read up on the subject on my own.   It is only by getting educated on health and fitness that you can learn how to make smart decisions by yourself.

These are a few of the main reasons I love workout DVDs.  Having said all this, it’s important to remember the following:  First, check reviews of workouts.  Obviously the more success stories there are the more likely it works (or maybe it just has great marketing…).  I’m particularly biased in favor of Beachbodys programs because of my own success with them.  Of course if you do any fitness consistently you’ll see results, so no one “needs” these series per say, but they are helpful.  Secondly, don’t forget about the great outdoors!  It’s good to mix up your routine by getting active in actual sunlight doing real things– running, biking, hiking, rock climbing, swimming, whatever.  Sprinkling in these fun activities will help keep you on track with a healthy lifestyle. There are also some things you simply can’t do in your living room, like improving your distance run, so don’t forget to take to the streets.

I hope this has been the slightest bit helpful to someone.  After all, fitness not only improves your physical well being, but also your mental health.  It reduces stress and builds confidence, so get moving!

Three Random Health Misconceptions

1. If you want to lose weight, just do a lot of cardio.

Not entirely true. While cardiovascular exercise does burn calories, doing it exclusively is not the most effective way to get and stay in shape.  Building muscle is also a critical way to increase your overall caloric burn.  Having muscle requires more maintenance (glucose, oxygenation, etc) so the more you have, the more you burn.  Also, just having a muscular framework behind any fat makes people look more lean and in shape because it holds everything up in a more flattering form.  If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t forget to strength train.  [source]

2. Take Vitamin C when sick to improve your immune function.

Not really true.  Vit C mania started in the 1960’s largely due to Linus Pauling who believed the vitamin, taken in large doses, would have an array of health benefits.  Unfortunately, its benefits have been largely overblown.  After numerous studies, there is no compelling evidence that high doses of Vitamin C have a positive effect on the prevention, duration, or treatment of colds.  The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C is 75 mg or 90mg for women and men respectively, while tissue saturation occurs at 200mg (i.e. anything over this gets expelled from the body). Both of these numbers are far below the 2-3000mg doses in Emergen-C and other immunity boosting treatments, so don’t waste your money. [source]

3.  You shouldn’t snack between meals.

False.  If you only eat three meals a day, your blood sugar fluctuates more steeply. If, however, you eat lightly and  regularly (every 2-3 hours), your metabolism burns at a steadier rate which has a better effect overall.  When you wait a long time between meals, your body goes into starvation mode and slows down your metabolism– it’s a survival response.  When you experience hunger your body adjusts to burn less and store more, which is the opposite of what you want if you’re trying to stay lean.   [source]

Why Body Image Equality is Ridiculous

We’ve all heard the widespread complaining about the biased media perpetuating images of thin women.  Criticisms of magazines, movies, and the fashion industry range from the the unrealistic expectations set by these images (which in turn create feelings of inadequacy in the women who are bombarded with them) to the lack of representation of “curvier” women (a very pleasant-sounding adjective).  Despite their good intentions, the self-esteem groups who decry the media miss the mark.  While being skinny as a rail shouldn’t be the physical ideal, being healthy should be.

Across the board (in both the skinny and fat camps) there is far too much emphasis on surface appearances.  While a lower BMI is typically corollary to better health, it is meaningless if the avenue of weight management is unhealthy or unnatural.  Being skinny is worthless if it’s attained via eating disorders or medication.  Using drugs to shit yourself thin is just as bad as inactivity or overeating.

At the same time, the idea that the media should be held responsible for representing “real” women when a third of this country is obese is absurd and dangerous.  First of all, it’s not their responsibility to babysit anyone’s self esteem.  Second, if people didn’t prefer a particular shape, they wouldn’t endorse, support, and encourage its prevalence by purchasing magazines, posters, and other products that show it.   Third, while there are some people who truly (for biological reasons) cannot lose weight, normalizing obesity is bad for everyone especially future generations.

[side note: it is my opinion that parents of obese children should be held accountable for mistreatment.  If a child isn’t capable of feeding itself, it’s the parents’ job to provide the proper nutrition– not Pediasure + Happy Meal. Chop vegetables for once, it’s not hard.]

Women do  have different shapes so it’s unreasonable to expect a naturally lanky girl to ever look like Christina Hendricks (and vice versa).  But certain shapes and physical features are instinctively appealing because they denote healthy reproductive capabilities.  Keyword: Healthy.  Encouraging an obese teen to be proud of her curves doesn’t do her any good if it prevents her from taking care of herself.  In fact, it’s deceptive to convince someone who continually damages their body that they don’t need to change their lifestyle. “Go on with your voluptuous self, gurl! Oops you have diabetes. *shrug*”   It’s like telling someone they should be proud of their smokers’ cough when the dangers of cigarettes are so well known.

Weight related health problems make up three of the top 10 causes of death (including #1) in this country.  Why on Earth should that be encouraged?  Meanwhile, people will go to any lengths to avoid eating right and exercising regularly, and they’re hurting themselves in the process.  So let’s stop focusing on appearances and start doing the work to be truly healthy.  If it was easy, it wouldn’t be rewarding.