Monthly Archives: July 2012

On 90-Day “Miracles”…

Hi, everyone. You may (or may not) have noticed that Aj’s Focus lacked a post this past Friday. I didn’t forget. Nope. Instead, I decided to just skip it altogether.

With each new post published, I learn something new about blogging and about my readers. So from now on, unless I’m just particularly inspired to write, Aj’s Focus will not publish on Fridays. Thanks to everyone who has been following!


Do this; get that. Guaranteed!

Back to the primary subject here. I’d like to take a moment to hit on something most of us have at least heard of if not seen on TV or perhaps even purchased. It’s what I call “Promises of the 90-Day Miracle.”

Many fitness-oriented infomercials today focus on guaranteeing astounding results within three months. We don’t often hear them refer to it as three months, though. Why is that?

For one, a period of days, no matter the length, just seems shorter than months, doesn’t it? Think about it. It’s the same reason car dealerships and banks focus on months rather than years in reference to auto loans.

It’s all about investing, whether it’s money or time…

In fact, some might say the two are nearly interchangeable. Isn’t it true the less time we think we’re putting into something laborious, the more money we may be willing to spend to do it; especially if there is a promise to fast track results.


Manual-style lawn mowers:

How many people do you know who still use them?

Hand-mashed potatoes:

The effort is sweet, but are Cuisinart-mashed spuds really all that different?

Plumbing, electricity, audiobooks

Must I go on?

Actual results may vary…

I know a few people who have experienced some amazing results from programs like P90X, Insanity, Tae Bo, TapouT XT, Body by Vi, to name a few.

Unfortunately, I know many more individuals who, after an honorable shotgun start, failed to complete even the first 30 days of a given program. Why is that?

Because real miracles come from real effort. And real effort takes a lot of time. And what is time? Money!

Keepin’ it real…

As you may know from previous posts, I am currently experimenting with P90X. I actually started the program about five weeks ago, but after a week of vacation, I steered a bit from the program. I really wanted to experience the whole deal. So I decided to just start over.

After already experiencing a few weeks of the program, I pretty much knew what to expect. But then I decided to crunch some numbers.

How many seconds does it take to get to the “90” in “P90X”?

I couldn’t find a wise old owl to ask. I did, however, refer to the materials that came with my copy of P90X.

As it turns out, an average week requires about 8 hours of gym time every week. That’s quite a bit of money…I mean time…considering there are 7 days in a week, but only 6 P90X sessions a week.

In this case, the prospect of total days spent doing P90X is pretty palatable when one considers other possible time measurements.

Here’s the math:

At 8 hours a week, I’m looking at spending more than 100 hours with Tony Horton and friends by the end of the program. That’s 6,000 minutes…or 360,000 seconds!

Tony doesn’t even know I exist, yet I know his poker tells after just 2 weeks!

The point to all this?

My point is…anyone can promise sweet results over a particular period of time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean things will be easy.

I awoke this morning at 4:15 in order to knock out “Chest & Back” without being late for work. After 40 minutes, I nearly vomited from the effort…literally. Tomorrow, I get to do it again. By Wednesday, I’ll be halfway to earning my next off day for the week.

I’m okay with all that. In fact, I often take slight nausea as a sign of a solid workout. Horton even mentioned feeling a bit queazy during today’s sweat fest!

Question: How far are you willing to push it?

Answer: That depends on the fight within.

If you focus less on the investment of time and more on improved performance from one workout to the next, I believe you’ll be much more likely to achieve the miraculous results you were promised by that TV actress with the impossibly tight midsection. Keep at it!

Thanks again for reading, and feel free to share your own 90-day fitness experiences via the comment box below.

Until next time…

Warmest Regards,


I’ve Fallen, and I CAN Get Up!

Remember my post on Monday about the things I need to change in order to improve my current fitness profile? One of those changes was to “nix the junk.”

Well, folks, I fell off the wagon last night…


And now it’s time for a station break…

Guess that’s it. Aj’s Focus on Fitness is finished…

No it’s not, and neither are my fitness plans. To get back on track, I need to own the mistake. Nobody forced me to eat pizza last night. That decision was all mine.

Can you be that honest with yourself?

If so, then you are well ahead of the game in the personal improvement arena. Keep it up!

If not, reflect on this post, because I’m going to explain why taking responsibility is crucial to your fitness journey.

So the thing of it is… Well you see, there I was when…

Right. Skip the excuses and tell it like it is. Here are the events that led to my downfall yesterday:

  • Woke up and had a healthy, freshly-juiced serving of fruit and veggies
  • Completed my morning P90X plyometrics workout
  • Enjoyed a post-workout protein drink
  • Prepared a crockpot vegetable and beef stew for dinner
  • Ran some errands
  • Went on 2.5 mi run
  • Enjoyed an early veggie-beef stew dinner
  • Took my son to a friend’s house for a sleepover
  • Returned to an empty house
  • Watched TV
  • Got bored and a little hungry
  • Ordered a pizza
  • Ate pizza…at 9:30PM
  • 20120725-110948.jpgPhoto courtesy of

    But I was doing so well!

    Of course I was. My motivation to stick to my plan had been running high all day. I had already dropped 5 lbs since returning from vacation. Unfortunately, I failed to stay true to my course. I got bored and made a poor choice. That happens, but I flatly refuse to let it keep me from reaching my destination.

    Adjusting course. Fair winds…

    So it is with great pleasure that I report in today with renewed vigor and soaring optimism. After a somewhat fitful night of sleep (thanks, greasy late night pizza), I awoke this morning and pressed a tall glass of fresh vegetable-fruit juice. Feeling better already!

    With this post published, I can proceed with my day as if last night’s debauchery never happened.

    Keep your head high above the clouds and your feet planted firmly on the ground…

    My father issued that admonishment in a letter he sent me back in 1997 as I pressed through the trials and tribulations of basic military training. Such a simple phrase; yet a phrase all too easy to forget.

    Closing comments…

    Take time today to forgive yourself for being human. After doing so, take a moment to be thankful for the awesome resilience human nature offers us. Finally, renew your pledges, and press on toward your personal fitness and health goals without looking back.

    And now it’s time to do a little house cleaning and yard work. Those activities always seem to make the process of renewal more real for me. Find what works for you and do it. No excuses!

    Until next time…

    Warmest Regards,

    Small Adjustments, Big Results


    As I’ve said in the past, my fitness routine and associated diet over the past year has delivered some mixed results. On the one hand, my body is much stronger than it was a year go. It is also much larger, and not in all the right ways. Now I find myself at a crossroads.

    Where did I go wrong?

    Wow. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly our bodies can change when we’re not paying attention. I tried on a pair of jeans today that I stopped wearing a year ago because they had started to feel a bit tight.

    That’s right, ladies. Even men worry about stuff like that. But probably more, because it means we may have to go…gulp…clothes shopping.

    Anyway, I’ve struggled with my weight for nearly my whole life. That doesn’t mean I’ve always been fat, but without exercise and proper nutrition, my body is extremely prone to packing away the fat reserves (must be the Norwegian in me). This is especially true now as I approach my forties.

    So what’s the solution? Do I just give up the fight and get ready for winter?

    Last week, I pointed out the importance of making small, calculated adjustments to one’s day-to-day routine in order to effect positive changes in body composition and overall wellness. Before I can do that to address my recent weight gain, I need to reflect on a few things.

    What do I like and not like about my current health picture?

    My lifestyle includes a lot of highly intense, physical activity. I can adjust that a bit, but there is an upper limit to what fitness experts and physicians consider healthy amounts of exercise. So that’s not my problem area. What I’m not happy about, however, is that I’m carrying excess body fat. I’d like to take about 2 inches off my waist measurement.

    When did I first take notice of the negative health trend?

    About a year ago, I started cycling out clothes that, though they had fit comfortably for years, no longer fit quite right. My mistake was in not being proactive right then and there. Lessons learned…

    What changes to my normal routine occurred around that time?

    For one, my weightlifting routine changed from a focus on high-intensity, functional lifts that kept me strong and lean to one more centered around mass-building compound movements like dead lifts, squats, bench press, and power cleans that made me stronger and added a bit of bulk. My cardio sessions also dropped significantly around this time.

    The added mass obviously changed my calorie requirement a bit and was certainly responsible for some of the 15 lbs I’ve gained in the past year (I’ll probably want to amp up my cardio a little). But it doesn’t explain the excess fat storage. For that, I look to culprit no. 2 — smoking cessation.

    I finally kicked the habit after more than 15 years, but like all good things, it came at a price. Somehow, I re-learned to crave certain carb-rich foods. Before I quit smoking cigarettes, I rarely ate heavy carbs at more than one meal a week. Today, carbohydrates are not the exception.

    What am I willing to change regarding my current habits?

    Thankfully, a carbohydrate habit is MUCH easier to break than a nicotine addiction. I’ve renewed my long-standing pledge to restrict my daily carbohydrate intake. But that doesn’t mean I’m starting some kind of zero carb diet fad — just making some minor adjustments.

    Over the past year, I’ve gradually reintroduced certain foods that I long ago eliminated from my diet. To get back to what worked for me before, I need to just nix the junk. I can do that without making drastic changes to my diet.

    I eat vegetables (and juice them), eat moderate servings of fresh fruits (and juice them), avoid sugary snacks almost completely, never drink sugary colas, drink a lot of water, choose lean cuts of beef and skinless chicken, and eat fish (though probably not enough of it). None of that needs to change. It’s the extra stuff that just needs to go away. I can do that without feeling like I’m suffering through some major dietary upheaval.

    How about you?

    Are you dissatisfied with your body composition? Would you like to lose a few inches from your waist? Maybe fat deposits aren’t your concern. Do you want to add some lean mass? What about just getting more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Whatever you want to do, follow the same steps I’ve taken here, and get your routine gradually in tune with your desired end state.

    Remember, small, calculated changes are much more lasting than traumatic changes that turn the world as you know it (the one you’ve grown comfortable with) on its head. Food for thought.

    Until next time…

    Warmest Regards,

    P.S. Share your thoughts and experiences so others can motivate and be motivated!

    Photo courtesy of

    Home Sweet Home, or Fight to Be Free — And fit!


    Hi, everyone. I’m almost completely settled back in from my cross-country journey. There are still a few more glorious days of leave remaining, which I now get to spend relaxing in the comfort of my own home doing whatever I feel like doing (and a few things that need doing).

    With more than 3,000 miles of round-trip interstate travel, I’ve had a good deal of time to clear my head, reflect on life, and escape from everyday stresses. That’s not to say my trip was entirely stress-free, but it did help me break free from the usual grind.

    As I prepared for this post, my initial thought was to recap my visit — deviate from the fitness meme for a bit and just share a few interesting travel experiences. While that might be fun, it’s just not what this blog is all about.

    With that, I have nonetheless decided to share a few facts about the Jefferson Memorial and its status as a lasting testament to American determination and resilience.

    Believe it or not, we can actually tie all of that to your personal fitness and well being.

    But first, some facts

    Engineers broke ground on the Jefferson Memorial back in 1939 after the site was chosen by a special committee in reaction to an idea first presented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934. The monumental structure was engineered by John Russell Pope based upon the architectural preferences Jefferson exhibited in designing his home at Monticello. The sculpture artist was Rudulph Evans. The entire structure is 129 feet high (statue stands 19 feet tall), weighs in at 5 tons, receives approximately 2.5 million visitors each year, and is open to the public 24 hours-a-day. Construction began in the fall of 1939. In all, the memorial cost three million dollars and took just over three years to complete.

    And what, you ask, is the significance in all that?

    The project was proposed, commissioned, funded, constructed and opened to the public at the height of the worst financial crisis the modern world has ever seen. Did it help bring the U.S. out of the Great Depression? That’s certainly arguable. Just the same…

    My view on the Jefferson Memorial Project:

    It created jobs and, perhaps more importantly, renewed a sense of hope in the hearts and minds of the American people at a time when nobody was even trying to guess how the Great Depression might pan out in the end. The Jefferson Memorial Project was a simple idea nested within a very meticulous, if not entirely successful, plan for national recovery.

    And now for the fitness connection…

    Are you worried about your body composition? Does your current health and fitness profile seem beyond repair? If so, call upon the memories of your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts…anyone who experienced first hand the Great Depression and persevered through it all.

    Do you know what your elders did to ride out the storm?

    It was quite basic. They adapted and overcame. How? They simply did. Think about that for a moment.

    Take that approach to fitness improvement, and your chances for success will increase ten-fold. See a problem area? Work to address it. You may not be able to tackle all of your health and fitness issues at once, but every single effort counts. If anybody tells you differently, they are sadly mistaken and likely limiting their own fitness potential.

    Closing comments…

    I highly encourage you to give this some very serious thought. I know people who have shed unwanted pounds simply by eliminating sugary colas from their diet. That’s not fad dieting. That’s a seemingly small lifestyle choice that can result in very real, and very positive results.

    Don’t just stare at yourself in the mirror or hop on and off the scale wondering when and how things got so bad. Instead, pick apart your problem areas element by element. Make focused and intentional adjustments to your day-to-day routines, and pay attention to what happens in the mid and long term.

    Most importantly…persevere! Do NOT give up. The road to fitness is long and difficult. Like freedom, a fit and healthy body comes at a cost. Join the ranks of others who just want to be healthy. You are not alone in your fight.

    I’ll sign off with an excerpt from then Governor Ronald Reagan’s 1967 inaugural address to the California Legislature. President Reagan was himself a survivor of the Great Depression. His comments here, if you’re familiar with his life story, are apropos to everything we’ve covered today.

    Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again. Knowing this, it is hard to explain to those who even today would question the people’s capacity for self-rule. Will they answer this: if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? **

    Until next time…

    Warmest Regards

    P.S. Appreciate your freedoms, America. Employ them, but do not abuse them. Promote them, but do not flaunt them. Enjoy them, but do not expect them to come freely. Protect them as have so many before you, and raise your children to carry forward the awesome traditions of American “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    * Jefferson Memorial facts courtesy of

    ** Reagan speech transcript excerpt courtesy of the Public Broadcasting System’s American Experience

    This is a great demo on an exceptionally simple (but not EASY) movement. I love this exercise so much, I may be adding M-balls to my home gym sooner than later. Thanks for sharing, LJay!

    L-Jay Health


    Wall Balls are a conditioning tool and can be a very effective workout that uses predominantly all of the leg muscles, core, and arms. Wall balls are performed alot in Crossfit workouts but anyone of any fitness level can perform these.  If you are looking to see some fitness results wall balls are the way to go. After performing about 6-10 wall balls you will begin to feel the burn and heart rate increase.

    I usually do  4 rounds of 25 wall balls (100 total) with a 20lb ball for a really good workout.If you are a new to wall balls start off with a light ball around 5-10lbs and work your way up as you get stronger and more efficient.

    Beginner= 4 rounds of 5 wall balls (1 minute rest) 

    Intermediate=4 rounds of 10 wall balls (30-45 sec rest)

    Advanced= 4 rounds of 25 (30 second rest) 


    View original post 54 more words

    Friday Wrap-Up on Thursday…

    Well it’s Thursday and not a scheduled publishing day for me. I definitely want to sum up the week, but tomorrow’s docket is pretty full. Today will do just fine for that. Consider it an early Friday treat…but you still have to go to work tomorrow. Sorry.

    This week I hit hard on being good to yourself after a sad run-in with an individual who, to me (i.e. not a doctor) appears to suffer from an obsessive compulsion to exercise.


    (See Monday’s post, I’m Sexy And I Know It…, for the whole story)

    My suspicions were clearly confirmed this morning when I once again witnessed the workout stylings of the girl who punished herself.

    To kick start my morning, I headed to the gym for a quick 30-min cardio session. She came in a couple minutes after me. Here’s how her workout went from start to finish:

    – Speed walk into the gym

    – Jump onto treadmill

    – No warmup; hard run (5 min)

    – Full stop on tread; run to the scale; measure weight 2x; run back to tread

    – Hard run (10 min)

    – Full stop; run to scale; measure weight 2x; hit the deck

    – Begin wild, side leg “flutters” (5 min/leg)

    – Begin speed “crunches”

    – Back to scale; measure 1x

    – Speed walk out the door

    So what do you think? Does my gym neighbor have a problem?

    I believe she does.

    The information I have is admittedly limited. There is a wide range of possible reasons for her gym performance.

    – Perhaps she’s fixated on slipping into a particular outfit.

    – Maybe she saw someone else work out like that once.

    – It’s possible she runs a very tight schedule and is just trying to cram as much in as possible.

    Who knows? What I do know from observation is that she 1) is dangerously unfamiliar with fitness fundamentals, and 2) exhibits a very unhealthy focus on body weight.

    So please think about this story the next time you hit the gym, the road, the pool…whatever you do for exercise.

    Make sure you know what you’re doing; not because it annoys others when you don’t, but because it’s unsafe to do so otherwise.

    A structure’s fortitude depends largely upon the quality of craftsmanship. Same goes for your body.
    ~ Aj

    Also, focus on your intent. Why are you working out? Is it to lead a healthy lifestyle, or is it to punish yourself for a dietary goof-up?

    Finally, look out for others and be courageous enough to confront them about your concerns. That can be very tough to do, but it can be a real positive game changer for the individual.

    So did you? Confront her, that is…

    Right. That’s a fair question.

    No. I did not confront the girl who punished herself.

    Why not? Because I could not bring myself to confront a stranger about such a personal thing.

    Maybe if I could witness her a few more times — perhaps strike up a friendly conversation or two. Maybe then I could move into a chat about exercise habits.

    Unfortunately, developing that kind of rapport takes time, and today was my last visit to this particular gym. My hope is that someone she knows can see clearly enough to intervene soon.

    With that, I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

    Please do feel free to share your thoughts on this or any previous article right here on my blog. Also, I’m interested in what topics interest you. Sound off!

    Until next time…

    Warmest Regards,

    I Love Me. I Love Me Not…

    While a healthy dose of inner military training instructor is…well…healthy, there comes a time to tell that MTI to shove it!

    On Monday, I wrote about the lady who punished herself. That story breaks my heart more and more each time I reflect upon it.

    Why do we participate in such self-loathing activities? I use the word we because I’m pretty surewe have all done it at least once before. I know I have spent years doing it in the past, and I still get attacked by that inner bully once in a while.

    So why do we attack ourselves, and what can we do to fight back?

    There are a few things we can do to keep our self-destructive alter egos in check. For one, it helps to know the signs of an oncoming assault. Here are a few signs that my darker half (I call him Chet) is about to surface.

    I know Chet is knocking when:

      1) I look in the mirror and think my body looks many inches fatter than it did the day before.
      — Unless I ate a large pumpkin (whole) or was victim to a horrific accident (maybe a bit redundant), I don’t think that’s really possible.

      2) I am increasingly critical of other people; stranger or otherwise.
      — This is a very good sign of self image issues. My mom told me that years ago, and it’s just as true now as it was then.

      3) Negative thought patterns outnumber positive ones.
      — If I can’t maintain a positive focus on life, it’s because some part of me does not want to (that’s Chet).

    And now it’s time for a quiz…

    Okay. Just so everyone is clear, I haven’t really named my alter ego Chet. I just figured a vague reference to a 1980s movie would soften the intensity of the subject a bit. Let’s see how well you know your movies! Here’s a hint:

    Chet’s frustrations grew in proportion to the amount of snow that collected in his bedroom after an experiment gone haywire.

    Now…name that movie! I’ve not left you hanging. Read on for the answer.

    Moving on…

    The signs mentioned above all have one thing in common. That one thing can totally destroy a workout session as well as derail weeks of hard effort in the gym. I’m referring, of course, to negativity.

    We all get schwacked by negative thinking from time to time, but learning to see it for what it is — and early enough — can make the difference between maintaining a successful fitness program and giving up altogether. That pretty much goes for every other human endeavor.

    The only man who makes no mistake is the man who does nothing.
    ~ Theodore Roosevelt

    Stay positive, and when ( not if ) you fall off that horse, get back on as quickly as possible. Do not beat yourself up for your mistakes.

    To bring the focus back to fitness, consider how a vacation might affect your fitness goals. How will you handle a missed workout? Will you give up on trying to make the next workout, or will you try to make up for it somehow? Take the latter a step further–will you be able to let one workout go, or will you punish yourself unnecessarily during your next gym visit?

    Bottom line:

    Be good to others; you’ll experience wonderful things. Be good to others and yourself; you’ll experience amazing things.

    Until next time…

    Warmest Regards,

    Answer: Weird Science

    Photo courtesy of