Tag Archives: exercise

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 FreeDigitalPhotos.com

    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,

    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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    I’m Sexy and I Know It. I Workout! Maybe Too Much…


    So I went to the gym this morning early enough to beat the Monday morning crowd. The thing is, I’m not sure there is such a thing.

    There was one person, though, who challenged my focus on training. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s a real bummer. Regardless, I almost always learn something from such situations. This time was no different.


    Story time: “The Girl Who Punished Herself”

    When I walked into the gym, there was a very thin lady truckin’ away on a treadmill. She must have seen that I was about to hit the weights (very limited selection), because she literally jumped off the tread and jumped (again…literally) directly in front of the weight rack.

    Now that, in itself, was not a big deal. I figured she just really wanted to make sure she got her preferred weights. Who am I to stop anyone from getting their workout done?

    It’s what happened next, though, that really blew my mind.

    Right there in front of the rack, with no weights in hand, the lady dropped to the floor and started doing side leg raises. Being polite and generally supportive of other people’s fitness efforts, I was patient and stretched while waiting (with my back to her so she didn’t think I was a creeper *).

    * Mad props to my teen for gifting me this new term for “creepy stalker.”

    If her apparent lack of situational awareness wasn’t enough, things got even MORE weird.

    I’ve done side leg raises before. Who hasn’t? But this lady’s leg-flailing Kung Fu was out of this world! As it turned out, they weren’t exactly leg raises. They were more spasmodic upward flippings of the lower leg, totally uncontrolled and on the verge of being dangerous to others (and possibly herself).

    She did this for at least five minutes…before switching to hit the other side. My workout hadn’t even begun at this point. I was actually starting to look around for the hidden camera!


    Am I Being Punked?

    As it turns out, this was totally legit. Well…as legit as it could be. She clearly had no idea what she was doing, but it was also clear she had a very specific goal in mind. What that goal might have been, other than perhaps to throw out a hip, I had no idea.

    And then, in the midst of all that judgmental gym rat stuff, I had a moment of clarity. In an instant, I went from being unnerved to understanding–and more than a little ashamed of myself.


    10 lbs of self loathing = 50 lbs of fat? That can’t be right…

    Earlier I mentioned how thin the lady was, right? Well as she got up from 10 minutes of radically fierce leg raises, she kicked off her shoes and stepped onto the scale. I didn’t catch her weight (none of my business), but I didn’t have to. Her knee bones were wider than her calves and her thighs.

    She jumped off the scale–apparently unsatisfied–and left the gym at a run. I finally began my own routine, but I thought about this poor stranger the whole time.

    My conclusion:

    She might very well suffer from a serious disorder called exercise compulsion. My heart went out to her as I wondered if anyone has ever tried to confront her about this? Does she even suspect a possible problem?

    How much is too much?

    It’s a fine line between exercising for health and exercising for control. Here’s a short list of questions WebMD asks to help one determine if he or she may suffer from exercise compulsion:

    Do you have exercise compulsion? Look at the following statements and see which ones apply to you. If two or more of the statements apply, talk to your school counselor or your health care provider about your compulsion to exercise:

    – I exercise even when I run a fever or have a bad cold.
    – The first thing that comes to my mind each morning is “exercise.”
    – When I can’t exercise, I’m so afraid that I will gain weight.
    – I break dates with friends and family so I can exercise more.
    – When I miss exercise, I feel irritable and depressed.
    – I work out rain or shine, even in freezing temperatures or thunderstorms.
    – I crave the “high” feeling that I get from exercise.
    – I am underweight for my height.
    – Losing weight has become more of a priority than maintaining a healthy weight.

    Now be careful here. Not all of these symptoms are, by themselves, bad.

      I run a busy schedule, so I get up earlier than I would otherwise in order to fit in a training session. When my alarm goes off at 04:30, of course I’m going to think about my workout.

      When I miss a session, I do feel a bit bummed. If I miss two or three in a row, my friends and family notice my mood going south.

      I love the post-workout buzz. There’s just nothing like it!

    The remaining symptoms are the clear signs of an unhealthy relationship with exercise. Couple any of those with the more positive symptoms I myself experience, and you’ve probably got a real problem on your hands. That’s what makes it so difficult to differentiate an exercise fiend from an exercise victim. One symptom can overshadow another.

    Ask yourself the questions above. If you think you may have a problem with excessive exercising, PLEASE seek medical attention. Do it now; not later. Be inspired and get help!

    Why do you care? It’s my body, anyway…



    Be a hero!

    If you know of anyone who may suffer from exercise compulsion, talk to them. Be courageous, and be proactive. Wingman. Battle Buddy. Friend. Lover. Associate. Neighbor. Whatever you are to them, do something!

    For more information on exercise compulsion, here are some links to get you started:


    Until next time…

    Warmest Regards,

    Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    TBH…I Juice for Performance


    Happy US Independence Day, everybody!

    I said today would be an off day for my blog. But today is just too awesome, and this proud American is inspired to write!

    Cool, Aj! Happy 4th to you, too! Now what’s with the header? TBH? I don’t get it…

    First off, if you’re anything like me, a teen had to explain to you what the heck “TBH” means and why they and all their friends preface almost every Facebook status update with those letters. If you haven’t had that experience but are still wondering what it means, I’ll save you the frustration of being schooled by a middle schooler.


    Here are a few examples of how to use TBH (or “to be honest”) in a text or social media update. TBH, I think this should be submitted to Urban Dictionary. Here goes:

      TBH…Nick’s new haircut is epic

      TBH…Ms. Thrasher totally kills us with homework on Fridays



    Ok. I made up that last one for effect. YPH = You’re pretty hot. Man I hope my daughter doesn’t read this and start that new trend. NOT something I want as part of my legacy…

    Regarding my (ahem) “juicing” habit…

    Though I’ve never used “roids” to enhance a workout, I sure do like to juice before one.


    If you’re new to this blog, you should know that about 2 weeks ago, I made a pledge to myself to juice at least once each day. l literally pull juice from organic produce and ingest whatever concoction pours forth from the magic juicing machine. So, no. By juicing, I do not mean anabolic steroid injections. That would be illegal and (more importantly in my mind) stupid.

    So far, I’ve honored my pledge. Every morning for the past 11 days, I’ve pushed veggies and fruit down the chute of my Jack Lalanne juicer. The taste has grown on me to the point I can juice just about anything and find something enjoyable about it.

    I just finished a spinach, beets with stems, carrots, orange, and goji berry mix. So delicious, and I’m ready to hit the P90X arms and abs routine with everything I’ve got.

    So I’m signing off to go complete today’s workout with Mr. Horton and company. I’ll let you all know how things went after super-feeding my body on micronutrients. TBH…it’s gonna be epic!

    To life!



    11:35AM – Just completed the Shoulders & Arms Plus Ab Ripper X routine. My teenage daughter joined me. What a troop! If only she was old enough to join the ranks. Uh…ok. Maybe that’s one way in which she doesn’t need to be like her old man.

    According to my heart rate monitor, I burned about 830 calories in about 75 min. How did I hold up after juicing? TBH…it was grueling! Still, I felt more energized than I did Monday morning when I juiced after my workout.

    I’m completely soaked. It’s time to hit the shower and start celebrating the awesomeness that is the United States of America! *

    * I struggle with this all the time. Is USA singular or plural? Of course we’re referring to all the states that make up the Union, but I guess it’s the singular Union to which we refer. Oh well. Let’s celebrate!

    Mind Stress vs Body Stress

    Welcome to a new week, everyone. What a blessing!

    Last week, I raised the question as to why we so often read about the de-stressing effects of exercise but so rarely read about how stress might affect exercise performance.

    Well, today is the day I promised to share the results of my research, but here’s the deal:

    I only found one academic source on this topic, and it was published three years ago. Of course, that the source is aged doesn’t necessarily equate to the source being wrong. It’s just nice to find really current stuff; especially when one considers how quickly the fitness and health industry changes.

    The source…

    In March 2009, Samuele Marcora, Walter Staiano and Victoria Manning got the results of their study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology under the title, “Mental Fatigue Impairs Physical Performance in Humans” (the article was published online two months earlier).


    The bottom line up front is that people required to do heavier cognitive functions just prior to and during physical exercise more quickly experienced fatigue symptoms than those who were not subject to such cognitive stimuli. In other words, gym performance levels nosedived sooner with more stress.

    In their words:

    “In conclusion, our study provides experimental evidence that mental fatigue limits exercise tolerance in humans through higher perception of effort rather than cardiorespiratory and musculoenergetic mechanisms. Future research in this area should investigate the common neurocognitive resources shared by physical and mental activity.”

    Cool. So what’s been done since then? My answer: “I have no idea.” There just isn’t much out there on this subject (other than opinion pieces, many of which make logical arguments but are not based on hard research). That’s really not too surprising, though.

    According to the journal article, the last thing published on the subject prior to this article by Marcora et al was back in 1891 by Angelo Mosso in a “seminal book” that suggested long orations by university professors reduced the educators’ physical strength. “Seminal” was the word Marcora used. If it truly was a seminal work, why did it take 118 years to get a follow up article? Weird, huh?

    Regardless, the article provides a few interesting facts to consider. It’s not too long to read (about five minutes if you scan). The most poignant takeaway for me was (as it usually happens) in the summary:

    “Such studies may benefit not only endurance athletes, but also military personnel involved in physical work after prolonged periods of vigilance, and patients affected by unexplained chronic fatigue syndromes such as myalgic encephalomyelitis.”

    That might explain a lot! At least for me.

    You’re takeaway…

    Work out earlier in the day before the day’s stress overtakes you and negatively affects your workout. Of course, when it comes right down to it, none of the possible negative side effects of stress on workout potential should keep someone from hitting the gym after knocking off for the day. Some results are better than none!

    Up Next…

    With Wednesday being Independence Day, I won’t post that day. Friday, though, is fair game. Keep charging toward your goals. Until then…


    Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

    Weekend Update

    Hi, everyone. I hope this weekend has been kind to you and that you have been kind to yourself and to those around you. If you’re not feeling recharged, is it possible you may be misutilizing your downtime?

    We’ve been chatting about short-, mid-, and long-term goals lately. If your weekends aren’t living up to your week-long expectations, consider adding a couple of short-term goals to list.

    These last few weeks (read months) have been especially challenging for me. I need to recharge. A good, long vacation with my family is what will do the trick, but that can’t happen but more than once or twice a year (for me, anyway).

    So the last two weekends, I’ve made a point to drive my family out of town. Just day trips, but far enough from the city to know my only business at the time is to do stuff. Admittedly, if you have a teen and a preteen like I do, that’s not always a stress-free mission. When you nail it, though, the effort pays for itself.

    Last weekend was a visit to a car museum, lunch, an earthquake-formed cave tour, and a couple hours at a trampoline jumping center. I happened to fall ill that day, but everyone enjoyed the time out of town.

    This weekend we drove to the coast for some much-needed R&R. Forecasts called for thunderstorms all day, but we took our chances. The early afternoon was indeed dreary. So we ate up some time on a self-guided tour (my favorite kind) of a US Navy ship. We got there early and had the ship practically to ourselves. From there we grabbed lunch and headed to the beach. No rain, no lightning, and the sun even decided to show its brilliant face for the last couple hours of our visit. Totally worth the trip!

    Why the Sunday post, Aj?

    Well, we’re still focused (or should be) on our fitness and nutrition goals. Tomorrow, though, we’ll hit on stress (both positive and negative) and its influence upon how we perform in the gym. Recharging events like these are a big part of managing stress, particularly while we await those mega events called vacations.

    Remember to take time to decompress after each long week, and if you live with others, try to create opportunities to do so together–unless, of course, those others tend to be part of the stress campaign waged against you each week. In that case, just get away!

    Bring it on, Monday!

    With the downtime behind me, now it’s time to prepare for the week ahead. For me that means a trip to the mega grocery store down the road (mega stressor), another juiced breakfast (still at it and starting to like it…a lot), setting up my uniform, washing the sand from my beautiful car, grilling some fresh steaks and veggies, and (of course) making time for my first workout of the week.

    On that last “to-do”…

    I follow another blog, Coach Crystal’s Padawan, which is written by another family guy who, like myself, is interested in fine-tuning his fitness and health profile.

    As you already know from previous posts, I seek out inspiration from other positive people all the time. Last week it was my mom regarding her juicing activities. This week, it’s Scott (the aforementioned Padawan).

    Scott has taken on the Insanity challenge and appears to be making great strides toward some of his personal goals. I’ve done a few Insanity workouts as part of my unit’s PT program. So I know first-hand how grueling many of the workouts can be. Big time kudos, Scott!

    My Mission: Get inspired, overcome, and adapt…

    I’ve recently been challenged by my local gym. Two years ago, a neat little gym opened up no more than a mile and-a-half from my house. It’s one of those 24/7-types and though small, it has everything I need to get in, get out, and get back to my family. Or rather…it had everything I needed to do all that.

    A couple weeks ago, management decided to cash in on specialized workout offerings, such as Zumba and Insanity-like group workouts. While that may be great for some, it’s not for me. I do group workouts at work, and now they’ve gutted my little gym. In place of squat racks and dumbbells, it’s one great big dance studio. Boo.

    We have a copy of P-90X. I have a pull-up bar, a few weights, and an open space in the garage. It may not be Insanity, but I’m going to take the Tony Horton challenge. Goodbye expensive, unused dance studio. Hello mortgaged at-home gym!

    Thanks for the inspiration, Scott. I encourage anyone reading this to seek out those who motivate through action. The only thing better is to be the one who motivates.

    Until tomorrow then…

    Warmest Regards,