Tag Archives: Fitness

What’s Your Motivation?


As I pushed my cart down the frozen foods section this weekend, I noticed a gentleman across the aisle from me. He was obviously dressed for the gym, and from the slight ring of sweat around his neck, he’d likely already been there.

What first made me single him out among all the other weekend shoppers was his T-shirt, which advertised the Wounded Warrior Project (TM). I thought it was interesting because I’d just written about that on Friday. And then something else caught my attention. His right leg was made of metal.

Finding your fitness muse…

Today’s post is about searching out, identifying, and putting to use sources of motivation so you can maintain proper focus on your fitness goals. If you look carefully, you may be surprised to learn just how many ready sources of motivation surround you each day.

Your challenge:

1. Find at least 5 people or things over the next 24 hours that inspire you to hit the weights, pound some pavement, limit certain “bad” foods from your diet…whatever it is you want to do better to promote a healthier you.

2. Write them down.

3. Honor them with a plan to utilize that inspiration.

4. Start work on that plan within the following 24-hour period. Don’t think. Just do.

Your move!

So. Will you take my challenge? I can’t wait to see where that takes me, and I’ll start right now!

I’d like to start by recognizing a friend of mine who took time to write and tell me my regular posts here at Aj’s Focus have been missed lately. That prompted me not only to write this post, but to really focus on my exercise and nutrition goals today (I don’t just write about fitness, after all). Thank you!!

Warmest Regards,

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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 WashingtonDC-Go.com

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

Saturday Morning Stress


It’s not R&R without a little stress…

Yeah. As weird as it may seem, this is true for me. When I take time off, I tend to actually spend more time at the gym; and for a couple reasons:

1. It keeps me energized so I do more with my off time.

2. I enjoy it!

It’s that simple. I do not like reflecting back on leave thinking, I really should have stayed active.

I want look back and tell my friends about all the things I enjoyed. A daily workout, for me, is part of that.


Just some food for thought.


Now go do something fun. It’s Saturday!

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,

It’s Friday, and I’m Beet!


You read that right. Beet. As in those strange red bulbs your mom always said were so packed with nutrients but that you still refused to try unless force fed.

My mother emailed me yesterday and told me how she had started juicing to help relieve arthritis pain and to discover more of the supposed positive side effects of a juicing lifestyle.

I was inspired. Thanks, Mom!

The Beet That Started It All!

Last night, while the family ate my famous homemade spaghetti, I took out the juicer. My hearty dinner consisted of the following:

1) 4 medium-sized organic carrots (unpeeled)
2) 2 bunched up handfuls (fists) of baby spinach (about 3 cups)
3) and 1/2 medium-sized organic beet (stems included)

It was…interesting.

At some point, I think I may have likened the taste to that of the fresh waters of Lake Minnetonka. After time, though, the taste kind of…I don’t know…settled onto my palate (as much as late summer inland waters can, I suppose).

Thing is, my energy levels last night were incredible, but when it was time for bed, I knocked right out. When my iPhone’s alarm sounded at 4:45 this morning, I jumped out of bed, put on my PT uniform, and cranked up the juicer once more.

Dinner was a concoction ripped from a website. Breakfast was my own creation.

1) 3 medium-sized carrots
2) 3 fists of baby spinach
3) 1/2 unpeeled cucumber
4) 1/2 beet
5) 1 small green apple
6) and–wait for it–3 oz pure goji juice

By the time I got to the gym, I couldn’t wait to hit the treadmill. Totally energized, I did 15 min of 1 min speed intervals. The tread was practically smoking!! If that wasn’t enough, I spent another hour playing Ultimate football (I know…it’s not Ultimate if no one’s chucking a disc down field, but still a fun and demanding workout!).

So I think I’m sold on juicing. While it will likely never replace my carnivorous ways, it sure is an awesome way to supplement.

Pure octane!

Oh…and if you do try the beet recipe, don’t be surprised if your urine has a slight reddish tint to it. Sure it’s a little unnerving at first, but then it becomes a little amazing. Especially after 12 hours and more than a gallon of water hydration!

This experience was just too interesting not to share. I challenge you to try replacing one meal a day with fresh, organic vegetable and fruit juices for seven days. Share your juicing experiences here. I will, too!

Don’t forget your goals…

In the meantime, let’s all keep focused on those mid-term goals. Are you still progressing? Did you backslide on a goal? If so, what happened? Do you intend to get back on track? Do it! It’s never too late to make a fresh start. We’ll follow up more on these later next week.

Up next…

Monday’s focus will be on the effects of stress on gym performance and weight management. Still researching as promised.

Until then, have a super relaxing, fun, and SAFE weekend!

Warmest Regards,

Photo courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

Stress Cookies? No Thanks…

This post is a bit closer to the fringe of the fitness and nutrition discussion. The focus here is on stress.

So. Are you? Stressed, that is. If so, do you know if it’s a healthy or unhealthy stress? Do you understand that distinction?

Enough with the questions, Aj!

Right. Sorry. The reason I ask is that I deal with all kinds of stress each and every day, and so do you if you are a cognizant human being. I’ll spare you the long talk on stress. Here’s the abridged version.

Stressors: Cookie Cutters Need Not Apply…

You’ve certainly heard before that people experience stress from many different situations and in many different ways. The kind of stress we experience, for most of us, depends largely upon the type and intensity of the stressor(s) acting upon us. All stressors, believe it or not, influence your physical fitness level to some degree. And not all of those influences are the kind your mother warned you of (i.e. “we are judged by the company we keep”). Some can be quite beneficial.

Stress and Lifting…

According to a January 2012 Men’s Health News article, “stress can activate a part of the brain that’s also triggered during muscle contractions…”, which some researchers contend causes one to lose focus in the gym (imagine working out solutions to differential equations while counting “1 up, 2 down”).

Unfortunately, the MH article falls flat in explaining exactly what kind of stress is at fault there. They do make a connection to a few generic stressors (e.g. work, relationship, or financial issues), but nothing quite specific enough.

Where’s the discussion on positive stress? And what about linkages between the physical (neural) stress placed upon the body during a workout and the mental (psychological) stress we endure at work and at home? What’s more, they make no mention of the connection between stress and weight management.

Let’s add one more goal to the list.

I’ve asked some questions but so far offered up no answers. I want to, and I will. My goal for next Monday is to get more fidelity on the subject. There is a lot of research out there on it, and I’ll dig up as much as possible.

I fully understand that MH relies on perhaps more than a few half-baked articles in order to create a platform for advertisements. Nonetheless, readers should expect (read: demand) more thoughtful answers to such questions. If you read fitness and health periodicals, you’re obviously looking for helpful information; not an advertisement for the latest pre-workout supplement (and don’t get me started on those other ads in the back of some h&f magazines).

Why is this such a biggie, Aj? We’re all stressed…

Right you are. We’re all stressed, and I want to know how it’s affecting my workout.

Say I had a boss with crazy expectations no regular human could live up to. Thankfully, my boss is supportive, understanding and realistic. But we’ve all had that boss at one time or another. The solution MH gives is to get plenty of exercise to help cope with that kind of stress.

Brilliant, MH! Only…I’m already doing that, and I’m interested in excelling in the gym; not just hitting it to blow off steam.

Come Monday, It’ll Be Alright…

So on Monday, we’ll hit this topic in greater detail. In the meantime, keep working on those mid-term fitness and nutrition goals (and on getting cheesy song lyrics out of your head).

I’ll sign out with an excerpt from today’s gym log. What a motivating session! Until Friday…

Warmest Regards,

The Workout — BACK and TRAPS


Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Rows – Power 2-4 3 to 5
(115×5) 1min (125×5) 1min (125×5) 1min (125×5)
* Last week, I used the Smith machine. Today, I used the bar. 125 w/bar is harder than 135 on Smith. These sets were awesome! Much better than last week.

Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Rows – Muscle 2-3 6 to 12
(60×8)* 1min (60×8) 1min (60×8)
* Note: Went up 5lbs from last week. harder but still good form; right stronger than left. Work on that with more isolation movements.

Exercise Sets Reps
Lat Pull Down – Muscle 2-3 6 to 12
(60×9) 1min (60×8) 1min (60×7.5)
* Machine is plated & marked about 60 lbs heavier than standard pulldown machines — fooled me last week when I tried to start at 120…not this time. Great sets!

Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Cable Row – Burn 1 40
(85x24x3x3x3x3x3x3) = (85×42)
* This is up by 15lbs from last week. Super tough sets!

Friday Wrap-Up No. 3


Happy Friday, folks. I hope you’re still tracking and making progress toward those seven goals for the week!

As for me, it never ceases to amaze me just how successful we can be when our minds are focused on specific goals. My progress this week has been astounding! And I’m not just trying to motivate myself to keep it up over the weekend ahead.

One of my goals for this week was to find a new gym routine and stick with it. I’ve been weight training in earnest for over two years now. The routines I’ve followed have mostly been my own.

Remember, over the course of nearly 20 years, I’ve built up my fitness experience and knowledge base. But that doesn’t always translate to best practices.

So after making good on my goal to grab a new routine (that 5-day split discussed on Wednesday), I was admittedly a bit reluctant to take it all the way.

But I did take it all the way, and I’ve got to say, it’s been a real eye opener!

Less is more…

As it turns out, less really can be more.

My typical workout takes me about 45-60 minutes, though I’ve been known to spend upwards of 90 min in there if I throw in a 3 mi run on top of it all.

The touted success behind this routine hinges on the concept of focused output in three ranges: power, muscle, and burn. Here are my notes from yesterday’s workout:

Quads and Calves
Start: 15:50
Finish: 16:20

Squat – Power Sets: 2-4 Reps: 3-5
(180×5) 1 min rest
(180×5) 1 min rest
(180×5) 1 min rest
(180×5) 2 min rest
* Smith machine- 90 lbs per side

Leg Press – Muscle Sets: 2-3 Reps: 6 to 12
(270×12) 2.5 min
(360×8) 1.5 min
* Solid set at 360 (4 plates/side)

Front Squat – Muscle Sets: 2-3 Reps: 6-12
(90×5) 1.5 min
(90×6) 1 min
* smith- 45lb per side

Leg Press – Burn Sets: 1 Reps: 40
(210×12 — 190x8x8x4x4x4) = 40 reps

Seated Calf Raise – Muscle Sets: 2 Reps: 10-15
(50×14) 1 min

45 Degree Calf Raise – Burn Sets: 1 Reps: 40
(90x24x3x3x4x3x1) = 40 reps
* mega burn!

So you can see how it works. I probably could (perhaps should) have given closer to 2 minutes between sets…at least for those heavier, power sets. In all, it took me just 30 minutes to complete the entire workout.

What happened to my legs?!

I awoke this morning with LLS, or lead legs syndrome, with yesterday’s quick but intense leg workout nearly lost from my short-term memory bank (doesn’t take much). Obviously there is something to be said for this 5-day split. I am very grateful that I made good on this specific goal. It’s just what my body needed!

Next week…

We’ll set some more goals on Monday. This time, though, let’s narrow it down to just two or three objectives that may take more than a week (but no more than two) to reach. I thrive on shared goal setting, so please start thinking about your goals now. Until then…

Warmest Regards,

Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net