Sunshine is Good For You

Direct Sunshine = Good

I’ve been told to protect myself from direct sunshine for as long as I can remember.

Too much sunshine on my pale skin was a shortcut to skin cancer.

Then, the other day, I read an article about how wrong that advice actually was for my health.

The article referred to a few different pieces of research that surprised me. It should make us question the current American Academy of Dermatology guidance on sun exposure.

They strongly recommend against spending time in sunlight without applying high SPF sunscreen.

The benefits of sunlight

Most of us know that the sun on our skin helps our body produce vitamin D.

The vitamin D produced by your body has been shown to help stave off cancer, heart disease and stroke.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggest we get our Vitamin D from supplements instead.

There’s only one problem with the supplement approach…

In clinical trials, Vitamin D supplementation has failed spectacularly.

Vitamin D from supplements have yet to prove any of the same benefits.

Regular exposure to sunlight is important for your circadian rhythm (governs sleep cycles, etc).

Sun exposure helps the body release endorphins, serotonin and nitric oxide into your blood stream.

This combination of goodness reduces the risk of prostate, breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancers.

Want to reduce your risk for heart disease?

Nitric oxide released by the sun exposure has a positive effect on blood pressure.

Sunshine also reduces inflammation and dampens the autoimmune responses.

Then, as you maybe experienced, it also improves virtually every mental condition.

Sun exposure and cancer

It’s true that unprotected exposure to the sun increases the probability of certain skin cancers.

However, you may be surprised by the mortality rate for skin cancer in the US.

26 per 100 000 develop melanoma, the deadly form of skin cancer, each year.

However, fewer than 3 per 100 000 people die from skin cancer in the US each year.

Split the research by racial heritage and you find that people with natural pigmentation have significantly reduced melanoma and skin cancer rates in general.

For heart disease deaths in the US, the number is 209.1 per 100 000 for males and 130.4 per 100 000 for women.

Basically, for every death as the result of skin cancer, a hundred die from cardiovascular disease.

That said, there is a relationship between sun exposure and melanoma that cannot be ignored.

Mostly though it seems people who avoid the sun are more at risk than those who don’t.

In a study by Pelle Lindquist of 30 000 women in Sweden over 20 years they found that sun worshippers had lower rates of blood clots and diabetes.

Although they had higher rates of melanoma, they also were eight times less likely to die from it.

The research also shows a correlation between sun exposure and reduced risk of dying from heart disease.

Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor of a similar magnitude as smoking, in terms of life expectancy

Pelle Lindquist – Author of “Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort”

Get enough sunlight

For the skin to produce vitamin D along with the other benefits, the sunlight exposure must be on unprotected skin.

The article recommends enjoying the sunlight without sunscreen on days where the UV index is 3 or lower.

An UV index below 3 is typically the case throughout the winter in North America (but do make sure by checking your preferred weather app first!).

The article also recommends spending some time outside without protection on days with an UV index above 3 (but more way more limited!).

The baseline recommendation is to avoid getting a sunburn.

The UK, Australian and New Zealand health authorities all operate with similar recommendations to the ones described in the outsideonline.com article (above).

A Steady Pace of Life

Setting your own pace

Keep It Steady

How can you find and maintain a steady pace of life?

Is this what mediation is about? Finding a pace that works for you and working to maintain it.

I believe the best way to find this pace is to go inward, with mediation. 

Listening to your heartbeat, the sounds around you, and your breath.

What is it that keeps you moving?

Hurry Up And Get Annoyed

Lately I have been approaching life like an interval session.

From fast and furious to quiet and slow, then fast and furious again…

Funny thing is, just like when you do training with intervals, as you get past 3 to 4 sets, that earlier “fast and furious” starts to catch up with you.

It gets harder and harder to keep it up.

I find myself thinking resentful thoughts and planning my escape.

When I got up this morning with little to no desire to get working, I faced that I was doing this to myself.

The work is not bad and the people are nice.

Just like any job there are moments of uncertainty. 

How to approach a problem. Who to ask a question.

Figure It Out

Figuring out a steady pace that will get you the results you want from work and life is a challenge.

One that takes a little experimentation, and redirection now and then.

As life changes and you adapt, can you make adjustments that bring you back to your center?

Does the change alter the course forever?

If you look at a “choose you own adventure” book, one change makes a big difference.

Keep it steady, and get in a training session today. Cheers!!

Yes, I want online training!

Freeze Fat Away – The new solution!

Freeze Fat Away (BS!) - Dreamy Pixel [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, but the new “loose fat fast” fad are Cold Vests.

Basically, you put on the “cool fat burner vest” or the “cool gut buster” freeze fat way.

By simply wearing the vest or wait band, they claim your metabolic rate can increase by 300%.

But wait, that’s not all!

Pick a miracle cure sales person from TV

They also promise that you’ll expend an additional 500 kcal per day by wearing this miracle.

Now, if the promises hold true, over a week you’ll burn enough extra calories to drop an extra 1 pound per week(!)

This sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

Just put on a fat burner vest, endure some cool and freeze fat away!

Freeze fat away, is it real?

If you’ve lived for a while, you’re probably just cynical enough to question the validity of the “freeze fat away” promise.

Maybe you’d even take the time to look at the website for the company and read about their “Brown Fat Cooling Vest”.

Like all good marketing pitches, they spin a good yarn.

But, in all fairness…

Just because the numbers seem big doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

Is there any science to back it up?

Actually, there is.

Probably not in the way the maker of the products hoped for though…

The Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse was commissioned by the American Council for Exercise (ACE) to perform a scientific review of the claims.

Unfortunately, the study provided a clear conclusion:

Neither of the cooling implements will increase your metabolic burn by 300%.

They won’t increase your calorie burn by 500kcal per day either.

The real effect of the cool fat burner?

The commissioned study was designed to decide whether wearing the Cool Fat Burner vest and/or the Cool Gut Buster abdomen cover would significantly increase the calorie expenditure when compared with resting metabolic rates.

The study consisted of 20 volunteers between 19 and 25 years of age. All of the participants had a BMI greater than 25. I.e. they were overweight or obese.

The participants had their metabolism measured during two states;

  • Resting – Not wearing the vest or abdomen cover, they sat still for 30 minutes.
  • Low-intensity fat burn – Wearing both products, they sat still for 30 minutes.
  • High-intensity fat burn – Wearing both products, sitting still for 30 minutes while drinking ice cold water at the start and the half-way point of the 30 minutes.

The good news

First, let’s cover the good news!

Both the low and high intensity testing phases resulted in a percentage wise significantly greater calorie burn.

The low intensity testing phase had an increase of 14% as compared to the resting phase.

The high intensity phase had an increase of 27% as compared to the resting phase.

Not 300%, but still fairly impressive, right?

Burn 27% more calories by sitting still for 30 minutes, drinking some ice water and wearing a cold vest plus abdominal cover.

Sounds like something we should consider spending money on, yes..?

(What comes next is the kind of stuff that causes people to lose faith in science…)

What do the numbers translate to?

As a fat loss/weight loss strategy, freezing fat away is a pretty sh*tty one.

Though the percentage numbers look pretty good, the absolute kcal numbers are abysmal.

When you account for the fact that the numbers had to be extrapolated to wearing the products for twice the time of the actual tests?

Well, then it gets even worse!

The “high intensity fat burn” phase resulted in an additional burn of 23.4 kcal for the test hour.

For the “low intensity fat burn” phase, the number is a whopping 12 kcal for the hour.

In practical terms?

(FWIW, the following statement completely ignores how fat loss really works. It’s merely for illustration!)

Based on the results from the study, in order to lose 1 extra pound of fat?

We’d need to wear the fairly expensive vest and abdomen cover for an hour per day, while drinking 16 oz of ice water every 15 minutes during that hour, for 149.5 days.

If calorie burn is your goal, you’d be far better off just going for a lazy stroll!

And if you spend an hour doing VPT training, with some extra intensity, today you’ll possibly burn more than 10x the number of kcal.

Yes, I want online training!

New Work

Thinking about new work...

When you’re thinking about changing your career and start trying to find new work, things tend to get stressful.

Managing Stress

I used to think I was pretty good at managing stress.

In some ways, I am.

And in some ways, the past year has proven that I was quite wrong.

Thankfully, stress comes in many forms and I can handle most of them well.

Family related stress is a piece of cake to manage (I have a wonderful helper).

Emotional stress is pretty easy to resolve (same thing applies about the helper).

Workload related stress; No sweat!

The type of stress that really gets to me seems to be uncertainty about “the means to my lifestyle”.

I’m not saying I can’t handle “living on the edge”, financially (We can).

It’s just that “living on the edge” elevates my subconscious priorities to a level that far exceeds any other priority I think I may have…

Health, fitness, relationships, workload and pretty much everything other than making sure my “means to a lifestyle” is intact, it becomes irrelevant.

For the past 6 months, I’ve been playing with how to fix this.

The obvious choice would be to find a new job.

I realized something about finding a new job

For me, that’s likely to be with a company where the American version of “work/life balance” is considered a curse-word.

I want a “regular job” that I think I will enjoy. (For me, that means returning to the Tech Industry, probably in Product Management).

I really enjoy solving business problems and if I find something that I enjoy, it won’t feel like work.

The past 6 or so years has helped me define what work/life balance actually translates to (for me).

I believe it’s highly individualized and depends on things like;

  • What you grew up with;
  • How you view life in general;
  • What you think of as important;
  • Etc.

For me, I need to work for someone who understands the value of “freedom with responsibility”.

Trust, but verify…

US President R. Reagan (paraphrased)

Micromanagement and I are a lot like oil and water.

We simply will not mix for long.

A new job means finding a management team who wtll trus the people they hire.

I prefer the “you’re an adult and you applied for this job, so we presume you’re actually here to get your work done” attitude.

It’s an approach I’ve used successfully whenever I’ve managed teams.

There’s also research to back up that employees who feel trusted tend to perform a whole lot better.

Not only are they more productive, they also speak up when things are starting to go sideways.

Most companies, whether they realize it or not, benefit from that.

(Just ask Facebook, Google or any other company that have been in the spotlight recently…)

Finding a place that matches my values will significantly reduce my stress levels.

A workplace where health and fitness is a core value and not something they offer lip service to because it lowers their health insurance premiums.

To me, that’s what work/life balance is truly about.

A company that matches your core values, across the board. One that is as supportive of you and your goals as they are of their own.

Something to think about as you train today, perhaps? Cheers!

Yes, I want online training!

New Year Confusion

New Year Confusion

The holidays can be a pretty confusing time if you’re into health and fitness. Maybe we should call this period the “Pre New Year Confusion”?

A bit of background

Every year from late November until Early January, my social media feed has the same message: Enjoy the holidays and then lose weight.

Also like clockwork, my feeds fill with messages from trainers I follow.

Those messages go something like; “Don’t wait until January 1st to start your healthy New Year”.

On one hand, we’re being told to “party on”, enjoy the holidays and save the consequences for later.

And on the other…

My experience is that for the vast majority of us, when it comes to health and fitness, the weeks from late November to January 1st are pretty consistent.

You either do more of the same you’ve been doing all along (training).

Or …

December is a pretty slow month in the training world.

When you think about it for a second, the “why” is obvious.

For most of us, holidays are all about treating yourself.

If you’re in the US, you’ll have a few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Depending on your religion, that period may also include your specific celebrations.

January 1st – Happy New Year!

If you’ve trained consistently in a gym at any point in the past 40-50 years, you’ve experienced the “new year newbie” rush.

Right around January 1st, like clockwork, the gyms fill up.

For the next 1-3 weeks, you’ll have a hard time finding an open class or some space to do your workout.

If you are experienced, you know that soon after the 15th, things go back to normal.

Why don’t they start in December?

So other than the obvious, what actually happens to make sure the rush is always on January 1st?

In my mind, the answer is actually pretty simple.

Why not Dec 1st?

Growing up, most of us associated the holiday season with food, parties and fun.

To most, losing weight implies food restrictions, boring or obsessive behavior thus minimal fun.

So why start training and losing weight in December when you know you won’t be able to stick with your diet?

Why set yourself up for failure?

Most people seem to think that way.

Regardless of what the health and fitness professionals want, average people rarely start a new training or health regimen in December.

That’s what the New Year Resolutions are for!

Maybe it adds to confusion to want to celebrate the holidays the way your family always did, but your goals are to be healthy?

Can you think of something/anything you can do to minimize that confusion?

Something to help your family and friends understand that training, losing weight and getting/staying healthy doesn’t have to be at the expense of your traditional holiday celebration!

Maybe something to ponder while you’re training today?

Yes, I want online training!

Help; When do you ask?

Help... I shouldn't have this mac & cheese!

For  many of us, asking for help is a very difficult thing to do.

For most of us, it’s not because of arrogance or an irrational belief in self.

It’s simply embarrassing to admit that we need help for something we (think we) should know.

Take nutrition, for instance.

If your goal is to eat healthy, we know when we’re being successful. And we know when we’re not.

Basically, the majority of us know what we need to do in order to eat healthy.

It’s just that it’s so damn difficult to do it consistently!

When we go out to a restaurant, we probably all look for the Kale salad on the menu. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink!)

Then we “glance” through the rest of the menu.

We know it’s a mistake, but that Mac & Cheese really speaks to us.

Like I said; It’s not actually about what you don’t know (you know most of it).

Body transformation is about what you can do. Consistently and for the rest of your  life.

Learning that is the real trick.

Most us can’t coach ourselves to do this.

So we should ask for help.

But we often don’t.

Or…

We lack the needed patience

Truth is, a bunch of us have participated in more diets than we can count.

Yet, here we still are.

Not for a lack of trying, but that love-handle isn’t showing any signs of going away.

We’re living proof that no amount of activity can out-train “poor” nutritional habits.

We’ve written about what it is that makes a diet successful.

It’s not the content of the diet that matters.

Neither the vegan, paleo, keto, cabbage nor the Twinkie diet is any better or worse than any of the other diets.

Fashionable or not, it’s the fact that while you’re following a diet, you’re;

  • Paying close attention to what and how much you’re eating;
  • Moving with purpose (train) more often, or for longer than you do regularly;
  • Paying attention to hunger and satiation cues.

The net result of this change? 

Your body is in a calorie deficit.

It may not have been an explicit request, but by joining the diet you asked for help…

A good coach will give you the support, tools and techniques you need to learn to be consistent.

Do you have something you’d like help with?

Have you thought about asking for support, but something prevented you?

Can you name the thing that prevented you from reaching out?

Is there something you can do to overcome it in the future? 

Is this something you’re comfortable thinking about during your training session today?

Yes, I want online training!

Challenge Yourself

Challenge Yourself

Challenging yourself to learn that your body can do more than what your mind believes.

The Fitnesses Challenge is a staple of the old school Parkour training.

From one perspective, Parkour is all about challenging yourself. 

For some it’s training every day for a year. It could be doing something that scares them in life, in general. For most Parkour athletes, challenging yourself centers on breaking a jump (face and complete a jump that scares you).

There are other ways to challenge yourself too.

Doing 100(!) pull-ups per day sounds very difficult to most of us.

I’m willing to bet most believe it’s not something they can do.

What do we base that belief on?

Truthfully… Nothing real.

It’s a belief.

One that, for most of us, is based on an assumption. 

I mean, it’s not as if you have tried it already, right?

You’re deciding that it’s impossible, without trying.

Your decision is probably based on both perceived experience and the perceived parameters of the challenge. 

The decision is unlikely to be based on fact.

I’m not sayin you’re wrong!

The truth is that neither of us can know.

After all, you probably haven’t actually tried…

Trying and failing

There’s nothing wrong with starting a fitness challenge and failing at it.

You can learn a lot from trying and failing. Far more than you’d learn by trying and succeeding. 

And infinitely more that what you can learn from not trying at all.

So what’s the worst that can happen if you start what seems like an insurmountable fitness challenge?

Then ask yourself; What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t start this challenge?

The most important thing

Only start a challenge because it speaks to you.

Doing a one because somebody else suggested it may well be a valid starting point.

But sticking to it, even when your body is telling you it’s a truly bad idea, that’s not good.

Challenges are personal. 

They speak to you. Call out to you, if you will.

As a matter of fact, I suspect you can probably think of a time when a specific fitness trial came into your consciousness for the first time?

How did you feel when you noticed it?

For most of us, challenges show themselves, leaving us to wonder why we didn’t see them before?

One theory in Parkour is that challenges only present themselves when  your body and mind are ready to “take it on”.

It’s actually a comforting thought.

So if you see it, should you go do it?

Maybe, maybe not.

It’s possible that you look at it/evaluate it, you realize that for you, this is a truly scary one.

That this is one that’s at the outer limits of both your comfort, skills and abilities.

So is the day when you discover the challenge the right time and place to take it on?

Maybe you had a shoddy nights sleep.

Or, you trained hard right before you uncovered it.

If you go look at it, does it seem more or less scary?

Can you commit to this challenge today?

If you can, what are the steps you need to take to conquer it?

If you can’t, how can you start training to get through it, once your mind and body feel 100% ready and primed.

Yes, I want online training!

At rock bottom

Training, sometimes you hit rock bottom

It sometimes feels like rock bottom, but I realize that it truly isn’t.

Christine isn’t the only one to be struggling with motivation for training. 

For the past couple of years, I’ve gone to a gym 4-6 times per week. 

It should be enough to feel fit and strong.

It isn’t.

The training has been very low intensity. For me, training has been marred by dumb injuries. 

I call the injuries “dumb” because they’re mostly due to the absence of focused training on my part.

I’ve been taking classes regularly, but there’s no plan to the classes. So I feel like I’m near rock bottom as far as my fitness goes.

A good program…

The whole point of a good program; A focused plan to help you achieve something.

Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what that “something” is supposed to be. 

For me, right now, it’s simply to get healthy again.

For you, the “something” could be to stay strong so you can keep running, playing and moving without causing yourself injuries.

I used to think of training as what I did to get strong so I could be a weekend warrior on the soccer field.

At my best, I ran and lifted weights regularly.

These days, I dislike lifting weights. Up until a month or so ago, I hadn’t ran consistently for years.

Instead, I prefer bodyweight exercises.

Other than “it’s Parkour”, my training has lacked purpose. It’s been the rock bottom of exercise planning.

I’ve left it up to others to plan my training. 

If you were to ask me my favorite question;

How’s that working for you?

Any decent coach

It hasn’t worked well at all…

(There’s a reason I’m referring to the current state as “rock bottom”!)

Starting on Monday, I’m finally coaching a regular class again.

If you were one of our old gym clients, you know we rarely joined the class. 

Our job was to help our clients perform the exercises well. Not to train ourselves.

Then I did Parkour

Although coaching the clients is job one, as a Parkour coach I learned to “lead from the front”. 

That’s what I’ll be doing when running my own class on Monday/Wednesday/Friday every week. 

I’ll be leading from the front. Training with the clients, while also helping ensure they’re moving well.

Providing useful feedback. Helping them get stronger. Increasing their endurance.

And having fun while doing it.

To take myself from “rock bottom”, I want to have fun. I want to look forward to the next training session.

How about you? 

What can you do to add fun to your training today?

Yes, I want online training!

Journey to Disordered Eating – Part 2

Old Thomas's perfect diet: Burger, Fries and Coke (with free refills!)

We’re picking this up after I moved to the US for school and truly discovered fast food…

I’ve always enjoyed chocolate, soda, potato chips and European soft candy. College didn’t change that.

But…

After starting college, I believe I found every McDonalds on my hour-long commute.

As a student from Norway, I was given a pretty ridiculous stipend from the Norwegian government, so I could afford to “eat out” 5 days a week.

College = “restaurant” dining 5 times per week

We enjoyed ourselves. 

Now keep in mind I was a very picky eater, so our version of “fine dining” focused on the major restaurant chains represented in Colorado before the turn of the century.

I ate (a lot of) burgers, BBQ, Pizza and “Italian” food during those years.

Next we moved back to Norway for a few years.

While there I was mostly limited to eating Pizza, at T.G.I.F Friday’s and a pretty snazzy local Steak House (some of the best steak I’ve ever had in Norway).

For dinner that is. For lunch my typical meal was 

(Notice a trend in my “having left home” eating..? I was a horrible influence on Christine – Sorry!)

My waistline remained “filled out”, but not because I was strong or healthy. 

Then I hit my 30s and moved back to the US again. This time for a standard office job…

Hitting 210 – 220 lbs

The saving grace for me has been that I cannot stand traditional American candy and chocolate.

At least, that was until sometime in the early 2010s when a few companies started importing European candy brands…

This didn’t prevent me from adding between 60 – 70lbs to my ‘filled out’ weight from the military before 2005.

After moving to the US, I was working in an office, in front of a computer with no physical activity.

I drove everywhere.

I ate as if the only available food source was US chain restaurants (with dessert!), or drive-through/delivery services.

The result?

I grew my waistline by more than 10 inches in under 4 years.

My food choices also brought me to the realm of pre-diabetes and elevated cholesterol levels.

If it wasn’t so bad for my health, the competitive side of me almost wants to celebrate the “successful” transition from “You’re too skinny” to “That’s enough! You’re fat.”

Yes, that’s a real quote(!).

There’s nothing quite like “helpful” members of your family commenting to get you upset.

That – for me – triggers eating more and worse.

I eat to soothe my bruised ego.

Having a crap diet doesn’t directly translate to disordered eating.

Eating to self-sooth does.

About that disordered eating

Have you paid attention to the commonalities of the food I enjoyed eating?

All are high in sodium, saturated fats and refined simple carbohydrates.

What do these 3 have in common?

Fat is essential to you, in part because the brain is mostly composed from fat (60%).

Also, fat represents a high energy source. 

Your body is excellent at taking excess energy, whether from fat, carbohydrates or protein and converting it to triglycerides. Next it happily saves the triglycerides as fat for “a rainy day”.

Sodium is essential for the salt balance of the liquid, water, your brain floats in.

The wrong mix of sodium and water in that liquid can impede communication between your lower and higher brain functions (hyponatremia).

That’s not a good thing, so obviously your brain tries to avoid that.

Last, of course, we have Carbohydrates..

As far as the brain is concerned, simple – refined(!) – carbohydrates are better. They represent less energy “wasted” on getting nutrition to your brain.  

Since all 3 of the above are essential to the single most selfish organ in your body;

Your brain.

(Maybe you know this already, but our brain is truly selfish, lazy and energy expensive!)

As a result, our body evolved to trigger the release of dopamine whenever it receives the things it wants.

Dopamine is the “reward drug” of the brain.

Lots of dopamine = you feel really good.

If you eat crap food, your brain lets you know you’re happy as a clam. Your brain rewards the living daylights out of you!

That’s how a bad diet fairly quickly led me down the path of disordered eating.

When I feel stressed, lonely, sad, upset, frustrated – insert any adjective describing a negative emotion here – I feel better after I eat something “crappy”.

Food makes me feel better.

This is a long road to have traveled for someone who “doesn’t enjoy food, he only eats because he has to in order to survive”, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, the dopamine chase hasn’t let up for me.

Not even after more than a decade of exercising and eating “healthy”.

( I put “healthy” in quotes because my “healthy eating” came with a couple of unexpected and negative side-effects. After I stopped being so “clean” in my eating, those side-effects have started to clear up.)

In spite of “being my own boss”, I’m not 100% happy… I still eat to avoid my negative feelings.

Need proof? 

In spite of training Parkour for 1 or more hours, 6-7 days per week, I’ve been steadily gaining weight.

I’m nowhere near my (old) max weight.

At the same time, I’m also nowhere near the most lean I’ve been in the past 2 decades.

What next?

Like for most people with disordered eating, there’s a psychological reason for why I make the food choices I do these days.

These days, I’m better trained to work my way through this than I was back when I weighed in at more than 210lbs, in 2005.

But, self-coaching is difficult!

Being accountable to me doesn’t work.

It’s way too easy to ignore myself.

Instead, I’m going to try and use coaching others – in person – to help me move with more purpose, focus on my nutrition and work on my emotional state.

How about you?

Do you suffer from disordered eating? 

If you do, what steps have you taken to work through it?

Does training regularly help you with the disordered training, or do you feel you need something different/more?

Perhaps it’s something to think about while you train today?

Yes, I want online training!