Hey all. Sorry for the long pause, but I was caught up in Christmas/New Years celebrations and then a week-long vacation that took me to Memphis, Tennessee, and Breckenridge, Colorado. I hope everyone out there had a fantastic Christmas celebration with friends and family and was filled with joy thinking about the gift God gave us on that day.
As for fitness goals, they really take a hit around the holidays, don’t they? I started back into my fitness regimen this week and it hurts. All those cookies, cakes, egg nog, and beer really take a toll. However, I was introduced to a new winter workout while in Breckenridge last week: skiing. While this probably isn’t new to most of you, I’m usually a winter-hater that refuses to go out in the cold and prays for April. Living in Iowa also limits your exposure to skiing: no mountains (or even hills) around here.
So that is why skiing was such a nice surprise in Colorado. Instead of sitting on the couch and watching football or re-runs, I was training my legs in a way they have never been trained. Skiing puts near constant pressure on your quads, as you are always leaning forward with bent knees. It also strengthens your knees, ankles, and hips, as you are constantly turning your body with your legs. As a bonus, your mid-section gets a great workout because it has to balance all of this effort and keep you upright as you go speeding down the mountain. All of this is one exercise!
Now, if you were working all of these body parts in a gym, you would get results but it wouldn’t be much fun. Skiing is fun. You are flying through the snow while going down a beautiful mountain, for Pete’s sake. There are huge pine trees rising up on either side of you and a gorgeous mountain landscape out in front of you. Now, if you’re from Colorado or Wyoming or Utah this probably isn’t as exciting, but it is rare and beautiful when you are from Iowa.
Besides a great physical workout, skiing in this scenic place also offered me a spiritual renewal. I was able to really connect with God (I always do better when I’m outside in His creation). I could look at the mountains, trees, streams, and animals he created in their natural setting and I felt so blessed to be healthy and active enough to be a part of it in those moments. Sometimes I forget just how big His creation is, but a trip into the mountain wilderness will quickly remind anyone. It’s a beautiful world, and if I can get some exercise and hang out with God in it at the same time, then I guess I’m a pretty lucky guy. Getting healthier in my body and mind is the goal of this journey, and my trip to Colorado did both at once.
“Motherf***** b**** coming at you strong, let’s go p****!”
That is my iPod as I work out. Do you listen to a similar “song” as you’re exercising? If you’re a young guy that has spent years lifting with his high school football team and then with other college guys, then you might. I know I have a lot of “lifting” music on my iPod that contains explicit language and vulgar lyrics. I also know it isn’t good for my mind or for my relationship with God. Your eyes and ears are the gateway to your heart, and stuffing those with explicit lyrics certainly can’t help.
But I also don’t want to work out to classical Bach, ya know? There is something in that rap music and rock music that gets me going. It’s aggressive and it gets my blood pumping, fueling me to get the most out of my body. What are we supposed to do?
Luckily, I’ve accumulated some “clean” lifting songs over the years. Now, I don’t claim to listen to these every time I work out, but I’m getting better. They get me pumped up and they also don’t pollute my mind. So here are 5 artists (with 5 songs) you may recognize and that you can use to get pumped up:
Skillet is an American Christian rock band. They’re from Memphis, TN, and have been around since 1996. If you like rock, then you will like these guys. They have a ton of good songs to choose from; they go hard and their lyrics are meaningful. Song: “Hero”.
Mase is an American rapper who burst onto the scene under P. Diddy’s label “Bad Boy Records”. Mase left the rap industry in 1999 to pursue “a calling from God”. This led to him eventually leading an international ministry. He made a comeback in 2004 and he has a lot of great, clean tracks if you are a rap fan. Song: “Breathe Stretch Shake”.
I’m guessing you’ve heard of these guys. Foo Fighters is an American rock band from Seattle, formed by Nirvana’s former drummer after Kurt Cobain’s death. These guys don’t mess around and they will scream at you until you are in a full sweat. Song: “Pretender”.
Another American rock group that you are probably familiar with. I saw Trapt in concert and they play a great show. Everyone probably remembers their single “Headstrong” from 2002, so I’ll go a different direction with my recommendation. But these guys also have a lot to choose from. Song: “Contagious”.
Lecrae is an American Christian rapper and ministry leader. If you haven’t heard of him, check him out. The man knows how to rhyme, and he chooses to use this gift to rap about God instead of drugs, money, cars, sex, and the other stuff that every other rapper covers ad nauseum. Song: “Don’t Waste Your Life”.
Not all of these artists are the best role models and they don’t produce 100% clean music, but they have given me the above songs that I’ve used for several years now. Try them out! And I’d also love to hear your suggestions of what music works for you. I’m always looking for new songs to mix up my routine so leave a comment or tweet me your favorites!
Today we bring you a special message to help you live healthier and stronger. This message is particularly for our male readers, and it comes from a couple guys that know them well: their own legs.
Right leg: Hey there. It’s me, your right leg. Thank you for sitting down right now; I was getting so tired that my ankle was sweating through the sock.
Left leg: No joke, bro. I felt like I was carrying you around all day. Maybe if I had some regular exercise over here, I wouldn’t be so wiped…
RL: And that is why we are here to talk to you. We think it is great that you are going to the gym, working up a sweat, and trying to get into better shape. This will definitely improve your energy levels and your overall health.
LL: It’s also gonna clear your mind, dude.
RL: Correct. It will also help you to de-stress. But why are you letting your arms and chest have all the fun in the gym? What? We get 5 minutes on a treadmill and we’re done for the day?
LL: Right on. Running is legit, but I need more than that. I look like a drinking straw down here while your left arm keeps giving me smack talk and punching me in the thigh.
RL: Running is great for cardiovascular help and it will burn off fat as well. Which is great! But we need some weight training, just like the upper body. Don’t be afraid to do a few squats, or leg extensions, or calf raises, or…
LL: Or some left-legged curls. I heard the ladies love those.
RL: Shut up, Leftie. The point is, you need to dedicate some fitness time to your legs. Nobody (ladies included) likes a guy with a huge upper body on top of a pair of wet noodles. In fact, your legs should be stronger than your arms, as you will use your leg muscles for far more practical purposes throughout the day. We see a lot of guys at the gym neglecting their legs and focusing on the “glamour” muscles in the arms and chest. Don’t be that guy! We are going for full-body health and fitness here, not just pretty arms.
LL: And if you have weak legs, you put a lot of stress on your back during exercises, bro. And we all know what a whiner that guy is.
RL: Weak legs can lead to poor exercise form, and this leads to injuries. We don’t want you getting hurt! God gave you legs, so take care of us and use us properly, and we will support the rest of that body you are working on.
LL: Dude, you like sports right? Well a good solid foundation of strong legs is crucial in just about any sport out there. Give us some love and we will return the favor on the court or field. And sports can even help you to make us stronger. Think of fun stuff like biking, surfing, and hiking.
RL: I think you see our point. So, next time you head to the gym, make sure you give us a “legs day”, instead of reserving all of your energy for your biceps, chest, and back. We even have a day dedicated to legs in our own workout plan on this site!
LL: And bro, stop looking at your triceps in the mirror so often. It’s creeping me out.
Some days suck (read: Mondays, Tuesdays, some Wednesdays). I don’t want to get out of bed. And if I do manage to peel myself off my mattress in the morning, as soon as I come home for my lunch break I just want to climb back in and sleep the afternoon away. And now with daylight savings, it seems that it starts getting dark at 2pm, sapping any energy I would have after work.
How are you supposed to stay dedicated to your fitness goals on days like this? How do you go for that run, or grab your bike, or pick up those dumbbells?
The tough answer: Suck it up.
The nice answer: Suck it up. Please.
I know nobody wants to hear that. I don’t even like typing it. It hurts. But it’s also true. If you are going to reach your fitness goals, you’re going to have to be consistent. Even on days when you don’t feel like it. It’s so important.
Has anyone ever told you “it gets easier to quit the more you do it”? Well, it’s true. The first time you break your workout routine, you feel guilty. But if you do it again the next day, it is easier to justify because you have already missed once. And if you’ve missed two days in a row, then it makes sense to skip the rest of the week and start up again next week, right? WRONG.
Even if it sucks, try your best to keep yourself to a routine. It will become harder and harder to break as you stick with it, which will get you in better and better shape and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: stick to your routine > the routine gets harder to break > you look better > you want to stick with your routine.
If you have to skip a day, try to get a little extra work in next time. Or, if you know you will be busy during your usual workout time, reschedule it to a better time for that day. Make little adjustments so you can stay on schedule with your goals.
One last trick: pray for strength/energy/endurance/desire/whatever. If you are having a slow day, doing a quick workout can really give you a boost. And if you need a boost to get into “fitness mode”, ask God for a little pick-me-up. He blessed you with that body, and He wants you to get the most out of it. He will be glad to help you get going, trust me! I’ve started doing this and you would be shocked how easy this is and how quickly it can help. Try it!
That’s all I have for today. Main point: even when it sucks, even when you’re tired, get after it! You’ll be glad you did.
If you want to see a fantastic motivational video to get your butt out of bed in the morning, look no further. I saw this a few months ago and I watch it when I’m feeling lazy:
When is it toughest for you to work out? Which day “hurts” the most? Do you have any stories where you persevered to reach a goal?