Thursday, May 30, 2013

Healthy Living with Brian Duewel: Debunking Myths

When it comes to exercise and diet, there are a lot of opinions floating around. From fitness professionals, friends and books to newspaper and magazine articles, there’s advice everywhere. 

Throw in the great wide internet, and it's information overload. So, I thought it would be nice to pick a couple of hot topics and set the record straight, or at least add to the information avalanche.

Myth #1: The first question I often get asked is, “Is stretching bad for you?” Some professionals believe in a pre-workout stretch, while others think stretching is bad altogether. I fall somewhere in the middle. My training philosophy is a brief warm-up, a small stretching session then the full exercise program. I always have my clients finish with a full stretch.

Here’s my reasoning: I think it’s important to lengthen the ligaments and muscles to help keep the body loose and limber. But here’s the downside to stretching, a cold-body stretch can cause damage to the soft tissue. By warming up the muscles and ligaments, they become more flexible.

Myth #2: Exercising at night is better than in the morning. Let me be clear on my stance here, a good fitness program works whenever you can fit it in. Some people say that they always exercise in the morning, and some right before bed. If mornings work for you, great. But if you’re a night owl, so-be-it. The difference between the two is so debatable and minimal, that whenever you fit exercise in to your busy schedule, it’s a positive.

Myth #3: Too much exercise is bad for you. This can actually be true. I know people that are at the gym twenty hours a week; and not only is that crazy, it can be harmful to the body. At some point, the human body needs to rest. An hour at the gym for average people, a couple hours for extreme athletes, is enough to get the job done. And everyone, regardless of fitness level, needs a day to rejuvenate.

Myth #4: Should you eat before or after a workout? The answer is both. You want to have a small snack an hour or so before your workout so that you have energy, but you don’t want to be too full. After your routine, eat a protein packed mini-meal. This will fuel your muscles for growth and fitness advancement.

Myth #5: My dad used to tell me that he didn’t lift weights because it would make him fat. This is false. What makes you fat is excess caloric intake combined with a lack of energy burn. More muscle mass actually increases your metabolism, which will increase caloric burn.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Healthy Living with Brian Duewel: Get your check-ups

I’m not going to pretend to be a doctor or medical professional, but since this is a health and fitness blog, I wanted to touch on a couple things. Recently I was on my IPhone thinking about Apple founder Steve Jobs. I began to think about his health situation that lead to his untimely death; and because of his I decided to personally get checked for a number of things.
I’m not saying that Steve Jobs died because he neglected his checkups, but it’s a good reminder that sometimes, we get too caught up in life to take care of what’s really important.

Cancer, if found early, is much more treatable than in later stages of the disease. I think to most people, that is fairly obvious; but that doesn’t mean everyone actually goes and gets their regular physical.

Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly forms of cancer. Unfortunately, this is also a difficult one to diagnose. There aren’t noticeable signs of early stages pancreatic cancer, but if you notice symptoms like unexpected weight loss, jaundice, fatigue and pain in the abdomen or back, get checked by your doctor.
One form of cancer that is detectable early is colon cancer. It’s also one of the most treatable when caught early. So for that reason alone, it’s imperative to get annual checks starting around age 40. If you have a family history, start even earlier. I know it’s uncomfortable to think about and have done, but if it can save your life, isn’t it worth it?

Breast cancer can also be detected early and you can even do a self exam to check for abnormalities. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman, if you find a lump on your breast, see your doctor. Even if you don’t, it’s good common sense to get regular mammograms. I can’t stress this enough, if you catch it early, breast cancer can be beat.
If cancer is left undiagnosed and untreated, it can spread to other vulnerable organs in the body. When this happens, it’s a much more difficult battle. That’s why it’s so important to stay ahead of the curve and avoid checkup procrastination.

Besides the three aforementioned forms of cancer, a regular physical exam can find multiple other cancers and diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. Even if you don’t find anything, and hopefully you won’t, think about how it will put your mind at ease.
I hate using someone else’s tragedy as a learning tool, but sometimes it’s necessary. So in memory of Steve Jobs, go get yourself checked today.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Healthy Living with Brian Duewel: Treadmill vs. Outdoor Running

When it comes to exercise programs, few routines compare with a prolonged running plan. Whether you’re looking to loose weight, shed stress or improve your health, running fills every need.

I often get asked one question from novice athletes as they begin a program, “should I run on a treadmill or jog outside?” Actually, it’s a simple answer… with complexities.

Let me start by saying, in general, running is running. If you have problems with you knees, ankles or back, you’ll have problems regardless of the surface. However, you can vary the impact on your joints slightly by managing the hardness of the surface. Depending on the treadmill, you’ll have some cushion under the tread that will ease the shock. Outdoors, you can choose to run in grass rather than on asphalt for a similar result. So basically, there are ways to minimize impact both inside and out.

If joint problems plague you, a better choice might be to vary your exercise routine by adding biking or swimming. Mixing in different fitness programs will allow your knees to rest. In the long run, this will provide a more enjoyable jogging experience.

If you’re having real problems with your bones and joints, it won’t matter too much whether you’re on a track, trail or treadmill. In this situation, take some time off in addition to the cross-training. This is my personal situation. I love to run, but I have bulging discs in my back. I run occasionally, but more often than not, I vary my routine with biking, swimming, gym work and rest.

The one thing I do suggest when someone is weighing the decision of indoor vs. outdoor, is to consider your surroundings.

Are you the type that likes to watch television while you run? Or do you like to look and smell the woods as you jog through?

Do you like to have the exact time and distance that a treadmill provides? Or do you like to clear your head and think about nothing but your next step?

Personally, I like outdoor trail running. To me, nothing beats a cool evening run through the woods. The fresh air and the sound of crackling leaves beneath my feet as I weave my way though the trees, really puts me in a happy place. There’s not much that beats it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Healthy Living with Brian Duewel: Stress & Exercise

Things are tough out there: the stock market’s crashing, people are out of work, and foreclosures are at a record high. All of it leads to a stressed out group of Americans. Not only is high anxiety unhealthy, it often leads to a hibernation of the human soul. When people get stressed, they get depressed and that leads to more eating, sleeping and television watching than usual.

Ironically, the best way to beat the tension is often the one thing that is the most dreaded at a time of high stress: a solid exercise routine. So take control of the constant worry in your life with a healthy dose of physical activity.

The feel-good endorphins that are released while working out give your mind a happy “pump,” much like lifting weights does for your muscles. Through physical activity, the production of chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are increased. This is often called a runner’s high and its key benefit is the reduction of stress.
Distraction is a large part of the equation. When you’re playing ball, lifting weights or hiking the trail, you’re not thinking about the stressful moments in life. Your mind is turned elsewhere. You’re concentrating on the big shot, the final rep or the last lap. When your mind is elsewhere, so is the stress.
If you’re exercise is sports related, you’ll feel the stress-busting benefit of winning. Just look at how stress-free Charlie Sheen was a while back, that’s what “winning” will do for you. So remember, a big victory on the racquetball court can go along way in improving your mood.

Finally, a healthy dose of exercise can improve a night’s sleep. Because anxiety and depression often interrupt sleep patterns, getting a full, uninterrupted night of zzz’s, will leave you more relaxed and less stressed.

It needs to be noted, that when you decide to exercise to beat stress, choose something enjoyable. At other times in life, when stress isn’t an issue, you may decide to lift weights to achieve a desired result. But when trying to bust tension, make sure you choose something you like. Otherwise, you end up stressing over your workout… and that kind of defeats the whole point.
The key is that when a stressful situation hits, don’t become a hermit. Get out and move. You’ll feel better, look better, and life in general will seem like there’s more potential ups than downs.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Healthy Living with Brian Duewel: Improving your child's healthy diet

“If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding,” are the famous words from the iconic Pink Floyd song, “The Wall.”

Whenever I hear that song, I think of my family's constant battle at the dinner table. To be honest, I’m less concerned about the protein consumption, but rather their avoidance of fresh fruits and vegetables.

As I’ve mentioned before, my little guys are 8 and 4, and they’d do just about anything to get off the healthy side of the nutritional pyramid.
The Choose My Plate Guide for Young Children, which is intended for youngsters between 2 and 6, recommends three servings of vegetables and two fruits every day. For children over the age of 6, the regular Food Guide Plate suggests 3-5 servings from the veggie group and 2-4 from the fruits. I mention this just to help you gauge your child’s nutritional intake. For a more detailed explanation and description of the new food guidelines, check out the USDA’s website,

Here are a few of my tips and tricks to get your kids to eat a healthier diet. First, be honest with your children. Explain why it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced meal. Once your little guys and gals start playing sports, tell them that eating right will make them better players – because it will. When my older son, Riley, hesitates to finish his green beans, I simply say that veggies help you run faster, throw farther and kick harder. He always wants to be the best on his team, so he (usually) eats up.
Sneak in a serving here and there. Did you know that tomato soup counts as a serving of vegetables? And a glass of orange juice is a notch in the fruit column. Your kids won’t even know that they’re hanging out on the pyramid’s good side if you find foods that don’t look, smell or taste like fruits and vegetables.

Give in to their desires. I mean this in two ways. First, let them choose. This may be annoying after awhile, and you may need to step in from time to time, but if it gets them to eat right, so-be-it. My boys love peas, so about a year back, we had peas for dinner 16 straight nights, before I finally had to say, “Enough, we’re having corn tonight.” Second, if you’re having trouble getting them to eat right, offer up a little bribe. Sometimes a walk to the park will do the trick.

For my final tip, I offer up the idea of hiding the vegetables. What I mean is that they might not even notice if you chop up your veggies and add it to a meal they actually enjoy. For my favorite example, check out this fit recipe: macaroni, cheese and squash.

To be honest, this isn’t exactly my own creation. I picked this up from a book a few years back (I believe it was Jessica Seinfeld’s), and it works great. It’s as simple as it sounds, puree squash and add it to a pan of macaroni and cheese. The squash becomes undetectable, and your children unknowingly eat vegetable that they’d never eat otherwise.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Healthy Living with Brian Duewel: What's the Solution for your Exercise Rut? Partner Up

Sometimes it’s just difficult to get the body moving. You want to get to the gym or run a couple miles, but you’re tired and just want to hit the couch. I’ve been there. And I know you have too. So what’s the answer? Skip the workout? Grab an energy drink? Take a power nap?

If you skip your routine, you’re letting yourself down, and there’s always the chance this could become your new routine. Choice A is not good.
If an energy boost is your answer, you’ll likely peak early in your workout from the simple carbohydrates and caffeine (if your beverage has the stimulant in it). This will lead to a less-than-par workout and more exhaustion following your run. Choice B is not the best.

A power nap isn’t a bad choice, but sometimes you wake feeling more drowsy than you did prior to the rest. Plus, you may just decide to stay asleep, and obviously that’s not a habit you want to start. Choice C is alright if you stay disciplined.
My solution is to partner up. If there’s someone who’s relying on you to show up, chances are, you’ll be there. Having a workout partner is a great motivator, for a number of reasons.

If you tell “Jenny” that you’ll be at the gym before you go to work, you’d better be there. She’s there waiting for you, looking for your help, guidance and support, just like she’s offering you. Think about how you’d feel if she didn’t show up for you, probably annoyed and disappointed. Don’t do that to her. Show up.
Also, with a partner, you hold each other accountable to your goals. If your desire is to loose 20 pounds by spring break, “Jenny” can push you to work harder, dig deeper and accomplish your goal. Neither of you will want to be the first to quit, so you’ll each go the extra mile to be your best.

If you’re into weight lifting, a partner can spot you. This allows you to lift more weight or do more repetitions. More weight, reps and sets leads to bigger gains, for both of you.
Best of all, a partner can lead to deeper and longer lasting friendships. There’s a special bond that grows when you see people at their most exhausted, desperate times. A special camaraderie develops, much like teammates that go through battle on the playing field helping each other be the best they can.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Healthy Living with Brian Duewel: How to Plan a Running Program

Whether you’re thinking about your first marathon, 5k race or just want a little extra exercise, beginning a running program is a rewarding endeavor, albeit quite daunting.

So before you lace up and head out on the trail, here’s a few tips.

First, you need to decide what kind of program you’re thinking about starting. If you’re just looking to get in shape or battle some stress, a light jogging program is perfect. In this case, your running progression will depend on your current level of fitness. If you’ve been inactive for a long period of time, begin by walking. Progress your training to a walk/run combination before finally moving on to a full session of jogging.

By doing this, you’ll ease your muscles, joints and lungs back into fitness shape and avoid injury.

If you’re looking to hit a short to midsize race, like a 5k or 10k, you need to structure your program more specific to your event needs. Again, you need to start slow, but you need to back time your progression to your targeted race date. It’s dangerous to pick a competition too close to the start of your training. If you decide today to start training for a race that’s week away, you’re setting yourself up for serious injury and failure. For the sake of your body and your personal finishing time, give yourself a couple months to work into proper shape.

For those ambitious few that want to go from zero to marathon, it takes a lot more planning. Please don’t think you can step onto the starting line with little or no training. That is an extremely dangerous move and will likely land you in the medical tent.
For those who don’t know, a marathon is 26.2 miles of running, up and down hills, usually on public roads, rain or shine. If you’re serious, begin moving a year prior to your race. Most marathon running programs backdate your training about six months before your race. These programs are widely found online or in running stores, but the programs expect participants to already be moderate running shape before beginning.

On the surface, it seems like there’s a lot to figure out before you first get on the treadmill, but a little planning can go a long way in preventing injury and enhancing your running experience. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Healthy Living with Brian Duewel: Fitness Pain vs. Fitness Injury

As a fitness professional, I constantly hear about people’s pain and suffering. “My knee hurts, should I continue running?” “I hear popping in my shoulder when I swing my racket, is there something wrong?” “My chest feels tight when I’m working out, should I see my doctor?”

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether you’re hobbled with a serious injury or if it’s just a nagging ache that’s keeping you sidelined. There’s a big difference between the two. If you’re injured, you need to stop activity and seek professional help. Think of an injury as damage to your body that needs to be addressed.

If it’s just a little pain, sometimes you can work through it and sometimes it’s best to take some time off.

Just as there’s a difference between pain and injury, there are different levels of the two. There are aches that are just minor discomforts you can work through, like a muscle cramp in your calf. And then there’s the pain that just won’t go away. It’s short of an injury, but it continues to hinder your life. In this case, it’s best to take a few days or a week off and rest.

If you suspect something more, you may have an injury. If that is what you have, it’s you should seek medical advice. But again, there are different levels of damage. There a minor injury, like a sprain, that may require time off and some rehabilitation.

Then there’s a more obvious injury, like a broken arm or leg. Obviously, in this case, you need immediate hospital attention. With this type of injury, there’s healing time plus rehabilitation time to get back out on the bike trail or into the gym.

There’s also an injury that many people don’t catch until it’s too late. Injury to internal organs, like heart disease may be harder to track down unless symptoms persist, so you need to pay close attention to feelings like tightness in the chest or numbness and tingling down the arms. The consequences of ignoring or overlooking these injuries are dire, so it is extremely important to adhere to your doctor’s orders when dealing with internal damage.

Whether you just feel pain or suspect an injury, proceed with caution. If you’re unsure and something doesn’t feel right, seek medical attention.