Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Magic Stuff

There is a Senate investigation going on, as I write this, into the supplements that make claims to enhance athletic performance. A lot of them are synthetic hormones and steroids. There have been a lot of health problems related to their use. Don't use this crap guys. You are putting your trust into something that is totally not regulated and it's on the market to make money not to make you a better athlete.

What does work? Of course regular exercise, regular rest and eating good healthy food is magic in it's self. But their are other ways to enhance your performance and if we are in tune with our bodies or bodies will tell us what they want. We know our body will let us know if it's thirsty and if it's hungry, but what else does it tell us?

Our bodies are wonderful gauges of our needs. They will tell us their basic needs. Cravings are ways for the body to communicate needs. We crave salt when our electro lytes are low, we crave fat when we haven't been getting enough. Our bodies tell us when they need to be held and comforted by human contact.

We have the most amazing intelligence, no living thing has ever come close to us in smarts. But the bad part of that is that we sometimes forget that we are also an amazing animal and that animal part has all the survival instints of other wild things. We need to seek a balance with body and mind. Your body might be telling you, "Hey dude, I need a big slice of fish, some steamed veggies and a nice hunk of dark bread". While your mind is thinking, "Mmmm, beer and brats".

The message here is listen to your body, not the advertising companies. Your body is the smart one when it comes to survival. The drug and supplement companies just want your money. there is magic and it's already programed into us by our creator and we need to trust that program.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Power Surge

To many of us buy into the negatives that other people put on us. We can only be defined by the thickness of our waist or the size of our bank account, instead of the goodness of our hearts if we choose to be. The cost of our clothes or the beauty of our face is not the measure of our character.

We all need to look within for our worth not at what we have or don't have that others do. When we look within we find our real power. We are as tough and solid as we choose to be, the power to over come has to come from within. Others can help us to focus on what we want, like finishing a marathon or getting a collage degree but others can only do so much for us.

Today try an experiment. Imagine you are an exotic sports car and you have pressed down the gas pedal. Feel that surge of power. You are strong and can accomplish anything you desire. Now use that power surge to got up and get stuff done. Tackle chores that you have been stressing over. Clean out the garage or straighten your closets that look like World War 111 was fought in there. Just go, use that power for an awesome workout, use it for a road trip. Do something, you are power, use it.

When we spend a day doing instead of sitting we feel much better about ourselves and we sleep better at night. Even when you have a day you want to put your feet up and just relax, accomplish something. Check in with friends and family that you owe a call to. Better yet make a date for a meet, a coffee date, dinner a movie or a training walk together. There is so much we can do to make our lives fuller. We never want to get the habit of sitting on the couch and doing nothing except watching TV or playing on the computer.

I'd be willing to bet if you are bored then there is a friend some where that bored also. Contact them and make both of your days better. Try it bet it works.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sleeping off the weight

One of the most neglected ways of keeping your weight under control is to get the proper amount of sleep. People need to average 8 hours of sleep. Most of us get 5 to 6 hours. That is not a winning equation, it sets us up for failure even when we have the best intentions.

To start with sleep is when we repair the damage that exercise causes in our muscles. With out this healing we get steadily more sore. You get to the point where you are stiff and sore all the time so you cut back on your exercise. When what you really needed was an extra couple of hours of sleep a night.

Another problem is eating late at night. Your craving is the strongest late because your body is telling you it wants something. It does want something sleep and you give it food. Bad for a lot of reasons. One is we don't need those extra calories we need sleep and two the blood that should be channeled into your muscles for healing is instead transferred to the digestion system to process that food. Umm, guess where that processed food goes? How about into the fat cells that you worked so hard to empty the day before.

So how do you add extra sleep into your schedule? Start by going to bed 30 min earlier. I bet you wait till a TV program is over and then go to bed, right? Forget that program and use the time for sleep instead. After that becomes a habit, go for making it a full hour earlier. How about the other end of the night. Do you get up early for some relaxation and wake up time? I do, that is my time for writing and waking up before I start my day. I choose to cut my night shorter and keep the early rising. But if you feel you have to watch that TV show or need that time to unwind, then can you get up a little later?

Think about it and see if you can find a way to get some more sleep. It's worth the effort because it's during the sleep that you actually become stronger from your workouts.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda

Sunday, September 20, 2009


When we are children we live in a world that's filled with mystery and wonder. Every walk has the possibility of encountering most anything, "Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My". There is a delicious mystery to life that makes us anxious to get out and see what's there every day. Sleep late, heck no there is to much going on to miss it.Then we grow up and become so much smarter and to busy to be concerned with what might be out there that we don't understand. We don't have the time or energy for anything that doesn't fit in the proper slot.What if we could rediscover our inner child that is so excited about life. Even though we "Outgrow the Magic", that doesn't mean it's not there. There is so much wonder, excitement and mystery out there that it's really amazing.We don't even have to go looking for it past our own nose. There is a world of stuff we don't understand about ourselves. As an adult athlete we are learning everyday what makes us tick. We are an experiment of one and we can spend a lifetime just learning who we are. We have strengths and we have weaknesses, all are part of who we are and why each of us are unique.Never let your self stop learning and exploring. Take new routes when you walk or run. Invite others to share the experience with you. Explore learning how to do new things, buy a hula hoop, get your significant other and go to the park and play disc golf. Learn to play golf or tennis. If you haven't been swimming for a long time go. When was the last time you went fishing, hiking.There are many things about the world we live in that are still a mystery to even the "smartest" scholars, some things may not be meant for us to understand, they may just be for us to enjoy, not to pick apart. We do still live where the "Wild Things" are but we are to civilized to notice.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Panda on weight loss 2

When we were designed we came with a wonderful system of survival. Our bodies have a built in reaction to danger, (STRESS), called flight or flight. When we were frightened, (STRESSED), we had a choice to fight back or to haul butt out of there. There wasn't much that caused stress that wasn't dangerous since we were pretty basic in our needs and wants. To fuel our flight or flight needs, the body released calories, (Sugar), to our cells so they could take care of business and the required business was physical and we needed the turbo boost of fuel. The stress was generally short lived, we either won the battle or got away.Now we have stress coming at us from all sides and it can stay with us for a long time. Our bodies can't tell the difference between mental and physical stress. When your boss, spouse, child, bills ect... cause you stress, your wonderful body responds with what it can understand to help you, more calories are released for you to take care of business. Even though you didn't react physically your body now has you craving food to replace what it thinks you used to defeat or run from the attacking beast it thinks you just faced.
There is a good scientific explanation to all this, with enzymes being released that cause other enzymes to react and send signals to your brain. The fact that there is no physical threat is not relevant to the body, stress requires preparing for action.So how does one function here with your body thinking you are in danger but your stress is just you having a bad day at work. To start with you can realize what's happening and know that after you are put in that stressful situation and you will start craving food. This is why so many people eat as a reaction to stress and can't understand why they are so helpless to resist food when they are upset.You can be ready with a plan to counter the cravings when they hit. The cravings will come and go quickly, you just have to wait them out. A walk, a trip to the restroom to wash your hands, having some water, or calling a friend can help you, anything that keeps you busy till that craving passes. What you don't want to do is think well I'll just eat a little bit, yep that isn’t happening, try stopping once you start, you can eat for about 20 minutes before your brain gets the message that your tummy is full.
If the stressful situation is around a meal time go ahead and have your meal and eat it slowly and chew it well, small bites so it will last longer and get you through the cravings without over eating.Another interesting little tidbit along these lines is what happens to your training plans when you are stressed. Being stressed will tire you out. Your body has been in action mode, nothing happened and later when you want to exercise to release some stress you don't have much energy left. Stress will tire you mentally also, your body not only wants food it wants rest. You had to fight or flee so you are tired.
One of the advantages to doing your workouts in the mornings is you turbo charge your metabolism with vigorous exercise. Since your body is already releasing stored fuel for your increased metabolism to burn it isn’t so effected by normal stress. You are usually more relaxed after working out so you are more relaxed during the day to. If we could get some good exercise when ever we feel stress we would have the best of all situations. We would have a way to work off the stress and the fuel to keep us going strong. That’s why if it’s possible to take a brisk walk when your stress level gets to much you can deal with it better.
You should eat something for breakfast. Yes this is the most important food you take in all day and vital to getting control over your weight. Remember how your body reacts if it thinks you are starving? Well you haven’t eaten since the day before and your body is hungry, give it a good healthy meal and it will perform well for you. It will also release the calories you need for working out hard.
Being a Southern raised guy I love eggs, sausage and home fries. But that is a high fat meal that shouldn’t be eaten very often, I have my that breakfast about once every month or two as a special treat. My normal early morning meal is a whole grain cereal with a banana cut up on it, skim milk, a cup of coffee and a glass of water. I take a multi-vitamin every morning but except for an occasional soreness, that is the only supplement I take.
I can eat my cereal breakfast and an hour later do a hard workout or two hours later race. With the traditional eggs and sausage meal racing would be uncomfortable for several hours. That is because complex carbs like the cereal and banana are digested much quicker by your body, they are also absorbed and processed into fuel much quicker.
A lot of people have to workout very soon after they wake, simply because that is the only time available. If you don’t have the luxury of eating breakfast and then relaxing for an hour or so before working out at least eat some complex carbs like a half a bagel, a piece of fruit or a half a peanut butter sandwich. Complex carbohydrates are still in food form and not processed into sugar. Candy and soda are examples of simple sugars. Eat your carbohydrates in food form instead of simple processed form. This will give you energy and tell your body to keep releasing calories for you during your workout.
Once you are done with your workout have something more. Research has shown that muscle recovery and growth is more efficient if you have a small second meal of protein and carbohydrates within 20 min of finishing your workout. I usually have something like a bagel with peanut butter or a banana after I get back home from my training session.
Meal Frequency
I personally find that I need to eat a small meal every 5 hours or I start getting a hungry feeling.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Panda on Weight Loss

There has probably been more money made writing DIET books than from all the Text Books ever written for school children. I know few people who will say they wouldn’t want to lose “a few pounds”. That seems to be the universal desire when it comes to health and fitness. Most Doctors and scientists have varying views about what fitness is but all of them pretty much agree on keeping your weight within a certain range. I would venture to say that the three things people most want to change are their weight, their financial status and their social life. The first will probably affect the other two because when you feel good about the way you look you are generally more positive about everything in your life.
I think weight loss should be kept as simple as possible. Counting calories, weighing your portions, keeping track of points and only eating food manufactured by a weight loss company will work short term but it’s not something that you will want to keep doing the rest of your life. What you need for lasting results is a life style change. A change that you can continue without feeling the need to run screaming into the night.
The first step in being in control of your weight is learning how your body works. Knowledge is power so it’s time to power up. We are a wonderful design, we are able to survive in conditions of extreme heat and cold. We can survive on very little food and we can perform amazing feats of endurance. Our bodies are very adaptable but have one huge flaw, they believe what we tell them with our actions. We have to learn how our body reacts in order to regain control of our eating patterns.
It’s not so much how we eat but what we eat and when we eat it. There have been so many studies on what to eat, when to eat it and why we should do it that way. We will evaluate the best practices.
You have plenty of food to eat and you eat more than you need, your body takes that to mean that you are storing up your reserves for the hard times ahead. So it stores the extra food as fat. You keep doing it even after all your fat cells, (Think of these fat cells as storage sheds), are filled to over flowing. So your body thinks, “Hum the coming hard spell must be a bad one”, and makes more fat cells to store the extra food in.
You go on like this for a few years and all of a sudden think, “Oops, the waist line is shot so I better cut back”. You learn from your friends, that are all of course diet experts, dieting is easy you take in less calories than you burn. Cool you can do that. So you go from eating pretty much anything you want to eating almost nothing. Your body, since it believes in you thinks, “Hum, the hard times finally are here”. So your body being the wonderful adaptable design that it is lowers your metabolism so you can survive the hard times with out using up your fat reserves till absolutely necessary.
With a lower metabolism you have way less energy and feel pretty lethargic most of the time. You start losing a little weight but your body fights to keep every ounce. Of course it’s not long before you are tired of this and go get you an instruction manual, a diet book. Depending on what you get there is usually a revolutionary idea behind the book. After reading a few of these you are getting very confused so you go to a Weight Watchers or a TOPS, or other Doctor approved program. Now don’t get me wrong here, these are good safe programs and you get good information form them. The problem is that if you want lasting results we are right back to that life style change.
There is a very unique thing about fat cells. Your body will build them as long as you keep telling it you need them. But you can never get rid of them. Not without surgery anyway. We can empty them but they are still there. Your body keeps the stretched skin that came from all those filled fat cells needing room to expand also. Our wonderful bodies are doing their thing by making more skin cells to accommodate our expanding girth. Remember the fat cells are like storage sheds. You can empty them and be thinner but they are still there and so it’s much easier to refill them than to have to make more. That’s why you can put weight back on quickly once you stop your diet program. So once you stop starving yourself and then start eating your old way again, you not only put any lost weight back on quickly but your body is even more efficient now at making those new fat cells. It is convinced that it kept you from dying when you were going through a time where you were not getting enough food.
The sooner you can stop his yoyo effect the better off you will be for a lot of reasons. Unfortunately you can’t increase the size of your blood vessels and the amount of blood you have, so you are pretty much limited to the amount in your body and the speed it can flow. You can’t increase the size of your lungs so you are also stuck with the limited amount of oxygen you can bring in. The problem is the fat cells are living and have to be nourished just like the cells that do work, like the muscle cells. That takes a toll on your whole system. So until you stop building and filling those fat cells you are becoming more and more inefficient. The fuel and oxygen required to maintain your fat storage takes away from the rest of the body.
Fat cells don’t help you move so they can’t do work. But you have to feed them and remove their waste just as you do your muscles cells. If you are supporting a hundred extra pounds of cells that give nothing back you are not going to be very efficient. The good part is you will be getting more efficient as you lose those excess pounds. Muscle weight is different, muscles do work so they earn their keep. Also most people have heard that muscle weighs more than fat, that’s true. That’s why when you first start doing everything right you may not see much change in the scale. You want to lose inches more than you want to just lose weight. Let how your clothes fit be your gauge not the scale.
Muscle is much more dense than fat so it weighs much more. Ten pounds of muscle gained will not be nearly as noticeable on your body as a ten pound fat lost. But when you combine the two a muscle gain and a fat loss the scale reading doesn’t change, but your once ‘over snug’ pants are now falling off of you. You will not gain as much muscle weight as will lose fat weight over time but at the beginning you may and not see the scale move. Building muscle mass is a whole new world. You have to work hard toward that end. This writing is about getting back into shape with a lifestyle change, not a writing about muscle building, but often when a person does get stronger and starts feeling super charged with their new energy level they tend to look into other areas of fitness.

Thanks for reading


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Eat like a champion

When we start on the path to better health and fitness, having the proper equipment and exercise advice is fine but another vital link is proper nutrition. What you put into your body is as important as what you do with it.

I found that the one best thing I ever did for my nutritional habits was to stop eating deep fried foods. Basically if it's deep fried it's not food. I still have my token burger and fries about once every couple of months but that's it. Cutting out the fried food is tough because for a lot of us that's our comfort food. That goes back to the days when we worked physically hard and food was often hard to come by so we had to pack all the calories we could into a meal. Well now most of us don't have physically demanding jobs and we are not wondering where our next meal is coming from. If anything we eat to much to often.

Water is our number one nutritional need. We can live a while with out food but we can't go long without water before our body starts shutting down. So the first and most important thing you can do for proper nutrition is drink your 8 glasses a day as a minimum. Coffee and that chemical mix we call soda doesn't count toward that 8 glasses. Juice, and other caffeine free drinks do. If your not hydrated you can't perform anything the way you should, from exercising to even just thinking.

The next thing you want to remember is that the concept of DIET should be banished from your vocabulary. Dieting is slow starvation because you are consuming less food than your body requires to live, the theory there is that your body will make up for the deficit by releasing and burning your stored fat. Bad thing is the body knows it's in starvation mode so it releases the stores very slowly and slows your metabolism way down.

So if dieting isn't the answer what is? The answer is eating the proper amount of good food and adding exercise. When you exercise you build muscle tissue and that muscle tissue will burn the fat and your metabolism will we super charged giving you plenty of energy. The increased muscle working to keep you in motion will consume your fat stores much quicker than a starvation diet.

Our body burns carbs for fuel so that is our biggest requirement. Protein repairs muscles after a day of motion and all the things required to keep us alive, like our heart beating. Fat is required since our body needs a small amount to process a lot of the vitamins and minerals we need to function and stay healthy.

I future blogs, we will discuss the proper mix of carbs, fat and protein.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Training to train.

The most critical time for starting an exercise program and following a healthy life style is the first couple of months. This time can make it or end it. Most of the people that start out are motivated and ready to make it happen. They have goals and a strong desire to make changes that they have thought about for a long time.

The problem is they don't get proper guidance. They see written instructions and get advice from people who don't remember what it was like to be a beginner or worse still, never started themselves. The best advice I ever heard was take it easy and then slow down. You have to build slowly. Most people end up up sore and discouraged or even injured.

If you have been a couch commando for way to long then you have to go easy. But and this is a big big but, you have to do more than just warm up, the real building happens after your warmed up. Warmed up is when the body finally channels blood into the muscles. That increased blood flow is when the muscles can start doing their thing.

Warm up takes about 15 or 20 minutes, so if you exercise for 20 min, 3 times a week like a lot of programs tell you, then you never get anything but the warm up not the training. Even when you are just starting, walk easy for 15 to 20 minutes and when you begin to perspire you are warmed up and ready to train. After that warm up period then do your walking for another 20 to 30 minutes at a brisk but comfortable pace.

A person who has not exercised for years should never try running till they can comfortably walk briskly for an hour. By the time you can walk for an hour you have built up enough muscle to support your feet, ankles and knees. If you try running when you can't even walk briskly for an hour you will have problems.

Another area that is a problem when your starting out is your abdominal muscles. Your back will start hurting sometime during your start up period because your back muscles are stronger than your tummy muscles so the back has to do more than it's share of the work. Twists, turns, bends, leg raises and crunches are all good ways to strengthen your tummy muscles but like the leg muscles it has to be done slowly at first and then build intensity only after they are stronger.

Being a successful adult athlete is possible for the majority of people, regardless of how long it's been since you exercised. But the longer it's been the longer it's going to take to get fit enough to start doing quality workouts. Don't get discouraged, the time spent taking it slow and easy will mean the difference in making it and not making it.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda

Monday, September 14, 2009

If the shoe fit's life is good.

A lot of my walker and runner friends are gearing up for the January Disney World Marathon, half Marathon and Goofy Challenge. The most important equipment you will buy is your shoes and socks. When I first started running in the 70s shoe buying was much simpler. Most shoes were of the neutral cushion type and you just needed to find some that fit good and felt good. Times have changed.

When you go to look at shoes now there are lots and lots and lots... of every kind and purpose. You really can't do the best job of picking them out on your own. So here is my advice on shoe shopping:

Go to a running/walking specialty store. If you don't know where one is look on line for a local running club in your town or a nearby city. Then email them for a store recommendation or call them if there is a phone number. They may also have a link to the stores they approve of. Once you find a store go there and let them fit you for the proper shoe type. If you have to travel to another city, do it, it's that important.

When you arrive at the store, ask for someone who is trained in shoe fitting. Most good stores have people that have been trained by the shoe company reps and can get you in the right type of shoe. The wrong shoe can cause you structure problems and end your running/walking career before it even gets started good.

Once your proper shoe type is determined, then ask to try on every shoe in your size that fits the category. The shoe store will understand. Try on each one, a half to a full size larger than your regular shoes. Walk around the store in each, run or walk on their treadmill or where they have designated for you to run around. Narrow it down to the 2 pairs that you like best and feel the best. Don't look at price, more than likely what you finally pick out will not be the most expensive anyway. But a shoe that's $25 dollars higher is worth the money if it's the most comfortable. If you can afford it buy the two pairs that you like best. If not write down the information on the other brand. Shoes get changed or discontinued so having a backup is vital.

When you try on the shoes do it in the socks you plan to wear. They must be of a wicking material and fit you snugly. Cotton tube socks are cheap and called athletic socks but they are useless and will cripple you with blisters pretty quickly. The running store can recommend good socks for you to. Buy them there that day to thank them for helping you pick the proper shoes and even if you order on line most of the time, visit your store a few times a year and make a purchase, you need them to stay in business.

With the proper shoe and sock combination you will be way ahead of most people who begin exercise programs. A year from now you will more than likely still be working out, lots of people who didn't get the proper start are back on the couch.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


There is a poem about a woman who finds a poor half frozen snake. She takes it home, gives it milk and honey and wraps it in silk to get it warm. After the snake is warmed up it bites the woman and kills her. Just before she dies she asks the snake, "Why did you bite me, I cared for you". The snake replied, "You knew I was a snake when you brought me in". That poem is a wonderful lesson about the temptations we face in our lives.

Many things we know are bad for us, make us feel so good. Drugs, alcohol, cheating on our significant other all give us a feel good. Even though deep down we know it's destroying us. We crave those feelings. We drink to access because we crave that drunk feeling, knowing that the next day we will pay with a hangover for those feelings. I was a smoker for 35 years and the last 5 years or so I would tell my self this cigarette will be my last, because I knew that I was poisoning myself. But I couldn't stop. That few minutes of need over came my good sense.

That feeling of new love is so wonderful like a drug in it's self. But that feeling doesn't last, the freshness and intensity fades over time and then you wonder where the excitement is that you felt for this other person.

We follow a cause or join a group, just to have a sense of belonging. Even though we often know that group is just using us. We like knowing we are part of it. Like a politician who tells you that if you will just vote for me, all your troubles are over. That politician doesn't give a darn about you, just your vote and you know that but you want that feeling that comes from thinking that maybe this time will be different.

We all have the same temptations and face the same demons. It's how we respond to those temptations that makes us the person we are. I was talking to one of the guys in the gym this morning who had just completed his first triathlon this week end. Was he on a High? Hell yes he was, he was riding the drug of accomplishment. He said that morning he was excited and nervous like back when he was in collage and had an important game that day.

We can get our highs and our feel goods and we can get them the right way, without feeling guilty. We can have the satisfaction of doing something well, accomplishing a difficult task or helping others accomplish there goals. The possibilities are endless, we just have to look for them.

My crowd has discovered the awesome feeling of finishing marathons. Whether you walk, run or a combination, that finish line is sweet. But even sweeter is over coming your fears and winning your own respect.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Muscle Heads

It wasn't long ago that people thought athletes were mentally challenged. Everyone who grew up in 60s and 70s like I did remember that the "Jocks" were considered muscle heads and not as smart as the rest of the class. The common stereo type was the football player that the coach got into all the easy classes so he could keep his grades up.

Well now we are beginning to realize that starting to exercise early is as important as doing well in the academic classes. We all know sucessful people who die young from heart probems or have a compromised lifestyle because of being diabetic brought on by their weight. To bad it took us so long to realize this.

Now we are facing a unique situation where our children are often getting no exercise at all, even Physical Education is now an elective at most high schools. Video games have replaced active play. What kind of future are these kids going to have? A life of sickness, obesity and dependence on medications, followed by dying in middle age.

I don't see kids running around the neighborhood playing anymore. The only ones I see on a bicycle are adults. What are we doing to our newest generations? Is it any wonder that our nation is growing more over weight every year?

What can we do about this national concern? To start with we can be a positive example of health and fitness instead of being an example of the problem. We can set the example with our own eating habits. It doesn't do much good to talk to kids about avoiding addiction when we are addicted to soda, cigarettes and television.

Our children follow the example set for them, when you complain about everything in your life, like your job, the bills, your looks, ect.... Our children learn to complain also. What happened to being glad you had a good job that paid the bills? When we set the example for being happy with our own life, that is the example they have to follow instead.

Let's all step up and be the examples of what we expect of our children.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda