Thursday, December 26, 2013

Make It More Than A Resolution

The New Year is approaching and fitness centers and professionals will be busy as many people plan to start the New Year off improving their health.   From January to March there is a boom in the fitness business and then it begins to taper off. 

The fact that a resolution is made is a declaration to make positive changes.  "Studies show that people who resolve to change behaviors do much better than non-resolvers who have the same habits that need to be changed," says University of Scranton psychologist John Norcross.

Americans most often resolve to lose weight; quit smoking; get more exercise; and reduce their alcohol consumption, in that order, Norcross says.

Statistics show that, at the end of January, some 64% of resolvers are still hanging in there; six months later, that number drops to 44%, according to Norcross, author of Changing for Good.

Here are steps toward a New Year’s resolution for better health:

Have A Plan

The habits and behaviors that led to anyone’s displeasure with their health didn’t develop overnight.  Adopting a healthy lifestyle will require a commitment to making changes to your eating and exercise regiment.  Every meal and exercise session is part of the plan.

Meals must fuel your workouts and each meal and workout is for a purpose.  Your exercise regiment should combine cardio vascular/endurance exercises and strength training.  For example, plan which days you are performing cardio vascular exercises and strength training during the week.

There are many applications and wristbands on the market that assist with tracking food intake and calories burned that are reasonably priced.  These can assist with documenting your progress and accountability as your work toward your goals.

Stay Committed

Whatever your health and fitness goals are they will not be accomplished overnight.  Commitment and consistency throughout the process is essential to achieve your goals.  Do not resort to an extreme diet or program because you are impatient.

Quick weight loss is usually not permanent weight loss, experts say. Diets that have strict rules, eliminate or severely restrict certain foods, or otherwise take a lot of effort are usually only successful in the short term. 

Your daily meal plan should combine carbohydrates, proteins, fruits, and vegetables.  A meal plan can have variety with tasty foods and still be healthy.  Research healthy recipes if you need fresh ideas on healthy and tasty meals.

Trust The Process

I have mentioned this in previous blog posts and it is worth mentioning again.  You must trust the process.  Adjustments to your meal plan and exercise routines will be necessary, but stay true to the process of adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  What does this mean?

Experts define it as the ability to trust that your life is moving towards what you want despite outward appearances to the contrary.

It starts with making a decision that you desire something different from what you are experiencing.  If being healthier is something that you want, be mindful that it will take steps and being patient with yourself to get there and maintain.

The discipline of healthy eating and consistent exercises can be a stressful transition that takes you out of your comfort zone.  Constantly remind yourself of why you are making these changes, for yourself and no one else! 

As President Abraham Lincoln profoundly stated, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.” 

Losing weight and exercising more are common New Year’s resolutions.  Document your activity and progress.  Encourage friends and family to take the journey with you.  Reward yourself when you reach certain milestones.   Do not go into the process blind.  Seek help if needed so your desire to be healthier will be planned and with purpose.  Your program should be individualized for your specific needs.  Have a plan, stay committed, and trust the process and your changes for a healthier lifestyle will be more than a resolution.

Jamaal Piper is  Health and Wellness Consultant and Certified Personal Trainer,,

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Deal With The Pain

Getting started with an exercise program or introducing new exercises or intensity to your current regiment can lead to pain and soreness.  For those who have not exercised for an extended period of time or just beginning the pain and soreness can be enough for them to give up.

"Muscles go through quite a bit of physical stress when we exercise," says Rick Sharp, professor of exercise physiology at Iowa State University in Ames.
"Mild soreness just a natural outcome of any kind of physical activity," he says. "And they're most prevalent in beginning stages of a program."

Muscle soreness takes place for a variety of reasons.  You did an activity you're not used to like doing sprints instead of distance running.  You did eccentric exercises, in which you lengthened instead of shortened your muscle (like walking downhill or extending your arm during a bicep curl).  These changes to your exercise routine can lead to tiny injuries called micro damage in the muscle fibers and connective tissue. About a day or two later, you'll start to feel sore.

No one is immune to muscle soreness. Exercise neophytes and body builders experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
It peaks within about 48 hours, and then it will gradually get better.  I have had new clients slightly sore after 24 hours then it will increase 48 hours after their first workout then be gone the next day.
Many of us who have set and accomplished goals have been through pain, suffering, and disappointment.  In those instances the pain was emotional and psychological.  When it comes to achieving a healthier lifestyle the pain is also physical. 

It is easy to exercise just enough to reach a comfort level with minimal pain.  That is when fitness coaches and personal trainers are a great asset.  Working in a controlled environment individually or in a group will push you past your comfort level.  In my experiences clients can do more than they realize because on their own they did not want to push themselves too hard.

I recently saw an episode of “Shark Tank” on ABC.  The show has venture capitalists that hears pitches from entrepreneurs to invest in their respective businesses.  Robert Herjavec, one of the “Sharks” on the show told a business owner that she hasn’t suffered enough to take her business to the next level.  She had a steady job that paid her well and was not willing to put the time in and make the sacrifice that he would be willing to invest in her company.

He shared his story of how he lost his job and had to take care of his family that motivated him to start his business.  He articulated to her that when she was willing to put herself in a position to suffer then her business could be successful.

His painful experience gave him more appreciation for the success he currently has.  Herjavez explained how in order for the contestant to achieve the dreams of her business she had to be willing to deal with pain.   Achieving fitness goals is a painful experience as well. 

Our painful experiences in life make us stronger and wiser if we respond to them appropriately.  Dealing with the physical pain of an intense workout will make you stronger physically.  You just have to be willing to put yourself through the process.

Think about a recent setback you experienced. How did you respond? It probably did not feel good to go through it, but you knew in order overcome it you had to get passed it.  It is not that the pain can be avoided what must change is how you respond to it.

The muscle discomfort is simply a symptom of using your muscles and placing stresses on them that are leading to adaptations to make them stronger and better able to perform the task the next time.

Planning your workouts to give body parts appropriate rest will help you deal with the pain and soreness.  For example, if you primarily worked on your upper body one day, the next day work on your legs or do cardio.  Several remedies can assist with addressing the pain in between workouts such as ice, rest, anti-inflammatory medication, massage, heat, and stretching.

Do not get discouraged or delay your exercise routine because you do not want to deal with the pain.  The soreness and pain should not prevent you from performing daily activities associated with living and work.  That is overtraining.  Also, it can psychologically deter you from continuing to workout.

Push yourself pass your comfort level, but not to the point where you are not able to function.  This can be trial and error.  View the pain as progress as it is a reminder that you are on the right path.

Jamaal Piper is  Health and Wellness Consultant and Certified Personal Trainer,,

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Relationships, Race, and Leadership

With the recent developments with the Washington Redskins and Coach Mike Shanahan, his status with the team, past history with Donovan McNabb, and shutting down Robert Griffin III for the remainder of the season has stirred up a variety of emotions.  The racial component of Shanahan's relationship with McNabb and now RG3 has primarily been on social media websites, blogs, and been the talk in the Washington, DC area, aka “Chocolate City”.  It has been recently discussed by Michael Irvin on NFL Network, Pardon The Interruption and First Take on ESPN.  

Washington, DC and surrounding suburbs are one of the most diverse in the United States.  Washington, Atlanta, and Charlotte have many black fans that attend games and buy merchandise.   Primarily because there is a black middle class that can afford the tickets and merchandise.

Black fans not only come to the stadium to support the team, but also black owned businesses purchase suites at FedEx Field.   Witnessing the relationship between Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb go sour and now apparent issues with Robert Griffin III has raised eyebrows, especially in the black community.

Joe Gibbs and Doug Williams
When it comes to ‘Skins fans this is the city where Doug Williams, the first and only black quarterback won a Super Bowl.   Coach Joe Gibbs called on Williams to lead the team in the playoffs.  Williams only started two games that season, both losses.  But came in to replace Jay Schroeder three times to lead the ‘Skins to victory.

The same Coach Gibbs was his offensive coordinator his rookie season in Tampa Bay when Doug Williams was the only black starting quarterback in the NFL.  Williams was the first black quarterback to be drafted in the first round and finished fourth for the Heisman Trophy in 1977.

When Gibbs was the offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay he visited Grambling to scout Williams. The Bucs needed to know if Williams’ abilities were worthy of a high choice and if Williams could handle the scrutiny such a history-making choice would engender. Former personnel man Ken Herock had Gibbs spend the week with Williams.

“Joe comes back after a week and we ask him, ‘What do you think?’” Herock stated. “Gibbs says, ‘All I can tell you is he can do it. He is a number one draft pick and will be a good quarterback.’”  From that a relationship was formed.

Williams went through ups and downs as a professional.  Williams was out of football when the USFL folded and Gibbs was the only coach in the NFL that offered him a position as a backup for the 'Skins to Jay Schroeder in 1986.

This city witnessed a great relationship between a white coach and black quarterback that evolved working together with two franchises.  After winning Super Bowl XXII Williams reflected on his lowest moment as a professional.

"I'll tell you one thing I'll always remember," Williams said. "When I was with Tampa Bay and we lost to Dallas in the (1981) playoffs and I got sacked four times, I got this beautifully wrapped package with a nice bow on top. When I opened it, there was a rotten watermelon inside. The note said, 'If it wasn't for your black ass, Tampa Bay would have won.' You don't forget things like that."

The beautiful thing about sports is that it is a microcosm of society and reveals the good and bad that exist including race relations.  The lack of relationship that Mike Shanahan had with Donovan McNabb and currently with Robert Griffin III have a racial dynamic and speak to the comfort levels that people have when forced to work together. These kinds of topics can fuel different emotions without context because it can strike a nerve.

Looking over Mike Shanahan’s head coaching career he never had a starting black quarterback, an offensive or defensive coordinator, or report to a black general manager as a head coach.  These are all leadership positions. 

Shanahan did not want McNabb because he felt his best years were behind him and Griffin III because of the draft picks it would cost Washington to move up to draft him.  These reasons have merit strictly on football terms.  Once they both were on the roster he had a hard time establishing a relationship with them and in my opinion many factors of those factors were not related to football.

The quarterback position is viewed and expected to be leader on a football team.  Owners/management, coaches, teammates, media, and fans have that expectation.  For the first time in what appears to be in his adult life Mike Shanahan had to deal with two black men in a leadership position even though they reported to him, and that could have been a major contributor to their disconnect.

Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan
McNabb and Griffin III have had white coaches and successful relationships their entire football careers prior to Shanahan so the fact that their coach was white was probably irrelevant to them.  Another common thread that McNabb and Griffin III share are two men that grew up in middle class homes, with two parents, well socialized, confident, and outgoing.  From my experiences playing and being around athletics white and black coaches in some instances do not deal with a player with that background well or view them differently.  Very few elite black athletes have that background.

A close friend of mine played college basketball for a black head coach.  The coach’s experience was mostly with young men from the inner city and single parent homes.  My friend had two educated parents and went to private diverse schools.  The coach treated him differently and with some resentment because he didn’t “need” the coach like the other players did.  He did not have the social experiences of dealing with a variety of players in his coaching career and it showed.

During a 4-4 season in 2010 Shanahan pulled McNabb down six points in the final two minutes of a game vs. Detroit for Rex Grossman, whom he explained understood the two-minute offense "terminology" better than McNabb.  A player at the time that felt the tension between McNabb and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and that McNabb's bootleg and play-action talents don't exactly mesh with a meticulous West Coast scheme.

To publicly question McNabb’s understanding of the offense was viewed by many as questioning his intelligence.  With the history of the black quarterback, to publicly insinuate anything of that nature was irresponsible by Shanahan regardless whether it was true or not or knowing what he was attempting to accomplish by revealing it.

Robert Griffin III and Mike Shanahan
This season with Griffin III coming off a major injury and not having as successful a season as his rookie campaign leaks to the media have been about Griffin’s preparation, insecurity about the backup quarterback, and missing reads.  Shanahan made the decision to shut Griffin down the remaining three weeks claiming it was to protect him from injury.

It appears to be self serving to play Kirk Cousins the remaining three weeks.  If Cousins plays well Shanahan could be a candidate for another head coaching position and Shanahan recently mentioned that Cousins talent warranted him be traded for a first round pick.  

Shanahan has never been pleased with a quarterback since John Elway retired.  Former quarterback Jake Plummer, who is white, had his issues with Shanahan in Denver, even after a 13-3 season. 

"It's not a fun situation and I feel for RG3 -- a great kid, a really, really great football player -- he'll bounce back, get healthy and persevere through this,'' Plummer told USA Today. "I see great things in his future. But I think it's going to be with a new coach.”

"[McNabb and Plummer] had our own styles, and it didn't mesh with what Mike wanted. What I see happening there isn't the same, but it is similar," Plummer said. "Mike definitely rubbed me the wrong way in some ways. Also, he did some great things in resurrecting my career. Overall, I was grateful to be coached by him. But I was a square peg in a round hole. I didn't fit what he really wanted me to be, and he moved on to somebody else."

The Washington Redskins fans had to suffer through a season of Rex Grossman and John Beck.  He benched Grossman for Beck then went back to Grossman.  Never through that process were any negative leaks about them to the media.  Playing or not playing them appeared to be just about football.  With McNabb and Griffin III it was different.

For 10 years Donovan McNabb played for Andy Reid in Philadelphia.  They came to Philadelphia together in 1999.  Reid and McNabb had a strong relationship over those years.  Reid took a chance on Michael Vick after being released from prison and Vick had a MVP caliber season in 2010. 

Black quarterbacks have recently been benched, traded, and waived. In most of those instances it was never discussed that race played a role in those decisions and it probably didn’t.  In this situation in Washington it appears to be that a coach, who has a record of poor interpersonal skills, not dealing with a situation he has never been in before well.  That combination was a bad mix.  Quarterbacks are looked at differently.  Shanahan’s relationship with other black players on the team or before his arrival in Washington is not an accurate barometer of how he would deal with a black quarterback.

This season a record nine black quarterbacks has started for NFL teams.  With the other eight franchises besides the Washington Redskins there has not been any discussion about the relationships with their respective coaches.   But all it takes is one situation to stir up conversation on the topic.  Black quarterbacks no longer stand out.   For Mike Shanahan having to coach one was a new experience for him that he did not handle it well.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Get Started And Have A Plan

Starting the process to adopt a healthy lifestyle can become daunting and the thought of it can delay the process.  The adult obesity rate so far in 2013 is 27.2%, up from 26.2% in 2012, and is on pace to surpass all annual average obesity rates since Gallup-Healthwayst began tracking in 2008.  

Gallup did research during 2012 and discovered that engaged employees are deeply involved in and enthusiastic about their work. Those who are not engaged may be satisfied, but are not emotionally connected to their workplaces and are less likely to put in discretionary effort.  Employees who are actively disengaged are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace and jeopardize their teams' performance.

Studies have shown that a healthier lifestyle benefits children’s behavior and performance in the classroom.  Also, school-based health centers have reduced inappropriate emergency room use. They have reduced Medicaid expenditures. And they have decreased absences and discipline referrals.

In order to achieve a healthier a lifestyle some practical steps must be taken to achieve that goal for adults and children.

Get Educated

Once you make a decision to adopt a healthy lifestyle it is imperative to learn the proper steps so your efforts can be maximized.   Some basic principles that have been proven such as eating 5-6 times per day, monitoring calories, fat, sugar, and processed foods.   Exercising to reach fitness goals and improve conditioning and strength.   In theory the concepts can seem simple, but there is a method to the madness.

There are countless resources for weight loss and exercise.  Before choosing any of them I highly recommend getting expert advice from a health and wellness professional such as a physician, nutritionist, and personal trainer.  Inquire about food allergies and find fitness activities that you will enjoy that combine building strength and endurance.

The most difficult aspect of adopting a healthy lifestyle is nutrition.  An exercise program can run you into the ground and the rest of the day can ruin it with a poor diet.  There are many programs advertised of methods to lose weight with shakes, snacks, meal plans, etc. that can become overwhelming.  Many of these are good programs, but what consumers must do is educate themselves on why they are eating certain foods at certain times. 

Before all of these new companies and product lines that were in the marketplace basic methods of eating and exercise worked.  They were successful then and will be today.

Have A Plan

A healthy lifestyle requires planning.  Meals and workouts must be scheduled like everything else.  Foods should be consumed as close to their natural source as possible.  Unprocessed grains, unprocessed meat, fresh fruits and vegetables are all whole foods. Whole foods are foods that stay as close to the natural food source as possible. They are unprocessed and unrefined. Nutritionally, they are usually superior to processed foods, and we receive the greatest nutritional benefit by consuming them.

"Aim for five small meals a day, and plan everything in advance," says Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., YouBeauty Nutrition Advisor and wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic. "Prepare your meals on the weekends when you have time, and never go more than 3 ½ hours without putting something in your mouth. Carry a low-sugar energy bar, trail mix or an apple so you're not tempted to buy a snack from the office vending machine."  Being a spontaneous eater mostly leads to poor decisions. 

Trust The Process

Eating small meals and consistent exercise has been tried and tested and it works.  Not trusting the process and inconsistency will cause frustration and doubt whether you are choosing the right path to reach your health and wellness goals.

Working out with consistency is important for your physical health. An intense workout one day only to avoid exercising for the next two weeks will only leave you feeling sore. It is too straining for the body to experience sporadic spurts of strenuous exercise. For optimal results, you will want to build up to higher and higher levels of cardiovascular strength, flexibility and strength training. A gradual increase in intensity will allow your muscles, tendons and ligaments a chance to adjust to the strains and challenges of a fitness regimen.  That will take time and consistency to reap the benefits from exercise.

The statement, “you are what you eat” is true. You can’t become healthy on a poor diet of highly processed nutrient deficient foods. Transform yourself with a balanced nutrient rich diet that you eat during the day, when you need the nutrition the most. Eat foods as close to the source, and stay away from processed foods.  Eat thoughtfully when you are hungry, and not mindlessly late at night. If you condition your body to expect the right nutrition when you most need it, the results you get from your fitness program will be great.