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Sound Bites from the 2005 World Fitness Convention

This year’s World Fitness Convention celebrated 20 years of the IDEA organization providing quality continuing education for fitness professionals from 60 countries. I have been attending this annual gathering for the last fifteen years and I never fail to learn something new. I will share in depth what I learned over the next couple of weeks. For now, here are a few sound bites.

Have the courage to start and believe that you can do it.
This year’s IDEA Fitness Inspiration Award went to Sarah Reinertsen, the first amputee to grace the cover of Runner’s World magazine. Reinertsen is also the first female with an artificial leg to compete in the Ironman triathlon, a grueling event that combines swimming, cycling, and running. Amazingly, Reinertsen only learned to ride a bike at the age of 28. She is proof that if you want something badly enough, you can do it.

Many people deprive themselves of a better quality of life because they don’t think they have what it takes to get fit. Anyone can achieve a fitness level appropriate to their age and special physical condition but two things are first required: The courage to start and the belief that you can do it.

Mind, mouth, and muscles.
Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of “Fight Fat After Forty” and research scientist in the fields of nutrition, exercise, and integrative medicine, says it’s not enough to diet (meaning eat sensibly) and exercise to lose weight. You also need to change your attitude. Think “can do”, avoid the “all or nothing” trap, stop acting like a victim, and take responsibility for your lifestyle. Permanent weight loss success occurs when your mind, mouth, and muscles work together.

The way you think determines where your fat goes.
Chronic stress keeps cortisol levels artificially high. Cortisol is a stress hormone that directs fat to be stored in the belly, particularly deep within the abdominal cavity. This type of fat, called visceral or deep belly fat, is highly associated with heart disease and diabetes.

Research indicates that stress in middle-aged men and women is a significant factor in potbellies that Peeke calls “man-o-pot” for men and “meno-pot” for women. So one of the secrets to a flatter stomach is “don’t sweat the small stuff”.

It’s not about having nice thighs, it’s about using your thighs to enjoy and celebrate life.
In her research, Peeke has found that many women are so hung up on exercising just to get a nice-looking body that they view exercise as punishment for eating too much or they believe exercise is a necessary evil to achieve the looks they want.

Being fit is not about having nice thighs, arms, or abs (though I must admit that is a great bonus), it’s about using your body to do things that you enjoy. It’s about waking up in the morning feeling energetic and empowered. The most committed exercisers I know work out mainly because it makes them feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Muscle does not know age. It only knows use and disuse.
It is never too late to get fit. Peeke points out that most senior Olympians did not start to get fit till their forties and fifties. A few years ago, the recipient of the Fitness Inspirational Award was a 90-year old tri-athlete. The audience thought that he had been fit all his life. We were all shocked to discover that he began his journey to fitness in his early sixties after suffering from a mild stroke. Prior to that he was your typical couch potato.

Another lesson is that you can be a thirty-year-old with fifty-year-old muscles if you don’t exercise. Conversely, a fit fifty-year-old can have the muscle function of a thirty-year-old. Dr. Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico put it well, “Muscle does not know age. It only knows use and disuse”.

Make better bad choices.
Sensible eating means making better food choices most of the time. We all know what that means. Whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, lean meats and low-fat dairy.

Sensible eating also means making not-so-good food choices infrequently: Junk food, fatty food, refined carbohydrate foods, sugary food, and all other tasty but preservative-laden foods.

Another way of looking at it is to make better bad choices. If you have a craving for
French fries, choose the small size. Why line your arteries with more trans-fat than you need? Just have to have that chocolate bar? Choose the dark variety, which has more anti-oxidants than milk chocolate (white chocolate has none).

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