This month’s issue of FitITproNews kicks off with an interview I did recently with Lee Boyce, a strength coach, internationally published writer, and college professor based in Toronto, Canada. Lee agreed to let me interview him on how middle-aged IT pro desk jockeys like ourselves can use strength training to lose weight, build muscle and improve their overall health.
Also in this issue are the following articles by our FitITproNews columnists:
- Robin Camp on overcoming ego through discipline and motivation.
- Rod Trent on how running can help overworked IT pros maintain their sanity.
- Mark Nichols on why CrossFit has revolutionized the fitness industry.
- Kris Lall on using CBD oil for addressing chronic pain issues for active IT Pros.
We also welcome new columnist Brian Dougal this issue who shares some questions we can ask ourselves as It pros to find out where we currently are with regard to our health.
And don’t forget, if you have any comments or suggestions concerning the stuff in this week’s newsletter, email me at [email protected] and we’ll share your feedback in the Mailbag section of our next newsletter.
In the meantime enjoy this week’s issue of FitITproNews!
Mitch Tulloch, Senior Editor
Disclaimer: I am not a certified fitness professional or nutritionist so take any suggestions made here “as is” with a grain of salt and a heaping supply of your own judgment. Please read our full disclaimer at the bottom of this newsletter.
Interview with Lee Boyce (Mitch Tulloch)
Mitch Tulloch is the Senior Editor of FitITproNews and a recovering fat IT pro who lost 50 lbs in midlife and is now on his way to becoming a fit IT pro. Mitch is a widely recognized expert on Windows Server and cloud technologies who has authored or been Series Editor of numerous books/ebooks from Microsoft Press. Mitch is also the Senior Editor of WServerNews and writes frequently for TechGenix.
MITCH: Thanks Lee for agreeing to let me interview you about how middle-aged desk jockeys like myself — and who the main demographic of our newsletter — can use strength training to lose weight, build muscle and improve their overall health.
LEE: Glad to work with you!
MITCH: Lee I recently read one of your articles on BodyBuilding.com and personally found it quite helpful. You seem to know a lot about fitness and working out. How did you get started with strength training?
LEE: I’ve been into sports and athletics since I was a child, so it was a smooth transition once I was finished with varsity track and field in university, and was focused on getting into the work force. It only seemed right.
MITCH: Let’s say I’m a typical middle-aged “fat IT pro” and I’m sick and tired of sitting on my butt all day and want to try to lose some weight and get fit. Should I start off by doing some light cardio like walking/biking or should I get into strength training instead? Which approach will bring me the biggest payoff?
LEE: Strength training. The type of client you’re mentioning probably has a number of glaring imbalances and weak points that the cardio won’t address. In fact, doing things the other way around may worsen those imbalances and make things harder to fix down the line. I know most people are after an aesthetic change, but functionality is more important than that, especially when looking at the long game.
MITCH: If I’ve never exercised regularly before and the only sport I was into at school was chess (yes, that was me!) then what sort of expectation should I have at how fast I can progress in strength training? Will I be able to be in the top 5 of next year’s Arnold? <grin>
LEE: Well, the good news is, if you’re a fish out of water to the strength training game, then you’re bound to expect an initial spike in results, due to adaptations that your body has to make over a quick learning curve. The first couple of months of training will probably yield the greatest rate of change you’ll ever see, which can bolster confidence and solidify a consistent routine. That’s a win-win. As far as the next arnold, it makes sense to keep things in a realistic frame of reference. It’s not impossible, but it’s also important to remember that most people who have elite physical fitness or aesthetic appearance have been working at it for at least a decade.
MITCH: What sort of exercises should I start off with if I want to build a good overall foundation of strength? I’d love to have a V-taper and bulging biceps, but I guess I should probably be realistic and start small and progress gradually, right? And I also don’t want to injure myself like I did my right elbow tendon when I was laying on a mat doing triceps extensions using some rubber-coated 10 lb dumbbells I bought from WalMart! Anyways, please give me some advice where I should start if working out with weights is new to me…
LEE: I’d begin by focusing on the big compound movements. They have the most real-world application, and can help teach the body athletic attributes like coordination and stability most easily. Deadlifts, squats, overhead presses, pull ups, lunges, and rows are kind of the “big 6” I like to use the most, along with a number of miscellaneous lifts that I find just as useful.
MITCH: Can you point me to a few online resources that can help with learning how to properly perform foundational strength training exercises?
LEE: Anything by Mark Rippetoe. He’s got fantastic breakdowns of many of the movements I mentioned above. He’s got plenty of videos on YouTube and countless articles on publications like t-nation.com.
MITCH: Lee do you have any other words of advice or encouragement for us recovering fat IT pros? 🙂
LEE: Stay the path and train intuitively. If you go too hard out of the gate, you’ll fade later. It’s inevitable. Start by making a goal to go to the gym every other day. Not every single day. Commit to that structure, train right, and you’ll see gains. Then check in on your goals after adhering to that for the first 6 months. It’s tough to hear, but that’s the reality of what builds a truly strong body.
MITCH: Lee thank you very much for giving us some of your valuable time!
LEE: My pleasure!
About Lee Boyce
Lee Boyce is a strength coach, internationally published writer, and college professor based in Toronto. You can visit his popular blog at leeboycetraining.com and follow him on social media @coachleeboyce.
The T-bar row is a terrific exercise for working your upper back muscles, but doing it requires that you not only have a barbell handy but also be willing to take time to remove the plates from one end so you can perform the exercise. Because of this inconvenience I’ve developed an alternative exercise that only involves using a pair of heavy dumbbells and a large towel.
Start by crossing the dumbbells on the floor. Roll the towel up lengthwise and wrap it around the dumbbells and tie them together like this:
Stand over the weights with your legs slightly bent and your feet spread apart somewhat more than shoulder width. Bend over until you’re torso is about 60 degrees from vertical and grasp the ends of the towel as near the knot as possible:
Yep that’s me, with my fearsome “Randy Couture” evil eye snarly kind of look…grrr.
Now keeping your torso steady, use your arms to pull the weights towards your belly:
Slowly lower the weights almost to the floor, counting to three as you do so, then pause momentarily and lift the weights up again. Repeat until you can no longer maintain proper form.
If you can do 15 or more reps of this exercise, you should switch to using the next larger pair of dumbbells. Ideally you should use dumbbells that allow you to do 8-12 reps with perfect form.
Complete three or four sets of this exercise, resting about a minute between sets, to give your traps, rhomboids, and lats a really good workout as part of your day’s fitness routine. As an added benefit having to grip the towel tightly to lift the weights will also help increase the strength of your grip.
Got an exercise tip you’d like to share with other readers of this newsletter? Email us at [email protected] and feel free to include some photos of yourself performing the exercise.
Overcoming ego through discipline and motivation (Robin Camp)
Robin Camp works as tech support for an Orthodontic Practice Management Software company called New Horizons Software ( www.nhsoftware.com). As a professional photographer on the side, Robin does fashion, glamour weddings and more in his spare time (www.dancingwithlightphoto.com). You can also now find him working out on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/fitittech/.
One of the biggest challenges returning athletes, or first timers will have in the gym, is called Ego. Allowing this monster to roam free will lead to disappointment and worse injuries. Ego says we can start over at the same point we did when we were 18 and in peak shape. Ego says we can keep up with those other gym goers who have been there for years. Ego says we should impress that attractive gym member, when we really should be more concerned with simply not making an @$$ of our self and being safe. In the gym it is important to remember that form is more important than the weight.
Worse ego tends to be the primary reason for giving up, because we tend to set huge lofty unrealistic goals, instead of small goals that can lead to a lofty goal. When setting your goals, consider the basics.
Is it realistic to say for example, “I have spent the last 10 years neglecting my body, eating like crap and I want to look like Thor by the end of this year?” Probably not, unless you’re going for Fat Thor, that might be doable. So, what should you do?
It sounds trite, but the first step of achieving your goals is to put one step in front of the other. Often, we spend too much time thinking about doing things, planning on it, researching it till we KNOW all the steps, waiting for the RIGHT opportunity. The right opportunity is now. Take that first step.
“Most things that never get done never get done because they never get started.” –Jocko Willink, Retired Navy SEAL and author of Extreme Ownership
First, don’t set your goal until you have done an evaluation of where you are. Sign up for the gym. Go on a day you have plenty of time, take a notebook, a log will be your primary source of inspiration for the first few months. After getting a tour of the gym and any basic questions answered, try some simple exercises.
Get on the treadmill and establish a comfortable pace that pushes you slightly, when you reach a mile, write down your time. Slow down, cool off for a minute and move to the next exercise. I would suggest keeping things simple at first, find out what you can comfortably squat, deadlift, bench and standing military press for sets of 6-8 reps. Why these exercise’s? These will help you with overall usable strength, target the most muscles, help you quickly evaluate your weaknesses and strengths while allowing you to burn fat, build muscle and tonality.
Avoid all the other equipment, learn these 4 basic weight lifting exercises (have a trainer spot you and critique you if one is available if you have any concerns about your form and or safety.) Log your results for the mile, the squat, the deadlift, the bench and the military press. Now, figure out whether you are going to be able to get to the gym, 3,4 or 5 times a week, be realistic on this. For your next workout, log the same exercises, number of reps, weight, note whether you found it easier or more comfortable. DO NOT make any judgements based on your results here, this is a baseline, this is the starting point, not the end.
Discipline. Getting in the habit is going to be your biggest hurdle. Your first task? Show up for 3-4 weeks. Do your workout even if you have had a bad day, even if you are tired, even if your head hurts, just SHOW UP.
Remind yourself every time you start to make an excuse, that this is for you, this is to get to where YOU want to go and that every time you give into that excuse you are delaying your own gratification and sense of accomplishment. Getting into, or back into, the habit of working out is going to be the first big hurdle and possibly the hardest part of starting the fitness lifestyle, the results will be worth it, you just have to stick it out! Before your goals, you have to get in the habit and discipline of simply showing up.
Done that? Now look at your log. After 3-4 weeks you should know where you stand on these 5 exercises, which ones you’re strong on, and which ones you’re weak on. Based on your log, write out a series of short, ultra-realistic goals, the first one might even be just keep showing up. Keep them achievable though, adding 5lbs to your bench, taking 30 seconds off your mile time. After another month it’s time to re-evaluate based on your 2 months log and set some new goals along with a long time goal.
Your new short term goals might be: keep losing 5 lbs per month, add 20 lbs. to Squat while your new Long-term goal is Losing 60 lbs. (or put it in dress, shirt/pants sizes) over 12 months. At this time you might want to add to your workout now that you are in the habit of working out.
Continue logging your workouts, lastly, with every workout start with the exercise you are weakest on and or the one you want to make the most improvement on. This lets you focus all your energy on improvements before moving to the movements you are not as concerned about.
Motivation is why we do this, what are you trying to achieve? What will your reward be? Things you can use to keep the motivation flowing include everything from magazine clippings of that body type you are trying to achieve, motivational quotes, inspirational podcasts or cd’s, find what inspires you and surround yourself with it. When you feel like you are slipping or losing interest, go over it, look for more inspiration or motivation, use your discipline and feed that motivation.
So what do I use to motivate or inspire myself to get to the gym 8-10 times a week even when I don’t feel like it?
Fearless Motivation — A set of inspirational speeches available on Spotify, some gym specific, others just plain life lessons.
Jocko Willink — Silver star recipient, former Navy Seal, author and motivational speaker. I highly recommend Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual 1 & 2 along with Psychological Warfare available on Spotify-
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding — This book is the Holy Grail for all the basic exercise’s even if you are not intent on bodybuilding, well-illustrated and concisely written.
Demi Bagby — A CrossFit athlete and bodybuilder who overcame breaking her back and being paralyzed for 3 months and is now an internet sensation inspiring others to overcome their obstacles. A little more about her at https://www.greatestphysiques.com/female-physiques/demi-bagby/.
“I’ve always wanted to spread a positive impact on the world of what being active and healthy can really do. It may be simple, but that does not mean that it’s easy. Allow your passion to become your purpose and truly love and be grateful for the life you live”. –Demi Bagby
Lastly, I also resort to self-bribery. For my long term goal of getting down to 10% bodyfat and a 29″ waist I have been putting money aside to have a tailored suit made, something I have wanted to do for years. This gives me a clear goal outside of the gym.
The Sanity Run (Rod Trent)
Professionally, Rod Trent is a PFE/STA for Microsoft, focusing on Azure Identity and Governance and EMS. Privately, Rod is dedicated to fitness through diet, running, and other activities, but also a TV and movie junkie. You can find Rod active on Twitter (http://twitter.com/rodtrent) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/rodtrent/).
I started regularly running for health a multitude of years ago now. I’ve always had the ability to run well, but wasn’t until around 2015 when I began a trek to become truly “healthy” that I realized just how much my particular body type reacted to running. Initially — for me — running was all about improving stamina, heart rate, blood flow, and getting to a trim and fit weight.
But, over the years, I’ve learned that running delivers so much more. Running, to me, has become very therapeutic. Because of my runs, I rarely have a bad day — but recently, I was feeling overwhelmed with work. It was one of those moments you’re probably familiar with, where you have so much to do against defined timelines and have no clue exactly where to start. I had already had my run for the day, but guess what? I can always run.
Sometimes running seems to become just a chore and nothing more than a habit. I get my run in for the day and I’m done. But, it’s days like this example that make me truly realize how much I really love to run. I don’t reach for food, drink, or any other common fake panacea — instead, I just run. In this instance, I don’t need a mile count, I don’t need a song in my ear for pacing, nor do I need a fitness tracker to push me to my limits. I just need to run — free and unhindered. And, through the run I’m able to clear my mind, gather my thoughts, and create a plan of action.
When I returned to the same work that day, it looked different. It was still just as massive, but the run had freed me from its dark hold.
When’s the last time you unhooked completely and just enjoyed the run? Take off the headphones, stop the music or audio book, disengage your tracking device, and just listen and feel the run. Let the breeze and the morning sun bring you to life or follow the cricket chirps and track the starlit sky with your eyes.
The Sanity Run. It’s an awesome tool to have in your mental health toolkit.
CrossFit: Why the big deal? (Mark Nichols)
Mark Nichols is an IT professional that got started with VMS in 1984 and is now a Sales Engineer for a Global IT Software company and a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer with his local box.
When I took the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Course, one of the first questions they asked the class was “what is your definition of CrossFit”? My quick answer was, “it’s a CULT,” which was good for a few laughs. The official definition is “Constantly varied functional movement done at high intensity.” This formula is so powerful that it has revolutionized the fitness industry, created thousands of jobs, and changed the lives of thousands of people every year.
But why is that so powerful? Part of the answer is in how it relates to the way humans work. According to Tony Robbins, the six core needs of well-being for humans are
And if something fulfills 3 of 6 on this list, you can create addiction (see, I knew it, we are a cult J )
Certainty can be related to the knowledge that a particular activity brings pleasure or allows us to avoid pain. While it may seem that CrossFitters revel in pain with certainty, the other side of the coin is that we experience great pleasure in being able to push ourselves to achieve a goal (finish the workout and live to tell about it) AND the increases in performance as we work are incredibly satisfying. If you do the work, you can be sure that you will see the results.
The definition of CrossFit includes variety. Every day is a new workout, a new challenge, an opportunity to grow, and the chance to try some unique combination of movements. If you get bored, you are doing it wrong.
Significance may seem a reach in this context, but let me explain. I am enthusiastic about life because I love my family, my friends, and we live in a fascinating world with so much to explore. Being a healthy version of myself means I get to experience life at its fullest. It means I can go on a hike with my wife, play softball with my son, or play a game of pick-up football with my grandkids. I know I am significant in their life as much as they are in mine it is made possible by taking care of my health.
Connection almost goes without saying. I felt alone in a crowd when I went to a Globo-gym. People walked around with headphones trying to tune out the world and avoid eye contact at all cost. The most I ever got was “are you through with that bar,” or the occasional solicitation from a trainer looking to sign me up for personal coaching. The culture of CrossFit demands that you get to know each other. Members introduce themselves to new visitors at the gym, and they ask how you are doing. If you want, you can remain isolated and get a good workout, but if you have any desire to build relationships, it’s easy!
Growth comes in so many areas of CrossFit. We get stronger physically, mentally, and in our relationships within the community. I’ve grown in the amount of weight I can deadlift, squat, and press and I have improved my 400 meter time. I’ve gained mental strength because I know I can face tough challenges and thrive. I am a better person because I hang out with people who are working to be the best version of themselves. They are inspiring and full of grace for where I’m at in my journey, but they push me not to give up, and I need the support.
And finally, CrossFitters are continually looking for ways to give back to their community. It is part of who they are and contributing as a group to a local cause multiplies the impact a single individual can make.
So maybe we are a cult, but I am super happy to be in it, and I hope you join me!
Addressing chronic pain issues for active IT Pros (Kris Lall)
Kris Lall works as a product manager in the tech industry for an enterprise software manufacturer. As a youngster, Kris was consumed with soccer before technology came along. Now he’s consumed with both. You can find him on Twitter at the not-too-surprising handle @krisoccer.
As we IT professionals age, it’s perfectly natural to experience aches and pains — and in many cases, chronic pain. Sometimes the pain is due to a prior injury when we thought it was a good idea to “make that jump” on our bike or go on a long hike with no training. Other times, the source of pain is unknown, but very real (although I suppose even if it’s “imaginary”, it still hurts!).
I’ve had a few friends, sports teammates, and business colleagues tell me that they are now taking CBD oil to battle their pain and in many cases claim CBD is effective. Cannabidiol (CBD) comes from the cannabis plant and purportedly has several positive health qualities for humans. CBD is the less controversial side of the two well-known cannabis extracts, while THC is the more so.
Unlike CDB, THC is the chemical in cannabis that has a psychoactive effect on people (makes you high). Hence, if you don’t like the side effects of marijuana (and hence THC), you can be comfortable trying CBD oil. Since marijuana/hemp/cannabis products are not yet legal in many geographic locations, proceed with a bit of caution in regards to which pain treatments you experiment with, as being hauled off to jail has mostly negative health effects!
I have been taking CBD oil for a few months now for ongoing pain issues with my foot and shoulder. For me the jury is still out. I still feel pain, but usually it’s immediately after participating in physical activities, like soccer, running, throwing the football, hiking, and biking. And it does seem as though my pain has been going away faster following any physical activity and has been lessened overall.
Let’s face it. Active IT pros are going to face pain issues at some point. Many pain relief solutions either don’t work for everybody or are unproven. CBD oil is a new pain relief solution with potential. Which begs the question — Will CBD oil turn out to be a true pain relief phenomenon or just another snake oil medicine? Feel free to share your experiences with CBD by sending email to [email protected].
Hey, IT nerds! How’s your health? (Brian Dougal)
Brian Dougal is an IT manager for Powder River Development, a father of five, a blitz-hobbyist, a table-top role player, and a health coach for the OptaVia Health Program. You can also find Brian on Instagram @dougalhealth.
First, I’d like to thank Mitch for the opportunity to participate in Fit IT Pros Newsletter. I’ll do my best to provide content helpful to our readership.
For me, Health isn’t just about weight loss. Optimal health is about six key areas of our lives that give us the best chance of success: Weight management, eating and hydration, motion, sleep, mind, and surroundings. It is important to find balance in these areas.
I’d like to begin this series with a few questions to help us identify where we are with our health in most of these areas. This will help us to better understand what we need to work on for our optimal health:
1. What is your waist circumference?
According to Harvard Medical School, the official landmark for placing the tape measure is slightly above the hip bone at the level of your belly button, not just your pants size.
Men should be looking for a waist circumference of less than 37 inches, greater than that is where the health risks begin, and over 40 inches is considered high risk and unhealthy; women should be looking at less than 33 inches. For women, a waist size greater than 33 inches is where the health risks begin, and greater than 35 is considered high risk and unhealthy.
2. Do you make your lunches at home or buy them at a fast food place?
Fast food is full of carbohydrates, preservatives, and sugar, and while it doesn’t hurt to eat out occasionally, grabbing a burger, fries, and a shake from the hamburger joint on the corner every day for lunch can quickly lead to dangerous health.
3. Do you have any health issues related to weight or food, such as diabetes, hypo-thyroid, food allergies, etc.?
Being aware of obstacles in your health will help you to properly develop a plan to overcome those obstacles. Dietary requirements are important to take into consideration for optimal health.
Studies have shown that adding 16 ounces of water at meals helped people lose an additional 5 pounds over a year. That may not be much on the front end, but water is important. I recommend drinking about 100oz of water every day. Just grab a 32oz water bottle and fill it 3 times. That’s close. No, the water in your coffee and soda doesn’t count.
5. How much exercise do you get in a week? Remember to include sustained walks, flights of stairs, steps on your activity tracker or cell phone.
At least a 20-30 minutes walking each day, at lunch or on your breaks is the minimum you want to be doing. It’s a fact that studies show smokers that walk down the stairs and around the corner of the building are healthier than non-smokers that don’t go anywhere, so every little bit helps.
6. How much sleep do you get at night?
Adults age 18 to 64 should get 7-9 hours per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And if you can, if you’re heavy and snore, have a sleep study done and get a c-pap. Changed my life, I love it so much.
7. On a scale of 1-10, where is your stress level? On a scale of 1-10, where is your energy level?
Stress and energy play a big role in our health. People under heavy stress are more likely to get sick or have other health problems. Look at the areas in your life that cause you stress and consider revising them.
If your energy levels are low, consider the food that you use to fuel your body. Finding healthier choices doesn’t sound like fun, but most weight loss is food related.
8. What do you want to accomplish?
What is your WHY? Why are you thinking about getting healthy? Is it your spouse? Your kids? A recent heart attack or scare? What is it that is making the pain of being unhealthy more than the pain of getting healthy? Find your why and let it be your motivation to keep at it.
In future articles we will dive deeper into each of these areas of life to talk about some things you can implement in your life to work towards optimal health.
Send us your feedback!
Got feedback about anything in this issue of FitITproNews? Email us at [email protected]
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” –Henry Ford
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