Get Outside

By Paul Hunter


Fitness goals typically accelerate when spring weather arrives, so as the air warms and the sun shines longer, head outdoors for some fitness fun.  Opportunity for fitness avails itself everywhere, you just have to be willing to notice the opportunities and get up and go!
Sidewalks are a great place to start if the couch has been too good of a friend.  Walking with a companion or listening to your favorite tunes or audio book is a great way to enjoy the spring weather.  Pay attention to your stride, your pace, and your foot placement.  Squeeze the glutes, stand tall, and tilt those hips for a straighter spine so you can lead each step with a powerful core.  After a couple of weeks, add a little circuit training and dynamic stretching to the walk by including walking prisoner lunges (holding your hand behind you head while you progress into a lunge), high knee forward steps (like running with high knees but, you are walking while maintaining your balance), walking while kicking your heel back to your glutes (rear-end) and a quick jog.  Try 5-10 reps per side of each exercise every 2-3 minutes.  Within 2-3 weeks you’ll be feeling stronger with more energy and can continue to pick up the pace as you gain joint and cardiovascular strength. 
Beach days don’t have to be about a chair, an umbrella, and a nap.  Now that you’re feeling stronger, challenge yourself with a 10 minute walk and lung combination in the deep sand.  Add upper body conditioning by digging a hole with the kids, or building a sand castle…and make sure you are the one carting the buckets of water back and forth.  When the water warms and you find your self waist high in the Gulf, try your own version of Water Aerobics.  Stand on one leg and swing the other forward and backward using the water resistance for both balance and power.  Do the same with your hands as you paddle you hands forward and backward.  Finally, try something new.  Stand up paddle boarding has become very accessible at our beaches.  Beach services along the coast rent boards, so when the water is flat, grab a board and discover the benefits of fitness when you realize that the little bit of work you’ve put into yourself translates into a whole new world of activities.  
Bike and hiking trails are plentiful in our area and a great way to add to your outdoor experience away from the sandy beaches.  Load up the family or invite a friend, and remember to pack a lunch, water and the binoculars to take full advantage of the benefits and enjoyment of being outdoors.
Bike and hiking trails are plentiful in our area and a great way to add to your outdoor experience away from the sandy beaches.  Whether an experienced hiker or a newbie to venturing out, search for websites like funforemeraldcoastkids.com to find and enjoy new trails. Load up the family or invite a friend, and remember to pack a lunch, water and the binoculars to take full advantage of the benefits and enjoyment of being outdoors.
Staying active is a key ingredient to staying young.  Fitness is a lifestyle that allows you to live stronger.  So accelerate your activity everyday and enjoy the warm air and sunshine in a whole new way.

Make it a great day!

New Year New You

By Paul Hunter

Happy New Year!  I am sure many of you have set a resolution to lose weight, eat better or simply lead a better life.  Resolutions that come to mind easily are made and quickly forgotten as we get on with our daily lives after the holidays.  Statistics show that after six months, half of us who have set resolutions have stuck with them.  After a year, 90% have fallen off the wagon, leaving 10% who have stuck with their resolutions for change.   Seems like the odds are against us.  Change is difficult, and as I heard someone once say, “The only person who likes change is a baby.”  

We are posed with many opportunities to forget about the changes we resolved to make or solidify these changes a little at a time.  Change is difficult for many reasons and we all have a variety of reasons why it is difficult for us.  What got each of us to this stage of our lives are our habits, habits that are now deeply engrained in who we are.  Let’s take a look at some common obstacles to our success and ways to overcome them.

Our engrained daily routines.   As we go to bed December 31st or early January 1st, we have our resolutions and the best intentions.  We wake up to the kids crying and needing to make breakfast.  The Franklin-Covey Institute recommends spending at least 15 minutes in “planning and solitude” the day before.  Why?   By the time tomorrow comes, it is too late.  The day’s events have taken over us and we react to them.  You may have to get up earlier, go to bed later.  Prepare the day before to make the next day easier.  Invest those recommended 15 minutes to plan what lies ahead when you are the most hopeful.

It’s not all or nothing.  Ate a “no-no” piece of cake or missed a workout?  Learn or figure out why you did it, and move on.  Our goals may be set in stone, but our plans should be set in sand because our days ebb and tide and we need to allow ourselves the ability to make adjustments.   Keep your sight on the prize and learn from the obstacles.

No support system.  Our parents told us we would become who we surrounded ourselves with.  These people take the shape of encouragers or nay-sayers.  Those who know the road to change is difficult and root us on, especially when things get tough or temptation is at its highest, are the people we need around us when change is our agenda.  

We let our history control our destiny.  Quite often when charting our course going forward, we inevitably look backward to see how we have done.  Frequently it is our unsuccessful moments that stand out and thus set the stage for our future.  The good news as mentioned earlier is that we can create a new tomorrow when we take time for planning and solitude.

Not keeping goals fresh and in front view.  When we keep our goals in front of us, we are able to chart our course according to them.  I remember, when learning to drive, I was taught to keep my eyes on the horizon, NOT the hood ornament.  Our daily tasks become the hood ornament while our daily goals become our horizon we strive for continually. I also learned what the windshield wipers were for.  Without them, I couldn’t see the horizon, where I am going.   Our daily planning becomes our windshield wipers helping clear our vision for the things we ought to do to get us where we set out to go.

Fear of success.  This sounds a little odd, doesn’t it?  Success is scary because it requires something of us.  With the new success comes change, responsibilities and expectations.  If you have made it far enough to want to change, you are ready for the change.   Embrace it and look forward to it:  You deserve the rewards of your newfound success.

No, change is not easy because it requires something different from us.  If it didn’t, we wouldn't have to change.  Then we’d be where we are right now, only wanting to change.  Set resolutions and change:  for the better, for others and for ourselves.

Vision for the Holidays

By Paul Hunter


Tis the season for celebration, eating and drinking.  It also seems to be the season for letting loose and forgetting about all the hard work you set out to do for your New Year’s resolutions this year.  How did that go?  If you are like 97% of the population, 1) you’re not alone, and 2) you’re not where you’d like to be.  I have found a large majority of people “just want to get through the holidays” and then they’ll get down to it.  I challenge you to get a head start now.  Sure!  Begin your resolutions/goals now before the obstacles get a hold of you.

A client recently shared with me that on one of the popular weight loss reality shows, each participant was offered to eat six giant cupcakes, which provided that participant the opportunity to choose someone from the other team to leave the show.  The people who chose to eat the cupcakes were also the ones who had to weigh in, thus responsible for losing weight for the team.  These people had to choose between maintaining their vision of their goal or something that would derail them from their goals and vision.

Many of us have found ourselves in this position whether it is with food and weight loss, time on the Internet or watching television and getting things done, working and not going home. Hmm, French fries or the fruit cup?  Whatever it is, life is full of obstacles and objections to what we want out of life.  It is in the quiet moments that the changing decisions are made.

The trick to success, if there is one, is to understand what you want and want it bad enough that you are able to forgo those things that will hinder you from obtaining what you set out to do in the first place.

Goal setting in and of itself can be an art.  We must know what we want and put it on paper, not just in our heads.  Ask most people and they’ll mention they know what they want and it’s right in their heads.  Until we write the goals down, they never seem to materialize.    Ever heard of S.M.A.R.T. Goals?  These are goals that are (S)pecific, (M)easurable, (A)chievable, (R)elevant and (T)ime-Oriented.  When you find something you want, write your goal in such a way that it covers all elements of a S.M.A.R.T. Goal and you’ll be one step closer to success.  

Once you know what you want and have written it in such a way, you must keep it in front of you.  Reading through your list of goals at every meal will help.  Pictures will help, too.  Peruse through magazines and find pictures of things you want, cut them out and make a book to look through.  I recently read about a woman who did this and, when she moved into her new home, had a friend gasp as she looked through this woman’s “goal-book” and saw pictures of rooms set up the same way as the ones in her new home, including paint colors and furniture.  This woman knew what she wanted and kept it in front of her.

Two months from now, people will be asking what your New Year’s resolutions are.  Do you wait until Christmas to think about such things?  “Oh, what will I wish for this next year?”  Mom told me, “If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.”   This next year, you have the opportunity to make it your best year yet.  Think about how many actual years old you are and all the knowledge and wisdom you have collected, and put it to good use this next year.  

I warn you to not look back and think of what might have been.  Rather, look head and work towards what will become and Make it a Phenomenal Year!

6 Biggest Mistakes When Starting an Exercise Program

By Paul Hunter

The 6 Biggest Mistakes when Starting an Exercise Program

It is warming up, people are shedding their thicker clothes and you have decided now is the time to make a change in yourself and your body.  You may have heard, “If you always do what you have always done, then you will always get what you have always gotten.”  True, however, I’d like to add a little caveat:  “If you always do what you always done, you will get less results than if you had begun to do more sooner.”  Why?  Because as time passes, we get further from our goals both physically and mentally.  We add an extra pound here, pick up an unhealthy habit there - all things that can take us away from our intended goals.

When we venture to make a change in our lives, we need to make a change in our lives and quite often there is more than one.  Activity, nutrition, rest, thoughts - they all play a key role in our success, whatever we do.  Quite often we find ourselves way out of balance and thus not looking, performing or feeling the way we’d like.  Let’s take a look at 6 things that can keep us from achieving all that we hope we can be.

  1. Not setting attainable goals: Here people set out to accomplish the impossible. I hear, “I need to lose 30 lbs this week because my sister is getting married.” Or, “My 20-year high school reunion is in two weeks and I want sculpted arms.” Even the American College of Sports Medicine has a standard set that our bodies can healthily lose 1-2 lbs per week. More than that and research has shown it’s mostly water if not muscle mass. Frequently I’ll measure someone’s body composition and explain the difference between lean mass and fat weight. Simply, lean mass is you, bones, muscle and organs. Now why would you want to lose any of THAT?! Take it easy and keep reading.

  2. Starting too fast, going too hard: It’s “An apple a day that keeps the doctor away,” not “Seven apples on Saturday.” You’ve now set your realistic goals, right? You plan to continue this “healthy new you” program for a long time, right? If your body has been dormant for some time, you need to remember your brain may be strong but the tissue connecting your muscles, bones and joints together may not be so strong. It takes time for your tendons and ligaments to gain strength, and with a safe and effective program it will happen. Rome was NOT built in a day but it continues to stand.

  3. Not fueling the body while starting a “diet:” “I need to go on a diet” may be one of the most-often uttered phrases in the English language. Something happens when someone begins a diet. They eat nothing but what the book or magazine says, thus cutting out all snacks, extra food, et cetera. All sounds great until the body is not receiving what it needs to function at its optimum and the dieter commonly “snaps” and fills it with very familiar snacks. Remember, we are looking to “be changed” two years from now and not have sprung back to our original shape. Make consistent changes in the right direction, and your chance of success will improve.

  4. Not getting some expert instruction: If you study the people at the top of their game, you’ll find there is a coach or trainer working with them to guide them along the finer points for better results. No time? No money? It’s an investment in yourself and the knowledge goes a long way. A trainer should actually be a time manager for you; the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

  5. Giving up too soon: It may feel like only yesterday that you were in shape or had the shape you wanted, but you didn’t actually get here overnight. If you have set the right goals, not started out too fast and received some expert instruction, your goals will be closer than you think. Do not grow weary in doing the right things.

  6. Not starting at all because you see the hill and not the view from the top: The view from the top is rewarding, and you’ll find that the majority would rather complain or make excuses about the trip “they want to take or could have taken if only...” The daily changes, the effort, the discipline, the view. It’s all worth it and so are you. You’ll be surprised at what you can become if only you stop trying to steer the “parked car” and get moving.

Make it a Great Day!


You Should be Dancing!

By Paul Hunter

New year, new goals, right?  How do you choose your goals?  Often in the new year, we focus on the physical aspects of our lives.  Why not enhance your goals with learning a new skill, causing a positive impact on your brain as well?  Having graduated from a college whose main focus is the holistic balance between spirit, mind and body, I rather like this idea.

As we age, our brains trend towards processing more slowly, meaning how rapidly our brains are able to absorb, assess and respond to new information slows down.  If you are over 40 and reading this, it may be taking you longer to process the world around you.  What causes this slowdown has been shown to be a naturally occurring “fraying” of our brain’s wiring or “white matter.”  Is this degeneration avoidable or reversible?  Maybe, with the right stimulus.

There is some good news.  Earlier this year, there was a study performed by a group of researchers from the University of Illinois, et. al. that explored the link between physical activity and neurological benefits.  What they found was we may not be doing enough of the best things.   

Eating well:        check

Drinking water:        check

Walking:         check

Weight Training:    check

Social Dancing:        wait, what?

One hundred seventy-four healthy people in their 60s and 70s with no cognitive impairments were recruited to participate in a study whereby they were brought through a series of initial tests to establish a baseline.  This baseline testing included markers and university lab testing involving a sophisticated brain scan MRI, processing speeds, aerobic capacity and mental capacities.  

They were then randomly divided into three groups:

1.    Supervised brisk walking program involving 1 hour of walking 3 times weekly

2.    Gentle stretching and balancing 3 times weekly

3.    The “Learn to Dance” group.  Progressively more difficult and intricate country-dance choreography for 1 hour 3 times weekly.

After six months, the same brain scans and testing from the beginning were repeated.  So, what did they discover?  Not surprisingly, there was continued thinning of the size and numbers of connections between the neurons in the brain (“white matter degeneration”), subtle, but there, most notably in the oldest volunteers.  

Wait… What is this?  Compared to testing six months prior, in one group there was some actual improvement in areas of the brain containing the white matter.  The DANCING group showed an increased density of their white matter, even showing improvements in cognitive performance. 

What is the takeaway from this?  Get moving and challenge yourself physically AND mentally.  Social dancing places physical demands and encourages social interaction that can improve our daily functioning.  Dr. Burzynska, the study’s lead author and professor of human development and neuroscience from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado states “any activities involving moving and socializing” might spruce up mental abilities in our brains as we age.  She also found that those who came into the study already exercising showed the least decline in their white matter.

Whether this pertains to you or a loved one and you have or have not been “exercising,” it is never too late to start or encourage those around you to do so.  Most people know where the local gym is, but how about dancing opportunities?  A quick internet search for “dancing instruction near me” brings up over 10 locations for fun and learning the art of dance.  

Personally, my wife and I have been attending Fred Astaire in Fort Walton Beach for over a year now and I although we have more than a decade to reach our 60s, I can attest to the benefits of participating in ballroom dancing.  Overall, there has been improvements in the area of reaction times, balance, learning and coordination.  I have noticed it is not just the learning of the dance moves, style or techniques, but the social interaction of dancing with the group that has benefitted not just me but the other participants.  

Get out, get moving and…

Make it a Great Day!