Employee Health, Does It Matter

Are you an employer?  Do you know how much money you lose when an employee is absent?  Are you an employee?  Do you know how much your pocketbook is effected by your co-worker’s unhealthy habits? It is interesting to watch the debates unfold – Employer or Dictator?  Employee rights or Employer overhead?  Obesity is a big player in a company’s bottom line.

A few years ago headlines were made when workers were fired for chosing to continue smoking.  Recently, another company decided to test employees for tobacco use and fired those who would not comply.  Many employers admit they do not want to hire obese people because they know they will cost more in health care.  Other employers pay obese people less or charge them more for health care coverage. None of this is considered discrimination at this time and the debate rages: Is it?

Many employers have a very good argument. It costs an average of $660 per un-planned employee absence not to mention extra work for other employees which may result in lower morale, co-worker resentment, and a less productive work enviornemtn. A survey done by CCH, Incorporated found that personal illness was the single most common reason for last minute no-shows. According to Watson Wyatt Worldwide, employees who have a chronic or castastrophic illness account for the majority of health care costs for employers and healthy employees accounted for only eleven percent. This is important because many of our most debilitating diseases are linked closely with obesity and lifestyle choice. The costs of obesity continue to rise and in the face of a broken health care system employers are taking note and analyzing data to protect the bottom line.

Smoking is another lifestyle choice employers are beginning to regulate. More employers are beginning to look seriously at smoking and their employees.Wisconsin businesses lose $1.4 billion in worker productivity each year due to sickness and premature death caused by smoking, this according to the UW-extention program. On average, smokers miss 6.16 days of work per year where their non-smoking cohorts only miss 3.86. Not to mention longer and more frequent breaks taken by smokers. Although, smoke breaks are largely accepted in our work culture exercise breaks are seen as mis-use of company time even when research backs increased productivity, decreased absenteesim, and better morale all contriburting positive results to the bottom line.

Employers are finding positive results with employee wellness programs. Encouraging employees to adopt healthy habits is working. Employee fitness programs & and smoking cessation efforts help. Both contribute to the bottom line by decreasing employee absence and increasing employee productivity. As employees adopt better eating habits their concentration improves and again the company benefits. Although, it is well documented, many employers continue to react to employee health problems rather than take a proactive stance and support employees in healthy lifestyle changes.

As employers continue to try and curb expenses to compete in amerioca’s marketplace you can bet they will continue to pay close attention to employee lifestlye habits as they affect absence rates, productivity, and employee morale. The debate will continue to rage over obesity and lifestyle and employees will continue to be affected both tangibly and intangilbly by their co-workers un-healthy habits. It is time to look around your office, is the place you spend the majority of your concetration and time contributing to your health?

Planning Home Workouts

Have you begun to move your workouts indoors?  I know this has been the theme lately, but it is important you plan for seasons if you are going to be sucmcessful this year.

Many clients are able to workout at home, but are unsure of where to start. They buy some hand weights, maybe a video, and if they are really brave go for the infomercial special, which is often later used as a clothes rack. How can you avoid adding to your dust collection?  In a word – planning.

It is much easier for most to create an effective strength training routine at home. It can be done on a limited budget, and can be accomplished in a short amount of time. Here are the things to consider when purchasing strength training equipment for home. First, what is your goal? Are you trying to build mass or lose weight? Are you trying to maintain? Is this equipment just for emergency use on those days where getting to the gym is not possible, or is this going to be your only source of strength training? These answers will direct your purchases. If you are looking for emergency use equipment, you can get by with little or no equipment depending on your program. This is where a professional can be very handy. A good personal trainer will help you design your program around your environment and make sure you are able to meet your goals. What a great Christmas present idea, one or two sessions can keep you focused. If you have equipment handy you will have no reason to miss a workout, however if you are using your home equipment just for emergency days you’ll want to make sure you have a good plan of action on non-emergency ones because you may not have enough to be effective over a long period of time.

Are you looking to do the majority of strength training at home? This can be a wonderful way to incorporate fitness into your life. It is a great way to role model healthy living for your children, and make fitness a family priority. Although, my children do not get to use my weights, they do workout with me using the same movements and many they create as they hop from step to step, mimic me, and learn about their own bodies. They are excited and interested in movement and habits formed early have a better chance of hanging on. Remember, the biggest factor in childhood obesity is parents. Help your children fight obesity – its never too late to start.

If you decide to strength train at home consider your current level of strength. How much can you easily lift now? Again, your goals are going to be important because they will dictate the progression of exercise, which will dictate how many weights you’ll need and how heavy they should be. What kind of space will you be able to dedicate to your workouts? Do you have room for a bench or ball? Do you have storage for different sized dumbbells? Will you dig equipment out of a closet or from under a bed to actually complete a workout? This is the big question! Will you do the workout? Once you know the answer to these questions you can begin to create space and build your equipment choices for your complete home strength workout.

As you begin to contemplate your goals for health look closely at your choices. There are many options for your fitness. You just have to be willing to move!

Find Support to Reach Your Fitness Dreams

Have you ever had this experience:  You are on top of the world, flying high on your excitement and new found dreams, only to have someone close to you squash it? It may be a look or comment.  Maybe its a person whose opinion is held so dear to your heart that it devastated you to get that look or comment, and squashed your spirit.

Well, get it back.  When trying to form a new lifestyle it is important to go after your dreams.  Some dreams may be weird, or hard, or nearly impossible, and those that know you best, know it will be a rough, if not, wild ride before you are done, but do it anyway, and for god’s sake quit listening to them! I am not suggesting you quit your day job, move to a faraway land, and forgo all responsibility in lue of leading a life full of your true calling, but if you’ve done your homework, making a change is going to be hard and those you may expect to support you the most may be the ones to avoid.

For many watching a loved one approach a goal we have seen them attempt and fail at multiple times – translation: we are picking up the pieces of their ruined self-confidence – can be rough and exhausting. Even when we try to be supportive it may not be genuine because we feel we know what the end result will be. For some it is painful to watch a loved one reach toward a goal we ourselves hold close and continually fail at, especially if our loved one is making it where we fell flat. Are these fair assessments? Maybe, maybe not, but is it our choice to make? NO.

If you are dealing with a friend or family member who is working hard toward a goal and failing, or if you are the friend who continually tries, but are having trouble getting it off the ground over and over, take note. Failing is reaching for success. You cannot succeed without failing somewhere along the line. If you are not failing once and a while you are stuck in a rut. I grew-up water skiing, as I got older I did not want to fall; I felt it was how I would be measured as a person. Well, luckily I figured it out – if I didn’t fall I wasn’t pushing the envelope, and if I wasn’t pushing my skills I wouldn’t get better. Basically, I got bored. I learned the harder and more crazy I wiped out the better my skills got, the more bumps I could take, and the less the small stuff mattered. Life is like that. The more you live, the more the small things won’t derail you from the goal.

Let’s put this into a fitness perspective. For example: I am looking to lose a few pounds. I have been for ten years. I continually have joined gyms, tried walking on my own, and new diets, but I never could keep them up. Finally, exhausted I gave up for a term and am now ready to begin again, sound familiar? If you look back through your history of trying, do you find that you got further each time. Progress is not always measured in pounds, weeks or calories, but look at whether the same issues derailed your efforts. Maybe in the beginning if I didn’t strictly follow my diet I was done for the week or day, which over the long haul derailed my entire goal. Or if I skipped a workout, I was so guilty I would overeat at lunch and dinner before snacking from the vending machine and a pint of ice cream. Next time I attempted my weight loss I didn’t let a missed workout or off meal ruin my confidence, but I let my schedule take me down. The third time, I figured out my schedule, but I let my fear of gyms dictate which direction I would go and I got bored and then it snowed. See how this works? Each time I got better at dealing with issues, but a new one popped up; until I finally put my fitness first no matter what, because I finally understand how important it was to me…no matter what.

By repeating an activity even if it seems we are not reaching our goals, we are creating pathways in the brain that reinforce our goal. These pathways become stronger the more they are used and soon it does not seem hard to use them at all. It seems normal. Each time we attempt to break an old habit and make it longer than we did before; we build a stronger connection to the new habit and break down the pathway to the old, which leads to leaving the old habit behind.

Today look back and take stock of the failures you’ve had. Can you see a pattern? Can you see progress (remember to look at the big picture)? Can you see where you may need work? If these questions seem daunting, hire a professional to help you sort through your ideas. Once you’ve got your track record you can limit your obstacles based on past experience, draw new confidence based on what you have been able to overcome, and begin again armed and ready when your best buddy rolls their eyes and exclaims, “Not again!”

Indoor Interval Workouts

One of the biggest problems my clients face when choosing to move workouts indoors without cardiovascular equipment is keeping their heart rates up over a period of time.  At home they get bored easily and in other locations they may not be able to move fast enough long enough to really be effective. An easy way to reach your cardiovascular workout goals, keep from getting bored, and fit your routine inside is interval training.

In addition to cardio work, interval training can be strength training as well, giving you two workouts in one, as in the case of a super circuit routine. The trick is to watch your heart rate and set enough cardiovascular stations in between your strength moves to keep your heart rate up appropriately. It is not advisable that you lift the weight much faster than two to four seconds up, pause, and lower at the same rate. Lifting faster can increase your risk of injury and is likely to create an element of physics rather than your muscle in the movement. You could lift slower which challenges your muscle and mental focus differently and may be effective if you can maintain your elevated heart rate with enough cardiovascular stations.

When deciding how to move cardiovascular work inside it is important to consider your budget, what if any equipment you may need, the location you wish to workout in, your safety, and if you can realistically reach your cardiovascular needs in the new location. How will you retain your motivation as the activity becomes repetitive, and will you continue to push yourself as you become accustomed to the activities? Will you do a form of interval training, if so where and how will you get it done? Get creative – there are many options in our community for becoming active, even in the darkness of winter which is approaching, even if slowly.

What to Do When You’ve Got A Minute

Many of get strapped for time sometimes. This doesn’t mean you have to leave your fitness behind. A few well placed exercises throughout your day can help keep you on track and keep you energized through your crazy schedule.

1) Do a few sets of squats. Add some external weight by holding canned goods, water bottles, or other things lying around you can hold and which add more weight to your frame.

2) Run stairs – in the office, in the park, around town, at home – where ever you can find them – run them.

3) Park and ride (a bike), walk, run, skate a portion of your commute

Track your movement everyday:

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4) Do step-ups – using a sturdy bench, chair, or step step up and down as though your were participating in a step class or doing a strength training exercise – see #1 for overloading

5) Carry a kid – don’t have one of your own – borrow one. Playing with your kids (or someone’s) can add fun and creativity into your busy day and get you quality time with a child who needs you.

When you’ve got more than a minute try this routine:

10 Ways to Handle Office Donuts

 Many of our health sabotagers are the folks we work with. Damn those office mates! Most are well meaning. They are trying to be the good one bringing everyone Friday donuts or lunch meeting cookies and pop. However, when we are trying stay on fitness track having those extra calories around can be pretty devastating. How do you handle those well meaning office diet sabotagers?

1) Be pro active – you bring the snacks

2) Post a healthy snack list around the office – hit all the major bulletin boards when no one is looking – somebody is bound to notice.

3) Enlist co-workers in a weight-loss or other fitness challenge – then you are all working toward the same goal

4) Keep healthy snacks in your desk drawers – make ’em good and tasty otherwise you are bound to reach for the sweet treats!

5) Tactfully ask the person responsible for the breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner meeting food to include some healthy treats – be ready with #1 when they ask what types of foods you are looking for.

6) Propose an office wide policy to serve healthy options – people are more productive when they’ve eating something healthy than when they’ve carbo loaded on empty calories and sugar.

7) Ask your boss to sponsor workout incentives – people who workout are more likely to seek out healthy food choices. Bonus for the Boss – companies who have created a workout /  exercise program report fewer absentee days, greater productivity, and better employee morale from those who participate.

8) Ask the vending machine supplier to add a few healthy choices in the machine

9) Quit walking by the break room until all the donuts are gone

10) Remember – your fitness is your responsibility. Take accountability for what you feed yourself. What you eat is no one else’s responsibility but yours.

Exercises To Do When You Have Kids

mother, father and daughter on a blue racetrack

Any of them! No seriously I know having kids and dogs and parents and a job and … the list could go on can get overwhelming and make it really really really hard to fit everything into your schedule. However – If you don’t make time to fit fitness in – Nothing else will fit!
It is important that you take time for you. The better health and wellness you have the more able you are to take care of those around you. Here are some ideas to help you find time for fitness in your schedule.

First, take a hard look at what you are doing, when, and why. Cross of anything you feel is a drain on you. This doesn’t mean you have eliminate it totally. Its just a starting point.

Next look for crossed out items from above and see which ones really can be eliminated. Many times we are doing things just because we always have. Now is the time to examine if these are still things that need to be done. For example, I am still washing, drying, folding, and putting away Johnny’s socks and underware – and Johnny is 16 yrs old. Johnny could be doing that on his own, not to mention the favor you’d be doing his future partner by teaching Johnny to care for his own clothing.

Finally, look at the crossed items that you can’t eliminate but that you could share. Like cooking dinner, changing sheets, typing certain reports, childcare, parent care, puppy care, taxi-ing your family and friends, or hours spent gossiping around the break room at work. Gossip while walking or over lunch instead. Many have trouble asking for help and believe the busier and more stressed we are the more important we are. Is that really true? NOPE – we are just more busy and more stressed and did I mention more busy. Doesn’t mean we are getting any more done.

For some the above ideas will seem like an impossible task. But I challenge you to live your life for you. Place the word want to into your time commitments and if it doesn’t seem to fit and causes possible vomit – its time to revamp your time!

How to Stay True To Your Exercise Goals When You Celebrate

This month is my birthday month and I like to celebrate all month long. Ok, I am an attention hound and it is great to have a whole month in which to ask for and get attention. And I milk it! However, if I am not carefully all that good food and fun times can go right to my waist without a second thought. Here are some tips to stay on track even when you are celebrating.

Image of friends having  fun together at a party

Plan ahead. Its important to think about your eating and drinking patterns when you are scheduling events. Planning ahead helps keep you aware of how much and when you consuming calories.

The basic equation on weight loss is:
Calories in need to equal Calories out in order to maintain weight. Usually, we see this broken down into daily caloric needs, however it doesn’t have to be a daily calculation it can be a time thing. So if I know I have an event coming up I can plan to cut back on my caloric needs a few days in advance knowing I am going to eat a few more calories during the event.

It is important to plan for fitness. I like the pay it forward idea from above. If I know I have a weekend getaway or a late night and I am not going to be able to workout the following day or days I can workout harder the week or so before. This allows me to burn more calories going into the party keeping my basic equation (above) on track. It is important to keep in mind this is not a green light to over consume calories after each workout because it was really hard!

Finally, have a great time. As with anything it is important to consider moderation – not only in what you eat and drink – but also in your workout schedule. There will be times when working out may have to take a back burner and that’s ok. It doesn’t become a problem until you realize your workouts haven’t seen the front burners in a long time. Follow the 80/20 rule. Eat and exercise well 80% of the time and plan that about 20% of the time things will come up, you’ll be caught off guard, or you’ll have to focus your attention on something else.

Happy Celebrating – I know I’ve had a great month – the best one of the year!

Three Exercises To Do When You Are Short On Time

You are into your workouts. You know when, where, and how long you are going to workout. You know which exercises you are going to do and why you are doing them. You are almost to your workout time – when something derails you! Now what are you going to do? You know you need to workout and you really want to but your time just got cut way short. Here are three exercises you can do to work the majority of your body quick!

The Push-Up – push ups focus your work on the chest and triceps (back of the upper arm). Remember safety. Keep your core tight. This allows you to work the abdominals and lower back as you stabilize your movements. You can do push-ups on the wall, on your hands and knees, or on your hands and toes. You can also change arm positions to emphasize the muscles differently.

The Squat – A basic squat gets most of your lower body. Your quadriceps work to extend your knee as you stand, your glutes and hamstrings work through the hip extension, your tibialis anterior (front of the lower leg) may do work as you flex at the ankle and your gastrocnemius and soleus (calfs) may work if you finish the movement on your toes. Add in plyometrics and jump and you’ve added another layer of work.

The Pull-Up – pull-ups work your latissimus dorsi in either shoulder adduction or shoulder extension depending on where you choose to place your hands (your grip can be narrow or wide depending on the bar you are using). As you pull yourself up you must bend the elbow which is accomplished by your biceps. Again, this can be a very difficult exercise but can be modified to meet your needs. You can lie flat on your back with a chair on either side of you. Place a sturdy bar over the chair seats (make sure the chairs or the bar are not going to move) and pull up only your upper body. You can use a table, counter, playground equipment, etc to modify the height you are pulling up from. The lower the bar the less weight you’ll have to lift. As you become stronger you’ll be able to lift more of your body weight – until all the sudden you’ll be able to lift your entire body weight!

So in just three exercises you have trained your:

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Possibly your calfs and front of the lower leg
  • Back
  • Biceps
  • And throughout your abdominals, lower back, and shoulders have stabilized your movements and worked in an isometric contraction.

Check out my YouTube Channel for home workouts, exercises, and equpiment ideas to set up your home gym… And yourself up for success. 

And you thought your workout had to be long!

Getting Back on The Fitness Wagon … Again

I fell off. I started getting zoned into doing everything but exercise. And what happened? I started to feel crappy. I had headaches, backaches, felt bloated, and tired. Here’s what I did.

First, I took a hard look at my schedule. What was I really doing during my waking hours? Was I spending my time doing things I wanted to do, or was I spending my time doing things I thought I had to do? Now the argument I have too much to do and I have to do it all doesn’t work so well for me. I usually find that I may think I have a ton to do but when I break it down into actual needs I can usually find things I can let go of.

It takes me time to change. I have to give myself space. Space to think about what my life will be like if I put this exercise activity on my to do list. It usually takes me about three weeks to implement a new behavior – longer if I beat myself up over it. So I have learned to start thinking like a fitness everyday person even if I am not. This allows me to prepare both myself and those around me for the changes I will need to make. I don’t exist in a vacuum so it is important for me to think through my schedule changes so I can better prepare my family and friends.

Finally, I have to follow through. So for all my analyzing and all my space honoring my timeline for change when it comes down to it – I have to do it. I am the one who puts on my workout shoes and gets the exercise done. And usually, I am much better for it!