My thoughts and perspectives on health, science, and logic… Keep an open mind!

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Health vs. Fitness???

As is the case with many fields, the world of fitness sees many words used interchangeably when they probably shouldn’t.  Trainers with any experience have probably encountered times when two people used the same word to mean different things or vice-versa.  While I could harp on plenty of these disconnects in language (and I likely will in the future), today I’d like to look at two words that are at the core of what we do:


So what do they really mean?  To many, that’s open to interpretation.  A lot of people might think it’s silly to give it much thought in the first place, as we all know what these words mean, right?  Well I’ll suggest that it’s never a bad idea to double-check these ideas before moving forward.  After all, if these are words we use to describe our goals — and our goals will determine everything we do in the gym — then shouldn’t we be COMPLETELY sure that we’re using them as accurately as possible?


For decades, Jack LaLanne served as an example of someone who focused on health AND fitness — performing countless incredible feats of strength and endurance over the years as well as living to the ripe age of 96 (image taken from


If we’re to paraphrase the Merriam-Webster definition, good health could be described as the mental and physical condition whereby we are free from illness, injury, and pain.  Sounds reasonable enough, yes?  You could also describe it as a state of metabolic efficiency (all of the body’s processes are in good, working order).  So basically, a health-oriented goal would be focused on ensuring that our biological machinery is working well and that we’re not malfunctioning in any way.  And if you think about it, that’s indeed what a lot of people are going for when they exercise.  Lowering blood pressure and resting heart rate, reducing the risk of cancer, recovering from a sprained ankle so we can walk properly again — these are all attempts to preserve or improve our body’s basic ability to function.

But what about fitness?  The most appropriate definition I’ve been able to find is something along the lines of: the state of being adapted to a particular task or goal (being “fit”) — in exercise, this would mean being fit for a specific type of exercise-related or performance-oriented task.  So if we take this approach, we see that physical fitness could be demonstrated in a number of ways.  We can have a certain ability to run fast, jump high, be flexible, demonstrate motor coordination, etc.  It varies depending on the goal.

So we can see that — if you accept these definitions — fitness and health are NOT the same thing.  While health is a sort of baseline quality of someone’s biological function (are all the parts in good working order?), fitness is more about the way we can perform a particular task (how much endurance do we have, how strong am I, etc.?).

It’s certainly possible to be healthy but not particularly fit.  Just think about someone who goes into doctor’s office for a yearly checkup and has every test come back “normal” (healthy), but he/she doesn’t necessarily exercise and isn’t able to perform at a high level in any sort of athletic capacity (not really “physically fit” for those tasks).  Conversely, there are plenty of cases of extremely high-performing athletes who can run extremely fast or lift incredible amounts of weight (high physical fitness), but their cholesterol levels or blood pressure might not be very good (not extremely healthy).

fast car slow car

A Smart Car fresh off the lot will have all of its parts in good working order (“healthy”), but it obviously won’t perform the same as something designed for more speed.


So why am I mentioning all of this?  Because I think it’s important for us to realize that, while many of the improvements we make through exercise can aid in both goals (improved cardiovascular health will also aid in fitness tasks relating to endurance, etc.), it’s not always the case.  Sometimes, we can confuse one thing for another.  Just because someone looks great or can move well doesn’t mean he/she is as healthy as appearances might suggest.  Keep that in mind before chasing that next marathon, adding more weight to the bar, or insisting on taking aggressive measures to lose weight.  You can perform well, but don’t compromise your own health in the process!


More to come.  Cheers




Another Personal Update

As mentioned in my previous post, I have been absent from blogging because of a lot of personal stuff.  It wasn’t all bad.  But it did keep me very busy for a while.  I’ll go ahead and fill you in on some developments —

First, I’ve been working hard to continue with my education and certifications, particularly since I’m not in grad school yet.  One of the most important certs I’ve been working on is for RTS (Resistance Training Specialist).  There’s a short description of what they’re all about in my ‘More Info‘ section.  Well, I finally scraped the money together and took all of the tests.  40 of them to be exact!  After many hours, I passed them all and fulfilled all of my requirements to become an RTS.  So once everything gets verified, I should be able to put a few more letters after my name!
Now, as exciting as that is (for me, at least), there are two more important developments.  First is that I FINALLY found a job!  Most of my time in recent weeks has been consumed with running all over the place trying to find work and doing pretty much any odd job that came around.  I finally have a 9-5 (it’s really an 8-4:30 if you want to be technical), so I won’t have quite so much financial stress soon.  I’ll spare the details of what the job is, but know that it’s basically a placeholder until I go off to grad school and have to find something else.

A Ragin’ Cajun AND a Tiger? Yeah, I think I can pull that off…

The other thing involves the grad school development that I just mentioned.  My plans for staying at UL for their Master’s program have shifted a bit, and I may now be getting into LSU for the Spring instead.  It’s a long story, but basically I have weighed my priorities and started leaning toward that option.  With that in mind, I’ve visited the LSU campus a couple of times to meet with professors and learn about their programs.  If all goes according to plan, I’ll get accepted for the Spring 2013 semester Kinesiology Master’s program.  My focus will most likely be Exercise Physiology with a minor in Motor Behavior.  Fun stuff, with updates to come 🙂

Since I’m writing this post to give readers a little more insight into my world, it would be incomplete without a mention of one of my biggest passions.  Namely, Tae Kwon Do.  Practitioners of other martial arts may say what they will, but I owe a lot to the training I’ve received through ULL’s TKD program.  I’m thankful every day that I decided to schedule that KNEA 270 activity class almost 7 years ago.  Anyway, I figured I’d link to a some of my recent stuff.  Not to show off, as I don’t claim to be great.  But it’s something I love, and I’d like to share it with others:

This is a video of a recent local Tae Kwon Do tournament down here in Louisiana.  It was the Silver Dragon Championship in Berwick, LA and I’ve been going for years.  Shown here is my form competition (I’m the one on the RIGHT).  There were a few other competitors off-screen as well.  I ended up taking first place here, so I can add another medal to my list off accomplishments… and yes, I know I still have a lot of practicing to do 🙂

There are a few more TKD videos on Facebook as well, mostly from class.  We have a lot of fun and try not to get hurt, though the training CAN get intense at times.  If readers aren’t against it, I’ll probably provide updates from time to time relating to martial arts classes, etc.  In the meantime, I’ll keep working on more general health/fitness content.  Thanks for reading!

– Geoff

Back in the Saddle: Perspective is KEY!

Hello readers (it SHOULD be plural, right?)

First I want to say that I’ve been away from blogging for far too long.  It wasn’t really by choice.  I had a number of job-related issues come up that took all of my attention for the past few weeks.  But you don’t want to hear about all that, and it’s not why I’m writing anyway.

Aside from finally having some time to write, I decided that today was a good day to put up a new post partly due to an unsettling trend I’ve noticed.  Namely, it’s the new trend of being an online health expert.  What do I mean by this?

Dog Expert 1

I have to admit, some of us fake it well…

I’m sure we all have a friend or two (or in my case, dozens) who think that they are in a position to dole out advice on everything from how weight lifting makes women look manly to why this organic supplement will keep you trim.  While these people usually have the best of intentions — and I say “usually” since there are always the ones who try to peddle some supplement line or training DVD — they are not qualified to give even the most BASIC advice.  Is your aunt in any way educated on human physiology?  Could your buddy in the gym describe the shape of a hip joint, much less explain in detail how it functions?

Maybe I have high standards, but it seems a little idiotic to listen to the “facts” (read: misinformed opinions) of people with little to no education in exercise and nutrition!  But we do it all the time.  Someone is attractive or somehow has a persuasive manner about them, and we let them tell us whatever we want to hear.  We choose to listen to talking points and sound bites instead of doing our own research or asking the person to further explain their point of view.  But we must understand that, unless we do this, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Now I would hope that anyone reading this is intelligent enough to know better than to buy a product just because it contains some impossible-to-find, homeopathic, all-natural, prestige, gourmet, mother-approved, tax-deductible extract made from a baboon’s ear wax!  Many claims are obviously bogus.  But others are far more insidious and may pass as legitimate to the casual observer.  I won’t go on a rant today pointing these out (though that might be a good idea for a future blog), but just realize that there are more too-good-to-be-true schemes out there than you can possibly imagine.

I’m gonna be saying this A LOT…

So how can an average person sort out all of the B.S. from the facts?  While there are no sure-fire ways to catch them all, I CAN offer a few guidelines:

   1.) If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. — Of course I’d put this at the top.  This will help to wake up your inner skeptic before things get out of hand.

   2.) Fad diets/exercises come and go, but scientific progress tends to show more consistency. — This doesn’t mean science isn’t wrong at times.  It means that we only have the existing body of research to help us to figure out what might really be effective (versus some new product that will just make a guy a quick buck).

   3.) If we want to badly enough, we’ll believe anything! — We all like to think we’re beyond this, but reality seems to suggest otherwise.  Most people are very susceptible to the power of suggestion, whether that comes from themselves or someone else, and we need to be aware of this fact and temper our decisions accordingly.

   4.) Nutritional supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA! — Essentially, this means that product manufacturers aren’t required to list everything that is in their supplements.  Moreover, they can make outrageous claims about the effectiveness of their products without much fear of reprisal, since there isn’t a massive agency actively investigating them.

   5.) Learn to do your own research.— It may not be sexy or glamorous, but sometimes the only sure way to get the answer you seek is by digging through some research articles.  Barring that, though, you can still get a good bit of info by consulting a number of experts in relevant fields and reading from major health/fitness organizations (CAUTION — even the big groups get it wrong sometimes!)

   6.) Be wary of any “expert” who doesn’t do #5!— Anyone who’s trying to convince you of something should be able to back up the claims that they make.  This means actually citing scientific research and logic instead of their own beliefs.  We live in a world filled with gym science, prejudices, misconceptions and half-truths.  If we’re to make any sense of it, we have to start dealing in facts without letting our feelings get in the way.  Which brings me to…

   7.) Bias is EVERYWHERE!!!— Most of the exercise “rules” that you’ve probably heard, particularly if they have come from a source other than someone who is very educated in the field, are the result of bias.  Sometimes it’s subconscious, and sometimes it’s not.  But to some degree, many of the decisions we make are largely the result of emotional attachments or aversions instead of reason.  The next time you hear advice from someone, try to figure out if they are basing guidance on their knowledge or their feelings.  I’ll explore this more in the future.

I could rant on about this, but I’ve already probably bored you to tears.  So let me wrap up by simply saying that the world is full of lies and misconceptions.  And the sad truth is, there usually won’t be anyone around to help you sort it all out.  The best tool you have is between your ears, and you’re gonna have to use it a lot if you want to avoid falling into the traps that so many people do.  That’s a big motivator for me as I write this blog.  Namely, to dispel what myths I can and shed a little light on things for anyone kind enough to read.  So until next time, keep learning and keep your eyes open.

Take care!

— Geoff

Tipping the Scales

First off, sorry for taking so long to post another entry.  Life gets hectic sometimes, but I’m sure everyone knows that.  I’ve been working on other content for my site, and I hope to have additions to AT LEAST the Nutrition page up soon.

I also hope all of my fellow USA dwellers had a great (and safe) Fourth of July!  I’m thankful to live in a place that allows me to have this website at all, and to pursue my education so that I may provide some knowledge to my readers.  But, as July 4th is a national holiday in the USA, it brought with it one of the hallmarks of American celebration.  Namely: FOOD!

I would bet that many people are already regretting their overindulgence in hot dogs, barbecue, and other tasty Independence Day fare.  Especially since this holiday falls in the middle of beach season!  As soon as the last bottle rocket fizzles out, people start scrambling to right the wrongs we committed at the picnic table.

In that vein, everyone seems to have a question about food and their weight.  Am I too fat?  Too skinny?  What does BMI mean, anyway?!?  Many of us live and die by the dreaded scale, while others don’t even bother with diet and exercise in the first place due to fear of never seeing the right numbers.  While I’m by no means an expert on diet and nutrition, there are a few ideas that I think might be good to keep in mind.  Let’s start with the first step.  Stop, take a deep breath, and realize:

It’s ONLY a number!

Now before people get mad, let me clarify.  Your weight can certainly indicate that you have gained or lost pounds, but without context, the readout on that scale is just a number.  A number of other factors determine what meaning that number has.  Until you have an idea of how much muscle and fat you have (as well as how much water you’re retaining and how much digestive content you might be carrying), you won’t have a complete picture of what your body weight actually means.  So try to decide whether you have to lose fat, gain muscle, or both to reach your fitness goals.  Remember what I said about knowing EXACTLY what you want your outcome to be?  (Review S.M.A.R.T. principle!)  Now that we’ve accomplished that, we need to:

Understand YOUR body!

Tied up in the concept of understanding whether you actually gain or lose weight is knowing your body.  Everyone has different proportions.  Just because you’re the same height as another person doesn’t mean you should be the exact same weight.  Think about this for a minute, and it should make sense.  Are her hips and shoulders set at the same width as yours?  Does that guy carry as much weight in his legs as you do, or as little in his arms?  How long are your limbs compared to someone else’s?  And then, after this is all done, you must consider what kind of fat we’re talking about.  Visceral fat (which lines your organs) has been linked to numerous diseases and health issues when found in excessive amounts.  Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, does not carry the same strong connections to health risks (though it’s what we worry about most, since it’s what we actually SEE).  Once we take these things into account, the picture gets more complicated, doesn’t it?

A skinfold test is only as good as the person doing the pinching!

To have a more complete idea of your risk for heart disease and other ailments, it might be necessary to get some blood work done.  Knowing your cholesterol levels and free fatty acid (FFA) blood content can give you a much better indicator of how healthy your system is than the old “pinch an inch” test.  So get all of the facts, if you’re really wondering about your total health profile!  Now one more big thing that I want to stress is this:

Find a way to live COMFORTABLY!

While most of us could use some improvements in the weight or health department, a lot of people take it overboard.  They may set unrealistic goals.  Remember that, more important than actually GETTING to your target weight or shape is STAYING there.  If you had to go on a crash diet and be miserable for six months just to fit into that bikini, was it really worth it?  As clichéd as it sounds, health is not a sprint.  It’s a lifelong marathon.  We get where we want to go by making tiny adjustments to our lifestyle over time.  It doesn’t all happen overnight, and trying to force changes too quickly will USUALLY result in disappointment.  So take your time, and find slow ways to adjust to healthier habits.  Whether it’s cutting back on sodas this month, or jogging an extra 30 minutes a week before ramping it up again in the Fall, we must make the changes gradual.  So shoot for something that you can maintain in a healthy and sane fashion.  Remember:

QUANTITY of WEIGHT doesn’t always indicate QUALITY of LIFE

So eat well.  Exercise.  Get your rest.  And most of all, enjoy it!  A healthy life doesn’t happen all at once.

And I for one am thankful for that 😉



You Have NO Expiration Date!

The most commonly touted benefit of proper and regular exercise is a longer, healthier lifespan.  Countless studies have shown this to be the case, and our doctors remind us of it when we go in for check ups (and especially for more serious issues).  The awareness of our own mortality is a powerful driving force in our society. For example, how many products and services can you think of that exist because of our desire to live longer and be healthier???  As human beings, we have found innovative ways to extend our stay on this rock, and we always marvel at how celebrities stay fit and active into their more advanced years.  We tell ourselves that we should follow their example of not letting age hold us back.  From radical diets, to new surgical techniques, to gene therapy and stem cell research — we have all sorts of life-extending tools at our disposal!

Yet at the same time, we are raised with the common knowledge that we can’t beat Father Time.  Sooner or later, we all wear out.  We can’t run as fast or jump as high (or at all).  That nagging joint pain doesn’t go away.  Things that were “up here” are now “down there.”  The notion of aging can feel frightening and inescapable.  But I think the bigger question is this:

Do we have to age a certain way?

After reading another news article recently, I started thinking about this idea.  Bear with me here…

It seems to be common knowledge that at a certain point, you just have to slow down.  In fact, many of the cynics in our society take it upon themselves to REMIND Grandpa of his age in an attempt to get him to act it.  Perhaps it’s borne out of jealousy or bitterness, but it seems some of us are offended by the notion that some people break down in middle age, while others go forging ahead into their 80s, 90s, or beyond!  I don’t know about you, but if I see a 75-year-old lady busting out a crow pose in Yoga, I don’t think she’s misguided — I think she’s doing something RIGHT!

Think about it.  All things being equal, wouldn’t you rather be able to do those things than not?

“Of course, but it just gets harder and harder… for some people, it’s just not possible!”

It happens to the best of us. But it’s usually preventable!

Ah, but there’s the crux of the argument, eh?  WHY do some people break down, while others seem to hold up just fine?  I feel that it’s for a few reasons, and they aren’t all out of our hands:

#1 – GENETICS — The biggest culprit that we blame one way or another for almost every problem that pops up over our lives.  While we can’t alter our DNA (not yet, anyway), we can change our approach to the problems it does hand us.  Most medical experts on the planet will agree that genetics will only play a partial role in our likelihood of contracting most of the illnesses that take lives.  SOME.  NOT ALL.

#2 – DIET –I don’t claim to be an expert on nutrition, but it’s quite clear that what we put into our bodies can have a pronounced, cumulative effect on our bodies’ ability to adapt and repair itself.  Too much of the wrong things, and we break down.  Whether from oxidative damage, poor blood flow from a weak or blocked cardiovascular system, a weak immune system or a ton of other diseases, we will most certainly kick the bucket sooner if we don’t take care of what we put in.

#3 – EXERCISE — Regular physical activity has been shown to be quite beneficial in keeping our cells functioning longer.  We maintain conditioning, coordination and strength that we would not have otherwise kept over the years.  All things being equal, the guy who exercised (sensibly) will last longer and have a more enjoyable life than the fellow who didn’t.

Now these three things are almost certainly familiar to anyone reading this post.  No big surprise.  That stuff still doesn’t account for how some people outlive others by decades while apparently doing the same stuff.  Unless we all actually DO have some sort of built-in expiration date.  Right?  Well here’s where a fourth and often-overlooked piece of the puzzle comes in:


Notice that I always talk about sensible exercise.  This is a big deal.  I use the term vigilance to describe the act of constantly observing what is going on with our bodies and making logical adjustments.

Think about your last workout (or the last time you exerted yourself in any way).  Did something hurt?  I don’t mean a little muscular soreness.  I’m talking about more intense pain in a bone, a joint, or deep in a muscle or tendon that might cause issues with doing that exercise again.  For the sake of argument, let’s assume you did feel something like that.  Now did you wonder WHY it hurt, or did you just accept that it did because “that’s the way things are”?  Take a moment to think about this…

Many people would say that pain and breakdown come with the territory.  After all, “No Pain, No Gain” has been a staple of the exercise world since long before I was born (Thanks, Jane Fonda)!  But is it true?  I don’t think so.  After all, exercise is supposed to be good for you.  The trouble is, we’ve been conditioned to think of pain as always being a good thing.  But here’s a news flash — pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong! If you choose to ignore it, you may be setting yourself up for bigger issues down the road.

Perhaps we should step back and get a LITTLE perspective, eh?

So, getting to the point, I think that what separates the people who last from the ones who don’t is their ability to make those micro-adjustments.  To see where they may be off-track with a workout or habit and curb it before it causes permanent damage.  I will be putting up posts in the future  with more specific thoughts on the subject (with a little science to back it up!)  But suffice it to say, the human body is such a complex machine that we can’t possibly assume we know what’s going on all the time.  We have to give it a little respect and learn how to LISTEN TO IT.  As I always suggest, exercise in a way that works for YOU.  Eat in ways that work for YOU. 

Live the best life that YOU can!

Finally, for anyone interested in knowing, the article that inspired this long-winded rant was one about Janet Evans.  She’s a former Olympic gold medalist swimmer who came back from a LONG hiatus to compete at the Olympic trials.  She did this at age 40 (closer to 41), and her story is inspiring.  Check the link out here:

Yahoo! – Janet Evans Competes in Olympic Trials at Age 40

More is always on the way!

– Geoff

A Personal Update

Maybe it’s time for a little post about what’s going on in my world — not that it’s really interesting or anything, but I felt like putting something up, so here goes.  Let me start with why I started this blog up in the first place:

One big motivator is that it will (hopefully) give me the opportunity to help a few people.  There seem to be so many people out there looking for answers, and I wish I could sit down and give each and every one of them any advice that I can.  Unfortunately, there’s just not enough time in the day.  Also, many people don’t know that they are misinformed, and in that case I find it much safer to put things online for people to seek out.  That way, I’m not ramming it down their throats.

My NSCA-CPT Book. Nightly reading material

Secondly, I feel it gives me a bit of an outlet for whatever is on my mind (namely, lots of exercise stuff).  Beyond just a chance to blabber about whatever fitness stuff is on my mind, however, this blog gives me the opportunity to refine the way I think, write, and even speak!  Personal training is an career path that can be made or broken by one’s ability to communicate and convey the right message.  Maybe writing these updates and putting together my guides will give me a little insight into some things I’m doing right or wrong in that area.

Finally, there’s the issue of my own actual knowledge.  A common expression holds that if you want to see how well you know something, try to teach it!  I have spent the last year or two really trying to challenge myself in this area.  There’s no reason, in my mind, why I can’t talk about ANYTHING I’ve covered during my studies.  I should know it all, inside and out.  So this site can serve as a teaching tool for me as much as for others.  With that in mind, thank you.  Thanks to anyone who cares to read this and check up on my page.  It will take a lot of time and effort for me to put the guides together in a format that I’m happy with, and I will definitely be learning a lot as I go.  The knowledge that some people may benefit from these efforts is HUGELY motivating.

I look forward to providing guidance full of facts, keen observations, true science, and as free of bias (my own or anyone else’s) as possible.

In terms of my actual education and knowledge, by the way, I feel anyone reading here has a right to know exactly what I am studying.  As I mentioned in my “About Me” section, I am a college graduate in Exercise Science and a certified personal trainer through ACSM.  I never had any intention of stopping there, however, and I have done a great deal of reading and independent study outside of my certification and studies.  Currently, I’m working on my NSCA personal trainer certification (which I hope to test for in the next month or so).  I’m also working on becoming a certified Resistance Training Specialist (RTS).  I have finished the course and required studies for this credential, but money’s a little too tight right now to allow me to pay for testing.  Once my cash flow improves, I should be able to get the ball rolling on these exams as well as others I’d like to do this year.  It’s going to be a busy few months!

Resistance Training Specialist textbooks RTS

And my beloved RTS books… believe it or not, some of my most prized academic possessions. Great information in here!

As I go through these exams and studies, I’ll give some updates on the process for anyone who may wish to know.  It’s a never-ending process, especially with my enrollment in grad school coming up in the Spring.  But I’m looking forward to the work, and I know it will only benefit me in the long run.


Thanks to all of you who have stopped by — both friends of mine, and those I don’t yet know.  It means the world to me that you’ve taken the time to drop in.


– Geoff


Sweet Dreams!

I know plenty of people who feel as though they are doing all of the right things to get fit, yet they aren’t quite seeing the results they were expecting.  This could be for a number of reasons.  First off, those expectations could just be unrealistic.  But assuming that is not the case, there must be some other issue.  The single most common factor that I see is that these people burn the candle at both ends.

The human body is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong.  But it needs time to recover!  Think of progressive exercise as a sort of race between the forces that break your body down and those that build it back up.  When we work out, we cause a number of physical and physiological stresses that our body must respond to and recover from.  Those stresses initially have the upper hand, and the period after a significant workout is when we are more susceptible to injury.  Proper nutrition and rest periods for the affected tissues are key to overcoming these stresses (and actually getting stronger).  Unfortunately, too many of my friends figure they’ll just skip sleep, load up on coffee and energy drinks and attack their workouts with as much intensity as possible.

This works great… for about a week.

It is a FACT that repeatedly exposing your body to hard exercise without proper rest can lead to overtraining syndrome and injuries.  Your mood can take a turn for the worse, your appetite can go haywire, and your overall energy levels tend to plummet.  So listen to your body, and get some rest!  And just as importantly, you must put decent gas in the tank.  Eating cleaner foods will tend to give you more restful sleep.  Overloading on sodium, refined sugars, overly greasy foods and preservatives tends to give many people more difficulty with achieving restful sleep in the first place.

Here’s an article highlighting sleep as an important ingredient in longevity.  While specific scientific studies aren’t cited in the article, it does illustrate some trends in people who live to see 100.  They tend to sleep more than many people today, and they tend to eat a little better (along with staying somewhat active and staying involved with family, etc.).  Give it a look-see, and think about your own sleep habits.  There are probably areas where we can all improve.

Yahoo! — Want to Live to 100?  SLEEP!!!


– Geoff