Thursday, January 29, 2015

Picking the Right Cold Medicine – Part 1

You or a loved one has a cold—almost inevitable in the wintertime. I’ll bet you’ve gone to the drugstore before and stared at the staggering number of medications which all claim to cure your cold. Will the “runny nose, sneezing, congested chest” version work better? Or the “cough, stuffy, runny nose” combination? Worry no more. I’m going to break all of it down and make it simple in this series of articles.

The first thing to do is to make a list of your symptoms. This will tell you what to look for. When you get to the pharmacy, forget all of the marketing copy on the front of the boxes, which can be confusing. Instead, pick the boxes which list your symptoms, then flip them over and look for the active ingredients. These are all you really care about. There are actually only a few common active ingredients that companies basically sell in various types of packaging and doses to confuse the consumer.

Pick products which contain the active ingredients that will help your symptoms. Compare similar products to see which one has larger amounts of each active ingredient per dose as it will likely be more effective. Avoid products that have extra active ingredients that you don’t need, such as caffeine, fever reducers, allergy treatments, or sleep aids. Medications are NOT necessarily harmless so you should try to take the minimum possible.

In this article, we’ll cover medications for coughs, and we’ll talk about other symptoms next time. Coughs can be either productive (“wet” or “phlegm-y”) or non-productive (“dry”). A productive cough means your body is trying to get rid of the germs and mucus in your lungs and airways. The faster you can clear it out, the faster your body recovers. If the phlegm is too thick to cough up easily, then you may need an expectorant. Expectorants help thin out the phlegm so that it is easier to cough it out. One of the most common expectorants found in over-the-counter medications is guaifenesin. Be sure to follow the directions in the box and drink plenty of water to help the expectorant do its job.

On the other hand, if you have a non-productive dry cough, then there is no need for an expectorant because there is no phlegm to get out. The most common cough suppressant currently found in over-the-counter medicines is dextromethorphan, commonly labeled “DM.”

Be careful of products that include both guaifenesin and dextromethorphan because you generally don’t want to use them together at the same time. The last thing you want for a productive cough is to take a suppressant that prevents you from clearing the phlegm out. This will give the germs more time to fester and allow the phlegm to thicken, making it even harder to cough up. All of this essentially prolongs your miserable cold.

If guaifenesin and dextromethorphan do not provide enough relief, then you may need a stronger cough medicine prescribed by your doctor. There are several prescription-only options with the opioid-type medications (e.g. codeine) being quite effective but with potentially dangerous side effects, such as slowed breathing, constipation, and urinary retention.

As usual, before starting a new medicine, be sure to check for contraindications and interactions with your current medications. If your symptoms persist or fail to improve, you should consult your physician. In the next article, I’ll cover some over-the-counter medications indicated for other cold symptoms such as runny noses, nasal congestion, and fevers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The One Minute Workout is Now on Amazon Kindle

Specially made for all you e-book lovers out there, The One Minute Workout is now available for all Kindle devices! Get your copy at

Since you can't flip through an e-book quickly like the paperback version, we added some navigation features to make it easier to use as intended—a quick reference for a quick workout. Here they are:

  • Exercise Links Menu
    Found at the beginning of each Progression Chapter. Use it to jump quickly to any exercise in the chapter.

  • Exercise Map Links List
    Making the Exercise Map clickable just didn't work consistently across the many Kindle platforms. This was the next best thing.

  • Navigation Bar
    Located at the top of each exercise entry. Use it to go back and forth quickly through the exercises or jump back to the start of the chapter.

We tried adding a table of contents just for the exercises but with so many exercises in the book, it actually took many more clicks to get to many of the exercises compared to going through the book's table of contents and the Exercise Links Menu.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, let us know. Spread the word and don't forget to share your copy with those you care about!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Why You're More Likely to Fail With a Weight Loss Only New Year's Resolution

Since we’re still in New Year's Resolution season, let’s talk about a common goal: weight loss. While many of us would like to be healthier and look better by losing some weight, I think it is critical NOT to set that as the only measure of success. Doing so can make it much harder to stay motivated and stick with your resolution.

Why? Your body weight is affected by a myriad of factors, making it difficult to control precisely. How much you eat, drink, and exercise can certainly affect weight. But some factors are out of your direct voluntary control, such as how much and when your intestines decide to empty. Your body weight will normally vary a couple of pounds in either direction throughout the course of a day. Across the days of any given week, it can go up and down significantly even if you eat, drink, and exercise the same amount every day.

If you only use your weight as the sole measure to see if you are making progress each day, you’re going to be in for a lot of disappointment. Your weight is just not going to trend down smoothly day after day even if you are doing the right things. Sometimes you’ll be frustrated when it won’t budge for a while. Other times, you’ll be excited when it drops a few pounds in one day, but then devastated as it creeps back up several pounds as it normalizes over the next few days. All of this can make you want to give up before you’ve made enough progress to see a consistent trend toward your goal.

Instead, I suggest setting goals that include several different kinds of measurements. For example, try to improve your running pace or distance in addition to losing weight. You can also try increasing your strength or flexibility. You’re inevitably going to have good days and not so good days. On a good day, you’ll see improvement in many, if not all, of those measurements. But even on a down day, you’ll still likely see progress in at least one of the measurements. You’re much less likely to have a day where progress in all measurements stall or regress. Seeing progress in even one measurement will help keep your motivation up and keep you from becoming discouraged by the apparent (but false!) lack of progress.

I’ve personally been using this technique for years and find it very helpful in staying on track. Give it a shot and let me know how it works for you.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Trying to Lose Weight? Avoid the #1 Mistake Dieters Make

“I’m going on a diet!” That’s the first thing most people say when they want to lose fat or weight. But if that’s the first step you take, you’re already doing the wrong thing and setting yourself up for failure. Let me explain why.

Losing weight is as much a mental game of desires and discipline as it is a physical game of calories eaten and burned. Your body weight and composition reflects your inputs and outputs over time. If you change any of these for long enough, your weight will change accordingly. So, with enough time, any sort of change in diet will change your weight. But once you go back to your previous way of eating, your weight will return to that weight.

For example, you may lose a few pounds by starving yourself for a day or two. But when you stop fasting and go back to eating like you used to, you will return to your pre-starvation weight a few days later. All of that suffering will have been for nothing.

Fortunately, the same thing happens if you eat too much for a day or two. While your weight may go up for a few days, you can return to your pre-feast weight just by going back to your previous eating habits. So don’t freak out and punish yourself for indulging once in a while!

Now, how does this relate to going on a diet? When most people say “I’m going on a diet”, they are implying making a temporary change to their eating habits. Since they think it’s only going to be temporary, they’ll try almost anything to reach that arbitrary target number. Once they reach their target weight, they go back to their pre-diet eating habits. And to their dismay, their body goes back to the pre-diet weight. This is the #1 mistake people make when attempting to lose weight: trying to make a permanent change in their body by making temporary changes in their actions.

So, if dieting doesn’t work, what can you do? Rather than “going on a diet,” use the following mindset: “I’m going to change my diet!” This implies making permanent changes which will yield lasting results. In the end, this is what we really want for our looks and for our health.

With that in mind, choose methods that you can sustain indefinitely right from the beginning. In my book, The One Minute Workout, you’ll find a whole chapter called “What Should I Eat?”on making sustainable changes to your eating habits. One of the simplest techniques from that chapter that you can use right away is to only make small changes at a time. Doing so will enable your mind and body to adjust to the changes and allow them to become part of your eating habit. This is a lot easier than “going on a diet” where you do will-busting things like starving or depriving yourself of your favorite foods!

Friday, January 9, 2015

The #1 Problem with Fitness Resolutions and How to Beat It

Did you promise yourself to get in better shape or lose weight this year? If you’re like most people around now, you're really motivated and might even have a workout plan in mind. But will you be able to stick with it and reach your goal? More importantly, once you get there, can you maintain your results indefinitely?

This is the biggest problem with fitness resolutions and many workout programs. We all want to be healthier (and look better!) but we often don’t plan for the long term. What really matters is your current state of fitness and how long you can stay in shape. You could have been the fittest person on earth a couple of years ago but if you’re overweight and out-of-shape now, then your health is still at risk.

Long-term success is the result of consistency and a fail-proof way to be consistent is to turn productive actions into habits. When something becomes a habit, it becomes second-nature and requires much less, if any will power to do it. It takes priority in your mind over other obligations that compete for your time and attention. This is why people with good workout habits always seem to find time to exercise while others can never find the time and make excuses.

When you decide to get in shape, you may be tempted to jump right into one of the many intense workout programs out there. And that’s fine if you can do them consistently. Just make sure you don’t go overboard and end up injuring yourself as that’s the fastest way to sabotage your resolution.

Keep in mind that the novelty of the workout and your enthusiasm is inevitably going to wear off. The boot camp or workout program you saw on TV is going to seem a lot less fun and become a chore, especially as other obligations pop up and consume your valuable time. If you haven't established a workout habit, then there is a very high chance that you’ll stop doing it sooner or later. When that happens, any benefits you may have gained start going out the window, as though you never worked out.

A better idea is to ease into working out so it’s easier to establish a workout habit. Start with a regimen that is easy to fit into your schedule. This way, it’s not a Herculean task to regularly carve out time for your workout. 

Don’t choose exercises which are too easy since you’ll be discouraged by the lack of noticeable results. Also, don’t pick excessively intense workouts, unless you like frequent next-day soreness.

Instead, do exercises that push your limits just a bit. This will give you more positive results and less negative effects. As you get in better shape, increase the intensity of the exercise but NOT the time spent working out. This keeps the results coming without growing your workout into an unmanageable time-sucking chore. In other words, work out smarter, not longer.

If you’re looking for a sustainable workout that grows with you, take a look at The One Minute Workout. This time-efficient workout system (just 60 seconds a day) grows with you as you progress and is a great way to establish a workout habit that you can maintain indefinitely. If you end up using another workout program, remember to choose wisely and think about the long-term. Be consistent and don't let exercise consume your life. Time-limited programs such as the 30-, 60-, or 90-day challenges can be good but you'll need to keep working out even after the program is over. If you can't keep up with your workout, use something simpler like The One Minute Workout to maintain your gains.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Let it Snow - Safer, Faster Shoveling and Getting a Good Workout

We just had our first snow in the new year here in the Midwest. What a way to start off the new year. Snow and snow shoveling are simply a fact of Midwest winters. But that doesn’t mean you have to strain your back shoveling when the next snow storm comes to visit. In fact, you can turn it into a good opportunity to build some core and leg strength.

The key to shoveling snow safely is doing the heavy lifting with your legs. Your back isn’t meant to lift heavy objects. It’s especially tough with heavy snow perched far away at the end of your shovel—talk about poor leverage! Rather, your back and other core muscles (abs and obliques) are for maintaining your posture and enabling efficient transfer of forces through your body. In the case of shoveling snow, that means transferring the lifting power generated by your legs to your arms and hands.

With that in mind, let’s go over a better and safer way to shovel snow. Stand near the snow to be shoveled and place your left hand on the handle of the shovel. Keep this end of the shovel tucked against your body in front of your hips. This enables you to use your body weight effectively to maneuver the snow. Next, place your right hand on the shaft of the shovel, as near to the blade of the shovel as is comfortable. This arm only controls the shovel, rather than bending and lifting the snow, which is the job of your legs.

Now for the placement of the feet, which is important for balance and power. Put your right foot forward and left foot back in a wide stance. Then, squat down by bending your knees until the shovel touches the bottom of the snow. Keep your back as upright as you can; bending at the waist will lead to back strain. Center your weight between your feet to maximize stability and minimize the strain on your back when you lift. Push the shovel forward to load it with snow. Then, stand up by straightening your legs, keeping the front arm straight and back hand tucked into your hip. This movement should feel similar to picking up a heavy box with proper technique.

To dump the snow, simply pivot to the side by twisting your hips, not just your torso. For those of you familiar with martial arts, this movement is similar to the hip pivot from a back (60/40) stance to a high front or bow stance. Reset to the starting position and you’re ready for the next load. If you get tired on one side, switch your hands and feet and use your other side.

Snow Shoveling Animation
This technique minimizes movement of your back and smaller arm muscles, leaving the heavy lifting to your stronger leg muscles. It also uses your hips as a brace to reduce the effort needed to maneuver the loaded shovel. With a little practice, you’ll find that you can shovel snow faster since you don’t have to move as much with each repetition. As a bonus, you’ll get a great core and lower body workout at the same time!

If your legs aren’t strong right now, consider preparing for the snow by doing some leg strengthening exercises such as the Squat Progression from The One Minute Workout. Strong legs will help with everything, not just shoveling snow.

Remember, if the snow is deep or especially wet, work your way down in layers. There is no need to do the whole job at once. Take breaks as needed and go inside to warm up. And don’t forget to stay hydrated! When it is cold outside, it’s amazing how much sweat you can work up without noticing it.