I put this video together last year, so I am actually approaching my 53rd birthday now…
Last December I severed ties with the gym that I had been a member of since 2004, and it honestly felt like a bad breakup. I had been feeling very dissatisfied with the gym ever since ownership and management changed hands in November of 2017. Members had to deal with constant construction and renovation, which meant that some areas would be closed off for extended periods of time. When equipment broke down, the management would leave the machines sitting in a state of disrepair. The management removed great equipment and replaced it with new, yet cheaply made items. I was also quite frustrated when the management decided to remove the prone leg curl machine, citing two different possible reasons:
1. Female members were getting upset about male members staring at their asses, or
2. The wrong machine (a second seated leg curl) was delivered, and the management decided to keep it.
Both explanations are completely lame. If the management was so concerned about men staring at the gluteal regions of the female members, then why would they keep the butt blaster machine? Another reason why the first explanation especially irked me is that the promotional video which constantly plays throughout the gym features a rather mannish Spin instructor who has several closeups featuring her sweat-laden, exposed, muscular decollete. I have always found this footage offensive, and I will always refer to the instructor as Miss Sweaty Boobs. It’s disgusting. And if the wrong machine was in fact delivered, then I would think the company from which they purchased the machine would take responsibility for the mistake and switch out the wrong machine with the correct one. It was bizarre trying to talk to staff members, not unlike speaking to a spineless, lying, cheating lover who can’t get his stories straight.
Another very frustrating thing which occurred was that though I had been paid up through the old owner for membership through 2022, the new owners decided not to honor that, instead telling me that they would be “generous” and honor membership through the end of 2018, provided I paid two “enhancement fees” of $25 each at different intervals during the year to keep the membership active. It didn’t matter that I had paid so much money up front to ensure that my membership would be paid for well in advance.
I honestly feel that NONE of the changes the new owner and management made were beneficial to members. The renovations to the facility are STILL NOT FINISHED! When I inquired about membership renewal, I was told what the monthly rate would be, which made me snicker because it was rather high. In addition, I was told that I would have to pay a $54 activation fee, yet another employee told me this would not be a new membership, but just a renewal. More lies in a toxic relationship were being fed to me. The last straw was when they ran my card for duplicate charges, yet wouldn’t issue a credit for the duplicate charge back to my card.
At that point it was time for me to break up.
I severed ties with the old gym, and signed up with two other gym groups. What’s funny is that the total charges for the two gyms I signed up with are less than the amount I would have paid at the old gym. How’s that for a toxic relationship where I got stuck paying for a high maintenance partner?
I love the new gyms I work out at, and what’s even better is that both gyms are part of chains, meaning I can go to other locations when I am traveling. I can visit a network of over 400 clubs with one group, and over 80 clubs with the other. That sure beats going to ONE busted up, half-finished gym which only cares about money.
There was one final incident which really upset me, which occurred the day after Christmas. Keep in mind that my membership at the old gym was valid through December 31st, 2018. I went to the gym and worked out, and when I was on my final exercise for the day, the manager approached me and asked me what I was doing there. She stated that she was quite sure that my membership had expired on December 24th. She told me she was going to have to check my account. Fine. When she didn’t return, I knew that she realized her error, and was probably too embarrassed to admit that she was mistaken in her assumption.
Has anyone else dealt with a similar situation?
Sheila Olson is at it again with another fantastic article which I am sharing here. Let Sheila guide you towards optimal well-being!
Five Steps to Transform Your Entire Well-Being
by Sheila Olson
Being healthy is a goal that we all have, and we are frequently exposed to countless trends that promise to drastically improve our well-being overnight. Of course, that isn’t realistic on any level. What our minds and bodies need is long-term commitment. If you’re interested in improving your entire well-being, check out the following tips.
When left unaddressed, stress can occupy our thoughts throughout the day and leave us restless at night. Unfortunately, our physical health is directly connected to our mental health. After all, stress can disrupt sleep, impede focus, and leave us with a host of physical issues. Yet, with the right tools, you can learn the proper ways to manage it.
A good starting point is meditation. Mindfulness habits can balance our emotional states, leaving us physically and mentally healthier as a result. Beginning a practice can be as easy as spending 10 minutes in a quiet place every day. Thanks to the internet, you can also use guided tutorials to help you learn that process. How you explore meditation is up to you. You may want to focus on breathing exercises, or you might prefer a room dedicated to emotional centering.
Clean Your Air
It’s natural to assume that our homes are a refuge from pollutants, but sometimes that isn’t the case. We may have pets that shed, or we use cleaning chemicals that do more harm than good. This decline in air quality can cause many health issues, such as asthma or allergies. Fortunately, you can drastically cut pollutants by investing in an air purifier. These devices filter air at the microscopic level. They won’t purge our homes completely of contaminants, but you can notice marked improvement in both your health and air quality. Before you choose a specific model, learn more about the products on the market. There are several different kinds of purifiers available, so know what you need before you buy one.
Being active shouldn’t be a chore; if it is, then you need to find routines that you enjoy to make healthier living more sustainable. Don’t rely on bruising sessions at the gym to achieve your goals, as this can lead to burnout. Instead, remind yourself that all activity counts. That might be walking through a park or playing basketball with a group of friends. Do you work out best with others? Join a sports team, or take up regular jogs with your buddies. Above all, give yourself manageable goals that you can work toward, and make sure you follow through with them. By having a positive mindset, you can keep your fitness moving forward.
Focus on Sleep
Having a good night’s rest is easier said than done. However, sleep recharges one’s emotional and physical batteries. So, get to the root cause of any restlessness and find a solution. Do you drink caffeine? Limit it as best you can, and consider a cutoff point in the early afternoon. Are you using electronics? They may seem ideal to help you unwind at the end of the day, but they can override your body’s sleep processes. Don’t overlook your environment, either. If it’s bright, invest in blackout curtains. Likewise, keep your room cool to help your body prep for sleep. Identifying the source may mean replacing your mattress or changing your decor. Whatever the cause, though, you can rejuvenate your health with sleep.
Embrace Positive Living
Unhealthy habits can be a significant obstacle to wellness. They are hard to stop, but doing so can be transformative. Negative habits can have various underlying causes, so it’s important to determine what they might be. This can help you understand certain patterns and avoid them in the future. However, don’t just try to drop an unwanted habit “cold turkey.” Instead, challenge them by adopting positive alternatives. If you smoke when you’re feeling stressed, find a substitute that you can use to manage your anxieties. Don’t end your nights on a stressful note by checking social media or email. Positive living is a strategy that adds up over time and can become a central part of your day-to-day life.
Good health is not a fad. It’s perfectly achievable by making easy adjustments to our lifestyle and outlook. Make your well-being a priority every day.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
What is food intolerance?
Have you ever noticed that when you eat a certain food, such as tuna, blueberries, avocado, asparagus or broccoli, that you get extremely bloated to the point that you are extremely uncomfortable? Since the foods I mentioned are celebrated for their many nutritional benefits, it might not occur to you that you most likely have an intolerance to that food. Up to 80% of the U.S. population has some form of food intolerance.
Most people are aware of food allergies, but food intolerance is a different phenomenon which can have a tremendous effect on a person’s quality of life. Food allergies appear quite suddenly, from seconds to minutes after ingestion of the offending food, and can be life-threatening, whereas food intolerance is a more gradual process (taking hours to a couple of days for symptoms to emerge), not life-threatening, and may only occur after a large amount of the food is eaten. Food allergies and food intolerance can both cause similar symptoms, such as abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea, but food intolerance is notorious for causing bloating, heartburn, irritability, headaches and general malaise. The most common food allergy triggers are peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, soy, wheat, milk and eggs, while the foods most commonly associated with food intolerance are dairy products, gluten-containing grains, eggs, citrus, beans, cabbage, and broccoli.
People who are allergic to certain foods know that even a small amount of the food can trigger an allergic response, and the response occurs every single time the person is exposed. The immune system reacts to the food by causing a release of IgE antibodies, which then cause a release of histamines and cytokines designed to attack the offending agent. Sometimes the entire body is affected by this response, and symptoms such as shortness of breath, hives, rash, or a sudden drop in blood pressure can occur. Food intolerance, in contrast, is more insidious, and may only occur if a large amount of the triggering food is eaten or if it is consumed frequently. Trigger foods will cause a rise in IgA, IgG, and IgM antibodies, causing the body to mount a delayed reaction which is characterized by mostly gastrointestinal symptoms, but which can cause other symptoms as well. Regardless of how the body reacts, the discomfort caused by poor digestion of the food can be enough to make the sufferer miserable.
Why does food intolerance occur? There are several explanations. One cause is enzyme deficiency. All enzymes are specific to one type of molecule, such as lipases which break down fats. Sometimes an individual can be deficient or completely lacking in a very specific enzyme which is required for digestion of a particular food. A common example is found in lactose intolerant individuals who do not have enough lactase to break down the milk sugars into their constituent parts for absorption in the intestine. The lactose cannot be broken down so it sits in the intestine, causing bloating, spasm and diarrhea when it sits in the digestive tract. Approximately 25% of the U.S. population suffers from lactose intolerance, which amounts to a lot of bloated bellies from the consumption of dairy products.
Another common type of food intolerance is to gluten. Gluten is highly resistant to digestion as it is, and in some individuals, the gluten cannot be broken down at all. The problem with gluten is that it is found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and kamut, so avoiding gluten can be challenging to say the least. Approximately 1% of the U.S. population has celiac disease, while about 15% have gluten intolerance. Regardless of whether someone has celiac disease or gluten intolerance, ALL gluten must be avoided. However, if there are occasions in which completely avoiding gluten is impossible, digestive enzymes, specifically DPP-IV, can help individuals to digest meals containing gluten.
The list of substances which people may have an intolerance to doesn’t stop there. Some individuals cannot break down phenols, including salicylates, due to insufficient amounts of xylanase, and suffer from behavioral and learning disorders, including ADHD and autism. Some individuals are unable to break down disaccharides, an intolerance which is closely linked to irritable bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Candida overgrowth and autism. As if all that wasn’t enough to worry about, there are chemical substances in foods which can spark intolerance, such as caffeine, aflatoxins in undercooked beans, amines in cheeses, artificial colorings and flavorings, preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers, nitrates, MSG, sulfites and salicylates. Salicylate intolerance can cause a susceptible individual to react to large amounts of salicylate-containing foods, particularly citrus fruits, teas, mint flavoring, berries and processed foods with flavor additives.
The digestive tract regularly takes the brunt of foods, medications, hormones, and chemical additives which can interfere with repair of the gut lining, causing increased intestinal permeability which is more commonly known as leaky gut. Leaky gut is characterized by the loosening of tight junctions between the cells which line the gut, thus allowing food molecules to pass through. These free floating food molecules are viewed by the immune system as a threat and will mount an immune response which manifests as the signs and symptoms of food intolerance. Think of all that food sitting in the gut, undigested. Pretty unnerving, huh?
How to diagnose food intolerance
Diagnosing food intolerance can be extremely difficult since the signs and symptoms often mimic those of food allergy. One method of ferreting out which foods are involved in a food intolerance is keeping a food diary in which all foods eaten are recorded, along with symptoms and their time of onset. After suspected trigger foods have been determined, an exclusion diet can be implemented, in which those foods are removed from the diet for weeks to months. If the symptoms disappear during the exclusion phase, potential trigger foods can be re-introduced after this phase is completed in order to determine which substances are problematic. If the food intolerance is mild, a small amount of the food will not trigger symptoms, and in many cases may still be consumed, especially if enzymes are taken to aid in digestion. Essentially, many people can return to foods which they were mildly or even moderately intolerant of after avoiding it for a period of time.
Blood testing is considered the most reliable and comprehensive form of testing for food intolerance, but there are only a few laboratories which specialize in this type of test. ALCAT, Pinnertest.com and HEMOCODE Food Intolerance System are laboratories which offer food intolerance testing via serum analysis, with ALCAT considered the largest food intolerance testing group in the U.S. Some insurance plans will cover part or all of the expense of the testing, so it is always worth inquiring about insurance coverage. Some testing panels also provide a detailed rotation diet which patients can follow when they are ready to reintroduce the foods of which they are intolerant.
Back in 2014, I made a promise to myself that I would visit a foreign country, preferably one I had not visited before, every even-numbered year. I designated every even year primarily as a means to give myself enough time to prepare my schedule and my finances to be able to travel every other year, and I also chose that interval because I felt a strong itch to visit a foreign country in 2014.
Why was I struck with this idea in 2014? One reason was that I suddenly realized that year that I had not taken a bona fide vacation since 2007. The second and more compelling reason stemmed from deep conversations I had with my dear friend and meditation teacher, who was quickly succumbing to a very aggressive and deadly brain tumor. On more than one occasion during my visits with him, he told me, “Don’t wait to do the things you have always wanted to do, because you might run out of time to do them.”
What Rob told me really got me thinking. I thought of how my mom had a number of big dreams dashed because she had always pushed them to the side, believing that she either didn’t deserve to pursue them, or that her dreams would never come to fruition. For example, she had entertained a strong interest in travel, but she always made excuses for why she couldn’t go on vacations or getaways. In fact, the only “vacations” she ever took were when one of her siblings fell ill or died, and she had to fly to Hawaii to visit. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t think such trips should ever count as vacations, especially since they are so emotionally difficult. It’s not like my mom went to Hawaii and had a grand time at the funerals she attended.
Though I had traveled to various destinations for reasons other than the death of a relative, I knew that I had also fallen into a similar trap of making excuses about being too busy to take a vacation. So in the Spring of 2014 I decided to travel to Prague to compete in an IFBB Pro event, and figured that I would also visit Hungary, which was on my bucket list of destinations to visit.
My friend Rob passed away on April 29, 2014. After spending several weeks grieving for him, I decided to act upon my proposed travel plans to Eastern Europe. As I was planning the trip, I realized that since I would be in prep for a bodybuilding show, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Prague as a vacationing traveler, and also realized that I would only have a couple of days to explore Hungary. I ultimately decided not to compete, and instead booked a 7-day trip to Hungary which I completed in September of 2014.
Hungary turned out to be just as magical as I imagined it to be, and I honestly felt like I was honoring my dearly departed friend Rob when I was there. By an incredible stroke of luck, I was able to travel to Sydney, Australia and Bali the following month. Satisfied with having traveled to 3 new countries, I resolved to go somewhere new in 2016.
In March of 2016, I flew to Costa Rica, adding to my list of foreign destinations and keeping my promise to Rob and myself to travel internationally in an even year. After my Costa Rica trip, I wasn’t able to save money consistently for a trip in 2018, but whenever I had a chance to set something aside, I did.
I’m proud to say that I have fulfilled my promise yet again this year, when I traveled to the Maldives in September, and to Thailand earlier this month. Both trips were absolutely amazing, and I feel spiritually richer because of those experiences. I love the fact that I am able to say that I added six new countries in the last 5 years to my foreign travel roster, and I have every intention of adding to the list in 2020. My goal is to save up for a trip to Japan in 2020, but if I am unable to save enough money to travel to that destination, I will select a more reasonably priced excursion so that I can stay on track with my travel goals.
For those of you who are curious about what foreign countries I have visited, here is the list:
Mexico (1986, 1989, 1992)
Costa Rica (2016)
Australia (Sydney) (2014)
It will be exciting to think about what countries I will visit in the future. Some of the countries on my list include: Fiji, Bora Bora, Spain, Egypt, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Scotland, Kenya, New Zealand, Nepal.
For those of you who dream of traveling, but who always seem to find a roadblock when trying to plan a trip, how about setting a similar goal to the one I have set for myself? You would give yourself at least a year to save up money between trips, and you would be able to travel to destinations you’ve always wanted to see.
The curative effects of laughter are now widely known, and many people (myself included) thrive on humorous social media posts. From the time I was a small child, I gravitated towards comedy, watching Carol Burnett, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Dave Allen (does anyone remember this fella?) and Benny Hill faithfully, all the while leaving my mother puzzled by my intense interest in the funny television variety shows which were the order of the day back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. She became even more concerned when I picked up a copy of Eddie Murphy: Comedian in 1982 and laughed my ass off while listening to the album repeatedly. Eddie’s stand-up style was so off-color for my mother that she bitched and moaned about me listening to him, but I found him hilarious and kept on listening. I have the record album (yes, a vinyl LP) in my collection to this day.
My love of comedy has never waned, and though I don’t watch enough television to get drawn into current sitcoms or other comedic shows, I am in my car often enough that I have developed a habit of listening to comedy while I drive. I find it much more enjoyable to listen to comedy than music while I am in the car, and since SiriusXM has a number of comedy stations, I have them loaded as presets on my radio and rotate through them. I would much rather listen to a comedy bit by a talented stand-up comedian than to toggle through radio stations which often play the same tunes over and over. The fact that I can laugh while driving, especially in Los Angeles, is a godsend. It’s a great way to arrive at my destination in a relatively good mood, even if I have to sit through hellish traffic.
Even if you don’t have SiriusXM, you can catch some pretty amusing morning radio shows. In L.A., I like listening to Frosty, Heidi and Frank. Most large metropolitan areas host morning radio shows which are worth a listen.
Have you ever given any thought to how children move? The most fidgety of kids will move constantly, and will exhibit a freedom of movement. Children as a whole are far more active and naturally athletic than most adults. Movements such as swaying from side to side, swinging arms, fidgeting, jumping, and skipping are all the dominion of the child. Ordinarily, if an adult dares to move in that manner, he or she would be regarded, and often rightly so, as bonkers.
So what happens to an adult when he or she is allowed to move freely like a child, allowing whatever impulse emerges to direct movement of body parts?
There is one yoga instructor at the yoga studio I frequent who has a habit of encouraging the students to move and shake their limbs, wiggle their hips, and just let loose during one portion of her kundalini yoga class. Do students feel silly when they begin to move? Absolutely. Does everyone begin to enjoy the freedom that such movements can confer on the body, mind and spirit? Oh yes. It is incredibly liberating to be able to shake it like you just don’t care, all in a comfortable and non-judgmental environment.
I think the next best thing to being in a kundalini yoga class with a cool yogi like the one I mentioned, would be to take a dance class, or take part in freestyle dancing at a local club. It’s a great way to de-stress and have fun in the process.