Blake Snow

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Tagged exercise

To the stranger who reminded me that the human body can do hard things

Photo: Lindsey Snow

Photo: Lindsey Snow

The young man was hiding something. Perhaps unknowingly, but he was still hiding something.

He had spiked hair with an Archie look to it, albeit dishwater blonde instead of bright. A little under six feet tall, he wore an oversized t-shirt and basketball shorts like something out of the ’90s—two sizes too big.

He was pigeon toed, around 175 pounds, and with a case of mild acne. I’m guessing he was 20, give or take a few years.

Why was I so concerned with this guy’s looks, especially as a heterosexual man in a public gym?

I’ll tell you why. Continue reading…

No pain, no gain: Short-term discomfort is the price of long-term health

Why do some people willingly participate in unpleasant things like regular exercise, cold  showers, bland but healthy food, sacrificial restraint, and drinking lots of water, which cause a lot of annoying bathroom runs?

The short answer: Everything has a price. Good health is no exception. In exchange for long-term health, humans must endure short-term discomfort associated with the above.

In more succinct terms, “no pain, no gain.” That’s the catchphrase Jane Fonda popularized in ’80s workout videos to express that rewards are worth the work. Or as David Morris wrote in The Scientist, “The road to achievement runs only through hardship.”

In my experience, that’s the case for good health as much as anything in life. Of course, knowing that won’t make difficult things easy. But it does give them meaning, which I believe lessens suffering.

Easy peasy: 5 ways to rewire your brain for happiness

Grant Wood/Wikimedia Commons

Grant Wood/Wikimedia Commons

As a leading psychologist, Shawn Achor has spent two decades studying happiness. His bona fides include award-winning researcher and teacher at Harvard, best-selling author on positivity, and popular TED lecturer.

So when he speaks you should listen. For instance, Achor asserts our circumstances — including age, race, gender, social status, and wealth — only account for 10% of our happiness. The rest is determined by our genetic baseline for happiness (i.e. optimist vs pessimist) and our individual intentions, including the way we spend our time and the things we ponder.

Obviously, happiness means different things to different people. But there are plenty of standardized things we can do to boost our chances of finding it. Somethings such as knowing oneself, learning how to forgive, and balancing the personal, professional, and social demands on our time can be life-long pursuits.

But other happiness-building attributes are quite easy, Achor argues. In order from least difficult to most difficult, they are as follows:  Continue reading…

Homemade polar bear club: Why I started taking cold showers

Cold showers went viral this year. I jumped on the bandwagon this summer and haven’t gone back, not even in winter. Here’s why:

  1. Indisputable health benefits. Cold showers and winter swimming aren’t fun. Neither is exercise. Humans do all three primarily for the health benefits, which include more vigor, less stress, higher immunity, improved complexion and skin, better circulation, and elevated alertness. Since switching to cold showers, I feel more alive not only in the act, but after the fact.  Continue reading…

How my daughter inspired me to plank for 5 minutes

My sister-in-law challenged our family to a plank-off recently. Person who could plank the longest wins. “I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t stomach those things for 30 seconds.”

Or so I told myself.

Before continuing my story, a quick note: Like any inherently lazy human, there are a lot of exercises I hate doing. But planks are the worst—invented by Satan himself. They’re right up there with Turkish getups, mountain climbers, and wall sits as most uncomfortable for me. So I wasn’t enthused to participate.

“I’m in!” my wife said. My daughter, too, was excited to compete. “I’ll try,” I relented, offending Jedi Masters everywhere.  Continue reading…

Before you exercise: 7 side effects of fitness

U.S. Army

U.S. Army

Beyond the obvious weight loss and cardiovascular benefits of regular fitness, here are a few bonus consequences of working on your body:

  1. Your skin improves. If vanity is your top goal for getting in shape, I’ve got good news: Regular exercise, particularly when coupled with a healthy diet, does wonders to your hue. If you’re white and pasty like me, your skin starts glowing the longer you work out. It looks healthy, full of color, slightly tan. The reason: “Exercise enhances blood flow to skin,” says Dr. David Katz. Plus, sweating works as a natural cleaning agent, unclogging pores and removing oil and dirt for fewer zits. My skin has never looked healthier. What a pleasant surprise.  Continue reading…

Weight is a lousy motivator for long-term health. Find a real cause today.

blake-first-marathonIf you’re happy with your health, nutrition and self-image, skip to the next post. If not, read on.

In nine years of marriage, Lindsey and I have never owned a weight scale. Not one.

Why? Because they’re superficial, largely meaningless, and a lousy motivator of long-term health. Continue reading…

Want to live to 100? Do these nine things

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

One of my goals in life is to become a centenarian, someone over 100 years of age. A few years ago, a team of researchers identified four areas that had the highest number of centenarians per capita in the world. They studied these people, wrote a book about them, then distilled their similar lifestyles down to a set of consistent life-giving habits.

And by life giving, I really mean death halting. Since there’s no brake on death, the best you can do is ease off the accelerator. With my added commentary, here are nine ways to do just that, as compiled by author Dan Buettner:

  1. Find a physical activity you enjoy and keep doing it. Do it for as long as you enjoy it. If and when you tire of that activity, find something else that pleases you. For example, you could start jogging, and if that becomes a bore, move to biking. Then swimming. Then Pilates. Then kickboxing. Then underwater basket weaving. Whatever it is, be sure to do it at least three times a week, moreso for idle or cubicle people. (In my case, since I sit at a desk and work from home, I have to move a lot more than most people to achieve the optimal amount of fitness.)
  2. Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry, as opposed to being full. There’s a difference. About 20% less food per meal, in fact. In short, this is the best known way to eat less. Stop when satisfied instead of stuffing yourself. Continue reading…

No turning back: How FiveFingers replaced cushioned running shoes

vibram fivefingers classic black

In 2009, I started running in the ugliest shoes ever. The first time I did it, my calves and feet ached in places they hadn’t before. The second time I did it, I knew I’d never run in cushioned shoes again.

With the exception to select frozen days of winter, in which I run in Nike Free 3.0s to stave off frost bite, I’ve run in Five Finger Classics (pictured) or KSOs ever since. Here’s why: Continue reading…

Why college football coaches stuggle with health

Because they’re constantly chaperoning 120 players, “most of them 18-22 years of age,” reports the Associated Press:

Joker Phillips is 47 and in his first season as Kentucky’s head coach after 20 years as an assistant. He said he has made sure to keep good habits despite the demands of the job. “I still work out every day. I still get the same amount of sleep. I just think this game is important to me, but my family and personal health is more important,” he said. “I am a competitor and I do want to win, but I’m not going to let this game ruin my life.”

Sports drinks are a convient way of boosting athletic endurance

powerade

I’m not crazy about their using corn sweeteners. And they won’t make you jump higher or run faster. But sports drinks (read: bottled sugar water) such as Gatorade and Powerade actually work when it comes to endurance boosts. Marathoners know this, as does this new study by the University of Edinburgh.

Scientists discovered that 12 to 14-year-olds could play for almost a quarter longer during team games when they drank an isotonic sports drink before and during games. The sports drink helped the adolescents continue exercising for up to 24% longer than those who were given a non-carbohydrate placebo drink.

To be clear, you can make homemade sports drinks that are nearly as effective. Just mix water with a little sugar, some flavoring, and a dash of salt. (Most isotonic drinks are a 6% carbohydrate-electrolyte solution.)

They key is to know when to reach for sports drinks over good old water. And all the research I’ve read suggests water is more than suitable for workouts under an hour. Anything longer than that and your body will benefit from the extra dose of electrolytes, carbs, sugar, and salt.

I know mine does during long distance runs.

See also: Top 5 Powerade flavors

Remember when I almost killed myself running?

I like running.

With exception to an injury hiatus, I ran several times a week over the past two years. And since reading Born To Run, I do so enthusiastically (not begrudgingly like I once did).

I normally run continuously for 45 minutes to an hour. On occasion, two hours—whatever I feel like really. I don’t time myself or track miles—an act that makes running feel like work—I just run.

Two weeks ago, I was feeling especially light on my feet. When I left the house on an empty stomach that Saturday, I didn’t plan on running for three plus hours, but I did. I also didn’t take water or food with me, and nearly put myself in the hospital as a result.

Continue reading…

Felllow runners, will I ever be a robot runner?

Some runners are automatic. Day in, day out, they hop on treadmills, negotiate cross-country trails, or sidestep pedestrians and cars in the city. It’s as if “Just do it” was baked into their DNA.

I am not one of them. Despite my efforts, I still get discouraged and have to continually assure myself while running that “I can do it.”

To be fair, I haven’t run that much. I ran the 400m in grade school, taking the coveted, second-to-last-place finish at state finals. I ran religiously for four months in 2005, after making a fleeting new year’s resolution, which resulted in my quitting. And I ran intensively for another four months last year in preparation for a half-marathon, an event I had to postpone due to a ruptured disc in my lower back, which also put my running on hold until earlier this month.

I admit that my limited running accomplishments get me through my runs better than I would without, but I feel almost as discouraged now as I did while training for my first long-distance race. Is it unrealistic to hope to become a robot runner — one that doesn’t have to play mind games during every workout — say after running three times weekly for an entire year? I’ll keep on trucking regardless, but it sure would be nice.

I’m the world’s fastest, slow-jogging 10k runner

Provo Freedom Run 2008
Lindsey
, my father-in-law, and I ran our first 10k at the Provo Freedom Festival on Saturday. Although I ran (ahem, slow-jogged) the entire 6.2 miles, my right leg now feels like jell-o. Nevertheless, I think I’m falling in love with this running business. Regarding the “medal,” I felt silly wearing it because the promoters gave one to all 1125 runners (unique, just like everyone else).