FITTness: Slapping the Sleeping Sloth

Boxing Girl

A student of mine requested that I post an entry regarding health and wellness (one of my favorite subjects).  😛  After graduating with a university degree in kinesiology (exercise and sport science) I wanted nothing more than to promote and instruct people in sculpting the “bodily temple” that we all want… but that only a handful of us have the willpower to actually achieve (…at least, just yet). 

There are only two components to everlasting health; our belief system and the momentum that comes from changing our belief system positively.

The only reason why we can’t have what we want, is our story behind why we can’t have it.  -Tony Robbins (Life Coach/Motivational Speaker)

The World’s Best Exercise Program

It is very unfortunate, but there is a large amount of misinformation in the health and fitness community.  There are lots of “quick fixes,” pills, wraps, diets, et cetera that promise results.  Don’t buy into them!  Don’t rely on engineered “potions” but rather…the extremely vast potential that exists within your natural body.  Fitness trainers, gym owners, marketers, although well-meaning, twist the available exercise literature and create their own “spin” in order to make exercise appear “easy and enjoyable.”  Let’s face this fact before we go on any further: If you want to perform at your peak… slow (not reverse) the signs of aging… reduce your risk of disease/illness… trim away excess weight… have a ripped, toned body… you are going to have to work.


(1)  USE YOUR HEAD- Exercise is work (but work can be enjoyable and fun too).  Do you have the guts (yes, it’s like “a challenge”)…do you have “the guts” to get on a program and stay there?  Think seriously on this:  can you adhere to a structured program or should you just heighten your daily activity level?  An exercise program isn’t for everyone (but don’t put yourself in that category without a sound effort)

(2)  ARE YOU A SLOTH?-  Language holds a great deal of power.  Be honest with yourself… are you really too busy?… or are you just plain “lazy?”  Are you “delightfully plump”… or are you “morbidly obese?”  It’s just your health now guys… I mean, just how important is it?

(3)  JOT IT DOWN- We’re much more motivated to continue with something if we make a conscious effort to work it into our day.  Don’t try to remember it… you’ll forget, or you’ll make an excuse to do it some other time.  And we all know that “some other time” often means “no time.”

(4)  GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS- What are your goals?  We all can’t be a Kobe Bryant, but if we strive towards perfection we will, with a doubt, improve (at the least).  Ask yourself, “What are my short-term goals?” … “What are my long term goals?”  [write them down].  “Are these goals realistic and attainable.”  In other words, don’t be the feather-weight in the gym with aspirations of one day becoming heavyweight champion of the world.  Don’t set yourself up for failure.  Make small strides and improve on these…each and every day….for as long as you are able.

(5)  FOLLOW THE LEADER-Who knows best… your best friend, or the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)?  This is your health that we’re talking about! Be smart in who you take your advice from… even if it sounds reasonable, enticing or “cutting-edge.”  Here are some guidelines:

  • Water: Dictated by thirst. (8 glasses a day?  NO, this is an approximation. Ask, “Am I thirsty”)
  • Protein:  0.8-1.0g per Kg of body weight (don’t ask me to do the math… me hate math)
  • Herbs: Not essential (Be cautious if taken and note the concentration/potency)
  • Vitamins: Consult physicians  (Can be harmful)
  • Exercise: 3-5 times a week. Preferably aerobic.  (Build this into a habit! & allow time to recover)
  • Always: Reduce salts, saturated fats, hydrogenated oils & simple sugars from the diet
  • (source: ACSM. Sixth Edition)

(6)  F.I.T.T-IT-IN–  F.I.T.T. stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time & Type.  Results occur when the motivated individual builds a healthy habit (not obsession) of exercise and follows the FITT Principle (as described in the ACSM manual).

  1. Frequency- [number of sessions per given time frame] – Varies from person to person.  This is based on the person’s ability to replenish lost energy, repair damaged tissue, etc.  The common approach is to wait 48 hours before retraining a particular body part. (again, this varies)
  2. Intensity-  [doesn’t mean how “hard” one trains… but refers to a percentage of weight being lifted]  For example, If Arnold Schwarzenegger can bench 500lbs only one time…he is working at a high intensity.  On the flip-side, if he benched 300 lbs at 12 reps, he is working at a relatively low intensity (even-though this weight would destroy you or me).  Why is intensity important, you may ask? Well… intensity determines the type of muscle fibers our body recruits.  Therefore, the greater the intensity/workload, the greater the muscle fiber recruitment. 
  3. Time- [how long a training session lasts]  Even though many peak athletes train for several hours a day, it may not be prudent for the average working man/woman.  My opinion is that 45-60 minutes is completely adequate (as long as one still leads an active lifestyle outside the gym).  Training sessions that last beyond 60 minutes typically lack “effort” necessary for significant gains, and can increase the risk of training injuries.  (lengthy sessions are ill-advised unless you are younger or a competitive athlete).
  4. Type- [This refers to exercise selection.  Commonly referred to as Resistance machines vs. Free weights.]  While free weights more closely resemble “real life” activity (engraining traits such as: strength, stability and coordination), resistance machines can less daunting, and easier to work with (i.e. constantly changing weights). 

Additional exercise considerations include: number of sets, number of repetitions, tempo (movement speed), exercise order and rest periods.  Consulted a certified trainer to help develop the right plan of action to meet your specific health goals. 


Realize that just about everyone you meet in the gym will claim that he or she is an expert.  It’s not to say that these blokes have bogus advice, but take it not only with a grain of salt… but with a grain of thought.  Do some research and typically lean to those with PhDs at the end of their name.  Even I, myself can be caught up in the whole “I-have-the-answer”-mania.  But before I end this entry… let me lay-on-ya some info to help increase your health knowledge-base.  (some of these may be obvious, but for the benefit of others, I’ve included it.  Deal with it 😛 )

  • Thinner is not always better..nor is it always healthier (body image can be quite damaging [women in particular] and it should be one’s goal to adopt a body of heath [at whatever body type] and not the body of a particular celebrity)
  • During the eccentric (i.e. lengthening) movement of our exercise, micro-tears occur within the muscle fiber.  This “damage” is a completely natural process of muscle breakdown and regeneration.  The soreness that one may feel is called “delayed onset muscle soreness” and is NOT lactic acid buildup.
  • Dieting can be more harmful than obesity.  Stress not only comes from outside sources (i.e. work, school) but from changes within your body.  The “yo-yo effect” (losing weight and gaining weight back) can be very stressful on the body, not to mention that that majority of people who diet and lose weight, gain it back… plus a few pounds.  (btw… did you know that the first 3 letters of diet is “die”?)
  • Oprah doesn’t have all the answers,… and just because something worked for her, doesn’t mean that it will work for you.
  • Strength stems from how efficiently muscles are used, the rate they are used, etc. and is not measured by how large the muscle becomes)
  • Significant benefits can be gained through the alternative health practices of Qigong, Meditation, Yoga and Taijiquan.  Breathing… it’s the secret of life.  ( I don’t invite you to try life without it)
  • Studies have shown that deep, diaphragmatic breathing creates a vacuum  in which lymph (transporter of oxygen to cells) is sucked through the bloodstream and multiples the pace at which the body eliminates toxins.  Deep breathing and exercise can increase lymph movement up to 15 times as much as regular breathing. (source: Jack Shields, PhD.  Santa Barbara, CA)


The way to lose weight is to expend more calories than you take in.  It can be just as simple as that.  At the same time, you should minimize your intake of saturated fats and hydrogenated oils.  Always supplement eating smart (GO ORGANIC) with regular exercise (at least 3 times a week).   And remember, daily activities DO count in health and fitness.  In regards to meals… never starve yourself.  Eat more of the best foods (foods that are rich in nutrients) and eat more, smaller meals throughout the day (similar to “grazing”).  (ESS270 notes. UNCG. 2000)


The majority of this article was written back in 2003, shortly after I graduated from college.  I was (and still am) eager to motivate and bring “enjoyable” exercises to the masses.  And although I’m no Richard Simmons (I love that guy!)… I hope that I have reached a few of you.  The guidelines contained herein are from the American College of Sports Medicine (with various smart-alic comments by yours truly)… while the rest were taken from my college notes and are appropriately sited.  So, I’ve rambled on long enough…  In conclusion, brush those teeth, …eat that rutledge, exercise and live life with zest.  And always remember this quote (it’s one of me faves):

It is never to late to become what you might have been.    -George Eliot




~ by chencenter on February 26, 2008.

12 Responses to “FITTness: Slapping the Sleeping Sloth”

  1. Good post. I really enjoyed reading that. The information is pretty consistent with what I’ve read in my own research and from my own training experience. I really like that you started off with mentioning belief systems and that Tony Robbins. Every success story of someone transforming themselves into a healthier person has started with a personally significant inner drive to change. Too many people overlook that.

    I do have one minor quibble with your post. IMO, Waiting until you’re thirsty before drinking water is not the best approach. If you’re thirsty, you’re already partially dehydrated. You should be drinking water regularly whether or not you’re thirsty. The only downside to this is that you have to pee constantly when you’re drinking water all the time, but at least your tissues are all well hydrated.

  2. Johnny, my educated friend…good comment (including the quibble). But let’s debate this issue a moment. We all know that most people don’t drink enough water, however the only inner cue that our body needs water is our thirst. Sure, the body is slightly dehydrated before the thirst mechanism kicks in…but this slight dehydration is (in my research) a healthy approach than over-hydrating. Instead of cell degradation, the over-hydrated cells actually swell and burst. And eventhough it might be best to carry a water pouch everywhere to “wet our whistle”…over-hydrating (although it takes some serious water consumption) can be dangerous and is less healthy. Besides…our body can become dependant on drink water (as a habit). Okay… all this talk about drinking has made me thirsty. Gonna have a drink, Cheers!

  3. What’s sad is that in this day and age, many adults and even children are becoming overweight and obese.

    Your whole entire article is, when it comes down to it, simply living a healthy lifestyle! None of what you wrote is an incredibly hard task to acheive-simply exercise enough and eat the right foods in the right amounts, and you’ll be physically healthy.

    I have to say though, I am being sort of a hypocrite- i’m certainly not the most healthy person(hehe-i’m guilty, i have got to eat less and get in better shape), but attempting to do what’s good for my body is an important thing to me.

    But just a point- it is really important, before trying to make changes to your body and become healthier, that you become healthier mentally also.

    Going into a fitness plan thinking “Oh my god, I have to lose 40 pounds.” versus “I want to do what is best for my body and my overall well-being.” Those are two entirely different statements in that when you are trying to accomplish something, you should think of the positives.

    It’s very hard not to think negative things when you aren’t the way you want to be, everyone in the world thinks a bad thought about their body or personality, etc.- but attempting fitness is one step towards an overall happier person.

    The article was great Michael! 🙂

  4. by the way i think the title is very clever:]

  5. Caitlin- i love your honesty. ok. i’ll be honest too. I can be a hypocrite at times (the same as everyone else). But certainly in our case, knowledge is strength. Take my previous article for example…i can clearly see how Mtn. Dew could be the death of me (some day), so I’m trying to amputate her from my life. sigh! no, not really…I’m following your advice and cutting back very gradually. will keep you informed.

    And thanks for the title comment. You’re the first to mention its “cleverness.” I like the image it evokes. It’s always been a dream of mine to slap a sleeping sloth. j/k (have you tried to say it three times fast yet?) 😛

  6. thanks for the info!
    great material to “chew” on..

  7. You tell us baby! America has an increasing lazyness and obesity problem. We are now deciding to sit down with our Wii playing sports sitting down instead of practicing the sport for real. We are convinced we are too busy while watching our reality shows to exercise. I NEED to hit the gym myself and i plan on achieving this goal. I want to build up my muscles and my cardiovascular fitness to improve my health so I will hit the gym soon!

  8. hahaha that dream of yours- it’s definitely on the list of priorities hehehe j/k!

    i wonder what would happen if you slapped a sleeping sloth? hmm…

    and i said it three times and i confused myself:/ hahaha:)

  9. Michael,

    I agree with you that hyperhydration is definitely not a good thing. But water poisoning is pretty rare. You really have to chug a lot of water before that becomes an issue. Your stomach will feel unpleasantly sloshy and your bladder will start hating you well before you’re in the danger zone. The only cases I’ve heard of it are of people doing stupid water drinking contests on the radio for some silly prize. The other possibility is from endurance athletes not drinking electrolytes with their fluids while training/competing.

    Anyhow, to steer my input back more on topic, I’ll add that living a fit and healthy lifestyle isn’t particularly hard. It just seems that we in modern world don’t seem to value it enough to make it a priority. But it’s good to see that there are still communities of people out there that still strive to maximize their lives by valuing a healthy lifestyle. I’ve long believed that a sound body and mind do wonders for your quality of life.

  10. Johnny- I’m in complete accordance. I am pleased to hear that healthy living is not “particularly hard” for you. As active as I am (and although I am very fit now…) I have a real soft spot for food. My fast-paced lifestyle doesn’t help as i am often too busy to fix salads and stir-up yummy vegetables.

    And back to the water dealie…I had a girlfriend that drank (and probably still does) at least 2 gallons of water a day. Excessive, no?

  11. I mostly agree with you guys. Good points here. I remember my youth days when I was in good shape (not anymore thanks to the job of sitting down in front of a monitor and typing away) and perfect health. What I learned from that time is that it’s all about frequency and motivation.

    Happy exercise everyone.

  12. I see that you graduated from Appalachian State University.

    I went to Lees-McCrae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina. My roommate was from Winston Salem.

    Great blog too.

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