Suns Out, Guns Out

Summer. That wonderful time of year when there are no pencils, no books, and no more teacher’s dirty looks. There is such beautiful weather that comes out to play and we tend to enjoy it through barbecues, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, and more. However, where there is summer, there is prolonged time outdoors under the sun, and skin protection is often overlooked.


Skin protection is a very important part of health and wellness, but typically neglected. How many of us neglect our skin in the summer? I know I sometimes do. Sure, we take care of our skin every other part of the year with moisturizers and exfoliation, but when the sun comes out, and the shorts, t-shirts, and bathing suits come on, sunscreen rarely touches our skin. ‘Why’, you may ask. Because we want to be tan. Tan, tan, tan. Having golden, bronzed skin is a sign of healthy skin, right? Who wants to be pale? Not me! I look forward to summer all year because I get to lay out and get a nice new hue.

Our skin health should never be pushed aside for a tan, though. There are serious risks and dangers that can come from long-term sun exposure. The most obvious of these is skin cancer.

There are 3 types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Skin cancer is usually caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays that are emitted from the sun. There are 3 types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA is the most common type of emission and it can penetrate an individual’s layers of skin and damage connective tissue, which increases risk of skin cancer. UVB is less common because some of it is absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer; it does help produce vitamin D in the body, but too much can still cause skin damage. UVC is entirely absorbed by the ozone layer.

It is important to protect your skin and here are some ways to do it:

  • Wear sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher year round, even on cloudy or hazy days.
  • Stay in the shade.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs, and wear a hat, especially one that covers your ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses.
  • Avoid tanning beds! They are not worth the potential risks and skin damage.

If you do spend time outdoors, make sure to check your skin periodically using the ABCDE guide:

skin cancer pic

Definitely be sure to see your dermatologist at least once a year, or if you suspect skin damage. Summer is a wonderful time of year, but make sure that you first focus on skin protection so that you will be able to continue your outdoor activities for many years to come!



Run Forrest, Run. part 1

Running. For some people it’s a wonderful form of exercise that releases endorphins and makes them feel like they’re flying. For others, it is the worst form of punishment in the world used by coaches or boot camp trainers.

This brings me to my first part in a three-part series: the reasons people do not run.

You may not run for various reasons. Maybe because you’d rather sprint than go long distance, or even because it is very difficult to gain muscle when doing so much cardio. And beyond that, people are concerned with looking silly or out of shape while running.

Check out that form!

Check out that form!

These are common and understandable reasons not to run.

To address the first concern of you’d rather sprint than run long distance. Sprints and suicides are popular and extremely beneficial ways to run; running 400m as fast as you can and feeling fast is an awesome sensation. It was always great as kid to be considered the fastest, not the one who could run for an hour and not be out of breath. No one ever cared about stuff like that. But now, being able to compete in a 5K or go for a jog with your neighbor is a great goal. It can seem daunting to say, “I’m going to run 6 miles.” Running is a mental game, so instead tell yourself, “I’m going to run 3 miles.” If you run 3 miles in one direction, you have no choice but to run 3 miles back home, and next thing you know you’ve completed 6 miles. Generally, you can do more than you think you can.

The other issue is for those who are trying to gain muscle. It has been proven that the more chronic cardio you do, the less muscle you are able to maintain or build. As you perform extended cardio, your body begins to break down its fat, and you commonly lose weight overtime. However, when you have little fat to lose and have don’t have a high enough calorie intake, your body will begin to break down its muscle. It is common to see long-distance runners who are very lean, and less muscular than sprinters, because they are not concerned with keeping on too much muscle. Running for 2 hours burns about 1000 or more calories, and just 30 minutes depending on weight and speed can burn about 300 calories. However, those trying to gain muscle typically still do some form of cardio 2-3 times a week. Why not run? Running is perfect because it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can always run. No equipment necessary, and as long as you up your calorie intake that day, you shouldn’t have an issue with muscle gain. One of my friends lifts weights everyday, and has built a lot of muscle over the course of the last couple of semesters. However, he runs 2-3 times a week, for about 30 minutes, and he hasn’t had any issues with muscle loss.

The last reason you may not run is for fear of looking silly and inexperienced while running. Like any sport or exercise, it takes time and patience. You can’t expect to put on running shoes and run for 4 miles and feel great. It takes a lot of time. I used to not be able to run for a mile without being out of breath, but as I began to build up my base I was able to increase beyond that. I used to look so silly running. I was constantly out of breath, panting, sore, and drooling because I was too tired to swallow my spit. People would say stuff to me, and I became embarrassed so I switched to a treadmill where no one could see me. That’s okay! Start running in a place you are comfortable, and you can go your own pace. However, as you are able to increase mileage and speed, try stepping outdoors for a few runs. Don’t expect to be able to run 4 miles at an 8 minute pace because you were able to do it on a treadmill. Outside, you have to propel yourself forward; the road doesn’t do it for you. And don’t feel discouraged by other runners passing you or who look like they are barely trying. They all started where you are.

We all have to have our weak moments to become stronger. If you are still worried about running, find a partner to run with. Running with friends keeps you motivated to keep up and not all eyes will be on you as you run.

Just remember: if you run, you’re a runner! And stay tuned for next weeks post: why you should run versus other forms of cardio.

Don’t Be That Girl…

Don’t be that girl at the gym.

Trust me, I used to be one of these people, and sometimes I still am. I’m not trying to put these ladies down. I just think we need to be more enlightened about gym etiquette and some of the gym stereotypes we may be reinforcing.

Don’t be this girl at the gym:

  • The Cardio Bunny: I’m looking at you girl who walks in, jumps on the elliptical or treadmill, pounds out 45-60 minutes, changes and then goes home. Cardiovascular exercise is absolutely wonderful for you. It strengthens your heart and lungs, increases brain productivity, and helps lower risks for heart disease and stroke. But if that is all that you are doing, then you are doing yourself a disservice. You’re lacking a very crucial aspect of exercise: resistance-training. And you are simultaneously reinforcing the stereotype that woman are afraid to lift heavy weights. Please stop doing cardio everyday and never going near the weight rack. Burning 400 calories everyday with cardio, and never putting on muscle (which burns calories by the way), will only go so far.
  • The Pink Dumbbells Girl: It’s a running joke that woman walk over to lift a few weights, to ya know, get toned like the celebrity on the cover of that magazine, and what do they reach for? The 8 lb. dumbbells. Maybe 10 lbs. Anything more intense will make you bulky and manly. I’m not saying this stereotype applies to all girls, but this theology is so wrong on so many levels. Ladies, please listen to me! Lifting weights will not make you bulky! You do not have enough testosterone in your body and you do not drink enough supplements to put on that type of mass. But you want to have nice muscle definition? Lifting light weights with no phase training or plan will get you nowhere and you are just wasting your time. You need to lift heavy at least twice a week, and you’ll watch the strength and beautiful muscles emerge.
  • The Beauty Queen: You see her as she walks in. Beautifully curled or straightened hair with blinding shine, enough mascara to weigh the eyelids down, gloss on the lips, and maybe some light pink blush to give that “just worked out” look. Just when you think she might start bursting into a sweat, she sets the treadmill to 3 mph and proceeds to walk for the next 30 minutes. She looks beautiful, so graceful up there, but it’s too perfect… Ladies, no one cares what you look like at the gym. Let me repeat that: no one cares. Sorry if that’s harsh, but this is not the time to be your best looking or trying to impress that hottie you spotted. Exercising should be about your health, fitness, and overall well-being, not about what others think about you. People at the gym will be far more impressed with a sweaty mess busting out some sprints on the treadmill or going for a one rep max on the bench press than they ever will with what you look like at that moment. And when you work hard and consistently in the gym, you’ll look good all the time.


  • The Chatty Kathy: Woman love to talk. It’s in our DNA. And when we get around some of our closest friends the good times roll and we can laugh and talk about anything and everything. Catching up on life is fun and having a workout partner is great, but remember what you are at the gym for: to exercise. This is not social hour. If you go to the gym and end up talking on or near a machine the whole time, you are wasting yours and everyone’s time. Do not ever sit or stand on equipment and just talk. It’s rude. You had better be doing something with that equipment or please get off and let someone else use it. There are people at the gym who there to workout and do nothing else, so please respect the facility and the other members. (This also applies to the ladies who sit around on equipment and text or call people- talk to them when you are off the machine).
  • The Justifier: How many times have you heard a girl at the gym mention what she is going to eat after she finishes exercising because she “earned” it? How many of you are that girl? No, a 40 minute workout does not justify a Diary Queen blizzard that is 740 calories. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t. Yeah, you may feel better about eating it because you burned some calories, but don’t sabotage all of your hard efforts in the gym with a poor diet. Abs are made in the kitchen and you will see your best results outside the gym with a consistent diet.  Never use exercise to justify your eating. It’s a bad habit. But if you do decide you want to eat a special meal or decadent dessert, just do it. Don’t feel like you need to reason with yourself or others.

These are just some of the top 5 offenses I have seen women commit at the gym and they are all just silly. For help on defeating these stereotypes visit ACSM for advice and guidelines on how to set-up an appropriate cardiovascular and resistance-training program. Also, talk to a Registered Dietician or a corporate or university provided nutritionist for advice on healthy eating habits and choices. Be mindful of your intentions and actions at the gym, and keep working towards the best health and fitness you can achieve.