Monday, November 5, 2012


Hello all,

I hope you all survived ALL HALLOWS EVE and all the dreaded Halloween candy. Yes, you have guessed it is the first Monday of the month and it's time for a Health and Fitness post!

Today I have a special FEATURED guest ... our own Alex J. Cavanaugh! Yes, the Ninja Captain himself is here today with his tips on how he stays fit while writing.

But first, just a quick tip on sugar highs. ANY processed sugar products will give you a energy rush, BUT the crash is so not worth the high. SO, friends, stick with NATURAL sugar, as in fruits, honey, no sugar added preserves, and anything with stevia( a great, NATURAL sugar substitute)

We all need to keep our sugar levels even throughout the day. Eating smaller meals more often will keep you satisfied. You will eat less, and not have those aweful cravings.

Now it's time for ALEX... Welcome Alex. Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing your secrets with us.
Michael has been focusing on health for the past couple months. He asked me to contribute in the area of exercise and I agreed. After all, Ninjas have to stay in shape!

Let me begin by saying you can’t exercise without eating right. Believe me, I’ve tried. It really is a combination of diet and exercise. Writers tend to sit a lot, so we have to get our body moving and be mindful of what we dump down our throats.

For me, working out at home wasn’t much of an option. Sure, I mow the lawn with a push-mower. (Although I still plan to put in Astro Turf one day.) But even at the height of summer, that’s still only once or twice a week. I needed a dedicated time and place to work out.

Going to the gym gives me many options. I can jog on the treadmill, glide along on the elliptical, or do cardio with free weights. Put on some jamming tunes and I am good to go for an hour. I hit the gym four to five times a week, and it helps me wear off stress as well as keep me in shape. I’ve done it for so long, it’s now a habit. Obviously it’s working. After a recent physical, the doctor told me I had the healthy body of a thirty year old. Since you can add almost twenty years to that, I felt really damned good about the assessment!

If you have the means and the time, a gym membership is great. Don’t worry if you’re not in shape. Yes, there will be those guys who pump iron five hours a day and spend most of their time admiring themselves in the mirror. But most people are there to get in shape or stay in shape. Gyms also offer the option of a personal trainer to motivate you. And of course, plunking down several hundred dollars a year is very motivating!

Do you have access to a pool or other body of water? Swimming is one of the best, low-impact exercises. Just leave the inflatable mattress at home. Floating doesn’t count as exercise.

Too busy with work? With kids? With writing? With breathing?! There are other ways to exercise besides going to a gym.

Bring the gym home. Forget the fancy weight equipment – just get a good treadmill. When it comes to burning calories, it’s all about the cardio. Only have twenty minutes? Set that sucker at an incline and trot fast. You will burn some calories!

Workout videos work well for some people. Look for ones that don’t require you to place your body in uncomfortable, pretzel positions. And of course, they work best with the cellophane off.

Don’t want to follow along with some dude chirping “Doesn’t it feel great?” Buy a book. There’s some great workout books that will show you basic exercises, most of which can be done without any equipment.

At the very least, take a walk! Get out of your house. Walking is very slimming and it gives you time to think. Perfect for brainstorming new ideas.

Stuck at your desk? Move that body! Leg and arm lifts. Tap your foot. Anything!

Now, before doing any of these exercises, stretch out! You have to warm up or you’ll just end up hurting yourself. And never overdo it. If you haven’t jogged in years, don’t attempt a five-mile run up a hill. Start with thirty minutes a day, three-four days a week, and build from that point.

Don’t forget to give yourself days off. Unless you’re a professional athlete or training for a marathon, you don’t need to exercise every single day.

Exercise does so many great things for your body. It strengthens muscle, including your heart. It tones and slims. It ups your metabolism and you’ll burn calories faster. It helps control your weight. It staves off diseases such as diabetes. It makes your mind sharper and your body reacts faster. And ultimately, it will help you live a longer, healthier life.

So what are you waiting for, couch potatoes? Move!

Alex J. Cavanaugh

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.


  1. Great advice, you two. I put on music and dance around my living room for a half hour. It's great exercise but I don't call it that cause I hate exercising.

  2. Great advice Alex. I enjoyed hearing about your exercise routine.

    I've been walking for years. Mostly 5 days a week for 40 minutes. I love listening to audio books while I walk. Exercise is so essential for staying healthy.

  3. Great tips, Alex. I've read some of your thoughts on exercise before, and think you have a similar mindset as I do: exercise is a necessary evil for most people. YES, it feels good when you're done, and YES it helps you feel better in general. But it's work--perhaps some of the most valuable work you can do.

    There are so many things that nip at your overall health (and much of it isn't always controllable), from food choices to routine, so it's important to counteract that with a balanced diet and regular exercise.

    I think the important thing to remember is this: Anyone can do it. I'm a VERY ordinary guy. I'm not hyper-athletic (love sports, though), I've been WAYYYYY out of shape as an adult. And I was still able to get back to a healthy baseline.

    I couldn't run a quarter of a mile when I started 4 or 5 years ago, and I can run 3-4 miles every day of the week now. It took a ton of effort and persistence, yes, but I did it, and it has been one of the more worthwhile things I've ever done.

  4. Great post.

    I'm grateful to have a pool right outside my door. Where I live you can work up a sweat sitting at the computer, it's much more pleasant to work out in the pool where you're already all wet.

  5. Nice post! I survived Halloween just fine because it has not caught on here in Norway, on the other hand, since I quite smoking I have developed a lolly pop! No gym for me, I found sweating in a herd claustrophic. I do walk a lot (dog helps)and I have an exercise bike that I have been meaning to find :)

  6. Exercise for me isn't a problem. I get moody if I go too long without it. Plus I get story idea when I run. That's all the motivation I need to get moving. :D

  7. It does take both good diet and exercise.

    I have a treadmill, which is my saving grace. It's too hot and humid here in the summer to go out and run.

  8. I used to run A LOT. Switched that to hiking and my body (and me) are a lot happier. I also added Hot Yoga to change things up. Still not sure how I feel about the hot yoga, though. It is a deceiving workout. Lots of breathing and stretching but the poses? Weird.

  9. Great advice! I run every day and walk the dog a couple of miles. That really helps keep me in shape and looking young. Too funny about the lawn mower!

  10. I agree that diet has a lot to do with it. One without the other doesn't really work. A private chef and personal trainer would be a help too.


  11. Nice post guys. I always feel energized after I exercise and it seems to help my creativity flow.

  12. Great advice. Usually every summer I take off weight, but since we had record breaking high temperatures I didn't go outside much and didn't mow much WHICH meant I gain weight. But I started walking again recently and doing my indoor routine too.


  13. I do need to exercise regularly and make it a habit. I walk, but I need to get more in if I am ever going lose the rest of the weight I have to as I don't want to continue with the extra poundage. Great tips and thanks for sharing.

    Michael, you are always looking out for your friends and that is one of the best things about you. :)

  14. Work, family and money have made the gym an obstacle for years now, but I do have an elliptical at home and walk a lot. (to and from work adds to 4.5 miles a day, even if I don't do anything extra). My primary problem is with intake... I'm bad that way...

  15. Great advice, Alex and Michael! I no longer do the gym thing, it just stopped working for me at a certain point, but I totally believe that regular exercise is what not only keeps us fit, but sane. Now I meet a friend regularly in the early morning hours to take a three mile walk around a lake. Never thought I'd manage to stick to that--dragging myself out of bed, no time for enough coffee before facing the still-dark skies-- but we have and it's fabulous. It's enough exercise to get the oxygen flowing and the brain synapses sparking, and to make you stand taller and move smoother. If sticking to an exercise routine is a problem, meeting a friend to exercise together works. :)

  16. So true, Alex! Balance is key. And exercise keeps the blood flowing through the brain, too, so it's great incentive for writers. :)

  17. Thanks, Michael, for reminding us to stay healthy. And thanks, Alex, for the post. Now... off to the gym for a quick run. :)

  18. Great trips, Alex and Michael! I find even if I just get out for a 20-minute walk, I feel so much better.

  19. Good for you, EJ! I'm not very athletic either. Just in shape.

    Faraway, enjoy that pool!

    Siv, the sweating in a herd thing made me laugh!

    Stina, all the more reason to do it.

    Diane, too hot here as well.

    Liz, the things that go through my mind when I hear 'hot yoga'...

    Moody, that would be awesome.

    Teresa, at least it's cooler now.

    Melissa, you can do it. And Michael is awesome.

    Linda, glad you have a friend to motivate you. I use the gym to work off frustrations from the day job. My wife appreciates that.

  20. I work at home, so I try to take an hour and do yoga or T'chi. I also get wood in, chop kindling, vacuum, and eagle-watch. i suppose the last one doesn't count, but it does get me up and outside in the fresh air.

    Kudos to you, Alex for being such a healthy captain!

  21. Hey Michael! Thanks for having Alex over today...and Alex, I have to agree with you, exercise is vital to a happy, healthy life. Three and a half years ago I lost over 60 lbs and have kept it off through exercise and a plant based, whole foods diet. I normally hit the gym about five times a week..I do cardio, weights,and switch it up a bit with a yoga class and belly dancing, swimming, swiss ball class etc..(I'm one of those irritating people who actually loves to exercise)...but the saying is true, you can't exercise your way out of poor nutrition.
    And back to Michael, you mentioned Stevia as a natural sweetener..I haven't tried that one,(although I have heard a lot about it) but I want to know what you think of coconut palm sugar? I've used it now for a few months in tea and my one cup of coffee in the morning, and I love it. It is not nearly as sweet as white sugar and has kind of a caramelly trace minerals..what's your expert opinion? Sugar and salt hide in the most unexpected foods, which is why I rarely eat anything from a box or a can...anyways, great post Alex! And thanks to you also Michael..have a great day guys.

  22. awesome advice. we all should definitely make more time for exercise. I go to twice a week martial arts classes, but I know it's still not enough cardio. I need to get me one of those stationary bikes or something.


  23. Those are great tips Alex. Glad you mentioned the diet, exercise combo because I see so many people focus on exercise and still eat a lot of junk. It's frustrating for them because they don't get the results they want.

  24. Great post. Michael recommended a desk cycle and I bought one and am loving it. While it's not high impact cardio it does keep me active and some days it's my only exercise as I have a three year old and a two year old. I often have to stop whatever exercise I'm doing every five minutes to stop an argument. I figure if I up the habit of trying to exercise, someday, when the kids are older, it will actually be exercise.

  25. Joylene, I'd count the eagle-watching.

    Eve, good for you!!!

    Nutschell, what you do for exercise is amazing though.

    Johanna, exactly!

  26. P.S. I love these posts as they do keep me motivated. It would be so easy to give up.

  27. Hey everyone... Some GREAT comments here! I am SOOOO glad to see many of you eating better and EXERCISING.... And, yes, nutrition is a VERY IMPORTANT part of staying in shape.

    Like you said Eve, there is SO many hidden chemicals and sugar in processed foods. READ YOUR LABELS! It will SHOCK and DISGUST you! Americans are THE most unhealthiest people on the planet because of all the processed CRAP rammed down our throats. It is up to us to fight back by keeping informed and eating NATURAL and WHOLE foods.

    I am not too familiar with coconut palm sugar, but I will definitely look into it. Generally anything coconut based is EXCELLENT and low in calories.

    I know many of you have time restraints, but YOUR health and YOUR FAMILIES health are in jeopardy ... TAKE NO CHANCES...

    Hey, S.P.

    Glad you got the desk cycle and that it's working for you! KUDOS! Any movement will get the blood flowing! Thanks for you excitement about these posts. I care about all of you and only want you all to stay healthy and keep writing all your amazing stories for us to enjoy!

    Funny, Mood...

    Yes, a chef and trainer would be AWESOME, but only when we write that universal blockbuster!

    E. J. CONGRATS.... and you are SOOOO right, it does take a lot of dedication and determination! Most of us don't need to be athletes, but keeping fit is the key. It took me over a year to take off the added weight I had put on from the first three years of my writing. Now, I make time for me and stay focused. It has helped my writing immensely because now I feel so much better and I get my best ideas while exercising.

    Thanks again Alex! I am so glad we are on the same wavelength about staying healthy, mind and body... Not to mention keeping out sense of humor!

  28. Two of my favorite people in one spot. That's just awesome. Now I'm off to sweat some calories off my body.

  29. *love*

    The pair of you = The perfect health combination!

    Alright. I'm inspired. Off to go jump around! ;-)

  30. Oh gosh, now I feel totally guilty for not exercising more. What a blob I've become. Luckily, the weather has cooled enough that I wouldn't mind getting out for a walk. Now, where's my raincoat?

  31. SP, sorry about the interruptions!

    Michael, go get 'em!

    Morgan, thanks, but not ready for a wet t-shirt contest or anything.

    Nancy, you may be sweet but you won't melt!

    Thanks again for the opportunity, Michael.

  32. I’m a big fan of workout videos, especially the dance ones! I can really get into it, and unless the UPS man catches me off guard, I don’t have to worry about anyone judging me. *grins*

    Thanks for the tips!

  33. Great tips Alex, thanks for sharing. The one thing that stood out to me is that when something is done long enough it becomes a habit. If I can get past the dreaded three times and give up, maybe there's hope for me!

  34. Great advice here, guys! I know I have a good friend who's a personal trainer, and she's always talking about using stevia and keeping sugar levels even.

    As for sitting a lot as writers, ugh. They say sitting for long periods of time is so bad on many levels. Even just standing up for two minutes every 20 minutes is supposed to help. Of course, adding Alex's exercise tips makes a world of difference.

    I'm just trying to avoid the candy... LOL! :D <3

  35. A thirty year old! That's awesome. You two make a good team...just like peanut butter & jelly, oh wait no, like unsalted almond butter and no-sugar-added fruit spread. ;)

  36. Dear Alex and Micheal,

    A lot of good advice here!
    Unfortunately, I don't have much time to go to the gym. A month ago, my son, Erik, actually signed me up for training at a gym, because he really wanted to do it himself, but he is only ten years old and under age. (I still might do it though.)

    But in the meantime, I do not own a car. I do a lot of walking and bicycling just to get around town. (This is one of the advantages of living in a middle size city. It is actually small enough to ride your bike across town within twenty minutes time.)

    My children (age 8 and 10) keep me on my toes. My daughter wanted to go to the pool yesterday to try to learn how to swim. No time for NaNo then, spent five hours at the pool with my son and daughter. (But we rode the street car home, because we were tired!)

    Eating well starts with learning how to cook well. I try to cook from scratch. I can always feel the difference whenever I cheat, and have a ready-made, prefabricated meal from the freezer. Too much salt in everything that is prefabricated. I think salt is almost worse than sugar.

    But you can also lessen your sugar-intake if you cook from scratch. (I personally don't like sweeteners. Better less sweet that sweeten by a false sweetener, for example, "Splenda".) Great to mention the good uses of fruits. Put an apple in your potato casserole to liven it up! Use lemon instead of salt!

    I love to eat fresh salads. I love making them too. Fresh fruits and vegetables have more vitamins than cooked or processed. When cooking vegetables, I try to stop in time, let them remain al dente, to retain crispness, flavor and vitamins.

    I really believe that eating well starts with learning how to cook your own food and knowing what you are putting into your meals.

    Interesting post, Alex and Michael!
    Best wishes,


    Interested in having a garden for your kitchen needs? Visit my blogging-pal Tanya Walton (Allotments4you). There is a lot you can grow on a small plot of land.
    I have a link to Tanya on my blog.

  37. I use videos -- just finished one, good thing you can't see me :) -- and enjoy twisting into a pretzel. I'm not good at it, but I like it. I also try to hike up the butte at least once a week.

  38. I love walking. I could walk for hours if I had someplace decent to go. If I still lived in Tennessee I'd probably go hiking more often like I used to. I love walking in the mountains. As it is, the industrial park and shopping center near my house here in L.A. have been made conducive to walking so I average about 40 minutes a day pounding the pavement.

    Tossing It Out

  39. I swim as often as I can, and that's about all the exercise I get -- you're an inspiration, Alex!

  40. Carrie, that made me laugh!

    Hildie, you can do it!

    LTm, just get up and move now and then.

    Nicki, that's right!

    Anna, sounds like you are already on track.

    Mary, if I attempted pretzel I'd hurt myself!

    Lee, and that's good!

    Damy, swimming is good though.

  41. You have to take the cellophane off those exercise videos??? Who knew! No wonder it wasn't working ;)

    Great tips!

  42. Do you know how much work it is to remove the celophane from a DVD?

    I've been giving my Eliptical a workout abut 3 days a week, 20 minutes a day. Less if the danged thing has that awful creaking that makes me turn up the TV too loud. Does anyone have a can of WD 40?

    Thanks guys.


  43. Great advice! I move, but I need to give up those simple carbs. I am on a new plan...I'm going to eat a rainbow! Yes, ;D Color=fiber ...
    I was sidelined from a I have to build my muscle back! Made me mad, after riding over 900 mls....
    and seeing my biceps bulge! Back on track! :D

    Thanks Michael and Alex~

  44. Those are some great tips Alex. I've just started a daily walk/jog with the hubby in the morning after the kids are dropped off at school. It's very rejuvenating.

  45. Great tips, Alex! I've started a little exercise revolution of my own. I'm on week 9. I try to mix it up and have found a bunch of real-time videos online that you can do with the trainers.

  46. Great tips, Alex, and great guest post, Michael. I started out on the treadmill when I first started getting back into fitness. After a few months, though, I found I liked free weights and cable machines better.

    Diet is very important. Invest in yourself.

  47. great advice!! I've never been to a gym and I likely never will. I do use an exercise bike at home and I love walking. There's always a way :)

  48. Awesome advice! My parents bought me a gym membership. Alas, my current issue is having the actual gasoline to get to the gym *taps fingers impatiently and waits for pay day*

    So I'm stuck with lunges across the hallway and running up and down my stairs for now :D

    Ah, poor college kid problems.

  49. I find that consistent exercise is better than doing it in spurts. Making a habit of morning push-ups, sit-ups, and weight training. I take the stairs, park in the furthest slot in the parking lot, and stretching all during the day.

    Great post, Alex and Michael!

  50. Now I know why you're such a Ninja, Alex -- you're an exercise animal! And yes, we writers sit so much that exercise becomes essential. I also have to say that the older I get, the more I need serious exercise just so my body doesn't get aches and pains or stiffen up. A small, free gym in the basement of the building where I work has helped me so much. Then there's fencing and personal pilates-type workouts with lots of stretching. Now if my injured left let and hip would just get better faster...

  51. yeah! gym talk! love it! i'm a crossfitter so anything with grudgy workouts, i'm all for it. great topic!

  52. Great tips, Alex! I've learned to fidget at work as a way of staying active during the day. I'm lucky that I get a free gym membership with work, so I've no excuse not to exercise :)


  53. Hey Michael and Alex (2 of my fave guys!)

    Thanks for the great reminders. So important for us here since we really do a lot of sitting. I do Zumba and when it's warm out, swim. Luckily I can't get away with being lazy since I have a big dog that requires lots of walking and two kids that need chasing after. :)

  54. Hi Alex and Michael.
    This is my first visit to this blog which I was guided to By Anna after she told me she has mentioned me in the comment. This is a great post..i am all for healthy living which is why I started growing my own food. This in itself gives me plenty of exercise as the ground always has to be worked and there is always something that needs doing.

    I am not one for going to the gym, I have tried it in the past but I really prefer to be outside getting my exercise in the fresh air. The only thing I do at home is Yoga which I find very relaxing and cleansing and gives me some time to myself to reflect. Yoga is a very simple exercise that all people can do and despite what you often see you don't have to be a contortionist either.

    I was very happy to see you know something about stevia. A fabulous herb which I also grow.

    There is so much you can do with food to make it great without adding junk if you just know how to treat and compliment it. But also people need to remember that a little junk is good for you too. We all need a bit if everything in moderation and if we keep this in mind whilst eating and exercising then we would all be a lot healthier.

    I think the biggest hurdle nowadays is that a lot of people sit and eat in front of screens and therefore don' realise how much they are eating and that they aren't actually hungry it is just a habitual movement which is comforting. If they only ate at a table in a room where they were concentrating on the food and not something else they might find their food intake decreases somewhat.

    Anyway a great site...feel free to visit my blog and see what I have been writing too.

  55. Heather, yes you do!

    Donna, let me look for the WD40...

    Ella, glad you can get back into shape now!

    Martha, and gives you time together as well.

    Alexia, there you go!

    DG, it's what works for YOU.

    Lynda, there is!

    Sam, you could jog to the gym, but then you wouldn't need to go inside.

    Roland, I park the furthest in the parking lot, but that's because I don't want anyone parking near my sports car.

    Helena, I know you do all sorts of activities.

    Jamie, bet your co-workers just think you're nervous.

    Pk, not sure which one of those provides more exercise - dog or kids!

    Tanya, if it wasn't so humid here, I'd go outside!

    Michael, thanks again!

  56. Great advice, Michael and Alex. I've recently cut most all refined sugar from my diet and it makes a difference. Now I have to get moving. When writing, I don't realize how long I've been sitting in one position...until it hurts. :)

  57. Great advice Alex! My exercise of choice is running but like you said, it is a combination of diet and exercise. What we put into our mouths is so important. Off to go for a walk with my kids now! (:

  58. Hi Michael, nice to meet you!

    Alex, great advice!

    Thanks to both of you for the encouragement. Looks like I'll be checking into that gym membership after all!


  59. My new puppy has been getting me in shape- believe it or not. LOL He chases me everywhere, and I follow him cleaning up messes- though he's getting better at not going in the house. Great post Alex, and thanks Michael for hosting these.

  60. Great post. Between the stress at work and sitting on my butt writing, I've been out of shape, but in the past few weeks I've been making an effort to get out of that rut. I've been exercising regularly, no excuses, and I have more energy. I look forward to seeing more results in the next few months.

  61. Laura, sitting should never hurt!

    Elise, and that accomplishes two things.

    Jen, go for it!

    Summer, puppies are the best exercise.

    Medeia, need that energy!

  62. Great post guys! Speaking as someone who joined a gym for the first time in her life a couple of weeks ago. Lucky that we have one at work!

  63. Awesome post. You know I always wondered why my "Buns of Steel" video never did much for me. I forgot to take off the cellophane. *Doh*

  64. Thanks again Alex, for you "inspiring" Post!

    And WELCOME old and NEW friends. It's great to see some of my good friends and new faces. I will certainly try to stop by your blogs to say hi!

  65. Hi Michael - great guest post by Alex ... warming up and warming down are essentials to exercising of any variety at any age ...

    A good walk is the simplest, cheapest, easiest way to get the breath going too ..

    Also the reminder re eating properly .. Michael - you look like the epitome of good health!

    Cheers to you both ... Hilary

  66. I had a good chuckle when I saw "pretzel positions"... it conjured up strange body shapes/images...
    It also made me think of a word I read yesterday on one of the blogs - writer's butt.
    Thanks Michael & Alex!

  67. Deniz, that is fortunate!

    RaShelle, now you know!

    Hilary, walking is the easiest. No equipment required. Except shoes and clothes of course.

    Michelle, that would be a fluffy pretzel.

    Thanks again, Michael!