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Willpower: A Limited Resource?

6 Nov

When it comes to exercising more and eating healthier, “I need more willpower” is one of the most commonly uttered statements.  Several articles have highlighted studies showing willpower or self-control is a limited resource.  In other words, we only have so much willpower to draw on and it can be depleted quickly.  I am going to suggest something radical – not only do you have all the will power you need – it is a renewable resource!  The question is not “how can I get more willpower?”  The question is “how well am I supporting that vital resource?”

Let’s imagine that you are making nutritional changes to achieve a weight loss goal, and you are invited to a dinner holiday party with friends.  The goal for the evening is to eat only the foods deemed appropriate for weight loss.  Your first encounter is a table is filled with an assortment of enticing cheese and cream filled nibbles, chips and dips, and crudités.  Relying on your willpower, you pass up the cheesy, creamy delights, skip over the chips and dip, and settle for an array of tasty fresh vegetables.  After a glass of wine and mingling, the main course is laid out.  As you settle down to enjoy a beautifully prepared steak and crisp salad, you are offered a baked potato, garlic bread, and pasta salad.  Thinking about your goals, you refuse the additional food items.  However, the person offering continues to tempt you, making statements like, “oh, it’s just one potato” or “you don’t want any bread?” and “go ahead and have some pasta salad.  It’s salad after all.”  Still calling on your willpower, you politely refuse the additional food items.  As the meal continues, and the wine flows, you find yourself eyeing the bread across the table, thinking more and more about that steamy hot potato, and continually refusing a helping of pasta salad has become increasing difficult.  At last the meal has finished, and you are thinking “just in the nick of time!”  Then it happens, as you make your way out of the dinning area you run right into the dessert table.  Cookies, cakes, and holiday pies are all there looking delightful.  You take a deep breath and reach down for more willpower only to realize there isn’t any.  At this point you might be thinking, “Yelp! I need more willpower.”

Here is some food for thought: what if we changed the way we interpret willpower?  What if willpower becomes more of a resource?  And, what if that resource was supported by our thoughts and actions?  Willpower is defined as the strength of will and mind, or the determination to carry out a decision.  Willpower is also referred to as self-control.   Interestingly, the term resource can be defined as a supply or support that can be easily drawn on when needed.  Resource can also be defined as the capability to deal with adverse circumstances.  These two concepts are complimentary.  Rather than defining willpower as the unending ability to just say no, willpower becomes the determination to carry out a decision, and the ability to deal with or find solutions for over coming obstacles.

The next question is how to support or assist this resource.  Here are three tips for supporting your willpower:

1)   Develop a realistic and well-formed plan for over coming obstacles. Before developing a plan, the obstacles must be identified.  In the example above, the obstacle was food items considered off limits at a holiday party, and the plan was to avoid those foods.  First, how realistic is that plan?  To attending a holiday party and not partake in the foods you enjoy?  Rather than dabbling in deprivation, make a conscious choice to indulge some of your favorite foods, and pass on the other less exciting temptations.  Mentally and emotionally, choice is much more powerful than denial.

2)    Feed your brain. An interesting study found a relationship between blood glucose levels and self-control.  People in the study that had higher levels of glucose demonstrated greater willpower when compared to people with lower levels of glucose.  Therefore, having a snack before heading out to the party may not just keep your hunger in check, but may also support your willpower.  The study also found that restoring glucose helped replenish self-control, so when you feel your willpower reserves getting low try a piece of fruit.

3)    Laugh a lot and think positive. Not only has research has found that both laughter and positive thoughts boost self-control, but laughter has been shown to strengthen the immune system, reduce food cravings, and relieve stress.  I can think of a better way to enjoy a party, and improve health and well being, than to share laughter with friends!


Pope-Parker, T.  How to boost your willpower.  The New York Times. http/

Scott, E.  The stress management and health benefits of laughter: The laughing cure. Management.

Client of the Month Spotlight October 2010

20 Oct

Client Name: Patrick Wai
Age: 44
FIT member since: February 2010

3 years ago I was working constantly and never had time to exercise or eat well. My body weight climbed to 197.  Then, in November 2009 I hurt my back.  The pain was so severe that even with medication I couldn’t drive.  It took over 2 months of intense therapy and exercise before I felt better.  During that time Tony from Agile Physical Therapy introduced me to FIT and I started working with Danielle Durante.  It took a lot of time, sweat and tears, but gradually my core strength increased and my stamina improved.  I never want to experience that back pain again.  My goals are to remain pain free, become stronger, and have more energy.

I have been pain free for 8 months.  I am also stronger, have more energy, and (the best part) I can lift and carry both of my kids at the same time without straining my back.

Exercise Likes: push-ups and the elliptical machine.

Exercise Dislikes: “man maker” workouts, and any exercise involving the gymnastic rings.

Personal Best: 15 pull-ups, 50 push-ups in a minute, and successfully climbing the rope on the first try.

What do you enjoy about training at FIT? Everyone is so friendly at FIT.  They are never too busy to say hello or offer assistance with an exercise.

Challenges Patrick’s faces: It’s never easy to find the time to exercise, but I consider my health one of my top priorities.  Also, when I am busy it’s difficult to eat right.

Key to Patrick’s success: There are no short cuts – at the end of the day the key to success is hard work and consistency.

Want motivates Patrick to keep coming back, and adopt a healthier lifestyle? I want to remain healthy for my loved ones.

In Patrick’s words:

If I had known how much of a difference having a trainer would make in my exercise regime, I would’ve hired one ten years ago.  It’s has made a world of difference having a professional provide guidance so I don’t hurt myself, motivate me when I am feeling sluggish, and change the workouts to keep the routines interesting.  Danielle and FIT have played a key role in my recovery from back pain.

Patrick’s favorite workout music is Top 40 remixes.

Patrick’s favorite healthy snack is fresh fruit.

When Patrick is not working hard in the gym he enjoys playing outside with his kids.

In Danielle’s words:

The keys to Patrick’s success lies in his consistency, coming to FIT twice a week for half hour sessions, and his diligence to training on his own two to three times per week.  Patrick also pays close attention to eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and managing stress.  When Patrick started training at FIT in February, he had a couple of goals in mind: 1) he wanted to be free of back pain free, 2) improve overall fitness (increasing strength, muscular and cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility), and 3) to develop the stamina to keep up with his children.  With a lot of hard work and dedication, Patrick is now pain free!  We really focused on building his core strength and improving his muscular and cardiovascular endurance.  Patrick can now do strict pull-ups and push-ups for multiple repetitions, back squat and bench press his son and daughter’s weight, and is starting to learn more complex movements such as olympic weightlifting cleans.  Having a healthier lifestyle has enabled Patrick to keep up with his kiddos and loved ones.  Patrick is always a pleasure to work with and we are proud that you are part of FIT.  Good work!

Fall FITKick Series

6 Oct

FITKick uses boxing and mixed martial art punches, kicks and strikes interspersed with athletic drills for a power packed, energizing workout.

You will enhance cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, as well as improve balance, coordination, power and speed.

This class is scalable for all fitness levels.  No prior boxing or martial arts experience necessary.

Sunday Mornings 8:30-9:30AM

October 3, 10, 17, 24

November 7, 14, 21

December 5, 12, 19

Cost – Fall Series 10 classes $120 or $10 per class.

September 2010 FIT Member Spotlight

11 Sep

Linda Hinton

Age: 47

FIT Member Since: 4/2005

Goals Starting at FIT: To get ripped!

Results: “On my way! I have the guns, now I need the rest of the arsenal!”

Exercise Likes: Weigthlifting

Exercise dislikes: Burpees

Personal Best (PR): Clean & Jerk 47.5kg   Snatch 35kg

Keys to Linda’s success: “Knowing what time I’m going to train and never missing the session”.

Challenges Linda faces: “Bad knees and a repaired Achilles tendon, plus old age”

What motivates Linda to continue adopting a healthier lifestyle and keep coming back to FIT? “Being able to lift more than Mariko, my 14 year old daughter and of course the FIT trainers”.

Linda’s favorite workout music and artist is Eminem

Linda’s  favorite healthy snack is fruit

Favorite non-gym physical activity? When Linda is not working out in the crossfit class, she enjoys Kayaking

In Linda’s words: It took me 45 years to learn and realize that you just have to do it! You have to workout and make it as important as anything else in your life.

In the Trainers words: Linda was one of, if not the first, CrossFIT client at FIT.  She began in personal training and now trains solely in our CrossFIT program.  When Linda began her training program, her knees would not allow her to run.  She had difficulty squatting and you couldn’t get her to jump!  Now, her favorite mode of exercise is weightlifting.  She is sprinting and racing her daughter Mariko during workouts, and jumping on the 18” box. She has changed her diet, lost weight, gotten stronger and more powerful, and even got a great new haircut! Linda’s dedication and hard work combined with her great attitude has made a huge impact on her life and has earned her Client of the Month at FIT. – James Noriega

Physical Activity and Cancer

7 Sep

New research suggests Lance Armstrong’s training regimen may have aided his recovery.

Undoubtedly, you have read or heard about the benefits of regular exercise.  You may even be aware of the association between physical activity (which includes exercise) and attenuating risk factors for disease.  However, until recently, most people dealing with cancer were told to rest and avoid exercise.  This is contrary to the advice given by Kathryn Schmitz, Ph.D. of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine who states the message should be to avoid inactivity.  In fact, new cancer research has suggested that Lance Armstrong’s training regimen may have aided his recovery (what an amazing recovery!) and has resulted in new exercise and cancer guidelines that urge cancer patients to be as physically active as possible during and after their treatments.

Exercise boosts energy, helps manage weight, and improves emotional well-being.

Most of us are not in the elite athlete category with Lance Armstrong, and the last thing someone dealing with the physical and psychological impact of cancer wants to hear is “exercise more.”  However, experts are now suggesting that exercise may provide very positive benefits, such as boosting energy, managing weight, and improving emotional well-being.  It should also be noted that exercise continues to provide disease prevention for heart disease and type II diabetes during and after cancer treatment. The question is, how much exercise is enough?  And, what type of exercise will provide the most benefit?

How much exercise is enough?

The short answer is even a small amount of movement, for example a short 10-minute walk, is better than no activity.  Research indicates that individuals who participated in low to moderate intensity physical activity, such as walking or cycling, 2 to 3 days a week experienced less fatigue during cancer treatments.  Additionally, the minimum physical activity recommendation for the general public of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, which works out to be about 20 minutes a day, has been deemed appropriate for cancer patients.  Research has shown that participating in daily moderate intensity physical activity reduces stress and aids the immune system.  Although more research is needed on the effects of resistance training for cancer patients, experts agree there are definite benefits, particularly for addressing muscle atrophy, bone mineral density, body composition, and insulin resistance.

The more complex answer depends on the specific type of cancer, the level of fitness prior to diagnosis, and the physical and emotional state of the individual on any given day.  If someone is already physically active prior to diagnosis, the general consensus is to maintain that regular exercise routine as much as possible.  Of course, it is best to seek the advise of a health care professional before embarking on a new exercise program, and to inquire about individual exercise recommendations. An appropriate exercise program should be tailored to the individual’s diagnosis and tolerance for physical activity.  Working with clinicians and health fitness professionals that monitor individual responses to activity will allow for proper and safe exercise progression and avoid injuries.

The bottom line – avoid inactivity

Although you personally may not be dealing with cancer, you may have a loved one, family member, or dear friend that needs your support and encouragement to remain or become physically activity.  Suggest a hike or a walk around the neighborhood.  Spend the afternoon playing Frisbee, or an evening dancing.  The bottom line is to avoid inactivity.  Even a small amount of physical activity can improve fatigue, emotional well-being, and quality of life.


CNN Health (2010) Cancer? More exercise, not less, may be best.

Nation Cancer Institute. U.S. National Institutes of Health.  Physical activity and cancer.  (2010).  Cancer patients can reap benefits of exercise.

FIGHT GONE BAD 5- September 25th

1 Sep

Take your next workout to a higher level and join us on September 25th at CrossFIT Los Altos for our 5th Fight Gone Bad fund raising event.  Your participation will provide much needed support for our troops, law enforcement, first responders communities, and the millions of Americans fighting all types of cancer.

The Workout

The Fight Gone Bad workout is 17 minutes in length and consists of three rounds of five exercises: Wall-ball, Sumo dead-lift high pull, Box jumps, Push press, and Rowing.  With a minute rest between each round, this workout will challenge your anaerobic fitness.  But, don’t think this challenge is beyond your capabilities, the workout is scalable to match any fitness level.

How Do I Sign Up?

Follow this link to sign up for FIGHT GONE BAD5

Each participant that raises $150 will win a t-shirt!

Charitable Organizations supported by your Fight Gone Bad 5 Donation

LIVESTRONG fights to improve the lives of people affected by cancer.

Wounded Warrior Project rasies awareness and provide programs and services for severely injured service members during the transistion between active duty and civilian life.

The CrossFit Foundation provides support and assistance to the men and women of the military, law enforcement, and first responder communities and their families.  For more information on the foundation, please contact

CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program used by many police academies and tatical operations teams, and military special operations units, as well as elite athletes and champion martial artists.

The Sportsgrants Foundation is one of the few nonprofit event production companies in the United States.

America Ninja Warrior-Post Competition Interview with Angelo

26 Aug

Q. The last time we heard, you were in the V.I.P. area waiting for the final results. What happened next?

A. I ate half a rotisserie chicken, a big salad, and some Korean tacos (I wasn’t able to eat lunch).

All finishers had to wait until the end of the competition to get the final tally of the top 30 with the fastest times.  I ended being #37 out of the 50 or so that completed the course.  I was able to talk with a few of the top competitors and get some insight on what they did to get through the course and how it compared to the course in Japan.

The next day, the semi-finalists would have to run the same course with the addition of 3 more challenging obstacles, one of which was a 3-story climb on a cargo net.  Of course I was a bit crushed that I didn’t get to move on to the next day’s competition; it would’ve been REALLY FUN to run the longer course.

Q. What was your favorite moment or event at the competition?

A. At any competition, it’s always great to meet and talk with others that share the same interests in running, climbing, and jumping off things.  But I have to say one of the most memorable moments was watching the video that my wife, Linda, recorded.  When I made it up the 14ft. Warped Wall at the end of the course the video got really shaky and she let out the longest, wildest scream.  I think she was more excited about the whole competition than I was.  (The video she shot didn’t convert well, so the video below is one that my sister-in-law, Ivy, recorded.)

Q. What was your most challenging event?

A. While I was waiting for my run, I got pretty anxious watching so many people fall into the murky waters under the obstacles.  Most of these guys seemed pretty capable of completing the course, but somehow made mistakes that got them in trouble.  I started to second guess myself and the obstacle course appeared more challenging after each competitor’s run.  But once I was on the course, I was pretty relaxed.  Actually, I think I was too relaxed.  After watching the video of my run, it looks like I was taking a stroll in the park.

The wall at the end of the course definitely challenged me the most.  With my first attempt running up the wall I was an inch from grasping the ledge.  So, I thought all I needed to do was run a bit faster to make it up on the second try, but because the wall was curved like an ocean wave, I had too much momentum going forward and not enough translating upward, and I didn’t make it too far up the wall.  You’ll see on the video that I had to pause for a long while to catch my breath and figure out how to get up that thing!  I really don’t know how I finally made it up, but it felt really good to pull myself up the ledge and tag that red button!

Q. Are you planning to competing again next year? And if so, will you make any changes to your training?

A. It’s challenging for me to even wait for next year!  I have the strongest intentions to compete again and get into the top spots to go to Japan.  Since I’ve got a better idea of what it’s like to go through the course, and I have much more time to prepare, there are a few things that I’d like to work on a bit more.  I’d like to do a bit more sprinting and Olympic weightlifting to help get me up the wall easier.  I’ll also incorporate more “rock climbing” type of training to prepare for Sasuke’s 3rd stage, which involves traversing through an obstacle course using just your hands (feet dangling).

Q. Will you make any changes in your approach to the course?

A. Yes.  I’ll try to run through it a little faster and more accurately so I don’t have to retry any of the obstacles.  Hopefully I’ll be less anxious and get a little something to eat beforehand, and a beach umbrella would be a big plus.

Q. Thank you for sharing your American Ninja Warrior experience with us.  Congratulations on a great first effort and we look forward to see you in next year’s event.

A. Until next year. . .

FIT Member Spotlight August 2010

14 Aug

Charles (Van) Van Wagner

Age: 78 years young

FIT Member Since: Oct. 6, 2009

Goals upon starting at FIT: To continue to feel physically stronger and be able to walk farther without stopping due to leg pain related to P.A.D. (peripheral artery disease)

Results: When Van first stated his exercise program at FIT, he was walking on the treadmill at a pace of 1.5 mph for an average of 2 to 3 minutes before reaching the pain scale threshold. Currently, Van is walking 9 to 10 minutes continuously at a varied pace of 2.1 mph to 2.3 mph before reaching the pain scale threshold.

Besides a circuit of various strength training activities, Van has also added rowing to his workout routine.  His current rowing PR is 400 meters with an average watt of 57.

Likes: “All exercises that have been introduced are OK with me”

Dislikes: “I am not fond of the leg press, due to a knee problem.”

Key’s to Van’s Success:
“Van comes in with a “can do” attitude.  He is open and willing to try new
activities and pushes himself a little more each session”. – Karen

“Van is the man!  He has never missed a session and always arrives on time and ready to go.  Van is always willing and ready to be pushed just a little further but loves to jokingly complain that every time he accomplishes a goal that I’m going to “write that down with a big smiley face and tell Karen all about it” knowing that he’s just progressed a little further.  His walking has improved tremendously but he has made one thing very clear: “I will never, never want to take a treadmill home with me.” – Jen

In Van’s Words:

What has your experience at FIT been like?
“Aside from greatly improving my body physically, I’ve had fun, lots of good
conversations and laughs with the wonderful staff at FIT. Like Thom said, ‘this
isn’t the YMCA.’ I know, I tried the Y for 3 months.”

What motivates you to come back?
“Karen, Jen and the staff that make me feel so good.”

Did Angelo Make the Cut?

8 Aug

Latest American Ninja Warrior Update:

Angelo had his shot at the course:

Quadruple lateral step – CHECK

Rope swing – he had to take two swings – CHECK

Beam of rotating blades – a little trip up, but was successful – CHECK

Jumping Spider Walls – CHECK-o-Rama

Warped Wall – yikes!-missed it once, missed it again …out of breath…he tried again, and, yes! He made it – CHECK and double CHECK!

Angelo has been told that he is #31 (only 30 athletes go to the semi finals tomorrow).  So far, only 40 out of 300 have successfully made it through the course.  Last heard, Angelo was still hangin’ out in the VIP area waiting for the days final results.  Check back later to find out if Angelo goes on to the semi finals tomorrow.

Ninja All Stars

8 Aug

Yuuji, Makoto, & one of their biggest fans! These Ninja All-Stars visiting from Japan are 2 of the 3 only people to complete all 4 stages of Ninja Warrior (Sasuke).