Lance Armstrong: Bemoaning the Fall of a Fitness Legend

Say it isn’t so, my heart cried out in protest, when I absorbed the recent headlines about Lance Armstrong’s decision to stop fighting allegations of doping.  You see, I never really believed the rumors before. It seemed impossible that a man who has inspired millions of people to push past their limits and raised over $300 million to fight cancer could be guilty of those charges.  Then I kept on reading and found the penalties he could receive – the loss of all seven tour de France titles and a lifetime ban on competing – to be equally shocking.

I know Armstrong said he felt the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s process was unfair and that it was time to drop the fight and focus on his family. But here’s the conundrum…how could a man who never gave up in competition or while challenged with cancer at a young age stop trying to clear his name?  I’ve handled a lot of crisis situations for clients over the past 20 years in my “day job” as a strategic communications consultant. And if you’re not guilty, it’s better to keep protesting until you’re blue in the face rather than give up.

Even the most talented people can make bad decisions. Like Elton John, who has no problem slamming Madonna, Bill Joel or any other celeb who has pissed him off in whatever public forum he can muster. Oprah was thought to be invincible in business before she launched her network, which has low ratings and is hemorrhaging cash. The respective decisions of those aforementioned, gifted individuals don’t chip away at their core talents. When it comes to Lance Armstrong though, I expected great sportsmanship to be at his core. Now I’m left wondering if he became so focused on winning that Armstrong forgot how you play the game is even more important.

What are your thoughts on this situation? Do you feel his punishment was too harsh or completely justified? How will this impact the legacy of Lance Armstrong moving forward?

Escape the Comfort Zone

On a typical 100 degree summer day in Atlanta, air-conditioning is my best friend. And when we have to wait for a table in a crowded restaurant, it’s nice to sink into a plush chair instead of leaning against a brick wall while trying to avoid the personal space parameters of strangers. Especially the ones who try to make small talk just a few inches from your face like Seinfeld’s classic “close-talker” episode. But when it comes to exercise, your butt isn’t going to get any smaller if comfort is your top priority. Pushing yourself physically and mentally is required to make real progress.

Just ask Heather Hoe from St. Petersburg, Florida, a hilarious blogger who describes herself as fiercely competitive, somewhat manly, loud, opinionated and always sticking up for the underdog and little guy. Juggling the full-time roles of mom, wife and student with a part-time job, her stress escalated when Heather’s father was diagnosed with a serious illness.

That’s when Heather turned to exercise as a positive distraction. Throwing herself into a strenuous home renovation, she started walking, which turned into running. Then Heather took it up a notch by seeking tips on running, form, weight training and cardio from popular fitness blogs,, and others. With the addition of healthier eating, she dropped 90 pounds in a little over a year.

“Try stuff outside of your comfort zone at least twice,” advises Heather. “If you find something you like, add it to your repertoire. If it doesn’t work for you, what did you lose, 20 minutes?  And never be afraid to ask anyone for information, help, advice, motivation, or support.”

Amen, sister! Four months ago, I bitched-slapped comfort when starting to work out seriously with a personal trainer to build more muscle. The first time we used the leg press machine, I whined like a pre-teen girl who couldn’t score tickets to a Justin Bieber concert when my trainer stacked 25 pounds on each side of the machine. Now we’re up to adding 135 pounds to each side and 25 pounds on top, exceeding 300 pounds with each press if you factor in the weighted plate. Booyah! Stepping outside of my comfort zone at least twice a week is paying off with increased strength, stamina and better muscle tone. And I’ve also stopped complaining whenever my trainer asks me to do something new and super-hard that I once thought was impossible outside of a rerun of ESPN 2’s Strongest Man in the World Competition.

When is the last time you stepped outside of your comfort zone? What were the results and how did you feel afterwards?


Letting your “freak flag” fly during fitness

From vanity license plates to bling-encrusted cell phone covers, personal expression has become a way of life in the United States. Everyone admires the shy friend who tries stand-up comedy or that guy in corporate accounting that attended rock and roll fantasy camp. Traditionally staid wedding processionals can now erupt into dance video sensations and seemingly random strangers have no problem embracing their inner Broadway in flash mobs. But while we applaud these expressions of individuality, one place where you don’t often see someone’s freak flag fly is during fitness.

Conforming to the teacher’s instructions is rightly embraced during body pump, spin classes, zumba or whatever floats your exercise boat. My friends who compete in triathlons attack their swimming, running and cycling training with almost mechanical precision.  I fully understand the benefits of tried and proven methods from certified instructors. However, people doing things a little differently on their own are often mocked. Like in this video from a London fitness club, posted by the Daily Mail, which two guys took of a woman who appears to be executing disco steps and ballet-like leaps on a treadmill.

Yeah, I laughed my butt off the first time the video started. Then it got me thinking. Perhaps picturing herself as a Studio 54 Disco Diva got this woman off the couch and into a higher heart rate zone. If she’s not hurting herself or disrupting anyone else’s workout, can we learn from her lack of inhibitions?  I myself have been called “Stevie Wonder” by friends for unwittingly rocking back and forth from side to side on elliptical machines while lip-synching to new tunes on my workout mixes.  The teasing doesn’t bother me, since having fun keeps me there longer. And if someone thinks I look like a geek, while there might be a kernel of truth in that, I’m probably having a better time than they are getting into shape.

What is the most unusual thing you’ve seen someone else do while pursuing fitness? Have you ever let your freak flag fly while working out?


Does etiquette matter when it comes to working out?

We all have pet peeves. Fruit salads that overuse mayonnaise and people who chronically pee on public restroom toilet seats top my list. For my buddy Brenda at the gym, nothing sets her off more than an inconsiderate soul leaving heaps of used towels around the locker room sinks or floors. It seems to get worse during this time of year, with countless droves descending upon our fitness club following their New Year’s resolutions. Chances are that their mommas didn’t raise them this way. So you have to wonder – does etiquette matter when it comes to working out?

You don’t have to be Miss Manners to know the answer is yes. That is, if you’d like to keep coming back. We’ve all glared at the guy who hogs four stations in the weight room during prime time, or made sure not to get off the elliptical machine quickly for the chick waiting nearby carrying on super loud cell phone conversations. Long-time exercisers should know these infractions and more. But if you’re new, you might not. After all, Time Magazine estimates that 60% of gym memberships will go unused as resolutions fade. So I’ve prepared a list of tips to help those with good intentions thrive at their new fitness club.

Rule #1 – Clean up after yourself. You know that sweat puddle on the floor underneath your stationary bike? It’s normal to create it during intense workouts. Just don’t leave it behind as a token of affection when you’re done. Mop it up with a towel or disinfectant wipes. The same applies for sweaty benches in the weight room and equipment in aerobics classes.

Rule #2 – Less is more. Lots of people bring hair dryers, styling products and flat irons to use in their locker room clean-up. But there’s no reason to go overboard when sink space is at a premium before work. In the past few months, I’ve seen one girl bring in her own radio despite the fact that a satellite music channel is piped already into the area, and another spread a week’s worth of clothes, makeup and products around a vanity area designed to accommodate four. If I’m blogging about it, you know others are noticing too.

Rule #3 – Respect boundaries. My boyfriend cracked me up with a story about a strange, fiftyish woman at his gym who wore a spandex leotard that resembled a corset. She would constantly interrupt others during their workouts to correct their form or offer advice for doing it better. Only problem is that she wasn’t a certified fitness trainer and her tips were all wrong. The day that she interrupted my guy to incorrectly “correct” his form on the rowing machine, he had no problem revealing his status as a member of a crew team. Needless to say, she never bothered him again.

Rule #4 – Do Onto Others. Treat people with kindness and respect and typically, that’s what you’ll get in return. Haggling with a fitness fanatic for the last spot in Yoga class isn’t very Zen. Rudely cut another person off to get the last spin bike in class, and you can be sure no one else will save you a bike next time.

Do you think that etiquette matters at the gym? Any other rules or advice to add to new exercisers?

The Core Equation

einstein_may2010Despite my lack of math aptitude, some formulas have managed to stick in my head. There’s E=mc2, which addresses the mass energy equivalence. Yeah, I don’t really understand what that means. But it always conjures up images of Albert Einstein.  Another one is Pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It goes by the symbol – π , sort of like when the artist formerly known as Prince changed his name.   

But the one formula I do get is the one about weight loss – in order to lose pounds, you need to burn more calories than you are consuming.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Often, people can get so hung up on the math that they focus exclusively on cardio. The gratification of seeing 300 calories burned on an elliptical machine monitor, or twice that after an intense spin class, can become addictive. However, the truth is that you need more. Strength training makes a world of difference. Stretching is important. And  don’t forget about your middle.

Core strength works your abs, back and pelvis, which carries your limbs – your arms and legs. It is the support system that keeps you body together. As Lori Harber, founder of PerFORM Pilates explains, “When you do too much cardio at too high of a level, you can burn muscle. With too much strength training, you are speeding up your metabolism but not supporting or strengthening your heart.  Core work promotes overall health and is good for everyone’s body.”

That’s why Pilates has moved beyond celebrity circles and into the exercise mainstream. Created in the 1920’s, it originally comes from yoga, boxing and gymnastics.  Pilates works. I lost a clothing size after several months of taking up the practice without making any other changes in my eating or regular exercise routine.

Curious about how to get started? Lori shared a few tips. Consider making an investment and take a few private lessons with a fully certified instructor to get the movements right for your body – and then investigate mat classes and videos. Notify the instructor about your physical limitations so they can modify the moves. Remember that Pilates is the opposite of “no pain, no gain” and the goal is to work in a pain-free range of motion.  It should be challenging for your muscles without any neck or back pain. Want to learn more? Check out or email Lori at

What do you think about core work?