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Wish I could do something about those dogs

There are two problems with dogs in Romania, as I see it:

  1. There are entirely too many stray dogs
  2. Most dog owners care little about their dogs’ behavior

Let me say first that I’m a dog lover, though my recent experiences here in Romania have cooled my enthusiasm for dogs significantly. Overall, it’s been one negative experience after another, and right now, it’s gotten to the point where I will not hesitate to kick a dog who lunges at me or my wife, as has happened repeatedly.

Stray Dogs

Everywhere you look in Romania, there are stray dogs. It could be the middle of the city, or the middle of the countryside — you are guaranteed to find a stray dog. They usually converge where people are, but you’ll see them crossing open fields or walking alongside roads in the middle of nowhere, looking for scraps of food.

The look

You’d think a breed of animals that depends on people for their food supply, especially dogs, who are supposed to be “man’s best friend”, would be more grateful to people. You’d be dead wrong to assume that, and I don’t exaggerate. Sure, they’re nice when you have food and you want to give them some. They’ll line up and beg, putting on a show. Some packs of these stray dogs specialize in begging, and will stick around car stops and fast food kiosks. They do alright, because they look well-fed. Even I feed them sometimes. After all, I still love dogs, and I don’t mind sharing my food with a hungry and friendly animal.

But may God protect you from meeting a pack of stray dogs at night, or when they’re hungry, because they’ll tear you to pieces. They’re dangerous even during the daytime, sleeping in the sun, curled up next to buildings or on the sidewalk. Those same sleepy dogs can turn vicious and attack at any second.

The dangerous thing about stray dogs is their pack behavior. They’re not disciplined and they are dumb animals. When one begins to bark at you, they’ll all join in. When one of them lunges at you, they’ll all start lunging at you. When of them bites and draws blood, the others become enraged and will all start biting you. As the taste of blood enters their mouths, they’ll soon begin to bite you in order to get pieces of meat. You will no longer be seen as a human being, someone to be feared and respected, but as food — a hunk of meat to be eaten.

I’ve seen stray dogs lunge at street cleaners working nearby. I’ve seen them lunge at elderly people. I’ve heard of them killing adults and children or leaving them scarred for life. A relative of ours from Constanta was jogging on the beach one morning, and was attacked by a pack of dogs who chased him for over a kilometer. He literally ran for his life while they lunged at him one after the other, biting, scratching, digging their teeth deep into his body. He fought them off and barely escaped alive. Now he’s scarred for life on his arms, legs and face, from something that could have been avoided if the city of Constanta did its job in cleaning the city of strays.

I was running one evening in a village in the province of Dobrogea, and a stray dog lunged at me, barking and snarling viciously, ready to bite. I stood my ground, ready to fight, and he retreated. If there had been more of them around, they wouldn’t have retreated, and I might have ended up in the hospital. I have not been able to do any regular running during my stay in Romania. You can’t do it in the city, and you can’t do it in the countryside. When you run, it’s basically an open invitation for stray dogs to attack you. To be able to do any sort of outdoor sport, I’ve had to find remote places away from people, but even there, I have to watch out for sheep dogs, who will attack you on sight if they see you running. It’s insane. This brings me to the second part of this article, where I talk about dog owners and their dogs’ behavior. Before I do that, let me mention one more incident.

I don’t know if folks in the US have had the chance to witness dogs running alongside cars, or behind them lately. The US does a good job of taking strays off the streets. In classic cartoons, this is sometimes depicted as dogs running to latch onto the bumpers of the cars. That’s inaccurate. Dogs will run alongside the cars, barking at them, and some might even try to lunge at the tires, in order to bite them, clearly with sad consequences. When you see stray dogs with bad scars on their faces, you can assume they probably succeeded in latching onto a moving tire.

When you’ve got so many strays, you can get anywhere from only one or up to ten or more running after your car, and accidents will happen. Before I spent any significant time driving in Romania, I couldn’t understand why, and thought the drivers were just being vicious and ran them over on purpose. That’s not the case. I, too, ran over a stray dog recently. It couldn’t be helped. It was raining, so the road was somewhat slippery. This particular dog came out from the side of the road and started running alongside the car in front of me, on the driver’s side, then decided to switch sides and darted right in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and swerved left, but couldn’t avoid him and ran over his hind legs. Needless to say, that was not a good day, and I’d still rather not think of it — but that’s what will happen when the stray population isn’t controlled.

Domesticated dogs

Few dog owners in Romania care enough for their dogs to teach them how to behave properly. Of the majority, there are two classes: those who do little more for their dogs but provide them with a dog house and food, and those who pamper them for the very purpose of showing them off on the street.

This latter class of people is more rare now, but used to be quite common during Romania’s communist regime. They’d have these big, ferocious dogs, such as German shepherds, dobermans, or bulldogs, and they’d walk them in public with a muzzle, smiling secretly (or openly) every time their dog growled at someone and that person shied away.

The other class of dog owners — by and large the overwhelming majority — is quite content to tie up their dogs in the yard, next to a dog house, and to feed and (maybe) clean up after them, but do little else for them, like teach them when to bark and when not to bark. The end result of their treatment (or lack of it) is that you have these frustrated dogs who are tied up behind wooden fences where they can’t see what’s going on outside, but can hear and smell a ton of foreign scents, and who are going nuts, barking at everything, all the time. For all intents and purposes, they’re not really domesticated, because they’re not potty trained, house trained, or taught how to respond to signals and when to be silent. They might as well be strays, because they’re just as dumb as the strays. They cannot communicate. They only bark and snarl, and collectively, they create this cacophony of barks and yelps and snarls that can’t be ignored and drives me crazy.

I’m told I’m supposed to get used to it. I cannot. I can only bear it, and that only for short amounts of time. After that, I get pounding headaches, and the only thing I want to do (and imagine doing) is to squash those idiotic, furry, barking noise boxes. If you’re reading this and you’re shocked, I tell you, you cannot understand it unless you get to spend a few weeks in Romania and are treated to incessant barking at all hours of the day and night, from all directions. You try sleeping when every damn dog in the neighborhood has joined in the barking started by the neighbor’s idiotic mutt. You try concentrating on your work when some moronic, flea-bitten fartbrain a couple of houses away chooses to mark the passing of every 10 seconds with a bark. You try going on about your business, accompanied by that sort of a noise parade, and you let me know how it feels after a couple of weeks (or months) of it.

The other issue I encounter is that of violent behavior in dogs that are supposed to be domesticated. I guess this sort of ties in with what I said a few paragraphs above, but this sort of violence isn’t necessarily encouraged by the dog owners. It results more from a lack of care. I’ve seen it on two occasions.

While in Predeal — a popular mountain resort — I hiked to one of the peaks nearby, a place miles away from civilization, called Clabucetul Taurului. The only settlement nearby was a tourist cabin set in the valley between two peaks, about a mile away, called Cabana Garbova. As I stood there on the peak, taking in the beauty of the place, a stray dog wandered up the slope of this peak, and greeted me in a friendly fashion. I warmed up to him quickly. After all, I still love dogs, in spite of my recent experiences. This dog was nice and clean, which isn’t something you see often in stray dogs. It’s likely that he belonged or had recently belonged to a farmer down in the valley, and he liked to wander around all day long. I took several photos of him while up on the peak. Here’s one of them.

Friendly company

When I headed down the mountain to re-join my wife, who was waiting for me near Cabana Garbova, he followed me. As we all approached the cabin, it became evident to us that we had a problem. The dogs at the cabin, a pack of about 8 big monsters accustomed to fighting wolves and bears, sniffed him and started barking wildly. We tried to shoo him away, to make him go back up the mountain, but he didn’t want to leave us. Then the dogs down below started running toward us. We started getting really worried. Here were some seriously large dogs who gave all the signs of intending to do us harm. I started yelling down at the cabin, hoping its owner would come out and call them back. No such thing. Our companion stray got really worried, and stood close to me, behind my legs. He was hoping the other dogs would see he was with me and wouldn’t attack.

I called out to them, telling them to stop, but they kept coming. I could see their teeth, bared, ready to bite. They ran and lunged right at me. I braced for the impact. They brushed right by and latched onto the stray. The poor thing was mauled, right there, in front of me, and I was helpless to stop them. I had nothing but my camera in hand, so I took photos. I may at some point publish them, but right now it’s really hard for me to even look at them, because I got attached to that stray. He did nothing to us, even helped us by hanging around as we walked through wild territory where we could have been attacked by wild animals, and yet these vicious dogs were trying to tear him apart. He was, after all, one of them — not a wolf, not a bear, not a fox — not a danger to anyone.

My wife found a stick and started hitting them, trying to make them let go of the dog. They wouldn’t, but growled at her and started dragging him away, wanting to kill him and likely eat him. I woke up from my shock, grabbed the stick from my wife, and started hitting the ground next to them, yelling loudly. Finally, they let go. By this time, some people down in the valley below came out and started calling them back. They spread apart and left us alone. The poor dog was still alive, but badly hurt. He was bleeding in several places. Thankfully, there were no open wounds. His thick fur protected him. He followed us down to the cabin and laid down by the door. Others nearby kept the dogs away. I was livid with anger. I went inside and asked to speak to the owner, who was in the kitchen, not outside tending to his vicious dogs. I asked him why he hadn’t done something to stop them. Did he think it was okay to let them kill an innocent dog? He called me stupid to my face and told me he couldn’t care less about someone else’s dog. I couldn’t believe it! What if the dogs had attacked us, I asked. He didn’t answer that question. I wanted to punch him right in the face, but chose to walk away.

Just imagine for a second how much more traumatic this whole experience would have been if that had been my dog, not a stray. If it were your dog, and you were standing there helpless, fearing for your life, watching it being mauled to death by a pack of large mountain dogs, how would you have reacted? It’s likely that a smaller dog would have died right away. Thank goodness our stray was hardier and more resistant. Still, only the adrenaline kept him on his feet long enough to walk down to the cabin. When we came out, he was lying by the door, in pain. He didn’t, or couldn’t get up. I bought some meat and bread and put them in front of him. He started eating, slowly, afraid for his life, flinching every time he saw the cabin dogs in the distance.

We had to leave, and he wasn’t going anywhere, so we left him. I only hope the cabin owner had some heart left in him, and didn’t let his dogs finish him off. I think I saw his wife chiding him in the kitchen as we were leaving. Perhaps she knocked some sense into him, because he sure needed it.

The other incident I wanted to mention happened as I was walking through the hills outside a village near Bacau, in the province of Moldova. I was taking photos, and I had my tripod with me. It was a viciously cold day, and a snowstorm was brewing in the air above. The calendar might have said it was March, but no one had told Jack Frost. Billy, a lovable mutt belonging to family of ours, accompanied me.

Billy

Suddenly, he became wary of his surroundings and started sniffing the air with a worried look. He kept looking at me, then at something in front of us. I could see nothing. I only heard the distant bleating of sheep. Billy hung around for a couple more minutes, signaling that we should return, then, seeing I had no intention of doing so, turned around and headed back home by himself. I laughed and wondered why he did it, but kept walking my way. I soon discovered the source of his fear. It was the vicious sheep dogs who were guarding the flock of sheep in the distance. As soon as they saw me (I was downwind, so they couldn’t sniff me), they charged right at me, three of them. I was ready. I had my tripod, which is nice and thick and just the right size for bashing in the head of a violent dog. I raised it above my head and waited for the first lunge. It didn’t come. They stopped a few feet away and kept snarling and barking. I advanced toward them. They retreated. The shepherd finally came in sight, saw what was going on, and called them off. They obeyed and left me alone.

I walked off, finished the route I wanted to do that day, and started to walk back home. The flock of sheep were still around. I tried to keep a safe distance and avoid another encounter, but this time they sniffed me and came at me again. I raised my tripod again, ready to put out their lights, and again they retreated, leaving about 10-15 feet between me and them. But they were still barking like crazy. I called over the shepherd and had a talk with him. I told him I’d have no qualms about quieting his dogs if he couldn’t control them. He disagreed, and said they wouldn’t attack if I stood still. I didn’t test his theory, because it might have proven painful and hazardous to my health. I went home instead and warmed up by a nice fire.

So you see, Billy wasn’t the coward I thought he was. He knew what he was doing when he hightailed it out of that area. The scar you see on his muzzle in the photo above is apparently the reminder of a fight with sheep dogs — that’s what our relatives told us.

What’s to be done about those dogs?

The way I see it, two things need to happen in Romania when it comes to dogs. For one thing, the stray population needs to be controlled. To this point, city governments, working with NGOs and veterinary offices, conduct neutering campaigns every once in a while, but it’s not working.

Perhaps euthanasia of unwanted strays is a solution. I know it sounds cruel, but stray dogs are a real danger, and they need to be off the streets. They need to be put up in shelters, where if they’re not adopted within a certain time period, they’re euthanised. Why condemn unwanted strays to a life on the streets, in bitter cold or fierce heat, with little or no food, to the risk of accidents that maim them and leave them in pain for life, when they could rest in peace? If we were to judge the situation coolly, we would realize it’s not feasible to take care of all the strays. Perhaps if the money and the interest were there, we could feed them and neuter them all, but neither the money nor the interest is there. We can’t find adoptive families for all of them, either. Why not put them to rest? At least they won’t suffer anymore.

I look forward to the day when I can run on city streets or on a beach in Romania and not have to worry about being mauled by strays. I’m sure a lot of other people look forward to simply being able to walk the streets without being mauled by strays.

The second thing is that dog owners need to start being more responsible about their dogs. At the very least, they need to teach them when to bark and when to keep quiet. That’ll go a long way toward cutting down on unnecessary noise and headaches. As I write this, some mutt a few houses away is barking like a nutcase at something of no consequence. He’s been driving me up the walls for the past few days. I honestly think the dog’s owner ought to be fined for his lack of concern and for the noise pollution. That should be another measure implemented soon by local governments.

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Thoughts

Sometimes you need to use a book the right way

There’s a Looney Tunes cartoon from 1944, entitled “Brother Brat“. It stars Porky Pig and speaks eloquently about child discipline. In it, Porky becomes the unwitting baby sitter for a Rosie the Riveter type super-woman who’s pulling long shifts at the factory, helping out with the war effort.

When she leaves her brat, Butch, with him, she also hands him a book, which she says always helped her. It happens to be a book on Child Psychology.

Child Psychology - 1

Porky takes the offer at face value, and believes the book will really help him. When baby Butch starts acting out, he checks the book for advice.

Child Psychology - 2

He soon finds out the book is no good, as he applies the wishy-washy, sound-good nonsense from the book to his real life situation and things go from bad to worse.

Child Psychology - 3

By the end of the cartoon, he’s running for his life, with an axe-wielding maniac baby on his tail.

Child Psychology - 4

Then Susie the Riveter comes in, notices the mayhem, and asks him if he used the book. Desperate, still running, he screams, “Yes, but it didn’t work!” Then Susie grabs the book and shows Porky how it’s done: “Maybe you didn’t use it right. It always works for me!”

Child Psychology - 5

The punchline is obvious, and yet it teaches all of us, to this day, a valuable lesson: sometimes the only thing that works is a spanking. As for child psychology books, I share the opinion of the animators — those books are a bunch of hooey, fit to be printed on toilet paper and used that way. I’m not alone in that sense. Most people shared this opinion when classic cartoons were made. Cartoon studios of all sizes lampooned child psychology books, including Disney.

Spanking has sadly become a tabu practice in this “enlightened” age. If you spank your child now, the state will take it away from you. Surely the state must know what it’s doing, right? Because governments in all developed countries have shown us they manage everything else to a tee, beyond reproach, right? Naturally, we ought to trust what they tell us to do with our children?

I see parents these days, stressed to the breaking point because of children who haven’t been properly disciplined, and they’re afraid to discipline them. They try talking to them, they try to reward them for good behavior, they try timeouts, but seriously, sometimes a child just needs a good spanking. The Bible knows what it’s talking about when it says in Proverbs 13:24: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” It has the benefit of thousands of years of experience on its side when it gives that advice.

If you’re interested, my father wrote a couple of articles several years ago. One is on the duties of children toward their parents, and the other is on the duties of parents toward their children. The articles are a compilation of verses from various books of the Bible on those topics, and they’re not doom and gloom stuff — they’re thoughtful, fascinating stuff. To make things even more interesting, my father is a psychiatrist who is keenly interested in the proper development of one’s character and personality.

On an unrelated note, thank goodness for Google Video, which indexed the cartoon from Dailymotion! I wouldn’t have been able to provide you with screenshots from the cartoon otherwise, because I couldn’t find it in regular web searches. I don’t have it in my collection, and only saw it a few times on TV, including once on Boomerang recently. I encourage you to watch it.

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Exercise

What do you do all day?

We are defined by what we do with our time. When it comes to our health, that same adage can be re-stated to read: our bodies are the record of what we do with our time.

If you happen to sit in a chair all day, perhaps you wish for a job where you can move around more often. If you have to stand up all day, or run around from place to place, you may wish for the comfort of a cozy chair and a steady desk where you could sit and concentrate on some quiet work. But have you wondered what your job is doing to your body? Just what are the long-term effects of what you do all day, every day?

Desk work isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Any job that involves an extended amount of sitting, whether it be an office job or a driving job, just isn’t healthy for the body. It makes you sick, slowly, over time, without realizing it. It deforms your posture, it fattens you up, slows down your digestive tract and metabolism, widens your hips, flattens your curves, rounds out your shoulders and hunches your back. Your muscles slowly atrophy from all that inactivity, and they get replaced by fat reserves. Before you know it, you get flabby and fragile. At first you’re angry, then you get complacent, and finally you accept it as a normal part of growing old. But it’s not a normal part of the aging process! It doesn’t have to be that way.

By the same token, any job that involves an extended amount of standing up isn’t good for you either. It introduces posture problems of its own, puts extra stress on the spinal column, the hips and the knees, not to mention your feet, and can lead to varicose veins, among other things. You get home exhausted at the end of the day, with pain in your joints and your back, and crash into your bed, only to put your body through the same punishing process the next day. Again I say, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Over the past several years, I’ve seen many people who had the symptoms I described above, and until recently, I used to think it was due to one’s nature or old age, but I was wrong. Those problems could be traced directly to what these people were doing — or not doing. Because, you see, what you aren’t doing is just as important as what you are doing.

In life, it’s very important to counteract the negative effects of any of our activities with their proper antidotes. If what you do all day is sit on a chair, then you must get outside more often, and jog or run or exercise. At the very least, you should do some crunches or push-ups every day. If you stand all day, then you must mobilize your leg and hip joints. It sounds counterintuitive, but think of it this way: if you kept your arms locked outward all day long, wouldn’t you want to bend them at the end of the day? Wouldn’t your elbows feel horrible? It’s the same thing with our knees and hips, except we’ve gotten so used to standing on them all day long, we’ve forgotten that we need to bend them every once in a while, to put those joints through their full range of motion — so do some squats and lunges, and stretch your hamstrings and quadriceps muscles too.

Our bodies were made for motion. They were not made for sitting or for standing up or for lying down. They need constant, varied movement and effort to keep them in shape. If they don’t get it, they deteriorate. We become wrecks of our former selves — flabby, misshapen bags of skin, fat and bones — a sad memory of what we could have been, and no amount of liposuction and plastic surgery and botox is going to fix that, in spite of what some people may think.

Look, if you want to do things right, then you’ve got to figure out what you want in life. You’ve got to figure out what you do with your time all day, and how you can use it better. If you want to start exercising, then you’ve got to carve out time for it in your daily schedule — you need to find the resolve for exercise, and you need to stick to it. If you don’t, just look around you. The majority of people out there never got their act together on staying fit, and they look it. Do you want to be one of them, or do you want something better?

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Exercise

Finding the right resolve for exercise

Exercise today is in bad shape. This is not because people are exercising too little, or because the general public’s perception of exercise is disdainful. We are being inundated with reasons to exercise these days. Virtually all magazines are full of large-type promises: a leaner waist, tighter abs, bigger arms, etc. The list goes on and on.

People’s approach to exercise today is very piecemeal. They focus on the trees instead of looking at the forest. Most every fitness article that I read mentions nothing about whole body workouts or gymnastics. Instead, they all give the “perfect” prescription for getting rid of fat in problem areas, or tightening/enlarging a specific muscle. Your body is not a machine. You cannot replace the spare tire around your waist by just working your abs. You cannot work on just specific parts and ignore the rest. You can focus on specific body parts, but you need to work your entire body.

What’s worse, the wrong reasons are offered for exercising. Have you looked at the headlines lately? “Have better sex”, “Have better orgasms”, “Impress the girls”, “Get the biceps that will turn eyes”, “Girls, get a tighter butt”, etc. Are those really the reasons that people should exercise? No!

Exercising simply to obtain those benefits is a short-sighted, egotistical approach that will only make it harder for you to have a positive body image. Exercising for these reasons will definitely enforce negative habits and cause you to obsess unnecessarily about things that are out of your control.

Imagine your kids are walking through the supermarket, and they stumble upon these magazines. Do you really want their impressionable minds to be stamped with these ideas?! You work hard enough trying to keep them on a good path in life, do you really want some profit-minded magazine editor making your life harder? Are these the goals that you would like them to strive for when they are exercising?

Here are the reasons for exercising on a regular basis:

  • Better health, even perfect health. Yes, this is an attainable goal! Good exercise coupled with a healthy diet and sleeping habits is the winning combination for perfect health. Without good health, we cannot lead normal lives. Our intellect is impaired and we cannot work and create at our best, our day to day activities have to be reduced, life is not enjoyed as much, personal relationships suffer enormously… I’m sure we can all think of many more problems that arise when we are not healthy.
  • A longer life. Yup, you’ll live much longer if you exercise on a regular basis. The statistics are all fairly conservative on the issue, but I can tell you that you’ll probably add 10 or more years to your life if you keep exercising till the day you die. Just think of all the people that have died in the prime of their life because they were overweight or simply did not exercise.
  • A faster, more powerful brain. Many research studies have talked about this lately. Exercise makes your mind work better. It’s a given. If you don’t believe me, try it out for yourself. Start an exercise program, and even after just one week, you’ll see a marked difference in the way you think and solve problems.
  • More physical strength. A balanced exercise program will increase your physical strength over time. Your strength can double, or even triple or quadruple depending on your current state.
  • A better posture. Exercise will make you stand up straighter, and will even help correct curvature issues of the spinal column such as scoliosis. Once the muscles in your back get stronger, and if you maintain good body posture at all times while exercising, mild to moderate scoliosis can be corrected largely or entirely. In addition to these benefits, people will give you more respect once you keep a straight body posture. It’s all in the body language. A person with slumped shoulders and a downturned head simply does not get as much respect as a person with correct body posture.
  • Increased flexibility. A good exercise program should make all of your muscles more flexible. Flexibility is the key to staying injury-free when we get older. It is because muscles aren’t flexible and don’t answer as fast that older people lose their balance and fall, breaking hips, legs and hands, sometimes even their necks.
  • Denser bone. Why should you care about this one? Because bones that are less dense are more likely to break. Older people get a disease called osteoporosis, where bones get less dense and as a result are brittle and break very easily. This disease is caused by age-related hormonal imbalances, but exercise can make their and your bones denser, because the effort of the movement not only stimulates your body to make the hormones necessary for bone health, but it also works the bones themselves, literally rejuvenating them. Blood once more circulates through them, and as they twist and turn with your muscles, they start once again to acquire the flexibility and density they possessed in your youth.

Now what do you think of exercise? I could come up with many more reasons, but these are the most important ones. And you will not get these benefits unless your exercise program is put together with them in mind. You will most certainly not get these if your workouts are motivated by a desire to turn heads or have better sex. Why? Because attitude is so important in any activity that we do. And when our attitude is selfish or it focuses on one shortsighted aspect instead of embracing the entire picture, our results suffer.

How then should we structure our exercise programs? Here are a few important guidelines:

  • You should take your entire body into consideration. I’m at the gym about 4-5 times a week, and I see people go there on a regular basis just to work on their abs, or just to work on their arms. I see people that just go there to run on the treadmills or just to use the stairmasters. That’s not the way to do it. An asymmetric approach will produce asymmetric results. People that run all the time may find that they still can’t get rid of the fat around their waists even though they run miles and miles every day. I see people who have indeed developed certain body parts very well, but others lag far behind. For example, their arms, especially their biceps, may be big, but their chest is small, and their legs are pencil thin. They not only put themselves in jeopardy because any one overdeveloped body part will cause imbalances in the rest of your body, but they also proliferate negative weightlifter stereotypes.
  • You should include a lot of stretching exercises in your workouts. As a rule, you should stretch before exercising, during your exercises, and after you are finished with your workout. Read these articles for some great stretching exercises.
  • You should not push your body too hard all the time. Don’t expect to set new personal records with every workout that you do. You will burn out, and that’s guaranteed. Instead, focus your efforts on maintaining good form in all your exercises, and on finishing all the sets that you planned to do. Personal records will come of themselves.
  • You should balance out your exercises. If you are a weightlifter, make sure your have days when you just stretch, run or swim. Plan ahead. Don’t do just one type of exercise all of the time. It may make your ego feel better, but your body will feel worse.

If you put the advice in this article into practice, I guarantee you that you will be pleasantly surprised. You will eventually receive all of the benefits mentioned here, and many more to boot. You may find that you have gotten rid of that spare fat around your waist, that you are indeed turning heads, and that your intimate relationships have improved, but these will be side effects. They should always be considered just side effects!

The main focus of all your exercises should be to maintain and increase your health. If you do this, all the other benefits will come as a nice bonus, as the icing on the cake. But your health should always come first. That should be your motivation, and that should be your goal.

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Exercise

How to keep your exercise goals

So you’ve had it with yourself. You’ve decided it’s high time you started to exercise. You’ve heard about all the benefits: increased energy and stamina, better health, more strength, and of course, a better looking body. But you don’t know where to begin, and simply deciding that you’re going to drop 20 pounds or add 20 pounds (whichever your case may be) probably won’t work for most people. You need a plan, and you need to break down that plan into achievable steps or goals.

This article makes it easy for you to identify and prioritize your exercise goals and establish an easy to follow exercise program. Just follow along and jot down your own notes or answers to each of the points mentioned.

  • Make sure your goals are in line with your priorities. For example, if your first priority is your family (you want to spend time with your wife or husband, or you have children,) don’t go all out with your exercise and steal away all of the quality family time. Your exercise will separate you from them, create tensions within your family, and in the end, you’ll probably associate exercise with that bad experience and you’ll be less likely to begin a new program. Instead, talk with your spouse about your plans and work out a schedule that works for both of you. Begin with exercise sessions 3 times a week for 20-40 minutes each. As you start experiencing the benefits of exercise, share your enthusiasm with your spouse. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that they will join in your exercise program.
  • Set realistic, achievable goals and time frames. This is a biggie! Many people get discouraged and stop exercising because they don’t achieve the goals they set for themselves. Of course you’re not going to achieve your goals if they are too high and lofty. Having fallen prey to this mistake myself, I can tell you right now that you will not drop/add 20-30 pounds in a month, or in some cases, even in 2 months. It just will not happen, unless you’re incredibly lucky or you do some incredibly thoughtless thing like going on a crash diet. What will most likely happen is that you will be able to drop or add 10 pounds in a month of serious exercise. These are what’s called “beginner’s bonus”. After that, your gains or losses will come harder for the following reasons:
    • If you’re trying to lose weight, you are, but you’re also replacing that weight with muscle, so as your muscles grow, you’re adding weight and replacing the fat weight that you’re losing. So if you are lifting heavy weights and hoping that your own weight will drop as a result, you’re in for a surprise. If you’re lifting light weights, focusing on lots of repetitions and lots of cardio exercises (which increase your heart rate), your weight will probably continue to drop fairly steadily, although the leaner you get, the harder you will have to work for those last few pounds. So, unless you’re very fat, your “beginner’s bonus” will wear out quickly and you’ll need to work harder in order to continue losing weight.
    • If you’re trying to add weight because you’re thin, your body will like staying thin and won’t like adding weight. So after the initial shock of exercise and an initial amount of weight gain, your body will try to stay at the new weight or even go down to its previous weight. What’s worse, if you gorge on food hoping the sheer amount of calories will force your body to add more weight, you’ll be adding lots of fat, not muscle, and then you’ll be both scrawny and flabby (bet that’s a pretty picture…).
    • Basically, the fight will be with yourself. After the beginner’s bonus wears out, you’ll really need to get determined and stick close to your exercise schedule, because sooner or later you will reach something called a “plateau”, which is dead point in your progress. The only way to get out of a plateau is to set small, achievable goals and document everything, so you can follow your progress on a daily basis. Then it’ll be a game of comparison: you’ll compare the numbers with the dates, and before long, you’ll see yourself progressing again.
  • Visualize the results. Every time you look in a mirror, imagine yourself at your goal image, and keep that image in mind as you exercise. The power of getting results depends on the determination that you use in picturing your end result. Even when the image gets stale or seems too far away, you have to hold on to it and truly believe you can get there, or else the game is lost. Once you get in a regular exercise schedule, it’s all a mind game. You have to actively decide to go to the gym, to stay in there till you’re done with what you planned to do, to eat right, sleep right and stay focused. Otherwise, you’ll get lost on the wayside and never reach your destination. Focusing on your goal image helps keep you on track and gives your the extra power that you need to finish your workouts.
  • Take positive steps toward your destination everyday, even if it’s just a few moments for reflection. While it’s harder for you to control your thoughts or feelings (you will have many doubts), it’s much easier to control your actions. If you want to drop those pounds, make sure that every bit of food you eat is healthy, and every exercise that you do at the gym is done toward losing that weight. If you want to add weight, make sure you eat all of the food that you planned, that you work out until the point of total exhaustion at every workout, and that you get more than adequate amounts of sleep. And take a few moments a few times each day to think about the progress you’ve made and enjoy the goals you’ve already achieved. You’ll be re-enforcing your drive when you do that, and you’ll motivate yourself to go even further than you planned. Every little bit that you do counts, no matter what your goal is.
  • Reward yourself. When you give yourself a reward for your achievement, you unconsciously give yourself support for your actions. Give yourself a worthy gift for a worthy success, but don’t spoil yourself. In other words, if you’ve just dropped 20 pounds, don’t celebrate with a triple fudge Sundae and an all-course brunch. You’ll be ruining everything you worked for. Instead, re-inforce the positive habits you’ve created by doing something healthful, like getting a full body massage or treating yourself to some exotic fruit smoothies. Chances are you won’t need to worry about rewarding yourself; if your body looks better, your spouse will probably find plenty of ways to reward you…
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