Tips from a retired CFLer on how to fit in exercise when life gets in the way

Tips from a retired CFLer on how to fit in exercise when life gets in the way

CFL alumni Joe Sardo shares a family man’s trick to keeping active

For some professional athletes, saying goodbye to the game can lead to a sense of loss of self-esteem and identity, as well as the close-knit camaraderie that unites team members.

Leaving the Toronto Argonauts in 1995, after four years as a pro linebacker, was tough, admits Joe Sardo of Hamilton, Ont. “The people and the relationships, the locker room, the coaches, the guys — you miss that,” says Sardo, who today is Vice-President and Portfolio Manager with RBC Dominion Securities. Another thing Sardo misses is the level of fitness that the game requires. Still, he says, becoming “an investment advisor was a good move for my family.”

Finding time as a dad is challenging

You’d think that staying fit would be a breeze for Sardo following years as an elite athlete: a football scholarship to the University of Hawaii, followed by a four-year career that included the Ottawa Rough Riders. It wasn’t. For Sardo, life’s demands took over, as they do for many Canadian men. Sardo’s wife, Arlene, who he first met in Hawaii, had two sets of twins — three boys and a girl — within three years. Months of sleepless nights, then chaos as the babies grew into rowdy toddlers, and “we both got a little bit heavier than we would have liked. Physical fitness took a back seat.”

Exercise is important for your mental health

“The biggest thing I learned is that you need to schedule,” says Sardo, whose dad, Joe Sr., played for the Argos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the late 1950s and at 80 is still physically active.

The importance of exercise for mental health should not be overlooked. Fitness, says Sardo, should be approached the same way as your finances, the golden rule being “pay yourself first as a way of saving. Take that same approach and put it into a physical and mental health perspective. Whether you’re an athlete, a businessman or a stay-at-home mom, you need to build fitness into your day.”

Being active also doesn’t have to mean logging hour-long Crossfit sessions. A workout can be 20 minutes, half an hour, or even 45 minutes of just walking, says Sardo, a volunteer linebacker coach with the University of Guelph Gryphons. What’s important is “getting off the couch.”

What’s important is just “getting off the couch.Joe Sardo, Retired CFLer

This is often easier said than done. It requires discipline, or what Sardo calls “good mental health. To exercise, you have to be mentally strong.” If the sofa beckons, nurture mental toughness by becoming involved with community and bonding with family — “thinking about other people and how your decisions affect them.”

Don’t forget this amazing tip

Being mentally strong and having discipline doesn’t mean turning into a drill sergeant, for yourself or the family, Sardo adds. “Decompression” — the ability to have fun and embrace “cheat days” — is all part of maintaining good mental health and long-term physical fitness. “A couple times a month we’ll make a run for some junk food and have a couple bags of chips and some popcorn with a movie,” Sardo says of his active family. “I define it as our decompression time.”

How does your family like to get active? Trips to the park? Epic games of tag? Share the fun in the comments below!

This article was originally published on October 10, 2017.

Photo credit: Lisa & Karen of Twintage Photography

In partnership with the Canadian Football League Alumni Association

Canadian Football League Alumni Association
The Happiness Drug is Produced in the Brain!

The Happiness Drug is Produced in the Brain!

Did you know that chemicals called “endorphins” influence our feeling of well-being?

It is 100% natural and is produced in the brain when you take part in sports or relaxation activities.

Endorphins were discovered in 1975. This powerful neurotransmitter relieves pain, reduces stress and strengthens the immune system. For more information on endorphins and mental health, please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website.

Exercise produces what is called an “endorphin rush,” occurring between 10 and 30 minutes into the activity. When the brain detects “physical stress,” it produces endorphins, which allow the body to continue to function without experiencing pain. That’s why you feel good after a run!

Stimulating the production of endorphins is therefore key to being happy and healthy. And intensive sports are not needed to release them. Meditation, acupuncture, massage, deep breathing and even spicy foods help to release this happiness substance!

Here are a few tips for stimulating your endorphin production to benefit your physical and mental health:

  1. Take a 30-minute walk after dinner with a good friend. Releasing endorphins while in good company is great for your mental state.
  2. Try spicy dishes from time to time. You’ll see: the more you have, the more you’ll enjoy it. Veggie-stuffed tacos or an exquisitely prepared red curry is mouth-watering, healthy and makes you happy!
  3. Practice mindfulness activities, such as meditation, yoga or deep breathing. You will release endorphins, reducing stress and the risk of depression.
  4. Summer is here! Make a list of beautiful places to visit in your area: shorelines, wine routes, forests and mountains. Go by bike (or fix your bike to a rack on your car). You can travel dozens of kilometres outdoors and experience amazing landscapes. You’ll leave the stress of the city behind. And you’ll feel good both mentally and physically after a day of biking.
How to get fired up about weight loss

How to get fired up about weight loss

Use family snapshots, sexy selfies and tight T-shirts as motivation

Picture a bunch of cavemen sitting around a campfire. One of them starts grunting about how he’d love to hunt, kill and eat a wooly mammoth. “Ugh!” his buddy replies. “Ugh ugh, ugh ugh-ugh-ugh.”

Translation: Easier said than done.

The idea that wanting to do something is easier than doing it is old as time. It certainly comes up whenever we set out to drop a few pounds. The good news: The motivational tools you need are right inside of you.

Tip 1: Find your inner fire

Ask yourself a simple question: “Why do I want to lose weight?” The answer here should be all about you. Don’t worry, you’re not being selfish: Studies show you have a better chance of weight-loss success if you want to improve your own health, rather than giving in to outside pressure.

There are so many awesome answers. Maybe you want to turn heads on the street, in your kitchen, or at an upcoming class reunion. Or how about rocking that T-shirt like it’s 1999? Maybe it’s about having more energy to play with your kids, have fun with your buddies, and get busy with whoever notices that new physique. Last but definitely not least, how about living longer — for you and for your loved ones — and enjoying time with them more. To learn more about the amazing benefits of weight loss, click here.

Tip 2: Use your “why” as motivation

Enjoying a longer life with loved ones is a popular reason for losing weight — and rightfully so — but isn’t seeing them in person enough? Thing is, your kids probably aren’t around at work, and your significant other may not be there for the morning commute. So here’s an easy tip: Find a photo of the brood and use it as your screensaver at work or as the background image on your phone. Then, when you feel those junk food cravings coming on, or want to take the elevator instead of the stairs, simply glance at the screen. (This also works with sexy selfies. Just don’t use them at work!)

Likewise, if rocking a tight tee is your goal, find a few you like and use them as reminders. Hang one on your bedroom mirror, drape another over your chair at work, wrap a third around the headrest in your car, you get the idea. In moments of weakness, simply look to the shirt! (Or to the jeans you want to wear to that class reunion, or to the beer-league jersey that used to fit…again, you get the idea.)

With your “why” front-and-centre you’ll never lack for motivation. Then, when you reach your weight-loss goal, you can celebrate like caveman. Mammoth steaks, anyone?

The ‘Big 3’ benefits of losing weight

The ‘Big 3’ benefits of losing weight

Dropping just a few pounds improves everything from sleep to sex

What springs to mind when you hear the words “Big 3?” NBA fans might think of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Car buffs could point to Ford, GMC and Chrysler, while millions of Canadian cellphone subscribers might shudder and say Bell, Rogers, and Telus.

But there’s another Big 3 that, unlike your wireless provider, may actually reduce your monthly bills. Which awesome Big 3 is this? It’s the Big 3 Benefits of Losing Weight:

    1. You’ll feel better: Is any benefit better than this? Dropping just a few pounds can reduce joint pain, improve the quality of your sleep, and chase away fatigue and grogginess. Oh, and speaking of feeling better…  
    2. Your sex life will improveYour sex drive is affected by high blood pressure and other conditions that you’re likely to have if you’re overweight. Additionally, erectile dysfunction can be a problem for obese and overweight men. Plus, the people you have sex with will be all over a fitter, firmer partner. Need we say more?
    3. You’ll live longer: You’re feeling great, you’re getting some, so why not stick around to enjoy it? Dropping pounds lowers the risk of life-shortening conditions such as heart attacks and sleep apnea, a sleeping condition in which your breathing starts and stops but seems to you like heavy snoring.
The Single Best Tip to Live Happy & Healthy Today

The Single Best Tip to Live Happy & Healthy Today

“Live in the present.”

So how do you benefit by “living in the present?” Pushing your boundaries by bungee jumping, pushing your credit limit by purchasing an expensive suit, or pushing your calorie count by ordering the nacho plate? Is it inspirational, indulgent…or neither?

For ancient Greek philosophers, “living in the present” was a state of mind one aspired to, becoming self-aware in order to experience and enjoy one’s current situation. Perhaps best captured by the slogan Carpe Diem — translated from Latin as ‘seize the day’ — the goal was to simply live in the moment… at least for emperors, noblemen, and anyone else that wasn’t busy doing intense labor.

How you can live like a king

We get it. You’re a regular guy with a regular job, not the King of England. You have commitments and responsibilities, which leaves little time for living in the present, right?

Thing is, you don’t need to throw lavish parties on luxury yachts, and you certainly don’t need to retreat to a cave and meditate, hoping for enlightenment. The key to being able to live in the present is to recognize that any situation presents opportunities.

Get started focusing on step one: breakfast.

Boost your mood with food

In theory, breakfast is a time to savor a meal while fueling yourself for the day ahead. In reality, you’re half-dressed, pushing the clock, chewing a bagel—briefcase in hand, moving towards the door. Don’t multitask around chewing and swallowing, schedule them in: HIGH PRIORITY! Meeting w/ oatmeal @ 7:40 a.m.

The key here is to remember to live in the present by dedicating your energy to the task at hand. Chances are, you’ll find that the more you put into living in the moment, the more you’ll get out of it.

For more tips that’ll keep you on top of your game, check out: 3 Foods to Boost Your Mood.

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