How many times have you made this statement? "I'm sick of the same old training." "I'm sick of having to watch what I eat!" "I'm sick of not getting the results I want!" "I'm sick of being sick!" Oh, I'm sure we could fill pages with lists of things we're sick of: bad drivers, whiny children, rude people...but I digress. In regards to health, what are you sick of? And more importantly, why? I was recently talking with a friend of mine who is in phenomenal shape. We were discussing some of the struggles that occur when you progress your weights with willing muscles, but unprepared joints and connective tissues. It's tough when parts of you are ready for more, but others are still lagging behind, trying to catch up. It takes me back to the fundamental question of "Why". I asked my friend what her training goals were and she wasn't sure. Then she turned the carpet on me and asked me the same question. I had the same response. There are times when we are training for an event. At those times, everything is quite simple. We have a beginning and ending date. We have a purpose. We have a game plan. Sometimes, we're stuck in the middle. Sure we could over-analyze and say, well I would like to be an 8 instead of a 10, or I'd like that "Ken doll" curve in my abs, or I'd like my genetic cellulite to turn into sleek, toned muscle. I'd like to offer a reason to train physically that transcends the physical body.... work out, eat healthy, and sleep well for your mental health. I recently sat in on a lecture from a psychiatrist, Dr. Trent Holmberg, where he was discussing mental health. I was so happy to hear him focus some of this time on preventative measures that fight against a decline in mental health. At the end of the day, my ultimate goal is to be happy. I want the same thing for my family, my friends, my clients, and co-workers. I want to offer a focus that doesn't have a start and finish date, can't be measured with physical ideals and one that you can succeed at every day AND feel the benefits every day.
These are my 5 suggestions:
1) Do something physical 6 days a week. Don't worry so much about what it is. If you have to be home bound, run the stairs, do push-ups, and tricep dips. Walk the dog, briskly. Actually play with your kids...tag, soccer, hide and seek.
2) Eat better. Count calories, measure your protein, check in with your fiber, drink more water, cut out processed foods and sugar---overwhelmed? Of course! So, start with one thing. Pick something you can do. Be successful, then move on to the next. Think lifestyle change, rather than quick fix. Remember that quick results also have a quick departure!
3) Find some sunshine. Even in this winter freeze, the sun still comes out. Drive to the top of the mountains and breath the air in...even for 15 minutes. I guarantee it's worth the trip. No time? Then simply step outside, bundled up if you have to, and take in the scenery.
4) Sleep! If you are training hard, you have to sleep hard. I'm talking 8 hours minimum! You will NOT see or feel the rewards unless you give your body adequate time to repair, rebuild, and rejuvenate. Take naps, go to bed early, turn off the tv and grab a good book. I have found that most of my worst food choices happen when I am tired. Choose bed over the pantry!
5) Manage stress. If you can't make it to a yoga class every time your stress levels go up, then practice the art of breathing. Try 10 deep breaths. Honestly, I find myself needing to breath deeply most of my waking hours. I find when I do, my responses are kinder and more what I would have intended if I took time to think about it. Most stress won't go away with a deep breath, so it's important to find a way to detach from whatever is troubling you. Read, walk, write, paint, drive, call a friend, attend a class, go for walk, lift weights or watch a film. You're worries will wait and perhaps some time away will give you perspective.
This list certainly could be longer, but this is a great starting point. Start today. Be successful today. The beauty of this kind of focus is that everyone around you benefits from it! Have a happy, healthy day!
Is that really the lesson? Does Homer have it right? How are those New Year's resolutions coming? What? You never even wrote them down?! Afraid of failure? Afraid of commitment? Afraid of hard work? Well, let me give you some really good news: failure is part of success! Now you can't linger in failure forever, but failure means that you are pushing your limits, going where it's uncomfortable, and shaking up complacency.
More specifically, I'm taking about how you train. I teach a resistance training class a couple of times a week and I love telling my class that they have to FAIL to SUCCEED! Going to the gym and picking up the same weights with the same routine isn't just just boring, it's ineffective. Most people train to improve something: quality of life, strength, injury prevention, happiness, health, body composition, sanity, to name a few. If your routine is as stale as the french baguette that's been sitting on your counter for a week, then THROW IT OUT!
Now, it is possible to bring new life into that old baguette without kicking it to the can. Ever hear of "pain perdu" or french toast? The best french toast comes from stale bread. So, rather than tossing the bread, re-purpose it. The same can hold true for your old routine. If starting something completely new is overwhelming, then tweak what you've got. Take the routine you have and do one of the following: up your weight, slow down your reps, add 5 more reps, add balance, add an upper body movement with the lower, add a plyo drill in between sets, super-set it or do the routine in reverse.
Now if you ARE ready for a change and you are comfortable coloring outside the lines, then go for something more dramatic! I was watching my 7 year old coloring in her coloring book the other day. She was fast and furious. She wasn't really all that concerned with precision. Quite honestly, it kind of made me nuts at first. I thought she really needed to focus and make the picture look like some effort was involved. Well it turns out, on further contemplation, that we were both right. Taking pride in your work, doing your best, and paying careful attention to form is extremely important. However, over-analyzing the way a simple task is completed, not being willing to see things from a different perspective and never finishing because you are too slow and methodical are hindrances that need to be overcome. If I apply my careful attention to form and posture, with Ciel's fast and furious creative technique, then we might just have something amazing.
Write a new goal down! Let it be small ( adding an extra rep) or big (run your 1st marathon), but put it down in writing. Look at it daily. Go for it. Fail at it. Try again. Fail again. Try again. Then conquer it and make a change!
So here we are closing out another year. Many of us are contemplating making new year's resolutions. And let's be honest, most us us have at some time or another had our sights set on a new fitness/ nutrition plan. It's not a bad idea! Without our health it becomes quite difficult to enjoy any of our desires. However, unless something really jarring like sickness, disease, injury or...heaven forbid...old age has occurred, our goals are usually driven by a size or a look we are seeking rather than improved, overall health. While these external wishes may be valid and even reasonable, they aren't always the best way to find success.
Let me back up. I think that it's extremely important to address WHY you are creating fitness/health/nutrition goals. Many might reply---duh, I'm fat. Quickly get past the fact that you are unhappy with your size and or shape and dive a little deeper. Do you have specific foods that present a problem, are you a stress eater, do you not get enough sleep, do you have some habits that need to be addressed, do you have an over-scheduled life and can't make time for exercise, etc. Once you have been able to identify something a little more concrete and personal, then you have a starting point.
Start by accepting where you are today. You are willing to take an honest inventory of where you are today and begin making changes where needed. This is a very positive thing! Self acceptance should begin at the beginning of the journey and not the end. It may broaden and deepen, but it must be present right from the start. If you are waiting for weight-loss or a size to make you valuable, worthy, attractive, lovable, happy you are going to be unfulfilled. The shell or the outside image that we see doesn't even begin to tell the story. If we truly want to embark on a healthy and happy lifestyle, then there are changes that must occur inside where no-one else can see.
While there are those realities that many of us over-indulged over the holidays (or maybe over the last few years) or possibly struggled with self control when a dozen plates of homemade goodies were left on the doorstop or didn't squeeze in a work-out at all since Thanksgiving, these sidetracks don't have to end our journey. How many roads run completely straight without so much as a bump, turn or detour? Would we abandon our trip just because the road wasn't what we thought it was going to be? Get real! No matter how clean an eater you are or how disciplined you are, life will throw a curve ball at you. The trick is knowing it's coming and being prepared. Allow a turn here and there, but think enough of yourself to have the faith and confidence that you can get back to what you know will help you feel and live your best. If guilt rules, your motivation is shallow. Once the weight is lost ( or goal achieved), the guilt is gone and now what will be your driving force? And heaven forbid you ever touch another peanut M & M---will this throw you back into the pangs of guilt only to decide that all hope is lost so you mind as well drowned your sorrows in the whole 5 LB bag?!
When you find yourself in the throws of guilt and negative thoughts, find something positive about yourself right then and there. Are you enjoying your favorite dessert? Do it! It's what you love, don't apologize for that. But, be prepared---"I'm only going to eat one slice of my favorite chocolate cake because I'm loving the way I feel when I'm in control and I don't like it when I over-indulge." You get the idea. It's not about making excuses, (that's a whole new blog post) but it's about being realistic. Think enough of yourself to accept that you will continuously improve even on a road filled with potholes, orange construction cones, and traffic jams. After all, if you don't believe in yourself, who will?
It's true, I'm a snob. Most people wouldn't admit to it so quickly and emphatically, but I can't deny it. When it comes time to take a break from my clean diet, I become a complete food snob!When I choose to indulge in something I know isn't on my clean, healthy eating plan, I'm extremely picky. Why shouldn't I be? I spend 90% of my time carefully selecting the right types of fat, portion size, protein grams,the right carbs, timing of meals, pre and post work-out meals, and a plethora of vegetables so when I choose to have a treat, it better be amazing.I've found that being selective really helps prevent a complete over the top blow-out buffet style binge. The problem for a lot of us is that when we feel deprived, we over indulge when we hit a certain breaking point and we can't find any more self restraint in our carb depleted body. If, however, we have a carefully constructed plan of when, where and what our treat is going to be, we will be better prepared to put on the breaks once we've had it. If I'm having a chocolate moment and all I can find in my house is old Halloween candy, I'm going to be in trouble if I start eating that to make up for the lack of high quality french chocolate that I'm really craving. The cheap, inferior replacements will not satisfy! I will find myself right back in the pantry searching for the next best thing.Just like in baseball, you don't want to swing at everything. Keep calm and wait for the perfect pitch. You'll knock it out of the park and then still be able to get back in the game. Knowing what you want, determining the portion size, deciding when you're going to eat it, and deciding to settle for nothing else have kept me from veering too far track. Especially with the holiday season, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, I love food! I love planning it, making eat, partying with it and of course, eating it. When it comes to Thanksgiving, I try to hone in on my favorite part of the meal. I know that what I look forward to the most is pie. But not just any pie! I have no affinity for cream pies or even pumpkin pie. My weakness is homemade peach pie. Here's where my snobbery kicks in: the crust has to be homemade, the peaches have to be fresh, it can't be that weird gelatinous substance gluing the peaches together, and it has to taste sensational! If I make it myself, I know I'll be eating a piece. If it's not there and there's no close second (i.e. homemade apple pie) then I'll hold out. Going into thanksgiving with one menu item topping my "Must Have" list keeps me from overloading the plate with all the fillers. I also like to make a vegetable platter, have plenty of healthy side dishes and a nice size serving of turkey.You can have it all without all the guilt, calories and gluttony but it requires planning and a little attitude. Why yes I am better than that store bought cupcake with shortening frosting. I'm waiting for the piece de resistance served on a beautiful hand-painted plate with a cloth napkin. I'm worth it, aren't you?
Balance...what does that mean to you?I made this my new year's resolution a year ago. At the time I was just finishing a year of heavy competing. If you've competed in anything before, you know that it takes a tremendous amount of focus and preparation to compete at your best. I had found that in my quest for improvement, I had neglected balance. It was so frustrating to be so incredibly regimented about training, nutrition, supplements, posing, rest, etc and yet to still be missing a certain "je ne sais quoi". That "something" was balance. Balance can be managing to carry an armful of groceries, a child, fitness equipment and a water jug safely from the car to the house. It can be managing your time so you can successfully be a mom, a fitness professional, a wife, a friend, a woman, a tutor, a daughter, an individual...need I go on???? Balance can also be something as seemingly simple as standing on one foot while performing bicep curls. There are many other facets of balance that could be explored. But in order to not become overwhelmed, I kept my goal quite simple. Prioritize and avoid extremes!It's important to make a list of all the things that are important to you and place them in order. My number one is and always will be my family. It's amazing how even writing this brings pangs of guilt. I know my heart has always felt this way and yet in the heat of competition, my actions didn't show the same thing. Oh sure, I cooked for my family (in additon to my 8-9 separate meals), attended soccer games, music performances, family vacation, help with homework, dates with my husband, etc., but I wasn't at the caliber that those closest to me were used to. I had given the quality version of me to my training and what was left for my family was pretty dismal. It left me feeling unfulfilled.I have chosen to step away from competing for now and get back to what makes me completely happy. I'm now able to tend to my girls with full energy, enjoy dinner out with my husband, train and teach clients that I love with their goals in mind, eat healthy 90% of the time leaving room for guilt-free occasional indulgences, read, travel, shop and leave plenty of room for new discoveries. There may be a time when that competition bug bites me again, but I will be better prepared knowing that my balance can't be compromised.As stated in my profile, balance is elusive and must be revisited. There are times when our life demands more focus on our job, our health, our stress, our family, or our "fill in the blank". This is life! The key to my balance has been to examine what has commanded my attention and then to find time for the opposite of that. If my life is full of stress, then I make sure I schedule playtime...a spa day, a fun work-out, time with friends, etc. Or if my time has been monopolozed by activites with my kids, then schedule a big kid acitivity...maybe a night at the opera, a book club discussion, or a quiet drive with my man. You get the idea! "Don't spread yourself too thin" and "don't put all your eggs in one basket" are two expressions we've all heard. Somewhere in the middle is a delicate, happy place worth seeking-----BALANCE!