6 Ways to Measure Progress

evilscaleMany women (and men too!) simply resort to the scale to tell them if they’re making progress with their fat loss goals. While the scale can be good measurement of progress, it’s not the ONLY or even the BEST way to measure progress. So here’s a little countdown of the many ways you can measure to see if you’re making progress with your diet and training.

6. Scale – As previously mentioned, the scale can actually be a good way to measure progress, but it’s not necessarily the best way to measure progress. It’s only one measurement and the number is kind of…well…not indicative of how much fat you have lost or haven’t lost. The scale is taking evvvverything into account when it spits out that one number at you. Your fat, your muscle, water, food, intestines, bones, hair, EVERYTHING!!! Yet, if the number changes you tend to get really excited or really depressed depending on what direction the number went. My advice? If the number on the scale has a tendency to bring your mood down, stay away from it. If the number doesn’t really affect your mood, then weigh yourself as much as you’d like!

5. Body Fat Testing – This can be done in many ways, some being much more accurate than others. Calipers (kind of iffy), bioelectric impedance analysis (handheld devices or scales that “tell you your body fat”…also very iffy), hydrostatic weighing (essentially you’re dunked in water…very accurate but also very impractical), and DEXA scan (also very accurate but very expensive and impractical). So as you can see, the ways that you have easy access to aren’t very accurate, so I kind of figure “what’s the point?”

4. Circumference Measurements – When using this method you take a fabric measuring tape and measure the circumference of certain areas around your body. Your waist, arms, chest, thighs, calves, hips, whatever you’re interested in measuring. I actually like this method a lot as it can tell you a lot more than the scale can. You can see where you might be losing fat…and where you might be GAINING muscle! Which is important too, right? RIGHT!?

3. How are your clothes fitting? – Sometimes seeing how our clothes fit can be the best and easiest way of measuring progress. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients say “ohhh, I’ve put on a few pounds, but you know what? My clothes are fitting better.” Oh, how interesting! Just because you put on a few pounds doesn’t mean it’s fat.

2. How do you look in the mirror? – Isn’t this what’s really the most important to you? Do you really care how much you weigh as long as you look better than you once did? Do you really care how much you weigh if your clothes are now 2 sizes smaller? If you’re in this game for physique changes, then weight really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you like what you’re seeing in the mirror. Taking progress photos is a great way to measure these changes from month to month.

And most importantly….

1. Where’s Your Head At? – When someone has been weight training for a while, eventually there’s this transition that happens in their mind. They start enjoying the process regardless of the physique progress. They have pride in themselves because they can finally bang out a few pull-ups. They have pride in themselves because they can deadlift twice their body weight. They have pride in themselves because daily tasks have all of a sudden become a hundred times easier…simply because they’re stronger, healthier, more confident, and ultimately happier. That’s the real measurement of progress. The rest will just fall into place.

Trust me. Trust the process. It’s definitely a journey, but I hope some day you get to #1.

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They Called Us “Spartans”

Imagine this: a young couple living in a major metropolitan area. At least 5 days a week they would rise at 4:45 AM, drink their black coffee, and be at the gym by 5:30 AM. Their training sessions would then ensue and they would rush back home by 6:30. The woman in this relationship would then rush to wash her hair (DAILY), eat breakfast, slap on makeup, try to dress her best, pack her 3 meals (out of her daily 6), and leave for work by 8 while her fiance’ spent 2 hours of his morning commuting to school.

For 3 years this was their lifestyle. Weekends were for catching up with cleaning and errands. Periodic fun was to be had…. Sometimes there were evening galas or dinners in the city… But the clock was always ticking and training and diet were always on the brain.

Their friends admired them. They called them “Spartans” because of their discipline. But golly….what a busy life!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this couple is my husband and I when we lived in New York. It was a hectic time and a stressful time, especially for me. What a relief it was when we moved and it ended. Admittedly, we continued carrying on a relatively strict regimen when we moved to London, but the level of pressure was greatly reduced. The lengthy commutes were over. Our free time had increased. And we were finally given the time and inner peace that allowed us to enjoy living in an amazing city. Due to the fact that we had a tiny fridge and kitchen, I stopped bulk cooking on Sundays and food prep became a thing of the past. (Woo hoo! I always hated that…)

Ever since then our feelings towards diet and training have softened. Longevity and moderation are bigger concerns now that we are in our 30s. Our maturity has helped us realize what’s important in life and what’s not. These days, having the ability to enjoy a few glasses of wine on the weekends is more important to me than paper-thin skin stretched over a chiseled 6-pack. Training is more fun when you’re not only concerned with how it will make you look, but when you’re concerned about whether it’s bringing you joy and making you feel good. Of course, I still enjoy the physique benefits, but they’re no longer the only benefits. I train in a way that I enjoy.

One of my new rules in life is “Don’t do things you hate.” Life is short. If I were on my deathbed tomorrow I sure as hell won’t be saying “damn, I wish I went for that 10 mile run yesterday.” I hate running. I really do. So I don’t do it. And that’s okay because it doesn’t match my goals anyways!

See?

I Hate Running

But I wonder if it might have been necessary for us to go through that strict phase, for if we hadn’t we might not be where we are now, both physically and mentally. It seems that when most people start living a “healthy lifestyle,” they go all in, only coming to the conclusion later on that a more moderate approach could get you to the same place with a lot less stress and worry.

These days I’m trying to help other women avoid that trap of getting sucked into a crazy strict diet and training routine that potentially results in some yo-yo-ing of weight or lifestyle. You really don’t need to get that maniacal about it to see results! Trust me! (Well, unless you need those chiseled, 6-pack abs…and you need them NOW. Well, that might take some extra effort on your part.)

And don’t worry, I no longer wash my hair DAILY. It’s more of a 2-3 days per week type of thing now. (Please don’t confuse that with showering. That is done on a daily basis, thank you very much!)

Anyways, if you are interested in getting stronger, hotter, and overall healthier, but are a bit lost and don’t know how to get started, I’m here for you, girl! I remember that zone well and I was lucky that my husband (fiance’ at the time) could kind of show me the ropes. But I’ve followed all sorts of diets and training programs and I’ve had some online trainers along the way giving me guidance, so I’ve certainly gained some experience and insight through the years. If you want to bypass most of the trial and error and would like to work with me long distance, please do not hesitate to contact me. I currently offer 100% individualized programs catered to you, moderate diet coaching, and for those who like getting a little bit neurotic and nitty gritty with numbers, actual diet plans.

I’m So Over New Years Resolutions, But…

I’m so over New Years resolutions. Aren’t you? Do you really ever follow through with them? I personally believe that if you are serious about making a legit change to your life you wouldn’t wait until January 1st to get started. But despite my feelings toward resolutions, and being that I’m a personal trainer, I do see the importance of people using ANYTHING as motivation to start living a healthier lifestyle.

I thought about getting into the semantics of the difference between goals and resolutions as many people do, but ultimately decided that’s not very important. What’s important is that you want to do something big with your life in the New Year and possibly make a lasting change! My advice? Go at it very GRADUALLY! Don’t overwhelm yourself with a ton of new life changes on January 1st. Take it step by step, otherwise, you might crash and burn, which is probably why you never followed through with your resolutions in the past. Here’s the best way to go about it:

1. Break your resolution down into small, realistic, attainable goals. Say your resolution is that you want to lose 20 lbs this year. Definitely realistic depending on how much fat you have to lose. Then break that down into the changes (smaller goals) you’ll need to make to achieve that resolution. Some examples of smaller goals could be adding 3 days of 30-60 minutes of exercise, daily dog walks, drinking more water, eating more protein and veggies, and decreasing your consumption of processed foods.

2. Meet your goals one by one. Don’t try to attack two goals at once if you can’t handle attacking one at a time. Make sure it becomes a habit before moving on to the next habit-forming goal. You’ll want to do this because it’ll make attacking the next goal much easier.

3. Maintain your habit changes for the long haul. Don’t decide on January 1st that you’re going to go from 0 to 7 days a week of hardcore, intense training and revert your crappy diet to a “clean” diet consisting of only 1200 calories overnight. 1. You’re going to be a miserable SOB that no one wants to be around, and 2. You’re going to fail…real hard. By taking things one step at a time and making realistic changes that you can keep in your life for the long haul, you will be MUCH more successful!

Like my husband (and quite possibly your grandma) always says, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” View your resolution as one, big elephant and those little bites as the smaller goals. You just have to chip away at them by slowly changing your habits. Eventually you will realize that you have accomplished something huge and actually made a true resolution!

Image attributed to Sean Gallo. www.seangallo.com

Image attributed to Sean Gallo. http://www.seangallo.com

In case you’re curious if I have any resolutions, well, not really. I’ll be doing a lot of business-related things this year which I’m really (!!!) excited about, but that’s not really a resolution. I also think I’m kind of past the point of wanting to make any major physique changes and I want to put that focus into other things. I’m pretty content and happy with my body these days, and really, isn’t that the overall goal? Don’t get me wrong, I have no plans to cease my training and give up my healthy, moderate diet. But they won’t be on the forefront of my mind. At this point they are a given in my life. They are habits and important players in my lifestyle that will never disappear. But now that that is the case, I can put some focus and energy into some new things!

Good luck on your resolutions this year! Remember, “slow and steady wins the race!”

It’s Official… My Dog is Overweight

Yep. I took my little Pippa to the vet this week and as the vet was examining her, she said that she’s getting a little “pudgy”. Do you know how awful it feels for a personal trainer to be told that their own dog is overweight?!

Unfortunately, I can’t put my finger on the single cause of it, but it could be a combination of a number of things…as it usually is with people.

1. Our walks aren’t 100% consistent.
2. She likes to sneak into her brother’s food dish. (Please note, he is at a perfectly healthy weight.)
3. She was eating wet food along with dry food.
4. She was spayed earlier this year, thus part of it might be hormonal.

I had originally suspected that she was putting on a little weight and I had already started making some changes in her diet. I never really give my dogs ‘people food,’ so that’s not an issue. But they did have some turkey on Thanksgiving! After all, I’m not evil! So here are the changes we’re making (and I think they have started to work as she seems a little slimmer than she did a couple months ago.)

1. I stopped giving my dogs any wet food. Let me also add that their poo is immaculate since dropping the canned food too! (TMI? I don’t care. This is huge, especially when you have to pick up their poo on walks!)
2. I have started seriously measuring out her portion sizes with a little measuring cup instead of eyeballing it. But the poor girl’s appetite is insatiable…therefore….
3. The vet said I could take away some of her kibble and add in some carrots and/or peas. (Volumetrics! Filling up on veggies instead of dense, higher calorie foods.)
4. I have been picking up her brother’s food when he has finished, so she can’t get to his remaining kibble.
5. We’re going to be much more consistent with her walks and make them at least half an hour a day, if not longer.
6. And she only gets a tiny bite of a fun treat per day. Sorry, girl…

I’m also measuring her waist now to track the changes. She’s at 15.5″ right now and a little over 10 lbs. Her healthy spot is closer to 9-9.5 lbs. And these tiny changes in weight mean a lot on a dog that small!

Now some of you may be wondering why I’m telling you all this about my dog. Well, something we can all take away from a situation like this is that these simple rules apply to everyone. If you take in more calories than your body can burn, you’re going to put on weight. Plain and simple. And for a tiny 9-10lb. Chihuahua, those excess calories can add up really fast! Small women, take note…this can apply to you too. We just don’t get to eat as much food as larger people! (Although, if you put on a lot of muscle, you’ll get to eat a little more.) It may not be fair, but since when is life fair? It’s better to accept it now and move on.

So, I’ll keep you posted on little Pippa’s progress! Let’s get her slim figure back! (Pippa is pictured below on the right.)
IMG_2104.JPG

Should I Train If I’m Sick?

I get this question a lot. And now that we’re coming into cold and flu season, I know I’m going to hear it more. This is a situation where you need to listen to your own body and use some common sense. Do you feel like death? Then no, do not workout. Can you breathe easily? No? Then you probably should not workout. Are you dizzy or nauseous? Yes? Then no, you should not workout.

What advice would you give to a friend if they asked if they should workout when feeling symptoms such as these? You would probably tell them to stay home and take it easy. Well, sometimes we’re bad at taking our own advice.
This also goes for injuries. If you “tweaked” a muscle or are experiencing pain in a joint, you probably shouldn’t over exert that area. Right? It’s inflamed and needs to heal….sooooo, let it heal damnit! No, you’re not going to lose all your ‘gainz’ if you have to take a week off from benching or whatnot. Don’t panic. Settle down. Everything is going to be okay.

Not taking your own advice can be a bad habit to get into because no one knows your situation as well as you do. Learning to read and listen to your body comes with a bit of ‘training maturity.’ With experience, eventually you learn when your body needs some time off or when a certain muscle group might be ‘acting up’ and needs a bit of a deload or even a complete break. Then you go into these breaks knowing it will be good for you and your condition to have some time to repair, and you understand that you won’t be losing muscle or getting fat. Insert eye roll.

I’d also like to mention that you can make your situation worse by possibly prolonging your illness or injury because you haven’t given your body the rest and time that it needs to heal itself….which means longer time out of the gym. No bueno. Here’s 5 little tips to help prevent getting in these situations in the first place. Now, obviously, sometimes illnesses are nearly impossible to avoid and injuries can be part of the game, but we can reduce their rate of occurrence by:

1. Keeping your damn fingers away from your nose, mouth, and eyes.
2. Always washing your hands well after working out (or even just regularly throughout the day.)
3. Take your vitamins (cuz, why not?)
4. Get adequate rest. (Duh.)
5. Eat a healthy diet. (Duh.)

Oh, those sound redundant? How many of you are actually doing all of those things all of the time? Especially around this time of year when there’s tons of yummy food and you’re uber busy preparing for the holidays? Mm hmm. Thought so.

So remember, just be mindful about your body and use some common sense. And if that doesn’t work, call in a trusted advisor and ask them what they think. 😉

I Made It! I’m 30!

Today I turn 30. Am I sad about this? Distraught? Worried? No, because worrying and crying gives you wrinkles and I have to think about preventing those now. I am happy to report that I have not yet spotted any! But in all seriousness, I’m actually proud and happy to be turning 30.

A lot of people will say “Oh, what’s the big deal? 30’s not old!” And I agree. No, 30 is not old. But it is a milestone. It marks the official end of my youth and an entrance into legit adulthood.

It’s interesting, but I really do feel a little more mature. This is the first birthday that has actually forced me to reflect on my life thus far and check myself. And you know what? I’m proud of my life story at this point. It’s an interesting one to tell.

Since this is generally a fitness blog, I guess I should tie that in. I’m proud of how far I have taken my body and mind. I’m fitter and stronger than I have ever been. I’ve been a little leaner in the past (photo shoot in 2011), but not without a lot of sacrifice. I’m pretty happy and satisfied with where I am now and do not feel deprived. I also have a lot more muscle now than I did then. So woo hoo!

I also love my job. How many people can say that? Yeah, sometimes it feels like a chore to get up early in the morning, but once I meet up with my clients, it really just feels like fun and games to me. You’re not only a trainer, but often you become a close girlfriend or a therapist. People tell you all about their lives and problems, and you know what? It’s great! It shows me that they feel comfortable with me and trust me. When a client who came to me initially looking for fat loss tells me that they are now “addicted” to strength training and want to change their focus to getting stronger, my heart bursts with joy. When a client tells me that never in their life have they lifted as much weight as they are now and they can now live a full and functional life, and they say it’s all because of me…I almost get teary. Changing peoples lives for the positive feels absolutely amazing. And making women stronger and more confident feels more than amazing.

Other things I’m happy with in my life? My marriage. The places I have seen. The things I have done. The confidence and assuredness I have built in myself. Life is good and I have no complaints. I just wish my husband could be here to celebrate with me. But taking a memorable trip across the Southwest with the two people who will always love me unconditionally (my parents) will have to suffice!

So here’s to at least 30 more years of adventures, special memories, and celebrating age instead of fearing it!

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The New Addition… Yoga.

Before my husband deployed to Afghanistan, which was recently, I told myself that I would start taking yoga at least once a week. I had wanted to give it a try to supplement my weight training. Everyone has their own reasons for taking yoga, that’s why there’s so many different forms of it. But for me, I really just wanted a forced opportunity to get some deep stretching in, some time to connect my mind with my body, get my blood flowing on the weekends, and some time to relax and somewhat meditate. I think I have found that in my vinyasa flow class.

I’ve pretty much always been opposed to yoga because I thought it was lame and boring. But then again, I had never taken an actual class. Maybe I took one or two in college, but I had primarily tried “getting into yoga” by following along with at-home videos. Yeah, that wasn’t enough to keep my attention. Recently, my dear friend and client took me to her hot yoga class. Mind you, this was the first time I had done ANY yoga for years, and the first time I had taken hot yoga…period. Like whoa. 90 minutes of yoga in a room set to 109 degrees… I survived. I think I even thrived! So that was the kicking off point, and ever since then I’ve been attending a yoga class every weekend.

I eased into it by taking a Gentle Yoga class and have moved on to the Vinyasa Flow class. I actually really like it! It’s challenging and nothing like what I do during the week (heavy weight training), so it’s a fun little addition to my training. Everyone in the class has different levels of comfort with different poses, so there isn’t an intimidating vibe at all. Also, the instructors tend to say “this is YOUR practice,” insinuating that there is no pressure here. You do what you can do at this moment in time.

If you’re interested in reading a little bit more about starting yoga, Jen Comas Keck wrote a great blog post back in April titled “You Can’t Be Good at Yoga, and Other Things You Should Know Before Starting Your Practice.” This post of hers was sort of the nail in the coffin for me. And look at me now! Every weekend! Pigs must be flying somewhere…

iStockphoto.com

iStockphoto.com

Don’t let yourself be intimidated by what you think yoga might be like…and what the students or teachers will be like. Pssst…not everyone in there will look like a Maxim model in yoga pants. I swear. Not everyone will have the flexibility of a contortionist in Cirque du Soleil. You just go in there…do what your body will happily allow you to do…ignore everyone but the instructor…and enjoy your practice.

Contortionist, posed in studio, ca. 1880.

Contortionist, posed in studio, ca. 1880.

I hope this post has inspired some of you to step out of your comfort zones and try something new. While trying new things can be scary at first, you may find that these things add more value and richness to your life. You never know until you try.