How I REALLY Feel About Meal Plans

In the past I’ve been on several meal plans designed by other coaches to help push me to meet some challenging goals. Generally, those who are held accountable by other people tend to be more successful in meeting their physique goals. I definitely learned a lot through working with other coaches but I recently came to the conclusion that meal plans just aren’t for me. Why? Well, I just can’t imagine following one for a long period of time anymore. The thought of that just sounds like a prison sentence to me. The food prep (bulk cooking)… The meal prep (measuring out into containers)… Packing food so you don’t (heaven forbid!) “miss a meal.” Doesn’t that sound exhausting? Is that really the way to live your life? And for what? Slightly smaller thighs? Slightly more chiseled abs? If it’s worth it to you, then by all means, go ahead! They can work well, provided you have a good and knowledgable coach and you’re willing to put in the hard work. ¬†I just think I’m at a point in my “journey” where that just seems like nonsense and the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze. Maybe I’m getting old and stubborn? ūüėČ

Before I go any further, I just want to clarify exactly what I mean by a “meal plan.” A meal plan is a formally designed planned with precise foods and measures of foods that one is to follow to achieve a certain goal. That goal might be fat loss, muscle gain, or even maintenance.

So let me tell you why I’m no longer a big fan of them and why I don’t prefer to provide them for my own clients…

1. No one really learns anything from following a strict meal plan. While yes, it may be nice that you don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat because it’s all laid out for you, don’t you think that you should have to think about what you’re eating? Don’t you think there is something important about making a conscious decision about what you’re putting into your body? I think it’s important for an individual to figure out what they like or dislike eating and what agrees or disagrees with their body, without the intervention of a coach telling them what is good, not-so-good, or “bad” even.

2. Freedom. As humans, we like to feel like we’re making decisions for ourselves. Once someone tells you what you can or can’t do, don’t you get a slight feeling that you want to rebel against that? That feeling is natural. If your coach tells you that you aren’t allowed to have cake, don’t you all of a sudden start craving some cake? Even if you don’t really like cake…? It’s silly, but our minds do tend to work that way. Put something completely off-limits and boom, ya want it!

3. Off-Plan Guilt. So when you finally decide to go for that amazing slice of cake, you have a tendency to feel guilty for having eaten it because it wasn’t “on your plan.” And now you have to deal with the consequences of that. Maybe your trainer will be upset with you (if this is the case, fire them), or you might become upset with yourself. Getting down in the dumps about eating a slice of cake is the opposite reaction you should be having! You just ate some delicious cake! You should be enjoying that experience to the fullest! Not feeling crappy about it afterwards. Yeesh.

 

So what’s my solution? How can you get around following a strict meal plan yet still achieve your goals?¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†

 Count your calories and macronutrients.

“But Jessssss, that’s so neurotic and time consuming!” Uh… No. No, it’s not. It’s especially not as neurotic and time consuming as constantly cooking, constantly prepping, and constantly packing the same meals day in and day out. When I count calories and macronutrients I essentially eat like a normal person, varying my food choices from day to day, and just calculate my totals towards the end of the day or before my last meal. Then I just adjust my last one or two meals at the end of the day to account for more or less calories.

In case you feel like I’m leaving you out on a branch wondering what the heck macronutrients are, they’re proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These make up the bulk of your diet. I like to vary these throughout the week to ensure that I’m getting a broader amount of nutrients. If you eat the same things day in and day out, you’re more likely to be lacking in certain important nutrients. And that’s no bueno.

So how do you know what your calories and macronutrient percentage should be? Well, that’s going to be completely individual. I don’t know you and I don’t know your goals, so it would be irresponsible of me to advise you one way or another. A good general starting place if you don’t know your current maintenance calorie level is to take your current weight and multiply that times 15. Eat that many calories for a couple weeks and see what happens. If you gain weight, you might want to lower those calories (unless weight gain is your goal.) See? It’s all trial and error anyways. You just have to tweak things as you go. I generally set my protein intake at 1g per pound of bodyweight or a little lower and fill in the rest of my calories with a good balance of carbs and fats. Easy peasy. I don’t get too crazy about it as I have no plans of stepping on a competitive stage in a bikini.

Have you ever followed a meal plan? How did it make you feel?

 

What’s the Best Time of the Day to Exercise?

ParkWorkout“What’s the best time of the day to exercise?” I get asked this a lot, and my answer is ALWAYS “the time of the day that you’ll actually do it.”

If I don’t workout sometime in the morning, it just ain’t happening.¬†I know myself pretty well at this point and that’s just the gosh darn truth.¬†I’ve been forced to exercise in the evening on occasion and I have always dreaded it alllll day. All I want to do at the end of the day is go home and wind down.

As the day goes on, other things come up and generally they’re more “important” than getting a workout in. While I always feel pretty good after a workout, sometimes they’re harder to justify, especially if you’re already in pretty good shape. The thought “I’m not going to lose muscle in a day of not working out” easily comes to mind and I move on.

Others prefer to workout in the evening. That schedule just works better for them. And that’s okay too! I’m personally a bit of an early bird so I like to knock out very important tasks in the morning; exercise being one of them…to me at least.

The key to finding a good daily or near daily workout time for you is to find a time where there are usually no other distractions; a time where generally nothing else is going on and nothing and no one can get in your way. That way you have very few excuses to cancel on yourself. And that’s another point right there! If you are not already in the habit of working out, actually sit down and SCHEDULE your workouts. Make them like meetings that you can’t miss with yourself unless you’re sick or something entirely unavoidable comes up. If you have to miss a session, then you just reschedule like you would any other appointment.

I try to drill this into the minds of my clients. Most of them I only meet twice a week, but I try to urge them to get in workouts on their own. But like I mentioned in my post last week about motivation, real, lasting motivation can’t come from an outside source, it has to come from within. So often my words go in one ear and out the other. If you haven’t built your me-time or gym-time into your day, it’s easily going to be bypassed or it’ll be something you do for a while and gradually you just stop working out altogether. Developing the habit is crucial to your success. Eventually it’ll just become something you do regularly without thought. It’ll be a no-brainer.

Once you have decided on the “perfect”” time, set yourself up for success. My husband makes sure to set the timer on the coffee pot to brew the coffee before he gets up so that there’s something to look forward to when he wakes up at the ass-crack-of-dawn. Have your gym bag packed or set your gym clothes out the night before. Create a routine. Build it into your day. Make it just a little bit easier!

For those of you who have been successful with creating the habit of working out regularly, what do you do or have done in the past to make building this habit easier? I would love to hear your ideas!

There is No “Wrong” Motivation

It seems lately that a lot of fitness peeps have been spouting out that you shouldn’t let your physique or appearance be your #1 motivation when trying to get in shape. My question is “why the hell not?” It’s not that I’m particularly a VAIN person, but when someone finds something that motivates them to get in some vigorous exercise and start eating healthier on a regular basis, why are physique goals not good¬†enough? In a country where more than 1/3 of adults are considered obese, I think we have to take what we can get! And if the idea of looking hot in a pair of jeans is what gets someone off their ass, then so be it!

Most trainers will say¬†that overall health and general fitness should be your “primary” goal. And yes, while I wholeheartedly agree with that, someone who is slightly overweight might not see it that way. They might be relatively healthy but they just want to finally see their abs or look cute in shorts because they have a vacation coming up. If that’s what keeps you motivated for the time-being, then that’s fine! It’s no one else’s business what your motivation is, whether it’s completely superficial or 100% honorable.

It’s true that¬†you will never find peace and happiness when your appearance is always your #1 goal, because perfection just doesn’t exist…and it’s hard to achieve something that doesn’t exist. But I would also argue that if it’s strength you’re after, where does that stop? One can become so obsessed with getting stronger that they start accruing life-long injuries… One can become so obsessed with “general health” that they start going off the deep end and become an orthorexic. Extremes can occur anyway you look at it. Just because you started with one motivator, doesn’t mean that it will always be your #1 motivator. When something sparks you in the moment to get up¬†and go for a walk or get in a quickie workout, run with it (literally)! Motivation can be hard to find, so when it comes along, take advantage of it. But remember this, the best motivation is the motivation that comes from within. No one else can truly motivate you. Not your significant other, not your trainer, not your friends. Any motivation that stems from them will be short-lived. And that’s okay! Sometimes we have to seek out motivation every day to keep moving forward.

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For example, I haven’t seen my husband since June of 2014. He’s due to be coming home shortly and you better believe I want to look good for him when he arrives! So right now, that’s guiding my motivation to put in an extra ounce of effort. That’s the one little thing that is pushing me to get in a couple conditioning workouts a week (along with my 4 weight training sessions) and really eyeball the food that I’m putting into my mouth. Thankfully I stay pretty close to my “happy spot” year-round, so I never have far to go when I just want to tighten things up a little bit. But this motivation is going to be short-lived. Eventually my husband will come home, we’ll go on a vacation, and then we’ll get back to normal life. That’s when my motivation will change. Maybe I’ll just want to focus on getting a little stronger or improving my endurance. Who knows? We’ll have to see what sparks me at the moment!

Remember, this is a journey with no end. Your goals and motivators will always be fluctuating depending on your situation in life at that one moment. The key to success though is to pick a goal….seriously go for it…conquer it…and move onto the next goal. Don’t flounder from goal to goal, program to program, and never actually accomplish anything! And always remember what got you started on that goal in the first place…that original motivator.

Since I mentioned that I’ll be putting in a little extra effort over the next month, I thought it might be fun to see what that little extra effort might actually do and share it with you all! This photo was taken this morning and I also weighed myself. I was randomly up 3 lbs., probably retaining some water, so here I weigh 143 lbs. I also took circumference measurements, so I’ll be tracking those as well. Along with my 4 weight training workouts, I’ll be throwing in 2 weekly conditioning workouts. So that might be sprints, a barbell complex, a ladder workout, or something of the sort. I will also actually be tracking my macronutrients and calories. Should be fun to see what happens!

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Is Fear Holding You Back From the Body of Your Dreams?

This past week I was interviewed for a local magazine regarding exercising in your home and one of the first questions was “why might someone decide to exercise at home rather than at a gym?” In my response I mentioned the obvious answer, that it might be more convenient for busy individuals or new moms. But in the other part of my answer I said, and this is somewhat sad, that some people often feel uncomfortable going to a gym. Sometimes they are ashamed of the way they look and oftentimes they are afraid that they will appear like they don’t know what they are doing.

While it’s not necessary to go to the gym to get in shape, it certainly might make it a little easier. There’s more equipment, more space (generally), and I tend to get an additional burst of energy and motivation when working out in a public gym instead of my own home. Although I can completely understand why someone might feel self-conscious in a gym, do you go through the rest of your life thinking this way? Do you stop yourself from going to the grocery store because you’re concerned about what other people might think about what you’re putting in your cart? Do you hold yourself back from clothes shopping because you’re concerned that someone might not like your taste in sweaters? No? So why would you be so utterly concerned about what other people might think of you in the gym? We’re all there for the same reasons…and that is to better ourselves.

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Yes, some people might judge you in the gym, but they’re also going to judge you on the street. Those people are probably jerks anyways, so who cares what they might think? You can’t let the potential thoughts of others keep you from living your life and attempting to meet your goals. I personally like seeing out of shape individuals going to the gym and trying to better themselves. How could I possibly laugh at that or view that negatively? We all started somewhere. I wasn’t in shape when I started working out. I couldn’t run long distances and I didn’t know how to properly use machines or weights. So what did I do? I eased into it. I did what I could figure out on my own, watched and learned from other people, and began picking it up myself. Now I’m at a point where I’m the teacher. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you just have to have the confidence to go in there and say “Screw what everyone thinks! I’m doing this for me!”

Like I said earlier, it’s okay if you prefer to workout at home, but don’t do it only because you’re worried about what other people might think or say. You can’t go through your life that way. If you’re not sure how to use the equipment, grab a friend or hire a trainer to show you the ropes. Watch videos online. Pick up some magazines with workout programs and photos in them to help guide you. Take some group classes that your gym offers. It’s a great way to meet people and they can be really motivating! There’s tons of ways to learn the basics, and it’s the basics that are going to take you the farthest.

Remember, don’t be scared! We’ve all been there.

Not-So-Secret Diet Killer: Boredom

There you are…sitting on your magnificent leather couch, getting sucked into another episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills…which just so happens to be a re-run that you have seen 3 times since it originally aired. Your mind starts to wander and drift and you mechanically move yourself from the couch straight to your pantry. “Wait..why am I here?” You ask yourself. “Maybe I’m hungry…? Oooo…Quaker Popped Cheddar Cheese chips…” (Seriously, these things are delicious, ya’ll…) And boom, you find yourself back on the couch mindlessly munching away, dragged into another argument between Kyle and Brandy.

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Does that story sound very vivid and detailed to you? Yes? That’s because it’s a true story and something that even happens to me every now and then. I find myself slipping into this state periodically with my husband being gone. While I’m still very busy, just due to¬†the fact that my husband doesn’t come home at night (he’s deployed at the moment) I have added free time on my hands! And sometimes a girl just needs to veg out.

I believe these habits formed when I was growing up an only child on a quiet street. Building forts alone in the woods wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, so I would spend more time watching television and mindlessly gobbling snacks. Eating filled the boredom gap and was comforting. I wasn’t so extreme that I became obese from this, but I was a little bit…”chubby.” Still to this day, even being a bit of a gym fanatic, these habits can creep up on me. And I know I sure as hell am not the only one this happens to. It’s so common and we’ll joke about it, but really, it’s not a very healthy thing to do, especially if you have fat loss goals. Some people may even go as far as eating the whole pantry! That’s a whole different monster on it’s own called “binging.” I’ve never been at that point but I know many people in the “fitness community” have been there (or still are). This generally stems from other things such as over-restricting food and other issues. But I’m not going to touch that as it’s not my expertise. But eating out of boredom, that’s an animal I can attack.

Here are some of my tricks to prevent myself from falling into this trap:

1. Stay busy: Run errands, do chores, find a hobby, go for a walk, DO SOMETHING. These are my favorite tactics because they’re productive and can actually be fulfilling. Ever notice that when you’re super busy you forget or can’t be bothered to eat?

2. Or do NOTHING: And by this, I really mean GO TO BED! Especially if you’re a nighttime snacker. That’ll take your mind off of food for sure! Plus the extra zzz’s will help you burn more fat and recover from your workouts. Triple whammy!

3. Keep the food in your house ALL THE TIME: If you keep the food in your house all the time, you reduce your sensitivity to it. The more you eat it, the less exciting it becomes. My personal tactic is when I get home from the grocery store, I divide these foods up into single servings in little plastic baggies and treat myself to one baggie each day…unless I find I don’t really want it. This way, if I do go creeping into my pantry I’ll just have one serving and if I want another serving, I really have to think and be mindful. This sure beats eating the entire bag in a single sitting. I usually get my fill of that snack by the time I finish a serving anyways. Anything beyond that is mindless munching…

But if you still just cannot control yourself…

4. Get the food out of your house: If you try step 3 and that doesn’t work, you might want to keep it out of the house for a while and completely break the habit. I used to be that way about peanut butter. I could seriously sit and nibble on a jar of peanut butter for an hour. I had to stop buying it as it was getting a little out of control. Thankfully, I’ve come a long way since then and a single jar of nut butter will last me several weeks.

I have to admit that I don’t have it all figured out, but I sure have experimented with a lot of tactics to get me to where I am now. These tips have definitely helped me in the past (and even today). But I think it’s important for everyone to understand that it’s not just fat loss that is the challenge… Once you get to a point where you are happy and don’t feel the need to alter your body dramatically, where are you going to pull your motivation from? Maintenance can be just as difficult as fat loss. Every day can still be a challenge. There are always choices to be made about the food you put in your mouth and choosing the healthy more moderate way of eating is not always the easiest. You might always need some little tricks in your toolbag to get you through. Hope these help you as much as they have helped me!

 

Review: NEW Fitbit Charge HR

FitBitChargeHRI don’t often do reviews, but this is a product that I’m really enjoying and truly believe it COULD help people increase their overall activity, which is huge for general health and fat loss. One doesn’t need to go crazy and “workout” 7 days a week to start losing fat. Some moderately intense exercise is great, but increasing your NEAT can be just as beneficial!

What’s NEAT you ask? NEAT stands for “non-exercise activity thermogenesis.” This is essentially all the movements you make in a day that aren’t standard “exercise.” So this includes walking around the office, running errands,¬†doing chores, cooking, jittering your legs while you sit, everything! You’re always burning some calories as you go about life. Some of these will burn more calories than others though.

First, let me explain what the Fitbit is. The Fitbit is an activity monitor that you wear somewhere on your body. It measures how many steps you take in a day, how much (and how well) you sleep, how many flights of stairs you climb, the distance you have walked, it’ll estimate how many calories you have burned, AND EVEN tell you what time it is! That is a general overview of the majority of the Fitbit styles. But recently I got ahold of the Fitbit Charge HR, a brand new model of the Fitbit, and I have to say, I am very impressed!

Please note, I have not tried any other activity monitors but have done a lot of research into the best ones and decided on Fitbit because of all the positive reviews comparing it to others on the market. I will also be comparing the Fitbit Charge HR primarily to the Fitbit One, which was a clip style best worn on your bra or pants pocket and also the first style I owned.

The Fitbit Charge HR is a watch style of activity monitor worn snuggly (but not too snuggly!) around the wrist. It has a very sleek, modern appearance to it and comes in a couple of colors. I chose black because it will match just about anything I wear. (I’m practical like that…) Just like the Fitbit One, the Fitbit Charge HR measures how many steps you have taken, how many flights of stairs you have climbed, how far you have walked, how many calories you have burned, how long and well you sleep, AND the time! BUT, it will also constantly measure your heart rate throughout the day, and this is HUGE when it comes to estimating your calorie burn, and also the main reason I wanted to upgrade from the Fitbit One. It also has a Caller ID capability on it, which might be useful and noteworthy to some people, but I haven’t really played around with that as I don’t like getting phone calls.

The setup for the Fitbit is very easy. There’s no additional software and you don’t have to pay a monthly fee like some others. When you get your Fitbit, they give you an online link to follow. Once at their website, they take you through a few easy prompts and you give them some simple statistics about yourself. Male/female, height, and weight. You can also plug in some goals. What’s your target step-count for the day? (Mine is 10,000…a lot harder than it may sound if you’re not a runner.) How much weight do you want to lose? Stuff like that. You can also input how much water you have had to drink and how many calories you have eaten (or you can easily link up your MyFitnessPal account to it). I don’t use those two features much, but I like that they’re an option!

One huge positive about the FitBit is that it has a little screen on it that you can simply scroll through with the touch of a button that tells you all your stats so far for the day! It ALSO has the capability to sync to your all your devices WIRELESSLY! Yes, no more plugging in your activity monitor throughout or at the end of the day to see where you’re at with your steps and calories. This is a great motivator to keep you moving more during the day! When I see that I only have 4,000 steps so far, that pushes me to start walking. Your FitBit will come with a little “dongle” that you pop into your USB drive on your computer and whenever you are near it, it will automatically sync to your computer, tablet, or phone (if they are somewhat near to your computer).

Your FitBit will also come with a little USB charger. I have recently been plugging my charger into a wall outlet adapter and have been charging it while I’m in the shower, since you should not wear it while in water. It’s water/sweat resistant, but not waterproof, so you do not want to soak the thing. You should also occasionally wipe it down with a damp cloth and a mild detergent just to keep it clean and avoid getting any weird rashes, plus it’s good to let your wrist breath a little.

My husband purchased himself the FitBit Surge (which is currently on backorder so he won’t be receiving it for a while). The FitBit Surge has a built in GPS and is pretty much the ultimate fitness tracker. It’s a bit better for the cardio enthusiast who does a lot of running. It also costs an additional $100, so I figured I didn’t need those extra features because I’m a bit more of a “brah” who just likes slinging iron in the gym.

So here’s the final round-up:

Pros:

-It’s worn as a watch, therefore you don’t have to remember to take it off your clothing when you change. (You don’t want to throw Fitbits in the washing machine or forget to wear it!)

-It has all the features of the Fitbit One (steps, distance, flights of stairs, calorie burn, sleep, time) plus a good heart rate monitor (which matched very closely to what I manually measured with my fingers).

-It has a caller ID option.

-Wireless syncing capabilities.

-Very easy to setup and use.

-Screen on watch shows all of your current stats for that day.

-It will give you positive messages throughout the day and cheer you on!

 

Cons:

-Not waterproof.

-No GPS, so you’ll have to dish out an additional $100 if you want that.

-Not SUPER attractive. I wouldn’t exactly want to wear it when going out for a nice dinner or something. (But you can stick it in your bag and it might give a good estimate of steps taken.)

-VERY ADDICTIVE! I hate when I forget to wear my Fitbit! It makes me feel like all my steps were a waste if they weren’t counted! (But this just goes to show how much fun it is to use!)

I’m really in love with this product and it’s definitely a great motivator to get you off your butt! If you are required to do a lot of sitting during the day (office job), a tool like this could be very beneficial to you. Also, if you’re trying to lose weight, it can give you a very good estimate of how many calories you’re actually burning in a day (many people overestimate this). If you wanted to try counting the calories you’re eating in a day, the FitBit could help you see where you need to set your calorie goals (to maintain, lose fat, or even gain weight). So definitely a very useful tool if you’re trying to make progress with your health.

If I failed to answer any of your questions, feel free to ask or you can check out the product comparisons at the Fitbit Store. 

This was not a sponsored review. We purchased these products with our own money because we love them and find them to be a lot of fun to use. All of the above are honest opinions. Hope you found this review to be helpful! 

 

 

 

 

 

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 A¬†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.

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.

“Long and Lean Muscles…” LoL

Ladies, I hate to break it to you, but there’s no such thing as building “long and lean” muscles. I know magazines, gurus, and some training modalities like to spout these words out to you, but here’s a secret… It’s all marketing. They are using these words because women are afraid to get “bulky.” Whatever that means… And yes, “bulky” is completely subjective.

Yoga, pilates, barre, and Tracy Anderson (among many others), often like to tout that they can help you build those “long and lean” muscles that will make you look like a dancer or what-not. But sorry, our bodies don’t work that way. Our muscles can’t decipher between being long and lean or short and thick (for lack of a better term…). You know what does decide whether our muscles are long or short? Our genetics. If you were born with the body of a ballet dancer or basketball player, then you just might have longer muscles. Congratulations… I think? Anyways, you can’t lengthen your muscles. Muscles can only grow in diameter.

This look is often also called “toned.” Those who take themselves very seriously in the fitness community hate this word. It actually doesn’t bother me though because when you use this term I know what you are referring to and what look you might be going for. But what a “toned” look really means (whether you know this or not), is that you need to build a little bit of muscle and lose some fat. We’re seeing a lot of women on TV these days who are sporting a more “toned” look, from Kelly Ripa to Robin Roberts. Here’s the thing about their look, they are A LOT thinner than you might think they are. They are carrying verrrry little fat and just a little bit of muscle. But because they are so lean, whatever muscle they have is very visible. Someone once said (maybe it was Alan Aragon?) that the fastest way to gain 10 lbs. of muscle is to lose 10 lbs. of fat. And it is sooooo true! Whenever I start leaning out I’ll get asked “have you gained more muscle?” No, I’ve just lost some fat that was hiding my muscle.¬†Lean

So anyways, back to my original point, don’t be fooled into believing that you can build the body of a ballet dancer. Their genetics (and diet!) play a big role in the way they look. Now obviously you can work with what you’ve got, and doing yoga, pilates, or barre’ might help you build a little bit of muscle (in addition to quite possibly getting your sweat on), but they can’t perform miracles. Plus, they just aren’t very efficient at building muscle. You could build all the muscle you might ever want in a shorter period of time by simply being on a solid strength training program… just sayin’…

And you know, if you need some help with a customized program to get you where you want to be, well, I am now accepting applications for online coaching for 2015! If you’re a motivated individual who doesn’t know where to start and would like a program 100% customized for your goals that also fits your training situation (home, gym, whatever), please feel free to contact me! I promise I don’t bite!

 

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!”