Deal With It Or Dump It

Who’s got baggage – and I’m not talking about luggage as you head out on a trip – I’m talking about unresolved issues or relationships that you tote around for days, weeks, and even years?  You know, those feelings of anger, depression or disappointment about something or someone that you just haven’t gotten over?

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Do you chronically complain to your friends, family, and co-workers about said issue, while never do anything to resolve it? Do you re-hash conversations and actions, constantly poking at the internal scabs? Are you in a relationship or friendship that drags you down, yet you remain intent on fixing what probably cannot be fixed?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. But the more important question is what do you do about that baggage? It’s simple my friends – deal with it, or dump it.

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Staying stuck on hurt feelings or problems results in only one thing – staying stuck. By choosing to deal with your feelings or a problem (i.e., face them, find a solution, and take action) you will bring a slice of peace to your life which reduces stress and puts you in a healthier state of being. If the situation or person is something/someone that simply can’t be dealt with – then just dump it or them. As harsh as that sounds sometimes the best solution is to walk away and remove yourself from the detrimental situation or relationship.

The excuses that will blast into your brain at the thought are normal fears because change is scary, and finances, when involved, are always a valid concern. But ultimately (forgive the trite adage) where there’s a will there’s a way.

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Start slowly if you need to; take small situations and just deal with them or dump them. Have a heartfelt conversation to clear the air, or start saying NO when facing something negative that you tend to involve yourself with out of habit. Stop being afraid to simply state your feelings and needs.

As for “dumping” a person, obviously that’s tricky but with positive motivation behind you it’s not as hard as you think. I’m not taking about simple evading tactics (not answering calls, texts, or emails), I’m talking about letting a person know that your relationship/friendship is not functioning on a healthy level, and if they’re not willing to meet you half way to fix it, then you are no longer going to participate in that relationship.

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A lot of this comes down to your willingness to just LET GO. So many of us are “control-freaks” who simply refuse to let anything go even when it’s not working. We’re certain that somehow someway we can get it right. We don’t want to be quitters after all. Yet sometimes the best choice is to quit, to walk away, let it go but not see that action as a failure. It took me many years to learn that, and now I just let the crap go and/or walk away when I realize I’m swimming against an unrelenting current.

For those of you who find it hard to not focus on the problem – work on shifting your focus onto something positive that you can control, like exercise, nutrition, or just filling your time with only people and environments that have a positive affect on your life. I am well aware that all of this is easy to say and not necessarily easy to do. But nothing worthwhile is, and I can attest first hand that with practice it gets much easier.

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So take stock, and if there’s something dragging you down – deal with it or dump it.

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Breakfast For Dinner?

By now most of you should know that the best way to handle your nutrition is to eat 6 small meals a day comprised of clean, unprocessed foods with lots of water. You should NOT avoid carbs or healthy fats, but keep those items simple and as unaltered as possible (i.e., guacamole and brown rice crackers instead of cheese and Wheat Thins) and preferably organic.

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But I hear from some of you that it’s still too hard to get in that many “meals,” and you’re finding that cravings and hunger increases as the day goes on until you binge at dinner or later. With averaging only 2-3 meals and having them increase in size as the day wears on, your body is likely to start storing fat. (Especially for those of you who are still skipping breakfast.)

So here’s a trick that you can try to shake up your metabolism, and keep yourself full in a healthy way when it’s just too hard to get those snacks in. Trying reversing the order of your meals. Now I’m not simply saying have roast chicken for breakfast and cereal for dinner, but that’s close.

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If you make certain to have a large breakfast filled with solid and long-lasting proteins; keep your lunch sizes larger as well, but break them into two (have the second portion 2-3 hours later; and then have dinner be your lightest meal (i.e., an egg white omelette) you might find that your body fat reduction goals will start moving in the right direction. You will feel comfortably full all day (never feel starving), and you will probably be ingesting less calories while keeping your system revved up with fat burning proteins and energy giving clean carbs.

The other benefit of this style of nutrition plan is that if you do your next day’s food prep the night or weekend before, morning is still quick (just reheating), you will have less hunger and need less time to eat your daytime meals as the day grows busier.

Here’s a sample menu to give you a better idea of this concept (keep in mind that a lot of the listed items are cooked prior to save time):

Breakfast (sometime between 6:30-7:30 a.m.):

Oven roasted chicken and vegetables over ½ cup of cooked quinoa

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   OR

Low-Sodium Deli meat wrap with sliced or grilled veggies and humus in a whole wheat or brown rice tortilla

Lunch (sometime between 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.):

Half of a Foot long Subway sandwich fully loaded with veggies, chicken, and no mayo or cheese on whole wheat bun with inside bread scooped out & 1 whole appleialkelk

   OR

Large portion of your homemade leftovers – again split into two & 1 large banana

   OR

Large salad with grilled chicken or fish & large serving of grapes

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2nd Lunch (somewhere between 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.):

Second half of Subway sandwich & large serving of fresh fruit

   OR

Second half of lunch restaurant or home leftovers & large serving of fresh fruit

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Dinner (sometime between 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.):

Egg white omelette with black beans, spinach, and salsa

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OR

Oatmeal w/fruit or ½ tablespoon of all natural peanut butter & ½ tbsp. of real maple syrup

    OR

Non-fat fruit yogurt w/homemade almond/oatmeal crumble on top

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These are just a few examples of how to eat larger portions in the morning and taper down by evening. Be certain to include a lot of vegetables in those daytime meals, because along with the fruit they will give you lots of fiber which fills you up, keeps you regular, and will help battle your sugar cravings.

Give it a try and let me know your results either way.  If you desire a custom-made meal plan specifically for you and your goals, please contact me via http://www.workouts247.com.

Want Results? Switch Things Up

Today I wanted to share with you another trick of the fitness trade that can change up your workout routines in a simple fashion that will yield super results. “Alternating” or “singles” is a resistance training technique where you either alternate which leg or arm is performing the move (back and forth between right and left), or you work one arm or leg at a time through the required repetitions, and then switch to the other (10 reps on one side, 10 reps on the other).

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This switching up of how you perform an exercises engages more secondary muscles, while gaining all the benefit of an isolation onto the primary muscles. It also requires more use of your core (and therefore more toning of same), increases balance and strength, and will re-exhaust muscles that have become plateaued from traditional simultaneous lifting.

They key is to know when to use which technique. For example, using alternating reps during a flat bench dumbbell press calls upon your abs and obliques to stabilize your core as one arm progresses through flexion and extension. At the same time, it allows you to lift a little heavier as neither arm is getting as exhausted during your reps, because they are taking turns.

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On the other hand, performing singles in this same exercise (holding a weight in one hand only – the other placed passively on your hip or ribs) not only engages the same core muscles to keep you from falling off the side of the bench, but exhausts the arm which will break down the muscle faster.

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The first approach is better for over-all toning. The second is more geared towards muscle size gain and strength, while still toning the mid-section.

Now let’s look at an example of these two styles with the legs. When performing step back lunges with alternating legs you will work on ankle, knee, and hip stability, engage your cardio system a bit more than stationary single leg lunges, and gain toning from hip to calf.

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Performing a stationary single leg lunge, requires the same overall leg stability, and although taxes your cardio system less than the other option, you can impose heavier resistance (holding dumbbells at your side or over your head) which more  seriously exhausts the glutes, quads and hamstrings.

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As to which to employ and when, well again that’s a matter of your goals and your current fitness level. At some point or another, all my clients receive workout routines employing one or both of these techniques. So I recommend you give both a try and see what kind of results you achieve from both. As always, if you would like a customized workout routine that quickly and effectively helps you achieve your fitness goals, you know who to call! (Me, in case you weren’t sure.)

The Art of Slowing Down

Life is fast – or rather we tend to live life fast. Schedules are jam-packed, the days, weeks, months fly by. As we all know this tends to push fitness (and personal care in general) to the bottom of a long list, and for many that means you never get to it. Today I’m not going to address (again) how to make fitness a priority, how to squeeze it in, and how to plan ahead so your nutrition stays on track and healthy. I’ve done that many times herein. Today I’m going to simply talk about slowing down.

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While of course I mean slowing down over all – stopping to smell the roses – enjoying those precious moments with your children and loved ones, etc., I am focusing more on slowing down when exercising.

As I’ve many times over in this blog successful body fitness can be achieved in as little as 20-30 minutes three times a week. The current trends (and my approach with clients) is faster paced combination exercises rapidly performed in a brief period of time (the aforementioned 20-30 mins). However, that does not mean that you can’t slow down the actual performance of range of motion in each exercise.

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Slowing down the execution of your repetitions will put a bigger strain on the targeted muscles groups, which in turn will burn more calories, and cause more breakdown of the muscle. Then with proper nutrition, your muscles will recover, grow in size or tone, and burn more fat calories from your body.

I laugh when I see a huge man at the gym, lifting too heavy a weight, using about 20% range of motion, and slamming the weights up and down erratically. I have, when the opportunity presents itself, taken said man, reduced the weights by half, instructed him on proper form to utilize 100% range of motion while excluding all other muscle groups (isolations) and slowed his speed down by 80%. Lo and behold, 20 minutes later the man is struggling to curl the same weight I can curl, and is sweating, exhausted and super-sore the next day.

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So the next time you’re working out, try lowering your weight a tad, make sure that your range of motion is fully extended to fully flexed, and slow down – way down. Try lifting the weights to a count of ten and lowering to a count of ten. You may only perform 8-10 reps instead of 15 but you will be truly targeting and exhausting your muscles.

I often intersperse the slow down concept with regular lifting speed.  For example, I might have a client perform a set of fast curls, followed by a set of 10-count hammer curls. They’re not happy with me during, but believe me their arms get toned quickly! Sometimes I write a routine for a client what is comprised of normal speed moves for 4-weeks, followed by a new slow routine for the next 4-weeks.

Do not forget to apply this slow down concept to stretches (and you should be performing about 20minutes of total body stretching (head to toes) at least once a week).  All muscles have a tendon leading in that has the job of protecting the muscle from being pulled to the point of “strain.” This tendon does not relax (let its guard down) for 12-20 seconds. That is why you must hold a stretch for at least 30 seconds to gain the full benefit to the targeted muscle. Once the tendon has relaxed, the muscle is then gently stretched.  Stretching slowly will taking slow deep breaths will help ease the lactic acid building up (that sore burning sensation in your muscles), lower blood pressure, and clear your head.

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Try the slow-down approach the next time you workout and let me know your thoughts / results on it. (As always, if you should desire a customized workout routine, please contact me via www.workouts247.com.)

Perception: Half Full or Half Empty?

We’ve all heard the old adage “is your cup half empty or half full?” I’m assuming most of you have fully ascertained the significance of this question, but in case you’ve missed it, the point is to demonstrate whether you are an optimism or pessimist. It’s all about perception – your perception.

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Growing up I was clearly a pessimist, especially in direct contrast to my mother, an eternal optimist, and yet, though I still lean towards pessimism (more correctly in my case cynicism), I generally see my cups as half full. I’m not sure that either approach creates more success or happiness for any of us, but I do feel that chronically seeing your life (cup) as half empty can lead you towards inactivity, indecisiveness, and depression. Some may argue that the optimistic approach can lend oneself into complacency, and they might be right. It really comes down to what you do about the cup once you clarify it’s condition.

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If you feel your cup (life) is half empty, how motivated are you to fill the rest of it?

Conversely, if your life is half full, is that enough or will you strive to “top off the cup?”

I’m asking these questions today because I find that my clients often seek my help in teaching them how to fill their lives/cups fully – regardless of whether they’re seen as half full or half empty. After all, a FULL LIFE is what we all want, right?

So my advice to this issue is to first acknowledge whether you base approach to life is pessimistic (negative) or optimistic (positive). Then find a motivating goal that fits in with your approach. In other words, if you view your cup as half full – you should seek out a goal that challenges you to work harder and gain even more positive results – capitalizing on your already existing confidence and optimism.

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Those that tend towards half empty perceptions, might benefit more from goals that change their approaches – find new ways to inspire and fill the voids – ways that blast through pessimism and leave achievement in their wake. You might also discover that you perceive some aspects of your life as half full while other areas are half empty. That’s okay, that’s probably what most of us do. Just remember to alter your goals to fit your feelings.

I tend to feel that positive viewpoints need to constantly up the challenge, while negative viewpoints need to think outside the box more. Either version of motivators work – but everyone and every circumstance needs a different kind of push. They key to remember is that motivators are not one-size-fits-all. (What motivates you to lose weight or improve your relationships will not necessarily work for the next person.)

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When none of these approaches fit the bill – I say drink the cup down, and start fresh. As you know if you’ve followed by blog for any length of time, I generally prefer to shake it all up, and be the one to control what’s happening in my life (filling my cup) – and that way I can assure that I can fill it to the best of my abilities. Lastly I will leave you with this wonderful quote from president Harry S. Truman:

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Are you giving up already?

Six weeks into the new year and I see many people/clients who were energized and committed to getting into shape (i.e., losing body fat and making healthier nutritional choices) already giving up. My standard motto is “you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make them drink.” This is highly applicable to those of you who are not fully resolved to the goal of taking healthier care of your body. No matter how many routines I create for you, no matter whether you follow one of my meal plans, or join Jenny Craig, if you are not absolutely committed to changing your body inside and out, then you have probably given up already – or are close to it.

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With that said, I hope to offer a little in-your-face re-motivation, and get you, or keep you, back on track. So let’s look at the WHY of your decision to get into shape. Did you decide to “diet and exercise” because you wanted to fit into a smaller size of clothes? Were you tired of having less stamina and energy? Was your health at risk according to doctors? Or were you simply being nagged by worried family and friends? I can tell you now that all of those reasons are not enough.

If I told you that you had one month to live unless you did 50 jumping jacks every morning and never ate another french fry again would you do it? Probably. That seems do-able, right?

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But if you could stave off death by spending 30 minutes three times a week at a gym and eating healthy small portions six times a day for five days a week (eating and drinking your favorite foods for the other two) would that be too much of a change to your lifestyle to commit too? The answer appears to be yes for many of you.

It all comes down to how badly you want it. Obviously none of you reading this are facing imminent death (presumably) so again the stakes seem less tangible – more immortal if you will. But I assure you, they’re not. If you have body fat levels of 30% or more you are in serious risk of heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and a significantly reduced life span. But like many humans, unless death is knocking blatantly on our door, we don’t consider the future when it comes to caring for our bodies.

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So if you’ve given up your 2015 quest for health, I implore you to dig a little deeper, make the stakes more urgent and personal, get up off that chair and just DO IT. Same goes for those of you who are starting to slack off on your motivation and giving your goals less importance.

As the quote goes from one of my favorite movies (Galaxy Quest) “never give up, never surrender!” The journey from fat to fit is tough but the end result is so worth it – and if you stick with it, you might just thank me when you’re 80!

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What Are Your Kids Drinking?

Today I am getting back on my “nutrition for kids” soap-box to address a continuing trend of parents thinking it’s okay to give kids lemonade and 7-up (or any soda) with their meals. Every time we eat out with our daughter I see other kids getting lemonade or clear soda (7-up, Sprite) with their meals. At my daughter’s school every open-house, award ceremony or celebration includes cookies and 7-up or lemonade. I want to scream out “why are you offering them sugar and sugar? Don’t you know how bad that quantity of sugar is?

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If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m all about moderation, and that includes sugar. But I am astonished to see how little regard these two innocent-seeming liquids appear to have with parents.

Just on simple logic, I would think if you’re ordering high fat and carbs “kid-friendly” foods like mac n’ cheese, chicken fingers and fries, or pizza, that you’d opt for water to at least balance out these nutritionally void meals. Add into the equation that kids often get dessert after such a meal, and you’ve just given them plenty of sugar. But no, the world at large thinks nothing of sugar + sugar where kids are concerned.

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Many parents and restaurants offer fruit juices as an option, thinking that these are healthier. Well, I’m here to tell you they’re not. Perhaps you need an in-your face assessment of what is really in these drinks?

8 oz of Lemonade (like Minute Maid) = 27 grms Sugar

8 oz of Orange Juice = 24 grms Sugar

8 oz of Apple Juice = 26 grms Sugar

8 oz of 7-Up/Sprit = 26 grms Sugar

8 oz of Coke = 26 grms Sugar

1 Capri Sun packet = 18 grms Sugar

8 oz Nesquik Chocolate milk = 29 grms Sugar

(Don’t forget, you often give them refills too!)

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Now you might be saying “so what? What’s so bad about 26 grams of sugar?” Well, besides the fact that it offers no nutritional value, it can damage their metabolism, and increase their risk of obesity and type II diabetes, among other health issues (like mood swings and hormonal spikes). I’m not even touching upon the deadly high-fructose corn syrup issue (in sodas), or the quantity of sugars in a Jamba Juice or other seemingly “healthy” juices.

The American Heart Association has set guidelines for the limits of added sugar that kids should consume each day. (Added sugar means “refined sugar or sugar substitutes” as fruit and other foods contain natural sugars.) The amount of added sugar that a child should consume on a daily basis varies depending on the child’s age and caloric intake, but here’s their basic recommendation:

Preschoolers should limit added sugar to about 16 grams per day

Children ages 4 to 11 should limit added sugar to about 12 grams a day

Pre-teen and teens should not have more than 20 to 32 grams per day

Clearly you can see how one drink at lunch has already maxed out the quantity of added sugar your child consumes. Now factor in any desserts or sweet-treats they’ve consumed that day and you’ve easily overloaded their sensitive systems.

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I was criticized repeatedly when my daughter was a baby because I didn’t give her any refined sugar until she was 2. No birthday cake, ice cream, candies, fruit yogurt, or fruit juice. I was called controlling, silly, and even, albeit jokingly, evil. My Father-In-Law asked once why I didn’t give my toddler apple juice. I replied that she had a bowl-full of apple slices in front of her and a bottle of water and once in her stomach she would have “apple juice.” (He didn’t find my sarcasm funny.) I did point out that this way she was getting fiber that is missing from filtered apple juice, but he’d already tuned me out.

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The reality is that America loves it’s sugar and many well-meaning parents blindly fall into line with their children’s nutrition. But hopefully you’ll stare a little longer at the facts posted above, and at least think twice next time before giving your children that innocuous little beverage. Perhaps on another day I’ll bring up the issue of rampant use of sodium in America and how much of that harmful substance you and your children are consuming, but today my attack is on sugar. Have a sweet day!

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Stuck In A Rut?

Wake up call people — it’s already February of 2015. Raise your hand if your commitment to getting in shape that was so passionately fueled last month, has slowed it’s momentum or worse, stopped completely.  Now let’s see a show of hands of those who just never got their mojo ramped up enough to even get off the couch yet this year – the fact being that you are stuck in a rut.

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This is unfortunately all too common with 85% of the over-weight population in America. The task of shedding fat when you clearly don’t already enjoy exercise can seem very daunting. Combine that with poor nutrition, and the depressing momentum of increased weight with decreased energy and stamina and you will be STUCK in a cycle of immobility and negative thoughts.

So how do you get un-stuck? There’s no one-size fits all answer to this, but there are choices. Some are slow and steady, some are more aggressive.  It’s all about what kind of person you are, and how important your life and health are to you. The key here is motivation. I’ve written many times in this blog about tricks to getting and staying motivated. I won’t reiterate them here – surf this blog and read them for yourself. But know this, if you don’t really want to see/feel a change in your body and internal health, then you will stay in your rut and I suggest you just find a way to be happy there (yes my sarcasm is showing).  Below I list several options for starting your journey to health and fitness, beginning with the easiest and progressing to more aggressive choices.

Stand up! Right now!

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Set a phone or watch timer and every 30 minutes stand up and move. Walk some stairs, do some stretches, march in place, whatever low impact activity you can muster, but do it for 4 minutes. You do this 6-10 times a day and the changes to your body, stamina and mood will surprise you. Then progress to more energetic activities like jumping jacks, desk or wall push ups, air squats, etc.

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Take a walk.

No need to run – running is best for the young or non-obese. But walking – fast walking – preferably with a hill or two will get your heart in to the fat burning zone, tone your lower extremities and elevate your mood significantly. Start with a half mile, progress up to 3 miles. Bring music or a friend – use a smart phone app that spews out motivational reminders — whatever helps you stay on task. (A half mile will take you 10 minutes on average.)

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Do NOT diet or buy a new exercise DVD.

These options are too easy to quit, and too temporary. Instead, buy a cookbook of low calorie, easy to make meals and spend some time on your feet cooking. Join a gym and commit to 3 times a week doing something different each time – for only 30 minutes. This keeps your time commitment manageable, your boredom level low, and the constant changing up of what you do there will keep your body from plateauing thereby making results continue which perpetuate motivation for you to continue.

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Make a contract.

Get a workout buddy and sign a contract with each other to keep each other on task and accountable. Take turns designing the workouts – keep them fresh and ever changing. Let your egos take over as you try to one-up each other – while still not over-doing it however. (Injuries are the best way to get back in a rut!)

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Set a aggressive fitness goal.

Pick a 5k, 10k, half marathon to train for. Hire a trainer and set a body fat % goal. Join a rock climbing gym, pole dancing or salsa class. After a few months you should have achieved your goal and be ready to maintain your new health levels or set another goal.

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"Beginner's Pole Fitness class at ESTEEM Fitness."  (photo by Nicole Barrett)

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The key with all of these is to make shorter-term goals that are achievable and then progress incrementally. Whether it’s six months or one, you WILL get out of your rut. Once again I stress that you have to really want this! Take stock of your life and how different (better) it could be if you were physically in better shape. If that is something you want, follow these steps and you will achieve it.

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Gymtimidation

There’s a new gym chain currently enjoying a marketing boost through their affiliation with NBC’s Biggest Loser Competition – Planet Fitness. Their approach to gym fitness offers a “Judgement Free Zone®” free of “hardcore, look-at-me types who strut around grunting and dropping weights and, well, judging. We believe in the latest equipment, unlimited fitness training and no gymtimidation.”

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This concept interests me, not so much because in a way it’s discriminatory*, but because there is clearly a large enough demand by people to work out where they are not intimidated. Further, the idea that weight lifters who grunt and drop weights are judging us and to be intimidated by, is not something I have ever heard anyone have issue with. In fact, my clients and I usually chuckle at the grunters as 90% of the time their form is sloppy, their weights too heavy, and their over-pumped muscles are not enviable. (Guess we’re judging, eh?) Granted I don’t like it when someone is ridiculously loud or clangs the weights down beside me, but I accept it as being part of the gym environment , and know that only about 2% of the members are that obnoxious.

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I’ll admit that I have felt intimidated at gyms before, usually when the atmosphere is competitive and unfriendly. Men have looked right through me because I wasn’t dressed or shaped like a pole dancing Barbie (not that there’s anything wrong with pole dancing Barbies mind you). Men and women have been unwilling to allow me to “work in” (sharing of equipment alternating each other’s sets) simply because I wasn’t perhaps cool enough or pretty enough – always using a lame excuse like “I don’t rest between sets” (unless of course there’s someone cute to flirt with).

But here’s the thing about that “gymtimidation,” it can happen at an all girls gym, it can happen at the YMCA, and it can happen at Planet Fitness. Intimidation happens when YOU feel inadequate around others. Webster’s Dictionary defines intimidate as to “make timid, fill with fear, to over-awe through the force of personality or by superior display of talent.”

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Like many of us tell our children, no one can make you FEEL anything – how you react to what they DO is all on your head. These “annoying” types that Planet Fitness refers to are not lording over you with looks of disapproval at your clothes or abilities. Dropping weights is bad manners and dangerous to toes, but it can’t make you feel less than worthy of being there doing what you need to do to get into shape.  “Girls” who chose to dress revealingly or provocatively at the gym are dealing with their own feelings of insecurity and that just doesn’t intimidate me.  I’m a woman — enough said.

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So if a gym is your choice of venue for getting into and staying in shape, pay no attention to those around you whose agenda is to use the gym as a social platform to boost their egos. Focus on your goals and your methods for achieving them and the rest is of no consequence.

Also, I would like to point out that many times it is my ego trying to keep from feeling intimidated that has prompted me to do that extra set or rep because I wanted to keep up with that rock hard 20 year old goddess two machines away from me. If anything I should thank her for the motivation.

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*As to my suggestion that Planet Fitness’ approach is a tad discriminatory, well what if I got a membership and then was told I had to leave because I work out in a zumba crop top and am showing too much skin? I’m not dropping weights; I’m not judging anyone; and my chest/cleavage is well covered. Yet according to their mission statement, my clothing choice is unacceptable. Or what if I’m really lifting some heavy weight and my exhale is a tad loud? Where do you draw the line on who can’t work out at your gym? That’s all I’m saying…food for thought. Weigh in with your opinions on either side of this debatable issue (pun intended of course).

Get Back On That Horse!

I’m sure you’ve all heard the sage old advice that if you fall off a horse, you must get right back on – both for your own confidence and to show the horse who’s boss. Well same goes for getting back into the gym after a prolonged illness.

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It’s cold and flu season and many of us, myself included, have succumbed to the creepy-cruds of never ending phlegm, constant coughing, and sapped energy rendering us weak as a newborn. While in the clutches of these annual viruses and their aftermath, it’s hard to image ever having enough energy and strength to get back to the workouts. This is when the line between those truly committed and the quitters is drawn.

Every January the gyms are crowded with new members and their fresh intentions to get into shape. Every March the gyms are back to 60% occupancy as those new members lose their motivation, often because of a winter illness that interrupts their new routines and dulls their mind set back into the complacency of being sedentary and eating out of boredom or emotional response.

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For those of us who have embraced the priority of exercise, it’s still difficult to get back into the swing of things after being sick, but we usually manage it within a few weeks. But those of you who were reluctant to exercise to begin with, it’s really hard to get the “mojo” back and push yourself again.

For those of you who can relate to this, I offer up a few tips to renewing your motivation and getting your butt back into exercise:

Start Slow.

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Sounds like obvious advice but it’s very common that after an illness many individuals try to resume exercise with the same energy intensity (or speed) that they had prior to being sick. The disappointment at finding that your energy is just not there, or worse yet, that you have a set back, is so discouraging to many, that they simply stop trying again.

You’ve got to be patient, but know this, your stamina and muscle memory will return faster than you think, especially if you take the first week at half your usual intensity. Stretching is also very important as your muscles have been relatively inactive during your illness. Even I have to follow this. My brain says get back in their and do your normal routine. But I know from experience that I will get half way through and be weak and tired. I do half the amount of sets as I’m used to and work with lighter weights. But by week 2 or 3 I’m back to full speed again, and I’ve suffered no set backs.

Nutrition & Hydration.

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Head colds and flus often leave us with dulled tastebuds and a lack of appetite. Antibiotics dry us out, and phlegm (mucus) is thicker when you are dehydrated. Coughing burns more calories than you can even imagine. Therefore, it is crucial that when resuming a workout, you make certain to have ingested enough calories, and in particular clean and complex carbs (yes carbs) to get you through even an half-speed workout. Water will flush the toxins, plump back up the muscles and get the blood moving to said muscles. All of this is essential to getting your stamina back up to full.

Stay Stable.

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When resuming exercise after an illness, your equilibrium and core strength may be taxed. Therefore, alter your exercises to be seated or use machines vs. free weights, just for the first week or two until you know that any residual light headedness or muscle weaknesses are overcome. No one needs to fall down in the gym on their first week back, right?

Refresh your Motivation.

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Remind yourself why you are working out – is there a clothing goal, a vacation goal, a reduction of high-blood pressure medicine need, etc? With your motivation firmly renewed your brain will help push you past those small moments of perceived exhaustion when you think about quitting.

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If you have any tricks you follow that you’d like to share with me and my readers, please do. Good luck, and persevere!