Spring is here and along with warmer weather and flowers blooming, I see an onsalught of commercials and social media posts all focusing on weight loss in preparation of summer. It’s a silly marketing ploy that so many fall prey to, you know, “bikini season” and “summer ready body” kind of stuff.
It makes me sad because as you know if you’ve read my blog for any period of time to me fitness is a life-long pursuit to be practiced daily, in moderation, so that life can be lived to it’s fullest. I also strongly advocate that we ALL realize and accept that every BODY is different and what is a sign of beauty or sex appeal today is likely the antithesis of tomorrow, not to mention not everyone’s taste.
So for those of you getting sucked in to the taunting that your summer life just wont be satisfying unless you transform your body right now, I offer these gentle reminders to love yourself, not give up or give in, but be smart about how you prepare for summer.
DO NOT DIET
Dieting simply doesn’t work and it’s a waste of your time and money. Stop eating strange concoctions or restricting calories or fats or sugars. You have probably learned by now that the body fat simply returns once your old way of eating is resumed. Instead, eat 6 small meals every day, composed of healthy lean protein, veggies, fruits, grains, and fats, allow yourself a day or two of higher caloric meals or drinks and remember daily that you love your body and care about what you put inside of it.
VARIETY IS KEY
For those of you who do not love time spent in a gym or in front of a video or class – just remember that an hour here and an hour there WILL make a huge difference, and if you keep your workouts reasonably intense while maintaining a variety of styles, you will see results which in turn will stop making it seem like such drudgery. The key is to keep boredom at bay while maintaining progress. Start by working out 2-3 times a week with weights (ideally with a plan created by a trainer like me), each workout being different from the last. Then add in some fun outdoor activities on the weekends, maybe a dance or body pump class with a friend in the evenings, and/or a DVD at home once in a while. Variety will keep you entertained, and as you see results you will need far less convincing to stay diligent.
REMEMBER TO REST AND SLEEP
Taking a day every 4-5 days to allow your muscles and cardio system to rest is hugely beneficial to your metabolic system becoming more efficient and thereby burning more fat. Sleep, likewise, is essential to the body recovering and allowing a change in composition (i.e., more lean muscle, less fat) to occur within (which then shows up on the outside). So tweak your schedule and make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Your body will thank you.
STOP STRESSFUL THINKING
Clearly stress is not good in any areas of your life, but it’s especially hard on the body. While you may not be able to reduce the stress of your circumstances, you can reduce the stress you place on your body when you fret over your physical condition. Negative thoughts about your body, and beating yourself up for being “fat” or “out of shape” will not help your body relax and embrace the change you seek to make. Emotional stress will also force your body to hold on to fat as fat is an insulator and protector of organs, and has hormonal properties which are ignited when under stress. So lighten up your thought process and your body may just lighten up as well.
* * * * * * *
Now get ready to enjoy the warmer weather and the summer vacations, and by following my advice you’ll hopefully be in better shape AND happier at the same time.
For most people, success in life is measured by the job they hold, the money they make, and the possessions they acquire. We raise our children to aim for this trifecta, focusing on school and grades and constant “upward” movement. Unfortunately I feel the most important skill or tool that we can provide our children with to help them “succeed” in life is often the least focused on – relationships.
Relationships are the essence of our lives and without the ability to maintain good relationships, I believe we truly cannot succeed. From home life to the office, if you cannot communicate and work well with people, your forward movement is limited. If you do not have a supportive group of family and friends (co-workers too), all of your challenges and hardships rest solely on your head and shoulders.
But a person who cultivates and cares for relationships above college degrees, money, and acclaim is a person who will get further than just their career/life experience will take them. Did you know that people who were in fraternities or sororities are 60% more likely to have successful careers because they have a network of built-in friends to gain support, leads, and referrals from? Again, it’s about relationships!
Consider two people with the same exact education and experience applying for the same job. Person A has not learned the fine art of conversation, improvisation, and the ability to find something to relate to with everyone they meet. Person B puts relationships and real communication paramount over everything else they do, and they want people to be comfortable around them. Guess who gets the job?
In this age of technology-focused society, the current generation(s) are learning texting instead of talking. We are pushing our youth to stay ahead of the curve with their computer skills and educational goals, which is essential to stay competitive with other countries, but they’re missing out on skills that can really make the difference in the quality of their lives, as well as their careers.
It’s the same for intimate relationships (marriages, partnerships). A person who is content with only their significant other and/or children for company and does not work at maintaining relationships with life-long friends (who often have moved far away) or does not seek to create new friendships is keeping their world (and therefore their growth) very small and limited. This also teaches children that friendships and the work required to maintain them is not as important as having a family and plowing forward.
My mother instilled in me the fine art of conversation, something seriously lacking in so many adults, not to mention children, these days. She said there was always something to talk about with anyone you meet. She taught me to ask questions, and then listen to their answers. While this skill has helped me more times than I can count (garnered me many a job lead or an awesome new friend), I am saddened to see how many adults cannot reciprocate. Often they do not engage in asking questions back – a “get to know you” kind of exchange. Once I’m done “interviewing” and offering a few clever anecdotes of my own, the conversation ceases as they do not know how to communicate back. So many people feel uncomfortable unless they’re only talking about themselves (which is very one-sided). How do you fare where you are forced to mingle with people you do not know?
In the next week as you think upon this post, look at how you communicate with friends and strangers. Look at how they communicate back to you. See if you can find examples of where your relationships with someone benefited your goals, or where not having certain types of relationships have held you back. Then see what you can do to improve the quality of your relationships and communication skills. Remember there is value in having true, honest and reliable relationships in your life, and those relationships start by you being true, honest and reliable.
A current hot catch-phrase in my industry is “are you living an authentic life?” I hear and read that slogan frequently and I always scream in my head what the hell does that mean? Are people running around living false lives? Well in a way, yes. The issue for me is that I think “truth” is a better and more easily applied word than “authentic.”
One of Webster’s dictionary definitions of the word authentic is “representing one’s true nature or beliefs…” While that definition is easy to understand, it can be a hard put into practice. How does one represent their “true nature or beliefs?”
Clearly I do understand the essence of this phrase – that many people choose to not follow their dreams or listen to their instincts, and end up living out circumstances that they never intended or wanted. But my issue is that to live authentically one must first really know and understand who they are and what they want. While some of us enter adulthood already having figured out who we are and what we want (and then spend the rest of our 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s refining that), there is a huge quantity of adults walking around who simply do not know the answers to those questions.
That’s not a criticism mind you, it is a reality that not all personalities are able, or in some cases even willing, to set in stone the life they want to live. There is nothing wrong with going with the wind and currents and just enjoying where life takes you and how it shapes you, if that’s is who you are. So who then, is really living the “authentic” life? Is it people like me who have things all mapped out and goals firmly being adhered to, or is it those who fly by the seat of their pants? I think what it comes down to is if you are happy with the life you’re living. After all, either approach can leave a person feeling unsatisfied and/or lost.
To me, what’s truly important is honesty. Are you honest with yourself and those around you – honest about who you are and what you want? Honesty can be much more easily applied to one’s life than authenticity, don’t you think? Perhaps then, the better way to state the catch-phrase would be “are you living an honest life?“
To that end, I leave you with the true essence behind this posting: if you are not living an honest life, if you are not being honest with yourself, remember that life (or time) seems to zip by very quickly (you know the other old catch-phrase life is short). Now I know how hard it is for many of you to be honest. Honesty is sometimes scary for while it’s freeing for the deliverer, it can be painful for the recipient. But honesty, as we teach our children, is always better than the burden of lying (or in this case, living a lie).
So dig deep, don’t let fear stop you, and start being honest. Remember to take baby steps, and be patient, it will get easier, and that honesty must always be delivered compassionately (that includes to yourself). Honesty is the most powerful tool to altering your life’s course. Take heart in those that live an honest life for they demonstrate that when we live an honest life, we are at the very least, happier and able to breath just a little bit better.
One of the most important aspects of fitness is often the least focused on – that of flexibility. I must confess that even I tend to place the least priority on flexibility – me a former full-time dance student! But in our fast-paced, jam-packed lives, it often seems that all we have time to focus on is exercising (cardio & resistance training) and nutrition (which we know to be the largest part of the fitness pie. But I need to remind us all that flexibility is a major and necessary component of total fitness.
It doesn’t matter how strong your muscles are if you don’t the flexibility to move them in a full range of motion then you will not be able to push past your current fitness levels (i.e., burn more fat). Without good flexibility you’ll not be able to run or even walk the speed and distances you seek, for your muscles will be too tight and too shortened and therefore your legs will simply lock up.
If your job keeps you in a sedentary seated position for long hours, it’s hugely important to stretch and lengthen your muscles and spine (see last week’s blog Respect Your Spine). This will improve circulation which will in turn improve your productivity.
Of course as a Life Coach, I can not ignore the figurative necessity for flexibility in our minds and attitudes as well. Emotional flexibility allows us to embrace change better and affect change in our lives – and our workouts.
So today I’m suggesting that we all commit (myself included) to improving our flexibility over the next month, and then we can compare notes and really testify to the benefits of being more flexible.
First, prioritize and schedule a small chunk of time for stretching (10 mins minimum). It’s important that your body be warmed up so I recommend either right after a shower, or right after a long day but prior to being sedentary for several hours. (In other words, after you’ve come home from work and made dinner, but before you plop down on the sofa to binge watch Netflix for a few hours before bed).
Second, challenge those around you and keep each other accountable and on task. Flexibility is essential and beneficial to everyone around you, whether children or seniors, spouses or co-workers. The more people in your life that will take the time to stretch with you (although it doesn’t have to be at the exact same time), the more likely we will all achieve this goal and reap the rewards.
Third, remember to be flexible in your head and heart. Not only does this reduce the emotional tightening of your muscles (no more stress headaches), but it will likely improve your relationships too. Be more willing to see the other side of things, and be more forgiving of yourself and others.
Lastly, I will leave you with a few specific details about the best way to be flexible, i.e., stretching techniques:
- Never stretch cold muscles.
- Always move slowly into a position that stretches the desired muscles to the point where you want to stop. Then hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds, while breathing in a slow and relaxed manner. Then stretch further and repeat the hold and breathing. Do this one more time on that muscle and then you can move on to the next.
- Start at the head/neck and move down towards feet: neck, shoulders, lower back, glutes (butt), hamstrings (back of thighs), feet/ankles. Look on the internet, YouTube or ask me for specific examples of stretches that you can practice.
Now go be flexible and improve the quality of your body and your life!
In 2015 I published an article about gym-intimidation (Gymtimidation) and for those of you who find gyms intimidating I recommend reading (or re-reading) the post (click on the highlighted title). But today I wanted to discuss this issue a bit further as I find it to be one of the top stumbling blocks for women in particular who are committed to getting in shape now that the new year is upon us, yet cannot overcome their nervous reluctance towards joining a gym.
If you feel self-conscious in gym attire, awkward because you have no clue how to use the machines, and/or embarrassed by your lack of strength or stamina – you are far from alone! But as I stated in the previous post, whether it’s a girls-only gym or a “we’re all in this fat together” gym like Planet Fitness those feelings still surface and hold you back.
The real issue is your perception of your body vs. your desire to change it. If your motivation is strong enough, and you are willing to direct and maintain your focus on to that singular goal of slow and steady changes, you can drive those self-sabotaging thoughts from your brain.
To keep your focus on track and productive, start by accepting the shape you’re in today – not just your external shape — but your strength, stamina and coordination. Next pick two body parts to focus on, ideally your strongest or easiest to change (i.e., thighs or arms). Then wear clothes that you feel comfortable in, both for the comfort of exercising and sweating, and that you do not feel awkward visually in (i.e., t-shirt and shorts). Lastly, commit to three times a week, 30-minutes of slow but challenging resistance training of those chosen muscles (arms or legs), and slow but challenging cardio (walking at an incline, riding the stationary bike).
Once you see some changes to your body, you will find your motivation renewed to keep pushing towards your goals. Now there are two “no-no’s” I wish to impart to you, that will keep you from self-doubt and discouragement:
1. Do NOT compare yourself or your body to anyone else! Everyone, and I mean everyone, has different variables that come into play, and no two bodies (and brains) are alike. Focus only on your upward growth and improvement and be patient and loving with your body.
2. Do NOT focus on your mid-section (stomach). For those of you fighting to reduce body fat, especially from your tummy, this will be the last area to lose the fat – especially on women! Continue pushing yourself weekly, and follow my other posts where I discuss how to avoid plateauing, etc. and making certain that you’re eating enough. It took time for that fat to store up, and it takes time, hard work, and patience to lose it.
Lastly I cannot stress enough that if that gym-intimidation still has a grip on you, consider purchasing at least 3 training sessions with a trainer whom you a good connection with (don’t let the gym just assign you one), and then allow them to ease you into understanding the equipment and how to push your body.
As always, I’m here to offer advice and/or a customized training program should you desire it. (workouts247.com) Now go work out and be proud that you’re making a positive change!
Here we are again, the first month of a new year. Are you once again making resolutions or commitments to get into better shape? If so, what can you do to make the goals stick this time? Perhaps the first step is to change the goal.
Most of us who set a goal and fail to achieve it in an allotted period of time usually start a new year with the same goal in mind. However, if we do not change our approach to the goal, we will likely see the same results (or lack thereof). But often even you change your approach you still don’t achieve full success and that may be because the goal just doesn’t fit who you are or how you live. Don’t give up on your end goal, but perhaps you need to make a new plan that has a more immediate goal that will lead you ultimately to your end goal.
To make 2017 be the year that you finally achieve your fitness goals you must first assess if you have goals that are achievable. If you are under a lot of stress, have limited free time, and/or limited funds – unless it’s life threatening, 95% of you will not lose fat, tone your muscles, or improve your strength and endurance – period. The reason is that you simply can’t successfully fit consistent and effective workouts into your hectic life as well as meal and snack planning, smart shopping and time intensive food prep and cooking. So rather than lament that your life is too stuck in a hectic hamster wheel and give up on your fitness goals by March, how about if you change the goal to be to get off the hamster wheel?
Did you know that stress and lack of sleep is the number one inhibitor to fat loss? I have a client who eats clean and healthy 4-6 times a day, and works out effectively 3-4 times a week and still cannot reduce her body fat (in fact she’s seen some increase). The clear and only reason behind this is that she has a very demanding and stressful job and home life, feels emotionally “stressed out” daily and averages about 5 hours of sleep per night. I see a lot of you nodding your heads in empathy right now.
When I talk with a new life coaching client and tell them that their first and primary goal is to find a way to reduce their stress by changing or altering their job, reorganizing household chores, rules, and assignments, and carving out (and maintaining) time for themselves, they usually start hyperventilating. But the longer we talk and outline step by step plans to get them from point A to Z the calmer they become and ultimately they get energized by the plan. Then it’s just a matter of holding them accountable, while maintaining fluidity to change the plans as the needs arise, and soon not only do they see a positive change to their bodies, they feel a radical and beneficial change to their entire lives.
With all this said, I assign all of you who have a goal yet achieved (and often failed at on an annual basis) to look at the bigger picture and perhaps pick a new goal – one that will ultimately get you to your old goal – but one that is more important and more achievable at this time and place in your life. As always, I’m here to advise as a personal trainer and life strategies coach if you wish to work with me.
Now go make 2017 different!
If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know that I despise the word and concept of DIET as it means a temporary change in nutrition to achieve a single (and misplaced) goal. Along with my aversion to the word diet and dieting in general, is the commonly associated word CHEAT.
I often hear people say I cheated and ate something bad. The problem with using the word “cheat” (and bad) is that it implies a negative behavior and sets your brain up to rebel against your goal and therefore leads one to failure. Since no one can deprive themselves of the things they enjoy eating indefinitely (nor should they), diets always fail because the aftermath of a temporary nutritional change is to regain the lost weight/fat as the subject usually resumes eating they way they had before the diet.
So today I offer this advice to those of you who still insist on dieting – do not say that you’ve cheated or been bad when you eat or drink something not “allowed” on your diet. Food is not your spouse, you’re not married to it, lying to it, on trial, or in school – the only areas where the word cheating applies. You will be far more successful in your fat loss goals if you just acknowledge that you want to eat something that gives you pleasure and consume it, albeit ideally in a small quantity. Then resume your diet and get on with it.
The other area of “cheating” that I want to address is that of your workouts. This time of year newly motivated fat-loss seeking customers flock to gyms or sign up with personal trainers to institute new workout plans in conjunction with their new diets. Although I never hear a client state I cheated on my workout and skipped a day, the altering of their fitness plan does occur on as regular basis as the diet-cheating, just without the self-inflicted negative chastising of calling it cheating.
If you are committed to following a workout and meal plan to lose fat, then even if you’ve chosen to do so for a short and temporary period of time – don’t cheat. Workout out to the limits of your strength and endurance, and keep your nutrition focused. Again, if you veer off the diet for a meal/day, or skip a day/week of workouts, just get back on track without any negative shaming of yourself.
Ultimately you will only succeed at permanent fat loss if you change your approach to nutrition on a long-term basis, while still keeping the less “lean and healthy” foods to a smaller and more moderate level (quantity). Eat 6 times a day and drink lots of water. Simultaneously prioritize and schedule high intensity workouts (both cardio and weights) 3 times a week at a minimum. Remember to change up your workouts (increase intensity and/or time spent) at least every 6 weeks so you do not plateau. Also remember that if you start building more muscle mass you might actually need to eat more — but eat smart!
This is the only sure-fire way to reduce your body fat for good! So don’t cheat – just make a health plan and remind yourself that it’s okay if the plan changes or your get off track briefly. It’s all about the long haul.
2016 was a tough year for a lot of us, and as I look forward into 2017 to formulate my goals and targets I have come to realize that a three-pronged ideal can help us find better physical and emotional health. Therefore, this year I suggest we all adopt the following mantra: “Stand Up. Stand Up Straight. Stand Up Strong.”
These words double as a fitness reminder and a social cue. Anyone with a goal of improved physical shape and health should simply stand up more, walk more and sit less (or at the very least stand up and move every 30-minutes). Likewise we should all stand up for preserving our own personal values as well as America’s tenuous democratic values as we forge into unknown (and for many of us very scary) territory with Trump at our helm.
Stand Up Straight:
I often address the rampant increase of postural distortions in adults and children here in my blog, but this year I am on a personal mission to help everyone improve their health by observing and improving their posture. Your spine is the gateway between your brain and the rest of your body. If you have curved-in shoulders or hips, and knees or ankles that rotate inwards (pronate) you are cutting off and/or shorting out a lot of nerves that bring signals to and from your brain. So set a phone or watch reminder, or buddy up with a friend and remind yourself several times a day to stand up straight and tall, keep your shoulders squared and relaxed, and remember to breathe low and slow.
Stand Up Strong:
This one can be taken both literally and figuratively. First, you must remember no matter how tough your path is currently, this too shall pass. But the key to improving your emotional or circumstantial life is to stay strong emotionally (and physically) and remember how strong you really are. Stand up for yourself and show your strength! Second, we must all stand up in a show of solidarity and strength so we can change that which is not working for all of us. We truly need to stand up strong together against racial, gender, and LGBT discrimination, double-standards of wages and rights, religious persecution, women’s rights, and the general bullying of anyone who disagrees with the “moral majority’s” opinions (that starts with the Oval Office)!
For those of you who find this post a bit too soap-boxy, please indulge me as I am a child of the 60’s and it’s in my nature to stand up for my rights, my health and my peers. So if you agree, repeat after me (and then DO IT): Stand Up. Stand Up Straight. Stand Up Strong!
Every January a large percentage of our population renew their vow to get into shape and embrace fitness as a way of life. Every March the amount of people still on track or experiencing any success in their fitness goals is about 20%! If that’s you, read on because I’m going to help you succeed this year by giving you some much needed direction.
The problem is usually that most people jump in too fast (or pick only one course of exercise) resulting in either burn out, boredom, injury, or just lack of sustained motivation. Without keeping your fitness routine varied and effectively focused you will not be able to sustain – especially if you aren’t already addicted to exercise.
So below is a generic (yet adjustable to each individual) fitness routine that will last you through January. Those of you who stick with it, write to me and I’ll give you February, etc. If after 3 months you have stayed the course and seen and felt results – well then you can sign up (and pay) for more routines. But I am offering first quarter 2017 free routines, so take advantage people!
Keep in mind, that nutrition is 70% of your battle. So if you are really committed you may want to order a customized meal plan from me (workouts247.com), but regardless I urge and remind you NOT to DIET. Diets do not work! Keep your nutrition lean and clean 85% of the time (15% is free for you to drink, eat sugary, fatty, hi-caloric stuff) and eat 6 small meals/snacks per day. Drink water water water and follow this routine and I know you’ll see results!
Also stay off the scale – we’re trying to build muslce and reduce fat and the scale will not show the results you’re looking for. Only the way your clothes fit and the way you see your body are valid proof of your fitness success.
So here is your FREE 3 Day – 30 mins workout routine for January. Most of this can be done with little to no equipment, and all of it is perfect for a gym. Either way, modifiy as you need to for your fitness levels and access to equipment, but do not modify how aggressively you attack this workout. BE A BEAST! If you need clarification on exercises, weights, etc., you know where to find me. Stick with this and next month you’ll be ready for a 5-day workout!
DAY 1 – UPPER
10 incline push ups
15 Triceps dips
15 DB curls
10 DB up-out-in-downs
15 DB hammer curls
15 DB triceps kick backs
10 Leg lowers & raises (Abs)
Repeat circuit 2-3 times
DAY 2 – LOWER
25 Jumping jacks
10 Step Ups (each leg)
15 Jump Squats
10 DB Tap Squats
15 Wide to Narrow Squats
10 Dead lifts into Calf Raises
15 Single Leg Lunges (each leg)
25 V-sit in and outs
Repeat circuit 2-3 times
DAY 3 – TOTAL BODY
5 Mins steep incline treadmill walk (Or any cardio that kicks your butt)
20 DB Lunge walks with shoulder presses
10 DB push ups with alternating single arm rows
20 DB squats
20 Mountain Climbers
15 DB Curl to presses
15 DB Shoulder Flies
15 DB Triceps Ear Busters
3 Thirty-second Planks (prone iso abs)
Repeat circuit 2-3 times
A few years back I created this post and it seems like a good time to remind you all to embrace the new year, and renew your motivation to change or meet goals you want to achieve. Set yourself up in a positive way and perhaps this time, you’ll accomplish more than any year prior!
Every year thousands of us make New Year’s resolutions that 99% of us break or don’t complete. Most prevalent are goals to lose weight and get in shape. But just like the chronic cigarette smoker who knows that smoking is bad but can’t stop because they’re addicted, losing weight and getting into shape needs more motivation than just your brain saying (along with everyone around you) that you need to do this to be healthy.
When you’re in the thick of it, the last thing you want to do is stop doing something that seemingly makes you feel better (i.e., smoking, eating that pint of ice cream, drinking that bottle of beer). Even though you know that these choices are not in your body’s best interest, your brain is used to these comforts to deal with life’s stresses.
This is why we fail at new years resolutions. They’re made because it’s traditional to make them not because we have complete conviction behind the need to change. So, while the concept of a resolution is good – setting goals and starting them on a pivotal date – there is clearly not enough motivation placed on these goals to sustain our focus, and motivation is key!
So how then do you get and sustain true motivation? That, my friends, comes from within, when you are truly ready to acknowledge how unhappy you feel in the physical condition you’re in. It’s not about needing to get healthier for someone else; it’s not about wanting to feel sexier or more attractive; it’s not about wearing a different clothing size. It’s about YOU wanting to be different. YOU wanting to end the depression that follows you around because you feel unattractive or don’t have the energy to keep up with your kids or friends.
If personal changes are important enough to you, nothing will stop you.
Once you want the change for reasons so strong that nothing can deter you, then it instantly becomes a goal you can achieve. You don’t need a date on the calendar to get your started. You don’t need an extreme diet. You don’t even need a personal trainer (did I just say that?!). All you need to keep your desire for change always in the forefront of your brain. What do you stand to gain by this change. Don’t focus on what you’ll lose (energy, clothes, life) – focus on what you’ll gain. Gaining something is actually a stronger motivator than losing something.
So enjoy the holidays and your New Year’s celebration, but skip the resolutions. Instead contemplate what you want to gain and how badly you want it. Then go get it!
(And of course, if you DO want a trainer, or a tailor-made workout routine created by a professional trainer, give me shout. I’m here to cheer you on and help you stay focused!)