Many years ago I posted Maturity, Menopause & Metabolism and it seems a good time to remind us all that aging and our bodies changing is inevitable and we must keep a positive and healthy perspective. I’ve updated it and re-post it as a helpful reminder that we’re all in this together and we’re all doing just fine!
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When I was a very slim 20-something it seemed like every woman who was overweight would say to me “wait until you hit 40, then you won’t be skinny anymore.” Well 40 came and went and I was still underweight. Then it became “ha ha when you hit menopause, then you’ll see!” Menopause abruptly came to call when I was 48 and I’m still not overweight at 56.
But all these forecasts of my physical doom haunted me for years and as I became a fitness professional I looked hard at why age 40, or menopause would automatically trigger weight gain for so many women. What I discovered was that it’s not so much about the age, as it is about what lifestyle you lead, any medical conditions, and your perspective.
Let’s tackle the 40’s first. People say your metabolism slows down by age 40. While there is truth to the fact that metabolism (“the chemical process that results in production of energy and elimination of waste”) does slow down with age, it is not automatic or inevitable. The typical adult slows down their energy output voluntarily, i.e., they work longer hours, drive longer distances, and are more sedentary when home. Also, as we get older we eat more, having more money as well as a wider taste pallet, therefore causing our calories to increase. In the case of an individual who stays consistently physically active and maintains a constant moderate calorie consumption, they will likely not gain any significant weight as they hit a milestone of 40 or 50.
Menopause is a different hurdle. There is no question that with the absence of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (all present in a pre-menopause woman), the body will gain wait and the metabolism will slow down. Women’s bodies gain belly fat as they go through menopause because the mechanical brain knows what our emotions do not – that fat contains estrogen and our bodies need at least a little estrogen. But again, if an individual stays consistently active and maintains a balance between calories in vs. calories out, the weight gain can be slight and manageable (as it’s been in my case).
Medically speaking, often with the onset of menopause, the thyroid will also give out, tending towards the hypo-activity (under active) which definitely causes weight gain and a loss of energy. But with proper medication, the missing thyroid output is restored and that portion of the weight gain can be reduced. Also, if menopause is a result of a full hysterectomy, or induced as a result of cancer treatments, a woman can experience rapid weight gain. This weight is very stubborn to remove. That’s when our last criteria comes into play.
Perspective. We are a society focused upon the hollow ideals that women have to have perfect bodies and look young and fit all the time. My mother used to say it was too bad that the Zoftig bodies of her generation weren’t in vogue any more because that was a more realistic perspective of women’s bodies and the beauty that they possess. I have a client who would be considered over weight by most standards. Despite her roundness, she is super fit and flexible, and loves to salsa dance and take yoga. She eats well, laughs a lot, and feels sexy anyway. Her husband agrees whole heartedly!
As I’ve detailed in numerous other posts in my blog stress and lack of sleep also contributes to weight gain. Often the lives of those in their 40’s to 50’s are at their most stressful – the kids heading towards college, careers being full steam, their parents becoming oilder and often less healthy, as well as the aforementioned menopause, cancer treatemetns, etc. During these 10-20 years stresses are higher, and undoubtedly sound long sleep is lower, both of which contribute to your body holding on to fat.
So if you exercise regularly, eat lean and healthy, and can achieve whatever reasonable physical challenge or goals you desire, then you are perfect the way you are. Your body as it ages is going to change. In some ways I look better than I did when I was 20, and in other ways I don’t. But my perspective is that I can keep up with my 11 year old, I can climb rocks, trees, and lift weights for hours at the gym, and I can sit on my butt and drink wine and eat chocolate and not stress over it. So I’m okay, and life is good. Now if only these hot flashes would go away! Wink wink.
When we’re kids we’re naturally limber (i.e., flexible) and most children (especially girls) spend a good deal of their childhood jumping, climbing, twisting, back-bending, performing splits or at the very least sitting for long periods of time on their butts with their legs crossed or bent underneath them.
Then through the process of aging and studying more leading way to working at a desk more, we lose that limberness until we are old people who can’t get themselves off the ground. Most adults can’t touch their toes any more, can you?
As a personal trainer, one of my goals is to help all my clients reclaim their physical ability to do the things they want to do whether it’s hiking in the mountains, or simply being able to play with the grandchildren on the ground (and then get back up again). Not all clients are seeking to achieve the physique of a Greek God, some simply want to be able to have more stamina, strength, and flexibility.
A few years back my Mother took a fall and lost her confidence about traveling to Europe (one of her joys in life) because she felt that only my Dad could lift her up if she fell. I refused to have her stop partaking in her passion of travel and urged her to work with a trainer (we live in different States) just to the point where she could get herself up off the floor without help.
After a lot of persistent nagging on my part, she agreed and I found her a pilates instructor only five minutes away. They worked together twice a week for about six weeks performing exercises to improve my Mother’s balance, strength, and flexibility just enough that she could get herself up off the ground without assistance. The following year we celebrated her 80th birthday in Yosemite and she hiked an slight incline mile with me, barely stopping. Since then she has maintained this fitness level by performing the exercises daily and continues to enjoy travel and hasn’t fallen since.
Clearly when dealing with seniors or very out of shape teens/adults, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, we’re simply trying to build up the body to the point that satisfies the client’s life goals. We don’t all need to be skinny or “ripped” but we do need to be able to handle whatever physical abilities are required to achieve our goals and passions. (I’ve seen overly-fat people hiking with less difficulty than some younger and/or thinner hikers, so it’s not always about your shape on the outside, it’s about your shape on the inside.)
So I urge all of you to consider this and find a trainer, take a class, follow a DVD or YouTube video, and push your body just a little more than you’ve been. Figure out what you can’t do physically today that you want to be able to do in the near future and seek out exercises that will assist you in that physical improvement. Sometimes all it takes is gentle but regular stretching. Other times it may require a little more effort and some guidance/instruction in form from an expert or trainer. Either way it doesn’t take much time, money or effort to see improvement, you just have to have enough motivation.
At the very least, if you want to be able to do the things physically that you can do today when you’re 80 or 90, you should start now! With the warmer “outdoor” months upon us, this is a perfect time to get outside and enjoy being physical, to whatever extent that entails. If you would like a personalized exercise or stretching routine, you can order a customized plan with detailed instructions on form from me.
Over two years ago I posted Stop Competing, Start Caring which focused on the rampant issue of women putting each other down through mean-spirited acts of unspoken competition. From the gym to work environments I see women continuing to combat jealousy via negativity and attempts to feel superior. Sadly, I suspect if my gender was more supportive of each other on the whole, if we’d have a woman as president today instead of the misogynist we’re stuck with. But I digress…
I recently joined a new gym, the kind of gym where everyone is very fit and focused on hard core workouts. This is no meat-market pick up joint, or Planet Fitness where you cannot grunt or show too much skin. Despite being a fitness professional I found clientele on the workout floor a bit intimidating, so I decided the best counter-action was to smile sincerely at everyone, especially the women. Not surprisingly, but too my renewed dismay, only one out of every ten women smiled back. Even with deliberate eye contact and my broad and welcoming smile, they looked away with down-turned mouths. I even attempted to strike up a conversation with one woman in-between sets and she answered me quite curtly and sauntered off.
So here is the post again, with slight updates, in my hopes to remind all women that we do not need to compete or be jealous of each other. The grass is NEVER greener on the other side, and only if we work together can we continue the improvements to our role in society that the Suffragettes’s started and the 60’s feminist movement continued.
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Since I was a young girl I’ve been aware of the serious nature of girls competing against each other for just about everything from friends to grades to boys. It gets worse and uglier as we grow into women. I see it at the gym, the mall, restaurants – women sizing up the competition. You can see it in their expressions, a defensive once-over seeking some flaw or registering uncalled-for disapproval.
I’ve mentioned this before, living in Las Vegas I regularly see parades of girls, each more scantily clad than the next, perched in ridiculously high heels, all glaring at the gaggle next to theirs to see if there is anyone they can put down to make themselves feel better. Belittle the competition and they’re no longer a threat, right? Yet despite girls’ intentions, the message men take away from this contest of looks is that we’re offering your bodies and not our brains, and thus they don’t really care which girl they get.
The question is why are we so quick to condemn or ridicule? The answer is competition. We compete to be prettier, smarter, slimmer, or funnier. But the true concern really comes down our fear that someone is “better than me.” Girls are constantly worried that another girl will get more attention, steal a mate, or even get a better mate. We regularly match our own worth against the next girl – which only serves to chronically undermine one’s self-esteem – and we usually know nothing about this other girl’s character and/or life other than her “cover” which we judge.
It’s sad that we are driven to such levels of insecurity that we view our fellow “sisters” as potential threats to our happiness. I suspect this is also a part of the reason that women are still undervalued and underpaid in the workforce. It’s bad enough that we have to compete with men for jobs, but when women consistently treat each other with distrust and resentment in a work environment, it’s easy for employers to offer us less money knowing that we’ll accept it just to get ahead of the next woman.
I know in my youth I did my share of mocking another or feeling envious of another girl’s achievements or looks, but I’ve worked hard in this second half of my adult life to remind myself that the grass is rarely greener on the other side, and that we all have strengths and weaknesses, gifts and limitations, and the only person I should compete with is myself – to constantly grow and improve.
So I suggest that all women take stock of their attributes and stop beating yourselves up about your detriments. If there’s a negative aspect of yourself that you can actually change, DO IT and move on. Otherwise, be proud of who you are what you’ve achieved and never stop trying to be more. Consider the woman next to you your equal and always be there for each other.
If we can teach our daughters through this example, we just might have a generation of women that work together to boost each other up, improve the world at large, and show men that we are not only equal, but in some areas might even be superior? Just food for thought.
A client asked me the other day if I counted calories. When I told her that I do not, she replied “then how do you control your food intake.” Alas once again I came face-to-face with that common misconception that calories are the way to control your weight. This is not really the case. Sure if you are consuming 12,000 calories a day you might need to count them to learn exactly how many calories foods/meals actually are, but in general calorie counting only serves to stress out people seeking to lose weight (lower fat levels).
After 17 years as a fitness professional, I know what amount of calories I consume in general on a daily basis without having to count them. More importantly, I know that counting calroies is not as important as burning the calroies I consume. So for all of you who sweat over calorie counting, you can relax and still lower your body fat levels if you’ll just follow this simple formula:
FUEL IN VS. FUEL OUT
There’s no need to count calories if you’re eating six small “sensible” meals every day (with allowances for larger meals or less “sensible” treats) and moving enough throughout the day to burn your fuel (or calorie) intake. If your goal is to lower body fat (i.e., lose weight) then you need to burn more fuel than you ingest. Remember, if you ingest more fuel (calories) than you burn, that fuel will be stored in your body as fat. Continue in-taking more than you use and you will continue to store, and gain, fat.
In plainer terms: if you are going to have a pumpkin spice latte on a daily basis, along with pizza, pasta, and a lot of processed carbs, you’d better be working out at least two-hours a day to balance it out. If you’re eating MY way, even if you throw in ONE Starbucks high caloric treat during the week, you don’t need to “count those calories” because you’re consistently burning your fuel source, and building enough lean muscle to burn excess fuel.
I’ve addressed this issue several times through the years that I’ve had this blog, and clearly it needs repeating on a regular basis. Calories and/or carbs are NOT the enemy to our bodies. What is the enemy is the amount of excess calories or processed crap that most Americans put into their bodies. Since the great depression we have evolved into a Nation of super-sized, overly-salted, overly-sugared, overly-processed meals where 90% of the working population do not ride-share (drive alone in their cars), and work highly sedentary 8-hour days in forced air, fake lighting environments.
All of this has left us with a huge obesity problem in both adults AND children. To my perspective, the first way we can reverse this is to instill in everyone the concept that food is for our survival first and foremost. While I am a “foodie” who enjoys the artistry and wide variety of flavorful meals, sweets, and wines I still keep moderation in place by always observing the rule of “fuel in vs. fuel out.”
So stop counting calories if that’s your thing, and shift your focus to acknowledging that your body is a machine. Like a car needs quality gasoline, oil, water, well-kept tires, and regular maintenance, our body needs small amounts of healthy fuel on a consistent basis, while balancing it out with effective fuel-burning movement, followed by adequate rest. In this way your “machine” will stay lean and healthy for a very long time.
So how many of you reading this got very excited by the idea of 2-minute abs?! I purposely titled today’s post that way because I wanted to illustrate just how geared we all are to find a way to get in shape with the least amount of time spent.
In the comedy There’s Something About Mary, a brief dialogue between our Hero Ted and a hitchhiker centers around the idea that the hitchhiker has created a 7-minute abs video to trounce the popular 8-minute abs series. Ted replies “That’s good. Unless, of course, somebody comes up with 6-Minute Abs. Then you’re in trouble, huh?” The Hitcher’s response: “No! No, no, not 6! I said 7. Nobody’s comin’ up with 6. Who works out in 6 minutes? You won’t even get your heart goin!”
My point here is that we’re always seeking quick ways to do what we really know takes more time and focus than just a few minutes. I know I’ve discussed this numerous times herein, but once again we are in the season where infomercials and web-ads focus on our mid-sections as the key to our happiness and success in the coming summer months. This is why once again I feel the need to remind you all that excess belly fat cannot be reduced to show your ridged-abdominal muscles hidden underneath without a serious change to your way to eating and consistent hard work to ALL your muscles (including your cardio/heart) for more than even 20-minutes three times a week.
With that said, today I will give you a 12-minute ab routine (yes that’s 10 more minutes than today’s blog title promised) which if done three times a week, ALONG with a weekly mininum of 90-minutes of resistance training and three hours of cardio AND a nutrition plan that reduces your sugars, fats, alcohols and starches (but not eliminates them) WILL result in a reduction of belly fat (i.e., a flatter stomach).
This is just one of my routines that I use on my clients. If you want more (cause you will plateau in 1-2 months), you know where to find me. If you need further instruction/illustration on how to perform these surf the web or contact me:
Perform the following exercises in order for 30-seconds each. The rest and repeat two more times.
Leg lowers & raises
Alternating Bicycle Crunches
Feet Flat Standard Crunches
Knees Up Standard Crunches
Legs in Air Standard Crunches
Legs Out Flat Standard Crunches
Ball Hand Off V-Sits
Ball Side Taps V-Sits
Photo samples of each follow below in the order listed above.
Three years ago I posted an article All Sugars Are not Equal and now lately I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about sugars and sugar substitutes, so I thought it was time to remind you all that Sugar Isn’t Just Sweet!
Sugar, in all its forms is highly addicting to our brains via our tastebuds. Sugar is in so many foods naturally (like all fruit), and then for some reason our commercial food industry has decided to add in more sugar — probably because it makes us crave the items more and therefore boosts their sales. As any annoying example I cite regularly, several American producers feel the need to ADD refined sugar (or even worse High Fructose Corn Syrup) into their apple sauce or apple juice. It’s apples for goodness sake – it’s already sweet!
The real problem is that so many people are unaware of just how much sugar they’re ingesting (or allowing their children to consume) and further, they don’t understand why sugar is so bad for our bodies. It’s simple, sugar — ESPECIALLY REFINED SUGAR — attacks our immune systems, increases high cholesterol, causes systemic inflammation, confuses our metabolisms and therefore stores as fat (i.e., weight gain) and pushes our blood systems towards diabetes.
To combat only two of the above-listed issues, once again commercial food entities diddled-about in their labs and came up with sugar substitutes that were “lo-calorie” and safer for diabetics. Unfortunately, a whole slew of other issues came about with some of these subsitutes, the least of which is cancer. In case you’re still confused about refined sugar vs. sugar substitues vs. natural sugars, here’s a quick recap:
There’s table sugar – white refined sugar — that we all grew up with, and it’s subsidiaries of powdered sugar and brown sugar (refined white sugar with molasses added). This comes from the sugar cane plant and/or sugar beets plant. Like all sweet plants (fruits and vegetables), it has a sweetness to it that we have labeled as SUGAR. The Sugar Cane is not a bad plant, but it’s the process we have developed to refine that sweetness is bad.
The term “refining” means to remove by a purification process, certain coarseness or impurities. Sugar refining is the process of extracting out the sugar (sucrose) from the plant materials and then removing other unwanted materials from the extracted raw sugar. These substances can include remaining stalk fibers, soil, insect parts, molds, bacteria and waxes.
The refined white sugar product is now over 99.9% sucrose and for all practical purposes contains no nutritional elements such as vitamins, minerals, proteins or fibers. What is left consists of pure, refined carbohydrates that the body cannot utilize. Worse yet, refined sugar drains and leaches the body of precious vitamins and minerals through the demand its digestion, detoxification and elimination makes upon one’s entire system.
With Refined Sugar being seen as the enemy we began to create foods labeled as “sugar free.” Here is where one of the first misunderstandings comes in. They are NOT sugar free. They are refined sugar free. These “sugar free” foods usually contain one of the following sugar substitutes:
NutraSweet or Equal (aspartame)
Saccharin or Sweet N Low (benzoic sulfilimine)
The first three are man-made chemical products, praised for having no calories, but criticized (rightfully so) for being so foreign to the body that they offer no benefit, and in fact can be very harmful. The last three(Stevia, Xylitol and Coconut) come from plants and are less offensive than any other choice of sweetener (real or artificial), but they still put SUGAR into the body.
Other sweeteners like honey, agave, and maple syrup are “safer” to some esxtent, but the issue still remains that our bodies can really only handle so many grams of sugar per day before our systems are negatively affected. (Remember even alcohol turns into sugar in our bodies.) Even Raw Sugar is better than refined, but you’re still left with one important issue: too much sugar – of any type – in our blood streams is bad (worse yet for those with allergies, diabetes or autoimmune diseases such as MS).
So the real question you need to pose to yourself in regards to your nutritional health, is how much SUGAR should you eat per day. In other words, the maximum number of grams of sugar in any shape or form. The American Medical Association suggests no more than 25 grams of sugar per day (which equals 6 teaspoons). Did you know there are 19 grams of sugar in a medium sized apple? There are 40 grams of sugar in a can of Coke! How many grams are in your latte, your salad, your sandwich? Refer to the chart below to see just how many teaspoons of sugar (1 cube = 1 teaspoon) are actually lurking in some of our foods. Six teaspoons is VERY easy to achieve and quickly surpass in your daily nutrition, even if you believe you eat “healthy.”
So take a hard look at what you eat and know how much of any substance you’re consuming, whether it be sugar, sodium, etc. Keep a balanced diet, and try to keep your sugars (in all their forms) to a moderately low level.
Last night my daughter asked me the one question that I always refuse to answer when a friend or client asks me: am I fat? I replied do you think you’re fat? She pushed further asking me to choose between whether she was skinny or fat. I responded that I wouldn’t pick either, as those adjectives are negative labels cast about by a society obsessed with perfect bodies – something that doesn’t exist.
In my conversation with my daughter, I took it a step further and pointed out that there are a myriad of body descriptions (labels) in-between skinny and fat, and none of those might fit her body type either. But even still I was not going to be cornered into labeling my child. I said if you feel fat, we can talk about that and I can always instruct you in ways to change your body composition to be healthier. But if you’re just worried that compared to the next girl you’re “fat” then I’m not going to engage in that kind of labeling and neither should you. Remember, every BODY is different!
The idea of placing a descriptive label on a “body” lends itself towards negative views and feelings on the part of both the describer and the describee. Unless you’re giving an eye witness account to a crime where physical descriptions are necessary, I feel that we over-use these negative body labels all the time and this wide-spread habit is an assault on our self-esteem.
If I were to tell you fascinating a story about one woman’s journey, would it matter if she was skinny or fat? I suppose if it was about her climbing a mountain it might come into play about what kind of shape she’s in. But if I’m telling you about a woman confronting a governmental or societal obstacle or battling cancer, it doesn’t matter in the least what her physical shape is. Yet we always seem to embellish our stories with these details.
If I describe a woman as stocky and solid, you will most likely imagine someone akin to an Olympic gymnast or swimmer. But if she’s just an average girl, that description might make you think she was short with a thick torso, which society has labeled as less attractive. If I describe a woman as lean and ripped, most would imagine a track and field star or fitness model. As Society has deemed that body type as one to be coveted, are the rest of us then sub-par?
This matters to boys and men too as society’s labels have suggested that if they’re not “strong and buff” they can’t get the girl of their dreams. I find all these labels to be detrimental on the whole because it’s diminishing the importance of our character, habits, and manners thereby making how we look – or what shape/size our bodies are – the more important factor.
So I ask you now to note how many stories or incidents you tell throughout your week where you interject something about a person’s skin color, size, shape, age – and then assess if those descriptions (or adjectives) were necessary to the story. Also note how many times your children describe people or other children with labels that they either envy or disdain. Perhaps with more awareness we can move away from these labels and get down to the more important facts and issues of life.
Two years ago I posted The Children Are Listening and lately I feel strongly that it needs repeating. It is evident that how we talk about our bodies, how we talk about other people’s bodies, and how we handle our nutrition directly impacts how our children – the girls in particular – view themselves. They are listening to what we say and how we still idolize thin, plastic or enhanced women and super buff men.
We MUST make it a priority to teach the latest and future generations to view nutrition and exercise as equal priorities along with the standards like good dental hygiene and a good education. Then, and only then, will we see an entirety of young adults having healthy fat levels, and healthy self-esteems, which in turn will benefit us all (especially as health insurance issues are far from being resolved). So read and remember, the children are listening.
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I overheard two nine year old girls talking the other day at a friend’s home. One tall, one short, neither thin, neither overweight – but clearly built very differently. The taller one was urging the shorter one to get on the scale to see what she weighed. Finally, reluctantly, she obliged and weighed in four pounds heavier than the taller girl. Said tall girl then replied “ooh, maybe we should run around more at recess.”
What does this tell me? It tells me that the tall girl has been overhearing her mother lament about her weight. It tells me that by third grade, she’s already decided that what the scale shows defines how you’re seen. It also shows me how much our kids are listening society’s obsession with weight.
It’s not just the girls mind you, I’ve caught many a group of elementary school boys quickly dismissing a girl based upon her weight, having learned early on that thinner is more attractive. All it takes is one tossed away comment “wow she’s hot” by a Dad watching a Victoria Secret’s commercial to take root his son’s head.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I do not own a scale, and berate my clients who use one to gauge their fitness. You should also know that I am trying to raise awareness with the world at large, as well as in my own home, that body fat vs. scale weight vs. internal health are three different things and should not be lumped together.
Clearly, being a personal trainer, there’s a lot of discussion in our home about nutrition, body fat, body acceptance, etc. My daughter is built on the short and stocky side, yet she is strong and healthy – not fat. But put her next to her taller and leaner best friends, sure she seems thicker – a perception that to the ignorant child/adult could be referred to as fat.
I work diligently to maintain her healthy self-esteem so that she will not suffer in middle-school, high- school and beyond. Young girls and boys’ feelings of inadequacy because society has deemed them inferior if they’re not built like models, starts in the home whether you’re aware of it or not.
My hope today for those of you who read this – and hopefully you’ll pass it on to reach more – is that everyone who worries about their “weight” should stop verbalizing their issues in front of their children. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, boyfriends, girlfriends – we all need to realize that one little innocuous sentence (“I can’t lose the last ten pounds, I hate the way I look”) can plant a very destructive seed in a little person’s brain. They’ll either see themselves as flawed, or they’ll deem other’s as flawed if they don’t match up to that perfect body expectation.
So think about what you say around your kids, and what they might internalize about themselves from it. Engage in open discussions about health, nutrition, the differences in body types, and most importantly, that ultimately we must not judge books by their covers – beauty is not just skin deep – and any other words of positive reaffirmation to remind them that life is about being a good person – not being perfect.
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.
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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.
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!