Archive for March 31, 2015

An 8-pack to Admire–Yes, I Said 8!

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I had the most outstanding moment yesterday. It was simple but profound, and my response was so calm and natural, it almost shocked me.

I’ve been trying out a new gym (a ‘CrossFit’ gym here in Germany, crazy enough) for the past week, seeing if it and the trainer resonated with me (the answer is yes, but more on that another time). I had only gone to early weekday morning classes prior to yesterday, but had been encouraged to come on Saturday, too. So I checked it out.

Walking in was a different experience in itself as a small crowd of über-athletic younger people were crowded outside in the sunshine, and my 40-year-old self was hurriedly dragging my two kids along. The other days I’d attended, everyone had been more or less like me: a little bit older, many having children. Inside wasn’t much better–full of people who were both younger and in way better condition than I am currently. Trying to cross from the door to the safe area where the kids get ‘parked,’ I saw her–a young twenty-something, crazily well-developed, 6 foot statuesque blond, wearing only leggings and a sports bra and a visible 8-pack. Ho-lee-cow.

It was like seeing a blonder, younger version of Gabrielle Reece in person in your gym. And here’s where that outstanding moment happened: instead of immediately feeling that stabbing surge of ‘I’m not good enough’ comparison to this incredible athlete, I simply took it in. I admired her muscular development and obvious athletic ability. That was it. No jealousy, no inferiority, no involuntary comparison. Just plain ‘ol admiration for her obvious work ethic, because you don’t get that way through inconsistency or wishy-washy commitment.  Just peaceful admiration and acceptance of her athletic being.  AND acceptance of mine.

That was what almost shocked me, because in the past–and not-so-distant past, if I’m being honest–I would have felt ‘less than’ in the presence of someone like her, but on this day I felt nothing but calm acceptance of the fact that she was fully engaged in the business of being her best, and I was fully engaged in the business of being mine. And those business are distinctly different, non-competing businesses. That was the simple, but profound part. It was a natural response on my part that required no conscious self-talk, just ‘wow.’

At 40, with two kids in tow and ambition on my mind, I am finally getting to be enough in MY own skin, fully engaged in MY business of becoming MY greatest self.  The relief that has come with greater self-acceptance cannot be overstated.  The experience of feeling full of myself cannot be overstated.  “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  On this day, in circumstances that would have undone my self-confidence and self-worth in the past, there was no comparison.  Only joy.

 

I. Just. Can’t.

I Just Can’t Even….

 

I just can’t get into one more body/body part disparaging conversation with another woman.

I.  Just. Can’t.

 

Haven’t we all done this at some point?  Either to connect with someone, or ‘beat someone else to the punch’ of pointing out or judging your (oh so obvious) flaws, or to ensure that they don’t think that you don’t think you’re better than they are, or that you think you’re perfect?

 

I so have.  So many times.  And I’m so over it.

 

I.  Just.  Can’t.

 

I just can’t promote or encourage or participate in any more body disparaging conversations.  I can’t even.  It does no one any good.

 

When we do this–talk about our saddle bags, or squishy bellies, or our cellulite, or how we have ‘X’ amount of pounds to go until we feel good, we devalue ourselves.  When we engage in this kind of talk with each other, we break down our value into that of body parts, we objectify ourselves, making our worth equivalent to only that of how ‘good’ this piece or part of ourselves looks.  When we talk this way, about ourselves and to each other, we promote feeling badly about ourselves, we promote shame, we promote feeling unworthy–and I can’t be a party to this any longer.

We wouldn’t want our dearest friends to talk about themselves in a way that made them feel less than worthy.  We wouldn’t want our mothers to talk about themselves in a way that made them feel less than worthy.  And we definitely wouldn’t want our daughters to talk, think or feel about themselves in any way that made them feel ‘less than,’ or ashamed of their bodies and themselves.  It would break our hearts into a million pieces.

 

The human body is so beautiful and amazing, capable of great feats of strength and endurance, adaptation and growth.  Having a healthy, mobile, fully-functioning body is cause to celebrate, not denigrate.

So much more can be accomplished when we focus positively on our gifts, talents and blessings.  So much more comes out of viewing ourselves as a total human–mind, body and spirit, and appreciating that amazing package.

 

We are so much more than just a body part,

or the sum of our collective physical bits and pieces.

 

So from this point on, I just won’t.  I won’t participate in conversations where body parts are disparaged, I won’t talk about my own body in a negative, devaluing manner.  I won’t condone those conversations when they happen around me.  I won’t listen to family, friends, clients use negative language about their bodies.

 

I. Just. Won’t.

I hope you won’t either.

 

“I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.”
– Kristen Neff*

 

It’s a hard habit to break, such a socially accepted conversation (among women, generally), but one that’s worth the effort to tackle.  But imagine the relief if you stopped pointing out all your ‘flaws’ and started point out your strengths.  Imagine how good that would feel.  What a giant weight might be lifted from your shoulders, or lump of shame removed from the pit of your stomach.  Imagine how much more you might be able to accomplish feeling good, feeling positive, working towards goals and dreams rather than against fears of not being good enough and feelings of body shame.

 

Let’s do this thing.  Together.  Let’s take this pledge:

 

Starting today, let's take this pledge_I-3

 

This is how we effect real change.  This is how we begin to free ourselves and others of body shame.  This is how we grow into our greatest selves.  Together.

 

*Kristin Neff, Ph.D. is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion, being the first one to define and conduct research on the topic over a decade ago. In addition to her pioneering research into self-compassion, she has developed an eight-week program to teach self-compassion skills.

Here’s What I Know For Sure.

Scan 4

11 years old

I was never a slim child, and when my parents separated and divorced, some emotional eating habits were born.

Food was comforting, accessible, and filled a hole. I liked sports, but always felt uncomfortable, uncoordinated, and disliked the discomfort that accompanied training hard.

 

Scan 2

Sixth Grade Soccer Season

 

 

Over many, many years (like the next 20), I went through periods of being slim and periods of being heavier, because it took me a really long time to address the emotional eating, understand I needed to exert myself regularly (and in which ways it was best for ME to do so), and make the connection between how I ate and how my body looked and felt. There was so much disconnect for so long, and many attempts at shortcuts with diet pills(GNC diet pills, Hydroxycut, Herbalife…), 2 hour bouts of exercise, doing the ‘workout du jour’ from fitness magazines and those recommended by fitness ‘experts’….

 

It took time to figure out what worked for ME, what worked for my lifestyle, my happiness–time and the good fortune of meeting sane and smart trainers who had mindsets that were both positive and fierce.

 

I don’t know if you ever fully shake emotional eating, or if you just learn to manage it in periods of stress. I don’t know if you ever totally shake poor body image, or the inner feeling of being ‘the fat kid.’

 

What I do know is that you should never give up. That learning what works for you, where both diet and exercise are concerned, is worth the time, effort and investment it requires. I know, from past experience and current life satisfaction, that the pursuit of living comfortably in one’s own skin is the ultimate goal, not a certain number on the scale, or level of body fat, or size of a pair of jeans.

 

That’s what I want for you–to find what’s best for YOU and to ultimately live comfortably in your own skin.

Whatever the effort, whatever the journey, it’s worth it.
YOU’RE worth it.

Oops, I did it AGAIN.

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I felt so strong, and happy, and proud, and ready to take on new challenges after physical therapy.

 

During that session, I was able to fully appreciate how much progress I’ve made in the treatment of my lumbar/SI joint issues since I started treatment in December (2014).

 

I have progressed in difficulty in all of my exercises, I’ve developed an even greater level of body awareness and muscular control, and, best of all–I’ve been pain free for weeks.

 

My efforts are paying off, and that’s a source of great comfort, hope and pride for me.  I walked around like I was ten feet tall the rest of the day.

 

Until….

 

Until I reviewed the proofs from my most recent photo shoot and turned into my own worst critic.

 

Nevermind that those photos showed my strength, nevermind that I was my most relaxed and the happiest I’ve ever been when getting my picture taken, nevermind that there are some gorgeous shots in that collection.

 

The thing my tired mind zoned in on:  all the ways in which I wasn’t CUT or RIPPED or LEAN or….WORTHY.

 

Whoa.  

 

 

I thought I was way past this kind of thinking, of getting my self-worth tied up in, and defined by, aesthetics.

 

I’ve spent the past two years in particular getting comfortable in my own skin, encouraging other women to adopt more positive body images–to love their bodies ‘as is.’

 

I’ve focused on practicing gratitude rather than criticism and comparison and I still fell into the trap of comparing myself, my body, to the images I see so often in social media.

 

Shoot, I even compared myself to my ‘old self,’ which I guess freaked me out even more.  WTF.

 

I went to bed, struggling with myself, trying to ‘right the ship.’  And when I woke up the next morning, I had a moment of clarity:

 

 

These are the only times I feel dissatisfied with my body:

  • When I look at fitness photos of other women and then compare them to my own (or compare my current self to my ‘old’ self)
  • When my body doesn’t feel strong, capable of performing at the level I’m accustomed (and this is usually due to a lapse in training–which is easy to get over, because I’m always actively planning my ‘comeback’)

 

 

The times I don’t like my body the most are the times I focus purely on the superficial and/or COMPARE myself to images of others or to my past body.  HOW FREAKING RIDICULOUS.  It was another reminder that “comparison is the thief of joy.”

 

 

What the most recent pictures can’t show is how much better I feel in my body now than I did in the past.  How much more capable an athlete, person, trainer and coach than I’ve ever been before.  How much more kind, compassionate, understanding and supportive I’ve grown–to myself and others.

 

Understanding what triggers my feelings of dissatisfaction and lack of worth, I turned to the other side of the equation:  when it is I feel most satisfied with my body.

 

 

These are the times I feel the most at peace with, and proud of, my body:

  • When I run
  • When I lift heavy things
  • When I can do difficult tasks safely (moving heavy boxes, tires, carrying my 65-pound dog up and down the stairs, etc.)

 

 

And those times are pretty much everyday occurrences.

 

Here’s what I know for certain:  Focusing on aesthetics (how you look) alone as a motivator and way to evaluate success (and worth) vs. failure (and lack of worth) is a surefire recipe for never, ever being satisfied.  It’s like constantly aiming at a moving target–FOREVER, because aesthetics are transient.

 

I refer to it as chasing the ‘Aesthetics Unicorn,’ because it’s about as possible to ‘catch’ and keep a physique permanently as it is to catch and keep a unicorn.

 

 

Our bodies are always changing, adapting, and AGING.  We just can’t look exactly the same as we did or exactly as we think we should all the time. It’s just not possible.  It’s also permanently dissatisfying.  What a way to live.

 

 

I might have gone there, to that joy-stealing-aesthetic-comparison-never-quite-good-enough place for an evening, but I sure as hell don’t want to live there.  And I sure as hell don’t want YOU to live there either.

 

Here’s how I pulled myself back from ‘the ledge’:

  • I identified my emotional trigger:  comparison, focusing only on the superficial physique, judging myself in a one-dimensional manner
  • I challenged the negative thoughts and examined their validity:  Does my leanness really reflect my true fitness, my message, my skills and abilities?  Is it a good measure of anything I stand for or hope to accomplish?  Am I serving others by engaging in this kind of thinking?
  • I redirected my thinking in a positive direction:  I considered all the things I’m proud of and feel good about.  None of them had to do with having or maintaining a super low body fat percentage.  All of the things I am proud of are performance-based:  pull ups, running, lifting progressively heavier weights, learning new and challenging movements and exercises as I age, setting a positive example for my kids, clients, community of what positive thinking and consistent hard work can accomplish.
  • I expressed my gratitude for a healthy and mobile body.  Not everyone gets or has one of those, I’m going to appreciate mine.

 

==>THIS is exactly why I started choosing to focus on performance-based goals rather than aesthetics-based goals about 2 years ago.

==>THIS is why I continue to focus on performance-based goals as my source of challenge, motivation and worth.

==>THIS is why I encourage my clients so strongly to focus on performance-based goals, too.

==>THIS is why I promote doing things like pull ups and push ups so much.

 

Turning the focus from the outside (appearances) to the inside (muscular strength and endurance) builds a healthier mindset, a more positive outlook, and a more satisfying life experience.

 

My new healthy thinking mantra, to combat any of those icky negative thoughts that will inevitably pop in from time to time:

 

“I work out to be more of myself, not less.”

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#takebackfitspo

 

 

When you have those moments when you feel ‘less than’ or allow yourself to go to that ugly place of comparison, try to:

  • identify what triggers that feeling,

  • stop the negative thought from running away with you,

  • redirect your thoughts into a positive direction–find something to praise,

  • practice gratitude for the body you have,

  • and work your mantra.

 

We all go ‘there’ sometimes, but we sure as hell don’t want to stay there.

Take Over the World with this One Exercise…

 The Pull Up. 

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March 2015

 

I know, I talk about pull ups a lot these days.
Yes, it’s a bit of an obsession, but I’m okay with that 🙂

 

It’s one of my very, very favorite exercises because it’s one of those things I NEVER thought I’d be able to do, starting as a kid. Heck, the flexed arm hang was a no-go at the age of 11….Now, at age 40, they are a staple in my strength workouts throughout the week.

 

 

The pull up is just a freaking empowering move, especially for us ladies. Knocking out your first full, unassisted pull up will open up a brand-new world to you, because if you can do that one pull up, that means eventually you can do 2. And then eventually 3. And on and on….

Spring 2014

Spring 2014, 2 years after my quest to do pull ups began.

 

But it doesn’t just stop with the pull ups, because after you start excelling at those, you might start to question all those other limitations you once imposed on yourself–all those things that you thought you could never do because you were too old, didn’t have enough strength, because your gender is supposed to be the weaker….

 

 

 

Those self-imposed limits start to look questionable, because if you can do those pull ups after trying hard, training hard and believing it was possible, then why would you not be able to do those other things, both in the gym and out in real life, IF you tried hard, trained hard, or studied hard and BELIEVED it was possible???  The world becomes your oyster.  BAM.

 

 

THAT is why I love the pull up so much–not just because of the awesome physical results it produces, but because of the huge boost to the spirit it can give.

 

The biggest things for me, as I have learned how to do pull ups, and do them better, as well as coaching several other women to do pull ups (and they’re now addicted!) are:

 

1. Learn to pull from your back. Doing scapular pull-ups can teach you how to initiate the movement from your back/lats.  Here’s an example: http://ow.ly/Kykot

 

2. Think about lifting your collar bones up to the bar rather than sticking your chin over the bar. This keeps your neck long, your spine in better position and spares your shoulder joints future agony (trust me on this one—personal experience).

 

3. Squeeze your butt tight. Keeping your butt squeezed can help eliminate swinging of the hips which takes away from your power.

 

4. Do as many bodyweight reps as you can, then switch to using a bodyband when you get tired (demo here: http://ow.ly/KAcpJ) OR practice holding your body in the top position for 5 seconds, then lower slowly for 5 seconds (Mike Boyle shows this in his video https://youtu.be/0U4oHiFXdWo). Hop up to the top position when you need to! *Fair warning: doing any kind of eccentric (slow lowering) work can make you extra sore, so don’t let that startle you in the 24-48 hours afterwards–it can make putting on deodorant or washing your hair an interesting experience ;)*

The bodybands come in all different levels of resistance, and they’ll list approximately how many pounds of resistance each band gives. When you’re starting out, you’ll want a little more assistance and as you progress, a little less They are super easy to find on Amazon, and it might be worth getting a set of them–they are really versatile tools and so easy to use just about anywhere.

 

5. Put your pull ups at the beginning of your workouts. Give yourself at least 90-120 seconds between sets. It’s a hard exercise and a full-body effort.

 

6. Deadlift exercises and ‘hard style’ planks can also help get you stronger for your pull ups, so you might want to consider adding them into your strength training.

(Here’s a good tutorial on hard style planks:  https://youtu.be/j8P14TJEC)

 

This is the year! Get it!

This is the year! Get it!

Happy Pulling and keep me posted–I can’t wait to hear about your successes and see your photos and videos throughout the year!

It ain’t about the 6-pack.

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So tomorrow I have THE photo shoot with the fabulously talented Paige of Paige Kimball Photography (http://www.paigekimballphotography.com).

 

Contemplating tomorrow got me started thinking about motivation to work out/eat better–specifically, how this particular event should have driven my exercising and dieting so that I would achieve a more ‘camera-ready fitness figure’ (imagine air quotes on those words).

 

You would think that putting my ‘hottest bod’ out there would motivate me to dial in that diet, to get super focused on eating for that aesthetic outcome, the less soft and more chiseled look.

 

And….it did. A little.

 

A few weeks ago, my waistbands weren’t fitting so kindly and I recognized I needed to tighten the diet up a bit, so I cut out the extras and got more vigilant about the amount of vegetables and starchy/simple carbs I took in (one up, the other down!).

 

I made my great HIIT-it plan (because nothing slims my midsection better than High Intensity Interval Training sessions for a few weeks)…and then I caught the nastiest upper respiratory virus I’ve ever had (as did most of Bavaria, apparently).

 

So HIIT plans went out the window pretty quick as I was laid up for 10+days and had to work my way back to walk/jogging 2 miles.

 

I guess I could have followed some kind of ‘get cut’ diet, but I simply found no joy or use in doing so.

 

 

So like I said, you’d think ‘being cut’ for pictures would have been motivating, but it wasn’t. Well, only a little bit, anyway 😉

 

What I have learned about myself, and I think this rule can be generalized to many others, is that I’m only temporarily, at best, motivated by an aesthetic goal.

 

I do enjoy looking nice, I don’t enjoy feeling like my jeans are too tight, and those kind of help me stay on track, but they aren’t my main motivators.

 

I’ve had the great privilege of training many clients whose bodies had ‘considerations,’ as I like to put it, I’ve worked as an instructor with the Warrior Transition Unit on post, and I volunteer in a physical therapy clinic every week.

 

When you’re surrounded by people who just want their bodies to work better, to move better or at least with less pain, it can change the way you look at and conceive of fitness.

 

 

Maybe once fitness meant having a 6-pack or staying at 18% body fat (or less), but now it’s more about personal freedom, longevity, and just enjoying the shit out of what I can do for as long as I can.

 

 

The things I now find motivating?

 

Creating the most athletic, capable body possible.

Rocking out some serious pull ups.

Tackling hill runs with joy and gusto.

Learning new skills and tricks and trying crazy, once ‘impossible’ things, remembering that once pull ups were ‘impossible,’ too.

Inspiring others to push back their self-imposed limits and strive to reach THEIR full potential, regardless of body shape, size or ‘considerations.’

Helping people to live fuller lives through conquering limits, managing fears, and tapping into their own inner strengths.

THESE things have now become the force that drives me, that motivates me to eat better, sleep more, indulge a little less.

 

Aesthetics are temporary, fleeting, impossible to maintain day in and day out for the rest of your life.

 

I just can’t get excited about working out to get a 6-pack anymore.

 

I can get excited about finding my own greatness, resilience, talents, and strengths from here until the end of the road, though.

 

That’s a hell of a lot more exciting than a 6-pack. Trust me, I’ve had experience with both.

The Biggest Calorie Blaster EVER! NEAT.

This is the help I get mowing the lawn.

 

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I swear my husband just got back from a deployment.

 

 

I swear he did.

 

 

Actually, he really did just get back–he’s only been home for 8 weeks after being gone for 8 months straight; now he’s gone again, attending a school on another continent for another 6 weeks (stifling the urge to scream!).

 

 

 

This isn’t my first rodeo, not by a long shot.

 

 

 

But that doesn’t make things easier.  Every deployment, mission, or TDY assignment brings it’s own challenges.

 

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The worst parts are far and away the emotional challenges–being lonely, trying to meet the needs of upset kids who naturally act up and out and every which way.  But there is also the one-person-doing-the-work-of-two-adults labor factor that is an inevitable component.

 

 

 

It was from these experiences over the years, all the deployment/mission/TDY assignment ‘rodeos’ that I learned the impact all that non-exercise activity has on your bottom line–really, your waistline, as it turns out!

 

 

 

Each time my husband goes away, I have to pick up the slack–all of it.

 

 

Dishes need to be done?  I’m it.

 

Laundry needs sorting/washing/drying/folding?  I’m it.

 

Dog needs walking or to be carried down the stairs (she’s old) or ferried to the vet?  I’m it.

 

Kids need to be taxied to their extracurricular events?  I’m it.

 

Food needs cooking?  I’m it.

 

Groceries need purchasing for the cooking?  I’m it.

 

Floor needs mopping, snacks need packing, lawn needs mowing, seasonal tires need storing, furniture needs moving, cars need cleaning…the list goes on.

 

And, yes, I’m it.

 

 

But being “IT” means I am ACTIVE.

 

 

If I’m not driving or eating a meal with the kids (or getting a blog posted on my website, lol), I am on my feet.

 

 

It’s perfectly normal for me to get up just before the kids at 6 (so I can relish the calm before the storm with my sanity-saving cup of coffee) and stay active and occupied until 10 PM.  It ends up that all this moving around all day long burns some serious extra calories.

 

 

Within two weeks of my husband leaving, my pants will fit more loosely, without fail.  Stress (non) eating notwithstanding in those times where I haven’t coped as well, I will eat the same, and I will lose some weight and definitely some circumference.

 

 

Before I studied exercise science, I was a little surprised and mystified by the sudden shift in weight and circumference, since my eating and exercise habits would stay about the same, but I’ve since learned that this waistline-shrinking change is due to the power of NEAT.

 

 

NEAT stands for ‘Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.’

 

 

And what non-exercise activity thermogenesis boils down to is everything you do, outside of your workouts and RMR (aka: REE), that requires energy (burns calories).

 

 

RMR is your resting metabolic rate, which means all the energy your body needs to basically stay alive and function each day, and RMR plus the thermic effect of food (energy it takes to digest) plus your exercise activities plus your NEAT makes up the total amount of energy your body requires (TDEE, or total daily energy expenditure)–which can also be thought of as the calories you burn doing all these things.

 

 

 

RMR can make up 60-75% of your total caloric needs/burn, and variations can probably be credited to how much lean muscle you have on your body.  The thermic effect of food can take credit for about 10% of calorie expenditure, and activity thermogenesis (exercise+NEAT) then takes credit for anywhere from 15-30% of your total calorie expenditure.

 

 

 

We can influence our RMR through exercise to increase and improve our lean muscle mass, and we can burn a certain amount of calories in a workout session, which both help us out in tons of ways.  But the biggest potential area for us to burn calories and influence our bottom line comes from NEAT–everything else we do throughout the day.

 

 

http://www.mayoclinic.org/documents/mc5810-0307-pdf/doc-20079082

 

When my husband is away for longer periods of time, my energy output increases significantly, and if I don’t adjust my eating (calorie intake) then I lose weight/inches.

 

 

 

And the NEAT factor works in reverse, too, as I once again experienced after my husband’s re-deployment during the holidays!  I’m fortunate to have really supportive family, and had my dad’s help during Christmas, too, so suddenly, after many months on my own, I had TWO other sets of adult hands to help out with all the tasks–which meant less work for me AND that meant less energy output from me, too.  While it was definitely a relief to have so much help, of course, but my diminished daily workload, combined with holiday foods and celebrations, showed up on my waist again, 4 weeks later.

 

 

I hadn’t gone hog-wild eating or stopped exercising, my NEAT had just dropped significantly and I hadn’t adjusted my habits to balance that change out.  The result?  Those waistbands on my jeans got SNUG.

 

 

 

Since I’ve been through this cycle a few times, I recognized what I was dealing with, and knew I needed to examine my ‘new normal,’ and reevaluate my level of activity.  Sitting more, working less around the house, gym and physical therapy clinic meant I needed to readjust my intake to match my NEAT better.

 

 

 

4 weeks later, I’m back to a more normal feeling in my jeans (phew!) without crazy dieting or exercising, just cutting out the extras and doing more around the house.

 

 

Now that this next TDY assignment is underway *sigh* and I’m a one-woman show again, chances are that NEAT will work it’s magic again over the next few weeks, and I may need to reevaluate my eating to support my changing energy needs.  I’ll likely do this by using a food journal with a behavior/attitude component for a few days, which will give me more concrete information (not emotional impressions) to work with.

 

Too often, we get tied up with the idea that we can ‘just burn it off’ in the gym with a massive sweat session, or ‘jump-start’ our metabolism with some 2-a-day workouts.

 

And while there is definitely the possibility of burning lots of calories in these planned exercise efforts, there’s also the distinct possibility of being train-wrecked for the rest of the day–which pretty much kills your NEAT.  

 

 

In the effort to ‘torch’ calories, you might just be inhibiting your biggest calorie burner!

 

 

Turn this into a pattern of behavior, and….it becomes a vicious, frustrating, and unhelpful cycle.

 

 

So if improving your NEAT is the key to improving your bottom line in the calorie-burning campaign, what can you do? (Short of sending your significant other, or anyone who provides you support in your lifestyle, for weeks at a time!)

 

 

Choose convenience less and hands-on work/extra movement opportunities more.

 

 

Some of these options might sound a little cliché, but they add up, so they really do make a difference.

 

  • Park at the far end of the parking lot

 

  • Carry your own groceries instead of pushing them or getting assistance to your car

 

  • Stand while folding clothes

 

  • Do the dishes by hand

 

  • Take the stairs–EVERY time

 

  • Use a push mower for the lawn

 

 

  • Change the channel by hand, not with the remote

 

  • Pace while talking on the phone

 

  • Stand while working on your computer/lap top/tablet

 

  • Go for a walk with the family after dinner

 

  • Walk to ride bike to run errands when possible

 

 

And in an office scenario?

 

  • Take frequent water breaks or drink lots of water–this will also add up to some *other* breaks throughout the day, too!

 

  • Move your trash/recycle bins farther away from where you sit

 

  • Walk to communicate with a coworker rather than sending a message/email

 

  • Take a walk with coworkers at lunch

 

  • Have “walk and talk” meetings rather than lunch meetings or sitting at a table or desk

 

I have a few more weeks to reap the magic effects of NEAT during my ‘one-woman show,’  (although, if I’m being honest, I’d rather be lying in the sun on a tropical island) and I’ll be using this time to finish leaning out my waist from my holiday/post-deployment indulgences.

 

No dieting, no crazy exercise regimes, just more basic movement throughout the day.

 

And this time when my husband comes home, I’ll be prepared to reevaluate my NEAT and adjust accordingly so I won’t be adjusting my waistband!

 

Look for those little opportunities in each day, in each environment (work, home, etc.), where you can add in a little physical effort and your NEAT will grow, too–which means your waist might just shrink!

 

 

Make your NEAT work for you.

 

 

 

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Maintaining those 6-pack abs…and why it’s a non-issue.

I have a couple of things to get off my chest. 

 

Confession #1: I’m not as lean as I have been in the recent past, or as lean as I could be right now.

Confession #2: The only reason I care at this given moment is that I’m getting some fitness photos done with my favorite photographer before she bails on Europe, lol (she’s PCS’ing).

Confession #3: I’m not sure how much I care that my abs look much softer than in past photos, because I feel really good–and solid–right now.

Confession #4: The only times I worry about my leanness vs. softness is when I begin to entertain the ‘what will other people think?’ thought process. Which is rarely (having spent the last year training myself out of it), AND I am stronger, and more athletic, and more knowledgable than I’ve ever been before–soft abs and all.

 

Why am I telling you this? 

 

Because I struggle with self-image and self-concept, too, although far less than I used to, because I’ve really worked hard on my thinking. I often feel a pressure to live up to my old fitness pics or an expectation of how I should look as a female fitness professional. But I’ve chosen to define myself and my own success, to never apologize for my body, and to evaluate myself as an athlete not an object. This is why I chase pull up PRs and do Tough Mudders–they make me feel like more of myself, not less, and my reflection has zero bearing on whether I can pull myself up to that bar or over that wall.

 

What’s more, I feel a moral obligation to encourage others, my daughter and other girls and women in particular, to stop evaluating themselves and their relative worth based on their body fat percentage, scale weight, or any other aesthetic ‘lack of perfection’ and/or social approval of how they look.

 

Happiness and power are found when one lives comfortably, and unapologetically, in their own skin. 

 

It’s time to stop apologizing for ‘flaws’ and time to start really loving the skin you’re in. And if you don’t feel strong enough to do it for yourself, do it for your daughter, sister, cousin, best friend.

 

When we bring ourselves up, we bring up everyone around us.

Friends don’t let friends be cardio bunnies! (Or, how I barely kept my mouth shut in the locker room)

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I swear I wasn’t eavesdropping.

 

 

I was just changing out of my running shoes and into my lifting shoes (yes, I wear different shoes for different activities, lol) and they were loud. Very loud.

 

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And it was all I could do to just change my shoes and not open my mouth–because I know that free advice is worth all you pay for it AND no one asked for my input.

 

 

It was still REALLY hard to shut up on this one.

 

 

One woman was complaining to the other that no matter what she did, her body just wouldn’t change.

 

  • That she had horrible genetics.
  • That she worked out TONS throughout the week–biking or spinning a few hours a week, running a bunch, then putting in long-duration efforts on the weekends–you’d think with all the calories she was burning, she’d lose more weight (her words)!
  • That she used to really follow a strict eating plan, but that after a while, she ‘just couldn’t hack it.’
  • That she was now considering adjusting her caloric intake, increasing it from 1200 calories because she wasn’t making any progress and she was starving all the time.

 

The one commiserated with the other. She just couldn’t, despite her best efforts, get her body to budge either.

 

 

 

 

You can see why it took iron will on my part not to bust into that conversation!!!

 

 

But I wasn’t infuriated or frustrated with THEM.

 

 

I actually feel a ton of compassion for them, and for so many others (mostly women) who struggle with their weight, cardio-ing themselves into the ground, restricting calories OR being disconnected from the impact of their eating habits, doing the same old strength training workouts, or barely strength training, grinding themselves down but getting nowhere.

 

 

It’s the ‘do more cardio to burn more calories’ approach that prevails all too often that kills me. That and the ‘I’m not getting results, so I’ll cut my calories to 1200 (or below)’ practice (a separate topic).

 

 

More cardio, longer cardio, fasted cardio…these alone are not going to help you burn fat/lose weight.

 

 

When women think they just need to run/spin/bike/elliptical for longer to make their body cooperate–no, to make it submit–it makes me cringe.

 

 

And I’m a runner, a distance one at that, so that’s saying a lot coming from me.

 

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Don’t get me wrong, cardio has it’s place, and for many good reasons (a great read on the topic: http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/blog/long-duration-low-intensity-cardio/). BUT it shouldn’t be your only form of exercise, and more is not (always) better.

 

 

The problem that a lot of women have is that they do cardio exclusively, do the same kind of cardio repeatedly, and do that cardio at a very moderate intensity.

 

 

Initially, when you’re building up your fitness base, you need this kind of cardio to burn calories and help your body adapt and grow stronger so it can handle more challenging kinds of movement (with greater impact) later.

 

 

But there comes a point when there are diminishing returns, and the body gets used to the kind of cardio you’re doing and gets more efficient, and finds ways to use less energy to get the same job done. And when the job is the same over and over again…the result is less caloric output, and no further muscle development.

 

 

Which brings me to the topic of muscles. What pops into your head when you hear or read the word ‘muscles?’ Arnold? The Rock? A cover model for a fitness magazine? (I’m an exercise geek, so I picture muscle fibers and muscle bundles, lol).

 

 

My point is that we, as women, too often perceive the terms ‘muscle’ and ‘muscle development’ to mean busting out of our clothes like the Hulk on ‘roids.

 

 

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That concept scares the bejeebers out of tons of women who don’t want to get ‘bulky’ and think lifting anything greater than a 10-lb. weight (five, if they listen to Tracy Anderson *insert visible cringe*) will cause their muscles to burst out of their shirts.

 

 

 

I promise this is not true. I swear to you it’s not true. I’ve been training hard and lifting heavy for several years, and I’ve only gotten more compact, not larger.

 

 

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April 2016: After a year of lifting the heaviest weights I’ve ever lifted consistently. No bulking.

In all actuality, lifting challenging weights consistently is one of THE greatest ways to improve your metabolism and your body composition (muscle:fat ratio, simply put).

 

It creates a situation where your body needs to use more energy to repair the micro-damage caused to muscle tissue when it’s challenged through weight (resistance) training, and using more energy means burning more calories.

 

 

All. Day. Long. Like 24/7 (It adds to your NEAT–that’s a topic for another blog).

 

 

More active muscle tissue means greater caloric burn all the time, AND even greater challenge (more caloric burn) when you do cardio, because the muscle fibers have been taxed in a new way and have to work a little harder to do that same old job.

 

 

Which brings me back to cardio.

 

 

Cardio is wonderful, and amazing, and soothing, and there is definitely a place for steady-state, longer-duration cardio in most people’s fitness plans. It’s good for endurance, it’s good for cardiovascular health and efficiency, it creates a nice, meditative ‘hum’ in the brain (my particular favorite, as running keeps me sane!).

 

 

All good things.

 

 

Also all things that won’t be continue to be great contributors to fat loss (weight loss) and body composition changes after a certain point. What will be a great contributor to continued body composition changes is changing things up a bit.

 

 

I mentioned I’m a runner, so obviously I don’t detest or demonize cardio. I don’t train the same way, for the same mileage, at the same intensity day after day, however. I like distance running–ALOT–but each of my runs during the week serves a different purpose.

 

 

I usually run three to four times a week, and these runs will include: one long-distance steady-state run to work on my endurance (especially if I’m training for a half-marathon), another run will be a middle-distance tempo run where I run at the fastest sustainable pace I can manage throughout the whole run, and another will be a sprint session where I run Tabata-timed sprints or 30-second sprints or hill repeats to improve my power (VO2 max).

 

 

But you don’t have to be a runner to adopt the same kind of approach to your workouts.

 

Whatever your preferred cardio modality (method), changing the intensity and duration of your workouts throughout the week can be a game-changer.

 

 

One longer duration, one sprint session, one ‘tempo’ session at the edge of your ability, and one interval session can make a world of difference in one’s body composition (and boredom factor!).

 

 

I also love circuit and interval training. This is where lifting weights and cardio intersect 🙂

 

 

Good Stuff.

 

 

My favorite circuits are ones that alternate between a strength training exercise and a cardio interval or ‘burst.’ Moving as quickly as you can, with good form, from one exercise to the next, with brief rests between, stimulates greater caloric expenditure than just plodding away on the treadmill or step mill for hours.

 

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10 minute kettlebell training sessions and other short ‘sprint’ workouts have created a much leaner physique than long runs ever did.

It also gives your heart a different kind of conditioning than steady-state cardio, which is beneficial as well–the two conditioning effects on the heart tissue are a nice combination (again, read Mike’s article). Usually, I include at least one circuit or interval session in my weekly workouts, as well as two more traditional weight training sessions.

 

 

THIS form of ‘changing it up’ is what your body needs to change, not just more cardio.

 

 

So when it comes to cardio, remember the adage: “More is not better. Better is better.”

 

 

Swapping out some longer cardio sessions for weight training and circuits? Even better.

 

 

But please don’t try to support your new, muscle-building (think SHAPING) and interval training efforts on 1,200 calories or less. That’s a recipe for disaster. And a subject for another day….

 

 

And remember:  Friends don’t let friends be cardio bunnies!

 

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