Archive for May 26, 2015

Why I REALLY work out–And why YOU should, too.

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That moment when…you realize that doing ‘The Murph’ was the easiest part of your day.

This parenting thing is no joke.

I sometimes kid that I push myself so hard in workouts and choose physical challenge after challenge because it gives me the endurance, and keeps me mentally tough enough, to deal with the rigors of parenting, being an Army spouse, and living overseas.

 

 

I kid…except I don’t kid.

 

Really, over time, I realized that my running created in me an ability to endure and persevere, even when things were really painful and difficult.

Burgbernheim Berglauf 2015

 

 

I realized that pushing my physical abilities–how much I could lift, how many reps I could do, how many rounds of a conditioning workout I could take–created a trust in my own strength, my own ability to make things happen when I felt like there was nothing left to give.

 

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Weighted Chin Ups, December 2014

 

And those things are huge.

 

 

This is why I speak so often about working out to get stronger, and not so much about working out to get ‘skinnier’ or leaner or shapelier. There’s nothing wrong with working out to achieve a different body aesthetic, but for me the real depth and power of exercise is how is builds your character. How it builds your self-trust. How it builds your ability to endure. Those, my friends, are worth working for.

 

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12th CAB Combat Spouses’ Day Winners, 2014

While you’re busy challenging yourself to run a little farther, do a couple more reps, or take on a more challenging exercise, you’re also building the muscle of your character.

 

 

And THAT outcome is worth more than gold.

Blow Past Your Limits!

To uncover your true potential you must first find your own limits and then you have to have the courage to blow past them.”


-Picabo Street

I used to be deathly afraid of running, because it was hard and uncomfortable and I didn’t feel good at it.  

I used to fear doing pull-ups because I was convinced I’d never be able to do them—there was no way I could have that much upper body strength.
I used to be scared to push myself to my limits in any maximal effort activity: sprints, nasty tempo rides in spin class, mountain ‘slider’ Tabatas (mountain climbers, but with a washcloth or sliding disc under your feet), first because I was afraid I’d barf, and second, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it.
I’d accepted that other people were stronger or tougher or more capable than I was.
I was utterly convinced of my own limits.  For YEARS.
Then I started running regularly.  Then I started running longer.  I discovered I could go much further than I’d given myself credit for.
I started sprinting, well, to keep up with my toddler who loved to dart off into the street in the blink of an eye if I’m being honest, and I discovered I could run FAST when I needed to.  I’d given up on sprinting in 6th grade when I was the slowest girl in the 50-yard dash.
I started allowing myself to go to what I like to call ‘the bad place’ (the point at which you feel like you might lose your cookies) in HIIT sessions and classes.  I discovered ‘the bad place’ wasn’t so bad, that it wasn’t the end for me; that I could work through it and past it and still have more power left—without barfing.
I started to realize, over the period of a few years, that every one of the limits I’d bought into wasn’t an actual limit.

Those limits only existed in my head.

That’s the thing about limits—they are self-imposed.  

What you can and can’t do.

What you can and can’t stand.

What you can and can’t endure.

What you can and can’t live with.

IT’S.  ALL.  IN.  YOUR.  HEAD.

There comes a point in time when you have to challenge those limits—those concepts about your strength and potential—or be their slave forever.
There comes a time when you have to take responsibility for those limits.  There comes a time when you have to OWN your thoughts and choices—to recognize it’s up to YOU.
Your relative success or failure, your courage or fear, your accomplishments:  They are all up to YOU.
It takes courage, and practice, and practicing courage regularly to challenge those limits we’ve bought into.  But the only way you can find out what you’re REALLY capable of is to get out there and TEST yourself.  And this requires the ability to also practice self-forgiveness, the ability to be vulnerable, to do things that are uncomfortable, to allow ourselves to potentially ‘fail’ or come up short—all really hard things to feel!

“You learn courage by couraging.” 

~Mary Daly, theologian

Start ‘Couraging’

and Test Your Limits.

Start by choosing one thing that scares you.
Most recently I chose to go all out during a timed AMRAP workout (as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes).
Then do the thing that scares you, and don’t let your brain talk you out of it, don’t let those ‘I don’t think I can do this’ messages creep in and distract you.
For me, it was completing rounds of 3-5 pull ups, 7-15 push ups, 200 meter sprints and 20 med ball slams—as fast and as hard as possible without resting.  For 20 minutes.
There was that voice that said ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ but I replaced that message with ‘I will do every last bit I can until I cannot do any more, even if it’s scary and uncomfortable.’  I put my head down and worked.  I kept breathing, I kept moving, I kept trying until the 20 minutes was up.  The result was 6 rounds plus one pull up.
What I found was I could do so much more than I’d given myself credit for.  I could withstand greater levels of discomfort, I had much more strength in reserve than I’d ever realized.  The place I’d assumed my tank was on empty was still at least ¼ full.
I found that I had confused discomfort with the end of my strength reserve, the end of my ability, and that changing my mind about my discomfort changed my experience of what a full effort really felt like.
I found that I was a stronger version of myself, more capable of endurance and more courageous—and these things translate far past the boundaries of fitness.  They change the way in which we see ourselves.
I wouldn’t have known that had I not challenged my limits, allowed myself to get uncomfortable and potentially ‘fail,’ replaced that inhibiting negative self-talk with a more positive script.

Test YOUR Limits.

  • Choose a limit you think you have—personally, physically or emotionally.
  • Replace negative self-talk with a positive script.  It can be as simple as ‘I will do all I can.’
  • Challenge that limit—do the thing you think you cannot do. REALLY do it.  Don’t hold back, put your full self into it.  Use your positive script to keep you focused.
  • Evaluate your result.  Did you put your full effort in?  Was your limit really where you thought it was?  How does this change how you look at other ‘limits’?  How does this change how you look at yourself?  Even if your performance matches exactly the limit you’d perceived, you still know what you are truly capable of AND how you can grow stronger.

Own your fears, own your dreams, own your hopes, own your choices, and challenge those limits you’ve accepted or put on yourself.

Then blow past them.

Best Ab Exercise in EVER.

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Want to do the best, most effective, easy to do anywhere ab exercise EVER???

Want to feel and perform better doing squats, lunges, push ups, planks, deadlifts and overhead exercises of any kind??

MAKE THE CANISTER.

 

Seriously, you read that right!

“Make the canister” refers to moving the ribcage to a better position so that it’s aligned with the pelvis, tightening the abs and supporting the spine in the process.  It’s an adjustment that can help ANYONE of any level of fitness perform and feel better.

To make the canister, you need to pull the bottom of your ribcage in so it lines up with your pelvis, and I dare you not to tighten your abs in the process!  What you end up with is a tight and stable torso where your abs are ‘on’ and your spine well-supported.

 

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In squats, this translates to less low back pain and better use of your butt muscles.  In lunges, this translates to less low back pain and more stability/less wobbling.

 

 

In push ups this translates to less low back pain (see a theme here?) and a more rigid body–which makes the push up quite a bit more manageable!  (It’s the difference between moving a sand bag and a 2×4.  Catch my drift?)

 

Planks of any kind?  Same deal as the push ups.  Deadlifts?  Better use of the glutes, less chance of wrenching the low back.  And overhead exercises?  Done with a stable ‘canister,’ there is so much less chance of hurting the low back, and better use of the shoulders and/or back.

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Huge selling point/bonus to ‘making the canister’ throughout all your exercises in your workout?

 

MASSIVE ab work.  

 

 

I’ve had more clients complain about the burn from maintaining the canister throughout a workout than I’ve heard complain during ‘actual’ ab exercises.  It’s a vertical ab workout and more bang for your buck–which any of my clients will tell you I LOVE.

 

Plus, you can do it all day long in every other part of your life and get some awesome results.
So during your next strength training workout, or when you’re just hanging around the house or waiting in line at the store, try making the canister–and see what a difference it makes for you.

 

Crack Nuts Faster: Squeeze the ‘Po!

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Here’s a useful Trainer Tip:  Squeeze the ‘Po.’

I’m drawing on my use of German slang here,
Popo being slang for butt :).

 

But really (okay that pun was mostly unintentional), ‘Squeezing the Po,’ or glutes, can be a hugely helpful and simple action that can decrease low back discomfort while exercising–particularly strength training–and increase your performance.

Now, I’m not talking about cracking walnuts with those puppies, I’m just recommending enough of a tightening to make you aware of using your glutes.  It will give you greater pelvic and spinal stability, which in turn makes it possible for you to move more weight with greater comfort (and I’m not just talking about in the gym), but get more bang for your buck when lifting weights.

 

Places I’ve seen giving the Po a squeeze being extremely helpful are:  during ANY exercise where your body is facing the floor (prone), particularly push ups, planks of any variety, plank to push ups, bird dogs, supermans, etc….give your glutes a nice squeeze to create a little stabilizing muscle tension, and it makes them all easier to perform.  It’s easier to move a 2×4 than dead/limp weight, right?!  This technique is also super helpful when doing inverted rows of any kind (TRX, barbell, smith machine) or pull ups–here they stop the lower body from swinging and taking away power from your movement!

 

 

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The ‘Po is squeezed whenever I do push ups.

Squeezing the Po is also super helpful when performing lower body exercises, too, particularly squats and deadlifts.  Before you lower into a squat, squeeze the Po.  Keep it squeezed when lowering and lifting!  Before you lower or lift the weight in a deadlift (depending on which variation you’re doing), squeeze the Po–especially when your hips are as far back as they can go.  Keep it squeezed the whole time.  Single leg squats or reverse lunges?  Squeeze the Po.  Glute bridging?  Squeeze the Po–before you lift your hips and throughout the whole movement.

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Band-resisted Deadlifts: That ‘Po is squeezed tight!

Once this tactic dawned on me, and it was one of those “Duh!!” and “Why did this not occur to me sooner?” moments, all of my push ups and planking became MUCH more comfortable and helped me get more reps out.  (Remember, I still manage a low back injury, so tricks like this keep me in business–literally and figuratively)  It’s a technique I apply around the house, too, when moving tires in and out of the car, moving tough boxes, lifting kids, lifting and carrying my 65-lb. dog up and down my stairs, lifting awkward laundry baskets, and even leaning over the sink while brushing my teeth. When I use my ‘Po instead of relying on my low back to keep things stable, everything feels better and goes better.

Super bonus to employing this technique?  You’re bound to get a perkier butt.  And there’ll be no need for nutcrackers around your house during the holidays.

You’ve got that covered.