Archive for June 17, 2015

Why Eating Less ISN’T Enough.

armin_gundel (86)

I came across an article this morning while enjoying my favorite morning beverage, and….


It got me riled up.


The article in question:


While the premise of this article is basically correct, the tone of it just PISSED. ME. OFF.


Why, you might ask?


First, it’s another all-or-nothing oversimplification of a complicated issue.

It’s not a diet-or-exercise question, the answer is BOTH have an important role to play in not only weight loss, but overall health and well-being.


Second, why does fitness always need to be about WEIGHT LOSS????


Fitness (exercise) is about SO MUCH MORE than simply losing weight or avoiding weight gain.
The physiological, psychological, social benefits are many, and not to be taken lightly or dismissed because exercise might stimulate your appetite.


Ask any 60, 70, or 80 year-old what their reason is for exercising–I’m pretty damn sure it’s not centered around weight loss.



*Fitness/exercise/movement make people feel more vital.
*Exercise relieves depression.
*Exercise promotes healthy bone density.
*Exercise promotes improved sense of self, belief in their own capabilities and competence and self-worth.
*Exercise help people maintain their strength and mobility throughout their lifetimes.
*Fitness connects people to their bodies.
*Fitness connects people to each other.
*Exercise improves a great many health conditions, and aids in the prevention of developing a great number of illnesses.
*Exercise makes life better.



Yes, I absolutely concur that exercise alone cannot effectively impact weight loss. What you eat, and how much of it, is at the heart of weight loss/maintenance and body composition change.



It’s just that diet alone doesn’t make a body and mind stronger, or more resilient. It doesn’t preserve bone density, or improve stability, or infuse one with the pride of having accomplished something great.


When was the last time you heard someone say “Man, I really killed it with that salad today!”?


But listen to someone who’s just achieved a new PR in the gym or on the road, or completed an event like a Tough Mudder or a half or full marathon, or whose team just won a major competition, or someone who’s just completed their very first unassisted bodyweight pull up…that sense of pride, of accomplishment, of self-confidence and improved self-concept–THAT’S what exercise is about.


Once again, it’s not a question of what’s more important, diet or exercise–because the answer is BOTH. The dosage of each just depends on the needs of the individual.

And fitness, my friends, is about SO much more than just weight loss. Don’t let anyone else tell you different.


Bloom where you grow–then take over the whole yard!


Be Like a Dandelion.

If you’re in the military, you’re probably aware that April is the Month of the Military Child.  If you’re not in the military or affiliated in some way with the military, you just learned something new!
Throughout the month of April, different memes dedicated to military children circulate through social media, many of them featuring a dandelion.  The dandelion is the flower of the military child–and for good reason.
Dandelions, among other things, are tenacious.  Tenacious might actually be too gentle a word to describe them, actually!  
Have you ever tried to rid your lawn or garden of dandelions?  Each spring, it’s a war in my little backyard, and I hate to admit it, but the dandelions are slowly winning…because of their tenacity.

Dandelions just don’t quit.  


Despite the war I’m waging against them, I really admire dandelions.  They grow wherever they’re planted, they reach for the sun tirelessly, they spread what they have to offer prolifically, and they never stop trying to come back.

So what the heck does this have to do with fitness??


Only everything.


One of the challenges we often face where our fitness is concerned is not being tenacious enough when things aren’t easy.
A kid gets sick.  We get sick.  Our schedule changes.  Work becomes more demanding.  There’s a crisis in the family.  We develop an injury.  Our workout buddy moves away.  WE move away.  All of these events can happen, or have happened, at some point, and they can really knock us out of our workout habits and practices.  A short break becomes a longer break, and pretty soon we’re so far ‘off track,’ we don’t know how or feel we have the will to find our way to get back ‘on track.’

This is where being like a dandelion comes in.

This is where developing and maintaining tenacity

comes in.


The main reason I wrote ‘Your Plan B Playbook’ was to create a tool by which others could develop and foster their own tenacity.
Being an Army spouse, now living overseas, has presented me over the years with a slew of challenges. In the early years of being married to the Army, these challenges DID knock me off track–and that made me sad, angry, resentful, hopeless, and generally feeling like a failure.  I could not see a way out of my situation or any alternative by which to reach my health/fitness/weight loss goals.
Then I took a nasty fall from a friend’s cranky barrel racing horse.  Well, the fall wasn’t so bad–it was kind of a graceful dismount actually–but the landing messed me up.  I landed full PLF-style on my right side on some very hard Louisiana clay, causing trauma to my lumbar spine, both SI joints in my pelvis, and two broken ribs.
In the weeks and months after that accident, I had to decide whether I was going to live as an injured and inhibited person, keep taking painkillers and buying into the belief that I was ‘broken,’ or do what it took to get better, to get stronger.
It took a year of physical therapy and diligent work with a personal trainer, but I did get better–and stronger, and more resilient.

And tenacious.


Tenacity is defined as being ‘persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired.’  

But how do we get or develop tenacity when we feel like we’re on the ropes?


Over time, I’ve found three things that help develop and foster tenacity on the fitness front.



1.  Have a backup plan (or multiple backup plans!) ready to go.  
‘Your Plan B Playbook’ was born out of a need to have a backup workout options ready to go for all those times where one of my kids was suddenly ill, my husband was deployed, or other life circumstances messed with my plan A workout.  Knowing I had a plan b, c, d, e and even f ready to go alleviated a ton of stress and kept me consistent with my workouts.  Being able to workout despite unpleasant circumstances also helped me cultivate tenacity through self-confidence:  every time I got that workout in during a challenging time it made me more confident I was capable of continuing on and doing it again the next time things got challenging.
 ” The more I accomplish, the more I know I’m capable of accomplishing.”  
~ Tawny Lara
2.  Be a part of a ‘tribe.’ 
Being a part of something bigger than yourself can bolster your will and determination when you’d rather just skip a day or quit.
Social media offers a way to find and connect with like-minded people who can serve as a support network or accountability group.  Recruiting friends on Facebook to be a part of an ‘exercise tribe’ with similar goals or lifestyles can be a great help–you’re there to both encourage others when they need it, and they’re there for you when you need a pep talk or a kick in the pants 🙂  Having a workout community can be the difference between ‘I give up’ and ‘I can do this.’
3.  Dedicate your workouts.
When you don’t feel like working out or going for a run, dedicate that sweat session to someone.
I started doing this in 2011, but only privately–as in my own head, not through any official organizations.  I often choose to dedicate that workout to either those who have passed or those who would love to get up and move, but can’t.  It changes I ‘have to workout’ into ‘I get to workout.’
There are many different organizations where you can connect with a cause or an individual and dedicate your miles/sweat sessions to them, such as IRun4 .  Or you can create your own dedications and even wear them, such as with grace bands.
When you struggle to get out the door, or into your workout clothes or to the gym, take a moment and dedicate your workout to someone who can’t. It may change your ‘task’ into an experience of gratitude and appreciation.
Be like a dandelion. 
Every year, as they consume more of my grass, I admire dandelions a little bit more.
And I strive to emulate them–to be tenacious, to grow where I’m planted, to seek the sunshine and stand tall, and to spread what I have to offer prolifically.
When you’re struggling, or someone near to you is struggling, scrounge up that tenacity…and be like a dandelion.  
Those things don’t quit.
Talk to you soon,

Super Strategies for when you’re Super Busy or Super Stressed

April cover 2015 b

Got a job?  Got kids?  Got extra projects?  Got stress?


Yeah, me too.


Any and all of these can be consistency-killers!  But they don’t HAVE to be.


Here are some of my favorite strategies for staying consistent with workouts when life gets super busy or super stressful.  Tested and proven by yours truly!


1.  Front-load your exercise.

I don’t know about you, but it’s like my day and schedule pick up speed and gain inertia as the hours pass.  Meaning, I swear things get busier and more complicated–with lots of extras popping in–after lunch through dinnertime and don’t tend to wind down until after the kids go to bed.

There have been many times where it LOOKED like I had a great opportunity to get in my run/lift/workout between 1 and 2pm, only to have that window of time compromised by some schedule change or additional ‘to-do’ sneaking in on me.

To combat this, I front-load my workouts, ESPECIALLY in those phases when life seems extra full or hectic.  I make sure to place them first thing in my schedule, and I ‘Sharpie’ them in.


Ever try to erase Sharpie from any given surface?  Exactly.


I carve out and protect that chunk of time (whether it’s 20, 30 or 60 minutes), dedicate it solely to my workout and that way it gets done, I feel more accomplished and therefore more positive and relaxed, and there is little to no chance of that time getting co-opted by other needs.


2.  Cut it in half.

Whatever your workout might have been that day–a run, a lift, a circuit or HIIT session–cut it in half.

Keep your warm up solid (skimping on this leads to poor performance and a greatly increased likelihood of injury), but cut your run or mileage in half, OR perform only the first big components of your lifting program (such as the A and B portions) OR perform 1 or two sets of your exercises instead of 3 or 4 sets OR perform only one or two rounds of your circuit rather than 3 or 4.


Make your intensity count instead of your duration!

3.  Make it a ‘5-Minute Mini’/a ‘Structurally Sound’ workout

Instead of adhering to an ‘all-or-nothing’ attitude, where if you don’t get in that full, balls-to-the-wall workout it’s not worth it, try a ‘5-Minute Mini.’  Or two.  Or three.  Spaced throughout the day, or added in at beginning or end of it, 5-Minute Minis are a simple but effective way to stay consistent and address possible areas of need (injury or just some area you want to give extra attention).


Some quick-and-easy 5-Minute Minis I’ve used are:

10 glute bridges with a 2-second pause at the top + 10 ‘Superpersons’

10 squats + 10 push ups

10 – 15 Band pull aparts + 10 – 15 band-assisted leg lowers

Dead Bugs + Glute Bridges

10 Bird Dogs + 30 sec. side planks/side

15 Clamshells (band around legs above knees) + 15 Squats (band around legs above knees)+ 15 side step walks (band around ankles)

15 Bicep Curls with a tube + 15 Tricep kickbacks with a tube + 10 X-band walks/side

Demonstrations can be found on my YouTube Channel

*repeat combinations until 5 minutes are up*

4.  Make it include the kids (as appropriate)

When it comes down to either finding a way to include your kids or not getting a workout at all, compromise is key–as is some flexible thinking and creativity.


Things I’ve done that have worked pretty well:


Set up ‘stations’ in the house or yard and created a circuit training workout for you all–low equipment, uncomplicated movements that can be done for time (my kids love hearing the beep of the timer!).  Push Ups, planks, squats, lunges, jump squats, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, high knee jogs, butt kick jogs, ‘toy soldiers’…all accessible, do-able and a great way to get in an intense workout, hopefully without too much interruption 🙂

Take the kids out for a jog with you.  Yes, you’re likely not going to log a PR that day, or get in much more than a mile or two, with intermittent walk breaks of course, but you’re all outside, getting fresh air and the blood circulating, and this alone can help take the edge off and make you feel like you’re staying on track, too.


Go to the park.  Parks and playgrounds are LOADED with opportunities for exercise.  Pushing a toddler on a swing?  Try Push-Squat-Push.  The kid swinging back at your face will keep you focused on moving quickly, lol.  Benches are prime for exercises for the upper and lower body.  LOADED, I tell you.  My favorites:  Incline and decline bench push ups, step ups, butt-tap bench squats and one-legged squats.


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Look for an ‘At-the-Park’ workout coming soon!

5.  One-element workouts.

Pick one piece of equipment (dumbbells, barbell, medicine ball, TRX, kettlebell…whatever), and do exercises that use only that piece of equipment without interruption.  This is also known as a complex.


A nice dumbbell complex could be:  Front squats, Double Bent Rows, Reverse Lunges, Squat to Press, Romanian Deadlifts and Renegade Rows.  Done in order for time or reps, this can be a quick-and-dirty, killer workout.


Bonus:  only using one piece of equipment cuts way down on ‘travel and search’ time, especially at the gym.  Saves your sanity a bit more, too 😉


6.  Do your favorite thing.

Let’s face it:  we’d rather do things we like than things we don’t like.  And we’re a heck of a lot more likely to do the things we like, too.


When we’re stressed and worn down, the last thing we are likely to opt to do is something that’s either a) really a struggle for us, or b) requires a massive amount of motivation and effort to do.  So if you’re ‘supposed to’ lift or get in a training run or (fill in the blank) that day, but it is the LAST thing you want to do, maybe substituting the form of exercise you like the most for that day is the best idea.


Love Zumba?  Do it.  Love working your legs? Do it.  Love playing ‘Just Dance’?  Do it.  Love taking a walk?  Do it.


If it’s the difference between doing something or not doing anything, do the thing that’s the most tolerable and palatable for you on THAT DAY.    Something you do with gusto is going to beat anything you do half-heartedly and definitely going to beat doing nothing at all.


When times are tough, make working out easy.  As in easy for you to do.


There will always be challenging times;  learn to find creative solutions.


Make a list of them and stick them somewhere visible and meaningful (bathroom mirror, near your desk, on the fridge).


Have your solutions ever-present in the back of your mind and you’ll have a lifetime of successes ahead of you.


And if you’re interested in done-for-you, do-practically-anywhere workouts, sign up for my email newsletter–a brand new workout with video demonstration goes out to all the people on my list every Wednesday!

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Remember:  stay stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods!