Exercise, fitness, health, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Do What You Can

Motivation is the absolute worst. It’s your drive to accomplish tasks, your drive to do better, and can be your main deciding factor in habits. Motivation is amazing when it’s present, but a total pain in the ass when it’s absent. That’s the thing, it’s never a constant. One day it’s up, one day it’s down, sometimes it stays for week, and sometimes it leaves for months. Dealing with the absence of motivation can be one of the most difficult things to overcome in life. And spoiler alert: it doesn’t get any easier.

Trying to accomplish anything when you’re unmotivated is like trying to shove a circle into a square opening. It won’t get done, and you’re going to frustrate the hell out of yourself trying. You all know me by now, you know what I’m about. I’m about listening to your body and your mind and doing what feels right for you in the moment. Except for when it comes to motivation. If you rely on motivation to accomplish everything in your life, you’re going to be real annoyed after a while. Like I said above, when you’re motivated, life is great. You feel like you can do everything, like you’re on top of the world and can create a new one. But what happens once that motivation leaves? You can’t just lay down and wait for it to come back. Will you work with the same ferocity that you had while you were motivated? Probably not. Can you still progress during times of less motivation? Absolutely.

There are some projects that you undertake that require inspiration. When the inspiration strikes, you’re on a roll. You’re creating left and right, and when that inspiration leaves, it can be devastating on progress. That’s not the case for everything in life. Even without motivation and inspiration, you still need to live your life. Healthy habits and actions tend to fall back during these lulls in motivation, but that’s the last thing we want to happen. Health, fitness, and wellness thrive on consistency. They don’t really care that you aren’t feeling it today, all that matters is whether you complete the task or not. So what do we do in this situation? We do what we can.

Even in the lulls, simply completing a task can help to pull you through it, and even help pull you out. You don’t need to give 150% in this time, you just need to give 100% of what you got today, even if that’s only about 50%. A good rule of thumb is that when motivation lacks, discipline takes over. That’s why establishing these healthy habits is so damn important to your success. When you don’t feel like working out, when you aren’t motivated, what gets you to the gym? It’s obviously not motivation, but it’s discipline to continue with the habit. It’s intrinsic motivation to achieve your goal, even when you’re overall motivation lacks.

I’m not here to tell you that you’re always going to be motivated. I’m not going to give you tips and tricks to stay motivated, because even when you try your hardest to keep it around, you will lose it at some point. The main thing to remember, especially when the last thing you want to do is what you’re supposed to, is that doing something is better than nothing. Doing what you can will keep you more on track than giving up. Don’t let your motivation be anything more than extra drive. Let it carry you through the waves of inspiration and drive, but don’t let the lack of it ground and halt you. Motivation is a tricky, tricky thing, and don’t rely on it to move any mountains. Do what you can, carry some stones, and keep going.

Opinion, Progress, wellness

Change is For the Better

“The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order.” – Alfred North Whitehead

There comes a point in life, everyone’s life, where you go through a change. This could be a small change, like a haircut, or a much larger change, like a total career switch. No matter the degree of change, we all go through it. Change is one of the only constants we have.

Change is not easy. As humans, we are creatures of habit and routine, enjoying our comfort zones. The problem with the comfort zone is that you will never grow inside of it. No one has ever progressed from doing the same thing over and over. That’s actually the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. In order to grow, and achieve something you never have before, you need to go do something you’ve never done before. Knowing all of this doesn’t make the process of change any easier.

Recently, in the past year or so, my whole life has changed. My view of health, fitness, the fitness industry in general, and what it means to be healthy have taken a total 180. Before, my job as a fitness professional meant changing my client’s physical appearances. Now, my job as a fitness professional is to use healthy habits and fitness as tools to change their physical and mental health for the better, with a physical change being an added benefit. I realized that, without your mind being healthy and happy, your body will never be healthy and happy. This threw me for a damn loop. Imagine working for years towards a certain goal and, in the span of a few weeks, turning around and going in another direction. It is scary. It’s scary to not really know my new terrain. It’s what I’m passionate about, but a whole new world to me. However, to start a new subset of health and fitness, I need to put myself out there and show people what it is all about. I have to venture into the great unknown in order to keep growing.

The only mistake we can make when it comes to change is resisting it. Like I stated above, change is the only constant we have in life. To resist change, to resist the world pointing you in a new direction, is to resist growth itself. No one wants to stay the same. We are constantly after the next best thing, the next big thing. How do you expect to become the next big thing, if you refuse to change any aspect of you? The best thing you can do with change (and believe me, this is way easier said than done) is to embrace it. You’re allowed to struggle with it, you’re allowed to be nervous and scared, and you’re allowed to panic. What you aren’t allowed to do, in my mind, is resist. Embrace the change. Embrace what the change can bring to you. Embrace what your life could be after the change.

Exercise, fitness, health, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Creatures of Habit

Habit (noun): a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

We all have habits in our lives, most commonly known as our “routines.” You know your routine, those steps you take each day, almost without even thinking about it.

• Morning coffee

• Snacks after dinner

• Leaving for work at the same time each morning

• Brushing your teeth

• Washing your face

These habits did not take much to instill into you, and it might even be hard to think back to when they started, as they have always been a habit. Habits can be our greatest strengths or our downfalls, depending on the habits themselves. A habit of hitting the gym on your drive home from work is a great way to ensure you get your activity in, brushing your teeth twice a day is crucial to dental health, and going to bed at the same time each night makes sure you get enough sleep. However, habits such as mindlessly snacking in front of the tv, or having a few beers with friends, and pizza with your beers, can be pretty rough on your overall health. Doing these actions a few times, even once or twice a week, is one thing, but them being habitual can be detrimental to your health.

Maybe you have some goals for healthy habits for your life. Maybe you’d like to hit the gym three times a week, or maybe even just drinking a glass of water right when you wake up (so good for your digestive system, and helps to rehydrate you after sleeping all night. Highly recommend). No matter what the habit is, the way to get there is the same.

Step One: Create a goal using the SMART method of goal setting (found here)

Step Two: perform the action once.

Step Three: repeat the action for at least 21 days

Step Four: keep repeating the action for at least 6 weeks

It takes at the minimum 21 days of consistency for an action to become a habit. The “21 day rule” came into effect Dr. Maltz, a plastic surgeon in the 50s, noticed it took 21 days for his patients to get used to seeing their new looks. He then noticed it took 21 days for him to put a new habit in place. The problem is, after 21 days, it’s not a settled, automatic action yet. Once you’ve hit the 21 day mark, the action is integrated into your routine, which makes you remember to do it more, but, at this point, you still have to consciously make the effort to perform the action.

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and their health coach certification that I hold, it takes at least 6 weeks of performing an action consistently for it to be a settled part of your routine. Once you have been performing this action for 6 weeks, it will be extremely hard to give up, making it a part of your every day life.

Habits can take time to form properly, and can be a tedious process as each habit requires its own process to form. The payoff from creating these healthy habits, in the correct way, can be incredibly important to your long term health success. Pick an action you want to incorporate, and get to habit forming. One day at a time, one step at a time, one habit at a time.

It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop.”

Exercise, fitness, health, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Health and Fitness?

Health: “the condition of being sound in mind, body, and spirit.”

Fitness: “the ability to carry out tasks without undue fatigue.”

Health and fitness are always intertwined everywhere you see, with fitness magazines giving you general health tips and health magazines giving you some fitness tips. This isn’t a super weird concept, considering their are very much related. But where does the line stop? Where does the connection between health and fitness end, and what’s the difference?

Health and fitness are incredibly related topics. Without health, there is no need for fitness. Without needing to have a sound body, one free of ailments or disease, there would be no need for physical fitness. Especially considering the technology we are blessed (or cursed) with today, the ability for your body to carry out difficult and strenuous tasks wouldn’t really be necessary, as I’m sure there’s a machine for that. Physical activity helps to grow and maintain muscle mass needed for overall body stability and strength, reducing the risk of osteoporosis; it helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as keeping your brain healthy and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Staying physically fit and active also helps to increase your day to day energy and stamina, providing you with the energy you need to do all the activities you want, keeping your mind happy. In these ways, physical fitness is crucial to health.

Where health and fitness clash is in the media and in the fitness industry. Both of these platforms describe an extreme level of fitness being vital to health. Extreme fitness, with very low body fat percentages, hours in the gym, and fad diets and food restriction, is almost the exact opposite of health. Your body may look great, but remember: health is more than just your physical appearance. When you attain such a low body fat, you sacrifice certain aspects of a normal life. You sacrifice the freedom to go out and eat with friends on the weekend because you’re on a diet, or at the gym. You sacrifice energy to go about your day, as the diet you need to be on for that low of a body fat will be very low calorie. You sacrifice comfort, as body fat helps to insulate your body, as well as help provide you with energy. Glamorizing this level of fitness is not healthy, and does not relate to health, as it actively decreases all areas of health.

Even as someone who works out more days out of the week than not, I am not in the extreme category. I value my mental health and spiritual health, as well as my physical health, so I ensure I have a healthy balance of the three. I work out because it’s what I enjoy doing. It makes me feel strong and confident, helps to keep my heart healthy, and allows me to indulge with my friends without panic of gaining weight or becoming “unhealthy.” I have been on the extreme end of the fitness spectrum, and I was miserable. I assumed getting as “fit” as possible would make me happy and accept myself, but all it did was make my mental health worse.

The unfortunate part, is that the extreme is what the general public associates with the word “fitness.” Fitness is no longer about the ability to do activities without strain, but now it is the ability to be the most muscular and the leanest person in the gym. Fitness is absolutely not an all or nothing type of thing, you can workout out casually and eat relatively healthy most of the time, and still be fit and healthy. It’s not an extreme sport, and it’s not a competition. More is not always better. Taking care of yourself physically is only a benefit as long as it is also benefiting your mental and spiritual health with it. If you are sacrificing your health for the sake of your fitness, it’s time to re-evaluate your goals and actions.

Being fit does not automatically mean that you are healthy.

Being healthy does not automatically mean that you look like a fitness professional.

Find a balance of your physical, mental, and spiritual health to be in your best “shape.”

fitness, health, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Stress Management

That work deadline on Friday.

Working out four days a week.

Planning out healthy meals for the week.

Personal projects.

Trying to have a social life.

MONEY.

Life is damn stressful these days! Sometimes, the shear amount of shenanigans we have to do, even daily, is enough to make your head spin. As we all know, stress sucks. When stress is prevalent, and for too long, there are plenty of negative health consequences that you will notice. Some of these effects include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, increased muscle tension, lack of sleep, and an increase of bad habits to combat that stress.

Stress releases tons of hormones into your body that help with all of this negativity. The fight or flight hormones come out, causing that increase in muscle tension and blood pressure, and the stress hormones come out, causing that lack of sleep and recovery, as well as increasing your appetite. Ok, So now that you’re terrified of stress, what the hell do we do about it?

Enter: stress management, the main soldier in the war against chronic stress.

Stress management is huuuuuuuuuge. Stress management are techniques that you can employ to help prevent stresses from forming or becoming bigger, and also to help squash that stress once it does show up. Stress management requires some trial and error, as finding the right option is very personal to you and how you work. However, I’m here to give you a whole bunch of ideas to start with.

1.Exercise. Physically exercising and moving your body can be very beneficial in releasing stress. Many people, including myself, find that exercising helps to relieve any anxiety you are feeling, along with giving you a physical outlet to get out that muscle tension. Exercise also releases anti stress hormones. These are called endorphins, and as the famous Elle Woods says, “Exercise releases endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people don’t shoot their husbands.” She’s right. Endorphins are hormones that help to improve your mood, which is the main reason why exercise is such a beneficial stress reliever.

2. Self Discovery. Self discovery, including journaling and meditation, can help you to find the root cause of your stress. Journaling is a great way to release your true thoughts and emotions, without actually needing to talk to anybody. As well, the more you keep writing and releasing, the more likely you are to discover something you wouldn’t have otherwise. Whenever I just start writing, by the time I’m done, I’ve figured out a new piece of the puzzle without even realizing it. Meditation is another great tool for stress management. I’m sure a lot of you reading this has a vision of someone sitting there, cross legged with their hands on their knees saying “ommmmmmm,” but that’s not exclusively what meditation is. Meditation is being aware of your mindset, clearing out negative thoughts and focusing on your body. It takes plenty of practice, but being able to turn off those thoughts is such a helpful tool, especially in an era where we never really turn off.

1.To journal: grab a piece of paper and just start writing. Don’t worry about punctuation or spelling and just keep writing. Let the words just flow. (If you’re the type of person who needs a prompt, google “journal prompts”. You’ll find plenty to help you get started!)

2.To meditate: find a quiet and comfortable place. You can be seated or laying down, but turn off all outside noise, shut your eyes, and relax. Focus on your breath, acknowledge any thoughts that pop up, but try to let them go too. Doing this daily can help to increase the time you can meditate.

3. Self Care. This is the most personalized approach that we have to stress management. Self care is so individualized and personal to you. Self care is really anything that makes you happy. My self care involves a face mask, a yummy snack, and a funny movie. I know of a friend’s self care that is being creative and using an outlet to express himself. There is no wrong way to perform self care, it’s really just making time for anything that brings you joy. This is our biggest preventative stress management technique, where the other two are more reactive to stresses already. Be sure to give yourself some time every week just for you, it can make a huge difference in your stress levels.

Just like stress itself, stress management is very personal to you. There can be a period of trial and error when trying to figure out which technique works best for you, but give them a shot. It’s better than staying a huge ball of stress all the time. Let me know which techniques you’ve tried, or have worked for you!

Exercise, fitness, health, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Gym Anxiety

A huge component of getting your health on track is exercising consistently. This usually requires you to get out of the house, and most likely your comfort zone, and head to a gym or health club.

If only exercise was as easy as walking into a gym.

Once you get there, there are so many options.

Do I start with cardio or weights?

If cardio, do I use the elliptical, treadmill, stair stepper, rower, or bike?

How long should I be doing this for?

Should I still lift weights afterwards?

If weights, how do I do this?

Can I just use machines? Are there directions?

Will the machines be enough?

How many of each do I do?

Do I do cardio after this?

Should I have eaten beforehand? How long before? What should I have eaten?

For me, all of these questions are easy. I’ve spent the past nine years of my life studying the science behind these questions and figuring it out myself. I’m guessing you don’t have that same experience, and that’s totally fine. As a fitness professional, even I get gym anxiety. I don’t like being around so many people, and sometimes, it’s just too much for me to handle. I also feel the eyes of everyone in the gym, and I also feel the pressure to look and perform a certain way, especially given my background. Most days, I’m cool as a cucumber, and the gym is my safe zone. Some days, I full on panic walking in there and seeing all of the other bodies getting their workout in.

The gym is a place for everyone to work on their health. If you feel uncomfortable in a certain gym, there’s nothing wrong in switching to one that is more your type of environment. There are gyms that cater to elite athletes, ones that cater to crossfit, ones that cater to bros who like to scream and slam weights, and ones that cater to those who are not so comfortable in all of those previous scenarios. You just have to find the right one for you.

Not only is the right environment step one to feeling comfortable in the gym, but knowledge is too. Obviously, I’m not suggesting you head out and get your personal training certification in order to feel somewhat comfortable in the gym, but a little research goes a long way. Before you head into the gym, reading some articles on the basics of fitness (may I recommend the foundations of fitness posts I wrote HERE and HERE), can make you feel much more comfortable. Having a concrete plan of what exercises you are doing, what machines you are heading for, and how long to do all of them is huge. This gives you a set program for yourself to follow, taking the guesswork out of this crazy place. There are plenty of free, generic programs out there for you to follow until you feel comfortable enough to put your own spin on it.

Use the resources that the gym provides. Many gyms offer complimentary personal training assessments as part of the membership. Yes, this can be scary to sit down with a professional when you feel less than an amateur, but remember: their job, above all else, is to improve your health. Don’t allow them to sell you on random shenanigans you don’t need, but don’t be afraid to ask them for help. Ask them to show you a machine, ask for a quick form check, ask them how many reps they thing you should do, the worst they can do is say no. Many gyms also offer exercise classes. This can be a great way to learn a thing or two, without drawing too much attention to yourself. Just be careful with new movements, and don’t push yourself too hard until you know you’re doing it right (this is actually great advice for any new exerciser. Don’t be afraid to start light until you get the hang of it)

If all else fails, put on your headphones, hop on a treadmill, and observe. Tune out all the craziness and hubbub of the gym by putting on your music that you like, and hop on the treadmill, even at a walk. Once you’re on the treadmill, look around you. Watch people at the gym and watch the exercises they’re doing. Watch how they do them, watch the personal trainers and the exercises they give clients. It’s a great way to get yourself familiar with some things you maybe have only seen online.

One of my favorite quotes is “don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” It’s totally fine to be scared as hell of the gym, but don’t let that stop you from getting healthy. It is a large, confusing place, full of lots of other people who seem like they know what they’re doing, and you just missed the memo. Everyone was once a beginner. I promise you, most of those people don’t know much more than you do, they just hide it better. There was a time when I was just wandering around the gym, lost and confused. Now, I’m more comfortable there than pretty much anywhere else. Just like anything else, it takes time. Everyone is there for the same reason, you got this.

Exercise, fitness, Progress, wellness

Strength Training For Runners

One of the concepts that I repeat over and over is that resistance training will improve (almost) every aspect of your life. Heavy resistance training will increase your overall strength, body composition, bone density, and metabolic rate. But what if you are an endurance athlete? Even if you are a marathon runner, and nothing else (yet), don’t count my teachings out just yet. Supplementing your distance running, or cycling, with heavy resistance training will do nothing but improve your performance in your sport.

Heavy strength training and endurance training could not be more opposite. They are both physical activity that contribute to your overall activity level, but that’s about it. Endurance training and strength training tax two completely different energy systems and muscle types. Endurance training taxes your aerobic energy system, while strength training taxes the anaerobic energy system, either the creatine phosphate (CP) system or the glycolytic energy system. The aerobic energy system kicks in after you have been exercising consistently for over 90 seconds, and allows you to continuously produce energy to be able to fuel the duration of your workout without rest. Anaerobic systems produce powerful energy in short bursts, up to 15 seconds for CP and 15 seconds up to 90 seconds for glycolytic, and require rest to be able to replenish energy sources. As well, endurance training exercises mainly type I muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are full of mitochondria, meaning they are able to continuously supply energy and oxygen, allowing for longer periods of work without fatigue. Strength training mainly works type II muscle fibers. Type II muscle fibers are those most associated with strength and power, and are beneficial for quick bursts of energy before needing to recover. To be a well rounded athlete, whether you are a distance runner or a strength athlete, both energy sources and muscle types should be trained. Sprinters can absolutely benefit from heavy strength training, as both types of training require heavy use of the anaerobic energy systems and type II muscle fibers.

Specifically for endurance athletes, strength training can have many benefits. Heavy resistance training, specifically for the lower body, can help to improve overall running mechanics, as well as muscular balance and strength. Unilateral training, which means training one limb at a time, is one of the best things that you can incorporate into your routine. Training one leg a time can help to improve any muscular imbalances that you have between legs, which helps to improve proper movement patterns. The better you move in general, the less likely you are to encounter an injury during a run. As well, training single legs will improve tendon and ligament strength. This strength will translate into more stable joints, continuing to improve muscular balance, while also helping to reduce your risk of sprains and strains. As well, heavy strength training incorporating both limbs, such as a barbell back or front squat, will help to build up muscle strength, tendon and ligament strength, and bone density. Your bones build up against resistance, so movements where your body is working against gravity, will help to build up the vertical bone density. This newfound muscular strength and bone density, combined with regular endurance training, will help to improve leg strength and elasticity, which will reduce the energy you expend to take a step. You will also be a much lower risk of multiple injuries, include strains and sprains, and shin splints.

Distance running and strength training are not mutually exclusive. When combined for a distance runner, these two forms of training can keep you running longer with a lower risk of injury. Strength training can also help to decrease muscular imbalances that can be exasperated by running. Running can cause overactive quads and hip flexors, while decreasing activation of hamstrings and glutes. Strength training can actively help to even out these imbalances. Though you’re a distance runner, and probably pretty tied to it, don’t count out strength training. It can help improve your running from good to great.

Sample workout for runners:

-Glute activation 2 sets 10 reps

(Lateral walks, Glute kickbacks, donkey kicks)

-Barbell Back Squat (or heavy goblet squat) 4 sets 6 reps

-Weighted Stationary Lunge 4 sets 6 reps

-Single Leg RDL (DB in opposite hand) 3 sets 8 reps/leg

-Single leg calf raises 3 sets 8 reps/leg