Monthly Archives: March 2017

Plan For Success: Shopping and Meal Planning

When it comes to fitness goals, it seems that 99% of the struggle happens on the nutrition front. One of the biggest things that has helped me overcome my personal obstacles in this area is planning.

Below is an example of one of my shopping lists.
Side note: I know I’m very structured and organized. Food makes my world go ’round. Anything that remotely has to do with food will also fall under my Umbrella of Neurosis. Don’t mess with my shopping list or my kitchen.

In the top right corner, I jot down the entrees for the week. I plan 5-7, depending on whether or not we plan to eat out or there’s a family dinner. I also note any special sides I’ll need ingredients for (usually, I just plan on a salad and a veggie or two). If I’m planning any special desserts, lunches, or breakfasts, I jot those down to the left of the dinners. The dinners all get transferred to a little chalkboard in my kitchen so I don’t forget what I have planned for the week.

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I then divide my trip into categories based on the layout of the store I’m going to. I know I’ll come to the produce section first, so I make that the first heading on my list. Leave a couple lines, and make a heading for meats, then cheeses and dairy, then breads, and so on, until I have my bases covered. This helps me make sure I don’t waste time running back and forth across the store and helps me not forget anything (whatever, I still forget stuff.).

Next step is to look over recipes for my meals and jot down what I need in it’s respective category. I also take a quick inventory of our staples and make sure we have those (milk, bread, peanut butter, eggs…).

Then I go to the store and only get what I need. Nothing else. Unless my husband comes with me, then we walk out with enough snacks to feed the neighborhood. Each night, I decide what sounds good for the next day, enter the dinner into my calorie tracking app, and fill in lunch and breakfast with whatever else sounds good/fits/gives me nourishment. This is a system I’ve been doing for years. I enjoy it and it works really well for me. It took some time to tweak and perfect, but, like everything else, it comes down to consistency. It’s a habit, I’m familiar with the process and it doesn’t take inordinate amounts of time. These are just some things I’ve done to help promote efficiency and adherence. Find what works for you, but DON’T FAIL TO PLAN!!!

Home Gym Essentials Guide

Getting in shape is a nice idea and generally a “priority” on everyone’s list (think New Years). However, not everyone has convenient or affordable access to a local gym. Pile on a few challenges with work schedules, family obligations and life circumstances and you’ve got a whole dump truck of excuses to help bury that little spark of motivation. To be honest, I get it! Until recently, there wasn’t a gym close to me that offered the amenities or pricing I was looking for. I had just moved, was in the middle of an extensive remodel (aka completely gutting and rebuilding my house), and had just found out I was pregnant (enter nausea and extreme fatigue). A year later, I have an infant, a mostly finished house, and a business I was trying to build and maintain right after giving birth. Were it not for my home gym, I would have found it extremely difficult to maintain my workout routine and reach my fitness goals.

I often get asked what I’d recommend for a home gym. For starters, it depends a lot on what your goals are.

Bare Bones Pack: Do you have legs? Arms? 25-36 square feet of space? A door you can walk through to be outside? Good news! You can be active! There are several bodyweight exercises you can do to build a little strength. This should be a fundamental skill before you move on to more advanced exercises anyway: know how to move your body! Running is also one of the most simple, economic ways to start getting into shape. Bonus: If you have a chair or stairs you can do twice as much!

Basics Pack: For the budding exerciser, someone looking for simple, straight forward workouts, or anyone who just wants a quick, easy way to add a little movement to their day.
I’m pretty sure you can grab all these items at your local Walmart, and you can definitely find these all on Amazon. Definitely grab:
Dumbbells (I suggest at least 2 pairs, one in the lighter range (5-10 lbs) and one in the heavier range (15-25 lbs))
Jump Rope
Resistance band set
Some sort of platform (stair, box, chair, etc. Something you can step or jump on)
This should allow you to do a wide variety of exercises. You can also tweak most exercises to fit in to what you have available at this point.

Intermediate Pack: For those whose dumbbells have grown too light, want to add more advanced bodyweight exercises to their routine and are looking for a wider variety in workouts and equipment.
These items are intended to be added to the beginner pack. They are going to cost a little more and require more space, but will allow you more advancement in your fitness and provide some fresh exercise options.
Dumbbell set (look for adjustable weights or a set that provides weights heavy enough for your needs)
Treadmill and/or spin bike
Pull up bar
Medicine ball (find one or two heavy enough for your level)

Advanced Pack: For those who are getting serious about their strength and body composition, have a foundation in strength training, or want the options of a commercial gym.
These items will require space and a pretty solid chunk of change, but can still be found for reasonable prices. Several websites that sell fitness equipment sell these kind of things in packs, so look for options there. The items in the previous packs are also recommended.
Barbell and weights (don’t forget clips!)
Bench
Squat rack, power rack or rig (these will vary in price A LOT. If you won’t have someone available to spot you consistently, grab something with spotter bars as well)
Plyo Box(es)
Kettlebell (35-55 lbs should be good enough for most exercises, depending on your level)

When it comes down to it, what matters as you shop for your home gym equipment is that you keep your goals in mind. It will require a little investment, no matter what. The more you have, the more you’ll be able to do and the more progress you’ll be able to make. If you want to look like a fitness model, don’t try to do that with the basic pack. If you’ve never lifted a heavy weight, you may not want to start with a barbell and a squat rack (unless you have a trainer to guide you). The point is, there’s an option for everyone and there’s always something you can do to help improve your health.

Need ideas? Contact me or check out my instagram (@definedfitness_ut) or facebook for tips and tricks!

Can travel and fitness be friends?

I’ve been fortunate enough to take a few big trips over the last few months, and look forward to several more this coming year. If you’re like me, one of the coolest parts about travelling is the food! I love trying things unique (or specialized) to certain places. However, this, combined with busy itineraries and distance from your home gym, can be…less than friendly on your waistline. So how to you have a good time on the road without setting your progress back?

BASIC TIPS: Theses are suggestions for those who are newer to fitness, have trouble practicing self control (we’ve all been there!), or are on stricter routines (competition prep, goal timelines, etc.). These can also apply to those who want little or no “make-up work” to do upon returning from vacation.

  1. At mealtime, order “lighter” options: white cheeses, grilled meats, steamed veggies, broth-based soups, etc. are all generally lower calorie options.
  2. It isn’t always possible or desirable to order healthy food. If this is the case, split fried, greasy, fatty, or sugary orders with someone, or opt for a small bite or two. Usually, I end up ordering a grilled something with veggies and my husband will get the house special, deep fried work of art with the upgraded loaded fries. Then we trade a bite of each other’s entrees and I steal a couple fries. It gives me a taste, but doesn’t derail my nutrition goals.
  3. Don’t drink your calories! Opt for water during meals and to keep you hydrated throughout the day. This leaves more room for all the tasty foods you want to try.
  4. Don’t feel obligated to finish everything in front of you. This is a very difficult one for me. Any sort of waste triggers my anxiety and I generally end up taking my food to go if I don’t finish it. However, this is not always a feasible option. If this is the case and you’re ok with it, simply eat until you are satiated (not full to bursting!) and leave the rest.
  5. Find a gym close by, or come prepared with quick, efficient equipmentless workouts. Most places have a few fitness facility options in town (bonus points if you can find something in walking distance). Contact the gym ahead of time to see what their visitor policies are and introduce yourself. Smaller, privately owned gyms are usually very accommodating to visitors and will give you access for the week for a very reasonable fee. Larger gyms will sometimes have free trial passes or visitor passes available on their websites. Visiting new gyms can be really fun and give you the opportunity to meet new people and establish new networks. If options are sparse, get on mapmyrun.com and plot out some running routes (it’ll give you a chance to explore and see the area), or compile a list of at-home style workouts relying on bodyweight or packable equipment. Either way, plan to do your workouts early in the morning or during some downtime on your day.
  6. Find a nearby grocery store and prepare your own healthy, light meals throughout the day. Packing your own food gives you control over what and when you eat, which can ease some dining stress during your vacation. It’s also usually more budget-friendly as well. Most hotels have a mini fridge to help keep perishables fresh, and having access to a full kitchen where you can cook makes this option even easier.
  7. Stay active! Walk everywhere you can, park farther away from your destination, and plan activities that keep you moving. You’ll stay occupied, have more fun and burn more calories to help offset the occasional indulgence. Plus, it’ll help you sleep like a rock.

ADVANCED TIPS: These are geared toward those who have been consistent in exercise and nutrition for a long time, have established solid habits, or who desire more flexibility in their travels.

  1. Accept this may not be a time for progress. Aim to maintain. I track my food 99% of the time at home, and have been doing so for several years. The last year, I’ve taken a break from tracking during vacations and tried to eat mindfully most of the time. I generally opt for higher protein options, try to add veggies wherever possible, and usually give myself license to order whatever the heck I want a time or two. Or three. So far, this has served me very well and given me the mental break I need from tracking.
  2. Have fun and realize that although you may have make-up work to do, it’ll come back fast and won’t cost you much in the long run. I spent this last week in Florida and ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I’m pregnant, not competing and not trying to cut weight/fat for the summer, so this wasn’t a detrimental option for me. I actually came home the same weight as when I left. I was active, I stopped eating when I was full, and I didn’t skip any workouts. I came back a little puffy from water retention and a little gained fat, but most of that has gone away in the past day. ***DISCLAIMER:*** This worked for me because of my current goals and the years I’ve spent building muscle mass and metabolism. And although I gave myself free reign with my food, I’ve also established good habits thought the years and din’t use it as an excuse to eat all junk all the time. My body has taken time to get to this point, so unless you are in a fairly advanced state of fitness, this may not be the ideal option for you.
  3. Practice moderation. I like to follow the “80/20 rule.” Practice good habits 80% of the time, have fun 20% of the time. Again, this takes a significant amount of time to get familiar with. If you are not familiar with what consistent exercise and nutrition looks like, this may not be the best option for you. If you cannot eat one Oreo and be satisfied, this may not be for you. If you do halfhearted workouts most of the time, this may not be for you. To help illustrate this point, 80% of your week is over 5 1/2 days. That means if you spend Monday morning-Friday afternoon on point with nutrition and 100% effort in workouts, Friday night-Sunday night can be spent in a zone of relative comfort; an easier workout here, a treat there. If this doesn’t sound like your routine, keep practicing! You’ll get there if you’re consistent.