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5 Reasons to Hire a Personal Trainer

Trinity College Sports Centre, Trinity College, Dublin, 10/7/2013 General view of Personal Trainers Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

In a time where we can find answers to any questions, tutorials for any task and research to back any claim, not to mention endless hours of entertainment, it’s harder and harder for the lay person to find reasons to hire an expensive professional unless they are in the most dire of circumstances. However, most occupations that require a professional do so because there is usually a lot more involved in the process than people realize. During client intake assessments, more often than not, the person I’m talking to has already been exercising in some way, but has not produced the results they were looking for. Most of them have tried extreme, restrictive, or trendy diets, but have been unable to adhere to them or sustain their results. Some have lost weight, but still aren’t feeling very good because of their lack of muscle mass. Many have obtained great initial results, but have plateaued and are not sure how to bring their fitness to the next level. In almost every case, these people have tried to do things on their own. While this can work out and good information is definitely out there and accessible, your journey has the potential to be much more smooth, efficient, and enjoyable if you start with a qualified trainer. So without further ado, some indications this route may be your best option:

  1. You are new to, or otherwise unacquainted with, a variety of the aspects of fitness. Are you familiar with the types of cardiovascular conditioning, modalities of weight training, alternative exercises to keep you in shape around injuries or other restrictions, recovery needs based of CNS taxation, and basic nutrition concepts (based in science, not what you saw in the latest article on Facebook)? This is just the tip of the iceberg. If any of these concepts sound daunting or unfamiliar, that’s ok! However, you may want to consider hiring someone already well-versed in these and other concepts rather than try to navigate them all on your own.
  2. You need accountability. A trainer can be friendly, but is not your friend (when in coaching mode). Friends might let you get away with slacking off, giving half effort, and altogether becoming inconsistent and mediocre. A trainer will have set expectations and is in a position of authority. You will be expected to show up on time and ready to work. You will be expected to work around your challenges and excuses. Your results in workouts and weigh ins will be tracked and your progress will reflect your effort without biases. You will be observed and pushed. On top of all this, you are paying for your coaching, so you’ll have extra incentive to get your money’s worth out of your sessions.
  3. You are accountable and familiar with fitness concepts, but you’re stuck. Your results have plateaued and although you’ve tried to mix things up a bit, you’re not seeing any progress. This would be a good time to hire a coach. They will be able to use their knowledge of bodily systems, adaptation, nutrition and training variation and modalities to help you make progress toward your specific goals. Again, this may be something you are able to find on your own, and if you can and it works out, great! But again, your results may come more quickly and your workouts may be more efficient if you are able to find a coach to help you skip the extensive research and subsequent programming processes.
  4. You’re lacking consistency and motivation. This ties in with accountability in many ways. Motivation comes and goes, so you can’t realistically rely on it to sustain a lifestyle. That’s where consistency comes in. If you are not able to be consistent, you will fail. Your motivation will wane and you’ll find more and more excuses to skip workouts and indulge in comfort foods. A trainer can act as a lighthouse in these circumstances, giving you direction, tips, and accountability to help you establish consistency, eventually leading to a lasting lifestyle change. They can also help rekindle motivation by helping you see your progress, reminding you of your goals, and providing a good example. Disclaimer: the drive to change should be intrinsic or it will not last. While a trainer may help you get started, the idea is not to have one your entire life. You, as clients, are our baby birds. In due time, you must learn to leave the nest and fly alone.
  5. You want constructive feedback. This is for those who are more advanced in the fitness lifestyle. You make progress, you’re consistent, you have a solid foundation of the essentials, and you’ve made health a lifestyle. Congratulations! However, none of us are perfect and we all have room for improvement. It’s also hard to actually watch yourself workout from every angle. Really, whether it’s in the gym or the kitchen, we could all use an outside source to provide helpful cues that’ll aid our performance.

Ultimately, what it all comes down to is save yourself some time and headache (and possibly some money)! Hire a professional. It doesn’t necessarily have to be long term, but vet your options, think about your specific goals and search for someone you are confident will help you get there and teach you along the way.

Musings on the True Center of Health

As you get older and wiser, you start to recognize how things intertwine. There are principles that apply across borders of subject, ethics/morality, time, culture, and practices. One thing that’s been heavy on my mind and frequent in my conversations is the principle of balance and moderation, whether it be in lifestyle, fitness, diet, relationships, work, hobbies, education, or decision making.

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To me, it seems that moderation is at the core of every facet of a healthy life, emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. Extremes may get you somewhere faster, help you feel superior, or give you an edge. They may even be the jump start you need to begin on a pathway of change, but they are not sustainable. They throw off balance in other areas of your life, areas that deserve attention and respect. Extremes may also be required in certain seasons of life (competitions, crisis, etc.), but realize these seasons are just that: seasons. They are here for a time, then they pass and the extreme behavior will no longer be required to sustain your situation.

Balance also allows room for error, and, as we all know, to err is human. Allow yourself some grace. Be flexible in how you approach your goals. Be willing to step outside the boundaries you’ve set to enjoy or care for things that may provide a richer, more uplifting experience. Differentiate between the moments that will not come again, and those you are blessed to experience regularly and prioritize. Don’t necessarily let your direction waver, but don’t let yourself regret missing out because you were too stringent.

There’s always an “ideal” or “perfect” way to do something for your health, but these standards rarely account for realistic time constraints, budgets, and other life demands. Moderation and balance help you find a centered place in reality. They help you fill your life with many of the best things, several of the better things, and a handful of the good things that might not be ideal, but allow you room to exist without feeling the strain of trying to attain an impossible standard.

Moderation allows flow and give and take. It promotes consistency, another principle that extends across existence. It facilitates adaptations to the changes life will inevitably bring without forcing you to derail everything you’re ultimately working for. Finding it may pose a bit of a struggle. As imperfect humans, we all tend to bounce from one extreme to another as life demands, rather than live in a consistent “flex zone.” However, implementing balance into small areas of your life at a time will help you learn to recognize how it feels, how it changes and how it translates to other areas of your life. It won’t be a perfect process, and it will take a lifetime of attention, but I truly believe that it’s one of those things that’s worth implementing in your life to promote a healthier, happier existence.

10 Not-So-Fit Confessions of a FitPro

Ever scroll through social media and look at all the fitness pros out there and wonder how in the world they have it all down? Even the posts that admit to “imperfections” seem to ooze false humility and end with a quasi-inspirational quote accompanied by a bright, gorgeous ab selfie of themselves in their underwear. Yes. You’re so flawed. So relateable. Not.

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I admit, I’ve been guilty of this too. Granted, my mirror is always disgusting, my bathroom is not pretty or modern, I never have good gym lighting, and I usually look like I’ve rolled out of bed after having the flu for 3 1/2 weeks, but I know even in some of my “real” posts, I preach motivation, grit, endurance, and consistency. I do have all those things and I practice them often, but not all the time. In fact, I’ve been cutting myself quite a lot of slack lately, which inspired this honest, completely uninspiring, non-dramatic blog post.

Confession 1: Every month or two, I set a goal to do yoga and/or stretch at least twice per week. I have yet to keep this goal at all. So not only am I admitting that I set goals I basically have no intention of reaching, but I also fail miserably to stay on top of my flexibility game. I know this will be extremely detrimental to me if I keep this habit up. I’m trying to get on top of it, but admittedly, it still fails to be a priority.

Confession 2: Pizza is the main food I have not figured out how to eat in moderation. So I go nuts on it a moderate amount of the time (about twice a month, probably).

Confession 3: I hate how pregnancy has made my body look. I feel fat and gross. I feel like such a weakling. My lifts suuuuccckkk (relatively) right now and I can’t stand it! I like being pregnant. I like working out. I do not like them at the same time. And gaining weight has been really hard on me this time around. I haven’t figured out how to emotionally navigate that yet. I’m working on it with some help from my marvelous support system.

Confession 4: I’ve been in this game long enough to make exercise a given in my days. But sometimes, I procrastinate till the end of the day, get tired and lazy, and decide my body needs a rest day, even when it doesn’t. It’s what I tell myself to make me feel better about it, but I know I’m just making excuses.

Confession 5: I spend way too much of my time in my comfy living room chairs playing on my phone and not being active. This definitely happens more during the fall/winter/spring (I seriously hate Utah weather) when it’s too cold for me to want to go outside. During the summer, I’m much more active throughout the day, but I know I need to do better.

Confession 6: I sometimes sneak bites of things and don’t track it. My kid’s PB&J, gummy bears, my husband’s lunch, licking the bowl after baking, a couple pieces of cereal, etc.

Confession 7: I don’t always push myself in the gym. Especially lately. I’m mostly hanging out in my comfort zone right now, but I guess that’s probably appropriate right now. Just know that there are days where I leave my workout thinking I could have/should have done more, and it’s not just me beating myself up. There’s a difference between doing that and simply settling for mediocrity.

Confession 8: I don’t eat a lot of fruit because I like to use my carbs on “dirty” sources like bread, pasta, cereal, potatoes, and dessert. Bite me.

Confession 9: I like disgusting foods that most people consider themselves way too good for. I like fast food, frozen food, packaged food…I know quality when I taste it, but I’m not too pretentious to admit that I can down a whole box of Kraft mac n’ cheese with room to spare.

Confession 10: I rarely buy new gym clothes. Most of my stuff I’ve had for years and I will wear it till it dies or I do. I will also never spend more than $15 on a bra, $25 on leggings/shorts, or $35 on a tank top. To be honest, I have only gone that high on an item of clothing or two ever in my life. Usually my budget is way lower. I’m cheap, it’s an outfit I’ll get disgusting in anyway, so I’m not going to worry about the trends or whether my stuff if Lulu or not.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not justifying any of my flaws or saying this is the best way to be. I have many good habits; I do work hard and make sacrifices for my health and I make sure to try to find balance with my diet, exercise and lifestyle. But I don’t have it all together, I make excuses just like everyone else, I indulge, I fail. It’s part of life. Quasi-inspirational quote here (sorry, can’t help it!): work on one thing, one day, at a time. Acknowledging imperfections doesn’t mean you have to embrace them. Choose what you’re willing to fix, then take the steps you need to fix it.

Confession 11: Honestly, I probably will not work on fixing that pizza habit. Not for a very very long time, anyway.

3 Ways to Exercise on a Time Budget

 

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It’s mostly obvious how getting in shape can be hard on your wallet. Trainers, gym memberships, classes, and equipment can add up monetarily, but what seems to be an even bigger struggle for most people is the toll it take on their time.
Round trip travel time: 30 minutes (if you’re lucky)
Cardio: 30 minutes (a quick jog)
Weights: 40 minutes (for maybe 3-4 exercises)
Summer body: priceless, but you’re already budgeting almost 2 hours to exercise alone, if you add in stretching, warming up, or getting caught in traffic. Add this up to 4-6 days/week and it can start to interfere with other items on your to-do list. While this may not be an issue for everyone (I actually have the luxury of dedicating many hours a week to exercise), it doesn’t necessarily work for those on more of a time crunch. The good news is, it is totally possible to get a highly effective, totally awesome work out in in 20-60 minutes, depending on your abilities.

Step 1: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
This is a great way to work up a good sweat and possibly build some muscle if you add in some resistence intervals. The great thing about HIIT is it can be done in a minimal amount of time with no equipment at all ( great for busy moms, travelling, or other space/time restrictive situations). To throw something together, find a challenging work/rest interval, 4 or 5 exercises that get your heart rate up, and do a few rounds, performing each exercise as har as you can till the rest interval.
Sample workout:
30 seconds work/30 seconds rest, 5 rounds of burpees, jump squats, mountain climbers and high knees. 20 minutes total, great conditioning (if working in your target heart rate), and equipment-free.

Step 2: Combine weights and cardio
This is a great method for when you can get to a gym, but don’t have a lot of time. Spending tons of time doing cardio and weight individually can be helpful (when programmed correctly), but isn’t the most efficient way to spend your gym time. To structure a workout like this, similar to HIIT, find a challenging interval or time block (every minute on the minute, as many rounds as possible, X rounds for time) and a mix of exercises that incorporate resistance and cardio. It may be helpful (and is strongly recommended if you are inexperienced with exercise programming) to have a trainer help you in this department.
Sample workout:
3 rounds for time of 10 push press, 400 m sprint, 10 front squats, 20 burpees, 25 kettlebell swings

Step 3: Superset
A superset is a pair of exercises performed back to back that work opposing muscle groups. These are great for finishing up a workout after your main strength or conditioning segment because you perform two exercises in about the same amount of time as it would usually take you to perform one. To structure a few supersets, pick a pair of exercises that work opposing muscle groups (example: biceps and triceps, quads and hamstrings, abs and back) and perform one exercise immediately followed by the other. Rest for a minute or two, then repeat your set another time or two.
Sample workout:
10 dumbbell curls + 12 tricep extension
15 goblet squats + 12-15 hamstring curls
10 hanging leg raise + 15 back extension

Good luck and happy exercising!

Why the “Body Positivity” movement might not be for you

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I’ve got a little beef with the way the body positive idea has been moving lately. The premise of the movement is definitely one I can agree with; your body is a gift. It helps you do all the things you need to do to survive and it helps you live out your wildest dreams. It’s the console for your soul, the deepest thoughts, traits and emotions that make up your very essence. That is something that should be respected, regardless of how it looks or measures up to society’s ideals. However, this is not an excuse to become complacent in your poor health, bad habits, and less appealing personality/behavior flaws. You see, the body positive movement seems to portray a message of, a) being content with where you are (physically/aesthetically), b) all bodies are beautiful, c) health comes in all shapes and sizes. These are all true to an extent, but not quite to the extent they’re being taken to.

Before you grab a pitchfork and accuse me of fat shaming (don’t even get me started on the whole “shaming” thing), let me assert that I do not hate those who are overweight, think they are disgusting slobs, or feel that they are lazy. On the contrary, I think those who may have let themselves go a little have often done so due to much more important priorities. I can respect that. Things happen, and there’s plenty of excuses for letting your health slip to the wayside. But that doesn’t mean it needs to stay there. This brings me to point A of the BPM (body positive movement): Being content where you are. If you are truly happy being overweight, go for it. Live your life. But don’t proclaim it to be a healthy lifestyle. Acknowledge the health risks that come with the lifestyle and own up to it. Realize that although this floats your boat, you are still at a higher risk for heart disease, certain types of cancer, osteoporosis, etc. If you are not happy being overweight/obese or are not willing to accept the accompanying health risks, the worst thing you can be is content with where you are! Nothing changes from staying in your comfort zone. Love and appreciate your body for the vessel it is and treat it like you respect it. Rather than focusing on being confident with where you are, be confident with where you are going. It’s all about the direction you’re headed. This is not to say that you should hate yourself, talk down to yourself, or “beat” your body into submission. Don’t swing the pendulum that far, that’s not what I’m saying. Again, respect your body and treat it like you would a loved one.

Point B. All bodies are beautiful. One, it annoys me that the aesthetic condition of one’s body is even part of accepting who you are as a person. A beautiful soul should be the priority, not the body. Two, this is touchy, I know, but let’s not pretend that all bodies are beautiful all the time. Example of my thinking: I am pregnant. I am pale, dis-proportioned, and chunky. It’s not cute, pretty, or beautiful…but it’s ok! I’m not unwilling to acknowledge that this is not an attractive phase of my life. Our bodies may not be beautiful all the time, but they all have the potential to be. Additionally, and most importantly, I believe a lot of beauty comes from the inside out. Often times, unfortunate as it is, those who feel insecure, hate themselves, are negative or cruel to others, or are otherwise not taking adequate care of themselves reflect this inner ugliness on the outside. However, confidence, health and positivity carries with it a glow that can enhance beauty, regardless of what you might weigh. Though the cellulite, rolls, pale skin, and extra jiggle may not be aesthetically appealing, a beautiful and truly healthy (physically and emotionally) inside will make you a wholesome, attractive influence. Again, focus on the inside. A body may not be beautiful, and it doesn’t have to be.

Point C (if you’re not so offended beyond belief yet): health comes in all shapes and sizes. False. Health may not display itself in one specific shape or size, but that doesn’t mean your shape or size is necessarily healthy. Be honest with yourself. If your body fat percentage, BMI, body circumference measurements, or weight are too high or low for your age and height, then you are not healthy. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, trouble getting up and down stairs, constant low energy levels, and lack of balance in your life, you are not healthy. The point is, don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because you’re thin you’re in good shape and don’t write off being overweight because you’ve got a clean diet. Recognize where you need to improve. Commit yourself to regular challenging exercise, a balanced, calorically appropriate diet rooted in nutrient-dense whole foods and a lifetime of consistency and honesty in these things. Your body will shape itself as time goes by and will display health in your unique form.

If you are in an unhealthy state, the BPM may tell you what you want to hear, but it may not be the mindset you currently need to adopt. Rather, love your body for the machine it is (not the way it looks) and develop and shape it with love and respect. This probably means making some major changes to your lifestyle; don’t just accept where you are, aim to improve your shortcomings! Be confident in the direction you’re going. Recognize that your soul is beautiful, even if your body might not be at the moment. Side note: Maybe your soul isn’t so pretty right now either. If this is the case, seek the help you need, make improvements, and don’t settle for an ugly inside. Work honestly and consistently until your body does reflect the beauty you have on the inside by shaping into it’s unique and healthy form. Be proud of your progress and every improvement you make, no matter how insignificant it may seem! If you are in a physically healthy state and find yourself becoming perfectionistic, unsatisfied no matter what you do or achieve, or failing to see yourself in a positive light even though your body reflects a healthy lifestyle, then yes. This movement is for you! You might not have the exact shape you want, but you are healthy. You are beautiful (in the physical sense, and hopefully the existential one). ***Above all else, to everyone out there, you have intrinsic worth and you are enough.***

Navigating the “No-Man’s Land” Between Motivation and Habit

After a Friday night food bender, you decide Monday will begin you health and fitness journey. You find a few workouts you’re going to do, join a gym, get some new clothes and compile a fantastic list of superfood ingredients for your new clean eating diet. You’re optimistic, excited and maybe a little nervous for this next step. Your dream body is in mind and you are 100% committed…for about 2 weeks (or maybe only till next Friday). Your diet is probably the first thing to slacken, followed by a drop in exercise intensity, and then perhaps exercise altogether.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, you’re one of the millions of us caught in what I call the “motivation cycle.” You’re committed, dedicated and inspired for a short while. Your intentions are good, and your excitement is genuine, but after the fitness honeymoon phase, your motivations wanes, which reflects in your actions. Motivation is a great tool; it gets you started on the path to self-improvement. It gets you excited about the possibilities for your future. That’s great! You need that, but you can’t rely on it to get you all the way to habit development.

When something is a habit, it’s part of your routine. You don’t think about it, you just do it. It’s assumed that it’ll be part of your day like brushing your teeth, or checking your Facebook. Granted, working out isn’t a habit like biting your nails. It’s a lifestyle, really. It takes time and planning, but it can become something you work into your day without having to go to great lengths to do so. You may not always want to, in fact, you’ll have days where you’d rather be forced to binge watch Teletubbies while buried up to your neck in an active anthill. However, you’ll make time to do it because that’s just how you live. But how do you get to this point from the initial motivation phase?

The short answer is time, consistency, and grit. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I say it takes way longer. This is more than a habit. This is lifestyle overhaul. It takes months to get started, years to find your rhythm, and a lifetime to maintain and perfect. You need to have a firm understanding of this before you can work through the motivation phase and break into the habit phase. A “21 day fix” or “6 week challenge” may not be enough to get you there. It can get you started, but where do you go after that? Have you chosen to commit to this kind of regimen for the rest of your life? Do you truly believe that? Everyone will be different, but here are my personal tips for making the jump from fitness honeymoon to fitness for life:

  1. Find something you love to do. Most people I’m aware of think they hate exercise. Most of the time, that’s not true. They hate what they’re doing to get exercise. Try new things. Be willing to learn new things and step outside your comfort zone. It may end up changing your life. This can be anything that gets you active: a sport, cardio, weight training, zumba, yoga, hiking, active hobbies…seriously anything! Doing something you enjoy will keep you interested longer and most likely provide you with a supportive network. It’ll be something that doesn’t always feel like a chore, but rather a way to let loose, clear your head and provide needed “me time.”
  2. Be accountable. This is more loaded than it sounds, and probably the best way to get over the motivation hump. Option 1: be accountable to others. Hire a trainer, find a workout buddy, start an instagram where those you know and love can follow your journey, join a team or workout class. Somehow find a way to work people into your circle who will rely on you to fulfill a responsibility of some sort. Option 2: be accountable to yourself. This goes beyond asking youself “Did I work out today?” This should also be done regardless of whether or not you choose option 1. Set goals (S.M.A.R.T. goals!), track your workouts and meals, take progress photos and body measurements, and reward yourself appropriately as you reach certain milestones. Accountability is crucial, so develop this skill early on to keep you working through difficult times.
  3. Do something every day. You don’t have to leave yourself dead on the ground after every single workout; this is actually a good way to burn out fast and potentially injure yourself. You won’t want to work out every day. You’ll have situations where you lack time, energy, equipment, or direction. Unless you are sick or injured, these are probably the days you will need to do something most. This trains your will to be stronger than your weakness. This also trains your mindset to look at cans instead of can’t, to focus on abilities and not excuses. Your workout may be lackluster, short, or deviate from your plan, but you will have achieved one of those small, consistent efforts that lead to lasting change.
  4. Focus on health, let everything else fall into place. You should have clearly defined goals, for sure. However, focusing too much on these as you do your day-to-day work can lead to feeling overwhelmed or stagnant. This in turn can lead to a lull in motivation and unwillingness to persue a lifestyle change. A watched pot never boils. A watched body fat percentage never drops. A watched 1 rep max never increases. Watched abdominals never turn into a six pack. Focus on your health, habits, accountability, and workout quality and all your specific goals will fall into place. Trust the process and give it time.
  5. Be strict in your goals and flexible in your methods. Be fearless and relentless in pursuit of what you want, but don’t let the minutiae crowd out your ability to live your life. Things are hardly ever constant. You’ll face obstacles in a variety of forms and flexibility allows you to work around them. Accept that there may be some deviance from your plan, but have Plans B, C, and D to fall back on. If things don’t go the way you planned during a workout, accept where you are and do all you can in that moment. If other weaknesses arise, find ways to strengthen them as you go. Have your goal, but realize in advance that there are multiple roads to get there.

Again, ultimately the change comes through time and consistency. I often get told, “I don’t know how you do it.” I’m several years into my journey. It’s been a learning process and had its ups and downs. Give yourself the chance to get there. Push through the times of struggle. Be gentle with yourself, but not lazy in your expectations. It can be done! Go you!

Oh, and let me know how I can help! This is my job. I’m pretty good at it. 😉

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.

How to sabotage your goals and set yourself up for failure

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New year, new you, right? But for how long? Three months? One month? A week? How many times have you set a resolution, or any goal, only to watch it grow lukewarm on the back burner and eventually evaporate altogether? We’ve all done it, and rest assured we will do it the rest of our lives if we follow these simple steps.

  1. GO BIG OR GO HOME Goal setting is for warriors. Spartans. Absolute beasts. And the fierce don’t take baby steps. They don’t keep their eye on something 100% attainable, but slightly beyond their comfort zone. If you’re going to set a goal, make sure it’s something you don’t think you can do. Make sure you go in mentally afraid and doubtful. Make sure that in order to reach this goal, you will have to sacrifice every essence of balance in your life including (but not limited to) your family, health, sanity, job, and comfort. This will assure a quick failure as you lose motivation and energy.
  2. ALL OR NOTHING MINDSET The only way to reach a goal is to never screw up. Ever. Screwing up even a little bit puts you past the point of no return. No jumping back on the bandwagon. It’s long gone, and you’re alone on the highway of failure. Definitely don’t be flexible with your methods. If something isn’t working, try it again even harder over and over again until you can no longer repeat the cycle. If you mess something up, mess up big because screw your goals. Life is not about moderation!
  3. NO PAIN, NO GAIN Self improvement must suck. Always. If you’re on a new diet, make sure you hate all the food you’re allowed to eat. If you hate running, definitely set a goal to run a marathon. You’ll suffer every step of every mile because that’s what it’s all about. Set goals that are meaningless and unappealing to you. Impose restrictions and punishments on yourself. This will help you be as miserable as possible, because goals should not make you happy.
  4. NO RUSH Never give yourself a deadline for your goals. Parameters are for the committed, and if you’re committed to something, you’ll actually have to try! You’ll have something giving you urgency and holding you accountable. If you actually reserve time off for that trip to Australia, you’ll have to save up the money to go there! And if you decide to finish Les Miserables by May 1st, you’ll have to read, like, a zillion pages. And that’s just too hard. And scary. By not setting a deadline, you give yourself the “flexibility” to fail on your ambitions and not have to feel bad about it.
  5. DEFINITELY! MAYBE… When goal setting, the more vague you can be, the better. After all, it’s easier to shoot at a wall and draw the bullseye around your hit than actually aim for a target, right? It’s certainly much more fulfilling, isn’t it? Being too specific means you have to take aim. It means there’s a point where you know whether or not you’ve reached your destination. Heck, it means you know how far you have to go before you get there and that’s just burdensome.
  6. DON’T HAVE A PLAN Plans are for people who are too rigid to make it up as they go. After all, simply wishing for something is the number one way to make sure you never get it, and that’s what we’re after! Plans give you structure. Guidelines. Boundaries. We already talked about those. Give yourself a goal, but make sure you don’t know how to get there and you’ll find yourself adding another failed resolution to your resume in no time.
  7. PROCRASTINATE NOW! If you really want something, like truly long after it, the best way to keep your yearning strong is to wait to start pursuing that thing. Wait for the next Monday. Or until after that trip. Or till things slow down (haha, what?). Or maybe wait till next year or till you have more money or you’ve lost weight or after the move, et cetera et cetera until you die, successfully having accomplished nothing on your to-do list.

So there you have it. Keep doing what you’ve always done, because it’s probably been working for you. Or maybe, just maybe, start a little smaller. Find someone to help you, or at least council with someone you trust who can give honest feedback on the reality of your goals. Failure breeds failure, so set yourself up for success by setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-based). If any of these pertain to fitness, I’m happy to help! Good luck, and happy self-improvement!