Monthly Archives: December 2016

4 strategies to stay consistent with the exercise you know you should be doing

AJ-129

One thing I hear from women over and over who are not getting results in the gym is that they have trouble stay consistent, committed, and are really just craving enough energy and motivation to get to the gym.

Look, we all know we should be exercising, it’s no secret, but just owning a workout plan doesn’t ensure that we will actually do the work we are suppose too.

You see, there is a huge gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Many of us know what do and if we don’t know we can easily search for it online. Yet there are several factors we never take into account.

Consistency. Actually showing up.

How to implement or develop a routine.

Taking your own lifestyle into consideration.

Proper nutrition and health of your metabolism.

What to do when you don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning, working out when your kid naps, or how to motivate yourself after a 10 hour day at work.

These are all important factors that somehow get overlooked. The idea that we simply need to “just workout more” is a level 1 way of thinking. In order to overcome this we need to level up and figure out what really gets in the way and how to address it.

Today I am talking 4 strategies to help you stay more consistent and implement what you already know you are suppose to do.

Prioritize what will have the most impact on your results.

Solid nutrition is first and foremost the most important, which I will go into further in this post, but when it comes to working out, if you only have 30 minutes to workout 3 times a week choose weight training.

Weight training is best way to create muscle and lose fat over any other program. Long duration cardio and burning more calories will not only bump up your hunger levels but can also strip your precious lean muscle mass which we so desperately need to hold on to.

Sprints or high intensity training can bump up your metabolism but don’t create strength and body change the same way weight training does.

You can also create a “cardio” like effect by the way you pair your exercises together, resting less, or adding more weight.

When you commit to shorter weight training sessions you are already one step ahead of the game. You are controlling your hunger better (ever notice too much exercise makes you hungrier and have more cravings), you are managing your time better, and you are prioritizing what needs to be done first when you have the time.

Play mind games with yourself. 

More often than not, starting the workout is the hardest part. It is like getting out of bed in the morning. Sometimes it just feels so brutal but once you are up, you are ready to go. Same thing with workouts.

The truth is you will not always feel motivated to workout, so stop relying on that. You will not always have the willpower to just be more disciplined, so stop relying on that. Sometimes you may just have to play mind games with yourself to get the work done.

For example when you don’t feel like starting commit to 5 minutes and once that passes commit to 5 more.  Commit again until the workout is done. If after 20 minutes you truly feel the workout is hurting more than helping cut it there.

During your sets. Focus on the exercise or set at a time.  I love the psychology of just focusing on the two exercises at the same time, with a superset which is alternating between two exercises. If I can just focus on the first pair for 2-3 rounds I can feel successful before moving on to the next pair.

Something about narrowing the focus on a couple exercises instead of an entire workout takes away the enormity and overwhelm of it all. Ask yourself how you can simply make that set the best set.

Commit to less to get more.

Commit to exercising 6 days a week for a hour and you will quickly learn that a schedule like that is hard to maintain. Family in town? Go on a vacation? Insanely busy week at work? Kid gets sick? You can’t control these factors so always commit to the minimal effective dose of exercise you need to get results.

What is the least amount you need to workout to see body change or maintenance.? You still have to put in the work, but not as often or in as much quantity as you think. Intensity will always trump duration so keep in mind that with shorter workouts, there always needs to be a greater demand on the body. 

More breathlessness, perhaps more weight added and/or less rest. You don’t need 6 days a week when you have these factors pooled together in a few great workouts.

Check in with how your workouts affect you hunger and craving levels.

I don’t know about you but the more exercise I do the hungrier I get. Why? I am demanding a lot of my body and need the support of my nutrition. When increasing exercise it is the worst time to cut calories. The body will have a compensatory effect and be more likely to overeat or crave more food.

When starting a new exercise program don’t automatically resort to cutting calories and eating stricter. I have my clients focus on the P and the N. Portions and nutrients.

Where can I fit more nutritious food into my day?

How can I do it in a way where I keep portions in check and feel satisfied?

The answer is not to get stricter. The answer is to learn how to find a balance between not being deprived and being satisfied so yes I am giving you the permission you need to include wine, chocolate and bread in life in moderate amounts.

Pay attention to how high stress and low sleep might be affecting your appetite as well. All these things are contributing factors so it is easy to see why it is incredibly important to simplify your workout and the time you do it in. You have a lot on your plate to begin with!

Remember that being consistent is not about being perfect. It is about focusing on the decisions and choices that will have the most impact on your results. Trying to do everything all at once will overload your physical and mental state. And your results depend on how likely you are to keep working out week in, week out and how likely you are to manage nutrition.

If I asked you if you could start by just getting to the gym 1 more day a week than you currently are, doesn’t that feel a lot more doable than asking you to get there 6?

Whatever your next step is the more confident you feel about doing it, the more likely you will do it. Once you build more confidence the cycle repeats itself. Take action, build competence, build confidence. Repeat until it becomes a habit.

how to bring back your inner athlete in adulthood

vb

In 4th grade I remember having a volleyball coach who was relentless about the ready position and wouldn’t let us get away with anything less.

In 7th grade I remember serving 13 straight points in a row during a match. I was focused.

In high school I remember shutting down the #1 hitter in the conference, block after block after block. Somewhere in that high school experience my basketball team lost a game 79-19. Ouch!

My first week at college my coach 6 packed me (volleyball hit straight to the face) and when I got over the shock he smiled and said “Welcome to college freshie.” That same year we won an NCAA National Championship.

And somewhere in between my dad and I peppered a volleyball in the backyard for 1,029 reps. Yes we counted.

The life of an athlete is a special one. These memories fill me with so much joy and I am proud of when I had to be tough and endure the mental/physical challenges and proud of when I overcame them.

I would never change my athletic experience for the world. Being an athlete taught me I could do hard things. It built my confidence. It taught me how to persevere and push myself when I thought I was at my limits. It gave me memories outside the gym like pushing each on shopping carts through Target on road trips, halloween college parties, and team bonding. It taught me about support and friendship.

With all the amazing experiences that come with being a former athlete, I think it unintentionally sets up some of us for struggle in adulthood in regards to health and fitness. We learn how to train, but only for competition. We are good at practicing but best with a coach and others by our side. We know how to push ourselves but think that is the only way.

When I transitioned my fitness routine into adulthood, a workout was not deemed worthy, in my opinion, unless I was gasping for air. I turned to running because that was the only thing that would work my lungs as hard as practice and games. Running was not fun for me though and it actually made my cravings and hunger levels shoot through the roof. I wasn’t motivated, my workouts were half assed and I was not getting the results I was seeking.

When I finally found CrossFit I was thrilled. It was fun and I could lift heavy weights, do my olympic lifts and climb ropes and it kind of felt like play, plus I could hardly breathe during my workouts so it felt like the perfect fit. Except some of the workouts were only 7 minutes. Or sometimes the workouts were so intense I could not recover.

I would be on for two weeks off for one and repeat it over and over again. I had a couple mental blocks that had to do with time spent and intensity of a workout.

Here is what I now know.

You don’t have to go hard or go home or spend hours in the gym.

I know that is what your coach use to tell you. I know that is how you use to train. I get it. I did it to. It took me years but ultimately what I had to learn was self trust. That running myself into the ground was not the only way to get results and the only way I could prove it to myself was to stop doing the very workouts that were keeping me struggling.

That were keeping me not recovering, not motivated, and not feeling my best. More is not better and I know that inner athlete may be screaming against you but you are no longer training to have to sustain your endurance for game time. Your game time is in a sense, life. While I totally get wanting to push yourself, you can still find that challenge in your workouts and it does not have to come in full exhaustion mode.

Plus you don’t have two hours a day to train any more anyways. That was your job back then and if you keep trying to mimic a workout that you did when you had more time, energy and focus you will feel defeated. That was then. This is now.

Find workouts that build a strong foundation, with some type of resistance training, and choose exercise and movement that you enjoy and make you feel good.

Find a coach, workout buddy, or someway to keep you accountable.

You may feel a little lonely, lost and without a plan. I get it. I did too. It is tough to go from having support and motivation from teammates to having to not only decide what you are going to do in your workout, but actually do it, with a little intensity to top it off. I didn’t know what it was like to workout alone. I had “workout partners” my whole life. Playing sport was never really exercise anyways. It was practice. It was training. It was environment in which I was guided and supported by someone else.

In lifelong fitness you don’t always have that so find something or someone to be accountable too. Find a personal trainer, a supportive community, an online trainer, a friend or workout partner and then create a plan.

Actually write down what you will do in advance. I take this for granted because this is what I do for a living on a daily basis. I write workout programs for people so they can show up and not have to think about it. If you are looking for a way to conserve your will power and increase the likelihood of actually doing a workout, write it down, go the gym, and follow it. You will expend less mental energy thinking about it and be able to save that energy to put it into action.

Check your nutrition.

Every summer I would go home overdo the food intake a little bit but not be so worried because I knew after “hell week” I would be right back in my usual shape. I was also 20. While I have always been conscience of my food choices, I was hungry! I needed fuel. Whether that was pizza, sandwiches, endless Gatorade, power bars or bananas, fuel was my friend. I was more concerned with energy and performance than the extra carbs  I might be consuming.

Things are different now.  Life feels stressful, our days are full, and often energy is low. We are moving less and exercising less ( can’t really compare to 3 hour practices) so we don’t need as much to support our expenditures. We simply cannot continue to eat the same way and expect that our body will not gain weight/fat. It is true, when you workout more, you need to eat more. When you workout less, you need to eat less.

Cut yourself some slack for not measuring up to your younger years but keep the following in mind.

Eat to match your actual activity levels, not what you wish they were.

Workout for what your schedule allows, not what you think it should be.

Move in a way that feels good, not in a way that brings you down. 

Treat yourself like the athlete you currently are, not the athlete you use to be.

It is not the same but you will always have that inner athlete within you.

I have created a special 5-Day course for moms who miss their inner athlete, who want to reduce the guilt and overwhelm and get back to a higher performing version of them selves in their workouts and life.

This is not about working out for 5 days straight. This is about giving you the tools you need to return to incorporate fitness back in all while managing the responsibilities of life and motherhood.

Back to momME! Sign up here.

Course begins Monday, July 3rd.

8-minute AB workout you can do at home

IMG_0697


No time, no problem. You don’t need hours on end simply to make yourself better.

I put together a 8 minute AB routine you can do at home without any equipment. This is no promise for flat abs or a sculpted waist, but if you complete this workout a couple times a week for a month you will definitely notice your strength improve, and that is a major bonus for back health, posture, and your daily living. You will perhaps notice some abdominal tone as well.

Use these on days you don’t workout or as a warm-up to your typical workout.

Beginner:

Use these two exercises: Dead bugs and the side plank with leg lift.

Set a timer for 8 minute and perform 10 deadbugs (each movement counts as one) and 10 side plank leg lifts on each side. Repeat for 8 minutes.

Intermediate:

Use all three exercises.

Set a timer for 8 minutes and complete 10 reps of each exercise until the time is up.

Advanced:

Complete each exercise for a minute for 2 rounds.

1 minute plank row

1 minute side plank with leg lift side 1

1 minute side plank with leg lift side 2

Deadbug

Repeat.

Video links below.

** For women in late pregnancy or early postpartum skip the plank row as it is not an optimal choice.

 

Set yourself up in a push up position with hands underneath the shoulders or slightly forward. The more narrow your feet are, the more challenging it will be. The wider your feet are the more support you will have. Squeeze your glutes for support.

Alternate bending one arm off the ground, pulling your elbow back by your waist, trying to keep the hips stable. Lower back down and alternate sides.

 

Start in a side plank as show with the elbow underneath the shoulder. Stack the hips and extend the top leg out. Lift the leg as high as you can maintain the side plank, pause, lower back down. This is surprisingly challenging.

 

Laying on your back with the arms reaching up and legs in table top find the neutral position of the spine, the natural curve of the low back. Extend your opposite arm, opposite leg (maintaining neutral) and then return to the starting position and alternate sides. This seems simple but should feel very challenging.

Keep all movements slow and controlled.

Diastasis Recti: What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know


I met up with a fellow trainer friend a couple months back who was sporting a similar looking baby bump at the time. Of course we caught up on all things baby and fitness, including the lack of information about not only exercise during pregnancy, but the even single mention of Diastasis Recti (DA) or health of the pelvic floor from health practitioners.

Both of us delivered healthy babes but couldn’t believe we make it almost 40 weeks without even a handout?

I was told to exercise most days of the week, not to lift more than 10 pounds, and at every appointment was asked how many days a week I was exercising and for how long. That’s it.

Post baby I was told I could resume normal activity and do lots of abdominal work. Seems innocent enough but read on to learn why this advice just doesn’t cut it.

What is Diastasis Recti and why should I care?

Diastasis Recti (DR) is likely to occur in almost all women during pregnancy.

The connective tissue (linea alba) that runs down the midline of your tummy (think between the 6 pack muscles, the rectus abdominis) from the sternum to the pubic bone holding your abs together becomes stretched as baby grows. This can cause separation between the abdominals leading to instability in the midsection.

While this is natural and very common it can be made worse with poor posture, poor exercise selection and poor movement during pregnancy and after.

img_0312

Photo Cred: DLVR Maternity

What exercises can make it worse?

As your belly grows and once baby is born it is best to avoid exercises such as front planks, push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, leg raises.

Avoid using heavy weight that forces you to hold your breath.

These exercises put unnecessary stress on the abdomen and can put the belly in a bulging position, contributing even more to DA and pelvic floor dysfunction.

But how do I strengthen my core?

There are far more effective and safe ways to strengthen the core than sit-ups and crunches. Pregnant women do not need direct abdominal work as it is not the only way to create stability throughout the midsection.

Choose dead bugs (as long as you can lay on your back) and modified side planks.

Focus on the glutes as they are as much a part of the core as the abs, with exercises like hip thrusts off the bench and side lying clams.

Use unilateral upper and lower body exercises like standing one arms cable rows, single arm shoulder presses, single arm incline bench presses. Use exercises like trx rows, inclined rows on the smiths machine with the body is proper alignment and breath patterns.

Avoid any back bending exercises or exercises like pull ups that can overstretch the midsection.

Focus on the pelvic floor connection and the breath.

Kegels are often recommend to keep the pelvic floor strong but a more effective way goes beyond just clenching the pelvic region repeatedly. It is a controlled engagement that matches a specific breath pattern.  Your pelvic floor should relax on your inhale and lift on your exhale. This is a gentle movement that should not be used at full force.

When applied to an exercise such as a squat lets say, inhale on the way down, engage your pelvic floor and exhale on the way up.

This breath and movement pattern is important for keeping a strong pelvic floor during and after pregnancy.

Diastasis and pelvic floor dysfunction are often associated with incontinence, back or pelvic pain, hernias and prolapse.

Aesthetically it can look or feel like a poochy tummy.

What else should I avoid during pregnancy?

Be cautious of when you might do sit up like movement in your everyday routine. Getting out of bed, sitting up of the ground, etc.

Always be conscious of rolling on to your side first and then using your upper body to press yourself up.

This creates unnecessary pressure on the tummy and the pelvic floor.

I have attached several additional resources below.

How to check for DA from Jessie Mundell.

Healing DA postpartum. 

 The Diaphragm and Our Internal Pressure System

Improve your squat with these quick tips


If you are not squatting in the gym you are definitely doing some form of it throughout the day whether picking something up or getting out of a chair, making it uber important for everyday functionality.

Before you decide to add any type of load to your squats I recommend checking out these quick tips to fix common issues that people have when squatting. I use these when I simply want to go back to basics to check form.

The squat is a fantastic lower body exercise and works almost all the muscles in your lower body with the primary focus being the quadriceps and also your gluteal muscles and hamstrings. There is also a lot of core work (abdominals and low back) to help keep you stabilized.

There are many variations from a front squat to a back squat and you can use different pieces of equipment from barbells to kettle bells and dumbbells to change the emphasis of the muscles being worked.

First remember the basic squatting guidelines. Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart, toes may turn out slightly. Think about how you would sit down in a chair. You wouldn’t just sit straight down. You would shift your hips back as your torso leans forward slightly (not in a bad posture way). Think of pressing your knees out. Once you hit your bottom depth, return back to the top.

The typical breathing pattern for a squat is inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. 

Check out these tips.

img_0927

Elevate your heels if your toes lift when you squat. If your heels come off the ground in a squat you should not be adding any additional weight until you have corrected this problem. Make sure you’re hips are shifting back and your torso leans forward slightly rather than squatting straight down.

Heels lifting is usually a lack of ankle mobility. If you find that your heels are coming off the ground when you squat put a 5 lbs plate underneath each heel. This will help you perform the movement correctly and allow for greater depth as you sit down into it.

Put a band around your knees if they cave inward when you squat. If you find your knees are caving inward this is often a sign of weak gluteal muscles. Always think of pushing your knees out, especially when you are at the bottom of your squat and returning back to the top.

A great way to monitor this is by putting a mini band above your knees and maintaining tension in the band during the entire squatting pattern. If you lose the tension your glutes are not doing their job.

Use a box or bench to gauge depth if you find your range of motion is limited. Often people are unable to perform the full depth of a squat because of tightness in the hip flexors, hamstrings, low back, and or ankles. It can also be caused by weak glutes. 

A good way to gauge your depth is to use a box or bench in the gym to squat down toward. Start seated to make sure the bench is in the proper place with all your squatting cues. Stand up and then sit back down to the bench, pause, and return to the top.

You can incorporate hip and hamstring stretches in your routine as well as more specific glute exercises like deadlifts and bridges.

I hope these tips have helped. Give them a try and let me know how they go.

8 musings I apply to my workouts to stay consistent

 

My exercise philosophy has evolved and changed over the years and I think that is important for all of us to recognize where and how fitness plays a role depending on the season of our lives.

Lets face it. Health is important. Movement is important. Fitness is important. We all know this but many of us fail to prioritize it consistently.

I spent my childhood playing in the backyard, hiking in the mountains during the summer, and watching my parents play sports year round. It was carefree and natural.

That transitioned into sports of my own including volleyball, basketball, soccer, and softball which led to volleyball in my college years. Physical activity never was really thought about as something “I had to do” I just did it.

My 4 years of college volleyball were more structured with practice, track workouts, weight lifting sessions, and games. It was intense. It was competitive. I was pushed to my limits.

In all these years I have two amazing take aways. I enjoy moving and being active. I am capable and strong more than I sometimes believe, mentally and physically.

While this belief has stayed the same, I have had several different shifts over the years in the way I think about working out and exercise.

I spent my post college years gym going, doing yoga, and going for long runs, working out almost every day of the week and my days revolved around eating healthy and all things fitness.

I became Pilates Instructor and enjoyed the benefits of a new method of exercise. I added that into my routine. I became a personal trainer and shared my love of weight lifting with others.

I spent a year doing a Masters swim program to improve my swimming technique.

I joined a CrossFit gym and loved doing fun things like rope climbs and getting back to Olympic lifts.

I pushed and pushed my body physically, loved it at times, hated it at times, and then it (my body)  broke down on me in 2013 when I was going through a stressful time in my life.

I spent a year with daily back pain and had to scale back on my workouts and everything I loved doing. This is where some of my major mindset shifts started to happen around exercise, fitness, and working out.

I always had a “more is better” philosophy with exercise. After all, as an athlete, you workout all day everyday, you push your body to extremes, you train more, you do more. This is all good and well in competition years but doesn’t transition so well in everyday life.

The good news is you can still train hard, get results, and a take a less is more approach if you apply it correctly. So with that, here are some lessons I have learned and mindset shifts I have had that have allowed me to fit exercise seamlessly into my life without zapping my energy or taking up my time.

IMG_2504

2013 self, I am so proud of you. Your mind was so much stronger than your body and that is what got you through.

 

You don’t have to run yourself into the ground to get a good workout.

All this go hard or go home, no excuses, no rest days, must leave a workout collapsed on the ground nonsense is actually a huge set back for many. The idea that a workout is only effective if you are gasping for air or can’t move after is a huge limiting factor in our overworked, exhausted, can’t find time lives.

Sure you can train hard but an effective workout for me now a days is more about getting it done than intensity or length. I find that too much of either doesn’t mesh well with the demands being busy and tired.

Motivation is not something you have, it is something you create.

If motivation was my sole drive in working out, I would not work out half as much. I can’t say I am always super motivated and inspired to workout. In fact on most days I am not.

Motivation is usually inspired by action and action is simply starting and completing the workout. I feel more motivated and inspired towards the end and after a workout than before or starting. It is not always about being motivated it is about just doing the work whether you want to or not.

I can do hard stuff.

Being strong is being capable. Emotionally and physically. I can get through hard stuff in my workout and in life.  Physically. Can I finish this 17 mile hike? Can I get this serve over the net at game point in a championship match? Can I deadlift 220 off the ground. Can I do a pull up? Yes, yes I can.

Emotionally. Can I speak in front of this big group of people? Can I survive a divorce? Am I cut out to be a mom? Yes, yes I can, and yes I am.

Fitness is not linear and neither is life.

I use to think if I did a,b, and c, I would get x,y, and z. The pursuit of health and fitness (and life)  is not always this straight, predictable line. It comes with obstacles, setbacks, and challenges. More so it is about how you deal with obstacles and if you let them break you, or if you let them make you.

Let good enough be good enough.

The unsatisfied mind feels like a gift and a curse to me at the same time. It keeps me striving for more, motivating me to do better and make progress and improve.

Yet it leaves me feeling that good enough is just not good enough and that I need to do more, that I need to be more. I have learned that it is ok to be content but not satisfied. That I give my best, let that be good enough, while striving to improve and not get caught up in the relentless, unachievable pursuit of perfection.

Skipping rest and recovery reverses my progress.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that if I just let myself recover, I will come back stronger. AND I will stay more consistent. I would rather take more rest days off regularly than going hard for weeks and going home for weeks. Rest and recovery is now something I prioritize  as much as anything else.

Use comparison for inspiration not competition.

There will always be someone considered stronger, smarter, leaner, prettier and more successful. Instead of letting feelings of envy, shame or frustration get you down turn to what others are doing to be inspired and then go back to be the best at what you are doing.

Pretty much a “You girl girl,” of sorts and then back to focusing on yourself.

I am more than a body. I am more than my workouts.

Working out takes up a good focus of my life. It is a daily habit that I enjoy in one sense or another. But it is not all of me. The way my body looks is not all of me.  And just like I learned when I was out of commission, in so much back pain, there is more to life than working out.

BUT you better believe I will make it a part of my life as much as I can, as long as I can, because the benefits go beyond aesthetics and how much weight you can lift or how far you can run. They are lessons and tools we can use forever.