Monthly Archives: July 2017

5 non-fitness ways I reduce stress

While I love to share health, fitness, and eating tips on a regular basis I also believe that health is more than what you eat and how you workout. Health is the way we take care of ourselves outside of nutrition and exercise and how we manage our stress.

Today I am sharing 5 non-fitness ways I reduce stress.

Time outside, in the morning, with my dog.

I spend time outside.

There is something about being outside and getting some fresh air or sunshine that enhances my mood. Depending on the time of year this could look like going outside to play, taking a walk, sitting outside at a restaurant, or hanging out in the backyard.

I connect with others.

Being that I tend to be more introverted I typically find myself re energized by alone time. I like shorter bursts of interactions with others and can get easily drained by being around too many people or being social for too long.

On the flip side, I can easily get too caught up in my thoughts and worries and feel lonely when I don’t reach out and connect with someone for too long. This could be a phone call or reconnecting with ¬†a friend or family member in person. Even a friendly interaction with a stranger at the store makes me feel more positive about humanity.

I write.

Whether it is a few things I am grateful for, a note to a friend, journaling an experience or my fitness blogs and emails, I write weekly. I find that expression through words can be a powerful outlet.

It allows me to reflect, vent, educate, and share with others as well.

I stare at my dog.

Just kidding. But kinda. ūüėČ

My dog Lulu is my fur child and she is the best of company. She is loyal, enthusiastic, forgiving, and the most selfless creature. Research has actually suggested that time with pets is a form a stress relief. I wish I could take her everywhere with me and I know she wished she could go everywhere with me too.

My morning cup of coffee.

Ok it is not the coffee itself that helps me reduce stress. In fact I am sensitive to caffeine and if i drink too much it makes me more anxious.

It is the routine around coffee that I love so much. Mornings are the time time I feel the most energized, positive, and productive (as long as I can wake up on my own terms even if it is 5 am).

Having a baby has changed this greatly and it has been a bit of a struggle to recreate this time.  I wish I could take the way I feel in the morning with me throughout the day, everyday.

Tell me: What is your favorite way to reduce stress?

10 quick tips to navigate any gym with confidence

Back in 2001 I walked into a gym intimidated as anyone could be for essentially my first “real” training session and started working with a trainer named Jack.
 
He was the epitome of a bodybuilder from the loose fitting Golds Gym tank to the beach blonde hair to the tan. I told him I needed to work on power cleans and sprints for volleyball season and he took me through a body part split routine. Regardless I learned a lot.  
Looking back, I remember struggling with the 10 pound dumbbells for a shoulder press.¬†Fifteen years later I am rocking the 20’s¬†for shoulder presses and have built some serious gym confidence though it didn’t always feel that way EVEN the first few years as a personal trainer myself.
Without saying a word about confidence Jack taught me a lot about weight training and walking through a gym like you owned it.

I know in the beginning without Jack,¬†I¬†felt a little intimated, overwhelmed,¬†unsure about what to do, or ridiculous if I couldn’t figure out a machine.

I kept my¬†distance from areas that were populated more by males or bodybuilders.¬†I would walk¬†straight to machines or areas I felt comfortable even if it wasn’t challenging me as much.

Today I want to share with you 10 quick tips to help navigate the weights sections at any¬†gym, including etiquette, what to do‚Äôs and the how-to’s¬†of building a better workout so you exude confidence and get in better shape even when you might feel a little out of place. I know I sure did for awhile.

Ask if you are unsure. Personal trainers and gym staff are there for a reason. If you are unsure if a space is available for general use, are wondering where you can stretch, are not sure how to sure how to use a cardio equipment or machine, just ask. Knowledge builds confidence even in little bits. And sometimes just knowing how to use a machine or where to rack the weights makes all the difference. I still go into unfamiliar gyms and certain pieces of equipment perplex me. There is always something else you can do.

Clean up after yourself. Just as you would at home clean up after yourself, same goes in the gym. It is courteous and respectful to other gym goers, though you will notice many do not follow this advice. Put mat or exercise balls away. Put the free weights back on their rack and if a machine requires you to add plates of weight, be sure to return them to their proper storage spaces.

Be aware of your space. Even if you are not using a piece of equipment but perhaps doing an exercise by it, be sure to give that machine, bench or free weights section enough space so other gym goers can access the equipment. If you are unsure just imagine how close you would want someone working out to you and then decide from there. Also, if someone is invading your personal space it is ok to politely ask them to move a couple feet.

Don’t be afraid of the free weights section. Sometimes machines feel safe and comfortable because there are minimal adjustments and it may feel intimidating to jump into the free weight section maybe because you are not quite sure what to do or because you are only grabbing the 10 pound weights. Who cares? It doesn’t matter how much weight you are lifting to start, it matters that you are there breaking out of your comfort zone. You belong in that space as much as anyone else and there are plenty of great exercises to choose from. Feel free to take those weights to other parts of the gym to use, just be sure to return them.

What to do with those benches? Often the benches by the free weight section are designed to be flat or at an incline depending on the exercise. They may adjust differently at different gyms and for certain exercises. Try not to use the benches as a place to set your water bottle or towel if you are not using it but doing an exercise next to it. For example if you are doing bicep curls give an appropriate amount of space so others can use it.

Exercises you can perform on benches include dumbbell bench press, incline press, shoulder press, dumbbell row, just to name a few.

Sharing equipment. It is perfectly fine to ask someone to share equipment, mostly for easy to adjust machines, especially if you notice someone on it for an extended period of time. Simply ask if you can jump in between sets and most people have no problem with it. Be sure to adjust to your correct weight and wipe it down quickly if you notice that person is extra sweaty or if you are extra sweaty. Typically if you see someone with really heavy weight on a bar it is probably best not to ask as it will take too much time to adjust and switch the weight.

As for saving equipment be aware of saving two pieces of equipment while working back and forth in between sets if you notice someone hovering like they might want to use it. Make a offer to share.

Squat racks. Squat racks are areas that are designed for people to do pull-ups and heavy lifts, like squats, where they actually need the rack to load and unload the weight. If you are starting with very light weight you may want to use another straight bar that many gyms have available. Once your weight increase above 40 head on over to the rack where the bar is 45 pounds. It doesn’t matter if you are not lifting heavy weight but don’t do exercises in there like bicep curls, stretches or exercises that you can do in other places. Many gyms only have a couple racks and are precious to those who want to use them.

How to select exercises. If you are looking to get the most out of your workout choose exercises that are multi-joint exercises, meaning they are working multiple muscle groups across more than one joint. For example, a shoulder press is working from your elbow and shoulder joint. A squat is working from you hip and knee joint.

These exercises target multiple muscles groups and you will get more out of these movements, then say bicep curls and tricep presses. These are fine to do but my advice would be to save them until the end as a bonus circuit after you have finished the bulk of the workout.

Also to keep balance in the body and not overdo one particular group, use the following guidelines. Pick one exercise from each category.

Upper body push – Chest Presses, Incline Presses, Shoulder Presses

Lower body bilateral – Squats, deadlifts

Upper body pull – Rows, Pulldowns, Pull-ups

Lower single leg stance – Step-ups, Lunges

A workout could look like this:

3×12 Superset

Dumbbell Bench Press, Squat

Lat Pulldown, Reverse Lunge

When you should go up in weight. Sometimes it is confusing to know when you should go up in weight though a general easy to use guideline is this for a set of 10-12 reps. If you get to 12 and you feel like you can do 5 more it is too light. If you only get to 6 or 8 it is too heavy for this particular workout. If you go up in weight and can only make 9 reps, keep shooting for 9 reps until you can do 10-12.

You belong there as much as anyone else. Remember there is no rule for how fit you have to be to use the weight room. Walk into any weight room and own it like you belong there, because you do. Sure you may have questions but if confidence is keeping you back, all you have to do is believe in yourself and others will follow suit.

How to transition eating from diet to lifestyle

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Have you tried a diet before? I have. Quite a few actually.

Atkins for maybe 3 days. I was miserable and hungry and instantly knew it was ridiculous.

A detox. Made it only a day. Same result, same feelings.

The Slim Fast diet.¬†Actually made it 2 weeks on this one, mostly because I did like¬†the chocolate shakes. ¬†I freaked out one night and wondered what I would eat ongoing if I didn’t buy the shakes. Again realized it was ridiculous.

The Clean Eating diet. This one seemed rather innocent actually, like most whole food meal plans. I was eating quality amounts of foods, often throughout the day. My hunger felt in control and my energy good enough. Then I realized I was scared to use ketchup, eat dessert other than my Sunday night treat meal, and was in pure agony trying to make food decisions at social gathering and at dinners away from home.

I know diets don’t work long term. Our country is screaming loud and clear that diets don’t work by ¬†our health epidemic and food obsession and search for the one plan that will actually work. I have chats with friends and clients who know diets don’t work and then the next week I see their Whole30 post on Instagram. Sigh.

Diets don’t work long term but we try to do them anyways.

Here is the thing. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else says. If you feel a diet can help control your eating, benefit your health, or improve your life in some way, you are going to try it and experience it for yourself until you make up your mind. Which is fine. No judgements because everyone is entitled to their own experience.

Here is where I can help.

Today’s post is going to cover how to transition yourself off a diet so you can actually apply what you learned from it (because you probably did learn something even if it was that it didn’t work), continue to get results, and trust yourself around food without a meal plan, without a food list.

I am not a doctor. I am not a registered dietician.  I am not here to diagnose anything or tell you what to eat, in what amounts, at what times.

I am here to share concepts and tools that can benefit you by relinquishing the need to be on a diet, on a meal plan, in control all the time.

The ideal end results? A lifestyle that is less obsessed around food, dieting, and quick fixes, a mindset that is in for the long haul, and a body that follows.

Here are 3¬†“food for thought” insights to help get you outta the diet mindset and into a lifelong way of eating, chocolate and wine included.

Food matters, habits matter more.

It matters that you eat quality foods in appropriate portions but this advice alone will not help you long term. It matters, but habits matter more.

Habits are not bad but they are tricky.They somehow emerge without your permission and develop without your knowledge.

Habits can be good because once they become automatic they require you to think less. The brain likes effortless. The key is to adopt habits that serve your life, your goals and desires.

Snacking at night is a habit. Even though you may not want to be doing it, it feels very easy for the brain and will take a lot of effort to break.

Playing with your dog or kids before bed instead of snacking is also a habit. It too can feel effortless and resisting that fridge will not feel quite so draining.

When you think of habits you want to change, think of ways you can improve them first. Be better before strict. You do not have to resort to changing everything.

If you constantly forget to eat breakfast could you just start by grabbing a yogurt on your way out the door instead of trying to make a full breakfast?

If night time snacking is your enemy could you allow yourself to have a banana and peanut butter or an egg and 1 piece of toast or something along those lines that feels satisfying?

It may seem like a lot but if you are going to snack your way until bedtime these 200 extra calories will be a huge improvement.

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Expose yourself to the food you fear.

Diets always have rules.¬†There are always restrictions. There are always tools that keep us tracking something. Eat this, not that. Eat only 40% of calories from carbs. Count your calories and don’t go over. Count your calories to match your activity level.

I don’t think tracking is bad but I don’t think it is something that most can fit effortlessly into their lifestyle, or would want to fit into their lifestyle. In any sense this can become an obsession. There was a time when people didn’t think quite as much about what they ate and were much healthier and happier.

So instead of analyzing what you should and shouldn’t eat all the time, I challenge you to this.

Expose yourself to the food you fear. Are you scared that you will eat the entire pizza instead of just 2 slices? Are you unable to keep ice cream in the house because it will only last a day? Do you eat all the chips and salsa before your dinner arrives?

Chips and salsa use to be my kryptonite and I use to eat them all! I would get so upset with myself that I banned chips and salsa from my life not allowing myself to have even 1.

One day at a Mexican restaurant I wondered in my head if I was really going to never eat chips and salsa again and how depressing that felt based on my simple fear of no control. So I allowed myself a 3 chip rule, and whenever exposed would allow myself 3 chips but not a single one more. I did this for years. Now I can happily be presented with them and not only control  myself but not count either.

I eat knowing that a few will satisfy me and leave me feeling good physically (no bloating and being stuffed) and good emotionally ( not regret, guilt, or self shaming).

Give it a try. A piece of chocolate a day. A glass of wine mid week when you think you should only save a bottle for the weekend. Your favorite snack that you always go overboard on.

Set an initial number to follow and then see how it plays out over time. You may overindulge the first few times but don’t give up. Keep practicing until that food no longer has control over you.

Delay gratification.

The term delay discounting is a term and concept I learned from one of my favorite books on self control, The Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal, which states that the longer you have to wait for a reward (in this case food) the less it means to you.

Future food rewards don’t seem to mean as much to us humans as having the food right this very moment. Neuroscientists have actually studied this concept and when we put a delay on food our brain treats it like a future reward not¬†immediate gratification. To put it simply it means less to us.

You can implement this starting this very moment. Whether it is avoiding donuts in the office or you are headed to the fridge after dinner: try waiting 10 minutes before you eat what you want.

Create some distance and remove yourself from the kitchen, the office, or cover up that candy jar calling your name. Once your 10 minutes are up stop trying to resist and see if you still want what is calling your name.

Or could you perhaps delay that another 20 minutes? Or all day?

Sometimes you may choose to indulge and that is ok but sometimes you may realize that your desires were more about having something instantly than having anything at all.

 

Listen, I get the temptations with diets. They fill us with hope. It feels like this time will be different. This will be the time when all your food struggles dissipate and you can finally have the food freedom and body you are seeking. You can envision the person you want to be come and set yourself up with very high expectations.

Committing to a diet makes us feel good before anything is even done and is often the most rewarding part of the process. I truly believe they¬†can teach us what works or doesn’t work for our bodies but¬†only you can learn through your experience.

If you do use a diet just to get motivated, have some control and direction remember the following:

Habits matter more than food rules and lists. Focus on habit change as much as you focus on eating healthier otherwise your old pattern will show up down the road guaranteed.

Exposure yourself to the food you fear so you are not spending your life in a constant battle with it. It’s fine to resist bread¬†for a week but are you really going to avoid it¬†forever?

Delay your desired food to test yourself to see if you really want it. This is a great tip you can apply anywhere.

As always would love to hear your thoughts.