Category Archives: Fitness

4 tips to help moms with recovery and exercise postpartum

4 months postpartum going on one of my daily walks.

Just 4 years ago I had a completely different perspective on what postnatal training consisted of and how I would train myself and clients.

If you would have spoken to me then I probably would have told you that I would train the same right up until I had the baby and jump right back in it at the 6 week mark after I received clearance from my doctor.

I also had trained clients in the past in a way that I would not currently do so.

It makes me grimace a little but when you know better, you do better. And that is what I am doing now.

Much of what I am sharing today is what I have learned from reading and learning the past 4 years about training during and after pregnancy and having become certified from the Postnatal Fitness Specialist Academy which opens for enrollment today! If you are health and fitness professional, doula, massage therapist, ob/gyn, yoga or pilates instructor or simply are interested in postnatal training check out this course here. 

It is only open through this Friday so don’t miss out!

Whether you are a trainer with postnatal clients or seeking out more information about how to recover post baby and get back into exercise this course and this article is for you.

Be aware of pelvic floor dysfunction and what options you have.

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction is not discussed nearly as often as it should be. In fact, I did not even receive one mention of any of the following to be on the lookout for during my pregnancy or after from and Doctor or medical professional.

PFD can act in many different ways such such as  Pelvic Organ Prolapse, Incontinence, and can lead to issues like pelvic, low back, and hip pain or make conditions like Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) worse.

These are all conditions that many moms deal with that are not often addressed. They are very common but do not have to be the new normal. Meaning you do not have to live with these conditions and symptoms.

There are more options such as getting a referral or seeking a women’s health physical therapist. We get therapy if we have a knee or shoulder surgery why not get therapy when we have a baby?

I am tired of hearing women say, “Why didn’t I know this?”

“Why wasn’t I aware of this?”

“No one told me.”

Ease back into exercise intensity and get back to basics.

Again in regards to having a surgery. If you had a knee surgery would you be told not to do anything for 6 weeks and then resume normal activity at the 6 week mark? No, you wouldn’t. You would start with physical therapy and then ease back into activity over months.

Why in the world is this different after giving birth?

The 6 weeks clearance given by doctors doesn’t mean women can’t ease back into activity sooner but it also doesn’t mean they should go full force at 6 weeks. Think of the return to exercise as a progression. Start slow and build upon month after month.

It might look something like this.

1-2 weeks postpartum: Begin gentle stretching, work on breathing and alignment.

2-3 weeks postpartum: Slow, short walks (5-10 minutes), pelvic floor connection with breath and alignment with exercises like bridges and clams.

3-4 weeks postpartum: Continue all the above. Add squats and split squats with no weight if appropriate.

4-12 weeks postpartum:  Walk longer. Start basic postnatal strength program if appropriate, 1-2 days a week.

What will determine how quickly a women progresses? Everything from hormonal health, to how she is feeling physically, mentally, to how much sleep she is getting to her stress levels, to how much support she has around her.

Overall I believe if stress is high in any of these areas, exercise intensity should be lower.

Understand the demands of motherhood on the body (stress, nursing, lack of sleep).

The demands of motherhood on the body are very high, physically and emotionally.

It is a very physical job, even with a little baby, you are holding, swaying, feeding and picking up and putting down constantly.

It can also be highly emotional and if a client is not managing her daily life well or does not have a strong support system, exercise maybe be stress inducing instead of stress relieving.

Chances are that mom is not getting all that much sleep and spending a great part of their day in awkward positions whether holding, nursing, or caring for baby.

These are all factors to consider when training a mom who is early postpartum. The answer is not to kick her butt in a workout the first day back, or several months after that for that matter.

It is important no matter the where you fall in the support system (trainer, partner) to be compassionate, understanding, and to take the full picture into consideration.

Whether training a client or yourself ask yourself the following questions.

What is the need for the specific exercise?

Is the exercise supportive of pelvic floor health? Are the core and pelvic floor being taken into consideration.

Is the training supportive of a healthy, sustainable mindset?

How is mom’s sleeping and eating habits?

Is she breastfeeding?

These are all factors to consider.

Change the conversation.

One of the best things I think we can do for moms is to be a part in changing the conversation around “body back” messaging post baby, reducing the urgency to return to a certain weight or look a certain way.

It is actually ok to like like you had baby because you did.

Postpartum bodies may be bigger for awhile and that is 100% fine and normal. They may carry more fat. This is not necessarily bad. Let yourself be postpartum. Let your body do what it needs to do to recover from 9 months of pregnancy and bringing a child into the world.

I invite everyone to change the conversation around pre and post natal bodies, and all bodies for that matter.

We can make less comments about bodies and more inquires about how mom is doing.  We can make less judgements.

We can exercise to feel strong physically and be strong emotionally not just to have smaller bodies.

We can talk about what we love about our bodies even it that is our squishy bellies that just housed a baby or the extra meat on our thighs that came about from pregnancy.

Let’s start to change the conversation: you, me, everyone.

Again don’t forget to check out the Postnatal Fitness Specialist course. It is open for enrollment today and closes this Friday, October 15th. Check it out here.

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’s 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.

exercise considerations for moms post baby

Daily walks have been my go-to postpartum.

I always like to remind mamas that once you are postpartum you are always postpartum and the idea that postpartum is just the first few weeks or months is a disservice to us all. 

There are an increasing number of legitimate resources (will link a few below) to help moms recover post baby that have more to do than simply dropping the weight and getting back to their pre baby body.

They are about restoring function, regaining strength and helping moms return to everyday activities and activities pain and symptom free.
Don’t think that just because you are not still in the early stages postpartum that its too late to work fitness and activity back into your routine.
What about the mom 8 months post baby having back pain or feeling like she has zero core strength and stability?
What about the mom 1 year postpartum leaking on her run? This is common but not normal.
What about the mom 2 years or 5 years postpartum who feels out of shape and just want to get
back to being strong and healthy?
I hope that this piece will help all mamas whether they recently delivered or have a 4 year old, return to fitness and activity in a slow and sane path without putting so much pressure on themselves to return to a certain look or type of exercise immediately.
This is the goal of my FREE 5 – Day Back to momME course that I put together to help moms who use to play sports or just had a very active lifestyle get back to activity and reduce the stress, overwhelm, and pressure they put on themselves.
Back to momME (meaning you). Sign-up here. Starts Monday, July 3rd.

Exercise considerations for moms post baby.

6 – week Dr. clearance

The 6 week clearance from our doctors is a misconception that the visit indicates that we can return to the exact activity (duration and intensity) that we were doing pre pregnancy.
I mean we can, but is that the smartest, most effective or sane way for moms to regain strength? Just because you can do something does it mean you should?
If you went in for a surgery you would have a progressive routine that would return you back to activity. You wouldn’t just sit around for 6 weeks and then go for a a run the next day.
Same for post baby. Just because you have not hit the 6 week mark doesn’t mean you can’t do a few gentle exercises to restore pelvic floor, core, and overall strength and just because you hit the 6 week mark doesn’t mean it is a good idea to go back to CrossFit full force.
There should be progressions to  return to activity. Keep in mind that returning to fitness slowly will get your stronger and back to your goal quicker in the long run.

 Consider function over aesthetics.

There is more to consider than just losing baby weight or fat. It took you 9 months to grow a baby and I it could take 9 months plus to return to where you were before. Consider that you body may be different now too and that is ok.
It is easy to get caught up in just losing the baby weight but like I  mentioned above it is important to restore the health of your body to make sure it is functioning properly and supporting you in ways it needs to, not only if you want to be active but for motherhood itself.
If you have issues with your body, aches, pains or things that just feel off, go see a women’s health/pelvic floor physical therapist and don’t let anyone tell you that its just normal and the way it is now.

Start small but think big.

The best way to return to activity is to start small.
Build your foundation first. I linked a series of videos below from Physical Therapist Julie Wiebe
on breathing, alignment and pelvic floor health as this is not talked about post baby but so essential to women’s recovery.
Ease back into exercise by incorporating these principals. And no matter you choice of activity you will want to gradually build strength. I chose exercises like clams,bridges, squats, and band pulls early postpartum and once I felt stronger progressed by adding reps or weight.
Consider exercise selection and how you perform the movement.
Are high impact exercises like running and jumping best to start with?
Will full push ups put to much pressure on the abdomen?
Is alignment considered in overhead movements like shoulder presses and pull ups?
Are crunches the most effective exercise for core strength or are they being performed because
the misconception is they will flatten the stomach?
What is the purpose of the exercise you are doing?

Pay attention to other factors.

 
Start to re frame the way you think about exercise and your workouts.
Are your expectations that they should be a certain amount of time or a certain level of intensity?
How is your diet? Are you eating enough?
Are you nursing?
Are you sleeping average or terribly?
Do you have a strong support system to support your return to activity?
Who do you follow on social media and how are they subconsciously causing you to put pressure on yourself to achieve a certain look?
Do you compare yourself to other women and their body and how they are working out?
Start to think about how you can reframe your thoughts around your body, exercise, and where you are are postpartum. And check out the info below.
Here are some great resources from Julie Wiebe on how to regain core strength and pelvic floor function.

How to train smarter, not harder + an at home workout for you

You don’t have to run yourself into ground to get an effective workout.

Being a former athlete I was conditioned to workout intensely, 6 days a week, hours on end with a don’t stop mentality. This is not to say that intense training does not have a place, because of course it does.

But going harder is not always smarter. Here are 4 quick tips on how you can adjust your training to benefit both your body and your mind.

Slow down your movement and work on form. This seems like a no brainer but next time you are at the gym or working out at home actually try to do this.  Pay attention to if you are compromising form and if you are choose a different exercise.

We tend to want to barrel our way through sloppy movements just to say we got it done but the body is amazing at overcompensating and if you constantly training a sad looking push up, you are going to get really good at a sad looking push up.

Take more days off. You get stronger while you are resting and recovering, not when you are working out. I love this perspective from Ryan Andrews at Precision Nutrition. “Gym time is simply a stimulus for change. This stimulus will only create results if we recover enough between workouts. The quicker and more efficiently we can recover, the sooner we can spur further progress.”

To get the most out of your workout be conscious of scheduling in rest days.

Find an appropriate recovery routine. Recovery is not just about taking a day off. Recovery includes your warm-up, your cool down, what you eat and how much you sleep. If you feel you are overtraining you are most likely under recovering. My personal recovery routine includes:

  • Mobility and core exercises pre-workout.
  • Plenty of rest in between sets (for my personal goals).
  • Stretching and foam rolling post workout.
  • Eating a good sized snack or meal with carbs and protein within an hour post workout. This is one of the best times to eat, so be sure not to skip it.
  • Plenty of rests days.
  • A massage once a month.
  • A weekly Pilates or yoga session if I see fit.
  • As much sleep as I can manage!

Can you tell this is a bit of a focus for me? 😉

Rest More

Prioritizing sleep is as much, if not more,  important than eating healthy and working out.  This article even says that exercise may reduce the risk of cancer but those benefits will slip away, it sleep is lacking. Yikes!

Sleep deprivation messes with your hormones which in turn can effect your hunger, energy and cravings. And for me personally, I know that if I am sleep deprived I feel hungrier, my energy is low so eating makes me feel better and my cravings are through the roof.

If you feel like you have hit a plateau but are doing everything right, check you sleep and stress levels.

If recovery is an concern for you try adding one of these focuses into your routine. It seems counter intuitive but sometimes doing less will give you more.

In the meantime I have include an at home strength workout routine for you! Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

 

At Home Full Body Blaster

10 Reverse Lunges right leg

10 Reverse Lunges left leg

10 Deadbugs

10 Push-ups

Repeat 3-5x through

 

The alternative to the “everyday squat/plank challenge”

I see a lot of squat challenges and AB challenges floating around the internet and it makes me cringe just a little bit, squatting and crunching every day with super high repetitions and planking for minutes on end.

While weight training, with increasing heavier load is the best way to develop tone and get stronger IMO, I won’t discount a well organized, body weight workout that you can do anywhere. Just please let the hundreds of squats and crunches go and focus on targeting the legs and glutes from different angeles, using different exercises.

I guess you could say I created my own 21 day “challenge” to target the core and lower body which you can access here, with exactly what to do on each day. The exercises are right here for you on this page.

Give this a shot for 21 days and let me know how it goes.

IMG_3858

Plank – You can use a kneeling plank as a modification. Brace the core, squeeze the glutes and pull the elbows toward you without moving them.

IMG_3892

Fire Hydrant ~ Start kneeling and with a bent knee open the leg out to the side, like shown. Pause for a 2 count and lower back down.

IMG_4934

Dead Bug ~ One at at time, extend one leg out keeping the back in neutral. Bring the leg back in and switch sides.

IMG_0927

Squat baby ~ You know the drill. Shoulder distance apart stance, neutral spine and keep the knees from collapsing inward.

IMG_3957

Elevated Glute Bridge ~ Lower and lift the hips, squeezing the glutes at the top. For a more challenging variation do one leg at a time.

IMG_3871

Side Lying Clam ~ Keep the feet connected and open and close the knees with a 2 count pause at the top.

AJ-125

Split Squat ~ Keep the front heal down and lower so the back knee is hovered over the ground (or as low as feels ok for you). Keep the torso vertical.

 

IMG_3888

Donkey Kick ~ Keep the knee bent, spine in neutral and press the heal up towards the ceiling quickly, no pause.

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 follow it.

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.

 

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

How to implement or develop a routine.

Taking your own lifestyle into consideration.

Proper nutrition and health of your metabolism.

Finding a routine you enjoy.

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.

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. That is it.

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.

 

For exclusive weekly insights around all things health and fitness, snag your spot for my FREE weekly newsletter here.

New email goes out this week – don’t miss it!!

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.

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.

5 reasons fitness is more than just about how you look

Fitness walks a fine line between exercising for health and exercising for appearance. And that is fine, as I don’t feel either one is either wrong or right. In fact, I exercise for both!

But I know sometimes it doesn’t always feel so balanced. Sometimes I think we feel a deep need to use exercise as a control mechanism because we feel if we look a certain way it will validate our worthiness to be accepted by others.

We feel as if we just control what we eat, how we workout, and follow a rigid schedule we will be ok. Every time we start fresh, we feel *this* is the time it will be different. If we reach a certain look then we will be more confident/accepted/worthy.

From my personal experience I found that the more I exercised the less things changed.

Well a few things changed.

I got hungrier and more cravings.

I felt exhausted and stressed all the time.

I felt exhausted, frustrated, and the validation I had in myself lessened.

I wondered why everyone else seemed to have it together and here I was silently and miserably stressing over every minute of exercise and every bite of food.

I needed to be smaller. I needed to be fitter. I needed to have more definition in my muscles.

It is an interesting concept to consider though, the more we focus on fitness, exercise, and working out as a way strictly to get smaller, leaner, more toned, or more accepted, the less successful we will be.

Behind every aesthetic goal, there is a reasoning that goes much deeper and has greater meaning.

The reason behind the goal is more than just about how you look.

 

Success comes in so many different shapes and forms and can mean one thing to one person and something to something else. Behind every goal there is a “why.”  There is a reason we want to fit into our jeans better, have a flatter stomach, lose weight and get stronger.

There is a reason we want to add another plate to the squat rack, run that marathon, or learn that new skill.  When you reach one of your goals it is not because you reached it, it is because of what it represents. It is not so much you reach the goal itself but the feeling of accomplishment. Emotion drives action.

Even if your goal is to get in the best shape of your life, note the “why” behind it.

If you want to lose 30 lbs just because you think you should to be healthier, you may not be as motivated as you would if you define the why in it entirety.  I want to lose 30 lbs to be able to keep up with my kids when we play and to be able to move better on a day to day basis.

I want to lift heavier weight because when I am stronger I feel more confident and what I am more confident I am more productive/successful in life.

When you achieve something you never have before, you open the door to so many other things.

 Testing our physical capabilities is highly underrated in terms of motivation. And accomplishing a physical challenge fuels the need for one of greatest needs outside survival. Growth. Progress. The need to improve in some area of our lives.

The first time I did a full pull up, I was in shock. I never had done one before and I really did not ever think I would. I would hang on the bar and try to pull and barely get half way up.

But after months of practice I was able to do one. I took a chin up grip on the bar, still not convinced in my head, and just started pulling. And I kept pulling all the way over the bar.

I couldn’t believe I just did a pull up! If I just did one, could I do 2? If I can do pull ups, what else can I do in life?

 Being strong and moving well are crucial to our everyday function.

I am a huge advocate of weight lifting and strength training, but I get that not everyone shares that enthusiasm.  While other forms of activity can help you get healthier increase muscle there is no better complete method than lifting weights, IMO.

Being strong and moving well are critical to our everyday functioning. Whether you are gardening in your backyard, picking your child up, carrying in groceries, you want to be strong, able and independent.

I know this sounds boring, unexciting and not nearly as sexy as other aesthetic benefits but when you focus on your own why and what your body is capable of you will find your own sense of power and self-worth that goes beyond having what is deemed as the perfect body.

Weight training can also improve mobility, endurance, and boost our metabolism all in one session. If you are limited on time, choose weight training.

Competency builds confidence.

 

Sometimes it is tough to get started. Even as a trainer, if I go try a workout at a new gym, I get intimidated. It is a new space, with new people. What if I don’t know their protocols or how to use a new machine?  

But you know what? Learning new things only builds confidence.

And the great thing is, the cycle will repeat itself. When you try new things or make progress on something, that confidence boost allows encourages you to take on your next sets of challenges  and learning  (competency) that goes with it.

 I don’t care if it is trying a new workout class, wearing an outfit your normally wouldn’t or striking up a conversation with a stranger. Try something new.

It becomes part of your life and tribe.

Have you ever heard the quote that you are the most like the 5 people you spend the most time with? Think about the people you surround yourself with and if they embody and encourage the kind of values, priorities, and kind of life you want to live.

Find people who are interested in taking care of themselves and prioritize health.  This type of accountability and encouragement is essential.

Your tribe holds you accountable. Your tribe keeps things important to you in the forefront of your mind. Your tribe essentially resembles and reflects you. I feel way more powerful, enthusiastic and engaged in life when I am surround by people like this.

The bottom line is that life is so much more about the way we look. Fitness and health IS crucial and important to our emotional and physical well-being but it’s outcomes do not define who we are or if we are worthy.

It is never too late to start your journey or redirect it to the path you desire.