Category Archives: Fitness

Interview with Fit Pro Brianna Battles on Pre and Post Natal Fitness

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“Pregnancy is temporary. Postpartum is forever.” Strength and Conditioning Coach Brianna Battles

There is so much poor health and fitness information out these days that when I come across really important information and resources I can’t help but share it and that is exactly what led me to this interview.

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing fellow fitness professional Brianna Battles, a certified strength and conditioning coach, who immersed herself in the pre and post natal fitness world after her own experience training uninformed during pregnancy and a difficult postpartum recovery that left her feeling like something just wasn’t right.

As a trainer myself I have become more educated over the last couple years about what training looks like during pregnancy for a safe and healthy delivery and recovery postpartum.

Though I hadn’t quite experienced it myself, not only the lack of information,  but what is left unsaid even in my 9th month of pregnancy.

Why aren’t we providing women with better information on exercise and training during and after pregnancy?

I turned to Brianna to share her perspective and expertise. You can access the interview below.

The interview covers why common fitness advice is often misguided, such as:

“Just keep doing what you have always been doing.”

“Don’t lift more than 10 lbs.”

“You can return to full normal activity 6 weeks postpartum once cleared by a doctor.”

It also includes what is often being left unsaid, such as:

Diastasis Recti and how your exercise selection could make it worse and affect you post baby.

Seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist postpartum before returning to exercise.

Easing back into your workout routine even if it takes a year or two.

Access audio interview here.

I have also included several links below about where to find Brianna
and additional resources to help keep you informed.

Diastasis Recti Blog by Brianna
www.everyday-battles.com
Fit Pro’s Course for those who work with  pregnant and postpartum athletes at all levels. Access here.

4 things no one *really* tells you about pregnancy and exercise

 

I have heard too many stories about women pushing themselves with exercise during pregnancy or have seen women on social media jumping and crunching even as their belly grows. I have seen trainers having clients do crunches and leg lifts into the 2nd and 3rd trimester (but why?) and have heard the following comments from women all too many times.

“I was told to just keep doing what I had always done.”

“No doctor ever told me anything about that.”

“I figured since I could do it I should do it.”

“I thought the harder I worked the easier the delivery and recovery would be. Not the case.”

I have felt fortunate to have a heads up about pregnancy and exercise as I have stayed up on the latest guidelines and info as a trainer, for the sake of my clients, even before I became pregnant.

So when I found out I was pregnant I was eager to apply my own knowledge to myself.

You see a few years back I remember watching girls CrossFit late into pregnancy in awe, thinking how cool and powerful that looked. That would be me too. Why not? I always have worked out. I have always lifted weights. If I can squat with some weight on bar why not. If I feel ok to run, why not? If I can still physically work my abs, why not?

There is a huge disconnect between doctors and trainers and individuals about exercise so today I decided to share 4 insights that no one really tells you about pregnancy, activity, and working out that I think are important for women to be aware of.

Don’t do what you have always done.

The common advice passed down from generations is to do what you have always done. This advice has become rather generic and lazy for many reasons. One, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should ( I will address that point further in the next section). Two, you may not have the energy levels to do so.

When I found out I was pregnant I immediately exercised caution. Running felt odd, crunches felt unnecessary and I really just did not feel the need to push my body and hard as I did before. My purpose behind training entirely shifted.

In both my first and second trimester so far I have been extremely tired and I found it is much harder to recover from workouts even if the workout itself feels good. After feeling more and more exhausted I got to a point where an afternoon on the couch felt more beneficial than even a short workout.

Now is a better time than ever to listen to your body.

I always tell my clients to listen to their body. Rest when needed, workout harder when you can. This is advice I have always tried to follow myself but to be honest it usually ended up in me just pushing through because it was short workout, I could come home and relax, and because determination and hard work has been instilled in me from all my years of sports and athletics.

But now I can easily see now is just not the time to push myself when my body is telling me otherwise. I can’t work all day, workout on my lunch break, run errands of my afternoon break, work some more, come home, walk the dog, clean the house and then crawl into bed without the consequences of feeling miserable.

I have had to check myself that now, if any time in my life, is one of the necessary times to listen to my body and prioritize rest over anything else. I think as a culture this is advice we can and should apply more.

Sometimes you just need something like pregnancy (or sickness or overtraining) to slap you in the face.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Even my doctor told me to workout 30 minutes every single day, even if it is just walking.

This is nice in theory but just because I potentially can is it really going to help me if my body is craving sleep and rest.

Like I have talked about with my workouts and even my daily activities, just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should, or that it is going to benefit me more.

Just because I can run and jump or deadlift some fairly heavy weight right now doesn’t mean that it is the best choice.

Just because I can hike 5 miles on the weekend, run errands on my breaks, and be the busy bee that I am, doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea.

I think this notion can be hard to break for many but I know for me personally I had to re examine my priorities and realize that yes I can still do many things but now is not the time to push through just because I feel I can. What is the end purpose and end goal?

Core work and exercise selection must change.

 

This encompasses every single point I have made above.

Many women experience Diastasis Recti (DR) during pregnancy which is abdominal separation due to your growing baby against the abdominal wall. The connective tissue holding your abs together can become thin and soft and exacerbated by poor exercise selection.

Choosing proper exercises can help strengthen the core, reduce back pain and help your postpartum recovery.

You don’t necessarily need to stop lifting weight or training but there are smart, safe, and effective exercises that will actually benefit while yes others could harm the integrity of your tummy and tissue.

Core training needs to change. Not just crunches, leg lifts, and front planks but things like burpees and push-ups too. Choose more deadbugs, modified side planks, hip thrusts off the bench, and unilateral upper and lower body work.

Choose exercises that work the posterior chain (strengthen the backside of the body) to help combat the body as it is changing. The growing belly will most definitely affect posture perhaps making the shoulders more rounded, the low back go into more of lordosis like curve and the hips tighter.

Choose pulling exercises like rows, lat pulldowns, using one arm or two arms and take advantage of a TRX or smiths machine for things like incline push-ups and incline rows.

Use squat variations (air, goblet, dumbbell), deadlift variations ( sumo, kettlebell, Romanian deadlifts or conventional) and glute bridge like no other.

Focus on posture, alignment, breathing and pelvic floor engagement.

Unless recommended by a doctor pregnancy does not need to be a time of inactivity. Maintaining your strength is key as your body grows and changes for labor and recovery as well.

DO realize that everyone will be different and listen to your body, adjust your exercise routine, and take some time to relax because your body is doing some hard work growing that baby.

Strength Training During Pregnancy: My 1st and 2nd trimester


I have always heard the advice to just keep doing what you are already doing when it comes to exercise for the first few months of pregnancy.  That is the most common advice given from popular books, Dr.’s, and the random person I run into chatting about exercise and working out.

Funny thing. About 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant (and I found out pretty early at about 4 weeks) I just sensed something was different in my body. I slowed the intensity. I didn’t want to lift as heavy. I pulled back most exercises with impact. My goals and focus changed.

All the opposite of what I thought I would do being a fitness trainer and enthusiast, and after following women who kept the intensity and lifting up at their CrossFit workouts and such.

Today I am going to share my workouts for my first and second trimester so far. Keep in mind that every women’s body and pregnancy is different. Some women are not recommended to exercise, some like to push the limits a little further, some like to find the middle ground. Always check with your doctor to decide what is best with you.

The first trimester.

I really wished I could have shared with you in real time how I felt during the first trimester. My body decided to skip getting really sick every day but I sure felt nauseated and exhausted for a solid 8 weeks.

It was that in between place where I felt the tug of war in my head like I could and should workout but at the same time I felt like I just wanted to skip any exercise all together.

Here is what I did. I eliminated any type of running (not like I did much anyways), jumping, or exercises that got my heart rate up because the intensity, impact and/or bounce made me feel even sicker.

I did 2 or 3 weight training sessions a week, full body, with tons of rest in between each exercise. Some days it was only 3 sets of 3 exercises total. Like a squat, a row, and an incline push-up.

Other days it was a few more. Moving my body other than walking was an accomplishment in itself and most of the time it did make me feel better. I learned to let good enough, just be good enough for the time being.

Here I am at 20 weeks.

Once mid April hit, I started to have more good days than bad days. My nausea reduced. My normal appetite returned.

For the past few weeks of my 2nd trimester I have been continuing with weight training and walking and feel good enough to add a few short local hikes in.

I am resting less during exercises so my heart rate gets up more and this is what I consider, and have always consisted, my cardio. I still do full body workouts but I don’t schedule the days. I just go by how I feel and that has usually been 3-4 workouts a week. I walk Lulu almost every single day even if it is a short one.

My exercise selection has started to change. I can feel a “pull” on my abdomen rolling up from a seated position. I eliminated pull ups and any heavy overhead lifts right away and now even on lat pulldowns I can feel a little stretch which I am trying to avoid.

My goal for training has shifted more from pure strength and aesthetics to creating a healthy body for baby, staying strong for labor and delivery, and recovering postpartum.

I also want to keep the tissue of my abdomen healthy and am avoiding things like crutches, rotations, full front planks and full push-up because of the pressure it puts on that region. And because why? There are much better ways to train the core during pregnancy than those types of exercises.

Final thoughts.

It has been a mental shift for sure seeing and feeling the changes in my body. I have always had an active lifestyle and it has become a part of my identity in a way. It is part of my routine, part of my career and part of what I love to do. I have worked hard over the years not to let it define my worth and incorporate into my life into a way that enhances my life. And it has.

Having to back off was tough for me but also a reality check. My body is changing. My life is changing. I have shifted my mindset to simply do my best and keep it going, safely and sanely, and let my body respond as it will.

Until next time.

I have created a special email list on pre natal (and post natal) fitness, eating, and life, and my journey through it all which you can access here. I promise not to bombard your inbox, but just wanted to have a space to share more of my workouts, thoughts, fears, and excitement through it all.

10 quick tips to navigate any gym with confidence

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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.

FREE Summer Travel Guide to stay healthy and fit!

Will Lifting Weights Make Me “Bulky?”

I love this example of how I went to try on my green, plaid shirt from last year and realized it was being stretched at the buttons. And then it hit me. This is what women consider bulky. As you can see from the picture on the left, taken within days,  I do not appear bulky at all, but lifting weights can add muscle and potentially size, in certain places that may make your clothes fit tighter.

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I am taking my pic on the right in my pajama pants. Just wanted to explain the color combo.

 

I often hear from women that they fear lifting weights will make them bulky. And honestly, I do completely get, what most associate with the term bulky. Your jeans fit a little tighter, your shirt fits a little snugger and you assume that you are automatically going to grow out of all your clothes and develop bulging muscles.

In reality,  you probably will not train hard enough to achieve that effect. And if your waistband is getting tight, chances are it is more about extra cookies, ice cream, and pizza making you feel bulky, than lifting weights.

Overall the indication of slightly snugger close may actually be the result of less body fat.  It all comes down to your perception and what is important to you. Here are some thoughts to consider.

It’s all in your mindset.

Instead of the  bulky association, realize that you are gaining a little more muscle on your body. The two pictures above, show a lean look on the left and a tight fitting shirt on the right on the same day. It is all about perception.  If I am lifting heavy do I need to stop or maybe I just need to get a bigger size shirt?

I want to remind you that typically when your diet is pretty decent and you are lifting weights, you are gaining muscle and hopefully losing fat, and that it is possible to carry a higher fat content while looking leaner. I looked way leaner two years ago (down two jean sizes) after I stopped working out for a few months due to chronic back pain, but I was pretty miserable and felt extremely weak in my everyday life and winded in yoga, walks and stairs. I would much rather have a tighter shirt then feel weak and be in pain.

Track your training and nutrition. 

Use a journal to track your workouts and nutrition to see how your body responds. Incorporate a weight routine and follow a healthy way of eating that keeps you looking, feeling and moving your best.

If you do not see the changes in your body that you wish to see, contact an expert in the field who can help adjust your training and nutrition.

Educate yourself on what building muscle actually does for the body.

It creates more muscle on the body can create higher calorie expenditure throughout the day.

It can increase your body’s ability to burn fat during and after exercise and be more effective for fat loss than other types of training in a shorter amount of time.

It can help increase bone density.

It can help create shape on the body. Weight loss is one thing. Creating the shape you desire is another. More defined arms? More shapely butt? There is no shame is aesthetics are part of the reason you work out. Weight training will do that better than any other.

I want to point out that I do not expect everyone to want to, or need to, lift super heavy weights. It’s a personal preference. Some prefer a leaner look, some prefer more muscular. It is your body and you have the right to your preference. But do not discount weight lifting because you think it will give you a bulky look and keep in mind that any serious size may take a minimum of a year to build.

Advice from a Pilates Instructor.

I get poked at with playful fun at all the strength and conditioning conferences I go to when I introduce myself as a trainer and Pilates Instructor. Though it is a very interesting position to be in because they are two very different training methods.

In my opinion everyone needs to lift weight. At the same time I feel Pilates is the missing link to everyone’s routine.

This could be an entirely different blog but the most concerning things I hear often are women wanting to take Pilates to get the “long and lean” muscles or work with 3-5 pound weights only because they feel it will create “tone.”

However the look that is being described is one that is created by lifting weights, heavy enough to create definition and change in the body. Tone is muscle being built and revealed.  I’m not saying Pilates can’t create that I just hate the misconception and the marketing worlds play on women and their insecurities. I love strength coach Mike Boyle’s explanation about the long/lean concept here.

“One of my favorite lines of bull is the old “ this exercise or training method will give you long, lean muscles like a dancer”. This is akin to telling people you can turn an apple into an orange right before their eyes. You can no more make a short stocky female client have long lean muscles like a dancer than you make someone taller. Exercise will remove subcutaneous bodyfat and reduce intramuscular fat stores but, changing the source of resistance in a resistance-based exercise will not produce a muscle that appears different and or larger.”

A few more reasons to lift weights.

The more muscle you have, the more potential calories you can burn while exercising AND at rest.

Lifting weights keeps you strong, mobile, stable (very important as you get holder to help in fall prevention) and functional in your everyday life.

It makes you feel like you can take one anything life throws at you (just my personal opinion). When I see women get stronger in the gym, I see them become more empowered in life.

So can weights make women “bulky”? Well if you associate a tight shirt with bulky, then it would be a yes to you. But if you look at my picture on the left, you would probably say no.

It is all relative and all your own perception.

How do you get started? I put together a free  guide that includes 4 strength training workouts that feel like cardio, so you get the best of both worlds.  For more insights on a weekly basis, to get your guide and for how to exercise smarter snag your spot here: http://bit.ly/sscardioguide

 

 

I actually do regret that workout. Why listening to your body is one of your greatest tools for success.

 

 

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When I get personal and share my story I must be honest I sometimes wish my health and fitness journey was a little more black and white.

Like I wish I could say I lost 40 lbs post baby or I use to be overweight and unhappy and today I am healthy and confidence as can be. It feels like it is more inspiring to see someone drop 5 sizes or show up with 6 pack abs then me telling you about how listening to my body was key in my own personal healthy transformation.

And I am not talking about listening to if my body is hungry or not, I am talking about a true and dire need to slow down and do less, to get more. You see I have a had a HUGE transformation, it is just not as clear to the eyes of others.

The other day I came across that quote that you always see floating around online, “ I really regret that workout said no one ever” and it made me laugh because I used to share that bullshit. But you know what? I most definitely have had workouts that I have regretted. And pushing through workouts or running myself into the ground just to breath hard is not always the best answer or most effective way to train.

When more is not better.

One Saturday morning in the summer of 2013 I found myself in tears sitting in a slumped, crossed legged position on my yoga mat, trying to do an at home workout. It consisted of 10 birddogs alternating, 10 air squats and a set of 5 kneeling push ups. I vividly remember it and you know these exercises are far from high intensity. But I was experiencing extreme fatigue and extreme and chronic back pain. I had not had an intense workout in weeks.

But I just couldn’t get my heart rate up and if I couldn’t get my heart rate up how would I stay in shape? How would I exercise? Would I gain all this weight? All I had done all week was walk. I gave myself a rest (for 7 days) and I was still in so much pain. What is wrong with this picture? I just couldn’t bring myself to allow time for my body to heal.

Fast forward to the present and would you guess I have finally have felt some reprieve in my adrenal fatigue type exhaustion (the only thing I can compare it to). Yes that is nearly 3 years since I began my rest and recovery journey.

I would say from the years 2010-2013 I did NOT listen to what my body truly needed in terms of my health. I ignored it time and time again, giving in to the notion I so easily accept now. More is not better. I thought more willpower, more discipline, more restriction and more working out was the answer to not only my body goals and success but to my happiness as well.

Now I know it is the exact opposite. The more you try to use willpower, restrict and talk down on yourself the harder it is to get where you want to go. You absolutely do need to put in work and effort, just not in the ways you think.

You body hears everything your mind thinks.

The trouble with me personally with my health, was that my mindset was completely screwed up and during those years I had a mini health breakdown where my emotional stress was manifesting itself physically. Though I was at a healthy weight and body composition, I experienced what I can only compare to as some sort of adrenal fatigue or excessive exhaustion.

No doctor would diagnose it as that of course and every test I ran came back normal. Iron was good. Nope I didn’t have celiac disease. My thyroid was fine.  But I wasn’t.

I would take naps at my sisters house when we had bbq’s and get togethers with friends. I would wake up exhausted after 10 hours sleep. I would start workouts with the feeling I typically should have mid workout, heart racing. My adrenaline was on overdrive. I tried taking a few days off. Didn’t help. Tried taking a week off. Didn’t help.  So I did the next best thing. Started up CrossFit (insert sarcasm).

For someone who loves to workout as much as myself, it was so very difficult to grasp the idea of rest and recovery. I thought if I could just push through it I would be ok. If I just took a couple days off my body would thank me.

But this whole exhaustion concept is kind of like weight gain. You don’t notice it right away. You don’t gain weight from eating one double bacon cheeseburger and you don’t ruin your metabolism with one intense workout. But at some point, it could catch up. And for me it did.

My saving grace was an odd one. A miserable one actually. It was what I now affectionally refer to as my 365 days of back pain that saved me because I was in too much pain to do anything but walk. I had no choice but to rest and let my body heal.

Here is how I did it.

I did not have a diagnosis of anything in particular so it was kind of up to me to decide what to do.

I stopped all intense exercise. CrossFit. Long runs. Anything that got heart rate up quickly or for prolonged periods of time.

I started focusing on rest and recovery activities in equal parts to my workouts. Walking, yoga, massage, and hot baths.

I kept moving in ways that my body allowed. Slow air squats, weight machines. Walking. Basic yoga. Exercises prescribed by my physical therapist. 

I started training from the inside out. Mindset and emotional well being first. Physical second.

I started focusing less on willpower, discipline, restricting and doing more exercise and started focusing on why I do things, habits, moderation and making peace with my body.

What you need to know.

 

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You don’t have to run yourself into the ground.

We think the answer with exercise is more, more, more but I like to say the answer is not more exercise but smarter exercise. Smart exercise is exercise that you don’t have to add more time (hours) just to get results. Smart exercise is exercise that encourages a healthy metabolism. Smart exercise is exercise that gives you the most for your time. Smart exercise is finding ways to move that you enjoy, or can at least tolerate.

You don’t have to workout everyday.

You do not have to commit to a hard, intense workout everyday to get results. Though for me personally I commit to some type of movement everyday. That could be a walk, 10 minutes of yoga, or maybe a 15 minute workout just to get moving or a foam rolling session. I find that this helps with my productivity, well being and keeps my health priorities in the forefront of my mind. 

I find that most people do great on 3 strength training days a week and then anything on top of that is bonus. IF you are challenging yourself enough in your 3x a week workouts, your rest days will be crucial in your recovery.

Challenge is all relative your journey.

What is challenging to you may not be to someone else and challenge can come in different forms. Currently I challenge myself with lifting heavier but give myself tons of rest. Breathing hard for extended periods of time or even short bursts is not the only way to create a demand on your body.

If you don’t have control of your exercise you still have control of your diet.

If your workouts have to lessen this does not mean your health has to go out the window. If workouts and exercise are reduced for a period of time you can always balance that out with your diet. 

If we can just slow down and listen to what our bodies truly need we will find that we are able to get stronger, leaner, happier, whatever it might be, with more ease. You supply the action and the universe will provide the time. You just need a little patience and self trust.

How I did less cardio and got better results

Quick disclaimer:

I hesitated sharing these pictures because at the time I was really dissatisfied with my “before” picture but looking back I feel I looked just fine.

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Back in 2011 I received the best piece of fitness/health advice I could have only wished for in my earlier years and that was to do less cardio and lift more weights.

Now let me be clear. I am not trying to villanize cardio or imply that it is useless or has no benefits. It has many benefits for cardiovascular health, endurance and mood enhancement but if body change or weight loss is your goal I stand firmly behind the idea that there are more effective and efficient avenues that will lead to better results and stronger bodies.

You see, back in 2011 I was running 3-5 miles up to 5 times a week. Or trying to anyways. I was miserable with it to be quite honest. It hurt my back and my hip. It made me feel bloated and puffy. It shot my appetite and cravings through the roof and I didn’t enjoy it one bit.

BUT I had this irrational fear that if I didn’t run for that long and didn’t get my heart rate up for that long and if I didn’t burn 400-500 calories on a run I would gain 20 lbs and not fit into my jeans. At the same time I would come home and try to resist my out of control appetite only to eat more than I cared too and wake up the next day to run it all off. And so the cycle continued.

You know how they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? This was it.

So when I got this piece of advice to focus strictly on weight lifting I begged and pleaded for at least a day of swimming. Like somehow I needed permission, and that one day of cardio, to be able to move forward with this plan.

To me this whole scenario is ironic. We gets attached to notions of more is better, burn more calories, get better results. We fail to look at things like the health of our metabolisms, the effect hormones have on our body and if what we are doing is actually working. We get safe in our routines and comfort zones even when it may not be our best option.

At the time I was secretly terrified yet intrigued by this no cardio proposal. Without knowing, it was the beginning that changed everything for me with the way I currently think about eating and exercise. So instead of just telling you to choose more effective and efficient exercise or just telling you to do less cardio let’s break it down.

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Less cardio, more weights. I always pay attention to my nutrition, just to be clear, focusing on nutritious choices and portion control as often as possible. I also want to clarify that is though that the tan is real on the 1st two pictures. From swimming at the time. 🙂

What is effective, efficient exercise?

In my book effective essentially means the exercise you are doing is getting you the results you want. Efficient means you are getting that exercise done in what I sometimes refer to as the minimal effective dose.

You DO have to put in the work but not always in the amount of time you think. Some workouts claim you get results on 7 minutes a day or 5 minute bouts during the, and while I won’t argue that can benefit you in someway, you need at least a short time block to dedicate to your workout to challenge your body enough to get results.

If body composition or fat loss is your goal the more effective way to get results is through weight training. By creating this kinda of stimulus for your muscles you will impact your hormones and metabolism in a positive way, the kind of way that reshapes the body, and will build a strong, well-functioning body for years to come.

Your time is probably spread thin as it is so feel some relief in knowing that you don’t need hours a day to get results. A well-designed weight workout can be done in under 40 minutes and I know many people who have gotten results on close to 30 minutes a few times a week.

Super Simple Solution:

Ask yourself. Am I getting the results I am seeking?

Does it feel doable to fit into myself lifestyle on a regular basis?

If you answer no, start by adding 3, 30-40 minute weight sessions a week. Choose weight heavy enough that you feel challenged by 10-12 reps.

But I enjoy my cardio!!

If what you are doing is working for you, keep doing it.

Through, I know several runners who love running but don’ t get results. I know several people who love dance class but are still unsatisfied with their bodies. Cardio itself is not the problem, it is the way it is used.

I like hiking and swimming but I don’t do it with a calorie tracker in hand and I don’t feel scared or anxious if I don’t do it like I use to. I don’t use it to burn off food or choose it over other valuable parts of my day.

Like I said above, cardiovascular training is great for the heart, lungs and can be a mood booster so by all means add it in but not with the expectations that it is going to be your magic bullet to weight loss.

The effects of the hormones produced when weight training are necessary to add muscle and burn fat. When we neglect weight training and overwork our bodies through excess cardio, not only can we be prone to more injuries and increased appetite, we can also raise cortisol levels (our stress hormones) which can affect our sleep, appetite, mood and well being.

Cortisol is not inherently bad as we need it to help break down our fats, proteins, and carbs, but when elevated for too long ( steady state cardio, over training, life stress) it can have detrimental effects.

Super Simple Solution:

Prioritize 3 weight training sessions a week and then if you have more time add enjoyable cardio and movement throughout the week.

Consider the effect of exercise on your appetite

Some research shows that moderate intensity exercise may have an increase on your appetite and hunger levels while shorter more intense exercise ( metabolic resistance/weight training, interval training) may decrease your appetite. Low intensity exercise like gentle yoga or walking seems to have a neutral effect.

While this is always different for everyone start to pay attention to whether this may be true for you. Did that marathon training boost your appetite?  Does a couple hours of cardio make you more hungry? Are you overcompensating with food after workouts and negating the effects of exercise all together?

I know I sure did! I would do my 4 miles of running, come home and eat my 400 calories back and more within an hour. Looking back I would have been better off not doing that miserable workout at all.

Super Simple Solution:

Pay attention to how you feel after different types of exercise. Start to experiment to see what workouts for you.

So what happened when I started to do less cardio?

I focused solely on weight training first at least 4 days a week. I did one day of swimming because I liked it. Over time I started to experiment with different types of workouts like CrossFit or similar metabolic conditioning workouts with weights, shorter more intense cardio sessions, and relinquishing the need to rely on cardio.

I had better control over my appetite, I enjoyed my workouts more, and I started to fit into my clothes better. I became less obsessed with the idea that I had to do more, just to get more. If find yourself caught in this cardio cycle give these super simple solutions a try and trust the process along the way.

Get my FREE Super Simple Cardio Guide to help you start to learn how to make your cardio sessions more effective and not take over your life with 12 of my go-to cardio workouts.  Shorter cardio, better results.

Resources here and here for additional information on topics discussed in today’s post.

Add Glute Burnouts to Your Routine

I first heard about the actual term glute burnouts from the glute master himself Bret Contreras but I have been adding these into my routine for quite some time.

Glute burnouts are a series or combo of a glute exercises preferably done at the end of a workout in high reps to add a  extra metabolic stress to the designated area.

This fits perfectly with what I have been adding into my clients, and my own, workouts recently. Some type of 5 minute finisher of some combo of exercises depending on the client, goals, preferences, or program.

If I am feeling the need to get some cardiovascular work in, I will do 5 minutes of sprints. If it is leg day I might add these glute burnouts. If I am feeling like getting a little arm pump I will superset bicep and tricep exercises just because.

I feel a well designed program is important but I also see the value in a little bit of freedom, fun and spontaneity in training.

So here are some glute burnouts for you to add in at the end of a workout, an off day or whenever you feel like it. The band makes it that much better but you can definitely do most without it.

Eleveted Glute Bridge

 

Monster Walks

SIde to Side – Forward and Back

Clam and Fire Hydrant

 

 

Two glute burnouts routines for you.

Routine A.

20 Monster Walks Forward and Back

20 Monster Walks Side to Side

20 Elevated Glute Bridges

Repeat 2x total

Routine B.

20 Side Lying Clam (each side)

20 Fire Hydrant (each side)

20 Elevated SINGLE LEG Glute Bridges ( not pictured, no band).

Repeat 2x total

“Please don’t ignore me.” – Thoracic Spine

Exercise is good for the heart and body but so is learning how to move well. If your typical routine includes skipping a warm-up or cool-down reconsider by adding a few simple exercises into your routine to potentially improve spinal mobility and reduce pain and stiffness throughout the body.

Today we are going to focus on thoracic mobility which is something that is often overlooked in our daily activities of sitting, slouching forwards, while we are driving, texting and/or at a computer.

The Thoracic spine is essentially the part of your spine from your neck to the lower back that consists of 12 vertebrae and plays an important role in posture and how well the upper body moves. The next time you feel like your shoulders or neck are tight reconsider simply stretching them and these exercises into your routine.

I can say that I perform each of these moves at least 4-7 times a week for one set of 30 seconds. Because I also own a car, text daily, and type away at my computer for blog posts like these I need someway to intentionally fight the forward movement of my spine to prevent conditions like kyphosis, less low back pain and promote healthier shoulders and reduce stiffness.

Here are three must have exercises to stay mobile and move well.

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Inhalations.

This exercise is great for thoracic mobility and spinal extension. Start by leaning against a foam roller at about your shoulder blades and place the hands behind the head. Extend back over the roller keeping the bottom touching the mat. DO NOT place the roller under the low back.

Pause and hold for an inhale and then come back to your starting position. You can adjust the roller an inch or two so it targets different areas that may be tight and stiff. Repeat 10x total.

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The Bretzal.

Start by lying on your right side placing something underneath your head for support. Pull your top knee up to about a 90 degree angle ( belly button height). Take the bottom arm and place it on that top knee. Bend your underneath leg back behind you and attempt to grab the ankle if your body allows. If not, you can always use a yoga strap or towel.

Take a deep breath in and on your exhale rotate your left shoulder toward the ground while pressing your right knee down. Hold for 30 seconds.

Repeat on the other side.

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Hip flexor stretch with rotation.

Start in a half kneeling position with your right leg forward. Shift the weight forward slightly and squeeze your glutes. Take your left hand down to the ground and reach your right arm vertical toward the ceiling. Think of pressing into the left hand to gently increase the rotation, hold for an inhale and then take that right hand underneath the left arm like shown in the picture and repeat. Repeat 5 times on each side.

Where eating and exercise went wrong, part 2.

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Our exercise world today is filled with buzz words like toning, long and lean, not getting bulky, and fat burning.  All these catch on like fire because they sound so ideal to what women want to achieve.

In a way it makes perfect sense. Burn calories and you will lose weight. Do longer cardio sessions and you will be in fat burning mode. Pulse your leg 100 times and it will create long and lean muscles like a dancer.

The reality is it is much more complicated that simply burning calories. You are not really burning chunks of fat off your body on long runs you are utilizing its energy stores and there is no way that you can change the origin and insertion of your muscle to actually lengthen your muscle to create the long and lean look.

I get it though. That is what people what people want and it is what sounds ideal.

So let’s take real and ideal and blend them together in a way that actually works.

It is so much more about simply burning calories.

In one of my favorite books series The New Rules of Lifting for Life rule number 14 says this. “Exercise burns calories. Sometimes that is a problem.”

Research on many studies show that exercise doesn’t always have the same impact on weight loss from person to person especially when put on a low calorie diet. It also shows that exercise alone is not the solution to weight loss. However many of the studies that report these findings define exercise as steady state cardio.

This can explain why people who go on marathon training programs in hopes to lose weight end up gaining fat. Steady state cardio can make people feel hungrier and crave more which ends up in overeating and erasing any calories burned during exercise.

Steady state cardio can also raise cortisol level and strip the oh so wonderful metabolically active muscle tissue we so desperately need to preserve.

Your body is also great at adapting, which sounds ok at first glance.

The problem with endurance exercise or steady state cardio is that your body becomes more efficient at it (running, elliptical, cycling). So the more you do it the better you get, which seems like a good thing at first but think about it like this. You are just starting out running 3 miles and burn 300 hundred calories. After months of training you now burn 250 because your body is more efficient so you are getting less out of the time spent.

So what do you need to do to get results? You need to do more exercise. At some point you will run out of time to keep up with these adaptions.

In addition your metabolic rate slows its response to both the foods you eat and the exercise you do so you are more likely  to regain any weight you loss.

Eek! This is not a good situation because at some point you will not be able to eat less or add more hours to the day.

Weight training is your golden ticket.

Not only are you building lean muscle mass and setting a strong foundation for your body you are creating different kind of demand on your body that allows you to increase challenge and energy production, not by adding time but by adding challenge with weights or intensity.

Even if you are chasing aesthetic results you be will surprised at how much you will gain in terms of strength, mobility, flexibility, independence, functionality, feeling more powerful, having more energy, building more confidence, accomplishing what you thought you could not, improving your health, and body change is just an added bonus.

Most people are far more capable than they realize they just don’t push themselves in the gym to their maximum potential.

Choose intervals that suit you best.


Intervals don’t always have to be running. They can done on any piece of cardio equipment or with exercise like kettlebell swings, jump rope, a series of air squat and push-up, whatever gets your heart rate up. The idea is that you work hard for a short period of time to the point where you are questioning if you can keep going and then recover and go again.

Most people don’t know or think about the body having energy systems that use both carbs and fats. When you go really hard for a 10 second sprint you are using carbs but when your body slows into recovery mode, you are using fats.

This can be the same with lifting weight to the point that it makes you breathless and you are unable to do the next rep. Work hard enough during you intervals and your body will stay in fat burning mode after your workouts as well.

In the end if what you are doing is working for you and you love it, are consistent with it and it makes you feel good, keep doing it. But if you feel like you are in a constant struggle or off and on, gain or regain, taking one step forward and two steps back, start to rethink your approach.