Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Abs are Made in the Kitchen

"Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. " You have heard this phrase many times before but may be a bit reluctant to believe it.  It is true.  Another one is "You can't out train a bad diet."  This is also true. 

We have a tendency to make poor food choices and say "oh, I'll work it off at the gym tomorrow."  It doesn't work that way. You already know that but still use it a justification to eat whatever you want.  If it was that easy, I'd be chomping down bacon cheeseburgers and french fries everyday!  I sure work out enough so I should have no problem 'working it off'. WRONG!  

You also cannot 'spot reduce'.  Everyone wants  a flat stomach or six-pack abs, but doing hundreds of crunches or sit-ups every day will not make the belly fat magically disappear. Again, this is not news to you, you've heard it many times.  The muscles will appear when the body fat disappears. In order to accomplish this, you must shed fat from your entire body.  You don't have control over where you lose it, but it will happen over time throughout your entire body.  

Strength and cardio training also play a role in the process.  Shocker! Just as an FYI, muscle burns more calories than fat does! There is your incentive to get in the weight room!  Strength training also aids in building bone density among many other benefits.  You should also know you never get rid of fat cells when you lose weight, you just shrink them.  The only way to actually get rid of them is with surgery like liposuction. 

So why do we as a society continue to deny that our nutritional choices have a significant impact on how our body not only looks and feels but how it functions?  It's easier.  We like easy.  We want an 'EASY' button in real life.   We work so hard for so many things in our life already, why should we have to work so hard for a flat stomach?

Your diet is 70% and the gym is the other 30%.  Seems a bit strange to you? Well, google it and read up in more detail on it and you will see this split over and over again.  In short, we are a carb heavy society.  Carbs taste better, look better and are just more fun to eat.  However, simple carbs spike your insulin causing your body to store unused calories as fat.  Simple carbs make you feel full initially but then you are hungrier than before within a short time period.  Not all carbs are bad, but complex carbs (steel cut oats, brown rice and veggies) generally don't taste as good as simple carbs (white bread, chips and sweets).  Your body needs carbs for energy so you shouldn't completely cut them out. Be more selective on which ones you eat.

Protein has the same amount of calories per gram (4 calories per gram) as carbs do but they do not spike your insulin like simple carbs.  Protein leaves you feeling more satisfied for an extended period of time while your digestive system processes it.  Lean proteins (white fish, poultry, legumes/beans) are a better choice than high fat proteins but red meat is also an essential part of your diet. Grass fed beef and salmon both have very healthy CLA fats.  Protein helps build strong muscles and bones.  

Healthy fats also play a role in your diet and aid your body in many important functions.  Fat provides energy and is part of every cell in your body,  fat provides cushion for your organs, fat helps absorb essential vitamins, fat builds your brain and makes hormones.   So eating a fat-free diet is very unwise and unhealthy.  However, making healthy fat choices is important.  Avocados, salmon, tuna, almonds, oils from nuts such as olive oil, flax seed oil are all good choices.  We hear big words like mono saturated or poly saturated fats and think they are bad. These are the healthy fats.  You want to stay away from saturated fats and trans fats. 

This all matters because if you understand WHY you need these foods and what they do for you, you may be more likely to give them a try instead of shrugging your shoulders and walking away.  By switching up your food and making a conscious decision to make better choices, you will see a difference in both your physical and mental condition.  Be patient. It will take time, but if you stick to it,  you will see results. Then you will truly understand the phrase - "Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Price of Fitne$$

Being fit and healthy comes at a price. The price is small when you weigh it against the benefits you reap.   Fitness costs you time and money, both are limited.  It is up to you to determine the budget for your health.  

How you decide to pursue your fitness goals determines what your costs will be.   Different levels of fitness require varying budgets. However, there are shortcuts or cheaper avenues you can pursue but it will require a bit of effort on your part as well as some research.  If you are truly dedicated to your fitness and health, you will do your best to make it part of your financial budget in order to reach your goals.  Time management should also be viewed as a budget.  You have many other obligations in life and if fitness is a priority, you need to 'budget' it into your day as well. 

I decided several years ago to stop feeling guilty about spending money on my passion.  It is an investment in me, my health and happiness.  Most people think nothing of spending hundreds of dollars on a purse or a pair of shoes and thousands of dollars on a car, clothing, entertainment, etc.  But when it comes to spending money on gym memberships, workout clothes, weight lifting equipment, workout shoes, personal training or supplements, we are reluctant because it seems trivial or a 'waste'.  It is not. If these items make getting fit and maintaining a healthier lifestyle easier, more fun, hold you accountable, or  motivate you, then the money is well spent. 

However, that doesn't mean if you can't afford these things, you should make excuses to not workout.  Again, how much of a priority is it for you?  You need to be creative with equipment if a gym is not an option for you. But it will require a bit of your imagination and research to achieve similar results. It is doable! 

My trainer often suggests various equipment that will aid me in reaching my goals.  Sometimes, they are cheap simple items like Versa Gripps and other times can be expensive purchases such as my training sled and weight plates or my front squat harness. I evaluate how the item will benefit me and make a plan to purchase it if I am unable to do so immediately. These items make great gift ideas for birthdays, Christmas or Anniversaries!  Don't laugh!  I've received hanging Ab Straps for Valentine's Day and Vibram Fivefinger shoes for Christmas.  It is what I want!  

My fitness if important to me and competing can be expensive.  The competition suits, spray tanning, posing coach, entry fees, polygraph fee, supplements/protein, etc.  So if I am going to invest in competing, why would I not invest in the tools I need to make me look and feel my best? So now instead of purchasing a Coach purse, I buy a new pair of Vibram's, workout pants/shorts or my favorite - baseball hats, an essential tol for my workouts!

Budget your fitness!  It is worth it. If you begin to make an investment now, your future will be far more profitable!  Invest in yourself because the payoff is priceless.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"A GOAL without a PLAN is just a wish."

It's the start of a new week!  Time to get motivated if you've been procrastinating.  You can do it! If you are already on the right track - Congratulations! Keep up the great work.

Have you made your short-term goals for the week? Do you have your workouts set up for the week?  Do you have a back-up plan for the unexpected obstacles which may interfere with your workout time? Do you have your meals and snacks planned out to avoid binge eating?

THE PLAN!  Stick to your plan and you will see results.  Are you tired of hearing about THE PLAN yet?  Well...are you?  Then make one and give it a chance.  The plan will eventually become integrated into your life if you use it and make it a priority. It will become second nature.

My Plan is in place for the week. I know I have a very busy week ahead.  My kids have many activities and work will require some longer hours than normal.  Plus, I am less than 5 weeks away from my first competition of the season.  Therefore, my food and workouts need to be right on target.   So it is essential I have my plan for the week or I 'm destined to falter.

I know WHEN I will work out each day and WHAT my workouts are.  I know HOW long my workouts take so I can plan my schedule.  I know WHAT I will be eating each meal - as I prepped food today for my meals all week.  I know WHO will be helping me with my kids since I can't do it alone this week.  I know WHY I must get adequate sleep in order to make it through the week.  I cannot allow my workouts to suffer due to my other obligations.  I have my PLAN.  But it also requires my support network.

Some suggestions to do double duty with workouts when time is tight. If you have children to drop at activities, throw your bike or roller blades in the car and do your cardio while they are at practice.  Go for a run or brisk walk. You can run bleachers, hill sprints or track sprints.  There isn't always time to get to the gym so you may need to create your own strength exercises.  Use your body! Go to the playground and use the monkey bars for pull-ups or chin-ups. You can do lunges, push ups, prisoner squats, jump rope or use a bench for fast - paced step-ups.  Your imagination is the limit!  Plus it is a nice change of pace from your normal workout routine.

If you are serious about your goals, you will make the effort the get creative when time or resources are tight. Make it fun. Switch it up. Include your kids, spouse or significant other in an occasional workout to help them understand it's importance to you. If it is important to you, it will be to them as well. They may enjoy it too!

Make it happen.  Start the week off on a positive note and believe in yourself.  You are much stronger than you know so get going on your PLAN!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"No one ever said it would be easy, but it will be worth it."

Where have you been? Where are you now? Where are you headed?  People like to say we should forget our past and move on. We need to appreciate the present and not rush the future. I don't agree with these rules.  Rules are meant to broken, some more than others.

Your rules need to apply to you and your life.  You can be selective about what rules you will follow and which rules you can or should break.   The challenge is to figure out the difference between the good rules and the bad rules of your past, present and future.  In order to simplify this process, let's focus on your fitness and physical health since this is a fitness blog!

Your past history and experiences play an important role in your present physical health.  In fact, it is necessary to review your past in order to be successful in your current endeavors and set up your future goals.

In order to be successful in your fitness goals, you need to determine where you have failed in the past and the reasons why in order to be successful now and continue to be successful in the future. Sounds simple, but it's not or everyone would be as fit as a fiddle.

Once you are able to determine what your obstacles were, you can begin to problem solve and develop solutions to prevent duplicating those pitfalls.  Writing them down will help.  Did you run short of time if workout was scheduled for the end of the day?  Did you fail to have healthy food prepared in advance in order to prevent binge eating? Did you have an unrealistic plan to begin with based on your physical health at the time? Did you have a proper support network?

There are many reasons people fail but most of them are preventable with a little bit of planning.  This is where discipline and dedication play an important role.  The same obstacles will exist but if you are better prepared to handle them, your ratio of success will increase. This is why your past failures need to be addressed and not forgotten so you don't repeat them again.  You need to be dedicated to your plan and have the discipline to stick to it!

Your future goals will only be achieved if you first focus on the present.  The work needs to be done now or you will never reach those goals in the future.  Do the work, put forth the effort, be patient, be honest about your progress, make you and your health a priority and learn from your mistakes.

Don't become a prisoner of your plan but a partner with your plan. Find a balance that works for you and your life so you can be more successful than in the past. If you need help developing a successful plan - ask someone to help you.  Do you need help with your nutrition plan, your workouts or time management? What is your weakest point? What is your strongest? Seek out someone who will hold you accountable but also support you in your journey. You don't have to do it by yourself.

It would be ridiculous to go out and run 15 miles if you have never run before.  You need to have a base, a previous history of knowing how your body will respond, proper nutrition, proper hydration before and during the run. Without this knowledge, you are destined to fail. You may make it through the run, but you will likely pay a high price including injury, dehydration and an unpleasant memory of running all together.

Now if your goal for the future is to run a marathon and you are a newbie to running, then some planning must take place in order to be successful. The planning must take place now. Shoes are important based on running style, clothing can be important to avoid 'chaffing',  climate impacts training,  training partner and a time table to log miles and access progress in order to be prepared for the marathon race.

Think of your fitness and/or health plan like school.  The ultimate goal is to graduate. You have the required courses you must take to graduate. You also have elective courses which make the required courses tolerable. You have four years to get it all accomplished whether it's high school or college (unless you are on the 7-year plan!)   Some aspects of your fitness plan will not always be fun and exciting but necessary.  The workouts will not always be fun and exciting.  The food will not always be be what you want to eat.  "No one ever said it would be easy, but it will be worth it."

When you achieve a milestone in your plan, reward yourself appropriately (not with cake!).  Take before and after photos to track your progress.  Keep them handy or post them so on tough days, you can see your discipline is paying off.  Don 't adopt the attitude that you don't want those photos around to remind you of what you look like because that is EXACTLY why you need them!

You need to remember the past to keep on track in the present to reach your future.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Discover what MOTIVATES you!

I am frequently asked how I stay motivated to workout/train day in and day out.  This is a complicated answer.  My answer will vary from your answer and it should.  We are not the same people and don't have the same goals.  Most people think 'gym rats' just love to train and always want to go to the gym.  Guess what?  This is not true. It is a myth!

I enjoy training for a variety of reasons which include the obvious benefits to my physical and mental health.  However, I have days when going to the gym is the last thing in the world I want to do.  But I go anyways.  Why you ask?  Because it is what I do.  I have trained my mind to overcome itself.  I have learned from years of being an athlete that sometimes you train because you have to, not because you want to.  It's part of the game. 

There are many days when I feel tired, have a headache, am depressed, am angry or just don't want to train because the couch looks more appealing.  But I have been training long enough and have learned the difference between needing a break and wanting a break.  There is a difference. You will acquire the skill to distinguish between them the longer you train.  You will become familiar with your own body and how it reacts to training, proper rest, proper nutrition and hydration. However, it doesn't happen over night.  Be patient, but be attentive.  

This is why a food log, sleep log, workout journal and water intake log are all important training tools.  Most people don't think of them as training tools but they are an essential part of your regime.  You are able to hold yourself more accountable when it is written down and you can see it in black and white.  You will understand why you're so tired if you sleep log shows you are only getting six hours of sleep a night. Your food log shows if you are not eating enough protein or consuming too much junk.  If you have to write it down, you can't lie to yourself.  Your workout journal illustrates your progress or lack of progress.  If workouts are off day after day, then you can look at your sleep or food log and see if your lacking in those areas. They can have a direct affect on your workouts.  

This may appear to be a lot of work but once you get into the routine of completing the logs, it becomes second nature.  There are many apps for iPod/iPhone, androids, and smart phones which make this task even easier.  I use Loseit!  It can track as much or as little as you prefer.  It also stores previous meals and food which you have saved so you don't have to reinvent the wheel each time.  It is compatible with smart phones and iPod products. It's free or .99.  A very small investment to make your life easier and improve your health.

You may be thinking I strayed away from the subject of motivation, but I have not.  All of these tools help you stay motivated because they track your success and/or your failure.  They are a necessary evil if you will.  They are the 'not-so-glamorous' tools of being fit and healthy.  They will not display how big your biceps are or show your rock hard six-pack, but they will help you achieve those goals and maintain them. 

There are many other factors which keep me motivated.  Guilt is a major one for me. I don't like how I feel if I don't train. I feel lazy and then the mind games begin.  Another motivator for me is competition.  I learned a long time ago that I need that 'nugget' down the road to keep me going on 'bad days'.  If I know I have a race or a competition in the future, I am less likely to slack because I don't train to get second place. I also have the usual motivator of photos that inspire me to push harder and obtain a better physique.  I like motivational quotes, as well, but the photos give me a bit more of a jolt.  Of course, I have also had my own battle with being overweight many years ago and I made a promise to myself that I would never look or feel like that again.  I keep a photo in my office when I was at my heaviest as a reminder of how far I have come.  People look at it and have no idea it is me.  Sad, but true.

These are the things that motivate me.  You need to discover what motivates you.  It may be something I listed or something completely different.  As your goals change, your motivators will more than likely change as well. As your body evolves, so should your training. Keep it interesting and mix it up.  Challenge yourself and reach outside your comfort zone. You may discover new things that you like and never even knew it. How will you find out if you don't at least try?  I tried ballet, I didn't like it so I need to find something to replace it.  I need more grace and flexibility. There is always room for improvement.

If you train the same way every day, you will become bored as will your body.  You will hit plateaus but that is to be expected.  Push through it and stick to your plan. Remember the plan? This doesn't mean the plan stays the same, it means you have plan for each level of fitness you achieve.  Again, the plan evolves as the goals evolve as the body evolves.  It's a chain reaction.  If there is no action, then there is no reaction.

Your motivation should be unique to you.  Don't compare yourself to others.  Compare yourself to you and the improvements you make.  Everyone is different so it only makes sense that your motivators will be different. Take the plunge and dive in. Learn to train, train smarter and train harder or just keep treading water. It's up to you.

Are you a GYM RAT?