Jocelyn Shaw

CPT, LMT, Nutritionist

Blog - Mostly an excuse to find funny photos online...

Occasionally I write some longer pieces and post them here, but you can find tons of little snippets from me daily (tips, motivation, featured healthy foods, and lots more) on my Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/pages/JS-Fitness-Solutions-LLC/818621728178187?ref=hl


7/17/15

Activity Trackers; aren't they NEAT?

 

Recently I have recently started wearing an activity tracker again, and while some of you may scoff at that (given that I’m a professional and I should be able to be in amazing shape without having to actually work at it, right?) there is a very good reason for it; I’m trying to be more aware of my daily non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).

Do you feel like you have a slow metabolism? Perhaps you feel like no matter what you do, you have a much more difficult time losing weight than you should, and that just one night of nachos and margaritas sends your body fat skyrocketing. What about your friend? She seems to eat whatever she wants and somehow stays lean and fit year round. It isn’t fair! Damn your metabolism!

It is true that there are individuals who have metabolic disorders that make weight loss more difficult for them, but for MOST of us the problem isn’t metabolism, it’s a lack of NEAT.

NEAT is, simply put, your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and the calories you burn doing daily activities such as walking the dog, grocery shopping, vacuuming or sitting at your desk. BMR is the number of calories you burn either without any activity or while lying motionless, and it accounts for roughly 60% of your total daily energy requirements. The thermic effect of food, or TEF (the amount of calories needed to digest food) accounts for about 10-15% of your energy requirements.

 

 

That means that the remainder of your calorie expenditure depends on how much activity you get both in the gym and out.

This is where the variance comes in; NEAT can comprise as little as 15% of your overall calorie burn (in very inactive people) or as much as 50% in those who get a lot of activity.

Lets do some math, shall we? I’ll use myself as an example.

My BMR is approximately 1340 calories. Using that as a baseline, I will burn roughly 135-200 calories digesting my food each day (my TEF). If I lay around all day and do the minimum amount of activity, (sitting around watching TV, taking minimal steps) I would only burn about an additional 150-200 calories (this is based on what I have seen when doing just that).
1600-1700 or so calories. Not very impressive, is it?

But I hit the gym 6 days per week, so that should make a huge difference, right? Not really. Consider this; 
The average calories burned during an hour of intentional exercise is about 328 calories for every 100 pounds of body weight. Today, for example, I did an hour long lower body workout including cleans, deadlifts and thrusters, and my calorie burn according to my fitness tracker was about 345 calories. That was a HARD workout! I was sweating my booty off and my legs were jelly at the end of it.

If I decided that my gym workout was enough activity for me for the day (because, you know, leg day) my total energy expenditure for today might only top out at 2050.

Lets say I have a weight loss goal of a respectable 1 pound per week. We generally consider 1 pound to be equal to about 3500 calories, which would mean creating a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day in order to achieve my goal. If I am only burning 2050 calories each day, I would need to consume 1550 calories in order to lose that pound. 
What if my goal was to lose 2 pounds per week? I would have to consume a paltry 1050 calories every day to make that happen! How long do you think that would last before I started scooping up Ben and Jerry’s with Oreos and shoveling it in my face? Not long.

To add insult to injury (so to speak) multiple studies have shown that people who exercised ate more to compensate for their activity, or OVERcompensated for the amount of calories they felt they burned during a workout. What does that mean? You can’t go to the gym, reward yourself with food, and sit around all day and expect to lose weight.

So what is the solution? Increase your NEAT!

Take the stairs, park further away, walk your dog every day, clean your house… it all adds up, trust me. Instead of having drinks and dinner on date night, go to the batting cages or play some putt-putt golf.

 

 

I have been surprised to find that some of my most active (and highest calorie burning) days are the ones where I don’t go to the gym, but am active around the house, running errands, and mowing the lawns.

On a day that I make an effort to move more I usually average a total energy expenditure of roughly 2300 calories, which still isn’t a ton. I don’t know about you, but I find that dieting on 1800 calories to lose a pound per week sure is easier than on 1500.


7/3/15

Good Carbs, Bad Carbs and Moderation

 

However...
It does demonize the "bad" carbs, referred to hear as refined carbs, and I want to discuss those points.
Yes, refined carbohydrates have been linked to obesity, Type II Diabetes, and other chronic diseases.  I will not argue with that.
However, there are MANY people who are able to incorporate the occasional Coke, bowl of ice cream or Twinkie into their diet without suffering those ill effects.  The difference is moderation, and eating an otherwise healthy and balanced diet.
I have discussed the concept of food (specifically sugar) addiction before, and like most things, my stance on it is that you have to do what is best for you.  Some will argue that an addiction is not an addiction unless you are willing to knock over a convenience store to get a fix, while others are more lenient with that definition.
I mention this because there are many people whom, for whatever reason, believe that they simply CANNOT have sugar or refined carbohydrates in ANY amount without overdoing it, and therefore cannot have them in moderation.
At certain times in my life I too have even felt that way, but those times were also the times when my diet was at it's most rigid.  That is not a coincidence.
I would argue that breaking with the restrictive mindset and taking the stigma away from those foods, possibly through some form of therapy, might show that overeating refined carbohydrates (or whatever the particular vice) is just a deeply ingrained HABIT, but that is a discussion for another time.
Okay, okay... so as per usual I'm getting off on a rant, but my point is this; there are undoubtedly carbohydrates that are healthier for you than others, but even those unhealthy carbohydrates don't have to be removed from your diet or the face of the earth if you really enjoy them and can enjoy them in moderation.
Eat a couple of Oreos after dinner every now and again.  Don't eat a couple of ROWS of them.

This is a great sort of "basics of carbohydrates" article, and does a good job of dispelling some myths and discussing the role of carbohydrates in the diet.  

I don't normally share other blogs or articles on my site, but I really like the pieces put out by Authority Nutrition and think this is a great primer for anyone who is a bit lost when it comes to carbohydrates;

http://authoritynutrition.com/good-carbs-bad-carbs/

Okay, did you read it?  Good.  Now lets discuss my purpose for including this in my blog.

This article is very informative, however it does demonize the "bad" carbs, referred to here as refined carbs, and I want to discuss that aspect of it.

Yes, refined carbohydrates have been linked to obesity, Type II Diabetes, and other chronic diseases. I will not argue with that.

However, there are MANY people who are able to incorporate the occasional Coke, bowl of ice cream or Twinkie into their diet without suffering those ill effects. The difference is moderation, and eating an otherwise healthy and balanced diet.

I have discussed the concept of food (specifically sugar) addiction before, and like most things, my stance on it is that you have to do what is best for you. Some will argue that an addiction is not an addiction unless you are willing to knock over a convenience store to get a fix, while others are more lenient with that definition.

 

 

I mention this because there are many people whom, for whatever reason, believe that they simply CANNOT have sugar or refined carbohydrates in ANY amount without overdoing it, and therefore cannot have them in moderation.

At certain times in my life I too have even felt that way, but those times were also the times when my diet was at it's most rigid. That is not a coincidence.

I would argue that breaking with the restrictive mindset and taking the stigma away from those foods, possibly through some form of therapy, might show that overeating refined carbohydrates (or whatever the particular vice) is just a deeply ingrained HABIT, but that is a discussion for another time.

Okay, okay... so as per usual I'm getting off on a rant, but my point is this; there are undoubtedly carbohydrates that are healthier for you than others, but even those unhealthy carbohydrates don't have to be removed from your diet or the face of the earth if you really enjoy them and can enjoy them in moderation.

 

 

Authority Nutrition's article did not say that you cannot have some refined carbs here and there, but unfortunately a lot of people looking to improve their health and fitness tend to have knee-jerk reactions and throw moderation out the window.  That is what I am trying to avoid here.

Eat a couple of Oreos after dinner every now and again. Don't eat a couple of ROWS of them.

 

 


5/17/15

Hanging Up My Heels

 

For now, I have decided not to compete.  This decision certainly has not been an easy one, and I’m sure that I will continue to entertain the idea of it from time to time, but ultimately it is the best choice for me right now.

Competing for the first time was a great experience; I learned a lot about myself, I met some really amazing people, and I found a community that felt like home to me.  The support I received from my husband, my family, my coaches and my friends was absolutely unbelievable, and I finally accomplished something I had been interested in doing for at least 10 years.

I’m sure there will always be a part of me that wants to get up on stage again, but the negatives are too big for me to ignore;

I don’t need someone else to tell me I’m good enough

Irony alert; I don’t like to be judged, and that is the whole basis of bikini competition and bodybuilding as a sport.  Some people may be able to take it all with a grain of salt, but I do tend to internalize critique.  It is that part of me that always drives me to do better, to be better, but when that criticism is related to my body it’s hard to shake it off.  What happens when you put all of that work into it and come up short? Your feelings get hurt, and you discount all your hard work because your glutes weren’t tight enough perhaps, or your shoulders weren’t defined enough.  You start picking yourself apart and lose sight of all the hard work you put in. 

I’d rather just be able to look in the mirror and appreciate what I have, and make my own judgements about what areas I would like to improve upon. 

Competing is not good for my mental health

Anyone that has competed knows all too well about the after-math.  You’ve done all that hard work and restricted your diet for so long…now what?  You’ve reached that goal…where do you go from there?  You’ve dreamed about all the food you couldn’t have, and afterwards you binge.  Sometimes for days, or sometimes for weeks.  Your body has been literally starved via no carbs to a low body-fat, it is a natural reaction by your body to want food, and lots of it.  Your adrenals are exhausted, and so is your mind.  All the focus has reached to an end.  Many people (including myself) become food obsessed. 

You’ve been weighing all your portions and worried about everything you put into your mouth for so long.  It starts to overcome you.  You try to maintain control by counting calories and exercising more than necessary to ‘maintain’ an unattainable stage image.  This leads to a lot of unhealthy thoughts and body image issues.  I don’t know how you would avoid being somewhat disordered about food and image.  You’ve put yourself in that position.  Most don’t realize this until its all over, but that’s when the struggle begins.  Many people find themselves in this cycle of losing fat for competitions, gaining it back afterward, and then feeling as though they need to compete again in order to be happy with their bodies.  I know I felt as though I was headed that direction.

Constantly gaining and losing weight is hard on your body in just about every way, and it’s hard on your mind as well.  Sure, It’s amazing to look at yourself before a competition and see the shape you are in, but I would rather look great all year around and be a bit less defined than to constantly be up and down and gaining and losing large amounts of weight.

There are those who can stay within a few pounds of their stage weight all the time, but I am not one of the genetically blessed naturally lean folks.  Dieting for a competition is hard on my body, and I can’t justify the way I have treated it in the past.

Its affecting my marriage and friendships

I’m not going to lie, competing has been tough on my marriage.  I have been so immersed in what I was doing with all my food and workouts, on top of school and my business that husband has fallen to one of the lower priorities on my list.  My friends and family have fallen even further behind.

I’m not a fun person when I’m living that sort of rigid lifestyle.  There are those who can do a great job of balancing social outings and prep, but for me the idea of having to go out for dinner or to a friends house was just anxiety inducing.  Over time my friends and husband have just stopped asking me to do things all together.  That is the sort of lonely existence I want to live. 

I want to be healthy, and balanced

Nothing about competing is balanced.  Its extreme.  At first, it seems balanced with food choices and workouts, but the farther along you go, the more intense it becomes.  You can’t eat out, you’re on a very specific diet plan.  Your mind has to be in the game at all times.  Total focus.  Some people thrive on this, and I did to a point, but it started to interfere with all aspects of my life.  I became withdrawn from everyone around me as the focus took over.

I have no desire to earn a pro card

Many women get into competing, do well in a few shows, and set their sights on earning their pro card.  I think that is an admirable goal, but frankly it isn’t a goal of mine.   The harsh reality is, I am a fairly private person, and competition puts you in the public eye in a very unique sort of way.  To be honest, I find it disturbing to be sought out by a bunch of perverts that are only interested in my body and seeing photos of me in a skimpy bikini.  After competing and having the photos put up online, I started to get an onslaught of friend requests, and inappropriate messages from unknown men… sometimes over 100 per day!  While that certainly was not the case with everyone, there were more negative examples than I care to remember. 

I would much rather be an example of a healthy and balanced woman that other men and women can relate to.  Yes, there are phots of me online from shoots and competitions that I am very proud of, but something about being a bikini competitor seemed to open the door for people to think that I must somehow want to be spoken to like I’m not worthy of respect.  I’m an athlete.  I have a brain.  I work hard.  I will not settle for disrespect.

I also don’t want to discourage others from competing if they choose to.  We all have our own path, and the luxury of making our own decisions.  This is what my experience has been.  I know that many women have an easier time through prep and somehow manage to not let it affect their life as much.  Following through on goals like competing will make someone realize if its for them, or if it isn’t.  I would have never come to this conclusion had I not done it. I have no regrets, I believe everything happens for a reason.

I’m thankful for any recognition competing gave me, and for the people that first discovered me through that process.  I may one day pursue figure competition and will always keep that option open, but for now bikini isn’t where my heart is at.

 


4/16/15

Thank you to Team Magnum!

Hey all!

I've been very busy recently and haven't written a blog post in a while.  I am still writing and sharing daily on my facebook page, but due to my website being upgraded and my business I haven't gotten on and actually written anything substantial in a while.  I will definitely be doing so in the next few days!

In the meantime, I wanted to make a quick announcement; I've been fortunate enough to be asked to join up with Magnum Nutraceuticals as one of their sponsored athletes!

Magnum is an awesome company; the owner and staff are just real, down-to-earth, normal people who have a passion for health and fitness and what they do.  

The products are top-of-the-line and only use the best ingredients... I wouldn't put my endorsement behind anything else, and I certainly wouldn't USE anything else.

I tell you all this because I want you to know that if you see me posting recipes or links to their products, yes, I am a sponsored athlete, but I choose to be.  I'm still going to be real and tell it like it is, and if you ask me about a product of theirs that I haven't tried or ask me about one that I have, I'm going to be honest about it.

I haven't sold out.  I didn't chase down ANY company in search of sponsorship.  Magnum's representatives came to me because they were interested in me as an athlete and, more importantly, as a fitness professional.  I take the word professional very seriously, and sponsorship from any company will not change that.

 


2/15/15

Trouble Losing Fat?  Maybe its Time for a Diet Break...


When people are attempting to lose weight, faster is usually viewed as better; they want to lose 10 pounds the first week and 3 pounds each week after that.  People want to shed 30 pounds in 2 months and look like a fitness model in time for their beach vacation.  Right… 

While it isn’t uncommon to see larger losses in the initial week or two after starting a new program, it is unlikely (and generally unhealthy) to have that fast rate of loss continue.  For those who are severely overweight larger losses are likely and there are generally fewer negative effects.  For those who are already lean or who are just trying to lose a few vanity pounds, a more conservative loss of .5 to 1.5 pounds per week is much more realistic. 

Things don’t always go according to plan, however.  Weight loss isn’t always linear, and it’s normal to experience stalls and plateaus (and even slight gains) when dieting to lose fat.  

Sometimes we have to take a step back in order to take two steps forward and to keep progress going over the long run.  

What I am referring to is a diet break. 

A diet break is simply a period of time where calories are raised to maintenance level or higher in order to stop losing weight. You read that right; you stop losing weight for a short time in order to keep losing weight over the long run. 

Generally diet breaks are done for a minimum of 1 week, with 2-4 weeks (depending on the person) being optimal to see results.  It may seem counterintuitive, but there are physiological reasons why longer breaks are sometimes necessary, and those reasons are primarily hormonal;

When it comes to getting lean there are a myriad of hormones at play, specifically Leptin and Ghrelin.  These hormones are primarily responsible for regulating your metabolism and hunger, and are your body’s first line of defense when it comes to starvation.  Leptin is produced by body fat (adipose tissue) and decreases hunger.  Ghrelin is produced by the stomach and increases hunger.

Even though we generally see fat loss as a positive thing (especially in an increasingly obese society), but at a certain point our bodies will disagree with us.  Our bodies LIKE to store fat… it’s comfy and cozy, and who knows when we’ll experience a severe famine?  That zombie apocalypse is no joke…

Over a period of time and as you get leaner, your body starts to activate some of those anti-starvation responses; you begin to produce less leptin and more ghrelin, essentially signaling you that you NEED TO EAT!

When this happens some people buckle down and try to do more; they exercise more, they diet harder, they take appetite suppressants and start eating tons of veggies in an attempt to outsmart their hunger, but those dang hormones can’t be so easily fooled!  The simple (and much smarter) answer is to take a diet break and allow those hormones to return to normal levels.  The amount of time that it takes to return leptin and ghrelin to where they need to be is going to depend on the level of leanness of the dieter, but generally speaking it will likely take several weeks to get the full effects.  Periodic ‘refeeds’ (days when you eat a higher number of calories – primarily from carbohydrates which have the greatest effect on leptin production) can delay the effects of dieting down.

Still with me?  Okay, good.  So with all of that being said, how do you know when you need to take a diet break?

Some of the symptoms of prolonged dieting include;

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Hyperfocused on food, becoming obsessed with food
  • Increased hunger
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty recovering from workouts
  • Decreased strength
  • Weight re-gain (generally as a result of suppressed metabolic function)

If you think that you may be due for a diet break, there are some guidelines that might help you to navigate your break successfully;

  • Expect to see an increase in scale weight.  Some people do not experience that and others may even lose weight after increasing calories, but in general you can expect to see a few more pounds on the scale.  When increasing calories and carbohydrate intake, your body will store more water, equating to an increase in weight.  It is temporary and normal, so do not let it discourage you!  I recommend staying away from the bathroom scale all together during this time.
  • Calculate your maintenance calorie needs and eat that amount.  My favorite tool for figuring out calorie needs is the IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) calculator; http://iifym.com/iifym-calculator/
  • Don't shy away from carbohydrates!  Dieters tend to view carbohydrate intake as a bad thing that needs to be minimized in order to lose fat (not true), but during a refeed or a diet break carbs should be increased dramatically.  Leptin primarily responds to carbohydrate intake, so doing a low-carb diet break is not going to produce the desired results.
  • Enjoy some treats!  Now is the time to incorporate some of the foods that you may have been avoiding over the past few weeks of dieting; have some cereal after your workouts, enjoy a bagel with your eggs in the morning, or have some frozen yogurt for dessert.
  • Don't go overboard.  The point with a diet break is to re-set your hormonal levels and provide you with a psychological break from dieting, NOT to regain all of the weight you have previously lost.  Loosen up the reins and eat at maintenance or slightly higher, but do not make the mistake of setting yourself back several weeks by eating mindlessly or stuffing yourself until you are sick.  The point here is continued fat loss over the long run, so keep that goal in the forefront of your mind.
  • Enlist help, if needed.  If the idea of eating more worries you, or you aren't sure how to set up a diet break (calories, duration, macronutrient ratios, workouts during that time, etc.) it might be a good idea to work with someone who can help to guide you and keep you on track during this time.


2/12/15

Do you have the right to feel frustrated?

 

Does this look familiar?

 

Sure, we've all hit sticking points in our fitness progress at one time or another.  Sometimes the stalls are temporary and sometimes they last a bit longer, but what they all have in common... they're frustrating!

If you perceive that you are putting in time and effort and aren't getting any return, of course you're going to feel frustrated.  My question to you, however, is; do you have the right to feel that way?

The truth is that most people don't have the right to feel frustrated with their lack of progress simply because they aren't really doing the right things, consistently.

There are several reasons for that, and one of which is that far too many people have unrealistic expectations and a lack of knowledge of what real progress looks like.  For someone who is severely obese, losing several pounds per week may be expected.  I'm not talking about Biggest Loser-style losses of 10-20 pounds in a week, but 3-5 pounds for the first phase of their fat loss journey may not be far-fetched.

For those who aren't very overweight and just have a bit of vanity weight to lose, a much more realistic amount might be 1/2 to 1 1/2 pounds per week on average.

Unrealistic expectations for weight loss aren't the only issue.  Many people also have unrealistic views of how much effort they are actually putting forth.

I want you to think about your goal, whether it be losing fat or gaining muscle, and ask yourself these questions;

Fat Loss:

  • Are you tracking your calorie intake?
  • Are you weighing and measuring your portions to make sure they are accurate?
  • Are you taking photos?
  • Are you taking measurements?  (body fat percentages and/or circumferences)
  • Are your clothes fitting any differently?

Muscle Gain:

  • Are you following a program?
  • Are you following a program designed FOR YOU?
  • Are you keeping track of how much weight you are lifting on a day to day basis?

Either goal:

  • How long have you been CONSISTENTLY working toward your goal?
  • Do you do well for a few days and then slack off on diet or training?
  • Have you been giving it your absolute BEST effort?

In order to see any real progress you need to be CONSISTENT, and stick to your program for at least 8-12 weeks before you complain that you aren't seeing any progress.  Fat loss and muscle gain take TIME, and if you change up your approach every week because you aren't seeing results you are likely not going to see results any time soon.

So, I ask again; do you have the RIGHT to feel frustrated with your lack of progress?

 

 


2/8/2015

Suffering is success... right?

 

I'm happy to say that I have been staying pretty busy lately; I have decided to continue expanding my health and fitness profession by earning another degree, this time in massage therapy.  It provides me yet another avenue to explore the human body and the way it moves.

Aside from school and my online coaching business, I have been preparing for my second NPC Bikini competition.  Things have been going well and I'm happy with the muscle I have added up to this point, but now is about that time where I need to start focusing on leaning out and working on my posing again.

In the past I have worked with an IFBB Pro Bikini competitor to get my posing routine down, but I have decided that I need to shake up my routine a bit to better suit my new shape.  Because of that, I recently had a posing lesson with another IFBB Pro Bikini Competitor who's physique and posing I greatly admire, and it was an eye-opening experience for me!  

She helped me to put together a new routine to work on based on what looks best with my musculature and what I feel comfortable and confident with.  That confidence is absolutely key on stage; the girl with the "best" physique doesn't necessarily win, it's the girl with the total package -- physique, hair, makeup, posing and stage presence -- that takes it.

Being confident is about being comfortable as well, and that is what I want to address today; being comfortable with your health and fitness plan.

Far too often I see people searching for the "best" diet, workout, or supplement to get them to their goal.  That is the wrong approach for several reasons; 

First, when it comes to things such as diet and exercise, all the fitness community has to base what is "best" is anecdotal; studies cannot accurately determine results when it comes to working out and eating for specific goals (fat loss, muscle gain, etc) due to the human component.

Because no two humans are exactly alike and there are too many variables to account for, it becomes impossible to accurately measure the effects of a specific diet or exercise program's results over another for a wide variety of people.  Sure, we can determine if a person lowers their body fat or improves their blood lipid profile, but when it comes to the things that the fitness community argues about we don't have a lot of help.  There is no way of knowing for sure if intermittent fasting is more effective than other forms of meal timing, or if higher volume is more effective for a specific workout goal.

I'm getting off on a tangent here, but the point is that until such a time we can put people in cages and monitor them like literal lab rats, we just have to do our best to use the information we have.  So, if that means that we must learn to listen to our own bodies and embrace the human component.

You must determine what you are comfortable with when it comes to your health and fitness, and that comfort will translate to confidence and ultimately SUCCESS with your program.  

Some things that you can ask yourself;

  • What do I LIKE to eat?  Do you hate tuna fish or gag at the thought of cottage cheese?  Don't eat those things!  Just because some bodybuilder at your gym swears downing tuna every hour is the only way to get huge doesn't mean it's going to work for you.  If you are suffering through a diet that you hate the chances of you sticking to it are pretty slim.
  • What time of day can I get to the gym?  If you aren't a morning person, vowing to get up at 4 am every day to get a workout done in the morning may not be the best approach for you.  It doesn't matter that so-and-so guru on the internet says that you HAVE to do cardio before breakfast to burn fat if that approach isn't realistic for you.  Find out when you can fit exercise into your day and do it then.  Again, whatever you are most comfortable with is what you are most likely to stick with.
  • When am I hungry?  Intermittent fasting is all the rage these days, and for good reason; it gives people who aren't naturally hungry in the morning a way of eating that works for them.  Rather than try to stomach food first thing in the morning because "breakfast is the most important meal of the day", people can feel better about waiting until they're hungry to eat.  The flip side of that is now people are trying to force themselves to skip meals because some anecdotal evidence shows there may be some health benefits to it.  It's worth exploring, but if you find that you are forcing yourself to fast and are suffering through it, don't do it!
  • What can I afford?  There are tons of supplements on the market and new products coming out left and right, all claiming to get you the best results.  Some of them are wildly expensive but their claims are so great that they suck you in.  Can you really afford to pay $60 for another protein powder of fat burner?  Do they even work? 

The answers to these questions will change over time, so it's good to check in with yourself periodically and ask yourself if you are happy and comfortable with the way you are approaching your health and fitness goals.

 


12/14/14

Slow Is Smooth, Smooth is Fast

 

- Be the tortoise, not the hare - 

Coming off of my first competition in October of this year, I have run into a lot of obstacles that I didn't anticipate... mostly of my own making.

I have had difficulty sticking to my diet and have had a few issues with my health that have thrown me for a bit of a loop.

Unfortunately, the post-show blues or post-show rebound are very real for a lot of competitors.  The initial weight regain after a period of competition can be very difficult to deal with (especially for a first-time competitor) especially if it is not expected.  There are often times HUGE cravings for previously "bad" foods, and due to the way competition dieting can change a person's metabolism it's not difficult to gain a large amount of weight in a very short period of time.

- Pretty sure I reget it all - 

I have been working hard and am happy to say that I'm finally over that hump, however I have been dragging my feet and am not exactly where I would like to be going into the 2015 competition season.

Because of that, and because I have a lot of improvements I would like to make, I have decided to push my first competition back to a later show... which brings me to the point of today's blog; listen to your intuition when it comes to your fitness, your body, your health, and your goals.

For most of us, there is no timeline that needs to be followed and therefore no need to rush the process.  We all know someone who has gone on a horrible crash diet (or perhaps that person is you) only to regain the weight they had previously lost or to suffer some sort of health complication in their pursuit of a quick fix.

For those of us who compete there are those who take time between shows to make improvements and come back with a better package, and there are those who blow up between shows, diet down too harshly, and end up looking the same (or worse) at their next competition.  I refuse to be that person!

I ask you to think about your goals today; do you have a timeline you are trying to meet?  Is it realistic?  What is the reason you feel the need to be at your goal by that specific date?  

You may find that in asking yourself these questions you realize that your need to lose X number of pounds by New Year's Eve is not only unrealistic, but unnecessary.

If you do have a legitimate need to be in a certain place on a certain date (say, a wedding?) get started now with a sustainable, realistic plan, but remember that your shape, your size and your body fat percentage DO NOT make you any better or worse as a person.  

Get fit, get that wedding dress, compete, or add that muscle because YOU want to, and because you enjoy the process.  Trust your intuition and don't push your body beyond what is safe and what you are capable in the pursuit of some arbitrary goal.  

For me, that means taking my time getting ready for my next show so that I don't have to diet so severely that I end up regaining the weight, harming my body, or injuring myself.  Going too fast certainly will not make me a happier person, and it will NOT help me to bring a prize-winning booty to the stage next year.

- Not a bad lookin booty, but not a winner - 

As the New Year approaches take time to think about not only what you want, but why you want it.  Find your "why?".

As always, if you need some assistance getting there don't be afraid to reach out to me!

 


11/4/14

           Stop Being A Victim!

 

 

We probably all know at least one person who always seems to be playing the victim.  This person constantly bemoans their situation, whether it be financial, a romantic situation, or some other "drama", and never seems to have anything to do with ending up in that situation in the first place.

This person has a million excuses for why they are always broke, are dating losers, or can't seem to get away from the drama that they seem to hate.  Nevermind that they spend all of their money shopping for outfits to go out to the club in so that they can meet new people to date, right?

These are usually the same people you see putting up vague posts on social media sites about "real friends" a "real woman" or their new fad diet they're starting on Monday.

*If you don't know this type of person, chances are that YOU are the one I am writing about, so pay attention.

In terms of health and fitness, this is the person who is always a victim of circumstance and just cannot seem to make any progress toward their goals.  They "have to" eat fast food several times per week, have 6 cocktails at a social event, or miss a week's worth of workouts because they don't have time to make it to the gym.

Any of this seem familiar?

In truth, I see this a lot as a health and fitness professional and to be honest, NOTHING makes me more angry.  I don't understand how someone will spend 30 minutes explaining to me why they couldn't stick to their plan, when that time have been better spent doing a quick workout or cooking a healthy meal.

I try to set my clients up for success by giving them a plan, educating them, and supporting them through the process, but I cannot do the work FOR them.  When someone sends me an email and tells me they are worried that traveling is going to cause them to veer too far off course, I do everything I can to help.  Do they need hotel-friendly workouts?  I can do that.  Do they need a few suggestions for smarter dining choices while on the road?  Easy!

Nobody has to be "on plan" all the time.  It isn't realistic for most of us and ultimately life has to be lived!  How sad would it be to go on vacation to Italy and not have some gelato and pizza margherita because of your diet?  That isn't how I coach my clients.  What I do try to impart, however, is that they must be responsible for the choices they make.  One meal is not going to halt their progress any more than one meal is going to make it, but a week or more of overeating and missing workouts?  Yeah, that will make a dent.

Usually it is these type of people who get extremely emotional about their bodies and want me to fix whatever damage has been done.  I wish it were that easy... I really do!  Instead of focusing on how their own choices got them to where they are, they choose to find someone or something else to place the blame on.

So, how can you avoid being this person when it comes to your own health and fitness?

1. Make a committment to yourself.  Write it down and look at it daily.

2. Develop a clear strategy.  This is where I come in!  Working with me will take care of the plan for you, so your goal here is just to adhere to the strategy I have in mind for you.

3. Enlist a support system.  I am going to be your biggest cheerleader, but having a friend, partner, or co-worker who supports you can be another avenue to keep you on track.

4. Take responsibility for your life.  Nobody puts food in your mouth, makes you hit the snooze button, or order that 3rd cocktail.  All of those choices are choices you make, and you can choose a different path.

5. Focus on gratitude.  Have you already lost 10 pounds?  Celebrate that!  Are you able to afford a personal coach and a gym membership?  Many people aren't, so use what you have available to you.

6. Give yourself a break.  Perhaps you missed one gym session or had a few cookies a co-worker made for you... thats okay!  The worst thing you can do is berate yourself and throw in the towel thinking "I blew it".  Don't turn a tiny stumble on your way up the mountain into a situation where you pitch yourself off the side.  Everyone has missteps, but the people who ultimately succeed in reaching their goals are the ones who correct course and carry on.

 

 

 


I DID IT!

After years of dreaming, wishing and thinking it over I finally decided to bite the bullet and compete!  I was so nervous to really committ to such an undertaking, but I think that sometimes it's good to do what scares you.

After 20 weeks of hard work, I finally stepped on stage at the 2014 NPC Colorado Natural.  I'm so proud to say that of the three classes I entered, I placed in all 3 and am now a Nationally Qualified Athlete!

The official results were;

First Time Ever Bikini Novice - 2nd Place

Bikini Novice C - 3rd Place

Bikini Open C - 4th Place*

 

* Qualified for Nationals

I met so many wonderful women backstage, and am so proud of all of my fellow competitors and especially my teammates.  My prep coach Adam Bonilla has been amazing, and my posing coach Crystal Matthews has been a dream to learn from.

With the option to compete at the National level in the coming year I don't know what exactly that will entail for me in terms of preparing and when my next show will be... but I'll keep updating and make sure you can all follow along!

Stay tuned; I am working on a full length account of my experience leading up to peak week and getting on stage; the tanning (oh the humanity!)  the diet and workouts, and all of the chills and thrills of being backstage!

Lets not forget about the post-show food!

It was not, as I had hoped, filled with chocolate

 


9/13/14

      A Confession, and Lessons Learned


I'm human.

*Whew!  There, I said it... big load off of my shoulders!*

There is a common misconception that those of us in the health and fitness industry are somehow immune to the slips, trip ups and falls that seem to plague the rest of society.  We alone are immune to the temptations of ice cream in the evenings instead of our steak and veggies, or the call of our warm beds in the morning over that of the cold iron at the gym.

The fact is that everyone has weak moments, and nobody is 100% on plan all of the time, myself included.

As of today I am 4 weeks out from my first NPC bikini competition, and up until now things have been pretty smooth sailing; I have leaned out quite well, my coach has been very happy with my progress (yes, even coaches need coaches) and I haven't felt tired, hungry or deprived.  My workouts are short and intense, my meals are satisfying and give me what I need, and I have felt a big outpouring of support from my friends and family.

Why then, did I deviate from my diet to such an extreme the other night?  In truth I don't know exactly what happened, but it was likely a combination of factors;

- Overconfidence: my progress up until this point has been pretty fantastic, and perhaps in some way I felt that I could "afford" to deviate from my plan.

- Stress: sure, things have been going well, but things got very REAL all of the sudden;  My mother told me that she is flying out from Texas to see my competition, I have started posing lessons with an absolutely stunning IFBB Pro Bikini competitor who is only days out from competing in the Olympia, and I had to do a fitting for my posing suit and see myself in that itty bitty bikini for the first time.  All of that happened in ONE day!  

- Boredom:  Yes, a competition diet can be bland, but perhaps I haven't been doing enough to spice up my meals or make them visually appealing.

Regardless of the reason, I hit a wall pretty hard and found myself mindlessly eating ice cream, and quite a lot of it!  I immediately regretted it (as is usually the case) and though I wish I could take it back, I did learn some lessons from it;

1 - It's always best to come clean

I told my coach about my slip-up (okay, more of a running leap down a mountain) right away, rather than try to adjust my diet or add extra cardio to compensate.  A coaching relationship is a partnership, and it only works if both parties are honest.  I expect the same discretion from my clients and in turn I never judge, berate, or shame them for mistakes that they might have made.  My coach treated me with that same respect and understanding, and together we made a plan for some course corrections to ensure my continued progress.

2 - Offer yourself compassion and forgiveness

Beating myself up over it would not change the situation, but it would serve to further demotivate me and keep me from moving forward.  When you slip up, it's important to do as I did; own up to it, realize you are human, and let go of the past.

3 - Set yourself up for success

By forgiving myself, admitting my mistake to my coach, and doing a bit of introspective thinking to identify WHY I deviated in the first place, I set myself up to successfully carry on and finish out my remaining 4 weeks of preparation strong.  

- I know now that stress is a trigger for me, even if it is exciting "good" stress, and I can now be more aware of those feelings as they arise.  

- My coach and I were able to adjust my diet immediately, rather than wait until my next weekly check-in and have to try to explain any weight gain or stall that may have resulted from my ice cream party.

4 - Use the experience to motivate you

Rather than beat myself up over it, I choose to let this mistake motivate me to push myself through the last leg of my prep.  I would have loved to have made it the entire time completely on plan, but perhaps this is what I needed.  A good dose of reality and the knowledge that I'm not infallable, and that I will need to be diligent if I want to make my best showing at my competition.  Perhaps this motivation will even carry over and help to motivate some of you!

5 - Pick yourself up and keep moving

This is the most important part, and what I hope that you all will take away from this blog post.  Rather than wallow in my self-pity and give up, I've brushed myself off, tried to laugh it off, and kept on going.  So many times I see my own clients, friends and family completely abandon their diet and training programs because of one mistake.  Don't give up!  One meal, day or even week off plan will NOT impact you in the long run, but not getting back up on that horse absolutely will.  Realize that we are ALL human, make mistakes, and that throwing in the towel is not the answer.  Be kind to yourself, and remember why you are trying to make changes in the first place.

As for me, I've just had my healthy breakfast and now it's time to walk my dog and carry on with my life.  I'll be using those extra carbs and calories to fuel my workouts this week, and I'm going to come back from this stronger and with more focus than ever before.

I'll keep you posted.  

 


7/30/14

       Overweight?  You eat too much.

 

Did I really just say that?  I did.

A very interesting discussion took place in an online forum I am a member of, during which one member made that very statement.  There were a few "atta girl" and sentiments of agreement, but it wasn't long before a myriad of women were chiming in with their own personal stories or those of people they know, all dismissing the law of thermodynamics which simply states that the total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transferred from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed.

These women claimed that they eat "clean" and that they watch what they eat and simply cannot lose weight.  They told stories about their friends who have tried every diet and cannot move any weight.  What did these women NOT do?  Count calories.

"You're fat because YOU EAT TOO MUCH. There isn't any other reason." These bracing (or shattering) words are from the Better Homes and Gardens Diet Book of 1955. Published before slimming became an industry worth £1 billion a year, and before diet gurus had to sell their books by flattering their public or blinding them with science, the editors felt no need to mince their words. Forty years on, however, the overweight can toy with dozens of excuses: slow metabolism or "big bones", food intolerance (as in the Nutron diet), enzyme deficiency (the pineapple-pushing Beverley Hills diet), digestive difficulties (the "don't mix starch and protein" Food Combining diet). So it's really not our own fault if we're plump rather than svelte.

Or is it?  Is it possible that for the vast majority of the population there is a simpler reason why you are overweight?

I know this seems like an obvious mistake, but many people truly don't know how many calories they're actually eating. For example, ordering a salad might seem like a healthy choice, but you could be getting a 600-calorie meal without even realizing it. Sauces, dressing, ketchup, and oils all have calories you probably don't even think about. Especially if you don't regularly cook at home, you're probably eating more calories than you think.

Unless you are extraordinarily disciplined, chances are you eat more than you think.

It is a psychological phenomenon that has been widely researched, most prominently by Brian Wansink at Cornell University in the United States. In his book Mindless Eating, Wansink shows even people of normal weight underestimate their food intake by about 20 per cent.

People who are overweight can underestimate by more than 50 per cent. He describes the gap between what you think you eat and what you actually eat as the "mindless margin". He has done many experiments showing we can easily be fooled into eating more than we need or believe we have eaten.

That is assuming that you even bother to pay attention to how much you are consuming at all, instead of following one of the many fad diets out there that demonize calorie counting in favor of eating from a pre-approved list of acceptable foods.  Take the Paleo diet for example; this diet claims that eating a selection of free range proteins, organ meats, copious amounts of nuts and bacon, and coconut in every conceivable form does not require you to count calories, yet many have found that switching to a Paleo style diet actually results in an increase in body fat and weight. 

The fact remains that the calorie remains king.  There are a myriad of factors that determine an individual’s calorie needs (which is a topic for another blog), but no matter what that number is, eating more than your needs will result in excess weight.  The first step to getting to your goals is to be honest with yourself and to really start to track how much you are eating.  It can be eye-opening! 


6/23/14

Personal Responsibility - Put in the work!

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” – Unknown

Nowhere is that old adage more true than in the field of health and fitness.  How many times have you heard someone you know complain that they just can’t get motivated to work out, or that they just can’t seem to stick to their diet?  How many times have YOU said or thought those same things?

Some people seek out coaches (such as myself) to help them along their way to their fitness goals, but many of them fail to realize that they still have to be the one to put in the work.  A trainer, coach, or nutritionist can give someone all of the tools that they need in order to succeed, but at the end of the day it’s the individual themselves who have to use those tools.

A coach can write a client an amazing training plan, but if that client skips their workouts or only puts in the minimal amount of effort, they aren’t going to get the best result.  Likewise a coach can put together an amazing meal plan or flexible diet (such as the type I do – where my clients choose their own meals based on the guidelines I provide them) but if the client “cheats” or doesn’t bother to track their dietary intake their result will be lackluster.  If a client doesn't bother to READ the program and take the time to prepare for it, what is the point?

Hiring someone to help you get into shape or improve your health is a great first step but it’s just one step of many along the road to fitness.  Ultimately you are the one who has to make the sacrifices, put in the time, and stick to the plan.  It won't always be easy, but the only one who can make it happen is you.

If you have decided that you are ready to take control of your diet and training, there are a ton of resources out there.  A coach such as myself can help you, but there is also an abundance of great information out there for free, if you know where to look.  One such resource is Testosterone Nation, which published this article that sums things up nicely.  It is geared toward women, but has some great information that can be applicable to anyone;

http://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/10-mistakes-women-make-with-diets

 


6/1/14

Why I've Decided to Compete

 

I recently wrote a blog post about my experience completing a Spartan Race, and why that was significant for me.  To recap, I am afraid of heights and knew that the course would involve lots of climbing, but I did it anyway.  Even though I did get stuck at one point I managed to make it through the rest of the course, and I ended up having a great experience with my husband. 

Doing that race actually helped me to realize that I had avoided doing a one up until that point because I was afraid of the unknown.  I was afraid of failing.

Perhaps it seems silly to think of an obstacle course full of mud as something to be afraid of, and to be honest I feel a bit silly admitting it now!  Yes, it was hard at some points but it was also a lot of fun at other times, and I am 100% happy to have done it.

After the Spartan Race I started to think about some of the other things I had been avoiding because I was afraid of the unknown… afraid of failure.  I came to realize that there was one GIANT thing I had crossed off of my bucket list, but had never really come to terms with; competing in a bikini division bodybuilding contest.

When I first became interested in fitness I would look at the images of the professional bikini and figure competitors and aspire to have that sort of physique; lean, muscular, feminine and radiating strength and confidence.  A couple of years ago I even began an online training program with one of the more well-know coaches in the industry in an attempt to finally reach what I considered to be the pinnacle of women’s physique.

Within 6 weeks of training and eating the way I was being told to by this particular coach, I was absolutely done.  I was already down to about 1000 calories per day, lifting weights 4 times per week, doing two hour long cardio sessions per day (either running or on the stair machine at a fairly high intensity) and had not had one single rest day in that entire 6 weeks.  I stopped working with him and immediately gained back the few pounds I had lost and much, much more.  I felt like a failure.

It wasn’t all bad though.  I learned a lot of lessons from that experience; I learned that not all coaches are good coaches (even if they are famous) and may not give a crap if their programs cause harm to their clients.  I learned to listen to my body and when to stop doing something that I know didn’t feel right.

Many times in life, and especially in the fitness industry, we see examples of what I would like to call a “Reactionary Culture” in which one extreme subculture will trigger the uprising of another in it’s opposition.  Take for example the idea of eating 6 small meals per day; once bodybuilding and dietary law, there are now those who vehemently oppose it and practice Intermittent Fasting instead.  Followers of “clean” or “Paleo” diets are constantly at battle with those who subscribe to the “IIFYM” (if it fits in your macros) style of eating.  Bodybuilders and CrossFitters fight like cats and dogs over who’s style of training is superior.

What I noticed with myself was that after my bad coaching experience I too ended up swinging in the opposite direction.  I got more involved in CrossFit and started to see  being in a caloric deficit as a bad thing.  I was running away from my aspirations of competing and had convinced myself that I had no interest in it any longer.

The truth is that, whether it is diet or training we are discussing there generally is no one right way on either end of the spectrum, and that the optimal approach is usually somewhere in the middle.

So, my experience with the horrible coach and my experience with the Spartan Race made me realize that for me, my answer was also in the middle; I love the challenge of Olympic lifts and lifting heavy, but doing CrossFit every day hurt my body.  Conversely doing endless reps of crunches and hours of cardio made me want to stab myself in the eye.  Eating with reckless abandon to “bulk” or gain strength made me uncomfortable in my body, but 3 whey protein shakes per day and practically starving made my body feel awful in more ways than one.

This time around I did my homework and found a great coach who’s clients I know personally, and have nothing but great things to say about working with him.  I also have come to accept the fact that at a certain point in dieting for a competition you will have to experience some discomfort, but it shouldn’t be a miserable experience from the onset.  I’ve decided that I’m not going to be afraid of failure, and that I am going to enjoy the experience.

So, wish me luck!  As of today I am just a hair under 19 weeks out from my first NPC bikini competition!  I have a lot of work to do until then, but I’m looking forward to the experience, watching my physique change, and learning all of the fun things about posing, tanning and suit selection that I never got the opportunity to the last time around.

 


5/20/14

Pills, Powders, and Potions... Save your money!

I’m sure I’m going to rustle a few jimmies for this post, but frankly there are a few jimmies out there in need of it, especially those who would push a product onto you and tell you that it is the answer to your health and fitness problems.

I’m speaking, of course, about those ‘miracle’ supplement companies and their layman peddlers that we can’t seem to get away from these days.  Advocare, Isagenix, Shakeology… I’m sure we all know at least one person who tried their products, liked them, and now sell them.  Hell, I know at least one person who sells each of these products.

Before I go any further let me say this; These companies’ products are not necessarily crap.  I have tried Shakeology… it’s pretty tasty!  I recently tried some of the Advocare products and I liked those too.  I love that the Isagenix line is natural and upfront about what goes into their products.

That being said, what makes these people, our friends and family, qualified to sell these products and shout their health claims from the roof?  What makes them qualified to be “coaches” (such as the case with Shakeology and the Beachbody products)?  These products are nothing more than modern-day snake oil; they make wild claims about ‘removing toxins’ and ‘cleansing’ your body, promising to deliver energy, weight loss, better sleep and just about any other ailment you can think of.  Most of these people are simply looking for a discount on these crazy-expensive shakes and pills, or are trying to make a bit of extra income each month and have found an easy way to do it.  Anyone can become a seller of these products.

Lets talk turkey;  What these companies really do is promise a lot of results that can be achieved through proper nutrition and regular exercise while attaching a hefty price tag.  ONE BAG, a 30-day supply, of Shakeology will set you back $120.  That’s $120 for a meal replacement shake!  Why not eat some fruits, veggies, protein, and take a multivitamin?  I don’t know about you, but I find that actually chewing my food is much more satisfying.  The Isagenix 30-day system of weight loss products will set you back a whopping $373.  For that price you can hire me and see some ACTUAL results without the bullshit!  (yes, shameless plug…)  How about Advocare?  Their 24-day “challenge bundle” of weight-loss products will come with a $190 price tag.  That is nearly TWO HUNDRED dollars for some fiber supplements, a protein drink and some energy pills.

To be honest I feel bad for the people who buy into these products and believe that they will really solve all of their problems.  Adding a shake to your sub-par diet and non-existent workout routine will not “cleanse” your body or give you a six-pack in time for summer.  While these things can help, you still need to focus on the components that really matter first.  Am I saying that you shouldn’t purchase these items?  Absolutely not.  For some of us the placebo effect of spending half of our paychecks on powders and pills can be the catalyst that gets the ball rolling on the rest of our healthy pursuits.  Some of us already have a great workout and diet program and can honestly benefit from adding a meal replacement for convenience.  Most people, however, should look at the big picture items first; diet and exercise.  Nothing you buy can help you to reach your goals if you are still eating too much and sitting on your ass.

The ONLY thing that will result in weight-loss is eating fewer calories than you burn.  Anyone who tells you differently is just trying to sell you something.

 


5/15/14

My "Reverse Progress"

I recently saw a post by another fitness professional, discussing her "Reverse Progress", which inspired me to do the same.

This is MY "reverse progress" photo. In 2012 I was 118 lbs, 12% body fat. Most of the photos on this site are from that time period.  I was ripped out of my mind, and also ACTUALLY out of my mind. I counted every last calorie and worked out 1-2 hours per day, 7 days per week. I only felt good about myself when I was lean, my body felt weak and tired all the time, and I was constantly injuring myself. I weighed myself almost every single day and allowed that number to dictate how I felt about myself.  My sex drive was non-existent and my hormones were so out of whack that I didn’t have a normal menstrual cycle for 2 years.

Today, I weigh roughly 135 lbs, and probably am about 19% body fat. I don't actually know, to be honest. I workout 30 or 45 minutes per day, depending on the day, and once a week I do bikram yoga as a way to relax and treat my body. I do workouts that I enjoy as opposed to workouts that are supposed to make my body look a certain way.  I enjoy ice cream regularly, and while I eat a nourishing diet, I don't stress out over food. When I travel, I indulge in local cuisine. I am active, strong, and fit. I'm not RIPPED and I honestly DO NOT care most days. 

Why? Because any time I want to get shredded again, I know what to do. I know that I'll need to tighten up my diet, and I know that I'll need to be patient; leaning out will take a significant amount of time. I just don't WANT to do that right now, and that's okay.

Some might think this is a reversal of progress, but I actually think it's real progress. I'm happier now.  I’m stronger now, I have more energy now, and my sex drive is back.

Being lean isn't my top priority. If it was, I'd work for it. My priority right now is being the best wife, student and coach I can be. My purpose is to teach women (and men!) how to love and embrace their bodies, and should they want to be leaner, show them how to do it without going crazy.  I want people to focus less on how their body looks, and more on what they can DO with their body.  I've also scheduled a photo shoot (in a few weeks) in order to show my clients more recent photos of how I look NOW; more muscle, more bumps and bruises, more confidence, and yes... more fat.  

I'm sharing this with you because I want you to see that fitness professionals aren't perfect. We aren't always shredded and we shouldn't just show you our highlight reel. Sometimes I'm leaner than others, and that fluctuation is normal. It took me a long time to be okay with that, and to be honest, there are still days that I wish I had my former leaner physique.  Those moments are fleeting because I think about how miserable I was most of the time, and how much of my LIFE I missed out on because I didn’t want to lose my cuts; birthday parties, baby showers, nights out with the girls… all wasted.

I could look at that picture from 2012 and feel badly about myself for gaining weight, or I could look at the picture from a few weeks ago and feel proud of myself. I choose to feel proud.

 


5/11/14

Overcoming Fears

I have a bucket list.  Yep, it might be sort of morbid to some, but I like to think of it as a way to measure my benchmarks in life.  If I can’t remember the last time I did something fun, adventurous or what have you, it might be time to consult the list!

Admittedly my list is probably pretty tame compared to some.  I don’t need to save the world, achieve fame and fortune or cure cancer in order to complete my list.  To me, it’s the simple things that are the most meaningful.  Things on my list are more akin to “Sing karaoke” (I couldn’t carry a tune in a backpack), “Visit New York” and as you may have guessed, “Participate in an adventure race.”

On May 4th, my husband and I completed the Military Spartan Sprint, held on Fort Carson in Colorado.  Now I realize that it’s not a big deal to most people, but I’ll let you in on a little secret; I am a total weenie when it comes to heights. 

When I get even a few feet off of the ground suddenly my body freezes up and I physically cannot make myself move an inch!  I’ve been told skydiving or bungee jumping could help me to overcome those fears, but I think I’ll pass.  Nothankyouverymuch.

Now, I knew there would be some ropes and climbing and such during the race, but I also knew that any obstacle I couldn’t complete can be subbed for 30 burpees before moving on, and I’m no stranger to burpees thanks to all my CrossFit lately.

From the starting point we ran a couple hundred meters to the first obstacle, a series of small under/over walls, and continued running to the second obstacle, a set of taller walls.  Now, this is probably very easy to some, but I have a terrible reaction to heights.  I say ‘reaction’ because my body freezes up and locks me in place even a few feet off of the ground.  It’s completely debilitating!  I managed to make it over the walls, albeit awkwardly, with some help from my husband. 

(This is what it looks like when I try to run with a sandbag and simultaneous wink at a camera like I'm The Fonz)

From there we ran up a pretty steep trail for another couple of hundred meters before rounding the trail and proceeding to sprint nearly vertically up the side of a huge hill.  At the top of that hill was a series of atlas stones that we carried a short distance, dropped and performed burpees, and then picked up again and returned to the start. 

From there we continued our extremely hilly run until we arrived at an obstacle that required us to pull a stone block attached to a chain up the hill.  I do lift a lot of weights so it wasn’t much of a challenge, and actually was a nice break from the running.  I am NOT a runner these days!

I should have enjoyed the moment a bit longer because after that, shit got real.  Our next challenge (after more running) was a muddy low crawl under barbed wire for a distance of about 50 meters.  That may not sound far, but when you’re crawling it I assure you it is!  While we were doing the crawl someone was standing off to the side spraying us in the face with a hose of ice cold water.  Nice huh?  When that was finally over we slid down a muddy slope into a pool of more mud-water.

(My husband somehow made it look good)

Now, I was not aware that the mud pool of death HAD NO BOTTOM!  When you aren’t expecting to be completely submerged in ice cold muck, that will catch you off guard for sure.  I had a hard time catching my breath and calming myself down after that, but managed to swim across the pool and climb the slippery slope out.

What was on the other side?  Another 50 meter low crawl!  Yay!

The next obstacle immediately followed the second low crawl, and was another pool of murky water out of which rose a series of ropes that we were supposed to climb to the top where a cow bell was waiting to be rung.  Now, on my best day ropes are still a challenge for me, but they pose no difficulty to my husband.  Normally.  This was not normal.  Our bodies and the ropes were completely soaked and covered in mud, making all but the most Spartan of participants unable to climb them.

So… 30 burpees it was. 

As I mentioned above, In the Spartan events, when you cannot complete an obstacle you are penalized and made to perform 30 burpees.  That is a lot to do in any circumstance, but in an event such as this they certainly add up.  I will say that they were welcome at this point, because doing them helped to warm me back up from the hypothermia I was sure was setting in.

From there… another swim and more burpees (this time just for kicks) lie ahead, followed by another series of mud slides into pits of water and climbing the slick sides to get back out.  Are you catching the trend here?  They need to rename this thing “4.5 miles of mud in your eyes.”

After the mud pits we came to another wall climb, this time inverted, followed by a long gradual hill run which gave us a bit of time to warm up.  On the other side of it more terrain waited us, filled with tire flips, sandbag carries, weighted ruck sack runs and more.  Honestly it all sort of runs together for me at this point, because it was about this time that THE OBSTACLE came into view.

This particular obstacle was the most unassuming thing; a simple climb up and down some logs that formed a triangular shape, an wasn’t even high off of the ground.  I ran right up to it and started climbing, and then I suddenly stopped dead and froze.  I was STUCK.  For some reason my body had decided that 6 feet off the ground was my limit, and wasn’t allowing me to go any further.  My husband had already finished and came back around to try to help me out, but I just grew increasingly frustrated and scared and, you guys, I friggin cried.  I CRIED on a log climb! 

My husband was so sweet and supportive, and instead of getting mad or embarrassed he just hopped down under the obstacle so that I could sit on his shoulders and drop down to the ground.  I wiped my eyes, did my 30 burpees, and kept going. 

Once we neared the end of the race the obstacles became more frequent; a spear throw (pretty much an automatic 30 burpees) more mud pits, a slippery mud wall traversed by ropes and more.  We climbed across a horizontal wall Spiderman-style (more burpees for me) and hauled weighted sacks up by a pulley system. 

After that I saw a HUGE tower looming up in front of me.  A log ladder climb about 30 feet in the air attached to a cargo net that we had to crawl across and then back down a log ladder on the other side.  It was so high but it was right at the end and there were a million people around, so I was determined to just suck it up and do it.  So, I took a deep breath, steadied myself, and climbed my ass off up to the top of that thing!  The cargo net was pretty sketchy looking, so I waited until a few other people piled on and got it nice and taut, and then I basically ran across it over them!  Punk move?  Maybe… but I did it.

I was so happy to be on the ground again and FINALLY climbed one of those crappy log ladders… better late than never.  From there it was just a quick jump over a fire, a run through a bag gauntlet and another dunk in some ice cold mud-water to the finish line.

(All that weightlifting pays off when you have to trust your legs to jump over fire when you're exhausted!)

Overall the course wasn’t what I would really consider to be physically challenging, but those dang climbing obstacles were so difficult for me to overcome mentally that it actually made the whole experience a bit unpleasant for me.  I’m glad I did it… but I walked away proclaiming that “I don’t think I’ll do one again anytime soon. “

Less than a week later, and I’ve signed up for a Dirty Dash in August.  I want another crack at climbing those obstacles!


9/10/15

Fitness Saves and Splurges; Where to Spend Your Dollars

Health and fitness marketing... oy. There are about a million companies out there all vying for your money, all making it out to seem like THEIR product is the one you absolutely need.

You can quickly blow your paycheck (heck, your savings) spending money on pills, shakes, bars, workout equipment, clothing and DVDs that really don't do anything for you.

How can you possibly know what things to invest in, and which things are unnecessary? Fortunately for you, I've been thinking about just that very topic!

Here is my short list of where to splurge and where to save;

SPLURGE --

1. A good mattress. Ideally you are spending about 1/3 of your day sleeping, and because of that you should be sleeping on a mattress that meets your needs. A crappy mattress can lead to neuromuscular pain, muscle imbalances, insomnia, and even allergies.

2. Quality shoes. If you reach the recommended 10k steps per day (I'm not even super active and I usually reach about 13k), you NEED good footwear. What else do you do 10-20 THOUSAND times per day? Improper footwear can cause ankle sprains and breaks; bunions, hammertoes, and stress fractures; as well as tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and ligament damage. Bad shoes' effects extend up the body, and can lead to the discs in your spine breaking down, as well as muscle spasms and pain throughout the body, and yes, maybe even chronic headache or migraines.

3. Regular massage. Studies have found that just SOME of the benefits of massage therapy include;
- Decreased anxiety
- Lessened digestive disorders
- Relief from fibromyalgia, headaches, Insomnia related to stress
myofascial pain syndrome, paresthesias and nerve pain
- Recovery for soft tissue strains or injuries and sports injuries
- Decreased temporomandibular joint pain
- Decreased stress
- Improved range of motion
- Decreased incidence of injury

SAVE --

1. Supplements. Sorry, but most of us do not need anything more than a good quality multivitamin (I like Alive brand) and a good probiotic supplement. BCAAs, Pre-workout formulas, Shit-your-pants-max-pump-2000, and Skinny-fast pills are largely useless. Focus on your diet before you consider adding supplements.

2. Organic food. There are some foods out there that are safer if organic, but that is mostly limited to fruits and vegetables that are eaten with the skin on. Things such as bananas, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe are just fine without any special organic labels, and will save you a boatload of money.

3. Fancy "spa" gyms. Really, when it comes to working out, you don’t need a lot. Gyms that focus on a spa experience or single type of workout, such as spinning boutiques or barre studios, tend to cost more than others. Those options might be great for people with plenty of disposable income who are looking to branch out, but for those on a budget, these types of boutique facilities can be a big waste of money. Most regular gyms offer free classes to members that are just as good as the boutique gyms’ versions, plus a variety of others, so you can change up your workout. Many cities now also have discount gyms that offer membership for as little as $10 per month, so be sure and check for those.


9/19/15

The Sweetest Thing

There are a lot of mixed opinions out there regarding artificial sweeteners.  Whether or not they cause cancer, gastric upset, or are bad for your teeth (among other things) remain hotly contested topics.  The truth, however, is that there is no credible evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners such as aspertame causes chronic conditions such as heart disease or cancer in humans.  In fact, the former commissioner of the FDA stated, "Few compounds have withstood such detailed testing and repeated, close scrutiny, and the process through which aspertame has has gone should provide the public with additional confidence of it's safety."

On the flip side, we have an upswing in people shouting that table sugar is "toxic" and that high fructose corn syrup is addicting.  Canadian researchers published findings recently stating that in studies done on rats, they found HFCS to have a similar effect on the brain as cocaine.

Give me a break...

As with the studies done on artificial sweeteners, the studies done on HFCS involved rats consuming extremely high amounts of the substances, the likes of which we would never normally see in humans.  Regardless, my purpose for this blog is not to convince anyone of the safety of artificial sweeteners, table sugar, or HFCS, but rather to provide a list of natural alternatives that many may not be aware of.

The stevia leaf and it's processed extract

Stevia

Calories - 0

The basics - Stevia comes from the highly purified extract of rebaudioside A, which comes from the stevia plant.  It is approximately 200 times sweeter than refined sugar, so a little bit goes a long way.  It is best used in raw foods and liquids because it comes in a liquid form.  You can also purchase it in crystallized form, but sugar alcohols are generally added (such as with Truvia). 

Benefits - If you are trying to lean out, this is a great way to add some sweetness without tacking on extra calories.

Anyone else craving spice cookies now?

Molasses

Calories - 58 per tablespoon

The basics - Molasses is the result of boiling down cane and beet juices until they form a dark, sticky syrup.  It is thick, with a slightly bitter and intense flavor.

Benefits - Molasses is high in antioxidants, iron, potassium, and calcium.  It's also versatile enough to use in both sweet and savory dishes.

Pass the pancakes

Maple Syrup

Calories - 52 per tablespoon

The basics - Maple syrup comes from drilling holes in maple trees, extracting the sap, and then boiling it to evaporate most of the water.  This leaves behind a thick, sticky syrup.

Benefits - Maple syrup is packed with polyphenols, zinc, manganese, potassium, iron and calcium.  It also contains about 24 different antioxidants, and has a glycemic index of 54 (compared to 70 for table sugar).

Get in my mouth coconut sugar!

Coconut Palm Sugar

Calories - 45 per tablespoon

The basics - This alternative is made from the boiled dehydrated sap of coconut flowers, but doesn't taste like coconut.  It has a flavor similar to brown sugar and can be used in liquids, raw foods or baked goods.

Benefits - Coconut sugar rates only 35 on the glycemic index, making it a great choice for those particularly concerned about GI ratings such as diabetics.

Agave nectar

Agave Nectar

Calories - 

The basics - Agave nectar comes from the sap of the agave plant, that grows in the southern and western United States and in Central and South America.

Benefits - Another low GI alternative, agave nectar comes in at a low rating of 27.  Agave also contains saponins and fructans, which have been associated with anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties.  Inulin is a specific type of fructan (fiber) that has been shown to increase satiety and decrease appetite.

Warnings - Agave is also VERY high in fructose, so while it doesn't raise blood sugar immediately, it can contribute to insulin resistance in the long-term.

Looks like sugar to me...

Xylitol

Calories - 29 per tablespoon

The basics - Xylitol can be processed from trees like birch, but it can also be made with an industrial process that transforms a plant fiber called xylan into xylitol.  It is a sugar alcohol, and even though sugar alcohols are carbohydrates, most of them do not raise blood sugar levels and therefore don’t count as “net” carbs, making them popular sweeteners in low-carb products.

Benefits - Xylitol has no fructose, and therefore has negligible impact on blood sugar and insulin.9 

Now that we've covered (just a few) of the options out there, lets discuss one final point; moderation.  There is NOTHING wrong with some agave nectar, table sugar, or even aspertame in your diet.  Like ANYTHING, sweeteners used to a point of excess can cause dietary imbalances that leave you feeling lethargic, bloated, or result in weight gain.

You can have a crap diet even without consuming ANY sugar if you aren't eating a diet balanced in protein, carbohydrates and fats, with plenty of micronutrients to keep you funtioning optimally.

The key is to eat a variety of foods that are healthy AND delicious.  For you that may mean having some cookies baked with molasses now and again, or puttin sugar cubes in your morning coffee.  There is no wrong way to eat as long as you are healthy and happy.


9/25/15

Got Glutes?

This gal certainly does

Arguably the most coveted and in-vogue asset for any fit-fan (pardon the pun) of the day is a pair of rounded and well-developed glutes.

Getting your glutes to grow isn’t just about doing squats though.  It can actually be very difficult to properly isolate them, and even harder to eat in the way that will support muscle growth.

Read on to get a peek into some of my top tips to get you on your way to growing a winning pair of buns.

1 – Don’t sacrifice form for weight

Whoa tiger, lets put the bar down and work on your form

This may ruffle the feathers of some of my fellow heavy-lifting sisters, but I’ve noticed a trend recently; The women I see with really well developed glutes aren’t necessarily the ones lifting the most weight.  In fact, a lot of the time I see them lifting a lighter or moderate level of weight, and performing exercises that specifically target the glutes… with PERFECT form.

Oftentimes when we mention those individuals who would rather pile on plates and do half reps than use a lighter load and hit full range-of-motion, the mind wanders to men.  Let me assure you that women have just as much ego as men when it comes to piling on the pounds at the gym, and a lot of women too will make the mistake of adding weight when their form cannot support it.

When that happens, oftentimes the range of motion for an exercise is cut short, and as a result the muscles don’t get activated the way they are intended.  Take a standard squat, for example; the greatest amount of glute activation takes place once you hit parallel or below.  If adding weight prevents you from safely hitting that depth, you’re mostly loading the quadriceps.  Ultimate that will cause your legs to grow at the expense of your glutes.

2 – Isolate the glutes

It used to be that squats were praised as the end-all-be-all for glute development.  Sure, squats do target the glutes when performed correctly, but they are far from optimal when it comes to glute activation, and should be considered more of a leg exercise than a glute exercise.

EMG tests comparing glute activation, performed in the lab of Bret Contreras, have shown some interesting results;

Photo and data from Bret Contreras

As you can see, several variations of squats (most notable kneeling squats) showed a much higher level of glute activation than standard squats, but none of them even came close to any of the variations of hip thrusts tested.

If you want to add size to your glutes WITHOUT increasing the size of your legs, squats cannot be your only means of doing so.

Hip thrusts are a personal favorite of mine, and very effective for glute activation.  Other favorites include straight leg deadlift variations, glute kickback variations, and lunge variations that emphasize the glutes (such as reverse lunges).  The key is to focus on hip-dominant movements versus leg-dominant ones.

3 – Use ‘em or lose e’m

I think he uses them

For a variety of reasons most of our booties are, frankly, just weak and inefficient.  Whether it be from constantly sitting on them all day, never learning how to actually activate them, or letting our quads to the work, so many of us have lazy glutes! The problem doesn’t correct itself when we load up the barbell and expect the glutes to get their act together without being properly taught how to.  You wouldn’t take a person who has never picked up a hammer and expect them to start building a house.  They just wouldn’t know what to do.

How do we remedy absent-minded buns?  In two ways; thinking about the muscles and then properly warming them up.

Believe it or not, Just thinking about your glutes while working out will elicit a greater response than moving through the motions.  As you are walking your dog, doing the dishes, or just standing around, think about where your buns are, and practice flexing them both together and individually.  While working out, try to imagine your muscles moving through the motion and focus on what you FEEL in your backside.

Before working out, warm up with glute activation exercises such as clamshells, lateral band walks, donkey kicks and glute bridges. 

4 – Eat to grow

You say "doughnuts", I say "gainz"

Lastly, your diet needs to support your booty-growing goals.  You cannot make something out of nothing, and muscle is no exception.  In order to add muscle mass to your body, you need to have a calorie surplus; eating more calories than your body burns through daily activities, workouts, and normal physiological processes. 

Too often I see people with conflicting goals; they want to lose fat and grow their glutes, but it is extremely difficult to both simultaneously.  In order to gain muscle you must be in a calorie surplus, but in order to lose fat you must be in a calorie deficit.

One quick way to determine how many calories you need in order to gain is to multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 20.  For example, a 140 pound woman would need approximately 2800 calories on workout days in order to build muscle.  This is just a jumping off point, and may be too many or too few calories for some. 

Another method is to try an online calorie calculator, such as www.iifym.com in order to get a more personalized suggestion for your calories and macros.

You can also opt to work with a coach to personalize a program for you in order to get you on the right track.  For coaching inquiries, contact me through my website or on facebook;

https://www.facebook.com/JS-Fitness-Solutions-LLC-818621728178187/timeline/?ref=hl 

 


11/21/16

First Figure Competition Complete!