Monthly Archives: September 2013

To Diet For

I found an article I really liked that I wanted to share. It is really a collection of photos that emphasize how crazy some fad diets can be.

A photographer took some great photos of diets that are not only visually stunning but mind blowing when you really think some people attempt this.

My eating habits used to be terrible, primarily because of a lack of knowledge, but I never came close to these attempted ideas of dietary intake. Now that I am more educated in nutrition, and I have a Cooking Basics for Dummies cookbook, I have come to appreciate that we need variety and we need a lot of food to function optimally (especially with exercise)! After many years of misguided unnecessary carb loading I have a strong love for protein and I will tell anyone who will listen!

I can’t believe people can impose these strict and nonsensical guidelines on themselves… haven’t we proven that a well rounded diet and exercise are the only true ways to achieve health? Maybe these pictures can help. If not, I have a link to a great article on poop for a different perspective….

If your diet cuts more things out than it allows or if it only consists of orange items… you might need an adjustment.

Check out all the photos at http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/08/23/214912007/fad-diets-will-seem-even-crazier-after-you-see-this?ft=1&f=1128

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Rest is Best

When the calendar says it is a rest day, do you actually rest? It seems to be very common that if your body is feeling good then you keep going, right?

Not me. I am going to relax (maybe not relax, but not workout) and then I will happily make a big fat checkmark on my schedule right over the words ‘rest day’.

Sometimes the hardest part of training is taking days off (ridiculous, right)! After training five days straight and coming back from a frustrating week of my body not reacting exactly how I envisioned it (like slow motion on the Olympic track), I hit rest day. I felt like my body wanted to keep pushing and taking a day off would be like dragging my feet while trying to build momentum.

Like any other trainer, my apartment is stocked with all sorts of fun things like my TRX, sandbag, kettlebells and weights. On training days they look like equipment and on rest days they look like a playground. What we need to remember is that rest days are actually when our bodies make progress. Exercising creates microscopic tears in our muscles and (with rest) they heal and repair themselves to be stronger. So we need these days off to allow for regeneration otherwise our bodies just get worn down… Like many dragging limbs to building momentum.

Despite lack of need for another goal, I am setting another goal. On my last day off from the gym I visited a friend I haven’t seen in a long time. I didn’t think about what food I should be eating or what I would be doing if I was working out.

As my busy days fly by, I realize I don’t make enough time to visit with friends or reach out to people I haven’t talked to enough. So I will replace the time I would have spent in the gym doing this. It’s the new and improved rest day.

I suggest we all make our rest days more productive by not exercising and spending some face to face time with a friend. Good for the body and soul 🙂

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Weights to Mates

Observe; the muscular man attracting a mate in his natural habitat.

He sees the weights he wants and quickly advances towards them. He maintains eye contact to make clear his desires yet acts casual as best as he can by walking with a swagger. Once he has claimed his irons he can take as much time as possible to check his phone, watch his reflection, and speak softly to himself in his best tough guy voice. Timing must be precise so that women may be safely distracted by his masculinity, as determined by the size of the weight he has chosen. A male specimen who is not as strong as the others must make up for his lacking bicep circumference by extra bold clothing color selections or obscenely loud music with his headphones. The female may notice one of these secondary characteristics.

Now it is time to lift these weights; form and function are irrelevant. The sound of the effort is most significant, as the male grunts with each repetition. Grunts may be replaced by yells, words, or curses as long as they can be heard throughout the gym. The more attention he can attract the better as his admirers look on. Other males stare with looks of disdain as he beats his chest by letting the weights fall as loudly as possible. Now he must strut the gym floor to show his dominance by the swagger in his walk. If a suitable female has not approached him, he must continue. If a potential mate has been met with eye contact, he can retreat to a quieter exercise to let another male make his presence known. This will repeat until a mate is found or until the male concedes protein shakes for beers and search for a female that doesn’t squat.

For the record, a lot of my friends are big guys who lift heavy, grunt loud, swear a lot, and slam the weights. I wrote this after a session with one of my clients where there were many men being extra loud and we laughed as they tried to outdo each other. The gym really is a place to attract attention to your physical strength and I see guys hitting on girls all the time this way (the other way around too of course)! National Geographic should be looking into this, really.

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Ready or Not

I race in less than 2 months and today I had the thought that I wasn’t ready. The “butterflies in my stomach” that feel more like cement mixers. Of course I shouldn’t be ready yet, but my brain had me convinced I wouldn’t be ready in time. All that means to me is that I am nervous which is good because it means I want it.

Ready is such an interesting concept. I don’t know what the weather will be like, who the other runners will be, or how my legs will feel during the race. So can’t you only determine readiness in hindsight? Why do people always ask you if you’re ready when you clearly don’t know the answer?! Do they want you to call after the race: “Nope, turned out I wasn’t ready yet”.

If I have only learned one thing from this world it is that you are never ready- and that’s not a bad thing. Life would be dull and uneventful like a movie watched over and over again. We don’t know what is coming and sometimes we don’t even know how we will react. Half of them time I feel like my emotions are doing one thing while my brain is saying “I thought we were ready”. Luckily, I can remind everyone I am female and be excused for any emotional explosions.

So rather than convince myself I am ready, I can acknowledge with ease that I will never reach my optimal performance level, particularly because I like wine and chocolate too much. I think racing is more about who can get to the start line injury free and who can tailor their training to be able to be the best on that given day. Also, it is about getting to the finish line first… minor detail…

Who wants to be prepared for everything anyways; that takes the fun out of everything! And accepting that you aren’t ever going to be completely ready comes with an contented feeling that could be mistaken for readiness…

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The Start of Something Good

To rebuild something implies that you want to replicate what existed before. I am not rebuilding but I am recreating. An upgraded model you could say.

Too many injuries ago, I would rehab the problem and pick up right where I left off. My life plan once involved getting into rehabilitation but after many years of physio for chronic issues and a brief stint working in rehab, I changed my mind. Or rehab changed my mind for me.

Too much emphasis is placed on the injury, and yes you read that right. The underlying issue of a knee pain is rarely a knee problem, but instead an issue with the hip, IT band, or maybe misalignment. Or maybe the ankle. Or could be the back and something overcompensates and the pain pops up in the knee. Too many aspects of rehab have blinders on. So if you have chronic pain, there is hope for you: try something else. If you haven’t looked further than the source of pain, then you haven’t even started.

Although my most recent injuries to rehab were not my fault (for once), I am starting from square one and overhauling this mess I’ve got going on. During my last workout another trainer asked me what I was working on and without hesitation or smile I said “my back- but just the right side”. He laughed and walked away probably to go flex at his reflection. I actually meant what I said though.

As a long time model for scoliosis, my back never looked like an anatomy textbook. It looked like I got hit by an SUV. Then I did get hit by an SUV. Flexing the muscles in my back are great as a party trick or maybe for a booth in a traveling circus but for promoting myself as a personal trainer not so much. (I would post a photo but I rated this blog as PG). This imbalance feeds into all my other problems so I will focus here and build on that. Upgrade in progress.

If something isn’t working then stop and try something else. There is nothing wrong with learning through trial and error particularly with our bodies. You just need to trust your body will tell you what it likes and doesn’t like and you need to listen and respond. Building a strong base for your fitness is most important (literally and figuratively) and this will reduce injuries and keep you hard at work in the gym.

So tomorrow is another (right side) back day. A big shout out to all my asymmetrical friends putting in a workout tomorrow too!

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Fit is It

A woman’s physical presentation is an often discussed and carefully analyzed topic. I consider myself very aware of the double standards, the unrealistic expectations, and the issues for our daughters. Despite my education on the topic, I had a wakeup call today that I need to think a little more critically.

I went to buy a pair of jeans and took two into the change room. The first pair was a size smaller than I normally get- it is the end of the week and so my brain only functions sporadically. I thought “these won’t fit” but of course I started hiking them on. But they buttoned up? I was legitimately too excited about these jeans. Or sorry, excited about the size of these jeans. I tried on the other pair in my normal size but found I was going to need a few weeks of hamburgers to make them work. I was giddy to drop a size as I did my victory dance that is usually reserved for actual victories.

How exciting right? Well not really because then my brain started working again.

I am healthy and my weight is very proportionate to my height. So going down a pant size is actually not ideal considering my fitness goal of building muscle. I have been trained so well to celebrate a smaller number on the tag that it took delayed conscious analysis to see the stupidity. Then I didn’t want the pants, but it is getting cold and I like to wear pants. How is it possible that my gut reaction and my conscious thoughts are so conflicting?

I have been doing some reading (and the processing has been slow apparently) about the new trend of “strong is the new skinny” ads. I will be honest and admit I have one of these saved on my computer. I liked the way the model looked and I find visual goals to be motivating. After an article prompted me to pay more attention, I started reading more reactions from others.

Let’s acknowledge that strong means many things and it is entirely subjective. The issue to be discussed is that these models are by most definitions skinny. If strong means clean and jerks like female weightlifters then yes these ads are gross misrepresentations and nothing else. If strong means having muscular definition and the ability to train at a high intensity then these women are likely very strong.

I don’t want to preach what people should do with their bodies, particularly because the capabilities of the human body are nearly endless. My opinion is that we should endorse this trend of women’s fitness and appreciate the transition (however slow it may be) from the beauty ideals of visible ribs and spaghetti noodle limbs. These ads are trying to convey an image of sexiness which is a woman who is healthy and fit.

Opinions on “strong is the new skinny” being irrelevant, we need to keep topics like this in debate. Although the ad could be more accurate to display a woman with more size to her, I think the fact that fitness, muscular definition, and women’s health are being promoted is moving in the right direction. What is most important is that we can recognize the standards of women in advertising and the beauty of real women. If you define strength with building muscle then yes, being a smaller size is counterproductive and misleading. If strength is getting through the day without fatigue then that will result a completely different body type.

I am going for fit and whatever size that makes my body. Maybe I will go back up another pant size or maybe I won’t- but I will do my victory dance for only the right reasons.

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Hot to Trot

I should clarify the use of the word ‘trots’ versus just the word running. First, and most importantly, it rhymes with squats and gives me a catchy name… Also, as it turns out, my running form suffered post accident and my friends entertained themselves with my scurrying/ trotting/ Frankenstein shuffle when I was first attempting to run again. I used one leg more than the other and the bum leg would always hit the other one. As with all good friends, they don’t let me forget these moments and in their minds no pace will ever upgrade me from a scurry or trot.

I can hold a 4:50/ km pace now and it feels like I am going so fast that I borderline lose control going around corners. No these are not hairpin turns but your average street corners with pedestrians diving out of my way. If you can’t visual a 4:50 pace then just know that I am kidding about everything after that.

I used to get paid to analyze gait and teach running form and now I am rubbing elbows with the wheezers, the newspaper readers, and the feet slammers of the treadmill world. This is when I tell great stories of my past but my friends just laugh and ask me “why run, anyways” as they flex their muscles and compare (lack of) body fat.

Lifting weights is empowering and exhilarating but the runners high is a different breed. You have no equipment to push, it is just you pushing yourself. There can be no satisfactory slam of weights at the end of a set; it is a constant effort rewarded by the sounds of heavy breathing and footsteps responding to pavement. Sometimes running feels more rewarding because I literally feel like I got somewhere. Maybe that is illogical but I never promised logic here… 🙂

Whether you are pumping iron or pumping your arms, you got your workout in.

And whatever speed you move at, it all starts with a good trot.

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Annie Get Your Guns

Okay, enough already. Women can lift (and they should). Strong is the new skinny, my friend.

Stop waving your 2.5lb dumbbells around and wondering why your flab is getting flabbier. Here is a completely scientific argument (okay it is based on science) listing why women are just as tough as men and have even more reasons to pump some iron. It is okay to sweat and it is okay to grunt, and most of all it is okay to try something new when your strategy isn’t working. I challenge you to avoid the treadmill for a few sessions and get out of your routine. Here are the best 10 reasons for women to lift:

1. Burn that flab! Bigger muscles burn more calories and the workout will boost your metabolism!
2. Get toned! You do not have the testosterone of a man, you will not get all jacked up. Trust me I have tried.
3. Help fight injuries! Learn proper form and strengthen your body to help protect joints.
4. Burn more calories! Research shows more calories burned post workout versus a cardio workout.
5. Get stronger! Build muscle for endurance, strength, or power.
6. Lose that belly fat! …. you know crunches don’t work so just stop.
7. Feel confident! This is a high that is legal, healthy, and free!
8. Fight osteoporosis! Particularly in post menopausal women, fight bone loss!
9. Get out of your comfort zone!  If you need to read why you should be lifting, you probably aren’t.
10. Get the body you really want.

I hope the exclamation marks got my point across.

If another woman tells me that they don’t lift heavy because they don’t want to get bulky then maybe I will have to start considering that all of these women know the secrets of bodybuilding. Until then, I will believe that strength training is largely misunderstood.

“The myth that women shouldn’t lift heavy is only perpetuated by women who fear work and men who fear women.” – Source Unknown

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Which Way is Up

Right before my surgery, a co-worker shared with me a great piece of wisdom. She told me to look at this situation as a good thing because I wasn’t losing ground but simply moving sideways. Moving sideways can be the best direction to go because you are still moving but you find a new endpoint so you gain a new perspective. I was awestruck at her casual brilliance as she then continued on with our conversation.

This is a fantastic way to illustrate that so much in life is simply a matter of perspective.

Regressing can be a way of moving forward as well. In the gym today my joints seemed to want a rest day much more than my brain did so I modified everything, reduced weight and reps, and ended up leaving about half an hour early.

Progress!

If I had fought my way through my planned workout, I know that I would have set myself back with irritation, inflammation, or injury. Sure I didn’t leave the gym today feeling like I accomplished a lot because my skin wasn’t as tomato red as normal but I know that I have a much better chance of being successful in my next scheduled workout and getting back on track faster. Leaving with the sense I didn’t work out hard meant that I listened to my body and didn’t aggravate any pending issues. Our bodies are extremely intelligent because they tell us exactly what they need; we just have to listen.

So as long as you are moving, then you are progressing. Sometimes it is sideways and sometimes it is backwards but that is how we truly create ourselves. If we keep pushing forward with our heads down, we can miss the forks in the road. And if we don’t make decisions on which direction to go then is there any value to the direction we are going?

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The Short Shorts Epiphany

Today I had a moment. Just one of those moments that your brain turns in a different direction.

I saw a woman in the gym wearing short shorts and proudly showing off her overweight body and dimpled legs. She wasn’t strutting like a model but had a brazen confidence that said “… why wouldn’t I wear these shorts”. I honestly felt so impressed and so happy for her confidence that I had to hold myself back from running over and giving her a high five, a slap on the butt, and a “You go girl”! The confidence in her ability to wear what made her most comfortable and made it easiest for her to workout was refreshing.

I have my soft spots and my self criticisms but each day that passes won’t come back. I don’t want to look back in a few years and realise this is as good as it gets and I spent my best days making excuses or awkwardly fidgeting to get my shorts to stay over my trouble spots.

Keep yourself surrounded by these people; the brave and the confident, the ones who know what they want and know what they like. Most importantly, stay surrounded by those who let you be who you really are. Maybe you don’t know who you are yet but separate yourself from those who don’t nurture your ability to grow.

Did you know 90% of women over 21 have cellulite? Let’s embrace it. Let’s embrace our bodies as they transform (if we so desire to change them). Let’s be role models with self confidence and let’s be proof that it is most important to accept and be comfortable with yourself.

Maybe I needed this pep talk the most. Now to conquer the world; but first, where are my short shorts….

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