Can One Hour Change Your Life? I think so.

I hear time and time again that people don’t have time to exercise. And for a while, I even made myself too busy for my own workouts.

During the time that I couldn’t make time for myself I found the days to actually be longer.

The days were longer because I couldn’t escape the feeling of disappointment for not following the advice that I give out over and over; “You need to make time for yourself.”

And the days were longer because I didn’t have any relief from the pressures of life.

For me, exercise is therapy.

exercise keeps me sane

It’s an hour of my day that I don’t have to think but just do.

As a working mom of three children I feel like I spent more hours than not telling other people what to do. I’ve even incorporated the word “please” in my fitness classes just to relieve the feeling of being a drill sergeant. It can be exhausting being ‘bossy.’ So for me, it is a relief to have someone else tell me what to do.

 

It’s an hour when my stress is shed through every bead of sweat.

Sure, I can talk to you about the endorphins that are released when you workout, but I’m pretty sure no one is interested in a science lesson. So instead, let’s talk about how good it feels to punch a heavy bag when you are angry because of bad things happening to good people in your life. Or the feeling you get when you are breathing hard and you feel like with each breath you are taking in new life and releasing the things that are weighing you down. During my workouts I get to release every thing that is closing in on me and for that hour those stresses have no hold over me.

It’s an hour when I prove to myself how strong I am and what I am capable of.

I say time and time again in my classes, ‘Set your intention for this workout. One challenge I have for all of you is to not quit! Slow your pace or lower the weights you are using but don’t stop.’ I take that same philosophy into my own workouts. It’s all about going big and owning the moment. I enjoy proving to myself that I can push through the discomfort and fatigue to dig deep. We are all capable of so much more than we realize and nothing feels better than learning that about yourself.

So the next time you tell yourself you don’t have time for exercise consider the benefits. Not only are you improving your health, you have a chance to escape reality and the stresses of life and an opportunity to dig deep and learn more about yourself.

 

Top 15 Things a Trainer Should Ask You Before Creating Your Fitness Plan

The temps have been up in the Chicago area but the sun has been down. Multiple days in a row with little to no sun can send me into a bit of a funk. Nothing extreme, but enough to know that even though the temp is projected to drop 10 degrees tomorrow, the prospect of seeing the sun wins over 40 degree temps.

This got me thinking…why on Earth am I letting the lack of sunshine affect my mood. I know what picks me up so I got up and did it – for me I practiced TurboKick and all the while was thankful that I’m now working hard to learn new things that I love, rather than working hard to manage projects that deep in my heart really didn’t interest me.

But another VERY important thing occurred to me…if you aren’t one who likes to exercise, when you are stressed, or in a funk exercise sounds like the most absurd thing to relieve your bad feelings.

The thing is, when we don’t feel well, whether it’s because of stress, anger, disappointment, etc. the thing we want most is to feel good again. But what makes us each feel ‘good’ again is unique to each of us.

For some it’s prayer or good conversation, for others it’s a drink or some chocolate, for others it’s putting your face in a pillow and screaming or taking deep breaths. The point is each of us are unique, and find comfort or coping, if you will, in different ways to relieve the feelings dragging us down.

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Trainers need to be enlightened on your specific needs before they can create a plan.

BING!!! LIGHT BULB!!! In all my years of being a personal trainer and even a group fitness instructor I’ve spent a great deal of time learning about my clients habits, preferences and temptations, but I don’t specifically ask, ‘What is your “GOTO” when you feel bad? What do you do when your willpower is at it’s lowest and when exercise is about the last thing you can imagine will relieve stress?’

As a trainer, if I am going to support someone during the tough times, I have to know the signs to recognize when they are there, but also know how to build them up so they keep going.

All of this got me thinking that if you’ve never worked with a personal trainer before you might not know what to expect. Here are some questions that every good trainer should ask you before putting you through a workout if they are promising you an individualized plan.

Top 15 Questions Your Trainer Should Ask Before Creating Your Fitness Plan

  • Why do you want to work with a trainer?
  • What are your expectations of our time together?
  • What types of GOALS would you like to achieve?
  • How many days a week will you workout out while not with me?
  • What equipment do you have available to you?
  • Do you want strictly home workouts or will you go to the gym?
  • What things do you like to do?
  • What things do you not like to do?
  • What things intimidate you?
  • Do you have any health concerns or injuries that need to be considered?
  • What time of the day is best for you to exercise?
  • Who do you know that is supportive of your efforts to achieve greater health?
  • Who do you know that may be a roadblock or tempt you from straying from your goals?
  • Do you use any technology to track your activity and nutrition?
  • How do you prefer to communicate (email, text, phone calls)?

I talk all the time about creating personalized plans – and I wholeheartedly believe that is the only way to succeed. But in order to do that, I need to know more about you as a person – you are not a one size fits all solution sold in a book off the shelf. You are a unique person with individualized needs and deserve a personalized plan that will enable you to make the changes you want to achieve.

Be sure your trainer is committed to YOU as a person and invests in YOUR goals. If you are interested in talking to me more about your goals and are unsure if working with a personal trainer is right for you, drop me a line, I’d be happy to answer any questions you have. If you are going to work with a trainer I would hope it would be me, but more importantly, I want you to work with the trainer that is the right fit for your needs.

Tomorrow I’ll write more about the questions you should ask every trainer before working with them.

Exercise and the Holidays

It’s no mystery that it’s easy to gain a few pounds over the holidays. Between the family gatherings, the parties with friends the extra calories can add up quickly, not to mention the harder it can be to workout.

This holiday season, I’d like to not only challenge you to make good choices at the gatherings, but to stick with your regular workout schedule. Here’s why…

Stress Relief

I think most of us can agree that while the holidays are certainly a whole lot of fun, they put additional stress on our lives. Between preparing for parties, decorating the house, shopping in crowded stores and dealing with the challenges the weather often brings, it’s no wonder we feel more stressed. Exercise is a great way to relieve that stress. Not only will it feel good to be active, exercise releases ‘happy’ endorphins that contribute to stress relief.

It’s the ME Time you Need

Holiday schedules are crazy. Invitations from family, friends on top of school and office parties can make your social calendar seem like it’s on steroids! With all that socialization it’s so important to take time for ‘YOU.’ Don’t miss out on a workout because you don’t have time. You owe it to yourself to spend the time necessary to make yourself a better you. Even if you can’t make it to the gym, put in 30 minutes at home with some body weight exercises and simple cardio bursts.

Counter the Calories

It’s no mystery that workouts don’t burn nearly the amount of calories that many think that they do, however, regular exercise helps you to have more lean muscle mass and a healthy metabolism. Both of these things contribute to more efficiently burning calories even when you aren’t exercising. Dropping your workouts at the same time as you increase your intake of calories is the perfect equation for watching the number on the scale rise.

If you’re off on Friday stop in and see me at CustomFit at 218 E. St Charles in Lombard. I’ll be teaching PiYo at 7:00am and a Power Lunch class focused on core and stretching at 12:15pm. It will be a great time and a good break from your Black Friday shopping!

Focusing on the Gains not the Losses

Prior to our move I spent on average 6 hours a day, Monday through Friday teaching and training. I was at my peak condition and never felt better. It was probably the first time I can remember in my adult life where I stopped critiquing myself in the mirror. 

But it wasn’t just all about my physical appearance. It was also one of the first times that I felt like I had a good handle on dealing with stress. There is so much truth to the release of endorphins when working out. That’s not to say I never got upset, but I was much more likely to let things roll than to react to something I had no control over anyway.

I slept better, I consistently ate better, I was generally a happier and more positive person.

Now don’t get me wrong, we couldn’t be more thankful for our move and my husband’s new career. It’s been a true blessing to our entire family. But as with all changes, there is a transition period. While I was focused on getting everyone settled here I kind of lost sight of who I was and what I needed to be whole.

I joined a gym near our house but struggled to get into a consistent routine. I’d have a good week, then a bad week, a good week, then two bad weeks. I just couldn’t find a rhythm. 

I was able to keep us eating generally healthy until summer hit and then fattening BBQs and eating out were so much easier after a long day of lounging at the pool. Notice I wasn’t swimming at the pool – just lounging.

The more inactive I became the worse my sleep patterns were and while I can’t say I was stressed out, I certainly didn’t have the calm I had come to know.

All of these things contributed to my clothes fitting tighter and tighter and longer periods of examination in the mirror. I reverted back to that girl who tried on 5 different things before deciding on an outfit that I hoped would hide the imperfections I couldn’t stop staring at.

I had not only lost all of the progress I had gained physically, I had lost the confidence and the happiness that had previously defined me.

My husband had a long week of travel which left me to do some deep soul searching. It was during that week I realized it was time to find myself again.

With the kiddos back in school and our family operating on a more normal schedule it’s been much easier for me to consistently hit the gym and make healthy meals. 

I’ve discovered that while the gym I have belonged to is close and cheap, I don’t feel challenged by their classes and I’m likely to make excuses for not going. On the other hand I’ve discovered both a Boot Camp and a Boxing gym that I can’t get enough of!

The past two weeks have been a great reminder of who I was and why I loved being in the fitness industry. It feels good to have sore muscles, I like pushing myself so hard that I have to catch my breath and being drenched in sweat is the best remedy for stress or a bad mood.

The numbers on my scale haven’t really changed, and my clothes aren’t yet fitting that much different but I’m not going to focus on that – all of that will come with time. What I am choosing to focus on is that I am getting stronger and healthier with each workout and healthy meal. I will not let my return to health be defined by watching the numbers on my scale go down, I will define myself and my success by shutting down the negativity and self-criticism and replacing it with confidence and courage to keep going.

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6 Ways to Combat Stress

Did you know your body has no way to differentiate between short-term and long-term stress?

More importantly, do you know that chronic stress can be a major factor in preventing you from losing weight?

When it comes to stress I would almost consider myself an expert. Not only do I suffer from perfectionist and OCD tendencies – I am a complete control freak. Not a great combination – just ask my husband!

We’ve all heard of the “fight or flight” response that our body has when faced with a situation. Stress can affect the body much in the same way.

When a person is in a chronic state of stress their body works to store as much as it can to prepare for the pending “fight.” The problem is when you are in a chronic state of stress your body cannot “shut down” it’s natural process of storing the fat and nutrients you will need to compete in the battle and can result in retention of unwanted pounds.

Let’s not forget about what many of us tend to do when stressed…eat more unhealthy foods, drink more alcohol in an attempt to relax, or maybe even smoke cigarettes. It’s obvious without saying that all of these things can have negative effects on your system.

So what’s the solution? Let’s take a look at some effective ways to combat stress and improve your health and quality of life.

First, examine the source of the stress and determine if there is anything that you can really do about it. If so, create a logical plan for overcoming the stress. For instance, work can be a great source of stress for many people and unless you are financially secure, quitting isn’t exactly an option. So take a look at your workday. Do you need to be better about setting limits on your responsibilities or the number of hours you are committing to your job? As a reformed workaholic I can tell you I know the difficulties of pulling back, however, in the end you will be a much better employee (and person) for doing it.

Second, find a way to release your stress. We all have activities that bring us pleasure. Find a hobby that helps you to release tension. For me it’s running, for you it might be reading a book or playing video games. Whatever it is, take the time to indulge in your hobby at least a couple times a week. I think you will notice a significant difference in your stress level once you start doing something of enjoyment purely for yourself.

Third, get out there and move. Getting in a good workout can help you not only blow off some steam but also increase the production of endorphins in your system. The release of endorphins can produce a feeling of well-being, which counteracts the stress.

Fourth, surround yourself with positive people. It’s very important that as you focus on achieving better health that you examine the health of your relationships. Let’s face it – some relationships are simply toxic and contribute to stress and bad habits. When you surround yourself with positive people you will find laughter and smiles come much more easily, which in themselves are a great combat for stress!

Fifth, breathe. All too often when we are stressed we take quick, shallow breaths, which drastically reduce the amount of oxygen flowing through our blood. Reduced oxygenation intensifies the physical affects that stress has on our body. Slow down, breathe in deeply and exhale fully. Try it even just for one minute and I’m sure you will experience a diminished level of stress.

Finally, smile. Even when it’s hard, smile. It’s extremely hard to let stress take you over when you have a smile on your face!