Tough Days Are Good Reminders

The holidays are a great time to enjoy rich foods, tasty cocktails and late nights with family and friends. I did all of those things and enjoyed every moment of it…until the alarm went off this morning.

Could it be time already to get back to reality? Was I really ready to start my day with a green smoothie?

Now don’t get me wrong, I actually stayed on track with my workouts – I ran in a Turkey Trot and still attended my Boot Camp classes. And I didn’t overindulge ALL day long; I at least tried to keep myself in check for the majority of the day to hold on to the most calories possible for the festivities. 

But today was a great reality check for me.

Lack of Preparation

Even though I knew today was the day to start clean eating I hadn’t taken the time to go to the store to buy the things I needed. So after Boot Camp I was hungry and ready for a green smoothie but only had about half of what I needed so off to the store I went. By the time I got home I had no patience do deal with the washing and the measuring so I opted for turkey on a slice of Ezekiel bread. Was it still a good choice, sure, but not how I wanted to start the day.

Lack of Sleep

During the week I do my best to stick to a pretty normal sleep schedule. I’m definitely not a morning person so anything I can do to get going in the morning is a huge help. Over the past week I had stayed up late, gotten up early some days, slept in late on others and completely ruined my established schedule. The result: this morning was complete struggle. Between trying to encourage 3 kiddos to get their things together for school and trying to motivate myself for the shock of the cold weather and Boot Camp, the 8 hours of sleep I got the night before didn’t seem like nearly enough.

Lack of ‘Good Food’

As I said, I didn’t completely blow my diet but I did indulge in things I don’t normally eat. I can tell while I didn’t lack in the quantity of calories, I definitely lacked in the quality of calories. It’s a little difficult to accurately describe but in short, my mind doesn’t seem as sharp, and my energy level (and motivation) is clearly lacking. 

So was today rough? Yes. Could it have been avoided? Yes. Would I have changed my past week? Yes, well some things.

I think we all need a break from a strict routine but we need to be mindful of how all of those decisions will work against us when we are ready to get back on track.

I’m thankful for the lessons of my tough day and in the future I’ll:

  • Take a little bit of extra time to get my shopping done the day before
  • Enjoy a night or two of staying up a little late but stick to my sleep schedule as much as possible
  • Carefully consider what is worth indulging in rather than having a little bit of everything 

So I would encourage you to not be discouraged by choices of the past holiday but learn from them. I know I have.

As a side note: check out the veggie turkey I made.

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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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A New Perspective on Yoga

I’ve always said the key to a successful workout plan is doing something you love. If you hate it, or simply don’t enjoy the activity you are likely to find every excuse in the book to skip the gym.

That’s how I felt about yoga. I’ve taken classes from some excellent instructors but I just never thought it was for me…until the yoga sculpt class I took yesterday. 

The class incorporated yoga poses with the use of free weights and more chaturangas than I could count! At the end of class I was a hot, sweaty, exhausted mess – and I LOVED IT!

So I think it’s important for me to share my lesson learned with you…even though you may have not liked something in the past, be daring enough to give it another try. You may find a new instructor or format can changes your whole perspective on the workout.

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A Week of Reminders

So after a summer of sporadic workouts and more unhealthy meals than healthy ones, I spent the past week getting back to the ‘old me.’ The me who chooses to run or walk to the gym rather than driving, the me who looks past the diet coke and refills her water bottle, the me who would rather sweat from a workout than sitting in the sun, the me who chose a salad over pizza for lunch.

Was it easy? I’m not going to lie…at times it was pretty difficult. But was it worth it? Without a doubt!

Let me share with you some of the things I was reminded of this week…

Monday

I was reminded of:

  • How nice it was to have the kiddos back in school and the time to get to the gym.
  • How silly I think I look when I kickbox.
  • How exhausted my legs can get from a series of squats against a wall with an exercise ball.
  • How important it is to fuel after a tough workout.

Tuesday

I was reminded of:

  • How difficult it is to run in the sweltering heat.
  • How much I missed Pilates, and how much my core strength has depleted since I stopped. 
  • How effective exercise can be in reducing stress.
  • How it is possible to resist over-eating even when attending a shrimp boil with friends.

Wednesday

I was reminded of:

  • How much progress I had lost in both endurance and strength.
  • How much I hate spin class but how it is a great cardio workout.
  • How sore muscles can get and how good soaking in an Epsom salt bath can feel.
  • How important it is to accompany your spouse to the gym (even if it’s only to walk while they workout).
  • How much better I sleep when I exercise.

Thursday

I was reminded of:

  • How important it is to take a day of rest.
  • How hard it is to choose a salad over pizza for lunch.
  • How important it is to walk to a destination if possible.

Friday

I was reminded of:

  • How important it is to still workout even when you are on vacation.
  • How hard it is to stick to speed work on the dreadmill, oh, I mean treadmill but how good it feels to stick to my workout plan.
  • How much of an appetite can be worked up after doing said speed work on the treadmill.

Saturday

I was reminded of:

  • How good it feels to kick the weekend off with a morning workout.
  • How much I appreciated making and extra large salad the night before so I could easily fill my bowl for lunch.
  • How important it is to set weekly goals and stick to them.
  • How good it feels to follow through and accomplish goals.
  • How good it feels to see the numbers go down on the scale.

I was reminded of a lot of great things this week. But most of all I was reminded of how good it feels to be getting back to the ‘old me,’ the healthier me, the stronger me, the happier me.

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Caffeine-Driven Workouts

For some caffeinated beverages are the only way to get going and stay moving throughout the day. Believe me, there are times that a caffeine jolt is the only thing that gets me going for my early morning training sessions (which also tells me I need examine my bedtime and get more sleep!).

Some studies have even suggested that the use of caffeine prior to a workout may have positive effects on your body during exercise. These studies claim that when it comes to exercise, caffeine:

  • Delays fatigue
  • Slows the breakdown of muscle glycogen, which means your body has more fuel to keep going
  • Enhances endurance
  • Keeps you more alert
  • Can reduce muscle pain during exercise
  • May lower perceived exertion, making exercise feel more comfortable

While those results may be true, caffeine is a stimulant so it has the potential to have adverse effects on a workout and as a trainer I can tell you that I see the negative far more often than I see positive results from a caffeinated-driven workout including:

  • Stomach upset
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Increased anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Nausea

Any of the effects listed above results in a less than par workout. If I have a client who is nauseous, trembling or complaining of a headache it’s my responsibility to immediately put the breaks on our workout and determine if they are well enough to continue. In more cases than not, I often need to modify the intensity of the workout and we end up taking it easy for the reminder of the session. So rather than experiencing enhanced performance from the caffeine it results in the client getting less from their workout.

In my opinion if you are looking to get the most out of your workouts hydrate with water or a sports drink prior to exercise and reserve that caffeinated drink for an early morning kick-start if you need it.

Something is Better Than Nothing

When I was strictly a stay-at-home mom I was able to carve out plenty of time for my workouts. I took full advantage of the time the kiddos were napping or at school. When the weather got warmer I moved my workouts outdoors while they played in the backyard.

It wasn’t until everyone went to school and I went back to work that I had a true understanding for the challenges of fitting in a workout along with everything else. Between my training sessions, office responsibilities and mom and wife duties I found myself missing workouts more and more often.

I came to the realization that I had to shift my approach to working out. I no longer had the freedom for extended sessions, but what I did have was smaller chunks of time throughout the day.

I began maximizing the smaller chunks of time by increasing the intensity of my exercises. For strength training I increased the weight and dropped my repetitions and sets. When possible I combined legs and arms to get the most from the amount of time I had to spend. When it comes to cardio I’ve started running intervals, meaning I increase and decrease my pace throughout my run.

By taking advantage of smaller chunks of time I was able to get my workouts back on track. The lesson I take from this experience that I want to share with you is this:

Something truly is better than nothing. Adapt your exercise program to make the most of the time you DO have.

On the days I’m fortunate enough to have the time for a longer workout I take full advantage of that time and put in a long run or a full body strength-training workout.

Take a look at your schedule for the next week and set appointments with yourself for workouts. Even if you only have time for 20-minute sessions make exercise a priority and you will feel the difference.

Got the Winter Blues?

Much of our country has been blasted this winter with storms and for many that brings about cabin fever and a longing for warmer temps.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was plagued with the winter blues. The thought of winter and snow put me in a serious funk.

I’m thankful to say that last year I successfully traded my winter blues for rosy wind and sun kissed cheeks. Between learning to snowboard and ice skating and sledding with my kids I find myself watching the weather reports and hoping that the big snow hits us.

Snowboarding has come with its bumps and many bruises but for me there is nothing like breathing in crisp winter air and challenging my mind and body in completely new ways. It can be challenging to exercise outdoors in the winter and snowboarding has been the perfect answer for me.

It’s definitely taken time but you have to start somewhere. Last year I started the day out with about 3 extremely hard falls which left me fearful of taking another one so I spent the entire day “toeside” facing the top of the hill (compared to what Colorado has – believe me, it was just a hill!). I can’t imagine how ridiculous I looked to others but I was determined to stay out there.

With each time we went snowboarding things got a little easier, the falls were fewer and the soreness and bruising was definitely less. I’m happy to say a year later I have tackled turns and my fear of speed is slowly diminishing as well.

I share my snowboarding experience with you because I want you to be encouraged to get out and try something new. But if you’re hesitant to take on an outdoor challenge I encourage you to revisit an activity from your youth.

Our kiddos are finally old enough that an afternoon of sledding or ice skating are great family activities.

The girls and I all got ice skates for Christmas and have had some great times learning how to navigate on the ice. While I can’t say ice skating is a vigorous activity for the pace we move at, it’s a way to get active and build memories with my daughters.

While ice skating isn’t appealing to the boys they are masters at cutting paths for sledding and finding the fastest way to the bottom. Inevitably we end up with a few ramps on some of the paths to make it a little more exciting. The ride to the bottom of the hill is always full of smiles and laughter and the trek back to the top is a great workout in itself. If I’m looking for an extra challenge I take a run up the hill instead of just walking.

So if you’re feeling trapped and sluggish this winter I encourage you to get out and do something fun. It may not serve as a substitute for your workout but I can assure you that just getting active will help you to begin to shed the winter blues. It’s worked for me!