The Journey Of Ordinary

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Ordinary ~  noun~  what is common place or standard.

It had been one of those whirlwind days for me when I realized it was already midafternoon. My morning was behind me and I was full speed into the rest of my day. I received a message from my husband that at first seemed, odd.

“I rarely say anything about your blog other than to discuss the content of what you wrote on that day, nor do I ever really disagree with you on something you wrote. But I’m going to disagree with you on this…”

Well obviously, he had my attention. He is pretty much the only one who’s opinion I want or care about and of course I was wondering what he had issue with in regards to my writing that day.

I waited for the rest of his message to come in…..

“You wrote that you’re an “ordinary” athlete.  I disagree. You are far from “ordinary” as an athlete.”

Obviously, I wasn’t expecting that. Obviously, he couldn’t have said anything cooler to me.

Of course, he was picking it out of the entire context of my post that day. I was simply using myself as an example of someone who wasn’t like… you know… an elite athlete or even one who had been an athlete through school or something like that.

I got what he meant. I know that I do a lot more athletically than the majority of people my age, heck, even those a lot younger. I guess I’ve become so accustomed to doing what I do, I forget that normal people think it’s weird 😛

Here’s where I’m going.

I used ordinary for a reason.

I wanted ( and still want) people to relate to a woman who had no athletic back round,  and who had no interest in any kind of serious athletic events. A woman who was literally smack in the land of “middle aged” who had taken care of everyone around her but herself for the longest time. Middle aged, carrying more weight than she needed, out of shape, with a family history of (potential) health problems in the future if she didn’t change up her ways.

It’s a standard thing to tell people I really started off as a “reluctant walker”. I knew I needed to do something so I dutifully logged my 2 mile walk every day. No matter what, I did it. I did it till it got into the pattern of a new habit.

I grumbled. I complained. I whined.

An over weight, middle aged, ordinary wife, mom, sister, daughter, jack of all trades, woman just kept at it each day.

I had no lofty athletic goals dancing anywhere in my mind… at all… in any direction. If anyone told me I could be a strong athlete, I would’ve laughed. The idea seemed preposterous.

Funny thing about making new habits….

They stick.

New habits turn into new desires. New goals. New plans.

What I didn’t know as an ordinary woman, out on the road, building that new habit, not only was it changing my body, it was changing my mind.

I was learning more about myself than I previously understood.

~ my body could go farther!

~ it could walk faster!

~ that walk could be turned into short runs!

~ those short runs could be turned into longer runs!

When I’d come back tired, I’d think about what I had been able to do. I developed a new appreciation for what my body was capable of, that I hadn’t given it credit for. I saw how it over time, began to adapt and change from the activities I put it through.

My weight dropped off.  I got stronger. Muscles showed up that hadn’t been there. I developed a great endurance capacity.  My mind was getting stronger. ( that, is where the real playing field is boys and girls)  you get your mind strong, you can own the world.

Somehow, I managed to sign up for my first race which was a half marathon ( #overachiever) I found out later that most people start with a 5K.

I just kept moving forward. It’s safe to say at this point I was getting hooked. I actually liked what I was doing.  I looked forward to exercise.

Year, after steady year. New goals, new plans, new dreams.

They didn’t come all together, those goals.

Heavens no.

Safe to say I would’ve felt enough fear? uncertainty? to cause me to run the other way if those things all were presented to me at once.

I was just, you know, an ordinary woman, turning into an athlete.  That’s not said with any vain thought…. it’s just an acknowledgment of where I am now.

I am strong. I am capable of doing more physically than I ever would’ve imagined. I am an athlete.

If I look at where I am today, and where I’ve come from, and what I can do now, then yeah, I guess I’d agree with hubby that I’m not “ordinary”.

Becoming a good athlete has been born from hours and hours of work, sacrifice, dedication, tears, tired muscles, frustrations, down right stubbornness, and an unwillingness to give up.

This is your reminder…..

This is what I want you, others, anyone I interact with, to remember. If an “ordinary” woman like myself can accomplish goals and events she never would have imagined, you my dear reader, can do anything you set your mind to.

If you’ve entertained ideas on doing something specific, write down the steps you need to move that direction. If you just think you’re only goal at this point is to get off the sofa, well, go you! Do it. You never know where the path from the sofa may lead to.

Don’t let your thinking be crowded with thoughts that only certain people can do certain things.

Extraordinary things can happen when “ordinary” people get to work.

Tell me something cool you’ve accomplished that seemed impossible or that you never thought you’d see yourself doing. Did you ever feel to “ordinary” in the sense you thought you didn’t have what it would take to do it ?

 

In Pursuit Of The Ideal Weight

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“I want to be the weight I was in high school!” says the middle aged woman… “I want to weigh what I did when I played football” declares a man

These are weight ideals that men and women have every day. When they begin to focus on a goal for weight loss for some reason, the weight they were in the past and they felt like they were “their best”, becomes the new and current focus, even if they haven’t seen this weight in decades.

Where as there’s nothing wrong with this, it could also just be an unrealistic goal based on where you are today in your life.

Perhaps there’s a sense that once that “ideal” weight is reached there will be a feeling that you’ve “arrived”. Or it could be an assumption if you got to that weight again you’ll be really happy. Maybe you view it as your body will finally be how you want it.

I guess the reasons could go on… however… it just might not be where you need to be… today.

Our bodies are beautifully designed to live in a perfect balance of a weight that is “good” for us. Yes, we can have times of our weight being lower but it might take a lot more work and attentiveness to our diet to just be able to maintain those numbers on the scale.

It certainly could be an unwanted burden to bear if you have to be constantly watchful of everything you eat to stay at that perceived “good” weight.

That perceived weight goal you have might not be where you need to be at today in your life.

You might have a different job or more activities to keep you moving. You might have health issues or be on meds that don’t allow you to move to that goal. You might not “look” healthy if the weight is a bit to low for you.

But let’s not over look the fact that our bodies often have a preset weight that they can stay at and you can easily maintain and it might not be your predetermined goal weight.

Let’s establish this:

First there are a lot of factors that can determine our “ideal” weight.  Your height, age, gender, frame size, muscle to fat ratio, and body fat distribution all play into your ideal weight.

You could be the same height as your friend and maybe trade off borrowing clothes, but I can guarantee your body composition will be very different.

There are several “tools” that doctors/health care professionals use to help determine an “ideal” weight. But again that is so subjective based on many things. Let’s take a look at a few ways supposed ideal weight could be determined.

One of the long time used meters is the BMI (body mass index)

Your BMI is calculated on your height and weight and a scale is used on what “normal” body weights are for the gender/age/ etc.

You can figure your own by looking it up on an online calculator. You can also do it as a math problem, but that makes my head hurt, so I prefer the handy online calculator to help with it. I already know mine, but maybe you need to figure yours out.

This can give a base line of “health”.

Standard numbers are less than 18.5 you are underweight, healthy weight 18.5-24.9, overweight 25-29.9, and obese 30 or higher.

This is a good tool but not a good indicator if a person is carrying a more “muscle to fat ratio” as their numbers can come in higher, although they are technically more fit and more lean muscle mass is definitely preferable to a higher fat ratio.

BMI is a surrogate measure of body fatness because it is a measure of excess weight rather than excess body fat.

BMI uses your weight in the formula but it doesn’t distinguish if it comes from an abundance of fat or lean muscle tissue. Athletes and body builders who carry a great amount of muscle  can come in with a higher BMI, which does not distinguish muscle mass carried.

Because BMI does not directly measure fat it can miscategorize people as healthy  who have a normal weight for their height when they are actually carrying to much fatty tissue.

You can see just using a BMI has negatives in both directions although it offers a guideline as a basic health screening.

Another more accurate tool is body fat percentage.

I learned a lot about this a few years ago. My doctor told me I fall more into the category now of figuring body fat than the standard BMI due to my lean muscle mass.  Many experts say that body fat percentage is the best way to go as it is the best way to gauge their fitness level because it’s the only measurement that includes the bodies true composition.

Using the body fat percentage would not make the couch potato seem more fit than an Olympic athlete as the case with just using BMI.

There are several ways of determining body fat percentage and although none are 100% accurate it will give you a close enough estimate.

Examples include near-infrared interactance, dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, and bioelectrical impedance analysis.

I’ll give you one other example.. that should be enough to over load your mind for today …

Waist to hip ratio

A waist-hip measurement is the ratio of the circumference of your waist to that of your hips. You measure the smallest circumference of your waist, usually just above your belly button, and divide that total by the circumference of your hip at its widest part.

Less than 0.9 for men and 0.8 for women is considered low risk for cardio problems

0.9-0.99 for men and 0.8-0.89 for women moderate risk of cardio problems

1 or over for men  and 0.9 or over for women is considered high risk

The WHR of a person is commonly said to be a much better indicator of whether their body weight is ideal and what their risks of developing serious health conditions are, compared to BMI.

The biggest problem with WHR is that it’s just not a good indicator of overall health, it doesn’t accurately measure the persons total body fat percentage, or their muscle to fat ratio. It is a better predictor of ideal weight and health risks than BMI.

So… your ideal weight…does it exist?

Your “ideal” weight is as unique as your daily dietary needs are for health and wellness.

A few things to consider about it…

Know roughly what your body weight range should be. If you are outside of that or know you are carrying extra weight ( and we all know when we have extra fat on us), a sensible plan will help you steadily knock of those pounds to get to a more normal healthy range. The ideal weight charts sometimes can give you a close estimate and some are ridiculous ( as in one that told me I should weigh between 108-112. Yeah, I laughed over that. At 6’0 those are ridiculous numbers) I do know what my “range” is, but for me that’s pretty loose because again, it doesn’t take in my lean muscle mass, my activity level, or any other unique aspects of my physical person.

Your ideal weight won’t necessarily be your high school weight or whatever other magic number you have in mind.

Once you are in a healthy weight zone, allow for a 5 lb. limit to swing back and forth in. Trust me. It’s freeing. Ladies, this is especially important depending on where you are in your cycle. I know that a few extra pounds that might show up mid cycle will go away as some water weight. If it’s water, things will balance out again.

Depending on your level of physical activity ( and I mean workouts most days of the week or specific weight training) you will build lean muscle mass. This level of body fat you have to lean muscle mass is your body composition. The more lean muscle you build, the better. Muscle isn’t “heavier” than 1 lb of fat, it’s just that fat takes up more volume or space then muscle. Muscle is more dense.  Understanding this, if you are doing very purposeful exercise all the time you can gain lean muscle but the scale might not change a lot on you.

Your ideal weight will become easy enough to maintain based on your daily food intake and purposeful exercise.

If you have to go hungry, restrict meals, workout more than usual, or do any other crazy thing to stay at a given weight, that’s your wake up call. Your body isn’t going to stay there unless you are constantly diligent and practicing those methods to keep it there.

Your ideal weight will allow you to do the things you love, to take care of your family, pursue active endeavors, or take on your daily purposeful exercise with lots of energy.

It’s great to have an ideal weight in mind, but having a happy healthy weight that’s sustainable for your life is even better.

Do you or have you strived towards an ideal weight? Have you found a place of balance with a happy healthy weight?

 

 

 

Weight Loss And The Non Supportive Partner

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As I sit here rolling around ideas and topics to bring to you in this post (’cause there really are so many things to talk about, right? )  my mind is taking a little different bend on an area that might not be discussed often but it’s something that  I know some people deal with.

I talk a lot about weight loss, healthy ( sustainable) ideas to achieve it, exercises to support it and keep you fit, but what about the person who is trying to lose weight and get on a healthy lifestyle but has….

A non-supportive partner ?

What does one do when their support system is non existent or sabotages their efforts? I have to admit, this is a complete foreign concept to me as I’ve been blessed with a husband who has always been supportive of my efforts of anything I do, and not just losing weight.

Of course his position has always been… ” I love you no matter what size and shape you are” and good thing ’cause I’ve been many sizes and shapes in our 35 years together haha 😛

Seriously though, I’m glad he’s always felt that way, but never opposed to me improving either.

He’s more likely to chide me now days about not eating enough on my heavier training days than anything or give me a hard time if my day has been busy and I haven’t eaten in awhile.

In our time together I experimented with some different things along the way and he let me do my thing.  I got on the current path I’m on ( you know the sane, sensible, non crazy, sustainable lifestyle path) and that has just been a path that totally blends in with my family and has allowed me to stay successful.

I know not all people are as blessed to have such a support system. Cleaning out things in my moms home recently I came across a “Dieting Journal” she had started one January.

**Sigh** isn’t that when everyone thinks they should start? Anyway, I will share more about her insights in a later post but she had written something that I always knew because it frustrated her and always contributed to her not being successful.

Some of her struggles were wishing that my dad would be more supportive and helpful to her on her attempt to lose weight. I think he had a thing for heavier women, but I also wonder if he fell in the camp that if she did lose a lot of weight she’d be more attractive to men. ( this is a common problem at the top of the charts problem for people with non supportive partners)

He had a thing for junk food and he had ways of offering that at a point you’d finally give up and say ok ( like when he would offer me Peanut M&M’s 😛 )

She continued writing that he didn’t help her struggles and almost seemed to double up efforts to offer her foods that didn’t contribute to her being successful and how discouraged she was. At the time, they were on the go a lot and she writes about the fast food on the go and feeling like her day would be “lost” because of the foods they would eat.

So what do you when you have a non supportive partner and are trying to adopt a healthier way of living ?

What do you do when those around you say “you’re fine just the way you are”?

Well, yeah you are fine, but let’s be real. They aren’t the ones dragging your flab around, are they ?

Of course the implication is they love you “however”, but again, refer to my previous thought. They aren’t dealing with your clothes not fitting, or you feeling out of breath with simple tasks, or the fact you can’t bend over and get to your shoe to tie it, or how it all makes you emotionally feel. Nor are they considering your overall health.

I’ll sketch out a few ideas/suggestions that might be helpful.

First, ask why your partner or those around you don’t want you to do it? It’s ok to listen, but don’t let that sway your decision to be about what you want to do.

If it’s your partner there could be a lot of insecurity or worry. Maybe talking and reassuring them could go a long way to gaining their support.

Jealousy could be a bigger issue and one that’s harder to get around. They might simply not want you to get the attention it may bring.

Express your concerns. Tell those you love you want to do it to be healthier for yourself and for them ( it should always be about you first) this can be hard if you’re in an overweight family and everyone sees it as “normal”. It may be harder to convince them that you are doing it to have a healthier life.

You may have to just shoulder it on your own. However, in the process you’ll be gaining will power of yourself, after all, you and you alone controls what goes into your mouth. That is something no one can make you do.  It also falls on you to develop an exercise regime. Again, you are responsible for getting your body moving each day, no one else.

On that thought, you may need to stand firm from those in your life who might try and sway you from not doing it.  Make a list for yourself of how it makes you feel, and what your future goals are. Arrange things around your exercise time and don’t let other things try to knock it out.

Making healthy lifestyle changes in the mix of non-supporters can be hard but sticking to it will only develop your mental strength as well.

Go into it with a real mentality. People will offer you food you don’t need that won’t support your goals. They won’t be cheering for your exercise efforts. They won’t acknowledge the physical signs when your hard work begins to pay off.

It would be great if we got that encouragement for our efforts but it’s real life and we don’t. You can cheer for yourself as the pounds drop off and you slip on smaller clothes.

Assume that sometimes there could be someone who will attempt to make you feel guilty over the changes you’re making.

Honestly, that’s their issue. You… need to have none of it. Their issue is theirs. You just keep doing what you’re doing.

Learn to be direct. It’s ok to say no thank you to foods or drinks you don’t want. It’s ok to pass if you don’t believe it supports your efforts or if you just flat out don’t want it.

You don’t need to point out “you’re dieting” or “trying to lose weight”.  A simple no thank you is enough.

Try to keep this in mind….

many non-supporters have their own health/weight issues. Seeing you out there nailing it and becoming slimmer and more fit might just rub them the wrong way.

Again, it’s their issues, not yours. They may have their own insecurities or body image issues. That is for them to deal with, not you.

Be clear with your partner on what you need and what that support looks like. As in “please don’t leave my favorite cookies laying around” , “understand my workout will be the first thing I do in morning” or whatever it is.

Ask them to get on board with you. Maybe set up a friendly challenge to compete with each other.  Maybe he doesn’t need to lose weight, but might need to start moving more. Find something that might get you both going.

Keep your goals in sight, whatever that looks like for you. Motivational quotes, pictures, clothes anything that reminds you of what you’re doing.

Teach your partner about healthier food options, while letting them know they can still have some Oreos along the way too 😉

Finally, as much as you might want support, if you have to accept you won’t get it, remember you are totally worth the efforts and investment into yourself with healthier eating and taking time to exercise. Don’t get discouraged but maintain your focus on your personal goals. Hopefully, with some time and consistency, you will get a support team on your side to celebrate with you.

Have you had struggles with this? Have you lacked support in your quest to get healthier or starting an exercise program? How did you deal with it? Were you able to stay the course or did you quit ?

 

The Athletes Body And Food

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“With all of the exercise you do, I guess you can eat whatever you want?”

This is one of  several questions I  often get asked and the answer is, no, I don’t eat whatever I want.

I’ve tried these past few years to build a different relationship with food. Specifically, food in regards to exercise.  Maybe you need to build a different relationship too or maybe you’ve hit a balance with it.

The question I’m asked of course, is merely inquiring.

If I’m investing so much physical energy I should certainly be able to eat whatever I want. This naturally means freedom to eat all perceived “off limits” foods since I will burn them off.

Of course the game changer for me if you’ve read previous posts, is the fact I’ve set nothing “off limits” so I don’t necessarily feel the need to eat forbidden foods because I’m exercising.

I know it’s there, if I want it.

Since I started on my athletic journey a few years ago, I’ve made it a point to never treat exercise like a free card to eat poorly. I guess the idea of pouring myself out, working hard, and then coming in and wolfing down a donut and chocolate milk ( although chocolate milk can make a good recovery drink 😉 ) seemed rather, pointless and negating to all I had just done. Not only that, if I was training to get strong and healthy why wouldn’t I feed my body good stuff ?

So I learned to train my thinking, essentially reshape, another aspect of my relationship with food.

Our food relationship

I wrote about that in a post recently. Our relationship with food. We all have one. For many of us we will need to continue to define this relationship in regards to our athletic activities. We cannot treat it as a free card to eat extra or eat badly.

About eating extra…..

there’s a bit of a disclaimer to that. When my training has kicked up and I have days that I’m heavily invested on a physical level I know my calories will need to increase to support what I’m doing. This is where learning about my body, listening to it, and feeding it accordingly come into play. This isn’t eating extra just because I feel like it. Learning to support my body depending on my physical output that day is very different.

Same goes for you. If you are involved in physical activities, listen to your body, know your needs and eat to sustain your body for what you do. Eat accordingly on days you invest more physical energy and be more conservative on your non-exercise days or light training days.

Don’t use food as a reward for exercise

Yeah, I’m going there. I honestly cringe when I see posts or hear someone talk about getting to eat because they exercised.

Stop it.

Food and exercise both nurture your body. You don’t have to earn your food. On the flip side, you don’t have to abuse your body ’cause you had a burger and fries for lunch and feel you have to “work it off”.  As if.

Food isn’t a reward and you aren’t a dog being thrown a treat because you worked out.

Food is fuel for your activities

When our relationship with food is in a place of understanding that it not only nurtures us, but fuels our activities we can look at it in a different way. If we want to perform well we can’t expect our bodies to operate on food that isn’t optimal. It can shift from a mentality of  ” eating what you want” to “eating food that rebuilds your body and gives you energy”.

By all means, eat enough

Long endurance training sessions can seemingly kick my appetite in over drive for not only that day, but sometimes the next as well. I’ve learned to eat healthy foods to satisfy my appetite. Again, I listen to my body and feed it as needed. I try and eat enough, but not to much.

Listen to your body. Learn to feed it what it needs after your training. Focus on healthy foods to support recovery.

I will admit after heavy endurance sessions, food is often not on my mind as those workouts tend to kill my appetite for awhile. Intellectually, I know I need to get something in me.  I’ve learned I can at least get some protein and carbs in with milk in a protein drink, I also add a banana as well, this gives me a good blend of carbs and protein for recovery.

Eat what you like that satisfies you and gives your body what it needs for repair and restoration post workout.

Keep in mind that the goal is about caring for yourself, before and after exercise. Food should be used to maintain your health and wellness, but hey, if you need some chocolate in there at some point, go for that too 😉

How have you viewed exercise and food? Do you or have you, used it as a reason to eat more or eat lesser quality food? Do you think exercise is a reason to eat “whatever” you want? Have you changed your thinking on that? How did it help you?

 

The No Pain No Gain Myth

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“No pain, no gain!”,  “Train insane or remain the same!”, ” Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going”, “Pain is weakness leaving the body”, “If it’s not hurting it’s not working”, and one of my “favorites”, “Don’t quit. You’re already in pain. You’re already hurt. Get a reward from it.”

Sweet mother of heaven.  Stop. It.

I won’t go on with these anymore, but let’s just say these types of quotes abound. And it’s not just that they are quotes, but also ways that many in the health/fitness world live by.

If you aren’t in pain, then you aren’t working hard enough, doing enough. This thought translates to telling you that you aren’t really getting anywhere.

First though, I’m not talking about working hard because I know what that’s like and I know how to push myself. I love a good challenge and don’t mind waking up the next day and knowing I worked hard.  I know when to push and when to back off, especially if it’s pushing to hard that could potentially cause injury whether it’s on the road running or lifting weight that might be out of my zone.  I do myself no favors working in a place my body isn’t used to. I get no extra points and I’m certainly not going to do it for bragging rights and what does it prove to myself, or anyone for that matter, if I derail my workouts because it hurts to move my body?

We have limits. We all do.

And yes, I understand I need to constantly be moving out of my comfort zone and I think anyone should have that mentality if they want to continue to get stronger, faster, and improve their athletic performance.

You just won’t make progress if you can’t get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

However, It’s important to know where you are and how much you can press into that, and then back off when you need to allowing your body time to adapt and adjust to the new demands you put on it.

The danger of the mentality of working out till you’re fainting or in pain or having other physical issues is that you can cause more damage than “gains”.

Do you really want to push yourself to a point that you are injured and then get sidelined and can’t do anything? Do you really think being in real pain and continuing a work out is a smart move?  Do you want to do so much you can hardly walk the next day?

I think not.

Let me be clear here. There is great value in working hard, getting our heart rate up and letting the sweat roll and the general population should be doing it regularly.

Here’s the deal. You don’t have to do a killer workout every time you are out there.

Athletes don’t do it, so why are trainers preaching this gospel to the average person wanting to get fit ?

It can be a dangerous game to play . I mean, no pain means no improvement to us, right? Isn’t that what all those little fitspo quotes mean ?

Nonsense. Consistency and regular movement will yield results.

The important thing is to find balance that works for your body, mind, and lifestyle.

So if the idea of pain and suffering for gain is not where it’s at, what should you do?

Learn to turn it up

Know where you are, know your limits, and be willing to turn it up from there. Don’t be afraid of working hard and pushing outside your comfort zone.

Understand that working outside your comfort zone doesn’t mean suffering through pain that hurts you.

If you’re in real pain, for goodness sake, stop! If you’re in pain and hurting the only “gain” you risk is getting sidelined from an injury.

There’s no heroics in that.

Work hard, but know your goals

Obviously, we are all on different health and fitness paths. The most important thing is to know what you want.  Where are you going? Is it for health that you are working out? To walk a strong mile and not feel like you’re dying? To be able to run some? To improve your daily life? Keep up with your kids?

Do you want more?  Are you wanting to train for an event like a half marathon or a Crossfit competition?  Then your goals will look different.

Perhaps you are wanting to do something related to fitness competitions. Again, a new set of goals to get to your destination.

No matter what your reasons or goals, there should never be the mentality that it’s not a good workout if you aren’t fainting, in pain, and hurting all over.

There’s a fine line of a body that has worked hard, and one that has been pushed beyond what is it capable of at that point in time.

Work hard, but work smart.

So how should you train?

You know yourself better than anyone. If you’re just getting off the sofa and starting to move, you need to be sensitive to the fact your body is going to protest! Go easy and be moderate in what you do. Allow time to adapt to your new plan. It can take a couple weeks to ease into a new program.

If you’re already in some type of activity or training for something, don’t be afraid to keep pushing out of your comfort zone. Just listen to your body.

Pain, or any feelings of not feeling well, should be respected.

Rest days are when gains are really made

I will admit, I’m at the top of the charts at chomping over rest days. If you don’t know what that means, it’s usually a scheduled day/days off to allow the body to recover from it’s activities.

Exercise is such a habit for me now, that taking a rest day can make me feel like I forgot to brush my teeth.

I have however, learned more about the importance of taking some and know that rest days don’t mean “lazy” ( do nothing and eat pizza days)  but more of an active recovery time.

I may do short walks, or focus on stretching and foam rolling my muscles.

During those rest/recovery times our muscles rebuild and that’s when they grow and get stronger. These days allow us to hopefully, head back to what we love, stronger and feeling more energized for what we do.

You get no extra points for skipping rest days. In fact you do your body a disservice by not allowing it that time.  Rest days allow your muscles, bones, nerves, and connective tissues time to heal and rebuild.

Rest days can also help prevent burn out, mentally and physically.

Schedule rest days as a part of your workout regime.

I know this doesn’t fit into the ” no pain no gain” ideal, but you’re not participating in that anyway, are you ?

Keeping it healthy

If you want to enjoy whatever your fitness path may be, then you will learn to:

~ work hard, but listen to your body. Pace yourself.

~ push out of your comfort zone but stop if you have pain that is hurtful. Discomfort is different from pain.

~ set realistic goals for yourself and know and understand the limits of where you currently are.

~ schedule planned rest days to allow your body ( and mind) some rest and recovery time.

By having a smart mentality you will be able to do what you love, hopefully without pain or injury, and get stronger in the process.

Tell me. Have you ever been a part of the no pain, no gain club? How did that work for you? Do you have any healthy training tips to offer ?

 

 

Muscle Building 101

“How to get a toned body!” the title screamed at me from the magazine cover. Maybe I shuddered a little.

I don’t like that word. Why? I’m not sure exactly.

Maybe because it’s vague? What is “toned”, really?

Ok I know what they mean. I’ve even had people use it in regards to my physique.

What it really implies is having muscle under your skin so you are filled out, sleek or have shape and definition.

Through conversations I’ve learned it’s a look many women want but aren’t quite sure how to go about getting there.

I’m not talking body builder status here. That is an entirely different animal that requires a whole lot of weights,  food micro managed and discipline to get to that point.

No, I’m talking about having some muscle on your body that gives shape or the “toned” look that people often reference.

I want to offer some encouragement and suggestions in this post if that thought has crossed your mind on occasion.

Maybe a starting point for you.

I’ll tell you this. When I started on my journey, having some muscle was probably the last thing on my mind  at the time.

I mean initially, it was all about losing some fat.

I never gave it a thought, having muscles. Well, I should say,  having more muscles than woman usually are wearing.

Weirdly as my athletic endeavors continued along, the muscle, almost became a side effect from much of what I was doing. Meaning, I wasn’t spending long hours a week in an attempt to build it. The growth came from activities I was pursuing and enjoyed.

And it has taken time… understand if your an average person plugging along.. it takes time. I have taken photos in my fitness journey.  For example, I can look at my arms in a photo for one year, but compare a photo from a year or so later and the difference is quite apparent.

I should maybe make a little disclaimer here that my body seems to respond well to adding muscle. It’s important to know if you start, what body type you have. This will give you a bit of understanding if it takes you longer than a friend to see results.

I remember when I did Crossfit one of the trainers teasing me I was a freak ’cause she’d been intentionally working on muscle building and I wandered in off the streets with really no formal training or work with weights and carried more muscle than pretty much most people who were already there.

Know your body type

There’s a reason why. My body type is a mesomorph ( that kinda sounds like a Power Ranger, doesn’t it ? 😉 ) it’s really just a fancy way of saying I’m a bit more predisposed to gaining muscle than maybe some of my leaner, slimmer counterparts.

body type
Do a quick check to identify your body type

 

Because of my body type, I’m already genetically wired to build on it. Now if I never applied myself, obviously I wouldn’t change. But with exercise and weights I can make that work for me. And basically, I might not have to work as hard to see results as someone with a endomorph or ectomorph body type.

Once you understand more of what you’re working with you can decide how you want to train or what you want to work on. You can build muscle with body weight exercises as well as weights. I personally love and prefer free weights over machines.

I sometimes get the “oh, where do you train?” question and I love telling them in the back of a barn with yard equipment and old furniture 😛

Seriously though, my body has no idea if it’s in a fancy gym or at home. It just knows the work it’s put through.

Yours will too. You don’t need to get fancy to yield results. You just need determination, dedication and consistency for results.

Ready to get started ?

if you’re going to be at home, you’ll need some type of weights, whether you buy them or make them. I’ve found sites where people sell items purchased  full of good intentions, that they are getting rid of, and you can get them cheap. Try and get some free weights that are heavy enough to make you work… think 6-8 reps before you can’t lift it. You can go to a sports store and test them there.  And heaven help me.. if you buy those little tiny pink or blue ones that weigh less than a shoe… I will find you…. and beat you with it hahaha

Think about items you lift in your day. A jug of milk. Grocery bags. A heavy bag of dog food. Baskets of laundry.

Don’t get weights that aren’t heavy enough and expect results.

** on the cheap**…. save milk jugs… fill with sand or water… weigh them to get a idea of what you are lifting. You can increase as needed.

What can I do with my fancy weights?

I find a lot of people want to work on their arms/shoulders. And why not? Nothing looks stronger than rocking some solid arms and shoulders and they can be an easier body part to train.

I heard a line on a TV show as I was preparing this that made me laugh.. but it’s also true.

“Why did you purchase a sweater with no sleeves?!”

The response?

“Because my arms look amazing!”

I’ll be honest here. Most of my wardrobe has no sleeves. I love having strong arms and I don’t hide them.

With some work and consistency you can have strong arms too.

Below are some of my favorite go to moves for a strong upper body. For the sake of space in this post, my commentary will be limited. I strongly encourage you to learn more about these moves and variations that come with them 🙂

bicep-curls
Bicep curls
bent over row
Bent over row
shoulder_press
Shoulder press
overhead-extension
Overhead tricep extension
bent over flies
Bent over flys
tricep kickback
Tricep kickback
chest press
Chest press

Once you determine the weight you will use, you can begin with sets. Usually a “set” can have anywhere from 8-12 reps. You then repeat the sets 2-4 times depending on your level on fitness. It’s best to start low and let your body adapt and then increase reps and sets.

What about the rest of the body?

I will admit, I don’t over work my legs on strength training days. Between running and cycling it keeps them in pretty good shape. I do incorporate some moves though that cover the whole legs and butt area and also helps to keep me loosened up.

Here are some body weight exercises that will work the legs/ glutes area.

Again, I will encourage you to learn more about each move and then you can make your own “plan” to use.

The squat, jump squat ( weirdly one of my fav’s to do), the lunge, jump lunge, side lunge, sumo squat ( this always feels so powerful to me) are all body weight moves you can do anywhere.

The glute bridge ( perfect for those who might physically not be able to do squat type moves) I love adding a 25lb weight plate to my belly when I do them.

glute_bridge
Glute bridge

 

I do believe what has become one of my favorites is the single leg dead lift. Not only is it great for your balance it also isolates one hip/glute area at a time which is helpful for making sure each leg is strong. Your core should be tight and engaged as you do this.  If you’re a runner, you want to learn this one.  Oh yeah… are you wanting a rounder bottom? This is one of the best things you can do 😉

Single-Leg-Romanian-Deadlift

I use a 35 lb kettle bell doing this exercise.  You can use nothing at all in the beginning, work on keeping your balance (keep your eyes fixed on something directly in front of you to help balance) and having good form. If you want to add some weight to your hands as you get stronger, even better.

Note: almost all of these exercises can be used with dumb bells as well to make it a bit harder.

Abs, please ?

I get it. Some people will never care in the least if they see a defined muscle in their belly or not. For others, it’s a pursuit and a reward of our labors to have some obvious muscle in that place.

Not all abs are created equal. Some will effortlessly attain them, others will have to work like crazy ( hint, remember your body type)

Then there’s the obvious. If you have to much fat over them you won’t see them no matter how many exercises you do.

I’ll tell you there is truth to the saying “abs are made in the kitchen”. What you eat has a huge impact on the leanness of your belly and those hidden muscles. A diet high in veggies, fruits, and lean meats can definitely help reveal them.

And crunches… forget those. Our abs ( our “core”) are made up of many layers and need to be worked in different ways for results. The muscles that make up our abs are the rectus abdominus, with several other core muscles, including the obliques, transversus abdominus, and serratus.  You can see where just the age old “crunch” isn’t going to work all of those groups.

Here are a few body weight moves to consider

The plank and side plank

Russian twist ( again I like using a weight plate doing this)

russian twist
Russian twist

 

 

ok… another for you…  the bicycle crunch

bicycle crunch

And one of my favorite ones. I usually do them till I can’t do them anymore.

butterfly
the butterfly crunch

This was a move I took out of Crossfit. You really need to suck your bellybutton into your backbone as you come up. Keep the move very controlled on the way back down. Your core should feel tight and engaged. For extra fun, yeah, here comes my standard 25 lb weight plate I hold while I do them.  Again, the focus should be on knowing where you are and what you can do and doing it in good form. Don’t push for more than you’re ready for.

The bottom line ?

Man or woman, for great abs you need to be lean and have good core development.

In summary a little head to toe movement using just your body ( hey we all have that!) or some free weights is a good way to start working on those muscles.  Use these ideas to start or feel free to look up your own and build a plan.

Remember the biggest key to success and building a little muscle is time, consistency, and discipline. With some patience there will come rewards for your efforts.

Do you have any favorite exercises for muscle building? What has worked best for you?

Aging And The Fountain Of Youth

Botox. Creams. Anti-aging serums. Plastic surgery. Lotions and creams that promise to restore youth or keep you young looking are all over the market and you don’t have to look further than magazines or the tv to find numerous products being offered to help you look younger.

The question that begs to be asked is this…. “is there such a thing as the fountain of youth?”

Is there some secret, magical potion that will keep us looking young and vibrant ? Is it to be found in bottles or jars? Is that secret lurking in our medicine cabinet for us to discover?

The skin care industry is a booming business and lots of it comes from products promising a youthful appearance.

But… what if it isn’t found in a  jar? What if it’s something that’s free and you always have it available to you? Would you want to use it?

My childhood friend accuses me of voodoo or some kind of witchcraft telling me I’m not aging and in fact appear to have gotten younger. She proclaims to not love me for that but I think she’s lying 😉

Where that is a flattering compliment, the reality is, of course I’m aging like anyone else. However, it’s what I do and how I live that might be actually slowing that progression down.

So what is this secret formula? How do you get your hands on it ?

It’s already in you waiting to be used, every single day, and it’s exercise.

grow old

Now wait! Don’t check out on me here. Not yet since I’m fixing to share some scientific(y) stuff with you about exercise, our bodies, and the whole aging process. I’ll try to keep it basic and to the point but of course I’d encourage you to do your own research if you want to learn more.

Exercise cannot change our chronological age as that is set in stone. We were born on a certain day and year, our “age” hinges on that. It’s immovable.

Our biological age boys and girls, is a whole new game, and exercise fights against aging by protecting cells from the ticking clock.

Our biological age, can be changed.

Say what ?

Exercise can fight against a cellular level and staying healthy means you can keep your cells young.

Keeping cells young allows tissues to function properly.

Exercise boosts muscle levels of a compound  called NRF1 which impacts telomeres at the ends of each of our chromosomes.

Yikes! What is NRF1 and how does that work for me?

As simple as possible, it stimulates the production of proteins that are needed for cellular energy production and proteins involved in the making of new healthy mitochondria.  If you don’t remember from biology class ( cause I didn’t ) mitochondria are the powerhouse of our cells and are responsible for creating more that 90% of energy needed by the body to sustain life and support organ function.  Their function typically declines with age but with vigorous exercise mitochondria function improves ( and you can grow a lot more)

Exercise boosts muscle levels of the compound called NRF1 which impacts our telomeres at the ends of each of our chromosomes.

Hang on with me here ok?

Maybe you forgot what telomeres are. They are basically like little biological clocks on the ends of our DNA.  When in good shape, our DNA (cells) stay young. When they get damaged the cells get old. Telomeres are protective caps at the end of our chromosomes that keep them stable- think like plastic at the end of shoe laces. Every time a cell divides telomeres get shorter. Eventually they become to small to protect chromosomes and cells get old and die resulting in aging .

Unfortunately, telomeres get eroded with time.

Pay attention now boys and girls…….

the speed of erosion is not fully fixed which explains why you can impact biological age! This is where producing NRF1 is helpful. when activated by exercise it can produce protective molecules for telomeres, like varnish on nails. This all works on an anti-aging level, biologically.

Not all exercise is created equal for these benefits…

where as all types of exercise is good for our bodies, relieves stress, keeps our health balanced and leads to overall fitness, the type of exercise to reap the biggest anti-aging results is HIIT or cardio exercises done for at least 30 minutes or more 5 times a week.

Strength training is good for building muscle and overall body strength but it won’t have the same benefits for cell renewal as cardio or high intensity exercises.

In a study done by Newsweek in May 2017, it found of 5,000 adults in a research study that those who exercise regularly are younger on a cellular level than their sedentary or moderately active counterparts.  The study also compared telomere length with levels of physical activity. The study showed significant differences between those who did vigorous exercise and those who did not. The adults who did strong, vigorous exercise were biologically 9-10 years younger. ( for the study a high physical level was considered to be 30-40 minutes of running at least 5 days a week)

Why exercise appears to preserve telomere length is not known but it could be linked with inflammation and oxidative stress over time.

To see a real difference in slowing your biological age it appears a little exercise won’t do the trick, you have to work out regularly and at high levels.

Of course other benefits that come with strong level of exercise is reduced inflammation in the body that comes with aging, which can also help decrease your risk of developing related diseases and conditions like heart disease, depression, muscle loss and decreased memory.

Skin deep…..

Why do some of the fittest 60-plus women look younger than their age? The answer lies in the question. A recent study from McMaster University in Hamilton, ON, found that women over 65 who worked out for a minimum of two hours a week for three months had the skin composition of women 20 to 30 years younger. It seems that sweating it out at the gym leads to pumping myokines, a group of proteins secreted by muscle cells and diffused throughout the body. (Best Health Magazine)

and it’s true…some of the fitness women I know don’t look their age.  ( I’m not leaving the guys out… vigorous exercise can yield similar health benefits).

The Game Plan….

Don’t worry about fancy creams, instead, get on a consistent, regimented exercise plan and stick to it.

Don’t look for instant results but keep in mind all of the great health benefits your body will reap by being active and sweating a lot.

Don’t forget other factors that can help keep your age a secret too. Make sure you’re nutrition is focused on whole, healthy foods, skip the smoking and drinking, watch your sugar/processed food intake, hydrate well with plenty of water, get adequate rest, protect your skin, laugh a lot  and get your exercise in at least 5-6 days a week.

And then… hey…go ahead and share your age… no one will believe you 😉

Has exercise helped you maintain more than just being fit? Have you noticed results in your health and appearance  from consistent exercise?