#realtalk …I also HATE Scales.

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Before I write this post, I would like to clarify a few things:

1. This post is meant to be an encouragement and inspiration, it is NOT to toot my own horn.

2. I’m not bashing weekly weigh-ins or denying a scale is a good tool.

3. I’m not looking for a million complements or haters.

Ok… now that you have some guidelines…

Sometimes I think that people believe that trainers are above the daily fitness and self-image struggles that seem to plague the rest of the world.

My trainer never wants/eats/craves junk food. FALSE. 

My trainer never gets tired. ABSOLUTELY FALSE. 

My trainer must love his or her body all the time. A COMPLETE LIE.

Show me a trainer who has never once struggled with body image and I will gladly invest in some training sessions with them. I could use that kind of mental resiliency.

But the truth is we struggle. We doubt. We criticize ourselves. We roll our eyes. We sigh. We avoid mirrors. We obsess about the scale.

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Ah… the scale. That stupid little machine that can be a good tracker and the destroyer of all sanity.

Let me tell you my struggle.

I had the beginnings of an eating disorder in college. I was stressed. Life was difficult. School was hard. And it was the one thing I could control. Counting calories became a game. I was obsessive. I quickly lost a lot of weight and dropped down to easily fitting in a size four. Fortunately, going home for the summer brought me out of my obsession. Sophomore year brought its own challenges and I severely struggled with my body image and self esteem. 

And then I started playing water polo and discovered STRENGTH.

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Real. Beautiful. Lift-really-heavy. Strength.

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My sophomore year of college was the defining point in my career path. In my fitness. In my view of myself.  I went from being a 120 lb 5’9″  size 6-8 to an 135 lb 5’9″ size 5-6 in a matter of a season. And I discovered a love for lifting.

Fast forward to the present. I am a triathlete. I participate in races lasting about 6 hours. That is a far cry from my freshman year of college when a ten minute ab workout left me shaky and exhausted because I had zero fuel left. That fact alone pushes me on to achieve greater levels of fitness. To be faster, stronger, better…

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But that doesn’t mean that the self-hate doesn’t come creeping up now and then. 

I am stronger now than I was playing college water polo. My bench press max has increased by 45 pounds in 5 months.  I can see greater strength, greater power, greater endurance. I love these muscles….

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Until I put on a dress or a shirt that isn’t made for a girl with shoulders…

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I am a cross country coach. For not being a runner other than  self-declared, I keep up pretty well. I am surrounded by athletes that are MUCH smaller than I am or those who lost weight during the season. My 150 lb 5’9″ size 6 frame towers over most of them.

That doesn’t help my self-image some days…

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But though I am not perfect, I have learned that the scale doesn’t define me. I may not weigh the same, but I am the same size or smaller, weighing more than I ever have before this.  In fact, I was told at the beginning of cross country that I would lose weight (a fact that I will admit I was slightly excited about), but instead I gained 5 pounds.  However, all my clothes got loser. My body fat went down. My muscle mass increased. Overall, I am healthier, stronger, and more fit than I was 5 pounds ago.

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Our mind can be our worst enemy. It can also be our best friend. Surround yourself with positive people and positive thinking. You are beautiful.  Why waste your energy on negative thinking?

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Photos courtesy of Kristin Marie Photography

Do what you love… and occasionally what you hate.

“Figure out what you love and do that!”

I’m just as guilty as the next trainer for telling people to find what they love and do that for exercise. Love the outdoors? Try hiking or biking.  Love weight lifting? Lift heavy things.  Love going out dancing? Try Zumba ® . Chances are good if you LOVE it, you are more likely to stick with it.

And I will continue to say this to all my clients.

BUT… 

(my favorite word… there is ALWAYS an exception right?)

There is power in doing something you hate.

What?!?! 

That’s right. Chances are if you hate it, it is probably because you aren’t good at it.  And chances are good that means you might get some benefit from it.

I’ll use myself as an example. I love fitness, activity, exercise… you name it and chances are good I am there. Pick up sports? Yep! Lifting? Absolutely! Swimming, biking, or running? For sure! Hiking or kayaking? Won’t say no!

But Zumba® ? Not a chance. No way. Not me. I have no rhythm or beat. I’m bad at it. And so I don’t like it.

But last night I had an hour to kill between cross country practice and training, so I gave Zumba ®  a shot (for about the 3rd time in my life). And here is what I thought… I’m moving laterally. I’m stretching. I’m twisting and turning. My goodness, I’m moving out of a linear plane of movement and this is good for my body (and preventing injury!) And so occasionally I will dance it out… 😉

But let’s back track. I said I love lifting. If you know me, that’s not a surprise.  In the last two months my strength has increase dramatically, even during higher sessions of cardio. What do I attribute it to? Adding in what I hat[ed]. I used to LOATHE push-ups and pull-ups.  I wasn’t good at them. And so I didn’t like them. And I didn’t do them (three sets of 10 was plenty thank you very much!).  However, I have a few lifting buddies who are big on push/pull. And so we added in a TON (like 150-300 a day) of push/pull for two weeks. Well, I got stronger, saw dramatic improvement in my musculature, AND… I kinda love push-ups and pull-ups now.

The point here is to challenge you. At least once a week, do something you “hate.” Challenge yourself. Keep improving. Make yourself better everyday.

-A

To Crossfit or not to Crossfit

Recently there has been a HUGE push in the fitness industry towards High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or other intense forms of exercise. We have Tough Mudders, Warrior Dashes, Crossfit, Tabata, HIIT aerobics, and a variety of other high intensity classes and events that are becoming more and more popular.

Confession: I love them. I thrive off a challenge. Dare I say I’m addicted to a workout where you are shaking and want to quit.  I have used Crossfit protocols and workouts in my own training and have adapted these workouts with my clients. In fact, I love a good 10 Minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible). 

But that isn’t my only method of training. In fact, I like a nice balance in my training. Cycle some aerobic work with traditional strength mixed up with some HIIT training and I’m hooked! Here’s why….

There are benefits to each style. And it has been proven that we must have some form of progressive overload to keep from plateau.  It also brings us back to functional fitness…

Think about your life for a second. You get up. You maybe eat breakfast and then you sit. You walk to work, (maybe) take the stairs, and then you sit from 9 to 5. You get up. You go home. You sit for dinner. Maybe you get your workout in there at some point. But maybe not. You do some house work. You sit. You sleep. 

But wait. As you are home making dinner, your 3 year old reaches for a hot pan on the stove. You dash to stop her and catch the pan. As you are doing yard work, your dog dashes towards the road- and you sprint after him to bring him back to safety. You finish grocery shopping and run to your car in a storm. You have to help a friend move to a new apartment on the 15th floor while the elevator is broken.

So look again at your life: most of our time is spent at a minimal heart rate which equates with aerobic training. Low intensity. It is sustainable. But we have some high intensity moments- kids, pets, storms, friends, even being late to an important meeting cause us to move into high intensity mode. It’s quick. It’s fast. Its anaerobic. Chances are good that you would have a hard time sprinting after a dog over and over again from 9 – 5. But you could walk around at work all day.

So from a functional fitness standpoint, we should train aerobically. And probably more than we think we should. But we can’t neglect the importance of some anaerobic training and HIIT. And on top of all that, strength is important for being able to safely and efficiently complete aerobic and anaerobic activity, so we need to add that to our program as well. 

So bear with me here….

I set the stage. I told you what I find to be the most effective and safe way to train (though there are ALWAYS exceptions. ALWAYS).  So now hopefully you see how I have formulated my opinions (observation and a whole lot of reading research articles and continuing education – thank you NSCA and IDEA). And I am certified by the NSCA (who Crossfit has filed a lawsuit against). How do I make it work? Can HIIT and traditional aerobic/strength programs work together? Absolutely. But there must be guidelines.

1. HIIT requires some level of fitness. It is recommended that you have built a base before you begin and that you are physically able to perform at a higher level of intensity.

2. You should work up to a high level of exercise overnight. This isn’t 0 to 60. Its a progressive pattern. I don’t start my clients with 20 minute AMRAP. In fact, I don’t even start them at 5 minute AMRAP. Maybe 2-3 rounds of some exercises. Maybe.

3. One size doesn’t fit all. Don’t try to push people into one workout all day long. Adjust it based on needs, age, and ability.

4. You must consider: pre-training evaluation, technique (!!!!!), strength, speed, balance, warm-up, landing surface, footwear, training areas, equipment, and supervision.

(These points were gathered from the NSCA’s response to Crossfit’s lawsuit here).

HIIT training (and Crossfit) have their place and benefits. They can:

Increase performance significantly, elevates metabolism beyond your workout, elevate lactate threshold, and decrease recovery time 

But so does aerobic exercise, which:

Improves fat metabolism, increases aerobic capacity, strengthens the immune system, builds resistance to fatigue, reduces the risk of heart disease, improves quality of sleep, reduces stress, improves mood, increases cardiac output, improves your lung function, increases mental function, and increases HDL (good cholesterol). 

And traditional strength training does too, as it:

Increases bone density, improves tendon and ligament strength, increases mental toughness, and increases lactate threshold in addition to the aerobic benefits. 

To sum it all up- you need to find what works for you at the level you need. But there must always be some balance.

 

Lifting Minion

Lifting Minion

Disclaimer: I do not have a CrossFit certification and do not advertise to teach CrossFit. Nor am I a “CrossFit Hater.” The intent of this article was to promote a balanced training program.