0

My Road Back to Squats

Coming back to something you were once very good at, but now, you are starting again from scratch is never easy.

Once upon a time I was a full-time personal trainer and my whole identity was wrapped up in fitness, strength and being strong. So you can imagine how humbling it is to be writing a blog post about how pleased with yourself you were today because you did barbell back squats for the first time in over 6 months, and you managed 40kg on the bar for full, deep sets of 10!

I would have been happy with any number, but I was expecting to get 5 or 6 reps. So you can imagine getting 10 reps, and not to failure! It’s a huge win for me, and I’m excited and fuck it, that’s cool!

About two or three years ago, when I still had a 9 – 5, I attempted exactly this lift with exactly this weight and my back severely cramped at the bottom of the squat and it really, really hurt. It also scared the living daylights out of me, and I didn’t attempt back squats for a very long time afterwards. I was literally afraid of them. Afraid of squats. Isn’t that just so sad?

I mention my 9 – 5 job because I think that my back may have cramped like that because I was sitting down for so many hours a day. There may not have been a predictable reason. But I do think that sitting at a desk all day is the devil! It weakens the posterior chain like nothing else.

I don’t think that everyone needs to barbell squat, and certainly not everyone needs to barbell squat with a heavy weight. You can and should if you want to and if you can complete the lift safely. Squats are important, but there are so many variations, that unless you’re a strength athlete (i.e. a powerlifter, olympic lifter, a few other niche sports perhaps), you don’t have to put a heavy load across your back and move up and down. You just don’t. Don’t listen to any internet trainers or meatheads at your gym that tell you that you do. For most people, a few sets of goblet squats or even just body weight squats interspersed in your workouts are sufficient.

Why do I do squats? Because I like them. They’re a full body movement that takes strength and skill to execute well, they’re a big calorie burner, they “tone” (hehe), and they keep your back and your legs strong. I think foundational movements like the squat, the deadlift and the push up are important to achieve and maintain competency because you can’t complete them without a strong and healthy back, strong legs, knees, hips, core. If health is wealth, you have nothing if you don’t have a healthy back and good, strong legs to take you everywhere you want to go. Squats will help you keep stay strong, healthy, resilient and moving well.

What about if you can’t back squat? What if you have an injury or a limitation that makes barbell squatting problematic? You can do bodyweight squats, squats holding dumb bells, goblet squats, curtsy squats, box squats. Probably other squats too, haha. There are also a myriad of other awesome leg exercises as well. If your mobility and range of motion are limited (meaning, you can’t sit deeply into your squat and maintain good posture), then I actually advise you NOT to squat with a barbell at all and just work on increasing your range of motion safely. So do bodyweight squats, goblet squats and you can also squat to a box at your target height, and over time, your range of motion and competency at the movement will improve. I strongly recommend getting a good trainer to help you when or if you decide to graduate to a barbell. Remember, you don’t have to squat with a heavy barbell on your back. That’s probably the biggest squatting mistake I see in the gym day in, day out: people with low skill and poor range of motion, squatting with loaded barbells and no safety rails or usually without even a spotter.

As for me, I’m looking forward to building my squat up over the next few months from 40kg. I’ll probably be satisfied when I can manage 75 – 85kg for 6+ reps. I won’t be using rep ranges lower than that. I’m not obsessed anymore with hitting a target triple digit number. Probably in the new year I’ll switch to my true favourite lift, possibly of all time, my beloved front squat!

Do you like squats? What’s your favourite squat?

 
Health is wealth my friends, I’m treasuring mine.

0

The Non-Diet: How to diet without feeling like you’re on a diet?

The key to long term weight loss and maintaining a body you’re really happy with is finding a diet strategy that is sustainable long term and that doesn’t make you feel deprived. I think I’ve found that.

I’ve abandoned all the bodybuilder nonsense… ridiculously high protein, 6 meals a day. Nope. Doesn’t work for me, and besides which, I’m not a bodybuilder.

It’s plant-based, but I’m also not a vegetarian. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, lots of eggs, cheese, fish and occasionally, meat.

It’s mostly low carb, but there are elements of carb-cycling, calorie-cycling, most days are low carb, some days I spike my carbs (i.e. eat more of them) and spike my calories. Truth be told, I forget to have a “cheat day”, because I literally never feel deprived and I really enjoy my food. I don’t worry too much about fats, I just try to make sure they come from healthy sources and I watch my overall calorie count for the day.

If I’m going to a restaurant or to grab ice cream with my girlfriends, I just eat a lot less during the rest of that day, to accommodate the restaurant meal or the ice cream. It’s really that simple.

What I’m doing is trying to mould this all together into a diet concept that people can follow, because its really working for me and I just feel like I’m cruising and its great. I’ve lost 3.5 inches (8.89cms!) since January 1st from my navel and 2.25 inches (5.72cms) from my hips!

I work out not less than 4 days a week, and only do 6 days a week if I really feel like it, if I’m just loving training and moving, then I go out and train that day.

My exercise regime includes traditional weight lifting, big lifts, full body movements along with jogging, HIIT and interval training. And the occasional yoga class.

I’ll be talking more about this in further posts and sharing my strategies with you. The beauty of this diet to me is that I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Nothing is off limits.

What’s the best diet you’ve ever been on?

0

Fit & Glamorous Mission Statement

Hi! First post. I’m planning to use this space as a fitness and travel log. I’m not going to overthink it and just write 3+ times per week.

For those that don’t know me, I’m Ana. I’ve been working in the corporate world for the last few years, but I was a personal trainer for a long time (5 years) and I even competed once upon a time. I still love fitness and nutrition, and I plan to talk about my every day fitness and share my approach with you via semi-daily fitness logs and articles.

I also have a great passion for travelling and have probably my most epic year of travel booked and I plan to share that with you too! I’ll be living abroad in Italy and also have plans to visit Russia, Africa; I’ll be sailing the Greek Islands in August with a girlfriend and who knows what last minute trips will pop up in that time. I’ve been to 23 countries so far, which amongst hardcore travellers is NOTHING, however I don’t really like “ticking the box” style travel, where visiting a place is just about spending a day there and then saying you’ve been there (although I do relish a new prominent stamp in my passport, haha). Ticking boxes isn’t what it’s really about to me, and I also really like going back to places I love. For me, travel is about absorbing the culture of a place, learning about the people there and their history and reconciling all of that into a better knowledge and understanding of the world. An inherently beautiful and epic undertaking.

You can read about a place and look at pictures all day, but until you go there and breathe the air, talk to the locals and immerse yourself in the experience of the place, you can’t possibly understand it. And even that, I would say, is fairly superficial. The deepest understanding comes from living in a place and doing every day things just as a local does. Then you’ll truly begin to understand their passions, frustrations and why things are the way they are there.

I’m going to play it by ear, but I intend to post OFTEN and casual, conversational style posts in order to develop the habit of posting here. Topics also might veer off into spirituality, art, music, fashion, beauty products… I hope you enjoy it!

 

0

Scarlett Johansson Trains Hardcore For Her Superhero Body

Scarlett Johansson AvengersNatasha Romanov is a superhero in a skintight slinky black catsuit, and Scarlett has to be in tip top shape to play her.

Scarlett trains “like a guy”, her words! Yep, you read that right.  Scarlett does chin ups, push ups, explosive movements and lots of circuit training to get into Hollywood superhero shape. Her trainer, Bobby Strom, gets her started a few months before filming. She eats lots of lean proteins, vegetables, oatmeal and drinks lots of water and trains with weights. Here is what he told Self Magazine about her workout:

“I was having her do a lot of balance, coordination, and core work, but what she really loved was the strength training – things like pullups and kettlebells – and the idea of feeling and looking strong.”

Scarlett Johansson, on her diet and the “secret” to getting in shape:

Salad and chicken and, you know, nothing else, pretty much,” she said, laughing. “It’s that old tried and true ‘work out like a dude and eat like a rabbit’ [plan].”

Scarlett stays in shape year round, eats well, and kicks it up a notch with her diet and training right before a big movie. So this isn’t how she eats and trains year round, its a high intensity plan for being in her best shape for a targeted period of time. The rest of the year, she still works out and keeps in good shape, but she’s a little more moderate, which is an important take home point as well.

Scarlett Johansson Avengers Body Workout

In general, this is how Scarlett trains:

– she uses “big bang” movements that use lots of muscles and burn lots of calories, i.e: squats, lunges, push ups, and even olympic lifts.

– she uses high intensity circuits, no more than 90 minute sessions per day.

– she uses a variety of tools like dumb bells, barbells, kettlebells, TRX and bodyweight movements

– she trains like a dude and is not afraid of some hard work for big results!!!

Scarlett Johansson for Dolce & Gabanna, 2012.

Scarlett Johansson for Dolce & Gabanna, 2012.

0

You Are Special & Why Cookie Cutter Plans Don’t Work

When we wanna get fit, often it seems like the most obvious thing is emulate the person whose results we want, the person we want to look like.

We want to know what they eat and how they train, and we want to do exactly whatever “secret” it is they do, so we can look like them too.

So you follow their Facebook page or Instagram and read everything they say, maybe you buy their workout plan or diet and you copy what it is they do, or what they say they do.

But you don’t get the same result. Often, you don’t even get a similar result.

The reason is that cookiecutter plans don’t work. One-size-fits-all fitness is a myth. Let me explain. The foundations of being fit, strong and looking amazing are more or less the same for everyone, that is true. But we each have unique genetics that give us unique strengths, weaknesses, individual biochemistry, individual anthropometry, muscle belly size, length, etc.

Guess what? It means we’re all unique! Your mum was right, you ARE a special little snowflake after all!

speshul snowflake

Well, OK.. you are and you aren’t! Because you’re a special snowflake, you can’t just take some random workout and expect it to transform you into someone else who also just happens to do that work, i.e: your favourite fitness model. She probably doesn’t even do that workout at all, hate to say it. You need something designed for you to get you to greatness. On the otherhand, because you are NOT a special snowflake, you you can ditch all the gimmicks, magic bullets and quick fixes, because if you haven’t realized, they don’t work. The basics work. Ignore the ads, propaganda and shameless self-promotion. Do what has been proven to work, and that is:

1. Lift weights at least 2x per week, 3 – 4 days a week of lifting is ideal. Focus on multi-joint movements, preferably with freeweights. Lift “heavy” for no more than 10 reps per set. Things like squats, deadlifts & lunges for the lower body and overhead presses, rows and push ups for the upper body. Use single joint/isolation exercises and machines only for parts of your body you want to pay a little extra attention to, and do so AFTER your squats, lunges and presses, etc.

2. Clean up your diet. Looking “toned” is a function of muscular development and optimized body fat levels. You can’t lose body fat with a crappy diet, so clean up your diet! Focus on lean proteins and vegetables at every meal and watch your carb intake. Don’t eat too much. It isn’t much more complicated than that.

3. Do a bit of cardio, not too much. Keep it to under 1 hour per day, at a maximum! If you’re doing more cardio than this, you need to re-examine your diet. You cannot out train a poor diet. Personally, I start out clients with 15 minutes of cardio per day and I don’t increase it unless we stop getting results. I never prescribe more than 30 minutes a day. If we hit a plateau we re-examine the diet and change up the cardio protocol. Use cardio as a tool for weightloss wisely. More is not “more”.

The above should be the foundation of any training and nutrition plan. Beyond this, your individual goals, preferences, genetics and athletic background need to be considered in order to customise a plan to help get you to your best, your pinnacle. So there may be tweaks to your diet, there may be a certain focus on a part of your body you want to work on, certain movements, you may have injuries you need to work around – it all depends on your individual needs, and what you need to get you to the pinnacle of fitness.

It’s going to be something different than what I need.

It’s going to be different again to what the guy two treadmills over from you needs.

It’s going to probably be different than your training buddy and your favourite fitness model.

You can not all follow the same training and diet plan and get the same result. It doesn’t work that way.

What program has gotten you the best results?

0

Your Body Is Awesome & You Should Throw a Party!

Image

What a peaceful and beautiful thought it is, to be content with what you have and rejoice in the way things are? Granted, I understand that for many it might be hard to truly feel this way, and sadly, they may have a legitimate reason to feel that way… but we all have something to be thankful for. All of us. Something, someone, something positive in our lives, something good. In my darkest times, it has always been helpful to remember what I do have, always.

And slowly, steadily I have been lucky enough to come to feel that way about my body. I say “lucky” without a shred of irony, since in our society, with the constant message that you’re flawed, fat, unworthy, you’re lucky if you can shake it all off in any meaningful way and actually begin to feel good about yourself.

Instead of focusing on what you don’t like and what you want to fix, what about if you were content with what you had and you celebrated your amazing body and your good health and all the things your strong healthy body enables you to do?

What about if every day you thanked your body and felt grateful for your health and wrote down 3 things that were awesome about you, how do you think your attitude might change? I bet you’d start to feel happy and inspired and joyful, and learn to love your physical self. You might even throw a party and “rejoice”… (remember to invite me, please! hehe).

Nothing about you is lacking. You are good and you are enough. You have everything you need to be awesome and you already are; every day you get better and better. Each healthy meal, each training session, leads to a better you.

What do you like the most about your body?

What’s your best feature?

Whats the coolest thing you can do? Badass bench press number? Can you do the splits? Feel free to brag a little in the comments! It can be anything. I wanna hear it! Just a reminder, it doesn’t have to remotely be something that would make you “good” competitively, personal goals and triumphs, no matter how humble they may seem, are perfect. Please share!

0

You’re a Real Woman & Why Strong is NOT the New Skinny

I’m not sure when exactly it was that I realized that instead of inspiring and motivating me, so called “fitspo” or “fitspiration” was mostly making me feel really bad about myself.

At first, I was so excited that strength was finally cool! When I started lifting weights, being strong was not cool. In fact, I would say most people thought it was a weird and obscure goal to have and even more weird that I was a woman. It was like, “that chick is strange and intense”… (I’m not sure that the assessment is actually wrong, ha). Like, it was okay that I was working out to be hot, but it was strange that I liked and cared about being strong. For me, I couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to be strong! I went through a phase where I thought once I explained myself, everyone would see the light and join my bandwagon, but they didn’t. They still thought it was a weird and obscure obsession, and questionably worthwhile. So when all this “strong is the new skinny” stuff started trending, I was so happy! Everyone was finally “getting it” and I was really excited… at first.

From the sea of headless ab shots, sexualized, sweaty women with heaving cleavage and perfect round butts, the unrelenting captions telling me to not to stop and that pain was my fat cells dying or whatever BS… somewhere along the way, it became all about being sexy, objectification and defining another narrow and rigid aesthetic for us all to scramble to fit into.

This is also why “strong is the new skinny” is really just another crock of shit being spoonfed to us. Same old wolf, new disguise. The message really seems to be “strong is awesome only if you are small and ripped and, of course, sexy“… after all girls, we have to be sexy! We are nothing and nobody if we are not sexy, are we? And God forbid strong means you have big, powerful muscles. Strong is not sexy if it’s “too bulky” or “too much”… girls, you can only be strong if you stay small and cute, preferably in a push up sports bra with your boobs hiked up to your chin.

The sarcasm is oozing from pretty much the entire above paragraph, in case you missed it!

And that’s never what strength is or should be about. You get strong to be strong. Because strong is awesome. Thats the only reason and justification you need. Being strong literally makes you better at everything else in life that you do. It’ll make you a better runner, a better dancer, better and more powerful in any sport that you play. Better at your household chores and activities, better at just being. No lie. I mean, if you train right, training will improve and correct your posture. So literally, just standing there and “being” you are better. Your strong muscles hold up your bones and spine and pin your shoulders back more efficiently. Hence, you are better “just being”, get it?

You don’t get strong because its sexy, or because its the new cool thing and not because its going to help you fit into a new, oppressive paradigm for how you are supposed to look.

Image

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, I think all bodies are beautiful when they’re fit and strong, within a healthy weight range and the individual is happy and enjoying their life. And whatever that looks like for each person, pretty much always looks some shade of great!

Short limbs, long limbs, boxy torso, long torso, naturally lean, naturally curvy, naturally thin… we ALL have our strengths and weaknesses, we don’t have to look exactly alike to look beautiful; and in order to be inspiring, it doesn’t matter how you look. To be inspiring in fitness, athletics and sport you have to have a great attitude, perseverance and the ability to do cool shit, like maybe squat 100kg, or run a marathon in under 3 hours, or do the splits or a backflip! All that stuff is pretty damn cool, but I admire anyone who is healthy and works hard to excel in a particular skill, overcome physical and mental limitations and takes care of their body and mind. People like that are cool. People like that are the real fitspo. Not some headless, nameless chick with abs wearing co-ordinated workout gear. What’s cool about that?

And, another thing: we’re ALL “real” women! Do you have a vagina? Well guess what? You’re a real woman. THE END.

Just because “thin is in” doesn’t mean we get to trash and degrade women who are thin by saying stupid crap like “real women have curves”… Do you know how dumb you sound? Stop saying that. Some women really struggle to gain weight and certainly covet fuller hips and thighs and bums, and it’s no easier for them to attain those than it is for someone significantly overweight to lose fat. Can you imagine how heartbreaking and hurtful it is to be someone who is naturally very thin and doesn’t want to be, to have the message thrown in her face that she is fundamentally inadequate as a woman because of her shape? The bold is wrong no matter what body type we’re talking about. That is a harsh and unkind message to put out there to people, lacking in compassion or understanding. You can’t expect to come out smelling like roses when you’re down in the dirt slinging mud at everyone else.

What inspires you towards your fitness goals every day? What is that you most like about your body? I’d love to hear about it n the comments!

0

The New Years Resolution Post: Four Tips To Smashing Your Fitness Goals This Year

So, you know it’s a cliche. And you know you made the same resolution last year and for whatever reason you didn’t keep it.

But again, in for 2014, you want to make your health and fitness a top priority. Congratulations, that’s a brilliant a very rewarding goal. After all, without our health, what do we have?

Ask yourself, why is it going to be different this year? Why will this year be the one you actually make a permanent lifestyle change?

I don’t believe it’s “wanting it badly enough”, I think that’s BS. If you earnestly tried very hard to lose weight and get fit, and someone smugly responds that you obviously don’t want it badly enough, you have my permission to tell them to go fuck themselves. That’s right. Flipping them the bird is optional, but I recommend doing that too.

I think when we express a deep desire to be healthier, to lose weight, to be better, we certainly do want it badly enough. But often, we’re just not well-equipped with the knowledge, with a strategy and with the “how” to make it happen. So I’m going to share with you a few simple ways you can make sure your 2014 resolution to be fitter and healthier is one that is going to stick with you the entire year and beyond.

  1. Set a nutritional goal that won’t leave you feeling punished, deprived and starved.
    If you eat fries, pasta and ice cream every day and declare that January 1st, you’ll eat nothing but salad, grilled fish and broccoli, I can almost guarantee that by January 31st, you’ll be back to eating those same burgers and ice cream and whatever else – and probably with a vengeance!
    What to do instead: Choose a more moderate approach. That might mean eating “normally” every day, but committing to having a salad for lunch or dinner. Initially, you might want to simply commit to cutting out soft drinks and hot chips every day. Have ice cream only once or twice per week, in a reasonable portion. You’d be astounded at what a huge impact these simple changes can have on your health and waistline. As time goes by and this becomes routine for you, you can step up your game and make further changes to improve your daily eating habits.
    perfect is bullshit
  2. Set a reasonable and very doable exercise goal. 
    Deciding that, as of January 1st, from doing no exercise per day, you’re going to be in the gym 2 hours a day and do a thousand crunches and a  zillion squats, because you read that’s what your favourite movie star did to get ready for her recent action flick (or your favourite fitspo girl on IG does this, or your friend, or whoever), is naive and unrealistic. We both know this is a pie in the sky strategy and isn’t going to work long term, if at all.
    What to do instead: Choose a  reasonable activity goal. For a beginner, that might mean 20 – 30 minutes a day of activity. That’s more than enough for someone who was previously sedentary. After a month or two of consistency, you can step up your efforts. Exercise is extremely important for good health, but too much can be counter-productive and unsustainable. Anything too time consuming and elaborate is probably going to last a month or two maximum. Adopt an approach you can turn into a lifestyle, doing things that make you feel energised and that you enjoy with a reasonable time commitment. As you get fitter, you can and should up the intensity.
  3. Find a support network.
    A support network might be a friend that has similar goals to you that you can begin your journey with, it can be starting a blog or online journal in a weight loss community filled with likeminded individuals, or it might be hiring a trainer than you stay accountable to and helps you design a good strategy. There are lots of ways to find support these days, you might try one option, or you might want to try them all to give yourself every advantage to success. Try everything and keep the stuff that works and you find helpful. Certainly in the first month or two, having a friend in the gym can help with the intimidation some people feel when they start going to the gym. If you don’t have someone, pay a trainer. It’s worth it if it gets you in there and has you doing the right things.
  4. If you fall off the wagon, get right back on!
    Don’t stop. We all have our ups and downs, but the difference between people that get fit and make it a lifestyle and those that don’t is quitting. Don’t be a quitter. There will be days that you ate too much or you missed a workout, but who cares? Pick yourself up and try again. This isn’t a pass or fail, one shot exam. Fitness is a way of life. It’s a journey. It’s always a work in progress no matter what level you’re at. In case you missed it, perfection is bullshit. Some days you’ll have more energy than others, some days you won’t be motivated to work out, some days you are just dying to have that piece of cake and whether you have it or not, ultimately doesn’t matter as long as you keep going in the right direction.

Remember, the successful strategy is not the “perfect” strategy, rather it’s the one you can  stick to long term and incorporate into your lifestyle. Stop trying for perfect. Perfect is bullshit.

My goals for this year are to achieve a 300lbs deadlift. I’d like to be more kind, gracious and patient in all matters. To stop dropping F-bombs… gah! So uncouth and unladylike! And drink less expensive cocktails… they’re a wallet and a fat loss killer and they have got to GO!!! I’d also like to get serious about yoga this year and incorporate that into my routine. And meditate.

What are your goals for 2014?

0

Moving Forward, One Foot in Front of the Other

It’s been practically a solid month since I posted anything here. I have so many great post ideas, but I guess I’ve been having a mini crisis on how to proceed in 2014. 

My plan was to return to personal training in the new year and this blog was going to be an adjunct to that. But I’ve realised, once and for all, I don’t want to work in a gym again. I just really, really don’t. 

Being a personal trainer can be great, and for a long time I loved it! I truly loved my job, even with all the ups and downs. But then, I didn’t. The things I didn’t love about it was the constant focus and pressure on sales and gym management BS in general, the ridiculous hours and wearing black lycra and sports shoes all day every day. Those were the main things. And to be passionate about fitness, to be involved in fitness, you don’t have to work in a gym. My blog, this one you’re reading right here, can be my fitness outlet. I am much more interested in reaching a wider audience, writing, getting the right information out there, promoting healthy body image, self-love and positive ideas and producing media than I am in teaching more planks, push ups and body weight squats. Hey, I’m not knocking it as a useful and positive thing. People need trainers to teach them that stuff and its important and useful. I just don’t find it challenging and engaging anymore, and don’t wish to return to something I’ve already done for a long time and that doesn’t excite and challenge me. I want something new. 

So what have I been doing since my last post? Honestly, worrying about how to proceed, which gym do I want to work at? Trying to talk myself into feeling great about personal training again. Because people constantly tell me how its such a waste that I don’t do that work anymore, because I’m so good at it, because I’m so passionate about fitness, because I’m… well, you get the picture. It’s all very flattering and gratifying to hear. I do appreciate it tremendously because fitness is such a huge part of my life and being a personal trainer was how I defined myself for a long time. It was so important to me to be a really good one, not a bullshit one, too. But I can help people and share my passion in other ways, you don’t have to work in a gym to do that!

I’m hoping to have one other article posted up by today, in fact I have about 5 that are 70% complete and more or less ready to go. I’m really excited about 2014. What are some of the things you would like to see me write about? Let me know in the comments. Merry Christmas!