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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!

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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?

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Your Body Is Awesome & You Should Throw a Party!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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I should probably call this a “monthly” round up…

This round of great fitness reads I’m going to pop off with some opposing views about RUNNING. In fitness circles, cardio has had a bad rap. In fact, I even wrote up an article about how cardio isn’t the greatest single tool for changing your body.

Disclaimer: I do “run” 1 – 3 times per week. I love sprinting, but for any steady-state work, I am super sloowwww. Hence the quotes around the word run in the previous sentence, haha. I do the steady state work because it isn’t ever easy for me and I enjoy the challenge. I don’t believe in only doing things that validate you and that you’re good at. My stance on the whole running debate is in the middle. Use it as a tool in a reasonable manner for weight loss and physique transformation goals, and otherwise only do it if you LOVE it. If you’re an endurance athlete, eat to support your activity. Run a marathon to run a marathon – it’s a huge accomplishment. A physical and mental test of grit and stamina. Do not run a marathon because you think the training will help you lose weight and you plan to diet (i.e. eat in a caloric deficit) throughout your training. Ineffective and BIG mistake!

Wow, off my soapbox! Hehe.

John Kiefer blew up the fitness blogosphere recently with Why Women Should Not Run. It should be noted, the intended audience of this article is the female physique competitor and to a lesser extent, the average woman using running as a tool to lose weight and transform her body. In that context, the article has a lot of valid points.

In an examination and retort of this and a few other anti-running articles like it, Gokaleo has deconstructed the science behind it and defended running. I think it offers a sound perspective on the whole anti-cardio hysteria, which I believe is wrong. I believe in being physically well-rounded and at least capable, in all modalities.

(Another disclaimer: I am totally fangirl ga-ga about Amber and her GoKaleo blog! So many great reads there!)

Moving along!

On a lighter note, over at Mohrresults.com, they have a rundown of the best vegetarian protein sources. Good info!

And something that spoke to me deeply, female olympic weightlifters Sarah & Jessica lament the portrayal of women in fitness. I have to say, I share the same disdain and lament. 

In a similar vein Carrie, over at This Fit Chick talks about how you should stop following her and other fitness girls. I have totally been THAT girl she is talking about in the article. She has been THAT girl. You probably have been or ARE that girl. Let’s stop the madness with all this so called “fitspo” and BS. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, choose your role models very carefully. 

And for a laugh, over at Deadspin, one of their reporters attended the Toronto Pro Supershow and wrote up a piece called Health Is Bad For You… Great read and a good laugh. I have to admit, his write up more or less mirrors my experience of the 2009 Olympia in Las Vegas. Except I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Haha!

Train hard, live fit & be glamorous all!

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Training Update & the Warrior Dash!

I’ll be honest with my little handful of blog readers – I’ve been struggling with some writer’s block!

I’ve decided to do a weekly training recap that I’m going to put together with some links to articles that I think are a worthy read.

Last weekend, I entered my first mud run and did the Warrior Dash. It was super fun! I didn’t do any specific training for it. I lift heavy week in, week out, do 1 – 2 steady state cardio sessions each week and 2 – 3 metabolic conditioning workouts more or less as a routine. It’s a part of my lifestyle.

I have been very curious about the Tough Spartan Warrior thingamidoodies for awhile now, so I entered on a whim only about 2 – 3 weeks prior to the event, and just got a little more consistent with my jogging, etc. Which didn’t really help that much, because I had a pretty crappy running day. I’ll be honest, I struggled with the running, I didn’t have one of those days where you glide on by and feel like you can run forever AT ALL. But the good news is, I got through it. I found the obstacles easy, but I’m mildly afraid of heights and terrified of slipping and breaking my head, and quite often you’re 6, 8, 10 feet in the air with nothing and no one to save you should you misstep, so that slowed me down a lot.

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I also lost my shoe! LOL! It’s OK, they were old and ready for the bin any how. I just couldn’t dig my left shoe out of the final mud pit to save my life and thought “eff it” and left it there. My recommendation would be to buy some really cheap shoes from Payless or Kmart with decent grip so that a) you aren’t so terrified of slipping like I was, since my 3-year-old Nike Cortez had no grip on them b) so you can happily just chuck them out at the end of your mud run because my shoes were TRASHED beyond a simple hosedown… I’d loathe to put them anywhere in my car. Gross. Just chuck ‘em.

Last week’s squats were truncated by the Warrrior Dash. I usually squat on either Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, but I took Thursday and Friday as rest days and squatted to 6 – 10 reps on Wednesday instead.

I feel really good about the way I look now, even though it’s not my best since I’ve been carrying a lot of water through my hips/abdomen due to, you know, “TOM”. Was that TMI? Too bad! So sad! Hehe.

I’ve actually avoided taking measurements and pictures because I think it sets off unhealthy OCD qualities in me and furthermore, I’m not competing. I’m just trying to look my best for my trip in 4 weeks. People are asking me if I’m losing weight on an almost daily basis, so I know I’m doing the right things and heading in the right direction.

I like me and I love my body! I don’t need to scrutinize pictures of my bottom in stark light side-by-side to see if I’m getting “results”… that to me comes from a paranoid, nitpicky, neurotic place, where I feel unworthy and anxious about myself and my appearance. It’s not a behaviour I wish to perpetuate and has nothing to do with real health and fitness. My ass is just fine, thank you! 🙂

A post I am working on is one about how there is no point in being too hard on yourself and “body-shaming” yourself into shape because, first of all, most of the time it doesn’t work. That’s just NOT how we humans change our behaviour in the long term. We change via POSITIVE reinforcement, not being beaten over the head with negative messages about ourselves and our bodies. And second of all, is even if you do achieve your fitness goals by being severe and hard on yourself, engaing in harsh self-talk, doing “whatever it takes”, drastic and sudden “cold turkey” shifts in behaviour and body shaming ourselves or others… well, usually there is a severe physical rebound to such harsh strategies, but moreover, no matter how long your “results” last… you will never enjoy them as long as you hate yourself. You will never enjoy being fit and looking amazing, if your motivation comes from a place of self-loathing and self-flagellation. It has to come from self-love, healthy mind and self-esteem and a good appreciation for how strong, amazing and resilient our bodies truly are!

What is it that you love the most about YOUR body? What’s the coolest thing you did in the gym this week? Tell me in the comments! 

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This Week’s Fit & Glamorous Recommended Reading!

I’ve decided to a weekly, or at least bi-weekly round up of great articles from the blogosphere!

Here is what I’ve got fot this week:

And this week’s positive affirmation – gratitude. Always be grateful. There is always something to be thankful for. Be thankful for your health. Be thankful you are loved. Be thankful to be alive!
keep calm and appreciate what you have