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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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The 7 Habits of People Who Achieve Their Fitness Goals

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1. Set Goals, Make Them Achievable.
Rule number one of achieving your goals is actually sitting down to think about them and setting them! Fit people don’t work out – they train with a purpose. That purpose may be getting into a pair of jeans in a smaller size, it might be improving their deadlift, achieving a faster 5k time, or a goal physique. It can be any goal that gives their physical training structure and purpose.

They don’t just go through the motions or just do “whatever”. The other important part of this is that the goals they set are achievable and they give themselves a realistic timeframe to get there. They are consistent and patient!

You might even consider hiring a trainer or a coach to help you set your goals, workout what you should be doing to get there and how long it should take you. Most goals take at least 3 months of consistency to see major changes, often it takes longer. Also, making this a lifestyle and real excellence in any physical endeavour is something you never stop working on. Set goals, work hard, be patient!

2. Fit People Keep Going.
Everyone falls of the wagon at one time or another, either with their diet or with training. The big difference between fit people and people who just want to be fit is that the fit ones get back on plan and keep going.

Remind yourself that this is a marathon, not a sprint. To be really fit, you have to make it a lifestyle. It’s not a short term program you stick to for a month or two and rebound back to your old ways (and old body) when you’re “done”. You’re never “done”! 🙂

Fit people are also consistent, but realise there is no such thing as perfection. Forget eating perfectly all the time, eat well 90% of the time and you will look and feel great. There is no magic workout, no exercise that changes everything in a week. There is only consistent diet and exercise. Slip ups happen. They aren’t the end of your fitness journey, unless you let them be.

Sorry if that doesn’t sound sexy or not what you want to hear, but that is the truth. The sooner you embrace a long term approach, the sooner you will see your best and fittest self emerge.

3. Do Something Active Every Day
Fit people do something almost every day. They follow their program. They walk a lot. They ride bikes. They try different classes. They hit the gym. They get in there and do what they have to do each day to achieve the goals they set. It’s one day at a time. All the little things you do each and every day add up to a big cumulative result in the long term. Your body craves movement, move it!

4. Work Harder on Your Weak Links, Make Them Your Strengths
Lacking upper body strength? Pull, press and push until your upper body becomes your strength. Are you inflexible and unable to do certain movements effectively (or at all!) because of it? Stretch every day. Schedule a regular yoga class. Limber up, baby! You will improve. You will be better. And stick to improving things you’re bad at tenaciously enough? They inevitably become your strengths. I’ve seen it time and time again in both myself and in my clients. The human body is an incredible organism that will adapt to the stresses you impose upon it, and the results can be downright astounding.

5. Trust The Process, Commit, Don’t Program Hop.
One of the biggest mistakes and inhibitors of progress is self-doubt, not trusting the process and “program hopping”. A program hopper is someone who cannot or will not stick to something long enough to see any significant result. They typically stick to a diet regimen or workout program for 4 weeks or even less and that just isn’t long enough to see a big result. Most people need to be consistent for at least 3 months before real changes and improvements take place.

6. Make All Main Meals Protein Based, Fill Up On Veges.
Active people have higher protein requirements because their bodies need protein to build and repair, especially if you lift weights. Your body craves exercise and movement, but a rigorous training program also puts a lot of wear and tear on your joints, muscles and tendons. If you aren’t eating whole, unprocessed foods and protein based meals to help your body recover, replenish and rejuvenate itself, you’ll end up worn out and eventually injured. Make sure you’re fuelling your workouts well and fuelling for sufficient recovery.

It’s also been shown that for longevity and disease prevention, one of the key components (in addition to regular exercise and solid sleep) is eating at least 2 cups of vegetables per day. Another benefit of vegetables is the fact that no one in he history of human existence has ever gotten fat from eating too much broccoli, so if you’re having trouble feeling full enough, just fill up on fibrous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach and zucchini. You can use garlic, onion and herbs to give them flavour. just don’t douse them in ranch dressing, mayo, butter or oil, that’ll definitely screw up your diet! Steam your veges and flavour them in ways that add no (or negligible) calories.

7. Measure Your Progress
Fit people measure their progress in useful ways. If they have a physique goal, they take progress pictures. If they want to run faster, they time their runs and push for improvements. If they want to get stronger, they keep a log of their lifts. You get the idea. It’s a very important part of making sure you’re on the right track towards achieving your fitness goals.

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Ditching the ‘All or Nothing’ Attitude in Fitness

My European adventure is drawing to a close and with 7 days ‘til I arrive in Sydney, I have been contemplating my fitness goals.

Part of that is thinking about how I want to evolve and what things I need to let go of, that may have held me back in the past. One of those is an all-or-nothing attitude.

I used to be like that about dieting.

I still struggle a little with it in training. I hate deload weeks and I have been known to get agitated when things don’t go as planned in the gym. I like intense workouts. I like to struggle and triumph. When the latter doesn’t happen, I can get pissed and take my ball and go home… sometimes funny, but never productive!

True fitness is a lifestyle and life has it’s ups and downs. One of the key qualities to being happy, fulfilled and successful is resilience, and you can’t be resilient when you’re rigid, afraid to make mistakes, or get upset when things don’t go 100% your way.

Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for excellence!

Strive to develop good habits and consistency. Strive to be better than you were yesterday. Strive to challenge yourself in some way, every day. Step outside of your comfort zone. Forgive yourself mistakes. They happen.

Those of us prone to an all-or-nothing attitude often end up with just the latter… nothing.

We’re prone to overtraining, because we try to push hard and train hard every single day, thinking more is more. It certainly isn’t.

We’re prone to struggling with our diets because we expect perfection from ourselves, with nary a calorie or macronutrient out of place. And when we can’t achieve that, we fall right off the wagon and binge… guess what? 100% diet adherence is overrated… and not possible without an adjunct obsessive-compulsive disorder. Certainly, eating well 90% of the time is necessary to looking your best, but perfection is a myth and unnecessary.

We’re prone to being competitive, which personally, I tend to find a friendly competitive streak in a person kind of cute 🙂 HOWEVER, not everything is a competition! Not everything is so serious. And no one said you had to be the best at everything or the most of something. Just be you and strive for constant improvement. Stay humble. Keep your ego in check.

Some of us never even get started because we think we have to be “dedicated” and “disciplined” and “train hard” to make any of it worthwhile and it’s all just too intense and overwhelming. So we do nothing. We sit on the couch instead. Well guess what? MOVING YOUR BODY in some way every single day is certainly worthwhile and good for your health, even if you don’t approach things with the razor focus of a professional athlete. Just move! Pick something you like doing and just go with it.

Do something. Walk for 20 minutes a day. Eat a serving of vegetables at dinner every night. Who told you that you had to eat perfectly and train like an Olympic Athlete for it to be worthwhile? Hey, they lied. Eat your veges and move a little each day. Baby steps. Will you look like a fitness model? No. Will you feel better and look better, and be glad you made those small changes? Yes! You will.

Something always trumps nothing.

The people you admire the most in sports and fitness, they have off-seasons, they have intelligently periodized training protocols (i.e: not pushing at 100% capacity all the time), they have diet slip-ups and off-plan meals. They have bad days at training, days where they feel tired. But guess what? They do things MOSTLY right and properly, and stick to their plans the vast majority of the time.

Getting it right over 90% of the time is what gets results and what is important.

Earnest effort is everything. Perfection is a myth. A fitness unicorn! You wanna go chasing unicorns? Be my guest. Have fun with that. Getting great results and maintaining them is a balance between consistent, intelligent training, good nutrition and incorporating all of that into your every day, real life.

Have you had an all or nothing attitude to your fitness? Have you been far too intense in the past or has your attitude kept you on the couch? How have you managed to find YOUR balance?

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Goal Setting & Motivation – Making a Vision Board!

Last night, I sat down and created a new vision board.

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I looked back over the one I made at the end of 2011, it was covered in pictures of fitness models, pictures of Rome and Spain and affirmations about being happy, healthy, fit and loving life. Some vague stuff about being a fitness role model. Something else rather vague about finding joy in my work. Blah, blah, blah!

What was awesome is that I pretty much got everything I put on there. I’ve traveled a lot in the last year and a half. I’m happy. I’m fitter than ever. I’m blessed with good health. People in my every day life certainly do look up to me as a fitness role model. I had a job for the last year that in and of itself was quite humdrum, but I worked with a great group of people and we laughed every single day, there was a great energy there. I never dreaded going to work, nor was I ever overworked! It was pretty great.

What was less than awesome is that I realized I didn’t get what I really, really wanted because I didn’t ask for it! I wasn’t specific enough! Doh!!!

So my goal with this new vision board was to be specific. Clear goals that will make me happy and help me create the life I want. Gratitude. Positivity. I put my new vision board up on my dresser and I have to say, it makes me giddy with excitement and deeply content every time I look at it.

Here are my tips in creating your own vision board:

1. Put thought into it. Curate images, words and affirmations that mean a lot to you. The emotion behind it is important. Your vision board should stir positive and heartfelt emotion in you when you look at it.

2. Only use POSITIVE words and images. Don’t write things you don’t want. Don’t write stuff that begins with “I will not…”, “I don’t…”. Frame everything in the present tense and make it positive. Make it an image or statement that expresses the best version of you, your ideal. For example, don’t say “I will lose 10kg”… instead write, I am my ideal bodyweight. Then you might want to find a picture of your ideal body… and maybe even stick your head on top of it! Haha!

3. Make sure you put your finished vision board somewhere you can see it every day. Take time to look over it quietly and imagine, meditate and BELIEVE that all those words and images are true. 

4. Be specific! You’ll be amazed at how what you ask for comes true. Often, we’re too afraid to ask for what we really, really want. We think it can’t come true, or that it’s too much, or that we’re unworthy of that, so we’ll ask for something sort of like it, but lesser instead. I personally struggle with all these things. But be specific. However you believe that affirmations and vision boards and positive thinking actually work, whether you believe that they’re somehow “magical” and make things happen, or you think it helps us set in motion the actions to achieve the things we want (I think it’s mostly the latter and a little of the former personally), the thing is, IT WORKS. So be specific. Believe. And then take action towards your goals.

One step at a time. Every day you get a little closer. 

Have you ever made a vision board before? And did you get the things you wanted?

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Life Lessons Learned From Weightlifting

My favourite is that all things are possible. Yes, that is what weightlifting has taught me. Things you may think are unimaginable now, are in fact, possible.

I am a dreamer and a die-hard romantic. Some will say I have my head in the clouds (or shoved somewhere else!), but I say, those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. That’s a Roald Dahl-ism for you. What does this have to do with weightlifting? Well, I also used to be an extremely negative person. I have done a lot of work on myself over the years to change that mindset and change how I think about myself and the world. Weightlifting has been intrinsic to that.

I started lifting with my ex-husband who was a US Marine, on a military base in Southern Maryland. It was 2002. Before that I had done random BodyPump classes and lots and lots of cardio. As much as I could stand, really! I just didn’t know any better. Lifting with my ex-husband was the turning point. The gym on base was easily 95% male and I used to just follow him around the weight room like a scared little mouse, and he would hand me weights and say “do this!” and I would do it, sometimes asking “whats this for?”… truthfully we used to squabble a lot because i thought he made me do too much upperbody, hehe. I just wanted to “tone up” my legs! We did lots of isolation work and machines and we did squats on the Smith Machine. Which I absolutely do not recommend at all. But again, it’s a progression and a learning process and neither one of us knew any better back then. He’s the one that put the idea in my head in those very first lifting sessions that I needed to be able to squat my bodyweight at a bare minimum. And I would like to thank him for that! So that was always a clear goal for me from day dot. Squatting my own body weight seemed like a lot, but I figured if that was just considered “good” and not “awesome”, I could probably get there with a bit of work.

I very clearly remember ending a lifting session with him with tons of dumb bells strewn all over the floor. We had to pick them up, which we did. The ones left over were his “big” ones. He would do overhead presses with 40lbs dumb bells (about 20kg), he asked me if that was too big for me to help put back in the rack. I decided to give it a go.

I could barely pick the damn thing up with both hands! My back was all bent out of shape trying to haul this thing to the rack and there was no way in hell I could get it high enough to actually stick in the rack! My husband came to save me and took it off my hands and re-racked it.

In my head, since that day, 40lbs was the beginning of the “off-limits” dumb bells. In the States anyway, everything smaller than 40lbs is also physically a lot smaller. The 40-pounders are the first set of “really big” heavy weights. The ones that for a long time I just thought I would never, ever have a use for. Not for upperbody work, anyway. The ones that are exclusively the domain of the boys.

Fast forward to 2009 and I have been divorced for 2 years and lifting on my own for 5, working as a personal trainer full time in San Francisco for about a year and a half. I discovered lifting purely for strength in 2007 and I LOVED IT! I read the training log of an IFBB Pro, and saw a video where she did dumb bell chest presses with 80lb in each hand. Yes, I fully understood that this woman was almost certainly using male hormones which will greatly increase your strength, but it still blew my mind. It never occurred to me that anything like that was even possible. I decided to focus on my chest presses to see what I could do.

I was so impressed with myself when I graduated to the 30lb dumb bells. I almost never even saw other girls using 15’s. Even more ecstatic when I got to the 35’s. I stayed with those for a long, long time, the barrier in my mind unquestioned. When I got to 10 reps and realized I could definitely do one or two more… I realized there was nowhere to go but the big, bad, manly 40’s!!!

One dude in the gym that day stopped dead in his tracks to see what the hell I was gonna do with those 40’s (because girls don’t use 40’s for anything! duh!) and when he saw me press them, he looked stone-cold flabbergasted. One of the regulars applauded me and called me a bad ass. I felt like a bad ass! I felt indescribably fucking awesome! To this day, definitely one of my favourite and most profound moments in the gym, ever.

Those same weights where once had almost pinned me to the floor in an upside down U-shape… I was gonna press one in each hand, for at least 5 or 6 reps! I cannot emphasise enough how much, for so many years, the 40lbs dumb bells were a marker of my physical limits for me. This was a really big deal.

And that my friends is just the beginning of how weightlifting proved to me that anything is possible.

I love how when you learn a new movement, sometimes you can’t even remotely do it correctly, and then you slowly coax your body into optimal flexibility and motor control until you can execute it with competence, and hey, maybe even textbook precision. This process can take as little as a week, or maybe it takes many months or even years. But you chip away at it, with discipline and consistency and passion then, over time, you get there and you can do this cool feat of physical excellence that once upon a time WAS impossible for you.

And you’re fundamentally BETTER for it. Your body is stronger, you’re more controlled, co-ordinated, you’re more flexible, focused. There is a beautiful zen to weightlifting that I have not found anywhere else. It feels powerful and peaceful all at once.

The weights also never lie to you. You can either lift them, or you cannot. The deadlift is probably the best example of this, because you cannot fake it in any way. You either got the bar off the floor that day, or you did not. No bullshit. I love it. .

I love working on a lift over many, many months and some days, the only progress you can count is just ONE EXTRA REP in the entire set for that week, or maybe you didn’t progress at all and you had a really shit session and only did the same or LESS than what you managed last week, and you gotta suck it up and eat humble pie and kick rocks til next week… and you persevere. You come back the next week, humbled, but ready to give it another go. weightlifting also teaches you to think outside the box. Because what serious weightlifter hasn’t hit a plateau at some point when following a tried and true program and had to think of a new plan of action, or maybe even take the weight back down for a week or two, work in a different rep range, choose a different strategy and bounce back? Yep, there’s that humble pie again. It’s character building. It’s taught me to be methodical. It’s taught me to try, try and try again. It’s taught me not to care what other people think. I don’t give a flying fuck if you don’t know what I’m doing or you think I don’t know what I’m doing. I certainly do know what I’m doing, and even if I’m lam at it today, I’ll be awesome at it tomorrow! And I definitely don’t give two shits if you think it’s “weird” that a girl lifts or cares about her strength. I care so little that I am not even going to formulate a response to it. Hows that?

Weightlifting has taught me all the best lessons I’ve learnt in life. It certainly isn’t just picking up heavy things, putting them down and counting the reps. Nope. No. Not at all.

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TRUTH: you honour yourself with a healthy diet and daily exercise.

Have you ever thought about what it means to eat a diet of junk food and live a sedentary life,  when you know that fatty processed foods are bad for you and sitting around on your arse is doing you no favours?

It means you neither value, nor respect yourself. 

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I’m a  big believer in the saying “actions speak louder than words” and when you are engaging in behaviour you know to be bad for you, possibly with immediate negative outcomes and maybe you even complain regularly that you’d like to lose weight or “get healthy”, but you never really make a serious attempt at doing so…

(my definition of a “serious attempt” is striving to eat better and workout regularly – no shortcuts, wacky diet pills, crazy protocols, GTFOH with that shit)

That means you a) don’t think you’re worth effort b) don’t love and respect yourself enough to make a change.

You may say otherwise, but I’m a big believer in looking at what people do, not what they say. Mind you, this post isn’t about being “skinny” or “sexy”, or “hot”. It’s about eating better and moving more to achieve at least good, if not optimal health.

Think about somebody you love the most in the world. Maybe it’s your spouse, maybe your child, a sibling, best friend… whoever that person is to you, picture them in your mind. Now imagine that they were sick and only you could help them. And the only way you could help them was to eat better and exercise, and in this hypothetical world, the benefits would magically transfer to them and heal them.

Do you think you would hesitate for a second or begrudge them ONE healthy meal or exercise session if it meant that you could help them be healthy and the best that they can be?

Not for a second!

If you love someone, it would be NOTHING to do so! You would surely be honoured to do all that you can to give them the gifts of good health and wellness.

Why isn’t it the same when it comes to yourself? Why aren’t YOU that important to YOU?

As we know, the situation described above is completely hypothetical. No one can do your exercise for you or change your diet for the better but you.

All the power lies with you.

So if you love yourself, you’ll make a change.

If you love those around you, you will take care of yourself so that you can be around to love and care for them.

If you respect yourself, you’ll take the time to do the things that will help you feel better, move better, function better in every possible way

Remember, the first step may just be taking a 20 minute walk every day. You don’t have to eat like a bird and you don’t have to train like a fiend, but you do need to DO SOMETHING.

You can’t love anyone else unless you love yourself first. It all starts with you.

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My Love/Hate Relationship With Running

OK, OK… it’s been more of a just hate-hate relationship. But I do it anyway and… *whispers*… sometimes I even like it!

Do you have to run to be fit? No.

You can jump rope for cardio, you can ride a bike, you can rollerblade, you can do metcons, you can walk. You don’t have to run if you really don’t want to. Running is not the holy grail of fitness like some people make it out to be.

Then why do I run? Well, endurance running or even jogging, has been a mental and physical challenge for me of epic proprortions for me throughout my life. I would call it a battle. I have battled with running all my life.  And when I wage a battle, I want to win.

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I think it’s important to push the boundaries of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in as many ways as possible and practicable. I always feel like jogging or running kicks my butt. Even now when I feel that I’m reasonably good at it, I’m always puffed out and sweating heavily at the end. That feels good. I like that feeling. That feeling makes me feel alive!

In addition to that, every successful running session I complete is a win against a personal childhood bogeyman of sorts, and you just can’t beat that for making you feel great, each and every time.

As a child, I was diagnosed with asthma and given a puffer. Then the puffer was mysteriously taken away, but I always struggled with any running based activity. I developed a huge aversion to doing it – it was associated with extreme physical struggle, shame, embarrassment. The teachers would always make us run around the school and I would always fall behnd and my lungs would burn and I’d get an unbearable stitch and struggle to catch my breath and inevitably have to stop and… I’d be last again. I grew up thinking it was just something I couldn’t do. I grew up thinking I wasn’t sporty, that I was terrible at sport. Pretty much everyone I know these days would be astonished to hear anything like that being said about me, because its so contradictory to everything I am and everything I’m about, but yes. I really believed that and so did most people around me, until I got to high school and dabbled in soccer and basketball… and found I was actually REALLY GOOD at sport. I was a natural at both those sports and always one of the most valuable players on any team I played with.

FML Running! ARGH!

But I still hated running if it wasn’t up and down the soccer field or basketball court, and I did realise at this point it was more of a mental block than a real physical incapability. Or so I thought. I just didn’t know what to do about it, because every time I tried to “just run”, my lungs would burn, I would huff and puff, my legs felt like lead and sooner or later, I would have to stop, no matter how “determined” I was to just push through. I never lasted more than a few minutes at best. It was disheartening, to say the least.

Over the years, I tried taking up running again and again. My ex-husband tried to get me to run with him. His approach was to get all Marine Corp drill instructor on me, which I would resent since it lacked any finesse and did not account for the fact that it was really actually the hardest possible physical activity for me. I really was trying my hardest AND… I didn’t give a flying fuck about being as tough as a Marine. So yeah, FAIL. I tried following the Couch to 5k a few times and while I DID get to a 5k pace within a 30 minute run time (an arbitrary personal goal), every single minute, no… second was HARD and a test of mental and physical grit… and running never really got any easier on that program for me, I was just determined to do the damn thing no matter what – which is’t always the smartest or most awesome or admirable thing, regardless of what many fitness-y douches and pseudo-experts  will try to tell you. Once I got to my 30 minutes of solid, torturous running… I always dropped the program like a hot potato. I can’t impress upon you enough how every second totally SUCKED and physically hurt, and by this time I was reasonably fit and quite used to pushing through things I may not have been very good at initially, but just building my skills and focusing and following a program and get steadily better. I did get steadily better at running, but my progress was slower than outlined and while my endurance improved, every second was still a physical ordeal. You just can’t make yourself continue with something that feels that awful, and in my opinion, if it feels that bad something is wrong and you shouldn’t force it. I am a huge advocate of listening to your body. Always listen to your body.

The real turning point for me was about two years ago when I adopted a gluten-free diet. I was working as a personal trainer in New York City and I got another bug up my ass about being more “well-rounded” in my fitness. I mean, I always lift. Never in my life am I ever not lifting or needing to be motivated to move some heavy ass weights around. Sometimes I might be taking  dance or gymnastics classes, or martial arts classes… but I’m always, always, always lifting weights. So, at this time in 2011, I decided I should be more well-rounded and I somehow decided that meant I was gonna take another stab at “that damn running thing” and this time, I wasn’t going to stop doing it when I got to 30 minutes. I was gonna grit my teeth and go to my happy place and think happy thoughts while I ran week in and week out. Because I needed to be well-rounded and I hated that running was still this bogey-man activity for me. Maybe this time it would be different. Maybe I was just being a whiney bitch before? These are the things I was thinking. I mean, sure there is a lot of ego there too, I just really hate admitting that there is something I’m not god at or cut out for and that maybe I just can’t do it, especially anything physical. In my mind I need to be good at everything and tough enough for anything. It’s a conceit, certainly, but it makes me tenacious too. It’s a mentality that’s helped keep me fit and ever fitter and stronger, year after year.

To my surprise, this time, running, my deep-seated childhood nemesis and bogey-man of all bogey-men… was not that bad. Not even from the first run. I mean, sure, you take up a physical activity that you don’t normally do and its not a piece of cake. You aren’t adapted to it, it’s going to take an effort, but this wasn’t the lung burning, huffing puffing torture that I remembered from my previous attempts at making running a part of my routine. It took a little effort to continue and wasn’t easy, but it didn’t feel terrible like it had in the past. I got to 30 minutes within about 2 weeks instead of 6 – 8 weeks like I had in the past. I was astounded… and pleased. I even kind of liked some of my runs. It was a revelation.

What I believe was the catalyst for the big change in my running abilities was my now gluten-free diet. It’s one of the many profound and fundamental changes i’ve noticed in the way my body works and just one of the break-throughs I’ve made since eliminating wheat from my diet. I believe it’s probably connected with inflammation somehow inhibiting lung capacity, but of course, it’s hard to tell and hard to prove exactly what and how going gluten-free has helped my body to perform better. I’m working on something I’m calling My Gluten-Free Manifesto that I plan to publish on the site in a few weeks. Going gluten-free has been an enormous breakthrough for me in numerous ways.

How I Think I Look When I RunAnd I’ve been running ever since. Happily ever after!

I don’t love it. I love lifting. I love plyometrics. I don’t love running. But sometimes I really enjoy my runs.I find I strangely love running in humidity and I love running up hill – those have usually been my most memorable runs. I’ve always loved sprinting, whether on a track, up a hill or on a treadmill. No ones ever had to twist my arm to get some interval training or HIIT done.

I always get a lot of satisfaction out of completing a run because it was such an achilles heel for me pretty much my entire life – and such a source of embarrassment in childhood, always being puffed out first, always with a painful stitch and searing lungs – and now suddenly, it isn’t hard anymore and I didn’t give up and I conquered it. There is a lot of satisfaction in that.

So now that I run once or twice a week, do I think everyone should run? Nah. Do it if you like it. Do it if you don’t like it, but you get a kick out of it in some way, because you like the way it makes you feel, because you want to build your cardiovascular abilities, because you don’t need anything but your running shoes to get out there and get something physical done and work up a sweat for a few k’s. But this is my running story and this is why this die hard weightlifter does a steady state run once or twice a week.

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Pushing Through The Not-So-Stellar Days

No one is a rock star every day in the gym.

Sometimes, we’re weak that day and we miss lifts.

Sometimes, we didn’t sleep well or we had a stressful, tiring day outside of the gym and it makes it hard to do what we set out to do inside the gym.

Sometimes, there’s a twit doing his 8th set of curls in the squat rack and you are frustrated with waiting and your motivation is slipping away by the minute.

It could be any other number of things, really.

First, have you been training hard for more than 4 weeks? I define hard training as training with maximum intensity, 5 – 7 days a week for more than 4 weeks. If you have been doing so for more than 6 weeks, you should absolutely schedule a deload week. A deload week is one where you scale it all back to give your body adequate rest and recovery. You can’t just beat yourself to a pulp week in and week out and expect good results and endless progress and gains. It doesn’t work that way.

So if you’ve earned a rest, take it!

Second, if deloading does’t apply to you, you have to re-assess. Are you being too hard on yourself? Are you really trying your best? Could it be that today is a day you do exercises or work on body parts that you don’t like training? Be honest with yourself. No, really. If it’s one or both of the latter two, suck it up buttercup!!! We all have exercises we might dislike, or that we might feel that we aren’t good at, but that just means that you have to do them more.

Get out of your comfort zone. Get really good at the things you might do poorly now.

When I first started working out regularly (about 10 years ago!), I hated doing any upper body work. I didn’t dislike the way my upperbody looked, so to my infantile training mind of the time, that meant I didn’t need to do anything. Sometimes I did lat pulldowns, and I liked tricep exercises, but anything involving a curl or an overhead press felt like hell to me! Even with the lightest weights.

Once I realised how important it was to train your body evenly (should be a blog post of its own), my answer to push through all these exercises I truly hated was to tell myself I loved them and I was great at them.

Sounds wanky, but guess what? It’s not wanky at all. It works. If you repeatedly tell yourself something, you start to believe it and it sort of comes true. These days, I still hate bicep curls, but I LOVE any and all kinds of overhead pressing. Dumb bells, barbells, push presses, strict military presses, snatches and thrusters and everything in between. My bicep curl is not too shabby either, for a chick that never “trains”  biceps, haha!

So if your workout is sucking because your attitude sucks, adjust your attitude. Tell yourself you are going to do it and you’re going to love it and you’re great at it. Greatness lies outside the borders of your comfort zone and the best bodies and the greatest athletes are built with mental discipline.

And sometimes we just have to fake it til we make it.

Third, sometimes shit happens and you have a shitty workout. There could be a number of reasons for it or no reason at all. Push through it as best you can, get some sleep and get in the gym the next day and hit it hard. Being resilient also means taking the bad days in your stride, not beating yourself up too much or over analyzing (paralyzing!) yourself. So maybe this workout sucked, but in the grand scheme of things you’re killing it. And lapping everyone on the couch. Remember that!

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Why Would I Want To Be Strong?

Why shouldn’t you be strong?!!

I am always baffled by this statement from female trainees. It’s usually accompanied by a perturbed expression, and the tone is rather rhetorical, as if I couldn’t possibly have a worthwhile answer.

Well, the answer is why shouldn’t you be strong?

Why should you be LESS physical capable than what is possible? Why should being weaker, inferior, half assed, LESSER be what you think you should be?

A lot of women are brainwashed into believing that being strong means you’re going to look big and “bulky”, as if being strong is unfeminine, undesirable and will make you “gross” in some intangible, but very fatalistic  way. That being strong is manly and therefore you will be manly if you’re strong. Who said being strong and AWESOME is only for men? Who made up that rule? Fuck that rule!  

Some of the most beautiful and downright sexy women I know are also the STRONGEST women I know. They have firm toned legs, bouncy rounded asses, lean tiny waists accentuated by rounded shoulders, broad lats and a dancer’s perfect posture.

BEING STRONG IS HOT!

ImageNathalia Melo, current Miss Bikini Olympia… you can’t get a body like this without being STRONG and athletic.

The best thing about being strong is how easy it makes everything that is physical. You never need help doing anything. You’re never tired walking up the stairs. You run faster. Your body is more efficient. Every day tasks are effortless. You never have lower back pain. You can carry all the groceries from the boot of the car in one go. While all your friends moan about how they’re really feeling their encroaching age, you think to yourself, “I feel better than I ever have” and “I feel better and better with every year”… don’t get older, get stronger, get better!

Being strong is a beautiful thing, inside and out.

Get it, girls!

ImageMarilyn Monroe lifts weights!