The Unsexy Truth About Dieting

Why do I say that moderation is the best way to eat, the best way to lose excess fat?

It might seem intuitively wrong to say that, right? Because we all know that restrictive diets will cause you to lose weight. I know someone right now that has lost 26 pounds on his own prescription of a vegan diet with zero to little protein.

Funny enough, though, I have never met a person that can restrictively eat and remove entire food groups from their diets for years on end. And the thing is? Most of us don’t want to be at a healthy weight for a little while. We want to be at a healthy weight for a lifetime.

green goddess

Moderation is honestly the only thing we as humans will actually do for a lifetime.

Because you will slip-up on that plan. You will eat more carbs than your low carb plan “allows” you to eat. My friend above will likely be noshing on steak and pizza before April Fools Day.

But besides dealing with the physical act of what binging can do to you, the problem becomes: how do you handle it when you go off of the “program”?

For most people what happens is that they enter a cycle of self-loathing. It begins with “I was so bad.” Then a shame cycle turns into the What-The-Hell Effect. Or, as I like to call it, the “I might as well finish the whole box…” effect.

jenny cooks lamb

Here’s how a well-adjusted eater handles that instead:

*Understands that restriction breeds cravings. We want what we can’t have.

*Practices self-compassion when they eat something less than healthy or overeats. They know this one food, this one meal, this one slip-up doesn’t mean anything about who they are as a person.

*Understands that a restrictive diet is merely an experiment and that there is no holy grail program of healthy eating (trust me, I would have found it, if there was!).

*Understands that what you eat doesn’t have any moral bearing on who you are a human being. You’re not bad for eating a bowl of ice cream. You aren’t awful because you perceive yourself to have less will-power

Now, if you feel like you’ve tried moderation and it didn’t work, there are reasons for that too. Moderation takes work to develop how that looks for you:  for example, you still can’t overeat, just because you’re not following a strict plan! Really, it all comes down to laying down a base of good habits. Habits are the key because they become a part of “I don’t have think about this, I just do it” spot in our brain. It takes less effort to make healthy choices, when it’s simply a part of what you do every day. The more we have to fret over a choice, the more likely we are to choose the one we are most familiar and comfortable with.

protein pancakes

For example, I don’t have to think about washing my hair so much — I can just do it because I’ve done it thousands of times before. This is how fit and healthy people are about all the aspects of their fitness and eating lives. Trust me. If you’ve ever wondered how some people have all the luck and being fit just comes so easy to them? Well, firstly, you are right:  it does come easier to them. But it’s not because they are better than you, but because they’ve made it a habit.

The good news is that literally anyone can re-frame things in their life to make healthier choices the go-to, the obvious, the more comfortable choice. It won’t happen overnight, but trust me, it will happen. And I say this as someone that thought plain yogurt was “weird” 10 years ago to not being able to leave Whole Foods without a pint of the stuff these days– I can safely say that your tastes, your preferences? They aren’t as set in stone as you might think. You’re malleable. It might take you hundreds of baby steps, with 50 steps back every month…but it will happen!

 

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Is Doing More, Better? The Success Trap.

As you might know I recently started grad school for clinical psychology. I made the decision last Fall and started dialing down my business duties with BCSF slowly until by the time December rolled around, I was finished with my biz duties and just teaching classes, which was the goal.

Basically, I’d pared down my schedule and the semester didn’t start until January 25th. Which in the end, meant I had several work weeks where after training between 10 and 18 hours of clients, I was left with a wee bit of spare time on my hands.

This is not a state of being that I have much experience with as an adult. The last time I had this much freedom in my day was when I moved to San Francisco 12 years ago and was looking for jobs. At the time of my departure, I’d been running BCSF for nearly 10 years. To say this was a new reality is undoubtedly an understatement.

I’m not someone that gets bored easily. My house is filled with books and magazines. I have plenty of ways to watch movies. I like to workout and have a home gym in my garage! I have a dog that loves to hit the dog park. I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen!

books

And I knew that I should value this time, this precious break between running an entire company and starting grad school. This punctuation in time that I’d probably look back on fondly and with jealousy once the midterms and papers were in full swing.

Yet, when I went to take a nap one day, I felt guilty. Like I should be doing something. I questioned whether I was being a productive member of society. I wondered whether a truly successful adult can justify taking a nap every day.

Wait, whaaaat? I immediately had a little chat with myself, because as someone that promotes self-care like no one’s business, I was a little frustrated that I was feeling this way. It made me confront the topic:  Is doing more better? Is busier better? Is having a fully stacked schedule, better?

I know in my heart of hearts that the answer is, no.

Why do we feel this way, though? Well, it’s my opinion (and research has shown this, too) that we equate success with being busy.

yosemiiiiiiittteee

But here’s why it’s bad for us to perpetuate this myth on a practical level:

Cortisol Levels

You’ve likely heard that cortisol is the “stress” hormone. Which it is. It’s attached to our fight or flight response and would be the first thing to rise up should a lion come bounding your way. It’s super useful for that kind of fight, but in our modern times we our stressors are different. It’s the to-do list, the crazy boss, ensuring our kids are getting the best. So many of us have elevated cortisol levels which is bad because it also eats away at some of our feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine. Translation? If you’re highly stressed all the time, the chances that you are happy also, are not so good.

Focus:  Multitasking is bad for our brains. 

Doing too many things at once is something that many of us pride ourselves on. I know I’ve been there! Ohhh, I can do this and that and that other thing. But we’re not going to do them as well, typically, and it trains our brains to work in a way that is well, a bit mindless.

flowers

Here’s the thing:  life is meant for enjoying and not scraping by. We can’t escape our lives. We can’t eschew our responsibilities — I mean, is your boss going to really care about your cortisol levels when they ask you to cover for your colleague’s vacation? Probably not. But here are a few things you can do, even when you’re busier than you think you can handle:

  1. Practice Mindfulness. This is the one thing that researchers (even one of my new professors talked about this already in my neuro class!) The thing is, is that you can do this almost anytime, anywhere, because in reality it’s simply a way to slow down. To appreciate what is going on around you, to appreciate the sensations of what you’re doing in the moment — such as taking time to feel the bristles against your teeth when you are brushing, thinking about each swipe as you wash dishes, etc.
  2. Turn Down The Noise. When I’m feeling especially antsy and I am driving somewhere, I turn off the radio. Seriously. It helps! And when I’m reading, I try to turn off everything around me because I find I absorb things more — and as a grad student, I’m guessing I’ll be doing this more often.
  3. Laugh! If I’m feeling stressed and want to chill out, I put on Netflix and immediately head to Parks & Recreation. If I can’t do that, I head to Instagram and scroll through my favorite funny meme accounts. It’s simple, but helps.
  4. Mediate. It goes without saying, but just to say it anyway:  mediation is a kind of mindfulness.
  5. Exercise. ‘Nuff said? Okay, just in case you needed more evidence:  “…enriched environments and exercise have been shown to lead to increased density of synpatic connections, and especially to an increased number of neurons and actual volume of the hippocampus a region important for learning and memory.” Translation:  exercise leads to new pathways being built in your brain. This is good for you. And while intense exercise does lead to cortisol being released — because exercise is an inherent “stress” on the body, in the longterm exercise will help regulate cortisol in your body. There is something to be said in this regard, though, for not having all your exercise sessions be 100% balls to the walls, to take rest days and to consider adding some cardio and yoga to your routine if you are struggling with stress.

The moral of this story is that taking care of yourself is important. And sometimes taking care of yourself means saying no to doing more. It means taking some time every day to be you.

And as pampered, privileged and first-world as it sounds, the catch is, is that it actually helps you function better, keeps not only your body healthy, but your brain, too. And I’m gonna bet, you’ll actually do your jobs better when your feeling at the top of your game.

 

Own Your Shit

Yesterday one of my class members thanked me for the great workout that burned over 400 calories (she wears a heart rate monitor).

“Well, you did all the work, I just told you what to do.”

“But telling us what to do is more than half the battle!”

Yes, I think I’m a good coach, that I plan an excellent workout and, of course, I am very grateful to be thanked for my efforts. That certainly feels good. But their workout is not about me. It’s their time. I think it’s important to be aware that I am a facilitator for my clients.

Because I will not always be there for them. Life situations, jobs, schedules — these things all change.

get unstuck cat image

What doesn’t change is knowing that you are in charge of you, your life, your body. You are in charge of choosing how and if you will exercise.

And if I won’t always have my clients in my stead, I want to give them the tools for keeping up their exercise routine for life. Those tools aren’t simply how to swing a kettlebell, but knowing that they can.

That is all to say — intrinsic motivation is what will serve us in the end. Doing something “for” someone else is a fleeting kind of motivation:  getting in shape for events, “looking good naked” so that someone will find us sexy? These things won’t get us unto the gym for years to come — for now, maybe, yes. But not forever.

And the thing about giving someone else credit for your workout? That fuels a pipeline of not giving YOURSELF CREDIT. You need to give yourself credit for what you are doing. You need to acknowledge that you showed up. You hauled your ass up and down the stairs, you picked up the kettlebells and your coach simply told you how to do it and gave you a pat on the back.

You’re doing it. Step up to the plate and own it.

2016 Give Me Your Magic

Being that it’s the New Year, I’ve done my fair share of reflecting on the past year and looking towards the future year. As I’ve been thinking about where I am, been and where I want to go, two words that keep coming up for me are adventure and magic.

I’ve realized they are each in their own way, core, guiding values for me. That is, it’s important for me to live life in a way that puts these values as a priority.

For me I practice adventure and magic in these ways:

TRAVEL: To see the world is an important way that I experience the world — to be humbled, to be charmed, to have my horizons broadened both literally and figuratively, to try new things, to meet new people — this is the ultimate adventure in my book, which so often leads to **magic**.

TALK TO STRANGERS: Talking to people when I’m out and about — you find out the most amazing things about people don’t you? I’m not perfect with this, but I try. And being that I’m a natural introvert, for me, trying is part of the way I have an adventure.

TRY NEW FOODS & THINGS: This is something I naturally do and want to do. I will try weird things on a menu, I will try combinations in my kitchen, even if they sound weird to others, if I’m intrigued, I go for it. One example:  brown rice noodles + lemon juice + 1 canof Italian tuna in olive oil drained + mayo + salt + parsley. Now, this isn’t the weirdest combo:  it has it’s roots in Italian cooking, for sure. But you have to admit it’s a little weird — but I made it one evening out of desperation and I love it. It was a magical little culinary adventure! And now it’s one of my favorite go-to dishes on a busy night when I want something relatively healthy and easy-peasy.

Auntie Mame

TRY NEW MOVEMENT: I try new exercises all the time. Just ask my clients that are like “UGH, what’s this new one she’s having us do today?!”. I like to move my kettlbells and weights in new ways, move my body in new ways. It’s exciting to see what it can do! And this upcoming weekend I am going to try snow-shoeing! Wee! To me, new movement, it’s always an adventure. Even if it means falling on my butt. Which I am sure I will do this weekend.

LAUGH: To me, this is a kind of everyday magic. The kind of magic that you can experience anywhere, anytime. No matter how small, how big, it’s special and worth noting in my opinion.

LOVE. Sometimes it’s easy to go along in life and just ho-hum along, but when you stop to realize how much love is in your life, how many people care for you and will help you out? That is a kind of magic that I never want to end.

Why is this relevant? Well, I think it’s hard to feel magic and to be adventurous when you’re not feeling healthy. It’s hard to run, it’s hard to breathe, it’s hard to feel the kind of peace that allows you to feel magic or try new things, when things are weighing you down (both physically and metaphorically).

I have never been healthier in my life or happier than I have been in the last few years. And I can safely say that I’ve had way more adventures and felt an extraordinary amount of magic, too. It’s hard to not see them as intrinsically connected.

I believe that magic is mostly a state of mind, though. It means you are able to see the world through a positive lens. You’re able to see what’s special about people. You’re able to see the little things in life that make this journey that much more special.

So, are you with me? Let’s make 2016 a year of magic and adventure!

 

 

I Wish I Could Do That!

“I’m not the kind of person that works out.”

This is a thought I had in college and my early 20s.

“I wish I could do that!”

This was said to me when I was doing a workout last year on Thanksgiving morning.

It *really* struck me. The person that said this to me was in reality no different than myself. She had time, access to fitness equipment, and no children. A lot like myself.

For a moment I felt a slight sense of shame — was it bad that I was choosing to spend some time working out on the morning of a holiday instead of leaving early to spend more time with family? was it selfish? was it vain?

Given I’ve been working on my mindset practice for quite some time, I knew how to turn my shame triggering thoughts around. Because I exercise for so many reasons, I knew that I would not only physically feel better going into a huge Thanksgiving meal, but that I would calm any anxiety I had (family, traffic, cooking, etc.).

Here’s the thing: you get to decide what kind of person you are.

You get to decide to exercise. “I wish I could do that.” Is language that takes the power away from you. Linguistically, you are saying that you have no choice in the matter.

But the beauty of being an adult living in the free world? We choose our path.

There is not one kind of person that works out. There are people that run, people that lift, people that swing kettlebells, people that go to spin classes, people that go to yoga, people that do pilates, people that run 100 miles in the desert, there are people that ride bikes, people that hike mountains

Exercise is simply movement. The human body is, in fact, designed to move. For realsies. There is no one kind of person is allowed the privilege of being the “KIND OF PERSON THAT EXERCISES”.

You ARE that kind of person.

You ARE the kind of person that chooses to do something you love.

You ARE the kind of person that can decide to be joyful in your movement.

You CHOOSE to be that kind of person.

You choose to be this kind of person by the everyday small choices that you make. You choose to be this kind of person by developing habits. The difference between myself and the person who made the comments to me?

  • I wake up early and have a structured sleep schedule that I prioritize.
  • I don’t negotiate with myself about exercise, I simply do it.
  • I have found movement that invigorates my soul.

In life, we can be “victims” of circumstance or revel in the joy that is the wide open path of choice.

What do you choose for today? Remember, it’s the small choices that add up to something amazing.

The Scale is Not Your Enemy.

Trigger Warning:  If you have struggled with eating disorders this post may not be for you.

For all my teens and most of my 20s I thought bathroom scales were for other people.  I owned one in my early 20s when I first started exercising and used it to track my weight loss, loosely. And then I was depressed, lost my commitment to fitness and healthy eating and I started to gain weight again.

I didn’t use scales when I saw them and I looked away when I  was weighed at the doctor. I didn’t want to know how much I weighed. If I knew the truth, that meant something. It meant that I couldn’t hide, it meant that the truth was out there. It meant that I was a failure, it meant that I was “too big”. It was proof that I wasn’t normal, that I was different than my friends and that number on the scale was proof. I knew that I was different than most of my female friends already (when you’re nearly six feet tall, the jig is basically up), but the number on a scale was solid, factual evidence that I was different in a way that was bad.

I didn’t want to face all of those meanings. When you place that much negative importance on something, who would want to face it?

I remember talking to my best friend back in the thick of my war with the scale in my mid 20s and she mentioned that she weighed herself daily when she was trying to lose weight because it held her accountable. It motivated her to keep going. As she talked, I remember my stomach sinking a little bit at just the idea of it it:  it sounded terrifying. I was sure that if I did that, I wouldn’t be able to think about anything else during a day if it started with the anxiety of weighing myself. Looking back at my medical chart from the period we had this conversation I weighed in the mid 170s. Not much more than I weigh now.

A few years back I’d had a bit of weight gain. I could tell by how my clothes fit. I was working out pretty vigorously on my own and teaching BCSF, so I felt incredibly frustrated by this. I tapped into a dietician that I’ve known for years. I went into her office for some tests. And now she knew my weight. And we talked about it. It was out in the open. My palms were sweaty, and I felt ashamed. I should know better…right? I’m a trainer — I should be able to have a handle on this. Right?!

She calculated a few things for me and I learned some useful things, like how my resting metabolic rate was substantially higher than it would be based on norms, because of my high amount of lean muscle mass (a win!). She calculated my caloric needs. She offered to check in with me at a few points over the next few months to see how I was doing.

She knew my truth.

And suddenly I found myself weighing myself every other day. I still ate things I wanted. And the weight came off.

That was 3 years ago or so. And these days I still weigh myself a few times each week. And it doesn’t ruin my day.

A lot of my colleagues out there are teaching the world that the scale doesn’t mean anything, don’t equate yourself to a number. That it doesn’t have anything to do with your self-worth and that you don’t even need to weight yourself. They are all 100% correct. These are the women that I resonate with the most.

But, I’m here to offer another perspective. Burying your head in the sand, like I did, is also not a way to deal with this. Because isn’t that just another way to give the scale more power? To completely avoid something because you’re afraid of it? I just don’t think that’s the answer for many of us.

thescale

{my scale. see, it’s not scary! it’s pretty darn silly, if you think about it!}

I can weigh myself now, often, because I have done exactly as my colleagues have suggested — I’ve detached emotion from the scale. Now, when the number has gone up, I think about what I’ve done. Have I been eating more than usual? Have I been eating a ton of sodium? Did I have too much alcohol?

The scale is a tool. It’s one way to measure progress. It’s one method to keep on top of your health.  I think a few things contributed to my ability to change how I feel about the truth.

1. I Talked About It. Someone knew my truth. The number was out there and it was discussed. It was freeing, I realized.

2. Exposure. The more I started weighing myself, the less scary it became. It was one of my many things I did to take care of myself, like brushing my teeth.

3. Performance Gains. I was motivated by my increase in performance that I got from losing excess body fat.

4. Zero Deprivation. I was not depriving myself when I was losing weight. I didn’t see the scale as a symbol of unhappiness as I’d done in the past because it wasn’t a source of frustration.

5. It’s a Tool. Accepting the scale as a tool, as an indicator of how I’m doing on a purely scientific-type way is the ultimate freeing force in this for me. I’m not a terrible person if I eat Pho one night and then see a 2-pound weight “gain” the next day. I simply realize that Pho has an insane amount of sodium in it and that likely I am just seeing water weight. I’ve actually gotten to the point where this kind of thing amuses me.

6. Self-Worth & Confidence. My teens and 20s were a struggle, so it’s not a surprise to me that something so simple as knowing my weight had the power to deflate me. Feel confident in my life overall, in myself in knowing I have a path that I am happy to be on, removes the power of 5 pounds, 10 pounds. Happiness is more important than a number on a scale and now I realize that.

flexpower

Does the scale scare you? Tell me your struggles. The truth is powerful when it’s spoken out loud. We are only scared of things if we let ourselves be scared. We do not need to let inanimate objects tell us our self-worth. We don’t need them to conflate success with a number. They are what they are. They are numbers. Your weight is no different than your blood pressure, your cholesterol, your glucose level. They shouldn’t be equated with self-worth, but they do matter to your overall health.

If the scale scares you because you’re afraid it means something about who you are. Stop. Breathe. It’s about your health. Not about who you are a human being. Please don’t believe for a moment that the scale measures your humanness. The scale is a measure that isn’t meaningless, but it also isn’t meaningful about who you are.

 

The Path to Badassery Starts Somewhere: Here.

Recently I was chatting with one of my new BootCamp clients and she joked about about how I must have been great at sports when I was a kid, etc. I giggled a little because no, I really was not! I was terrible! This was surprising for her and she said, “Well, it’s not like I could just decide one day to become a trainer!” Since, of course, one can’t shouldn’t just become a trainer overnight.

She’s right. It did take me time to get where I am. But my path wasn’t all that linear, clearcut or what you might think it would take to become someone that teaches fitness for a living.

I did participate in sports when I was a kid. A lot: basketball, softball, soccer, tennis, track and volleyball. But I never practiced outside of formal practices. I never got super invested in one sport. I just didn’t care enough in that way. I did care about showing up, though. I cared about being part of a team. I cared about having fun. And these are good lessons to learn as a kid, I think. It’s not always about being the best on the team. It’s about being a part of the team, right?

When I went off to college, I dabbled in a few things. I tried intramural rowing, which I loved and is probably the one sport I regret not taking further. My college boyfriend tried to take me on “runs”. Which…I thought were basically ways to punish me for being sassy. I went to the gym…a few times. I had my first experience with yoga via a quarter long class at the campus gym.

But I wasn’t consistent with anything. And I was about 25 pounds heavier than I am now.

I remember coming to San Francisco in 2004 and standing in front of my mirror in my Fell Street apartment and thinking to myself “I’m just not the kind of person that will ever be thin. I’m just this way. I’m not someone that can get into shape.”

Xmas party 016

{about 2 months before I started @ BCSF}

And then suddenly my brother needed admin help with his burgeoning little fitness company, BootCampSF. And once I said “okay” he mentioned that his one requirement was that I actually participate in classes. To say my first day of BCSF (February 13, 2006) was hard would be an understatement. The entire first 6-week session was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done physically. I have clear memories of just standing in my shower after class and holding myself up against the wall with my hands to keep from falling over on my Bambi-eque legs! I remember moms in my class beating me at sprints and doing far more push-ups than I personally thought was necessary.

The program worked, though. It helped me to see how much I was capable of. It made me see that a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other plod, is more important than fancy footwork.

Nine years later (to the week!) here I am.  Someone that seems like someone that has been up to these tricks for a long time. And, well, I guess at this point I have. It’s been nine years. But, I would be lying if I said that I felt like I am the cultural ideal of what a trainer is “supposed to be”. I would be lying if I said that every day is easy, every rep is easy and that every workout is easy.

kbrackphoto1

I’m fitter than I was that day in 2006. In fact, I am probably the fittest I have ever been. But there are days where I still feel like the girl that looked in her mirror at 22 and thought she’d be chubby forever. At the beginning of this journey, I was someone that went to BootCamp only as my workout. And then I was someone that ran on my own. For fun! And then I was someone that went to the gym alone.

And then for awhile in 2009 I relapsed into a depression where I did barely any exercise. And once again it seemed like an impossibility to ever, ever, ever get back into shape. And I will never quite know how to express the kind of shame I felt when doing my job for BootCamp — a job where I talked to people on the phone and over email about our awesome workouts when I could barely get myself to do 20 minutes on the elliptical at the gym. It was a terrible hole. But after a summer in Europe and some serious soul-searching, I worked my way out of that terrible place and became someone that ran again. Someone that did a half-marathon. Someone that road biked. Someone that did duathlons. Someone that lifted weights at the gym. Someone that taught BootCamp classes.

You see, fitness is never a linear path. Yes, progressions and workout programs want you to believe it is. They will tell you that this muscle will grow, you will lose body fat, if you just follow this plan to the “t” and don’t have a day where you just need a slice of pizza…then, the plan will work.

They aren’t wrong. Plans work. We’ve done tons of research on exercise. We know this.

But you? You are a complex human just like me. And just like me, it’s a struggle. And, no, just getting started isn’t always the hardest part. Showing up to BCSF that first day in 2006 wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The hardest part is to be in the middle of the road and to realize you have to keep going. The hard part is realizing that one workout doesn’t save you, but many workouts in a row will save your life. The hardest part is that each day starts over and you are presented with all the same choices:  to burpee or sit on the couch? to have a donut or to have a kale salad?

The thing is, is that you have to keep going. You have to realize that a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other plod, is more important than fancy footwork.

But yes, maybe you need to get started with your fitness. Or re-started.

And that is all, just fine. And I have for you, a workout that will help you do just that. It will help re-hone your Inner Badass. Because you are a badass and maybe you just needed a reminder. The workout below is a place to start. Maybe you are thinking that it’s simple and silly and why are you even bothering to let some trainer on the internet tell you to do such simple exercises? Like, hello, Captain Obvious. But you know what? You have to start somewhere. You have to start with one day, one workout. And then get up and do another workout the next day. And if you have many days in a row  of these kinds of days I promise you will look at yourself in the mirror one day and think:   “I am a badass”.

And if that thought doesn’t come to you naturally, I’m gonna need you to say it out loud and fake it until you make it.

Because trust me, you are indeed a badass.

10 to 20 Plank-Up Push-Ups

20 Glute Bridges

10 Single Leg Bridges (each side)

30-Second Plank

10 to 20 Squats

Run 1 lap (.25 miles, standard city block or one lap around a track)

Complete 2 to 4 rounds of this routine.

Slow It Down

Slowing down the anxious brain when all it wants to do is buzz, buzz, buzz and remind you of the 1,456 things you need to do tomorrow is like telling someone to not think about white polar bears when you are putting a picture of white polar bears in front of their face.

This time last year when I was going through the thick of my break-up I remember being so preoccupied with my heartache that I was literally forced to slow down and focus on the minutiae of my everyday life or I honestly thought I might end up hurting myself. Suddenly everything I did was methodical — driving required me to look three times before switching lanes. Walking into my house from the car took twice as long because I was liable to forget a bag of groceries if I didn’t painstakingly look in the backseat twice.

By nature, I am a rusher. I think two steps ahead. And while this definitely has it’s benefits, this trait isn’t always an asset. Sometimes when I’m teaching BootCamp I have been known to nearly allow my class to skip the last set of three because I have already mentally moved on to their next set <– luckily, they often notice and end up begrudgingly do that third set due to their own honesty ;).

I have tried so many things to slow down my busy-body brain — yoga, meditation — and probably the only thing that has truly worked in my day to day life is the occasional walk with my dog or cooking (not every walk or cooking sesh mind you, most I am rushing to get through), but I will tell you that the slowing down I did because of my break-up was the most genuine slowing down I have ever experienced. It felt like my brain was moving through the world in a puddle of molasses. It was a plus-side to my break-up: it made me slow down to truly see what I was experiencing. To breathe for what felt the first time in two years. To move unencumbered. To truly slow down time and simply exist for awhile is a humbling and powerful experience. You see things that you don’t always see: I saw the people around me: the ones that said, “I will bring you frozen yogurt and wine.”. I saw my dog curling up next to my leg at night. I saw a birdhouse in a tree in front of my house that I had lived in for 2 years. I saw the start of a smile line on the left side of my mouth. At the Radiance Retreat a week after my break-up, I saw my future.

I thought of this time last weekend as I was finishing up in my garage gym after working on Bottoms-Up Presses. I have been working on these the past few months off and on to help increase my pressing ability which has felt more difficult than I’d like. The thing about Bottoms Up is that you have to slow *way* down. You have to go backwards in terms of weights — I started with 8 and 10 pound kettlebells last summer for this movement — weights I haven’t used in what feels like years. It’s an incredibly slow lift — you watch it go up, up and up and then you watch it come down, down, down, all while attempting to keep your dental work intact.

Post-workout, I thought about how good this was for me, this slowing of movement, this focusing, this concentration. I took the same thoughtfulness to my Turkish Get-Ups during this workout and considered how I was truly practicing something. I was making this a practice, not just a workout. I was practicing slowing down. I wasn’t thinking about anything else, but what I was doing. I was living in the moment.

And that is exactly the elusive thing that I strive for all the time — to be present. To focus on what I am doing and to be not be worried about the other things I need to, should be, could be doing. This is what I want for myself. This is what we all want, right?

If you’d like to attempt to experience this slowing down, even it’s just for 20-minutes, I have  a strength workout to help you focus on the present. To slow down.

slowitdownworkout

These are technique driven exercises that require patience, time and a little bit of skill. They will inherently slow you down. This workout written as above is not recommended for a beginner! Here’s how they look:

And from some others around the Interwebz:

1. Turkish Get-Ups

2. Bottoms-Up Press

3. Jumping Pull-Up with Negative (note that the demo begins at 1:40)

4. Box Squat without weight, and with a barbell

Even if you don’t try this workout, what is one thing you can do this week to slow down and focus on what you are doing? Here are 3 quick ideas:

1. Turn the radio off in your car while driving. Look around. Focus on the act of driving.

2. Take a walk without your cell phone or any music.

3. Whatever workout you do, do it without music.

Tell me how it goes!

Moving Forward: Using Your Past as a Tool

Yesterday I was looking through some files and came across a swathe of my old workout plans. These were plans for classes I taught about 4 years ago. Looking through them it was fun to see how I’ve evolved as a trainer. I laughed because I have exercises that were used over and over again and I don’t even know what the exercise IS! A froggie? What is a froggie? What is an Anna sit-up? And other questions, like why haven’t I used an Indian run in my class for what feels like 2 years?!

workouts Continue reading “Moving Forward: Using Your Past as a Tool”

Is Your House on Fire?

A few weeks ago I was at my dog park and it was later at night, around 9pm. I’d had a long day and felt my pup deserved an off-leash romp, even if that meant going in the dark. I didn’t expect anyone to be there, but an older woman was there with her two rascals. We started talking and before long I learned that as a young adult she had been a nun. It made sense, actually, she definitely had the demeanor of someone that had listened a lot in her life. The kind of listening were the words don’t matter so much as the space between the words.

Before you know it, she was telling me a story of someone she knew that was getting a divorce. She said that it seemed clear that the marriage had been over many years before, but that her “house wasn’t on fire yet” but that recently it had gone down quickly, all the way to the ground.

This concept of a house needing to be on fire before someone is motivated to truly change really struck me.

In terms of health and wellness many people don’t change until their house is on fire. They wait until their cholesterol is so high that it requires medication. They wait until they can’t climb a flight of stairs without losing their breath. They wait until the 5 pounds of holiday season weight has become 20 the next July.

And this makes sense. Life is busy, complicated and sometimes just getting by feels like you are winning at life. Treading water is better than drowning. I heard that and I feel that, too.

But we all know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Is there an area of your life that feels like that? Are you barely keeping your head above? Let’s focus on that and let’s try to change before your ship is totally sunk. Let’s stop before your fire begins — it’s so much easier to re-decorate a house than it is to re-build it, right?

If your area is fitness and healthy eating and you are just keeping your head above water right now, let’s do these three things this week to ensure we catch you before your house is engulfed in flames:

1. Focus on ADDING in one healthy eating behavior. That could be eating one huge salad a day with a lean protein. That’s it. Don’t change anything else in your diet, just ADD this salad.

2. Add in a high-intensity-interval training session to your workout week. Don’t change anything else you’re doing workout-wise. Just ADD this in. This can be some sprint repeats, hill sprint repeats and anything Tabata-style, like intervals on a spin bike. Shoot for a 20-minute session. Yes, that’s it!

3.  Spend one hour a week doing a relaxing self-care focused thing for yourself. This could be a leisure walk, a yoga class or podcast, or meditation — you can break it up into 10 minutes 6 – 7 days a week, too. 

Commit to this House on Fire Challenge for one week and tell me how it goes! If you need ideas on some high-intensity workouts to try, just ask!

kettlbell