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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Part II: Exercise Planning

                 I’m going to start this post with some familiar words;



Being the first of the year approaching, you are going to be blasted from every direction about the one and only exercise plan to get you the body of your dreams. Well it all sounds great but the truth is, one size does not fit all. And a really deeper truth is that you are more awesome than you realize right now! Because you are caught up in your outer packaging you probably don’t see that. I know how it is because I speak from experience. I was so focused on the goal of weight loss that I didn’t even focus on the way I felt or the extra energy I had etc. I only felt accomplishment or disgust based on the all powerful number on the scale. And when that number went up, I gave up.
So what is different for me this time? 

A change in focus.

It really was a mind shift. Change your mind, change your body. Now I don’t want to mislead you and say that every day, every hour and every second I have this mind and body thing figured out, because that would be a load of bull. But I can say that more often than not, I feel really good about myself. You can ask my husband and he’ll tell you that he hears a lot of comments from me about my level of hotness.
In the past I would approach exercise with an all or nothing mentality. I started hard and when I crashed and burned I did that hard as well. Then I often dealt with injury or over training. That led me to feel like a failure and there we have that self-fulfilling prophecy.  Also in the past I was stuck in the cardio hamster wheel. I thought that you had to run or step or bike or jump around for at least an hour but maybe more if you were really serious. I thought you had to punish yourself. I believed in the no pain no gain mentality. After all, I let myself get to the overweight point so I deserved to suffer right? And once again the self-fulfilling prophecy occurred because really who can keep up that punishment/pain cycle. You don’t like being punished and so you avoid it and once again failure. 

So what did I do differently this time? 

It had been a couple years since my last real attempt at exercise and in that time I had been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease. That diagnosis clicked something in my brain and I actually thought that maybe I should slow down and treat my body like it was about to break. Running distance was out the window for me so I thought about Yoga. I’d actually loved Yoga in the past and always came away feeling refreshed and centered. Wow, what a novel idea! Actually doing something you loved that made you feel good. Hmm. That was new. So I faithfully did Yoga three times a week for about 6 months. You know what happened? I enjoyed it and got stronger and had less pain and actually felt good about myself. I regained some range of motion I had lost with the running. (Not trying to pick on running. I once loved it.) Then I started thinking about further strengthening my muscles. Weight lifting was not new to me so I started out slowly doing some lifting and continuing with Yoga. After several months I added 10 minute finishers to the mix and BAM! Things started really happening. I had built up muscle and now I was burning off fat. It seemed like over-night work to people around me, but really I had been going at it for about 6 months.
There is something about weight training and lifting heavy things that make you feel, well strong. That might sound dumb, but especially for women, and those around 40, this is a real mind boost. I have always been strong, but until now have not felt ok with being strong. It often isn’t viewed as feminine or very acceptable in my circle or at my age. Well another little secret that I have found is that I feel more feminine and beautiful as a strong woman with muscles than I ever felt as an overweight woman. I’m a stone cold fox and those are crazy words coming from someone who couldn’t have felt farther from that just a couple of years ago. Self-esteem breeds self-compassion, motivation and dreams. So the exercise part coupled with the motivation part can be an extremely powerful combination to get started. 

Here are my suggestions for getting started with exercise:

a.       Write down 4-5 small goals to work towards in the first 2 months. How about something like this: 1. Twenty sit-ups in a row. 2. Exercise 3 days a week. 3. 10 push-ups 4. Walk 10,000 steps a day at least 4 days a week. 5. Stretch for 10 minutes 4 days a week, etc.
These are small things that for most are totally attainable. That is what you want. You want to lay down some patterns the first few months. You want to gain some victories. You want to enjoy what you do and start seeing exercise as just something that is part of your life. See yourself as someone who sets goals and reaches them. This goal setting is a step to revisit every few months so your growing fitness can grow bigger and bigger goals.
b.      Add weight training to the mix as early as you feel comfortable. As women (and especially a little more mature women) we have been duped into believing that weight training is only for men. And that women should stay on the weight machines or they will turn into big bulky scary manly meatheads. That stuff is just all lies. #1 if you want a solid shapely figure, weights are your friend. If you want to protect against osteopenia and osteoporosis, then weights are your friend. If you want to burn crazy amounts of fat and calories, then weights are your friend. And above all, you will not get bulky! I know my physique is a little more bulky than most, but my genes dictate that. I’ve always been thicker than other women. I’ve always carried more muscle mass. Most women don’t and the body builders you may have seen pictures of, work for years to get that physique and may use “products” to boost the Testosterone in their bodies to crazy levels. Trust me, the average woman cannot even come close to bulking without very concentrated effort. It is not something that just happens from picking up weights a few times a week. PLEASE LET THAT MYTH DIE!
c.       Use short finishers. A finisher is a short little cardio hit at the end of a weight training session. I added these finishers at around the 4th month into my exercise plan. They generally were 10 minutes, more or less, depending on how I felt. I like jump rope and kettlebells, so I did a lot of jumping and swinging 30 seconds and resting a minute. As I got into better shape, I cut the rest down. As I got into even better shape I cut the rest down and upped the work time. But I always kept some rest in there. Resting a little allows you to push a little harder while you are working. These finishers give your metabolism a huge hit and allow you to burn fat and calories hours after you are done. They are no joke! You do not have to run or even walk for hours to get results. Finishers are my magic. You can also do these with sprints, weights, kettlebells or body weight movements like push-ups, burpees, sit-ups. The combinations are endless.
d.      Cut yourself some slack. Have you seen this drawing about success?

There are going to be down times. You are going to flub up. So what! You are not a failure because of those. You are human and those perceived failures will teach you things to help you get to an even greater level. Get over yourself and dust your britches off and get back to work as soon as you can. Put in work and be patient. You’ll get results.

e.       Ask for help. If you have never exercised before or if you don’t know how to lift weights or jump rope or whatever, think about asking someone for a little guidance. You might want to hire a trainer for an hour to show you a few things or to set you up a training plan. You might want to talk with a friend that has experience to get some advice. It may save you time, mental energy and maybe injury if you get a little help.
f.        Put exercise as a priority. Make it happen. Obviously if you are injured or sick, rest. But if you are just feeling tired or letting excuses get in the way, stop it. Nip that in the bud. Would you skip an important medication? Go back to the motivation work you did and remind yourself why you want to be healthier. We know when we are sliding. Don’t punish yourself over it but definitely fight the urge to slack. You’ll be glad you did. After a few months of consistent work you will have built a positive habit and it will not be quite as difficult to get the workouts done.

Again, this method is not for everyone. It may be a good fit for the beginner but not the advanced athlete. Use it for what it is. A place to start. Adapt and change it to fit you.
I truly believe that exercise is good medicine. I use it like that. It allows me to live a more active life. And study after study shows us the benefits of exercise. When you get your motivation on tract, add in exercise and you’ll reap great rewards.

Last up in our three part series, nutrition!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Planning For a Change

The other day I posted a little motivational blurb on my FaceBook page Fitness Bitness . When I thought a little bit more about it, I realized that it wasn’t as little as it appeared. Lots of info in just a few words. 

Little steps can lead to a big change. But no steps lead nowhere.
If you are not ready to step out today, then start formulating your plan for the day that you are ready. Start working on the following:
1. Positive Motivation Plan- identify what motivates you and how you will use that to your advantage.
2. Exercise Plan - List some exercises to start daily. Just a few reps will do at first.
3. Healthy Food Plan - List a handful of ways you can clean up your diet. Try adding 1 thing at a time.
Remember to make your plan for a beginner. Biggest Loser style is a fantasy. Try to keep it simple and relatively easy at first. Lay down some positive patterns then you will be able to build on that foundation more successfully.
And one last really important piece of advice;
Believe in yourself! I believe in you.

I thought it might be helpful to break this puppy down and do a three part series on planning for a change.
I am a huge planner. I love lists, tables, sticky notes. I’m a visual planner. I like to see my tasks laid out before me. Use to I could keep all this stuff in my head, but 40 came a knockin’ and something had to give a little.
So first things first. What is the best method to plan your new health and fitness attack? What is the best diet? What is the best motivation? What is the best exercise plan? I have opinions, big ones. You want to hear mine?
This may come as confusing to some and a relief to others, but, listen close. Are you ready for it?


 My techniques are not best for everyone and your techniques may only be good for you. The best is what works best for you right now. It may not work best for you in the future. This is where we have to learn what works and stick with it only as long as it works for us. Then we reassess and reapply new techniques. We are always a work in progress. Always. 

That being out of the way, I’ll address some ideas you may be able to use to help get you started on setting up a plan that works for you. Because one thing is for sure, failing to plan is planning to fail. 

So that facebook post above ended with the call for belief in yourself. I think that if you can harness that positive mindset in the beginning, your battle is already won. Honestly, I didn’t have that in the beginning. I had some fierce determination. But belief that I would change lagged behind a good deal until I started seeing bigger changes.
So how I actually started was I sat down with a notebook and wrote down what I wanted to change. Of course it was solely focused on losing weight. That was the goal. Then I wrote down 8 reasons why I wanted to lose weight. You know things like feel better, fit in my clothes better, inspire others, etc. Next I asked myself, how my life would be better if I lost weight. I really tried to paint a picture here. I wanted it to be vibrant and imaginative. I wanted to be able to read that list and almost feel what I wanted. Then I made the list of how my life would be if I didn’t lose weight. Of course that list was made up of the way a currently felt. And then the last list I wrote was how I would get healthy. The nuts and bolts of the plan I wanted to start with. It addressed beginning exercises and beginning diet plan. I then weighed myself and took measurements and took pictures. My weight and my measurements mean very little to me now. I have progressed past those rudimentary marks of success, but in the beginning they meant everything.  The photos tell a much better story however. It was hard to take the photos but I’m glad I did.

Now I would suggest you approach things a little differently. You know keep a little of the old and throw in a dash of the new. Always be learning and refining your approach. So here is what I would suggest you do as a beginner looking to start somewhere in addressing your health and fitness. 

1.    Get a notebook and actually write out this stuff. Invest some serious time and thought in your answers. Address the following:
a.       What is the goal? Lose weight is the most common answer. I would suggest listing 3-5 goals with 2-3 of them not pertaining to your appearance. It could be something like drop your cholesterol number or lower your blood pressure or have more energy, etc. Try to keep from the whole process being about the book cover. The contents of the book are more important after all.
b.      Then list out why you want these goals. Be specific. You want to be able to come back to this list as motivation. As a reminder to why you are on this journey.
c.       Next list how your life will be better when you reach these goals. Again, be specific and use sensory words. Feelings, what you will be able to do or wear. How you will act and move. I’m actually looking at my list and I have seen every one of my responses come to pass. But you know what? I’ve gained so much more than those 8 responses I wrote down. The journey just keeps getting better and better.
d.      Now list how your life will be if you don’t meet your goals. And don’t dwell in this spot to long. It really is time to stop living in this negative world and move your mind to the positive possibility world.
e.      And lastly for this section, list some things that motivate you. It could be success stories or videos. It could be motivational signs and sayings. Maybe it could even be fitness blogs (hint hint) or accountability groups. What gets you fired up? Write it down. These will be the things that you go to daily if needed to pump yourself up. You don’t just get motivation out of thin air. It’s cultivated. It’s tended and added a little at a time. Motivation and mindset are very closely related. Mindset being how I see myself and motivation being the force used upon your mind to get your actions in line with your vision for change.  With good motivation, you can literally change your mind.

If you will start with this motivational part, then you will have a framework to go back to when the going gets tough. You can remind yourself of where you are headed and why you want to head there. Motivation kept me going on the days I just didn’t care. Some motivational facebook pages kicked me into high gear or inspired me when I was about to throw in the towel. Set yourself up for the win by surrounding yourself with constant and positive messages.

Next post, we will delve into Exercise planning!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday Morning Inspiration

Let’s get to know an inspirational woman today. Shawna is a follower of Fitness Bitness and like me is a CrossFitter at CFB. (Have I mentioned today that I love CrossFit?) I haven’t had the privilege of working out with her because she gets up way too early for me. But I know we’ll meet eventually. Shawna has only been CrossFitting a couple of months but she competed in her first event just a few days ago. Her determination is crazy powerful.

Getting to know you!
1. Age:
2. Favorite Exercise:
3. Hobbies
4. Have you always loved fitness?
5. What motivates you?
6. What fitness plans or goals do you have for the future?

Here are Shawna's responses:

1. I am 39 years old
2. Crossfit is the only exercise I have done for more than a couple of days.
3. I love crafting I make and sell all kinds of crafts.
4. I have never liked fitness. I have been overweight my entire adult life and have never felt comfortable working out anywhere until I joined CFB.
5. My goal of being healthy by 40 is a big motivator and the people at the box help me stay motivated. Some like yourself I have never met in person but yet they continue to post on my wall and inspire me.
6. I want to continue to grow stronger and get better at crossfit.

I love seeing strength and fitness click with folks. That is inspiring to me.

To find a sport or an exercise or a group fitness class you can become passionate about is a major gift. And when you share your passion with others, it’s a gift that can keep on giving (or annoying.)

Congrats Shawna! And good luck on your journey and on your next competition!

Never, ever give up!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Best Soup EVAH!

Man nothing hits the spot on a cold wintery day like soup. A mug of soup is so comforting to me. I remember as a kid, my mom making bowls of Campbell’s Tomato Soup.  I loved that stuff.

Not a fan of the canned stuff now, but I still make soup often especially in the winter. 

One of my absolute fav’s is Butternut Squash. A little sweet, a little salty, smooth and garlicky with a little crunch, mmmm. Making myself hungry. 

So if I tell you a secret will you keep it to yourself? All right then. I’ll disclose my super secret Butternut Squash Soup Recipe. Guaranteed to rock you face!

Butternut Squash Soup
1 Butternut Squash
1 Medium Onion chopped
4 Cloves Garlic chopped
32 oz. Chicken Broth (more or less)
1 Tbsps. Coconut Oil
2 Cups Kale (washed and torn)
2 Tbsps. Honey
1 tsp. Red Pepper Flake
Feta Cheese
Toasted Pecans

Peel squash, cut in half and scrape out seeds. Cut in cubes and put in a large sauce pan with the chicken broth to cover. Boil until very tender. While that is cooking, sauté your onions and half the garlic in the coconut oil until caramelized. Dump the caramelized onions into the pan with the squash. In the same pan you cooked the onions, cook a few chopped up slices of bacon until crispy. Dump the Kale into the pan with the squash and the remaining garlic. Blend up with a stick blender until nice and smooth. If you don’t have a stick blender, carefully blend small batches of the soup in a canister blender. If you put too much hot soup in a canister blender you are asking for a napalm bath so be careful.

After blended, add honey, red pepper flake and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a sprinkle of Feta cheese, bacon and toasted pecans on top. Enjoy!

Luckily in preparation for this article, I have a batch in my very own kitchen. In fact the cup I photographed was very delicious just a few minutes ago. I did forget to put the pecans on top so I will have to go make another cup for myself. What a shame. 

QUICK TIP: Earlier in the week I made a Black Bean Soup which I’ll share at another time. But when I make soup, I try to make a big batch and the extra gets put in pint wide mouth jars. I leave about an inch and a half head space and freeze the jars. Then a few weeks later when I want soup, BAM! There it is! 1 pint jar makes a nice big bowl but I usually just eat about half at a time with some form of protein on the side. Those jars are also nice to share with friends. Mine get pretty jazzed when they see one of those jars coming their way. I also mix up salad dressing in pint jars. 

There you have it. Stay warm and feed your body the stuff that comforts you inside and out. Good wholesome and nutritious food will always satisfy more deeply than the fast packaged convenience food.

P.S. Go ahead and share the recipe and my blog too while you're at it! ;)