The Do’s & Don’ts of Ab Training for Women

Yesterday, I attending a mini quarterly fitness training for my group exercise education and credentials. I absolutely love taking these trainings because I am able to see new techniques and get new ideas from the master trainers as well as the fellow trainees.

It was an interesting thing though. I took 2, hour long master classes and they were hard core, but I was still able to do more once they were done. This, of course, due to the fact that I’ve been an avid exerciser for umpteen years and my body can just do more than when I began.

But then, I took a HIIT cycle class which is sweetly referred to as “Sprint”. Sounds harmless enough, right?

WRONG!! It was 30 minutes of freaking HELL on stationary wheels!!! 😦

One. Thirty. Minute. Class.

My body wouldn’t stop shaking. I was worn out and had to find my breath and focus throughout the workout. This is HIIT. This is AWESOMENESS!!!!!!

Why am I sharing this when today’s topic is clearly related to ab training? Because, my dear, you ALREADY have amazing abs! You just have some gorgeous fat covering your awesome abs. So what do we do to expose those gorgeous midsections? I’m here to help!

Before we get to some focused ab exercises to follow – and to avoid; let’s share why HIIT Training is the secret to amazing abs. 

  • Don’t have time to spend on working out; either at home or the gym? No problem with HIIT! It’s the ideal workout for busy schedules. You can squeeze in a quick workout just before you jump into the shower in the morning, or during your lunch break or even after you get the kids to bed at night. Seriously, there are NO excuses with time when it comes to HIIT workouts. Research has shown that you can achieve more progress in just 15 minutes of HIIT workouts (done 3X a week) than jogging on the treadmill for an hour. (boring!)  Want more good research info? According to a study presented in 2011 at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting, just 2 weeks of high intensity intervals improves your aerobic capacity as much as 6-8 weeks of endurance training. Whaaaat?????
  • You’ll not only have better results during your HIIT workout, you’ll also be burning more calories after your workout for 24-48 hours! This is commonly referred to as “EPOC”; or exercise post oxygen consumption. (you had me at burning more calories at rest, right?)
  • You’ll build a healthier heart! Let’s be honest, most of us aren’t used to pushing into the anaerobic (or “without oxygen”) zone. This is pretty much how you feel when you can’t breathe and you feel like your heart is trying to jump out of your chest. But when we are consistent and do our very best every sweat session, we receive extreme results. One study done in 2006 found that after 8 weeks of doing HIIT workouts, the subjects could bicycle twice as long as they could before the study, while maintaining the same pace. See? Heart = Happy! ❤
  • It’s also pretty awesome because you don’t even need equipment to get these results! You can choose running, biking, jump roping, and rowing when doing HIIT workouts but the greatest thing is that you don’t need any equipment to get it done! High knees, fast feet, or anything plyometric like jumping lunges work just as well to get your heart rate up. Fast. In fact, some equipment, like dumbbells can make HIIT less effective because of the fact that you aren’t focusing primarily on getting the heart rate up…you tend to split that with the weight training aspect.
  • Weight and fat loss “secret”! Anyone who has been on a diet knows that it’s hard to not lose muscle mass along with fat. While steady state cardio seems to encourage muscle loss, studies show that both weight training and HIIT workouts allow dieters to preserve their hard-earned muscles while ensuring most of the weight lost comes from fat stores. Win/win!
  • Your metabolism becomes more efficient at rest (what we talked about above). In addition to increased fat burning and more muscle preserved, HIIT stimulates production of your human growth hormone (HGH) by up to 450 percent during the 24 hours after you finish your workout. This is great news since HGH is not only responsible for increased caloric burn but also slows down the aging process, making you younger both inside and out!
  • Get sexier leg definition and strength! The largest muscle group in your body is seriously taxed during HIIT training and the effects are to be proud of! Who doesn’t want lean, sexier legs as you’re losing body fat all over and shedding those extra pounds?
  • You can do it anywhere so no more excuses on where to workout anymore either. You can workout at home, the gym, outside, in a lobby, in your hallway…anywhere!!! Since it’s such a simple concept—go at maximum effort for a short period of time followed by a recovery period and repeat—you can adapt it to whatever time and space constraints you have.
  • Beat the boredom workout blues! I don’t know if you’re like me but I HAAATE to be bored!! If I feel bored in my workouts, my mind starts to wander and guess what happens to the intensity of my workout? It suffers because my mind is thinking of things other than what I’m doing at the moment and this seriously messes with our results! Solution? HIIT workouts! This is not a workout you can do while reading a magazine or chatting with your friend. Because it’s so short, you will be working hard the whole time. The trade-off is this format offers seasoned exercisers a new challenge and new exercisers a quick way to see results. You may be in pain, you may be sucking wind, but you definitely won’t be bored!

Now back to our main topic; AB workout do’s and don’ts! 

If you’re like most women, we tend to wish for abs and want for abs so badly that we hope that our random sit-ups, crunches and plank challenges will do the trick. But let me share how you can get better results and stay away from moves that will actually make you look thicker around the middle! (no good!) Following these tips (as well as adding HIIT training to your routines) will help you get those rock hard abs – or at least tighter abs if you prefer. Bikini and tank top season is always just around the corner!

Ab exercises you should NEVER do! 

I’ll go out on a limb and guess that although you want tighter, leaner abs, you also don’t want a thicker waist.

Am I right? I knew it!! 😀

Then you’ll definitely want to stay away from weighted side bends.

Stay away from these!

 

The problem with this exercise is that it directly targets the oblique muscles with large amounts of resistance. The reason this is a “negative” exercise for lean abs, let’s talk about how the abs and obliques function. The obliques are two different muscle groups that originate from the lateral (aka: side) part of your lower ribs and insert into the front portion of your iliac crest. The obliques wrap around your sides and help you turn and bend your torso which helps your spine stability.

 

Normally, the obliques are visible only when you start getting rid of body fat layers. But when you target these muscles with extra resistance (such as dumbbells and weights) it makes them look bigger. This is because the obliques are positioned along the sides of your torso, and the effect is to actually thicken your waist. I don’t think this was your focus if you’ve done this move before, right?

It’s important to mention that the weighted side bend isn’t a bad exercise; in fact, many people like it because it strengthens your core, and some lifters actually want to increase the size of their waist. But if you’re looking for that hourglass figure, you’re better off skipping this move on ab day.

Exercises to help tighten your midsection

  • Add resistance to your main ab muscles (such as the rectus abdominis or “six pack muscles”) themselves. You can also still target your obliques (in fact, you’ll want to hit all the areas) but eliminate the added weight in this area and stick to higher reps instead. Want to start with some great moves today?  Here are some of the best to get started with:

 

1. Lying Leg Raise                                             

2. Decline sit ups with twist (no weights) 

 

3. Hanging Leg Raise                                       

 

 

4. Stir the Pot                                                       

 

How Often Should You Work Your Abs?

If you regularly do compound movements like lunges, squats, and deadlifts, you’re most of the way there. These exercises involve a lot of core work and stabilization so you’re getting a good ab workout without doing any specific “ab /core” exercises. But if you’re looking for better (and faster results), consider adding a HIIT workout 1-2 times per week and 1-2 of these ab moves above about 2-3 days per week. Perform 3-5 sets of each exercise for at least 10-20 reps per move. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets.

There’s no reason that you need to spend a full day on “core work” this way. If you start now by working these tips into your regular program (and avoiding those side bends), you’ll have a more toned core and your body will be summer ready all year long!

Let me know if you have any questions or comments and I’d love to get you into a transformation challenge if you’re up to it! Shoot me an email and let’s chat! www.kathyprofitness@gmail.com 

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Month 1 Results!

My month 1 picture results! They say a picture is worth a thousand words so this should really say a lot!
My month 1 picture results! They say a picture is worth a thousand words so this should really say a lot!

I can’t believe it’s already been a full month on this program! I can honestly say that I feel like I just started and the fact that you are following my journey is helping me to stay on track and continue to post and push forward.

Week 1 seemed like a breeze. But isn’t everything exciting when it’s new again? The workouts were fresh and eating my meals and tracking them on MFP seemed like a fun game.

Week 2 wasn’t so fun. First of all, there were those nasty hormones to deal with :p and cravings were out of control! I remember a few times indulging in foods not on my plan and just saying (out loud too) “Who the heck cares?” Cuz I know I didn’t! Have you ever had a craving that was so powerful that nothing else mattered in that moment? While I’m not as easily thrown off my plan as I was in the beginning stages of this lifestyle journey (and that was like a hundred million years ago!), I still find myself overwhelmed with an emotional craving along the way.

You know what’s kinda cool about this, though? I realize that in that moment when I’m feeling defiant and needing a quick “fix”, giving in isn’t always the end of the world. As a trainer and someone who’s been working in the fitness field forever, I understand that a change of any kind is sometimes helpful to our bodies’ results. But what’s more important to understand about that crazy moment, is that giving in to a quick “fix” is most definitely more beneficial to our lives than jumping out of a window.

Just saying 😉

I also had a small weight gain in week 2 but knowing what I know, I let it blow over (and was happy it wasn’t any bigger of a gain with the extra eating I did!). I had a better week 3 in results but I realized my eating needed to get back on track.

For example, I’d start every day with the best of intentions (sound familiar? LOL) and then by mid-afternoon, I’d just tell myself that I’d “update my meal log-ins when I had more time”…

ya, right! That doesn’t ever happen so by this last week, I was definitely more mindful of tracking and listening to my body’s cues. For example, most of us start a “diet plan” (which I despise but this is an example) and once a few days passes, we realize that our bodies are screaming for MORE FOOD!

Right?

So what do we do? We buckle down and decide that we are going to have “more willpower”…

How well did that work for us? haha

So we finally give in and eat the entire refrigerator and freezer, only to feel like a ginormous blob of a failure after. Sound familiar? It is cuz WE ALL HAVE DONE IT!

and probably will do it again for sure! This is no secret so let’s stop acting like we are the “only” person in the whole entire world to ever struggle like this and feel like a failure.

What would have happened if we decided to change the previous scenario? (aka: what I decided to implement in this last week)

For example, you’re humming along on days 1 and 2 on your new “diet” and then all of a sudden (like it’s a surprise we hadn’t anticipated…) we are hit with this overpowering desire and hunger to EAT ALL THE FOOD!

So we say, NO! I am strong and I have willpower and my goals are more important to me than this instant glorification.

B.S.

Seriously, that won’t work and you know it. It never did and it never will. There are only 2 other ways to handle this situation so you can continue to succeed and move forward;

#1) Eat more food! Duh! Although this sounds simple to do, it’s not! Most of us are stuck in the “DIET” mode that we berate ourselves for even contemplate more calories. For crying out loud! Our bodies are only trying to LIVE. It has needs and works hard for us every minute of every day so if we can’t just fathom that some days (and times of the month), we will require a bit more or less, then so be it. One word of caution though, I don’t mean to just go out and eat whatever and however you want. In order to succeed, imagine taking care of a brand new car that cost you $100,000. Would you just fill it up with whatever type of crap you could come across because it was low on fuel? Or would you plan to invest in the most precious fuel (with the octanes and stuff…I know nothing about cars so that’s all you get for this analogy) so that your car could last forever and run smoothly?

I’m thinking you chose the latter option and you’d feel confident it was the right choice. That being said, why on earth would we think it’s okay to shove ding dongs and crusty week old pizza down our pieholes when we’re hungry and have waited too long to eat something better for us? Next time you feel hungry, understand that your body might need it and choose wisely. Heck, even if you have an extra apple and a handful of almonds, you’re not going to harm your body OR your results. Trust me.

#2) Have a cheat if you must but have dignity and use a fork! I’m not kidding; many times when we’re hit with the starving body and have put off eating for way too long, we get to the point of just eating whatever is in arms length and looking like a complete lunatic. (and not to mention a bit disgusting) Right? So in case you aren’t up to “fueling your car” with quality nutrition in that heated moment, then pick up a plate and a utensil and eat in front of people so that you look less crazy and more like you love your food! Why wouldn’t you want to anyway?

I’m now winding down on week #4 and will begin my 2nd month on Monday. I have to say that this past week was my “recovery” week and it has given me more oomph to kick start another month and not feel like I’m killing my body with new challenges in these quick and effective workouts. If you haven’t taken a week to recover in awhile, may I recommend you do that now? Go do some yoga, pilates and use a foam roller for crying out loud! Your body totally deserves this! (or you risk some bad stuff and that’s not going to be fun if you get injured)

I’m sharing my results with you but realize that I most likely won’t lose much more weight on the scale in the coming 2 months, but I know the changes will show up in the pictures, measurements and body fat testing. I am 5’6″ and my weight never goes below 145. Even when I drove myself to the leanest point of my life at age 40, and took on the stage in a bikini no less! GASP! I stopped having my periods for 6 months because my body fat was way too low and I felt so bad and suffered from burnout and adrenal failure.

Fun times!

And throughout that time period, the freaking scale still stared at me with that stubborn “1-4-5” and nothing less. Crazy how our body’s work, right?

I’m super pumped for the new month and hope you are taking some of these tips into your own life for better results if you need them! Please leave me a comment or shoot me a message if you need some tips that I have not addressed yet.

Here are my measurements and weight updates from week 1 to week 4:

Day 1 weight/end of month 1: 150.1/ 147.2

Waist: Day 1 – 28.5   End of month 1 – 28.25

Hips: Day 1- 38.5      End of month 1 – 38

Thigh: Day 1 – 19.5   End of month 1 – 19

All in all, I am down almost 3 inches and over 2 lbs. From my pictures though, I am really happy with my month 1 results!

One of my "emotional" days...I actually cried in my workout because so many things were going wrong and I felt absolutely NO energy or desire to complete the workout. Still think other people don't struggle too?
One of my “emotional” days…I actually cried in my workout because so many things were going wrong and I felt absolutely NO energy or desire to complete the workout. Still think other people don’t struggle too?

Week 1 Wrap-Up

I made it through week 1 with limited struggles and hunger cravings!

I’m actually a little surprised because I usually struggle mentally in my first week of a new plan only because my calories are being cut back a little.

But that all stems from diets and feeling deprived of what I love to eat. In the past week, I’ve counted every food and macronutrient that I ingested. Even those “small tiny bites” that most of us usually discount as “too small to count”…unh uh. It’s all getting counted and I’m sharing it all with you, me dear reader. Aren’t you feeling fab? 😉

So let me start with each day’s workouts and calorie breakdowns (I am set at 1800 calories a day):

Monday, Day 1: 1684 – Total Body Synergistics 30 minute workout

Tuesday, Day 2: 1842 – Body Barre class (which I lead) and 30 minute upper body workout 

Wednesday, Day 3: 1699 – Yoga and Pilates 

Thursday, Day 4: 2176 – Body Pump and Pilates classes (which I lead) and 30 minute workout

Friday, Day 5: 1749 – 30 minute circuit training workout 

Saturday, Day 6: 2616 – Cycle and Body Pump classes (which I lead) and 30 minute body weight training 

You could see that my calories fluctuated up and down depending on the activity I did that specific day. It helped me to listen to my body’s hunger cues and eat as needed. I’m tracking my protein, carbs and fats so I know how to break them down each day to give the best results. If you’ve never heard of this before, it’s basically called “macro counting”. My daily goal is to get in 40% of my calories from carbs and 30% from fats and proteins. This allows me to get the best quality nutrition and best results as I progress through the coming 3 months.

A calorie is not just a calorie. Our body uses the nutrients we eat and if it’s empty calories (aka: sugar and processed adds) or too many of one nutrient; our bodies are forced to store the extra calories to fat storages if they can’t be used efficiently at that specific time. That’s why it’s so important to find out how many calories our body’s require (and it’s going to change along the way), how we should break down our meals (in terms of macronutrients and timing of meals) and what to do when we get hungry or start to crave the foods that our body’s are used to eating.

I’ll talk more about how I handle these areas along the way as they come into play. What I’d like to leave you with today is that when we follow what our body’s need to survive and thrive and change the habits that are pulling us into the land of unhealthy and illnesses; we have no options but to succeed. The scale is one small area to show changes but it’s definitely the least accurate along the way as it can only show a number and not what that number means in a specific time period.

If you want to learn more about the scale and how it can hinder us if we give it too much credit, please check out this post from last year: How to understand the scale 

 

Results in the first week on the scale.
Results in the first week on the scale.
Getting my 30 minute workouts done at home.
Getting my 30 minute workouts done at home.
Ready for my Super Burpee!
Ready for my Super Burpee!

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Made sure my nutrition was met with daily Shakeology!
  Made sure my nutrition was met with daily Shakeology!
My favorite breakfast choice!
  My favorite breakfast choice!                            

 

Day 1: We need to start somewhere

I begin at day #1…

We all get excited on “day 1” of something new, don’t we? Think about New Year’s day and the millions of promises that are made in the excitement of a new year and a new opportunity to reach goals that we’ve only hoped for in the past. The success, however, does not come from our giddy energy on day 1…but the true and unending desire to push for new heights in our quest for these said goals.

I’ve worked with hundreds of one-on-one clients and I’ve lead thousands of classes over the past 20+ years in the fitness field. I’ve believed that through my sheer excitement and leadership, I could inspire anyone to follow through in their promises and quest to reach health and fitness goals that had seemed nearly impossible.

But it doesn’t work that way.

Not to say that I haven’t helped many people transform their bodies, minds and lives in ways that they had only dreamed about; but what what happens when the trainer stops working with you? What happens if you move away from your favorite gym or bootcamp instructor and you are left to find something else that works for you? What if you are the one and only person who is responsible for your success – or lack of it?

Guess what, guys? Whether you know it now or not…you are the only person who is 100% responsible for your life. So what to do now? What workout should you do? How many calories should you eat each day? What types of foods are the best for you? Who is going to cheer you on when you are struggling? How will you know when you are making progress in your goals? How will you keep going when you just don’t believe you have what it takes…or you stumble along the way?

While these are all good questions (and ones I hear every day), let me start by saying we need to get clear on what our goals are. We need to have a plan B when we get thrown off our path. We need to know we aren’t the only person in the world to feel like we do.

That’s what this transformation is about. The next 90 days are meant to show you what it looks like to fight for what we want most. The next 3 months are going to be a bit uncomfortable for me (and most likely downright ugly at times!) but I’m willing to put myself out on a limb and share with you, me dear reader, like a reality tv show (but without the drama and screaming matches).

I start today. This is my day 1…

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Day 1 begins with stats. This is not any different than if we were working together as trainer-client. I’d measure you and have you take your “before pictures” so that we have a baseline to compare as we move forward. Above, are my day 1 pictures and while I don’t have much weight to lose (I just have some “softer” parts of me to tone up), I have goals to add more lean muscle and look like a shredded fitness model in 90 days. Think I can? So do I! 😉 No matter the goals, the struggles are pretty common and typical whenever starting something new (or restarting again).

Here’s how I measure my stats:

Body weight: 150.1

Chest: 36.5

Waist: 28.5 & 30.75

Hips: 38.5

Right thigh: 19.5 / Left Thigh: 19.5

Right arm: 10 / Left arm: 10.5

What about my meals? I calculate my daily needs on my new fitness program and will be eating 1,800 calories a day. I also like to focus on quality nutrition and breaking down my macronutrients to fit my body’s needs to feel my best and reach my set goals. I’ve set a 40/30/30 split and will be getting in 40% of my daily calories from carbohydrates; 40% from healthy fats and 30% from lean protein sources.

I will be sharing my foods too so don’t think this will be a secret 🙂

So far today:

Breakfast:

Coffee with 3 Tbls half and half (don’t take away my cream!)

2 whole eggs + 1 egg white

Post workout snack:

Cafe Latte Shakeology made with 1 cup almond milk and 1 cup ice

Pink lady apple sprinkled with cinnamon

Lunch:

1 cup oven roasted brussel sprouts (my son and I are obsessed!)

1/2 cup lowfat cottage cheese mixed with 1/2 cup whole grain cereal

I’ve had 3 water bottles of water and my goal is to drink 6 each day (which totals a gallon of water)

I worked out to my total body core conditioning and some practiced some power yoga to get an extra stretch.

I’ll be planning to drink water, herbal tea and maybe some lowfat hot chocolate (to curb my hunger and cravings today). I’m making a turkey based dinner with salad and enjoy some Greek yogurt with berries for another snack today.

I feel good so far but please follow me on IG @KathyProFitness and Snapchat @spazzykay to get all the daily ups and downs along with the daily blog posts.

If you are interested in starting NOW and need a place to begin, I’m hosting a 28-Day workout + meal plan challenge and looking for 10 serious people to join our team! This program will challenge you with strength and conditioning training and I’m going to reward those who commit and reach new goals with a gift basket of fitness goodies plus a FREE month of one-on-one training with me before summer season.

Are you IN? Then fill out the form below and I’ll be in touch asap!

Back to reality- Day 2 of the #nosugar

I’m here and it’s day #2 of the NO SUGAR challenge and I promised you my recipe for the Mediterranean chicken I made for the family last night.

Do you struggle with family meals too? I recently began creating a whole week of meals on the weekends and posting it on my refrigerator so I don’t even have to think about dinners any more. I also write out all of the recipes and ingredients needed to create my meals and voila! Stress free family dinners that everyone loves!

Day 1 of the NO SUGAR went so good! It actually feels like I’m eating more than usual and still feeling lighter, less bloated and as though I’m MORE hungry (which is a good sign of a strong metabolism) throughout my day than when I am not watching every sugar add.

I don’t eat processed foods or artificial sweeteners any longer but I’ll occasionally have some cereal in my yogurts, or mindlessly snack on foods that the family has on had when I’m not being as vigilant to my intake. Little things definitely add up over time and this is why I find the 14 day NO SUGAR challenges a great return to where I feel my best and lose weight like no other without having to “try”.

Here are my meals for the day:

Breakfast: Protein Pancake –

I mixed 4 egg whites, 1/3 cup oats, 1/2 scoop Shakeology (the only thing I’ll allow on my no sugar but it does contain some stevia). I blended this up in my VitaMix and cooked it up like a huge pancake. I then topped it with 1/4 cup Greek Yogurt (FAGE with nothing added) and 1 Tbls all natural peanut butter. (read your ingredients because most nut butters contain sugars and additives)

I usually like some berries on top of this pancake and when I’m not following the NO SUGAR (I feel like I should hashtag the no sugar slogan), I’ll add 1 Tbls of my fave strawberry syrup (a childhood obsession). But not now. I then had a cup of coffee with my 1 Tbls of 1/2 and 1/2 (yes, I pretty much measure everything; it’s become a habit now).

At 9am, I took my daughter to the ENT specialist where she finally had her freaking tonsil abscess drained. It was a scary issue after she was diagnosed with strep throat a week ago and then later felt the pain “change” to one tonsil and swell like a mutha! We had a “FUN” visit to the ER on Friday night (due to her doctor visit follow up on Friday where they warned us “not to wait the weekend but go straight to the ER to have this thing drained”…felt like Monopoly and unable to pass GO or collect my $200). The ER was absolutely NO help whatsoever as we told them upon our arrival what had been happening and that she more than likely just needed the abscess drained. They still had to take a CAT scan (I’m not arguing with being positive about the diagnosis) and we waited around for about 5 hours (which she was in excruciating pain from her ear being pressured by the abscess and unable to swallow or breathe normally) and they finally announced that she “needed to have the abscess drained” (DUH!) – BUT – there wasn’t an ENT in the hospital so they’d have to transfer her and not sure where that would be yet.

What?

Seriously, this was ridiculous and yet we were feeling nervous as they kept telling us if the tonsil swole any larger, it would probably start to cut off her breathing airways. YIKES! So, we waited. They put her in a room and gave her some morphine for the pain and antibiotic drip; along with steroids to help the swelling. Her doctor had prescribed antibiotics and steroids through the previous week as she fought the strep throat so this seemed harmless enough.

After a few hours of waiting, (which honestly didn’t feel as “life threatening” as they were making it out to be any longer); we questioned going home overnight and calling ENT’s in the morning. They advised against us leaving and threatened her life again from the swelling but honestly, our parental intuition overrode the fear and we checked her out and took her home. I slept in her room over the weekend and we called a few specialists only to find one who clearly knew what he was talking about.

Finally!

He first warned us to get her off of the steroids immediately as it was more than likely causing more swelling with the antibiotics. He asked us to come in on Monday morning and he’d fit her into his schedule. (there are still awesome doctors out there!) So yesterday, she and I went to see him and as scared as she was; and as much pain as she was in…he was so kind and calming and ended up doing the procedure in his office that the ER doctors told us was “impossible” to do in her situation.

She is back at school today and feeling like a million bucks! A little sore in her throat still but totally pain free at last!

Whew!

So anyway, after the appointment, I had a shakeology shake with 1/3 cup of oats, water and ice blended in. I watched my daughter during the day because her body was fevering on and off due to the infection being drained but overall, we rested and I bought her a milkshake to celebrate!

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For lunch, I made myself a veggie scramble with eggs, zucchini, cilantro, onions and cheese. I topped it with some home grown cherry tomatoes and it was fabulous! I allowed myself an apple later with some peanut butter and this was my “treat” that made me feel special! LOL

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Here’s my dinner, as promised (complete with the recipe) and if you’d like, I can share my meal plan ideas and recipes along the way to help out your family (or even just your own) weekly meals.

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MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN RECIPE:

Chicken breasts

Garlic powder

Diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)

Artichoke hearts

Small Jar Kalmata olives

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

oregano

basil

salt and pepper

Method:

Season chicken breasts with seasonings and brown in olive oil heated up in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic to pan. Add tomatoes, artichoke hearts and olives. Add seasonings and simmer over low heat. (I put it in a large sheet pan and put into over at 350 for 30-45 minutes)

Serve over veggies or pasta.

Now it’s time for Day 2 of the #nosugarchallenge

Diets are the problem

Diets don’t work. I’m not even being sarcastic and trying to get your attention with that line. They just do not work.

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Think about it, most of the people who are always on a diet are the people who are always struggling with their weight. We tend to blame ourselves when we fall off track; thinking we just needed more willpower.

Seriously? What the heck does being able to keep suffering through starvation and fatigue have to do with willpower? Most diets are based on depriving our bodies from the stuff we love. We get excited to start one of these torture plans in hopes of desperation in getting us out of the misery we find ourselves in. Think about that for a moment. We are literally without hope in times when we turn to a diet. Why else would we choose suffering and misery to fill our days? It’s not helping. Did you know that our diets fail us 95% of the time?  What else is there to say?

In the last 100 years or so (maybe many more, in my opinion), dieting has meant suffering; or “die” with a “t”. (ya, that was funny when I was 10 years old too!) We are forced to suffer feeling hungry and miserable in hopes of the number on the scale moving in the downward direction.

But even when we lose the weight; we cannot sustain that amount of torture so we return to our previous habits and where do those lead us? Back to the beginning.  We are forced to think of food as just fuel to feed our bodies. It’s def not just that. Food is our comfort and has drug like effects in times that we need it. I believe that in those critical moments, it beats jumping out of a window.

Think about every celebration or gathering you attend. It’s always centered around foods. Imagine how depressing an event would be without food. It would simply be a “meeting” and I’m pretty sure I’d skip out if that were the case. Food has a direct effect on our bodies’ stress hormone levels. Many people I’ve worked with (myself included) use food as comfort in “taking care” of their needs because they need that quick “fix”, much like a drug like effect.

It’s no surprise when you look at the facts that diets are extremely low in calories and definitely not in the realm of being sustainable. The more weight we have to lose, the more of our lives we have to suffer in hopes of achieving our “success”.  Are you really willing to permanently change your level of happiness and energy (among other factors) in return for a number on a scale? I’m not and I don’t have to be. Neither do you.

I’ve talked to many people who think that losing weight is hopeless. They tell me they’ve “tried everything” and just can’t seem to reach their goals. I’ve heard claims that the only way someone who is obese can succeed is by using drugs or surgery. This makes me so sad. We are not failing our diets; the diets are failing us.

I will say that those who lose weight and hope to keep every last ounce of it off forever is not possible. What I’ve learned in both my journey of losing 20, 30 and even 70 lbs (this was after my first pregnancy) that it is an ebb and flow of success. While I initially lost the “weight”, when I focused primarily on the number on the scale; I would begin to gain the weight back. It’s when I took the focus off of that stupid machine and put the focus into my own efforts daily that I began to feel better and eventually my weight found it’s happy place. I currently fluctuate about 7 lbs or so and don’t sweat it because I have found my sweet spot.

Losing weight and keeping it off is doable. You can do it too. Instead of criticizing the game players for not scoring in the game, let’s instead fire the coaches and change the rules that are based on silly suffering and deprivation. Let’s learn how to find our own happy range and take initiative in doing what works and enjoying foods we love – on our terms.

Are you ready?

Shoot me an email and let’s chat about setting you up for a personal success story. It’s your choice either way.

Kathyprofitness@gmail.com

Recovery; What is it GOOD for?

Recovering takes work. Whether you are recovering from a hard workout, a surgery, an accident or race, an illness, etc – it’s usually something we view as a passive process. Almost like a non-event. Right? I have heard from so many clients who desire to workout 7 days of the week to their maximum capacity refuse to accept this concept. So I would like to break it down so you can understand why it is so crucial to work on your recovery periods. Stop assuming that this process is something that simply takes care of itself with time.

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The recovery phase starts as soon as the physical task ends. It doesn’t start 60 minutes later, later that night or in the morning when you roll out of bed. It begins while you still have sweat pouring down your face – and this is something I’ve been known to repeat when I was teaching group exercise classes and I’d see people who thought the “workout” was over, sneaking out of class.

The cool down and stretch is the beginning of your recovery period; do NOT skip this!

I’d repeat this so often and still see those who weren’t buying it anyway. I know how to recover because I had to recover. When I trained for my fitness competition, when I trained and ran my first full marathon, and when I’ve completed intense training plans in order to reach goals, I’d find my body ragged and in need of more than just some rest and time. I suffered through some adrenal fatigue, I’ve dealt with injuries, pains, and lack of desire to move my body any longer (which is weird for me because I am a high intensity loving junky – but you don’t have to be like I am in order to need recovery)

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Let’s understand what “RECOVERY” means: The very first step to having a better recovery is to simply understand what this means. Much like your car’s engine, the human body is constantly producing waste products from functions such as contracting muscles, absorbing external forces, digesting foods and cooling itself down. When our body’s are subject to higher activities with higher intensity levels; higher temperatures; longer durations, it produces higher levels of waste. (bet you didn’t know that!) This means that the body is always working to rid itself of these toxins, such as lactic acid, damaged blood cells, urea (within our urine) salts and elements of inflammation.

The next important part of the recovery period is the support of healthy, oxygen-rich blood into the body parts that have worked hard during the activity, or workouts. Carrying away the toxins (bad) and bringing in more blood, oxygen, sugar (good) is the simple process that we can visualize during our recovery. The bad stuff (toxins) are removed from the body by systems that include our skin, sweat, urine, lungs, rectum and even open wounds. The good stuff, like nutrients, fluids and oxygen are then delivered to the working muscles, the brain and the organs by the digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems. It’s like we have our own personal worker bees buzzing around inside our bodies doing damage control after we pummel ourselves with life, stress and workouts.

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Let’s talk about the right way to recover:

The recovery phase benefits that impacts our bodies can be broken down into several areas….

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1. Injury Prevention

In order to allow our body’s systems to work together effectively before the next tough workout, etc, our body must first restore key body abilities and functions. It’s important to regain this balance before we place additional demands and stress in order to prevent injuries. Pay attention to these:

  • muscle flexibility
  • joint range of motion
  • blood sugar levels
  • tendon flexibility
  • spine mobility
  • hand grip strength
  • bodily hydration levels
  • mental concentration

2. Better Performance
Most of us view recovery as “getting over” the tough workout and “getting back to normal”, right? Well that’s wrong! The truth is that vigorous workouts or challenges are more about creating an investment into higher performance. By changing how we think about recovery phases, we can speed up our recovery and allow ourselves to both overcome the challenge that’s passed and to perform better and stronger with higher levels of energy and balance to our body and minds in the future.

3. Badass Levels of Confidence

Imagine you are an amazing athlete (which you are) with a perfect recovery plan (which you may need some work on, most of us do). You’re enjoying the results of preventing injuries and better performance (score!). Would you be confident as you move into your next workout? Would you have more energy and fire to take on new and seemingly “scary” exercise challenges? I think you’re saying that you would and you may even be saying, “BOOOYAH”

What it takes to recover effectively:

1. Hydrate. This is something that’s quite easy to do and yet most of my clients admit skipping more often than they should. Did you know that your body is made up of 60% water – not sodas, not protein drinks, not energy drinks and not even Shakeology! 🙂 I repeat: 60 % WATER!! This means that at least 60% of our consumption must be pure water. It’s important to not that replacing lost fluids with water (and salt, electrolytes and calories) as soon as freaking possible after a workout is our top priority! (check out HYDRATE, I love it!)

2. Heat reduction.  When we exercise in a hot environment, it’s crucial to cool the body’s core (chest = heart, lungs and organs) so we stay alive. Getting cool water to our heads, getting out of direct sunlight, enjoying some cool air or a cool breeze and drinking cold drinks will all help to cool our elevated body core temperature. I know it’s what we want to do because being overheated feels miserably hot…but it’s important to also understand what to do and why we do it.

3. Getting rid of the waste (not what you think).  Getting your legs elevated, as well as some easy knee, ankle and toe motions in a cool environment will help to increase your body’s natural ability to get rid of the toxins in the muscles of your legs and hips. Do you even?

4. Refuel and replenish with nutrition.  Did you know that the 30-minute window after a hard workout is the best time to get in a high-carb (yum!) and low-protein snack? This helps the body restore muscle glycogen and blood sugar levels. Don’t miss this window!!!

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5. Restore muscle balance. It’s important to rebalance the chemicals, fluids, nutrients, sugars and flexibility within our bodies in order to help our muscles regain their functions. If not, this is when muscle contractions can occur because of complicated nerve and chemical reactions within these muscles.

6. Get some shut-eye (sleep). When we are busier than usual, one of the first areas to skimp on is sleep. But did you know that sleep affects every single cell inside of your body? Yes, every one of them! That’s a LOT of cells being affected. Sleep is the easiest, cheapest and yet, most important, part of your recovery. You’ll need at least 90 minutes to slow your brain and body down before your earlier bedtime. Stop using your smart phones, any and all electronics and loud music in this time frame in order to prepare your mind to embrace deeper sleep. A cool room with no light should be part of your nightly sleep pattern to master this critical step in your recovery plan.

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So, how can we recover properly?

Make recovery non-negotiable.

Make sure to plan your recovery into your daily routine just like tying your shoes before you jump into your workout or putting on your seatbelt before heading out onto the road. Don’t wait for soreness or pain to be your reminder to do so.

Examples:

  1. Morning stretch with coffee
  2. Arriving at morning workout with an ice pack and ace wrap in cooler for the drive to work
  3. Ride your bike to/from gym workouts
  4. Stretch for 3 songs after every workout

Don’t underestimate the power of the right foods and drinks.

Your body works freaking hard for you so it totally deserves to get the energy it needs from the best sources that are available: whole foods and not processed and man-made crap! Choose dark colored veggies, fruits, fresh, fish/chicken/beef and water are all perfect sources to replenish your body during it’s recovery phases. I like to use RECOVER and SHAKEOLOGY to help my body recover and run at it’s best.

Examples:

  • Post-workout berry/kale/veggie shakes or my shakeology 🙂
  • Fish and veggies dinners 3x/week
  • Drink 3 bottles of water before lunch at work every day

Do more of what made you sore.

The day after a very hard workout is the perfect time to do a similar “Mini-Me” workout. Most people shy away from doing this because they assume it’s too soon and too uncomfortable. But when did “comfortable” help us achieve new levels of success? Just make it a small workout though, and not the same exact workout you did the day before. For example, the total workload, weight, intensity, or distance should be no more than 10% of the previous day’s brutal workout. Does that make you feel better now? 🙂 The goal here is to get the muscles and joints to repeat the motions of the tough workout. This helps to restore healthy joint range of motion and muscle mobility while also helps to restore normal blood flow into the sore and fatigued muscles.

Example:

The day after your grueling workout:

  • Barefoot walk half a mile on level grass or sand while drinking water
  • Run ½ mile on level grass or sand with running shoes
  • 2 burpees + sideshuffle 20 yards each way
  • 5 air squats
  • 2 pullups
  • Walk backwards 40 yards
  • Aggressive roller on legs, lats and back for 10 mins
  • Full-body stretch and an easy bike or swim for 10-30 minutes

Start sooner.

The sooner you start your recovery, the quicker you will make a full recovery. Don’t wait until after the soreness sets in to start because this will only delay the total recovery period. (and I don’t like to wait! LOL) Practice doing some “old school” style cool downs while the blood flow is still higher and the body is working hard to remove those high levels of toxins lingering in your muscles, blood and tissues.

Examples:

  • After every workout: 15-30 minutes of non-running cardio
  • Roller and stretch within 15 minutes after a workout
  • Have a pre-made recovery carbohydrate-heavy drink waiting for you after every workout (Shakeology and Recover are my go-to’s)

Listen to your inner warrior—your body.

Our body has a natural and awesome ability to know what it needs to feel better and to heal itself. It always needs some TLC, so give it some. ❤ Sometimes it may be tough love that isn’t as comfortable or as fun but if it helps your body to do it’s job quicker and with less effort, you will be happier long term. Examples: If you’re sore, ice your muscles. If you’re feeling tight, then stretch! If you find yourself feeling like your legs feel dead or you have zero energy stores then cancel your run and do a yoga routine or intense stretch with some core work and schedule in a massage. 

Ice is your BFF.

Forget the ridiculous saying: 72 hours after an injury, switch to heat. It’s a lie because it only applies to a small percentage of injuries for high-level athletes. Injury Management rule of thumb:

If a body part is warm, red or swollen, ICE it.

Ice is an athlete’s best friend because it reduces pain and decreases inflammation.  Use an ice pack or bag for 15 minutes MAX.

 

Here are some more examples:

  1. Sitting in a cold shower, cold mountain stream or ice bath is a great way to use ice to reduce body inflammation, pain and—let’s be honest—toughen your mind.
  2. Using 1-minute ice/1-minute heat/repeat 3-6 times contrast therapy is an easy way to decrease swelling for a chronic injury that is not red or warm.
  3. For acute and chronic injuries, ice should be applied to the site of the injury.

Embrace massage, rollers, yoga and stretching…PUH-LEEZE~

I use a hard roller every night before I go to bed and as soon as I wake up in the morning. Too many people skip this and the effects add up sooner or later and I’d rather you not suffer the pains from something as simple as this step. As you age, flexibility and mobility become a higher priority. The use of rollers, massage, yoga, flexibility exercises, Pilates, and stretching is crucial for keeping your muscles pliable and your joints limber.

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Examples:

  1. Roller on legs and shoulders every morning and night
  2. Regularly scheduled massages
  3. Easy stretching with deep breathing should be comfortable and relaxing. If it’s painful, you’re being too aggressive and, therefore, not effective.

Changing the way you think about recovery. This is the first step to embrace the benefits of mastering these critical recovery skills. Learn more by educating yourself, listening to your body, ask others for recovery tips, learn from your mistakes and put your recovery plan in place by planning it out like your workout. This will ensure you continue to handle yesterdays’ workout challenges and be ready to take on today’s.