When Stress Levels Keep You From Your Goals

We’ve all been there before. We get excited to change our lives in a positive way and follow a weight loss; fitness; transformation program only to get stuck again and fall off track.

I have heard this from multiple clients over the years and I’m sure we’ve all struggled with it at one time or another.

Stress kills results.

You can’t change a behavior consistently until you can not be stressed out consistently.

Here is an example conversation:

Client – “I was doing great with my workouts but then this thing happened and I got stressed out/overwhelmed/too busy and I stopped working out. A month ago.”

Coach – “Remember when we talked about this and you said that working out was really important to you and it was a big change you want to make in your life? You joined a gym, you blocked out time in your schedule, you found a program that worked for you…”

Client – “Right. It’s really important to me. Also I’m not doing it. Because busy. Much overwhelm. So stress.”

So what to do? Let’s explore what’s going on in the brain.

Imagine two decision making pathways in your brain.

The first one is a goal-oriented system that focuses on actions and results. This part of your mind gets the relationship between eating broccoli for dinner instead of french fries. It connects with your long term goal of losing weight and it takes action of choosing the broccoli.

This is the part that considers the goal and then taking action on said goal. It ties it together by the outcome that is produced when the action taken moves you toward a goal.

2+2=4

The second pathway is the habit system that learns stimulus response associations and does NOT connect them with the long term outcomes. This pathway doesn’t start with any knowledge of a goal somewhere in the future; it starts with whatever is happening in the present moment, like, “I’m hungry.” (stimulus) It then leads to the habit response of what we know from the past, “French fries are delicious and make me not hungry!” And that’s where it stops.

Problem, solved? Not so much.

We have to change the old habits into new ways of handling the current situation. You get stressed; you eat foods that make you not stressed. You don’t have time to plan your healthy meals; so you eat whatever you can find that makes you feel good. The interesting part about this is that when you find yourself locked into this habit mode response behavior, you stop connecting the results with the responses.

Your brain, in that specific moment, doesn’t link choosing french fries for dinner and gaining weight. It doesn’t even matter if you are troubled with your weight gains. You’ll keep doing the things that sabotage your long term goals, and you’ll continue to feel powerless to stop it.

AKA: Yo-yo cycles.

Now let’s see what makes our brain shift from the first system (I do this and I lose weight) to the second system (I’m hungry and I eat fries)?

*STRESS*

Research has found that people are biased toward a habit behavior when they’re under stress. It’s a coping mechanism in how we respond to said stress.  They can be shifted back towards goal-focused decision making if they’re given drugs that block the actions of stress hormones in the brain.

Stress literally changes the part of our brains that are involved in decision making. Can you believe that? What does this mean for someone who does well with workouts when everything is going smoothly but then diverts to binges and Netflix as soon as life piles up in a series of rush hour commutes, mortgage payments and sick children?

You’re not likely to break that cycle by thinking about how important working out is to your health, happiness or other long-term goals.

You already know that. The old behavior persists anyway.

When we’re in stress monkey mode, our brain just doesn’t connect those goals to our reflexive behavior.

The part of our brain that manages things like long term goals and impulses gets drowned out of the conversation. In many cases, it’s not about the goal. The monkey wrench in the gears of the system is the chronic stress. It makes the goal irrelevant.

Once you can clear that stress away and get out of your anxiety, you’ll have a clear path forward. You’ll have a brain that’s capable of running decisions through the goal focused pathway instead of the habit response pathway. (if you can do this long enough, the goal part of your brain that shapes the habit behaviors will change what you do even when you’re not thinking about it)

We become what we consistently do.

Until that happens, it’s not about the workouts. Rearranging sets and reps and exercises won’t matter. You won’t be able to do squats consistently until you’re able to not be stressed out consistently.  Deal with the stress first.

*adapted from Precision Nutrition blog 

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/overcome-the-most-common-coaching-challenges

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Should you diet or exercise; or both?

 

When it comes to losing weight, we feel overwhelmed and under-informed.

We believe when our best friend, Jan, tells us that the Keto diet is the only way to lose weight.

We get caught up in the latest hype, thinking this must be a new research finding that finally works wonders.

But the only truth is that it’s simpler than we actually want to believe. We want to believe it’s more complicated because at least that would give us some clarity on why we haven’t achieved our goals – and kept them – after so much practice. Does that say something about us?

Yes and no. We want to believe the hype because it’s, well, hype.  We love hearing the latest gossip, watch the latest episode of our favorite reality tv show and are obsessed with scrolling through our favorite social media newsfeeds.

How can weight loss and fat loss be so boring? It’s basically the same old thing you’ve heard a million years ago:

Move more + Eat less 

Ya, I know, BORING!

But so true and when you get down to it and finally accept this truth, it can actually help free you from ever believing another hyped up claim of fat and weight loss. You can simply smile and nod when your besties tell you they finally found the “golden bestest weight loss plan ever!” Because you now know better.

But it isn’t easy to give up our old habits this easily. We may feel like a fraud. We might secretly believe that there really is going to be another magical potion or balance of macronutrients that will burn off fat faster and give us the freedom we’ve always dreamed of.

But no. Not going to happen. Ever. So let’s stop putting off the inevitable and just start already! You can start today if you truly are ready. Just start tracking your foods. You don’t even have to count the calories yet. Just write down what you eat, make sure to take note of the amount and portions and tally it all at the end of the day. Easy peasy. Or is it?

At first, this is going to feel like the hardest thing you’ve ever done! But just trust me and stick with it. It will get easier. You might have to cut back on some of the foods after a day or two of tracking. If you aren’t sure how many calories you need to lose weight, I have a video tutorial on how to find your personal magical weight loss calorie deficit range.

Now that you know how to find your calorie range,  you have no reason not to succeed, right? Or do you? I find the biggest component of weight loss and successful results come from accountability and support. We all need to feel like we are not alone in any of our efforts and it’s important to work with someone who can answer our questions and help us when we get stuck or hit a plateau. If that’s something you are interested in, you need to join my support system. Just shoot me an email to: spazzykay@gmail.com and tell me what your goals are for this month.

Here’s a fun and FREE workout you can try out with your favorite playlist to motivate you through! (message me and let me know if you give this a go!)

 

FREE Playlist Workout Challenge (from Fitness Bootcamp Pros Newsletter):

Choose 4 of your favorite pump-up songs – they should be between 3:30 and 4:30 minutes long.  Each circuit is done for the duration of the song.

Warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of light cardio, then some moving stretches (leg swings, arm circles, etc)

Song 1:

– 10 Jumping Jacks

– 10 Reverse Lunges (10/side)

– 10 Mountain climbers (10/side)

– 10 second rest (if needed)

Song 2:

– 10 Push-ups

– 10 BodyWeight Squats

– 10 Bent-Over Rows (10/side)

– 10 second rest (if needed)

 

Song 3:

– 10 Burpees

– 10 High Knees (10/side)

– 10 Walking Lunges w/ twist (5/side)

– 10 second rest (if needed)

Song 4:

– 10 Glute Bridges (hold 3 sec at top)

– 10 sec Side Plank (10 left / 10 right)

– 10 Mountain Climbers

– 10 second rest (if needed)

Common Struggles S.O.S.

It’s a new year.

We are naturally excited to start fresh. This is the time of the year to reassess our goals in life and most of the goals revolve around health, weight loss, fitness, and diets. Trust me, I’ve done it more times than I can count too but I finally got frustrated with the “on again” “off again” pattern and decided to get real with myself on what I was going to stick to and what I was going to let go.

 

I took a few polls on what most of us may be struggling in, both now and in the past, and will share my best tips here on these subjects. I hope they can give you an extra push to get yourself on track…and stay on track! 😉

  • How to get started. Getting started is always one of the hardest things to do. We wonder where should we begin and when should we begin? We may be plagued with unhappy memories of plans that went awry and worry this will happen once again. Our confidence levels may be at an all time low. Here’s my tips on getting started, and staying on track, for good this time:
    1. Get 100% clear on WHY you are doing this now. What are your goals? If it’s to lose 10 lbs, then ask yourself WHY do you want to lose 10 lbs? Losing 10 lbs is not a strong enough reason when the going gets tough (as it will!) so really dive deep into your “why” and pinpoint the importance of your goals this time. It could come down to some scary health issues you may be worrying about, it might be a reunion you want to look good for, it might be a wedding (your own or a family/friend). Whatever it is, get clear on your deep reason so you are willing to fight for the results instead of half-assing it, yet again.
    2. Once you have your WHY worked out and written down (I suggest to post it somewhere you will see daily), you must pick a start date asap. It’s better to start sooner, even “IF” that doesn’t sound like it will fit into your current schedule. (*hint: if you are not willing to start within the next 1-2 days, then you aren’t that serious about your goals yet!) Choose to start today or tomorrow at the very latest. Trust me!
    3. Finally, you will start with something simple. Your first step should be so simple that it almost sounds silly, compared to what you’ve done in the past. Let’s be honest, when we usually start something, it’s an “all or nothing” approach, am I right? We have a pre-written diet plan (which I despise), a grueling exercise program and a goal that almost seems impossible to reach. This never works. We have lives to live, we have other obligations and people that we need to work around. Diving into a program that is extreme will only leave us burnt out and dropping the plan within 1-2 weeks. #guaranteed Start simple. Choose one thing and get really good at it this week. For example, start with the goal of drinking 8 oz of water as soon as you wake up in the morning. Then, set your phone alarm to remind you to drink another 8 oz every hour or two for the rest of the day. Yes, you’ll be using the bathroom more but you’ll also notice that you may not be as hungry in between meals, you may have some extra energy throughout your day and you will feel accomplished from this one simple step! Repeat the new habit for 7 days in a row before adding another simple step. You’ll find within a few months time, you’re able to maintain more consistency in these new habits and it won’t feel like you’re overhauling your entire life.
  • Making the time. When we are over-scheduled and overly busy with our lives, how the heck can we expect to make time to eat right and work out again? I’ll remind you to check out the first habit above on getting started and finding your reason “why”. If this reason is truly important to you, you will want to make it a priority. Once it’s a priority, you can then review your daily tasks and find something that isn’t as important to you and swap with your new priority. For example, are you needing to find time to exercise each day? I always suggest morning because there are less excuses that can get in our way and it’s amazing how that extra energy starts to add up in other areas of our day. Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier and just wake up without hitting your snooze button (you must be intentional about NOT hitting snooze!). Don’t worry about what you do for your workout, just workout! It could be a video from YouTube, a walk or jog on your treadmill or around your neighborhood, it could be following a written plan of exercises from Pinterest or taking a class at your local gym. 20-30 minutes of exercise is enough and you’ll feel more accomplished the entire day! Making time to eat right is simple enough to do…but also simple enough NOT to do so decide if this is important to you first. 🙂 Each evening, write out your foods for the next day and if you need to prep some of your meals ahead of time, do it then. Don’t let anything you want to get done wait until the last minute, especially when you are making these new changes. If it’s ready to go, you have less excuses to not get it done right. Have breakfast every morning. It could be as simple as a protein shake or a yogurt with a piece of fruit. Don’t get overly picky about your choices yet, just start with the habit of eating good foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Write these out the night before and take the foods with you as needed. Eat snacks in between if you are waiting longer than 3 hours between meals. Also, don’t forget to add in time for rest and recovery, or you will risk overtraining and injuries. Sleep at least 7 hours each night. Turn off your tv, computer and put down your cell phones at night so that your brain can relax and you can sleep soundly and wake up more alert when the alarm rings in the morning.
  • Staying Motivated. Now that you have started your program (and figured out your why), and have made the time and commitment to workout and eat healthy foods…what happens when motivation wanes? (because it does) Once again, reassess your reasons “WHY’ to see if they are still important enough to you when motivation is low. If it is, you must find an accountability system. This is HUGE when it comes to improving your consistency and sticking to your plan. There will be times when your energy is low, when your motivation isn’t there and your willpower seems non-existent. You might now WHAT to do but for some reason, you just can’t get yourself to do it. That’s where accountability kicks in. Accountability is the acknowledgment of your responsibility for your actions with the obligation to report, explain and be responsible for the resulting consequences. In other words, having accountability keeps you consistent because you’re required to report back to someone what you’re doing – or not doing – with your diet and your exercise plan. This someone can be a friend, family member, a coach or a Facebook group. What makes accountability so powerful is that it doesn’t matter how little motivation you may have to do something. If you know there is someone – or multiple someones – expecting you to report back to them…you will get it done. Or go MIA…which will then mean your WHY didn’t mean as much after all. Need a support group on Facebook? I have one that you can join and just get accountability today: Join the Facebook Online Fitness Community HERE

That’s it for today’s tips. I will be sharing all week with you and hope that you take what you need and make it work for you this month. Shoot me any questions or comments and I’ll get right back to you as needed. Here’s to your best year yet!

Stretching: Is it worth the time?

We’ve all heard how important stretching is. It’s been preached about forever and a day. I remember high school gym teachers would run us through some static stretches and that was a loooong time ago! 😉

All joking aside, stretching truly IS all that it’s cracked up to be and yet not everyone does it.

Why? It seems that many people feel it’s not as important as the all powerful ‘workout’ and it is just a waste of valuable time when there is so much to do in a day. Or maybe, it’s viewed as a practice for people who like to do yoga and or need to relax?

Maybe. While these can definitely seem true, it’s still critical to our goals to stretch but not in the way we’ve learned a million years ago in high school! (disclaimer: if you are in high school today and reading this, you might still be doing static stretching as my son has said and he’s in high school today)

 

Anywho (this word cracks me up because it makes absolutely NO sense and yet so many people use it), let’s talk about adding in some dynamic stretching into your program to see how valuable this is to your training. Maybe you don’t know what this is? Totally okay, because I’m here to help 😉

Dynamic stretching is exactly what the name implies. You are actually moving and involving the muscles for the stretch to take place. Static stretching is where you hold a stretch and breath for a given amount of time. (yes, kind of like yoga but not really). Dynamic stretching is perfect for both athletes and weight lifters alike, because it not only stretches the muscles but also helps incorporate a warm-up at the same time due to the movement that is involved. Two for one! No more thinking it’s a time waster (which it isn’t). 😉

 

So let’s clarify why it’s important to incorporate dynamic stretches and how they can help our performance. This way of stretching and moving tells our body that something is coming in terms of a workload being placed upon our bodies and we are better able to prepare for the challenges. It helps get our blood pumping, raises our core temperature and helps to eliminate and reduce muscle stiffness that we may experience. The muscles get flooded with blood and oxygen to help them perform at a higher level in sports and a workout plan. It helps our muscle fibers and connective tissue to become more flexible and improve our overall range of motion.

Not only these, but dynamic stretching also increases our power. A very important aspect to an athlete who needs to utilize explosive movements in their game, or a powerlifter who needs to exert explosive forces against a weight in order to perform and complete an exercise or lift.

I’ve been incorporating this type of warm-up in my clients’ workouts; both online and in person. It’s important to correlate the stretching movements with the workload that will be done. It would be a waste of our valuable time if we focused on upper body stretches only when our training that day involves running and lower body movements. My son played football last year in high school and told me how they warmed up with dynamic stretches. For these athletes, it’s important to incorporate both upper and lower body in their dynamic stretches. Here are some excellent benefits to adding dynamic stretches into your routine:

  • it increases flexibility
  • it increases our range of motion
  • in increases blood flow and body temperature
  • it increases our power output capabilities
  • it helps increase our endurance
  • it improves neuromuscular activation
  • it helps to improve our balance
  • it improves our coordination
  • it decreases our risk of injury

All winning benefits in my book! 😉

So now that you know what it is and why it’s important, let’s talk about how you can add it into your routine. I’ll give you a 3-step process to follow for best results in your next workout:

  1. Warm-up first for about 5 minutes on a machine or you can go for a walk, jog or even light cycling.
  2. Incorporate some dynamic moves based on the work you are getting ready to perform.
  3. Start your workout.

Easy! Now, what the heck are some dynamic moves anyway, right? (thought you’d never ask!) Here is a great video that shows both upper and lower body dynamic stretches. It also gets you warmed up, as you’ll see!

Let’s get started! Need some help with your training and goals? Let’s see if we can work together on some goal setting and success. Just fill in this application and I’ll be in touch shortly!

Stretching: Is it worth the time?

We’ve all heard how important stretching is. It’s been preached about forever and a day. I remember high school gym teachers would run us through some static stretches and that was a loooong time ago! 😉

All joking aside, stretching truly IS all that it’s cracked up to be and yet not everyone does it.

Why? It seems that many people feel it’s not as important as the all powerful ‘workout’ and it is just a waste of valuable time when there is so much to do in a day. Or maybe, it’s viewed as a practice for people who like to do yoga and or need to relax?

Maybe. While these can definitely seem true, it’s still critical to our goals to stretch but not in the way we’ve learned a million years ago in high school! (disclaimer: if you are in high school today and reading this, you might still be doing static stretching as my son has said and he’s in high school today)

 

Anywho (this word cracks me up because it makes absolutely NO sense and yet so many people use it), let’s talk about adding in some dynamic stretching into your program to see how valuable this is to your training. Maybe you don’t know what this is? Totally okay, because I’m here to help 😉

Dynamic stretching is exactly what the name implies. You are actually moving and involving the muscles for the stretch to take place. Static stretching is where you hold a stretch and breath for a given amount of time. (yes, kind of like yoga but not really). Dynamic stretching is perfect for both athletes and weight lifters alike, because it not only stretches the muscles but also helps incorporate a warm-up at the same time due to the movement that is involved. Two for one! No more thinking it’s a time waster (which it isn’t). 😉

 

So let’s clarify why it’s important to incorporate dynamic stretches and how they can help our performance. This way of stretching and moving tells our body that something is coming in terms of a workload being placed upon our bodies and we are better able to prepare for the challenges. It helps get our blood pumping, raises our core temperature and helps to eliminate and reduce muscle stiffness that we may experience. The muscles get flooded with blood and oxygen to help them perform at a higher level in sports and a workout plan. It helps our muscle fibers and connective tissue to become more flexible and improve our overall range of motion.

Not only these, but dynamic stretching also increases our power. A very important aspect to an athlete who needs to utilize explosive movements in their game, or a powerlifter who needs to exert explosive forces against a weight in order to perform and complete an exercise or lift.

I’ve been incorporating this type of warm-up in my clients’ workouts; both online and in person. It’s important to correlate the stretching movements with the workload that will be done. It would be a waste of our valuable time if we focused on upper body stretches only when our training that day involves running and lower body movements. My son played football last year in high school and told me how they warmed up with dynamic stretches. For these athletes, it’s important to incorporate both upper and lower body in their dynamic stretches. Here are some excellent benefits to adding dynamic stretches into your routine:

  • it increases flexibility
  • it increases our range of motion
  • in increases blood flow and body temperature
  • it increases our power output capabilities
  • it helps increase our endurance
  • it improves neuromuscular activation
  • it helps to improve our balance
  • it improves our coordination
  • it decreases our risk of injury

All winning benefits in my book! 😉

So now that you know what it is and why it’s important, let’s talk about how you can add it into your routine. I’ll give you a 3-step process to follow for best results in your next workout:

  1. Warm-up first for about 5 minutes on a machine or you can go for a walk, jog or even light cycling.
  2. Incorporate some dynamic moves based on the work you are getting ready to perform.
  3. Start your workout.

Easy! Now, what the heck are some dynamic moves anyway, right? (thought you’d never ask!) Here is a great video that shows both upper and lower body dynamic stretches. It also gets you warmed up, as you’ll see!

Let’s get started! Need some help with your training and goals? Let’s see if we can work together on some goal setting and success. Just fill in this application and I’ll be in touch shortly!

The UN-Diet Plan

So here we are on another Monday and facing a new month ahead.

Holiday season looms and many people start to shudder at the thought of finding a new DIET….

“When will it end?”, you might wonder at times.  “Why can’t I just finally stop needing to lose weight and get fit again and again?”

I’ve been asked so many times from clients and friends about the newest, fad diets and what I think about them. Let me simplify and just tell you that I think all diets are crap. They are created to deprive us and make us feel bad about ourselves.

Why? So that we finally stop following that said diet and gain the weight back again (because we didn’t really learn anything of value except that we suck and can’t lose weight) only to have to find another diet plan as soon as we hit rock bottom or need to get into better shape for an event.

Can we just ban them for good? I finally did and I want to empower you, my dear friend, to do the same. (If you already have then high five to you but please pass this along to someone who might still be stuck in diet hell)

It took me years to finally learn what areas were holding me back and un-learn what I needed to change in order to finally succeed and enjoy my life. I didn’t want to eat broccoli and chicken breast for the rest of my days. I didn’t want to cut out carbs. I didn’t want to live on salads. I didn’t want to NOT have fun when I wanted. (I may sound like a 2-year old throwing a tantrum but honestly, don’t you feel like that when you’re told YOU CAN’T HAVE THAT?? we now understand 2 year olds better!)

I’d love to give you a guideline to start today. Since we are taught to be “good” or “bad” in any given moment or following a plan of what we “can” and “cannot” eat (which is ludicrous to think long term but we need to take baby steps first) I am sharing my 7 Day Slim Down plan, Exercise Plan and Grocery List with you. But let me explain what this plan actually is and what it is not.

  1. It is NOT a diet. It is a blueprint of how to start implementing real foods into your life again. Most of us learn to cut out as much foods as possible. So we wake up each morning and skip breakfast (because who’s really hungry in the morning anyway, right?) then we end up scarfing down some unhealthy foods before lunch because we are so hungry. This continues throughout the day as we go through our feelings of guilt from eating what we shouldn’t have eaten and then starving ourselves some more because we ate too much of what’s not good for us.
  2. It IS a blueprint (as mentioned above) and by noticing there are 3 meals every day and 2 snacks in between 2 of those meals is your starting point. You can either choose to follow the foods written out for reference if you don’t like coming up with your own; or you can use the grocery list of foods and swap out items that you actually enjoy and/or have on hand. I’ve never liked following a meal plan written out for the masses either but it’s a helpful tool to learn from and adjust as needed for our own lives and likes.
  3. It will help with drinking more water (which most of us don’t get enough of) because being dehydrated makes us think we are ‘hungry’ and if we just stick to our water intake we won’t have as many hunger pangs throughout the day. Start drinking water early in your day and glug it! I wake up and immediately (no, don’t go do ANYTHING else until this is done!) drink 1/2 to 1 full liter of water on an empty stomach. We wake up dehydrated already and what’s the first thing most of us pour down our throats? Coffee…which just dehydrates us more. Now, I love coffee and would never dream of telling anyone to stop drinking it because I won’t either…but I will first get my water in and then enjoy my coffee! 😉
  4. This forces you to eat foods that are from nature. We are so used to buying convenience foods because we tell ourselves we are “too busy” to eat healthy but I call B.S. on this too. It takes less time than you think and saves you tons of money in the long run to buy whole foods and cook them up yourself. Trust me, I haaaate spending extra time on anything but if I can get a healthy meal cooked and still smile to enjoy it; then anyone can! I am not a natural ‘foodie’ and don’t enjoy taking my time when cooking but there are so many quick and easy recipes online that we are out of excuses.
  5. This plan also comes with a simple ‘at home’ fitness program. You don’t have to follow the workouts but commit to at least taking a daily walk for 15-20 minutes and timing yourself so that you see when you’re able to walk faster and/or add more time to your walkabouts. If you choose to give the workouts a try and are hesitant because you don’t know if you’re able to finish them – just do at least 10 minutes and if you don’t feel like continuing after 10 minutes is up, then stop. Easy peasy. Let’s stop making things so difficult that it stops us before we start.

I know you can do this. It’s only 7 days, after all and you can start any day of the week that you desire. What I challenge you to do is to stick to the full 7 days. No, they don’t have to be perfect and if you make mistakes along the way or fall of track…don’t stop. That’s the old patterns of diets. Instead, try to just stay on track with every day. Finish each day to the best of your ability and write it down in a notebook. Was it hard to eat the foods? Did you get some activity in? How did you feel throughout the day as opposed to the week before? Etc…

I’d love to know if you give it a go. Just drop me an email today: kathyprofitness@gmail.com

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