It is important to understand how your body produces and uses energy in order to optimize your training. We all know that we need to expend energy during our workouts, but it is how we go about it that makes all the difference.
Exercise is fake work- simply put.
Exercise is work that we (humans) have created to make up for all that we (humans) no longer do.
If you agree with the theory of evolution, it should make sense that for the VAST (like 99%) majority of our human existence has been spent do very physical real work.
I’m referring to it as real work because it includes shit that, if you didn’t do, you would die, quickly.
This great recipe came from Janna who said it was quick and easy to make. She amps it up with some chili flakes and sausage. Switch out the pasta for whole wheat, zoodles or spaghetti squash and enjoy a fantastic meal!
Click HERE for the recipe
Way too often, we allow our doubts and fears to rule our lives. We never try the things we should or test our strength because of doubt and fear of the unknown. The gym is one place that we allow this to happen a lot. It is good to listen to your body and know when too much is too much, but if we never try, how do we know what we can do?
A perfect dish for your BBQ or just a quick lunch
A delicious "chicken" salad that no one will ever know has no chicken!
Recently, I read a quote about a goal that stuck with me. “Goals are like planning for a vacation. If you don't know where you're going how do you pack for it? If you don't know what your goal is, how do you plan for it?” Many people, including myself, have had fluffy, non specific goals set. “I want to be leaner/stronger/insert random non-specific thing here.” However, the when and how is never fully defined. The TSC is a great goal to set in place, create a plan for, and complete.
I love food. I love it to celebrate with, to mourn with, to ease sadness with, to plan trips and days around; I just love food. For a good chunk of my life, I also hated food and, frankly, feared it. It was a cause of angst as a teenager and most of my 20’s. I had a love hate relationship with food and with dieting. I was on WeightWatchers on and off since I was 16, I have done south beach, I have restricted calories, I have tracked food, but I have never succeeded with any of these for longer than a few weeks. For the last 2 years, I have not been on any specific “diet”. I follow some basic nutrition rules that work for me and been the most successful.
So what changed 2 years ago?
By the time you read this, I will have hacked away at the utter bullshit I will end up writing about my day to day life and only give the stuff that matters. It will give you what I eat, and why I eat it, and how I came to making these choices through a rational, honest and committed structure. You will also notice that many of my feelings around food mirror those of Joey Tribbiani and that lad Bruce from Matilda.
#1. Get out of your comfort zone. Do what makes you happy.
This lesson is two in one. Do what makes you happy and step out of you comfort zone. It is two in one because for most of us, to pursue what makes us happy may mean we have to get uncomfortable at first.
As most know, my career path took a big turn only a year and a half ago. At that time, I decided to leave my steady, awesome benefits package, travel to faraway places, job of 8 years at MIT and take a leap of faith on a career change into the personal training world. It was scary, but I was unhappy at MIT and training made me extremely happy. I gave my notice and decided to pursue something I had always wanted to do, but had had a lot of self-doubt around. I thought I wasn’t good enough be a trainer and that it was too late in my career to jump. Looking back, I wish I had believed in myself earlier and taken the leap.
After I left MIT I felt relieved, but I also had a lot of other changes come. I started sleeping, I lost weight and I felt a lot better physically. I did not realize the toll of being unhappy for the majority of my day took on my physically. It was easy to know the mental, but the physical was something I was unaware of.
The lesson here for me is to take the leap to something you know you want to do. Get uncomfortable. Don’t let your brain talk your heart out of something, don’t let self-doubt be the thing that stops you. It took me a few years to accept I could be good at being a personal trainer. I was good at what I did at MIT and I was comfortable. But comfortable doesn’t get you anywhere; whether it is with your training or with your life. You should do things that challenge you both in the gym and out of the gym. If you don’t, how will you ever know your potential? This lesson came back around while training for the Iron Maiden at SFG. I knew there was a big chance I would miss the weighted chin up, but I had trained for 6 months and put in all the work I could and wanted it. I went back and forth as to whether it would be more embarrassing (uncomfortable) to fail in front of 100 people, or more frustrating to not even try. I decided to be uncomfortable and attempt it. I failed. However, I only failed the strength test. I passed my own test to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something.
Try to do something or things that challenges you and pushes you out of your comfort zone. I promise you will surprise yourself with your potential.
#2. Thinking everyone and every body are the same.
Most of my friends are athletic and work out all the time; that is how we met. We all have our workout that we love- for me, kettlebells, for others, running (we obviously didn’t meet doing that) and for some, classes around the city. We all look very different and for a long time, that was an issue for me. In my head, I thought I should look like the runner or the yogi, because we all put in the same number of hours at our respective gyms and I ate better and drank less than they all did. I was constantly comparing myself to them. Looking back, I wish I had stopped doing that a lot earlier and understood that everyone is different and every body is different. Though I can’t run a marathon, I can move a lot heavier weight than most of my friends. But that should not matter. What matters is we are all healthy and happy with what we do. We find happiness in our respective workouts, we find balance with our nutrition, and do what works best for us.
I always tell my clients, if you are happy and healthy, that is what matters. However, your happiness should not be based on what you look like compared to your friends; it should be what your body can do for you, and you only.
Let me be straight though. This is a hell of a lot easier said than done. I have that moment of doubt now and then, but then I remind myself that we are all different. Lessons are not something you learn once and never have to learn again; especially the ones we have discussed here. We must be reminded now and again of these lessons.
#3. Train Smart, not just for the sweat effect.
I love a good spin class just like everyone else does. My heart is pumping, my clothes are soaked through and I am exhausted. I used to do this 5-6 times a week and when I was not seeing changes in my body, I thought it was not because of my workout, but because of something else. Once I started weight training, my entire body changed. I lost weight, my clothes became too big and I looked much thinner. What took me a lot of time to understand was even though I was not walking out of the gym feeling like I had almost died, covered in sweat, I was still getting in a workout.
These days, I train for an hour to an hour and half. I train hard and I leave feeling tired, not wrecked. I am able to train the next day and can get in 6 sessions a week. If there is a day where I feel absolutely exhausted, I let myself rest. I never did this years ago. I trained 6 days a week and if I missed a session, I was stressed and upset. Now, if I miss a day, it is ok because I am listening to what my body is telling me to do.
The lesson here is not all workouts are going to leave you in a puddle on the ground. That does not mean you didn’t get a good training session in. Being in a puddle on the ground doesn’t mean that either. Train smart, train well and listen to your body. Lastly, love your body.
Over the past few years, mistakes have become something I've come to enjoy rather than take negatively, because learning from my mistakes has not only made me a more solid coach, but a better human as well. In my career a few things stick out in my head that I wish I had known earlier in my journey as a strength coach.
#1 - Emphasis on Consistent Programming
The human body is constantly adapting and adjusting, and the stresses we place on the body through exercise are what trigger adaptation. When I first started weight training in high school, I was lifting weights 4-5 days per week and eating literally anything I could get my hands on (thanks, Panera for the gains). Soon enough, I learned that I could not just randomly come into the gym and do a few push ups, then some seated pull downs with the cable machine. There had to be some sort of consistency, some sort of "game plan."
This went on for a year or so until I began my transition to becoming a coach. I researched everything from bodybuilding routines to max deadlift programs and then tried them out on myself. That was when I started to get results; from the consistency of following a specific, smart, and well thought-out program with an end goal in sight. Think of someone who is "fit" or "jacked" in your eyes - have you ever asked them how long it took to get there? It took me 12 years of consistent weight training and eating lots of proteins and veggies. Consistency always reigns king. Do your research into a program or hire a coach, but most importantly stick with something long enough to yield results.
#2 - Keep it Simple
I really like to make things more complicated than necessary. This is something that I am always striving to work on. Ill admit it, when I was a novice coach I made my clients perform squats on a Bosu ball( happy that I got that off my chest). I realize now that there was no benefit to having them do that. When I think about my own training at that time, I wasn't doing any of those things. I was squatting heavy, deadlifting heavy, and pressing heavy shit over my head and seeing results. Yet, for some reason, I subjected my clients to over-complicated, unnecessary, and fancy exercises for the sake of variety. When in reality, the basics were enough.
You can apply this to anything in life, whether it's your training, nutrition or even your mindset. Stick to the basics, be consistent with them, perfect them, and then perfect them some more.
"An old trick well done is far better than a new trick with no effect" - Harry Houdini
Mistakes are my middle name but two stand out as the biggest blocks in my progress in my years as a coach:
- Not getting a mentor/coach sooner.
- Believing there was a one-size-fits all _(diet/exercise method/etc.)_.
Mistake #1: Not getting a mentor/coach sooner cost me years of growth in my own lifting and subjected my clients to years of bad coaching.
Because of life circumstances I was out on my own soon after I started coaching. I got results, but was terrified of asking for help as a coach because it would expose me as someone who had no idea what she was doing (um... true). Instead I read books and articles, gaining knowledge and "cues" without building the art and skill of coaching.
When I finally got over myself, I learned more in one year of working and training 1:1 with Steve DiLello at Total Performance Sports than I ever learned from reading countless strength training books, coaching CrossFit or bootcamp classes, and privately training clients over the previous four years combined.
Lesson: That thing you're resisting/avoiding is where your biggest opportunity for growth lies. Get curious about it and see what happens!
Mistake #2: I believed there was a one-size-fits-all diet or exercise method to happiness, health, and wellness.
The reason I am here today is because I began a quest for the healthiest way to live over 10 years ago to lose 20+ pounds of fat and effortlessly keep it off. But there-in lies a flaw… there’s no “healthiest”… only healthful-right-now…
… in your current circumstances
… in your current schedule
… and is easy to follow-through on
As I learned there’s no single right way to move or eat, I became a much more pleasant person to be around. I was able to relax into a healthy lifestyle for myself and help others build the habits that really create change instead of an all-or-none mentality.
Lesson: Eating is a tool. Exercise is a tool. The method doesn’t matter, but the stimulus to take you closer to or further from your goals does. Find what works best for you, right now, today, and make it a default habit to fall back on when life hits the fan.