Strongman

Prowler

Prowler

Structural balance should be a goal in everyone’s workout routine. With that in mind, I decided to add strongman training and yoga into my own fitness routines-I’ll get more into the yoga part in a later post. But, for those of you who don’t know what ‘strongman’ workouts are, allow me to explain.

The word, strongman, primarily took shape in the the 19th century as part of a circus act. Strongmen and/or strongwoman would perform incredible acts of power, strength and balance, which of course, would draw the attention of many spectators.

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Modern day strongman, is not much different, than those of the circus. However, it has been formalized as a style of training. Strongman training requires you to lift, push, carry, flip, or throw heavy things which are anaerobic in nature. Meaning you create tremendous exertion by generating a ton of force against the ground.

Some examples of strongman training include: sled pushing, farmer’s walks, tire flips and medicine ball throws. Most importantly, the strength gained in this type of training is easily transferred to everyday activities such as walking heavy loads of groceries home, or picking up heavy items off the ground. Strongman training=strength and functionality.

Next time you’re at the gym, try a strongman workout instead. A simple Google search will give you a myriad of strongman workouts. Or you can also add strongman components into your workout routine. Such as pairing weighted squats with farmer walks, or chest press with medicine-ball wall slams.

My new favorite conditioning workout is pushing the Prowler for 15 minutes 1-2 times/week. I’ll set my timer for 15 minutes in which I’ll push the Prowler (sled) as fast as I can using the low bars for about 20m, then I’ll switch to the high-bars and drive it back to my original spot. Repeat until the timer goes off. Breathers will be necessary but they should be short; just enough to calm your breath and keep going. In other words, rest enough time to get rid of the black spots in your vision. 🙂 Or if you prefer a formal style of training, then do an allotted amount of sets for 20-25m and rest 1-2 minutes in between sets. Try 6-8 sets x 20m then rest 1 minute, and repeat.

This style of training is not easy, but it’s certainly fun and challenging. For optimal fat loss, try a strongman workout twice a week on non-consecutive days. Break a sweat and reap the benefits of working hard!

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Abs

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Let’s talk abs. Everyone wants them, but not everyone gets them….

The first thing most women tell me is that they only want to lose the fat in their midsection. That they don’t care about the rest of the body, it’s all good, as long as they have a flat stomach.

Everywhere you go, there’s great emphasis on sporting six-pack abs.  It’s like abs are a synonym to fitness. From magazines to infomercials, I can assure you there’s a good looking couple with rock hard abs promoting “30 minutes for chiseled abs” or “the magical electric ab belt” or some type of baloney of that sort.

It’s no wonder that when one thinks of  being in ‘shape’ or ‘fit,’ we automatically think of a statuesque person with a six-pack bulging from their midsection. But is that reality? Certainly not, at least not mine.

You might be asking yourselves how can someone who has a blog called “Confessions of a Fit Girl” possibly make such statement. Well I’m realist. That’s how.

I can tell you from personal experience, and from experience of many fitness competitors, that having abs is usually not an everyday thing. Although, most men are ‘blessed’ in that department, we women have a much harder time keeping that midsection trimmed and tight. But before I go on, let me break it to you, there is no such thing as “spot-reduction.” Meaning, you won’t lose the belly fat by doing ab crunches. Sorry!

Hang on for a moment; let’s think about this a little more. Do you really want abs? Is that something you personally desire? I’ve been told, by both men and women, that they think a full set of abs on a woman looks way too masculine. Others have said women with six-pack abs are very sexy (e.g. the woman from above). And some have shared their preference for a defined midsection-kind of an in-between….Seems like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no?

Abs are the product of strict clean eating, and for those freaks of nature, pure genetics. They are usually the last show up when dieting and the first to go away after a eating a heavy meal. Temperamental little things.

But, if having a six pack is something you really, really, want, I can only suggest clean eating for weeks on end. That means you won’t be eating cheat meals anymore. The reality is, the leaner you are the more prominent those abs are going to be. I wish I could say there was some magic pill or formula to get you that six pack abs, but there isn’t.

  1. Now to give those abs more definition, you have to work them. If you do a simple google search for ab workout, you’ll encounter a myriad of options. They’re all great. Just remember proper form-no excess extension of the neck when doing crunches/curl-ups! Research shows that because the abdominal fibers are mostly fast-twitch, you should try to overload them and do lower repetitions.
  2. Those abs won’t show up if you can’t manage your stress. “Oh shoot! Here’s another thing to stress about!” Reality is we live in a high-pressure world and the hormone, cortisol, thrives in this environment. Cortisol is released when you go through physical and mental stress, and it, unfortunately, shifts your body into “fat storing mode” right onto your belly area.
  3. You need fiber. I cannot stress enough the importance of this!  You need to eat at least 25-30 grams of fiber a day to reduce intestinal inflammation and visceral fat. And by the way, visceral fat is the worst type of fat anyone can possibly have. Basically it’s the fat that wraps around your organs and heightens the risk of diabetes, heart disease and strokes. Really nasty stuff!
  4. Train your whole body. “What? What they heck, I just want abs!” Let’s think about this, when perform squats, Olympic lifts, deadlifts, and chin-ups, you use your abs…and you use them hardcore! You need your abs to stabilize your body when doing these types of exercises. In fact, you can do heavier loads if you consciously tighten your abs when you perform, for example, a squat.

So now that you have some prominent abs…

Make sure to condition them with some sprints. My favorite is 6-8 sets of 400m all out with a 4 minute rest or you can do 6-8 sets of 200m with a 2 minute rest.

Now, here’s my opinion in all this…

I appreciate abs. I think they look amazing on both men and women alike. Do I have a set of six pack abs? No, not always. Is that something I strive for? No, not really.

To tell you the truth, I hardly ever work out my abs- I simply don’t have time for it. I have to rationalize my time effectively between my family, working, lifting, conditioning/cardio, cooking, packing meals, socializing etc.

Ab work=

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I consider sprinting the best ab workout ever. Basically you get more bang for your buck! I know I sound like a broken record, but I’m a firm believer of this.  I also do a lot of compound lifts. I love deadlifting and squatting and I eat clean 80-90% of the time. That itself is enough to keep my tummy flat and tight, and in the morning I have indentions on the sides of my abs. I’m happy with that, I need no more.

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Reliving the ab days…

Foam Rolling

Foam Rolling

I cannot say enough about foam rolling. No matter if you work out or not, foam rolling is essential to maintain your body’s functionality.

For those of you who are unfamiliar to foam rolling and are asking yourselves what the heck it is, I will explain to the best of my ability. It’s a foam cylinder that you roll on; it’s the poor man’s massage therapist. There is it, described at its finest!

In all seriousness, when you roll your body weight onto a foam roller, you basically induce self-myofascial release technique.  This simple piece of dense foam, can greatly improve your body’s flexibility, function and performance. When you roll onto the foam roller, you massage all muscular restrictions back to the normal soft tissue the way it is meant to be. And the best part of it all is that this can be done in the privacy of your home, no need for gym!

On to the science-y part of foam rolling…

Myofascia is the combination of muscle and fascia. The superficial fascia is the soft connective tissue that is right under the skin and is what connects and/or wraps the muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels all together. And with age, lack of use or injuries, the muscle tissue can get ‘stuck’ causing much pain/discomfort and soreness. This affects your flexibility and range of motion. When you roll against a foam roller, you roll out any muscle knots by applying direct pressure (body weight) on to them—kind of rolling out the lumps in dough. It may be a little painful at first, so ease into it.

Myofascia Release Technique with a foam roller can, among many, help with:

  • Improve range of motion
  • Release stress
  • Reduce soreness
  • Prevent injuries
  • Aid healing

When I had an ankle injury from playing indoor soccer, my chiropractor had me roll on the affected area for two minutes, twice a day. Doing so massaged the tensed muscles and allowed blood flow into the injury which helped speed up the healing process. Not only that, but I also went through a period of severe shin splints from sprinting—so bad that it would keep me up at night!. And guess that my chiropractor suggested…that’s right, foam rolling my calves! So you see my point, foam rolling can only benefit you.

Oh and did I mention they’re usually under $20 online? I bought mine off of amazon, but you can find them in most sporting goods.

Spend just a few minutes a day Foam Rolling to feel the difference! Click here for a list of foam rolling exercises.

Here are some key points for Foam Rolling:

  1. Roll back and forth across the painful or stiff area for 60-90 seconds.
  2. Roll the injured area at least 2 times a day.
  3. Roll everyday if possible.
  4. Avoid rolling over bony areas.
  5. Breath-exhale and inhale to manage discomfort.
  6. Drink tons of water after foam rolling.
Limber as it can be!

Limber as it can be!

Going Gluten-Free

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When people ask me how they can lose weight, I always respond with the same answer. “Stop eating bread for two weeks and you’ll see and feel the difference.”

The problem with bread, or wheat grains for that matter, is the gluten in it. I’m sure you’ve heard all about people going gluten-free and how it’s probably just a fad, but in reality it’s not.

So what is gluten?

Gluten is basically the wheat’s endosperm. Gluten is what gives the elasticity in grain based dough and once baked; it gives bread its chewy texture. Gluten is composed of two types of proteins, gliadin and glutenin.

The reality is that most people don’t have the necessary stomach enzymes to break down gluten, and this even more evident with all of the genetic engineering done to wheat/grains in the last few decades. Even if you don’t feel sick right away after eating gluten-filled foods, you may still be damaging your body.

Gluten has been linked to Celiac disease, brain inflammation, autism, autoimmune thyroid disease and osteoarthritis, depression, headaches/migraines, among many more. Here is a great tool to help you figure out if you may be gluten sensitivity or intolerance.

For me, I know for a fact that I have sensitivity toward gluten. It severely affects my mood (Jekyll and Hyde kind of deal), my digestion immediately goes kaput, my joints ache the next day (especially my hands), and I get puffy all over.

So if you’re up for the challenge, try eliminating gluten from your diet. If you decide to go gluten free, make sure you are feeding your body appropriately. Eat whole foods such as: eggs, meats, veggies, fruits, probiotic rich foods (sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, and kefir) nuts and seeds for better body composition. You’ll notice those love-handles and that back-fat disappear all while your mood stabilizes.

But, before you rush out to buy ‘gluten-free’ labeled items at the grocery store, I do feel obligated to warn you about them. If it’s a processed food, even if it’s gluten free, it’s not that good for you. Often processed gluten free treats are filled with sugar and starchy flour substitutes to make up for the lack of gluten that makes it all stick together. Many people are allergic to corn, and guess what; most of the flour substitute in gluten free foods is CORN. So take the time to read food labels carefully.

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Anxiety

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Just until recently I have decided to take full on responsibility for my anxiety. Realizing that this behavior was, and has affected my past, I was ready to let go.

Fortunately, my case of anxiety is now very mild. But there has been a time when my anxiety has gotten the best of me. I’ve worried so much that I’ve had sharp pains in my stomach and/or broken out in sweat. Not only that, but my ability to reason has become so fogged, that it’s left me with irrational decisions that I have later regretted. I knew that I didn’t want to live my life that way; worrying all the time and not enjoying the ‘now.’

I have to say that I’m not a self-help book aficionado. But I did know that I need to find that something that would help me feel better, so I did a little research. I started to read a book called Self Coaching, The Powerful Program to Beat Anxiety and Depression by Joseph J. Luciani. In which my ‘anxiety-symptoms’ were described almost verbatim.

Luciani in his book explains how the feeling of lack of control is what usually triggers anxiety. But we all know that, hardly anything in life is controllable. I mean, you can’t control things like the weather, what people think or even the death someone loved.  But what you can control is being confidant enough that you can, and have the ability, to handle life’s stresses. And it all starts with your train of thought.

Anxiety is a habit, and, habits can be broken. You can choose to give in to your negative thoughts or not. For example, a fire cannot keep going unless it’s fueled by oxygen right? Well the same goes for anxiety, you cannot have anxiety unless you fuel it with your negative thoughts. In my case, my thoughts were almost always figments of my imagination. If an issue came up, I’d immediately think the worst possible scenarios. Come to learn that type of thinking is simply a coping mechanism that would help me feel temporarily in control of the unknown or my life uncertainties. Key word here is temporarily.

The problem with all of this worrying is that it gets you nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. The book points out a way to stop these thoughts from festering in your mind. When you start to think about possible scenarios, stop and think, “Is this fact or fiction?” Learning to differentiate the two is essential for your mental health. All that worrying is mentally exhausting, believe me, it really is! This trick has been of great value to me. If I answer myself by saying its fiction, which is almost all the time, then I ask myself to move on; to think of something else. And it works! Of course I’ve ‘fed’ the habit for many years, so I might have to come back repeat myself again, but that doesn’t matter, I just don’t allow these imaginary thoughts to linger in my mind. Aside from learning to differentiate fact from fiction, I realized that I was allowing my mind to bully me in other areas of my life. My workouts were not the exception.

I noticed that I tend to talk myself down from interval training.  For example, three times a week I do HIIT’s (high intensity interval training)/conditioning, in which I do either sprint, cycle, jump rope etc. I know exactly how many sets I want to do beforehand, but I catch myself thinking mid workout that I should quit. “I’ve done enough sets,” is what I’ll tell myself. It’s a constant battle. I’ve applied the “just do it” motto, in which I don’t think, I just act. How do you not think? It’s actually quite easy. It’s by enjoying the ‘now.’

When I now do my intervals, I don’t think about how tired I am and how badly I want to quit. I distract myself with enjoying my surroundings. By acknowledging them, you start living in the now and not in your brain. Just look around look at the trees, the grass, the people or whatever is around you and then act. I’ve had to remind myself to just go and  “just do it.”

You see, your thoughts can make or break you in many areas of your life. Don’t give in to your negative thoughts; instead replace them with affirmative ones and by enjoying your surroundings. Don’t let your negative thoughts run you down with exhaustion. Worrying is like a rocking chair, it may rock back and forth vigorously, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Same goes with your thoughts, if your thoughts are not real, you’re on that rocking chair that gets you nowhere. As we all know, anxiety can be detrimental to your health, so do yourself a favor and live in the now.

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Bulletproof Coffee

Lately I’ve heard so much about “Bullet-proof coffee” around the Paleo-world, that I just had to try it for myself.

Here’s the breakdown; bulletproof coffee is black coffee with pasture butter and coconut oil (MCT oil) in it. Yes, you drink straight up liquid fat in your coffee. Now before you start to gag, let me say that’s actually quite delicious and nutritious (if done right).

You see, your body runs on of two sources of energy. These are either Fats (lipids) and/or Carbohydrates (Sugars). And believe it or not, human bodies are most efficient when they run off on fats; we actually NEED fats to be healthy!

Sure eating carbs is just fine if you are an athlete with low body fat, but let’s be honest, most of the population (over 70%) is not. If you happen to be overweight or borderline overweight, carbs are definitely not your friend. Carbohydrates are metabolized in your body as sugar, which don’t get me started; sugars create pure havoc on your body. Period.

But I digress; supplementing your diet with ‘good-fats’ is key for better body composition. Yes, you eat fats to lose fats. But before you grab that Snickers bar, I have to stress the word good fats. By good fats I mean, fats such as: pasture butter, ghee, lard, chicken fat, lamb fat, full fat dairy, coconut oil, olive oil, fish oil, grass-fed tallow, avocados, nuts, seeds. Keep in mind that the non-animal fats are to be organic, unrefined and the animal fats are from pasture-raised/grass fed and organic.

But back to the butter. Eating butter from grass-fed cows contains medium chain fatty acids, which surprisingly doesn’t enter the cholesterol cycle. In fact, even though butter is high in saturated fats, they won’t elevate the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.

Come to find out that when cows eat grasses that are alive, the vitamins that are eaten in the grasses contain more fat soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, E, K than grain-fed cows. Pasture butter also contains beta carotene, which gives its yellow color naturally (commercial butter makers add colors and dyes to make it yellow…toxic and eww!!) And then comes CLA -this is one is especially important if you want to lose weight. CLA is conjugated linoleic acid which is produced in the gut of the grass fed animal. CLA is an anti-carcinogen, decreases inflammation and greatly reduced stress by lowering cortisol levels in the body which in turn, trims your waistline.

Now on to the coconut oil. The original recipe for the bulletproof coffee calls for MCT oil which is straight up Medium-chain triglyceride oil. It is found naturally in coconut oil and palm oil. MCT is easily digestible since it requires fewer enzymes to break it down and it is quickly metabolized by the liver giving you tons of energy while decreasing fat storage. Unfortunately, I don’t have any at home, or even coconut oil (ran out), so I used coconut butter for my bulletproof coffee mix.  Coconut butter still has the essential fatty acids, enzymes and vitamins than coconut oil or MCT has, just less potent in a way.

Adding butter and coconut/MCT oil to your coffee is not a great leap if you already do a Paleo nut and meat breakfast. The idea of this is to fuel your body with the proper nutrients at the right time. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so giving it the fats it needs only sets you up for a great start to your morning.

Here’s my modified version of the Bullet-Proof Coffee, which is much more conservative than the original version. Blend it all together until frothy and drink up!

1 tablespoon of organic coconut butter

1tablespoon of unsalted pasture butter

12-14 oz black coffee

So here is my report after day 2 of drinking my bulletproof coffee (so far it’s a win in my book):

  • Coffee flavor is enhanced-it’s rich with a slight coconut flavor to it.
  • I feel full for much, much longer. I eat breakfast around 7:45am and I wasn’t hungry until after 1pm.
  • I was kept focused throughout tasks.
  • I wasn’t craving a second cup of coffee at work
  • I felt energized/sharp

My two cents to all of this:

Use common sense on how much fat is appropriate for you. Don’t be afraid of fats but do respect them. Follow a low-carb/high fat protein diet if you want better body composition. Here’s a rule of thumb; never combo fats and carbs by themselves. Only supplement with carbs if you are the long lost child of Lance Armstrong, and finally give the Bulletproof Coffee a try.

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My Favorite Supplements

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Being a natural athlete requires eating the right kinds of foods and supplementing your body correctly. So here are some of the supplements I can’t live without…

Carlson Fish Oil- I take 1 teaspoon every morning with my breakfast. When I’ve had a cheat day, I’ll take an extra teaspoon before bed. Surprisingly, it tastes pretty good-you can even add it to your salads. Orange flavor is my favorite.

Zinc- My favorite has been Poliquin UberZinc and Carlson brand zinc. I take about 15-30mg each morning. Among many other benefits, having an adequate amount of zinc in you will improve your athletic performance, stabilize your mood and get rid of toxic waste from your body.

Fiber-Ah the wonders of fiber! Helps get rid of waste from your body making you feel oh so good!  I alternate every week between brands/types of fiber. Right now I’m taking 3 caps of NOW Foods Psyllium Fiber every morning and evening and  I like to alternate it with Garden of Life, Detoxifiber.

Magnesium-There are a ton of different types and brands out there, but be careful because some will do absolutely nothing beneficial to your body. In fact, some will give you diarrhea. My tried and true has been Source Naturals Ultra-Mag. I take it post-workout and/or before bedtime. Does wonders to relax your body after a workout and get you ready for bed. It also alleviates muscle cramps and muscle spasms and aids muscle contraction.

Vitamin D- I use NOW Foods, Vitamin D3 in 5000IU. Where to start with this one..ok, well you need vitamin d to help you lose weight, reduce inflammation, improve mood, prevent injuries, improve strength, oh and it has been shown that women that have adequate levels of Vitamin D have leaner children! I take 1 gel cap every morning with my breakfast.

Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder- I buy this stuff in bulk from TrueProtein.com. My favorite flavor is plain Cocoa powder with Stevia mixed in. It’s very bland, but then again, I rather have bland than having to drink a mixer cup full of unpronounceable chemicals. I take about 33g of this stuff post-workout only.

L-Glutamine- Here is something you might not know, your muscles are made up mostly of glutamine, an abundant amino-acid produced in your body. Supplementing with glutamine will aid in protein synthesis, help recover from muscle soreness, boost energy and increase levels of Human Growth Hormone. In other words, glutamaine helps increase muscle mass. Here’s more, glutamine helps reduce alcohol and sugar cravings! I’ve never, ever, gone without this stuff. I take about 1 teaspoon with my post-workout shake and when I have sugar cravings, I’ll drink a glass of water with 1 teaspoon of glutamine in it. Optimum Nutrition, unflavored is my favorite.

Glycine- It is too, an amino acid. I like glycine because it helps get rid of waste from working out and it elevates your immune system. It also calms your brain, therefore, helps you get good rest.

Other good stuff that I’ll cycle through:
Vitamin C- I take a tablet post-workout.
Organic Greens Powder-currently on it, I’ll take 1 scoop with my post-workout shake.
BCAAs
Biotin
Vitamin E

Workout hard, supplement right, eat clean and in no time, you’ll be rocking some hard core muscles!

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Disclaimer: This is stuff that has worked for me and it might not necessarily work for you. This is certainly not a treatment plan. Do your research, talk to your doctor and be smart about what you put into your body.