The Pity of Tight Shorts

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the culprits

This past Monday, as some of you might know, the weather here in Portland was just amazing. There were clear blue skies, the sun was shining up high and bright, and there was amazing crisp breeze flowing through the air. Pure bliss!

I had decided that day at work, that it would be a true shame if we spent that amazing afternoon indoors in a gym. So instead, we decided to take the pup for a neighborhood hike. Sounds amazing right? It was, that was until I put on my favorite pair of jean shorts. Well what do you know, those darn leg holes fit tight. Really tight.

It had been little less than a year since I had slipped into them, and now they were tight on me. What a bummer! My high spirits quickly dissipated, and for the rest of the hike all I can think about (and feel) was my tight shorts-which I kept on anyways, hoping they’d loosen up lol

As I was wallowing in self-pity thinking, “I’m NEVER going to eat again for the rest of my life” and “I shouldn’t have eaten those crackers yesterday,” then it finally dawned on me that those shorts fit tight because I am healthy.

Well of course those darn shorts are going to be tight when I dedicate a 1x week leg-day, do 2-3 sessions of HIITs/conditioning work a week, and do plyo work in between weight training sets!! I instantly felt better.

But that also made me realize that I let something so insignificant affect my mood on that beautiful day. Right until I slipped on those stupid pair of shorts, I was feeling great. I didn’t think anything different about my body, I wasn’t self-conscious about myself at all, and I certainly would have never of thought I was going to ‘quit’ eating “forever” (ha!), yet those jean shorts had such an impact on me.
What I’m getting at is that the most important indicator of your happiness shouldn’t be dictated by an inanimate object such as a scale or a pair of smaller jeans (or shorts in my case), but on trying your very best on anything you want. Be satisfied that you have put in your work and trust yourself along the way.

Repeat to yourself what you know about yourself every day. It’s so easy for us to forget all of the positive things we already do, so do yourself a favor and remind yourself every day!

Here’s my example:

I know that I work out hard in every one of my sessions, I know that I eat healthy, I know that I lead a balanced life, I know that body weight is insignificant, I know that cheat meals are ok, I know that I am healthy, I know that I have amazing friends and family, I know that I am loved, I know that I try to be my best every day, I know that I am my own person, I know I try to enjoy the little things in life.

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Sitting the New Smoking?

It’s time to get up and start walking around!

..just sitting.

..just sitting.

Research shows that sitting for long periods of time is linked to a number of health risk factors including heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.

This certainly is a serious matter if you happen to be physically inactive and have a desk job.

From an evolutionary stand point, we were not made to sit for long periods of time. Our ancestors were hunters and gathers, not ‘sit in front of a computer all day’ kind of people.

Today’s demanding workforce has forced us to become much more sedentary than ever. According to the New York’s Times, we now sit for an average of 12-16 hours a day (50-70%). To put this into perspective, if you sleep anywhere between 6 to 8 hours and sit for the next 12 to 16 hours, you’ve only been active for a maximum of 6 of the 24 hours in your day! The same article points out how diabetes comes into play. It states, “When muscles don’t contract they require less fuel, and this surplus of fuel in the form of blood sugar accumulates in the bloodstream, contributing to diabetes risk and other health concerns.” (HOLY MOLY!)

My best advice is to get up every 20 minutes and move around. If you’re at work, take a quick break by walking to the water fountain, drop off mail, or stretch. If you find it hard to do this, set a timer on your phone or your calendar; it only takes a few days to form any habit. If you can, invest in fitness ball to sit on at work. From personal experience, I can tell you that I tend to sit less when I’m on my fitness ball at work. I’ve noticed that I stand up more when I use my ball than when I sit on my normal chair. When sitting on my ball, I’m constantly balancing myself thus recruiting more muscle activation.

Physioball aka Fitness Ball

Physioball aka Fitness Ball

At home, it’s equally important to stay active. Keep in mind that your days off of work are certainly not a hall pass for sitting around watching tv all day! The Journal of the American College of Cardiology concluded, “Recreational sitting, as reflected by television/screen viewing time, is related to raised mortality and CVD risk…. inflammatory and metabolic risk factors partly explain this relationship.”

In conclusion, strive to stay active and avoid sitting for long periods of time. Add to your good health by staying active even on the weekends. Make it a point to stand up as much as you can, take walks, play outdoors or indoors, practice yoga, stretch, foam roll, or simply do housework. Whatever you decide to do, I can assure you that it will be better than sitting around!

References:
Stamatakis E, et al. Screen-based entertainment time, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular events: Population-based study with ongoing mortality and hospital events follow-up. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2011;57:292.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/17/get-up-get-out-dont-sit/

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=

nobodytime

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…

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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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.