Photo of Amanda Stanton by Ron Roth
Whether you are a beginner or expert in the fitness world, it can be easy to cheat on your meal plans and weekly workouts. I remember at the beginning my fitness journey how easy it was to become discouraged with myself for not following the plans I laid out. When my discouragement grew, I would go through a cycle of feeling down on myself, making it infinitely easier to cheat on my clean meal plan and daily workouts. It took me a few years to learn how to stop this useless and self destructive habit. A simple change of thinking is all it took.
Every week, I allow myself at least one cheat meal and one day off from workouts so my body can heal from a week of exercise. Keeping at least one cheat meal a week in my diet plan helps me to not go overboard with "dieting" and restricting myself. For those weeks when life gets overwhelming, I do treat myself to desserts and pizza (the best food on the planet). Instead of being angry at myself for taking several steps in the wrong direction, I choose to quickly move on and love myself despite set backs. If you decide to linger on your mistakes and hold on to feelings that you are a failure, you are much more likely to slip again and again. Keep in mind that every single choice you make with your health will make a difference. Each and every time you choose to do a workout (even if only 10 minutes), or choose to have oatmeal for breakfast instead of bacon, your good choices will add up and certainly help you to become a healthier person.
While you teach yourself how to have self control over diet choices and motivation to workout, remember, DO NOT hold on to negative feelings that will make you believe that you are a failure. Understand that your mind and body have an incredibly close connection and your state of mind will be reflected in your body. Take each day as a new day and take one step at a time when accomplishing your fitness goals. Never give up on yourself and don't get discouraged when it takes longer than you expected. You WILL reach your goal, just keep at it!
Today's post is short and simple.We so frequently struggle with remaining optimistic in our fitness journey. I stay optimistic by repetition of thoughts that remind me of power and strength. Who says that you can't be the best? The most successful? The most outgoing?...You are who you DECIDE to be. No one can define who you are but yourself, so make the choices of today be something you can be proud of tomorrow. If you want to be successful, educated, physically fit, mentally well, financially rich, then make decisions that will lead you there. Yes, there will be struggle and pain, but the reward is worth it. KEEP THAT FIRE INSIDE BURNING!!! #fighterinspo #fitnessmotivation #believeinyourself
Photo by Evolve Photography, CA
Climbed a mountain and still had energy to goof off.
While thousands of people are making their way towards living a healthier life, they often overlook the importance of having one to two rest days a week to allow their body to heal and recover. It may initially seem more important to keep your workouts rolling, 7 days a week, but I can assure you that this will only cause overworking of your muscles and body, and eventually you will see progress in your physique come to a halt. As you become more familiar with the lifestyle of fitness junkies, you'll see that even the famous pros make sure they sleep 8 hours a night and have at least one day off from their normal training days.
Although easier said than done, you will learn that your weight may be dependent on you getting adequate rest. When you lack sleep, your body will maintain higher levels of cortisol and other stress hormones that are associated with obesity and weight gain. Your muscles remain inflamed and do not heal properly when your body is not allowed the rest it needs. It is understandable that many people have extremely busy schedules and don't believe they can fit 8 hours of sleep in on top of exercising during the week, however; I can assure you that it is possible. Rearranging your schedule is a must to fit both regular exercise and adequate sleep into your life. You'll be rewarded with a happier, more productive you and a body that you're pleased with. You will find that you can still get everything done that you need to, as your body will be more energized and you will be increasingly productive. Follow this advice and you'll be able to say goodbye to fatigue and hello to happiness!
So many people get discouraged quickly when they jump into the fitness lifestyle. The mistake is that immediate results are typically expected. I will be the first and the last person to tell you that you will never see results immediately or quickly. The reason so few people press on to be competitors, athletes, etc. is because, frankly, making the lifestyle changes required to be toned and trim is one of the biggest challenges you'll come up against in your life. Think I'm exaggerating? Well let your journey begin and you will see.
I'll tell you what worked for me when I decided that I wanted a physique to die for. Keep in mind that when I started I was never considered obese, but at 5' 8" tall with a small frame, I bounced between 105 and 165 pounds over the years. When I started my fitness journey, I weighed 135 and had 32-35% body fat. I've been on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to being overweight or underweight; therefore I know, earning a satisfactory and pleasing physique simply takes time. For me, that time took one year to build a solid base.
All this madness began for me in 2012 when I began to change my life one day at a time. I picked up xfactor workout DVDs and was determined to work out at home, every day, diligently to get my little modeling body back. What was supposed to be a 6 day a week workout turned out to be a 2-3 day a week workout. I just wasn't able to keep up with the videos and I felt discouraged.
A few months after my failing workout routine began, a nursing school friend asked me to accompany her to the gym. Hesitant, I decided I'd go. This, my friends, is how I stumbled on the type of exercise that my body craved and loved: weightlifting. Not more than a couple weeks in, I noticed I was sleeping better, feeling better, was happier, and studied better.
I started by lifting with my friend 3 days a week. It was only a month before I signed up and began lifting 7 days a week. I was completely hooked! The pain, the soreness, the euphoria after a workout...all of it! I spent 1.5-2.5 hours at the gym a day. I lifted heavy, ate more food than I'd ever eaten, and grew...a lot. I gained 15 pounds those first few months, most of it was muscle.
Once my metabolism adjusted to the not-so-lady-like mass proportions of food I was consuming, my weight began to steadily decline. My body fat decreased noticeably and my muscle mass continued to grow. I maintained a balance of cardio and weights every day but had little to no interest in changing my college student diet of generally crappy food. It wasn't until 12 months in that I finally had abs and decided to eat clean to continue improving my physique. When I reached the point of seeing what I was capable of, I decided to make a life change to my eating habits in addition to my new fit life. I decreased my days of working out from 7 to 5, ate cleaner, spent less time at the gym, and still saw improvements.
The point of my story is that the single most important thing to seeing the changes you want is persistence. Don't weigh yourself every day expecting a change, don't get angry at yourself when you feel your middle section is as flabby as it was last week. Give yourself grace and TIME. Your new body will be your life's biggest accomplishment and you'll feel a vigor for life that you've never felt before. Keep going my little Spartans! Take it one minute, one hour, one day, and one month at a time. You can do it!
You know the people you see at the gym that are disgustingly fit and perfect? Do you wonder how on earth they have such chiseled physiques? Well, aside from the relatively small steroid abusing and drug enhanced crowd, the majority of folks who get their stare-inducing bodies by hard work and a controlled diet. Doing this is far harder than it sounds. I've been training and changing my foods for a few years now and still haven't mastered the ideal weightlifting lifestyle. I can tell you with confidence, however, that I am well on my way to having a more chiseled physique. While my determination has played a large part in keeping me going back for more, it is my ability to FOCUS that has allowed me to train harder and longer.
What "being focused" looks like for me personally is when I am able to silence my negative thoughts and self-doubt and zone in on being present with my body. In my focused state I can engage more muscle groups, lift more weight with better control, run much longer on a treadmill, and push myself to unknown new limits.
When it comes to your workouts, you may find yourself struggling to complete as much cardio or weightlifting as you'd like. You may find it difficult to amp up your workouts or complete intense routines. Or perhaps you are simply plateauing. No matter where you are in your fitness journey, it is important that you train yourself to focus. Put the problems and issues you have aside when you workout; they will still be there when you're done. If you can do that and learn to be more present with your body, you will find a new energy and drive to make a newer, better you.
When it comes to my lifestyle people typically ask about my diet first. Being a vegetarian, I am used to getting mocked a bit by people who don't understand my dietary choices and think I eat nothing but lettuce. These same people confuse being vegetarian with being a clean eater. I'm here to educate and give a different perspective on this matter.
Here are the basics: eating healthy and clean are similar. However, eating healthy does not necessarily mean you are eating clean. But eating clean does mean you are eating healthy. Clean foods are not processed, have no additives, are natural, consist of natural sugars and fats, are very low in sodium, and can usually be eaten raw. It is better to assume that if the food you're eating was made in a factory that it's not clean. As a rule, clean foods are made in the kitchen.
Two of the most common questions I am asked about diet are:
1) "What does it mean to eat clean?"
It is difficult to summarize this type of diet in a paragraph but to put it simply, clean eaters consume a lot of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and natural carbs. Sodium intake is very low and added sugars are usually replaced with natural, non-sugar sweeteners, like stevia. Foods are purchased raw and prepared in the kitchen to avoid additives. Processed carbohydrates, like breads, are avoided as well. Gluten is known to cause an inflammatory response in the gastrointestinal tract. Even if you tolerate gluten well it is best to eliminate breads and exchange white processed carbohydrate foods with whole wheat and whole grain foods. Alcohol is avoided and water consumption resides at a gallon or more a day.
2) "Are eating healthy and eating clean the same?"
The answer is no. More often than not, when an individual eats "healthy" food they may eat a fair amount of processed food (including breads, foods that are altered to be low fat, etc.). These foods aren't necessarily "bad", but nonetheless, they are often not 100% natural and basic. The healthy crowd focuses on eating well but it doesn't go much farther than that. Eating clean is far more challenging and requires a lot more planning and preparation than a diet that is simply healthy.
If you're looking to join the fit crowd and want to improve your diet, here is my advice:
1) Make ONE change every two weeks. Being overzealous and changing your entire diet and routine will most likely result in failure.
2) Give yourself time, sometimes even months or years are needed. No one becomes successful over night.
3) Create a fitness plan to accompany your new diet. Start out slow if you need, but a good diet should always accompany an active lifestyle.
4) Stay positive. Stay focused. Be strong. But don't expect these changes to be easy.
5) And most importantly, choose a diet that works best for you. If you can't (or don't want to) eat clean, then focus on modifying your diet to be healthier.
You would be surprised how many times a week I'm told, "You're so lucky you have time to workout." While I understand where these people are coming from (as I used to say things like this to my fit friends), I can't help but want to type up my daily schedule, give it to them, and wait to hear what they have to say next. To give you an idea:
Most weeks I work 50 hours. On occasion I'm able to work 45+ and on occasion I work 60+. I successfully keep a clean house, manage to get my two dogs plenty of daily exercise, cook 3 meals a day from home, run my online business, go to the gym 1-2 hours 4-6 days a week, and ...you get the point.
As you can see, I'm a pretty busy lady. I've found that the only reason I can accomplish all that I do in a day is by making sure I exercise, no matter how "busy" I think I am. I realize my view of the non-fitness crowd seems negative so I must assure you that I don't look down on these people; all of my patients, most of my coworkers, and most of my friends over the years don't want to have anything to do with the fit lifestyle. But it is for this reason that I see how important it is to educate and encourage others to take better care of themselves by MAKING time to be fit. Besides, who doesn't want to look as good as they feel?
Over the years I've assessed what fit freaks accomplish in a day versus what the average Joe does; just take my word for it, fit people work at supersonic speeds and accomplish a lot more in a day because of extra strength, endurance, and energy. What I mean is, FIND TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Your body deserves it and you deserve it. And if being sexy doesn't peak your interest to get fit, then start a workout regimen so you can be a superhero like me. ;-)
If there is anything that I've learned along my fitness journey its that persistence is mandatory. You will not see results right away. You will not enjoy your workouts right away. You will want to give up. This challenging but rewarding lifestyle will not come easily to you. It is so easy for people to be dispirited about this. Don't fall into the trap your mind creates.
Remember, YOUR MIND IS WEAKER THAN YOUR BODY. If you can learn to silence your discouraging thoughts, your self doubt will cease to exist.
When I joined the fitness lifestyle a few years ago, my mind was weak. Running for several minutes was difficult and near impossible. Weight lifting was torture. This is because I focused on the activity and the discomfort that came along with working out. I disliked the unfamiliarity I had with having physical endurance. It took many many months before I learned to silence my self doubt. I would repeat, "your mind is weaker than your body" when I started doubting myself. I had to take my mind to a pleasant place to be able to pushed my body to new limits.
One thing I wish someone would have told me about being an athlete is that eventually the self sabotage stops, or at least becomes a hushed voice in the background. Your mind becomes resistant to the initial pain and discomfort. Feeling frustration when you start this process should be expected.
I never thought I'd be as far along as I am today, and I can tell you that every drop of sweat was worth it. The gym is my therapy and my body craves it every day. You can learn to be the same way. Make your workout a pleasant and positive part of your every day life. Before you know it you'll be the one who is admired.
Around this time of the year many people have set goals for themselves to improve personal fitness and nutrition. Also around this time of the year, many of those same people have already caved and given up on their commitments. It is not that these "New Year's Resolutioners" don't have the drive to get to their dream physique, it is that they don't have the tools, or the know how to make tools to keep them going.
What I learned when I made a commitment to get fit a couple years ago was that getting fit would be one of the hardest things I had ever taken on. I expected not to have set backs, to never give in to my cravings, to never miss more than a few days at the gym, etc. All my commitments at the time were the same foolish commitments that most people make to themselves each year around New Year's. These commitments not only set you up to be disappointed in yourself, they will almost certainly set you on the track to give up your chances to look and feel the best you ever have.
So my advice for those new gym goers is this:
- Allow yourself to mess up sometimes without "punishing yourself". You're allowed to be human.
- Guilt is not your friend. If you ate a whole box of cookies it doesn't mean you will never reach your fitness goals. It just means you need to find a better way to suppress your cravings.
- Don't expect your weight and body to change in anything short of 4-6 months.
- Know that if you made a commitment to be fit that it will be extremely hard but worth every single drop of sweat.
- Fitness is not about weight. It's about a healthy body fat to body muscle ratio. Accept that you may not look like the fitness models in the magazine but know that you can come darn close if you're determined.
- Take progress pictures. It doesn't matter if you think you look like a pregnant hippopotamus. Nothing feels better than being able to look back and say, "I've come a long way, now I can't stop!"
- You may have self doubt and maybe even self hatred in the beginning. Accept that. Then remind yourself that you can look like the fittest person in the gym with enough time. That person was probably where you once were.
- Treat yourself well for the effort you put in. Instead of being upset that you cheated on your "diet" today and skipped the cardio you said you'd do, reward yourself for putting in the effort that you did (no, not a junk food reward or a snack).
- Keep in mind that you are already ahead of the people who are at home on the couch. You made the first step, now stick with it!
These are just some of the tips I have found that have kept me going. If I gave up the first 100 times I failed and let myself down, I wouldn't have my dream body and the confidence I do now. Keep in mind that your mind is powerful; if it is negative and self-loathing, you'll most likely regress with your fitness goals. Stay positive and determined my fitness friends! You can do it!
As some of you may know, my Dad unexpectedly passed away in September. Our family has experienced nothing but extreme devastation, as he was a healthy, fit, and intensely athletic man. Not to mention he was only 49 years old.
This experience has challenged all of our coping skills as well as the motivation we have to keep up with our own fitness. So the question I've been asking myself is, how does one stay motivated when they experience great loss? Here are a few of my strategies thus far:
1) Don't turn to other, less productive, coping mechanisms (exercise is the not only one of the best coping mechanisms to use, but it is also one of the most effective).
2) Acknowledge that you've gone through a devastating event and give yourself grace and time to get back to your normal self.
3) Realize that you are wasting your time to replace your loss with food, alcohol, or other bad habits. What you've lost will most likely be gone or changed forever; face that fact and let something positive come out of the experience.
4) Focus any negative feelings on accomplishing something (for me it's kicking my own butt at the gym).
5) Make a conscious decision to use the loss to better yourself and others. Whether someone you love died, a partner divorced you, you went through a breakup, lost a pet, etc., life will continue on. You only do damage to yourself by holding on to negative memories and emotions. Let the good memories remain with what you've lost and do your best to leave an unforgettable mark on those around you.
While this list includes just the basics for being a productive person in difficult times, I think if it is taken to heart, it can help anyone through large or minor challenges. Staying positive and focused are not qualities most individuals are born with, they are learned. So stay strong my friends, make good choices, and focus on making a better tomorrow!