Category Archives: train your brain
If you have been anywhere around a TV set, a radio, or a computer, you have noticed the great abundance of “get fit now”. It is that time of the year again. The time when supplement companies and larger than though trainers are pushing their miracle cure all product on the unsuspecting consumers with low self-esteem. Do these products work? Some of them. Do they work safely and for a prolonged period of time? No.
We live in a society that is largely driven by instant gratification and impulse. No one wants to work to be fit, but everyone wants to have a fit body of a fitness model. After all, it is much easier to pop a pill and eat a pizza while watching football, than working out and eating clean. Does anyone think about the consequences of taking these drugs? Does anyone stop to ask why they work so quickly and so effectively? No. Why? Because blissful ignorance with a skinny fat body is significantly safer than a challenging and at times difficult reality in which one has to find information, process it, and work to get the results that they want. In short, half-baked approaches breed half-baked results and a lot of disappointed, misinformed consumers. So, what can you do to get lasting weight loss results? Read on.
What I have to say right now may not be what you want to hear, but I am not in the business of cuddling and propagating fitness myths. I am here to give you the hard truth and save you the time you’ll spend doing research on your own. Here’s the deal. Most “magic” weight loss pills, shakes, and powders are unsafe. If you have to order your food premade, you’ll gain all of your weight back after you stop eating “out of the box”. There is no such thing as getting “toned and fit” without changing your daily lives.
The only way to get true and lasting results is by keeping a clean and sustainable diet, maintaining a healthy attitude, and exercising daily.
Keeping a Clean and Sustainable Diet:
Let’s face it, if you drastically cut calories, completely cut out certain food groups or expect perfect rigid compliance to a dietary plan, you will eventually slip. In fact, when you slip you will binge, feel guilty, get down on yourself, and try to maintain the same diet with even more restrictions than before to make up for your pitfall. Does that sound like a healthy relationship with food? No. To me, that sounds more like an eating disorder and we all know that eating disorders are very unhealthy.
A sustainable diet should revolve around a lifestyle. When you decide to get in shape, you have to realize that you are on a journey and just like any journey, this one will have peaks and valleys. The secret to sustainable, healthy weight loss is realizing that a valley isn’t going to undo everything you worked for. So, if you make it a priority to eat healthy 90% of the time, that one piece of cake on your birthday, a plate full of delicious food on Thanksgiving, and a bowl of macaroni and cheese every other month aren’t going to send you on an express train to fat town.
A clean sustainable diet should involve all of the major food groups (unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from eating certain things) in moderation. Eating for weight loss is an art form that will take time to master fully, there is no diet that perfectly fits all, and there are no shortcuts. A clean, healthy diet with proper caloric intake (you can’t starve yourself!!!) takes time to develop and perfect.
I encourage you to do your research, look at various food plans, study strategic eating, and custom design your own eating plan. It will take time, but in the end you will be rewarded with energy, better health, and a lean, strong body.
We briefly touched on this subject in the previous section when we discussed a healthy relationship with food. You can’t punish yourself for slip-ups and deviations of off the plan, but you also have to hold yourself accountable for what you do in daily basis. Having a support group helps, but at the end of the day it is between you and your refrigerator, or between you and your bed.
You have to make a plan and stick to it regardless of what the world around you wants. If you know that what you are doing is right for you, then no one else has the right to keep you away from your goals and your dreams. Not even you. You have to push yourself every day. I wish I could tell you that it gets to a point where going to the gym or out on a run is automatic. No. I still have days when I question why I am up at 5 am on a cold winter morning. There are days when the last thing that I want to do is drive to the gym and lift a bunch of weights when the laundry is piled up, dinner needs to be cooked, and I still have a mound of paperwork to get through. However, I don’t make excuses. I put on my big girl pants, lace up my shoes, and I tell myself that it is better that way. I can say with full confidence, I am yet to regret a workout that I did.
However, healthy attitude goes far beyond building a healthy relationship with food and regular, hard workouts. A healthy attitude also encompasses how you view the world. It is easy to be mad and sad about your circumstances, but when you make a decision to take control and change, you become empowered. Feeling strong and in control is what gets people in the gym initially, but most quickly get discouraged because the results didn’t come fast enough. Here’s the hard part: you have to remain positive and have faith in the fact that the results will come if you actually follow a program that you set for yourself. You have to force yourself to become an optimist on those days when you just want to quit because the pudgy feeling isn’t going away fast enough.
Again, I wish I could tell you that feeling discouraged goes away with time – it doesn’t. But if you keep at it long enough, you will learn that the voice inside your head that tells you “it’s not working”, “you don’t have the body for this”, “you are too old” etc. is a total liar. With time, you learn to ignore your own little critic and you learn that when the voice rears its ugly head, you are closer than you ever were before to achieving that one goal that you set for yourself.
A good diet and a great attitude aren’t going to get you far without exercise. Consistent, challenging, daily exercise paired with a great diet is a sure recipe for a fabulous body. Now, let me clarify, I am not telling you to go out and do Zumba (although it is a fun way to initially lose some extra weight). The exercise that I am talking about involves 3-4 heavy weight training sessions and 3 cardio sessions a week. You can’t be a cardio queen and expect a toned body of a fitness model. You have to lift HEAVY weights. Let me say this right now: there is no way that you are going to end up looking like a she Hulk unless you are SPECIFICALLY working to attain that aesthetic. So, no, don’t tell me that lifting heavy turns women into men. It is a total myths that is propagated by men who are scared of strong women, women who are scared of hard work, and skinny fat models who would be out of a job if the rest of us woke up and realized that having the ability to pick up more than 5 lbs at a time makes you more attractive and gives you the lean, toned look you actually want. Yes, I’m talking to you ladies.
Gentlemen, I have to caution you against trying to show off. Heavy training means lifting the weight you can ACTUALLY lift with PROPER form. Allow me to elaborate: that means that you shouldn’t be squirming under a barbell during your bench press like a deranged worm because you loaded the bar too heavy. You are not a hero if you get hurt, so why set yourself up for failure? Take it easy, maintain proper tension throughout your exercises and watch your body bulge with awesome rippliness faster than the guy who has been trying to “out lift” you all alone and has been doing it wrong.
I don’t know about you, but for me, a fit strong body is a status symbol. You can’t buy it, you can pay someone to surgically make it. You have to invest the time, the sweat, the tears and the doubts to achieve it. There are challenges to achieving your perfect physique at any age and in any circumstance, so don’t discount the efforts of the younger crowd just because of their age or the older crowd just because of their experience. We all face different struggles, have different body types, and respond to different things better than others. Building a body you want takes time, it takes trial and error and you have to be willing to invest in your journey fully in order to rip the perfect results.
In preparation for the fall running season, I have been doing a lot of track and hill drills to build speed and endurance. When I plan my workouts I keep one simple rule in mind: hard training leads to easy races. I train very hard, I constantly demand more of myself so when I get to race day I know that I can do anything! Below is one of my track workouts that I find to be very effective in building mental and physical endurance. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.
I would recommend that you take breaks as needed and make sure that your heart rate doesn’t drop too much during your rest periods. Always remember to hydrate properly before and after exercise. This particular workout can take a lot out of you especially if you push through it without breaks. Good luck, have fun, and be safe!
I am a runner. When people ask me what I do for a living, that is the first thing that comes to mind and only then what I actually do to support my lifestyle. I identify as a runner before I identify as anything else because running (physically and metaphorically) is at the heart and soul of all other activities that occupy my day. That is not to say that the only thing that I think, dream, eat, and breath is running, in fact that couldn’t be farther from the truth, but the lessons learned on the long tiring runs, and during short burst workouts can be applied just as much to life as they can be applied to running itself.
When I first started running, I ran for fat lose, I didn’t run for me. I hated every step and every mile, I was a slave to the ideal body image that I had in my head and to the coveted single digit body fat percentages. I was lost, I had no idea what I was doing, I kept hurting myself for minimal amounts of gain and ended up with more body fat then I originally started with. I was making the same mistakes that every single female makes when they decide to become active: do minimal amounts of lifting and maximum cardio. I was on that treadmill for hours burning muscle and fat, tearing my joints, and then coming home and overeating thinking that I deserved it.
Fast forward a few years of damaging fitness habits, emotional eating, lowered self esteem, I decided that enough was enough. I really buckled down, did my research and began an actual journey to a better me. Earlier this spring I wrote a post about my very first race and the inspiration, the support, and the love that I felt. That was the time when I knew that running was for me, but it wasn’t the time when I began identifying as a runner.
The first time that I thought of myself as a runner was when my life was in an even bigger rut then it had before. Those were very dark times for me mentally and emotionally and I had nowhere left to hid and almost no one left to talk to. There are only so many motivational texts you can read and therapy sessions that you can attend before they start losing effect and become yet another unnecessary annoyance. There was a day when I was simply lost in the darkness of my own negativity and a tailspin of “why me?” when a surprising thought rang clear as day in the back of my mind: “you are strong, you are a runner, weak people can’t do what you do, push through”. The irony is, those were the exact same words I kept saying when I hit a wall at the end of a very tough race that I ran a few month prior. There I sat on the floor of my bathroom with a roll of toilet paper by my side, eyes swollen from hours of crying, stunned.
There is a point in every runners life, when they are reduced to a state of absolute primal being. You are no longer a person, you are no longer yourself, you are an instinct, a set of basic and yet a very complex functions. You can’t think, you can’t process information (at least not the kind of information that does not pertain to the task at hand, moving your feet forward), the only thing that you can comprehend is that failure is not an option, that the finish line is coming and when you finally cross it, you get to collapse into a tiny pile of mortal flesh and embrace the post run cheering and pain that will inevitably come. The good pain that comes sweetened with the notion of ultimate achievement and the best tasting bagel ever! It is during the primal state that the “chant” or the mantra comes in for me.
I guess somewhere between being mad at the unfairness of the world and beginning to cry my eyes out, I allowed the situation I was in to reduce myself to nothing more than a breathing organism and the autopilot kicked in. The runners autopilot: “you are strong, you are a runner, weak people don’t do what you do, push through…”. The realization of the fact that I thought of myself as a runner for the first time while I was feeling sorry for myself on the bathroom floor shocked me like and ice bath. Whatever my problem was before that realization, did not matter. I was a runner and I could push through. I pick myself up, washed my face, put on my running gear and went for a very long run. I was cured.
From that day forward, regardless of discomfort, nerves, stress, or pain, there is only one answer: Go Run! The endurance that I learned though running allowed me to confidently press through my daily issues with less to no fear because I know what I am capable of physically and spiritually, I am no longer afraid to be afraid. The focus that I learned through running propels me towards my goals each and every hour of each and every day and I am that much more productive. Relentless desire to “cross the finish line” and runner stubbornness to keep pushing despite the odds helped me pursue some of the strangest and almost unrealistic goals. However, the most important lesson that I learned from running is to keep pushing through the up hills, because at the top of that hill, the downhill begins and I get to rest, recharge, and tackle the next hill renewed, stronger, more resilient than ever.