My continuing education goal this year is to be more involved in a company called Original Strength. The company teaches professionals like me how to help people move better and feel better, how to reboot a system that might have gotten stuck. They do not believe getting older leads to bodies falling apart . Aches and pains may very well crop up (as I know many of you have felt or are feeling first-hand) but that should not be accepted as the norm.
SO I’m reading one of the founders’ books, Pressing Reset, Original Strength Reloaded and this passage came up in the very first chapter. I must have read it 20 times:
“Just to be clear, when we are referring to ‘strength’, we are talking about the ability to live life the way that you want to live it; to be able to move, think, work, play, love and laugh throughout your entire life, regardless of your age.”
As a trainer, I feel all sorts of expectations to be very “fit-looking” and “strong”. A big part of me lives in a culture where strength is the ability to pick heavy things up and put them down; where strength is measured directly by how much you can lift today vs what you could lift yesterday. And those are both totally legitimate definitions. But as a trainer who also considers herself to be very much part of the general population, these definitions sometimes make me feel inadequate. Because there are days when I feel TIRED and can’t bring myself to pick heavy things up and put them down. There are days when deadlifting feels bad because my plantar fasciitis is particularly icky so I can’t lift nearly as much weight as I used to. There are days I choose to prioritize doing work or hanging out with friends over training (OMG, did I just write that out loud!). So where does this leave me with my aforementioned expectations? That I’m not meeting them and that has me feeling pretty bad.
So what if I let go of my very narrow definitions of strength and traded them in for the Original Strength definition? Or what if I came up with my own definition? What does “strength” really mean to me? And how does feel to BE strong? What do I have to do in my life to get there?
This got me thinking: How do my clients define strength? What will it feel and look like to “be stronger”? How can I help them work toward that? Might this change the way I program their sessions? Yeah, possibly! And that's great!
So this begs the question: How do YOU define strength in your physical life? What does being strong mean to you?
Have some thoughts to share? Comment below!
As a girl who a few months ago knew nothing much about the Cubs except that I know where Wrigley Field is, I’ve been incredibly inspired by their modern story. The more I learn about the most “cursed” team in baseball, the more I realize that you can make direct parallels about how they went from the Lovable Losers to World Series contenders to how individuals can reach their fitness and weight loss goals. In both cases, they’re stories about seeking out advice, guidance and coaching; gradually collecting more and more wins between losses; and about believing in consistency and staying the course to ultimately reach the end goal and sustain it.
The Ricketts family bought the Cubs from the Tribune company in 2009. As soon as the Rickettses took over, the Cubs started losing more and more games over the years. But the family had crafted a solid, multi-year plan. They met with some of the smartest individuals in the baseball world to learn what steps they needed to take to build their dream team: Who were the best people to fill in their management and leadership positions? Who should they draft onto the team? Who should they trade and who needs to go? Eventually, the Ricketts family decided to create a super young team recruited from the farm system. They brought on Theo Epstein to be president of baseball operations and then, when he was available, Joe Maddon as manager. Eventually, to cap it all off, the Cubs brought on star pitcher Jon Lester. And from the Losable Losers they bought in 2009, the Cubs are currently in the World Series in 2016. These steps were not accidental. They were rigorously plotted out, a plan was set and all the players in the game knew what to do.
So what do the Cubs have to do with reaching our goals?
EVERYTHING. Here’s what I mean:
It may be a very long time until I talk about major league sports again. But I couldn’t let this go. The Cubs’ modern story seems so other-worldly but when you break it down, it could be any one of our own.
And with that, I will leave you with two words: GO CUBS!
I ***HATED*** PE throughout school. Instead of going to PE, I did my best to find a way to go to the nurse’s office because of a headache/cramps/hangnail/somemadeupreason (and once I actually DID fall down the stairs on my way to the nurse in high school — fell hard… Karma). I managed to miss every single swim class we had in high school because I wasn’t comfortable in a bathing suit and hate being under water; the mile test was the WORST day of the year because I ran about a 12-minute mile while the kids that smoked a pack of cigarettes a day could somehow run it in 6; rugby was the only sport I contributed any points to because, since you pass the ball back vs forwards, no one ever realized I had the ball.
But then, in 11th grade, a new world of PE classes became available to take for credit. I could choose from such classes as Rock Climbing, Adventure Learning, Lifeguard Training, Sea Kayaking, Fitness Training, Yoga and — my two personal favorites — Dance and Stretching & Relaxation. I took those two favorite classes junior year and then somehow I managed to talk my teacher into letting me co-teach those classes senior year. I didn’t know it then but that was my introduction to coaching (so thank you, Ms Simpkin, for that). And the great thing was: It taught me that I didn’t need to hate exercise.
Here the thing: In traditional PE classes, you don’t get much of a choice when it comes to what exercise is. We all kind of learn that the important things to know are how to run a mile and that the more sit-ups and pushups you can do in a minute the better, and that it really sucks being picked last on a team. (And it’s really embarrassing when you fall on top of your PE teacher during the tumbling class in front of everyone…)
Why do I bring this up? Because too often I hear people say, “I don’t like exercising but I know I need to.”
Sound familiar? If so, you might have experienced the dread I felt in PE classes. You might not have been in an environment that made you feel like you were a part of a community of peers made up of different fitness levels that could work together; you were probably not in a place where you believe you could excel and feel competent even if you weren’t “good” at first; or in a place that even gave you a choice to do certain sports over others.
So why on earth would we put ourselves in a position to relive the dread of high school PE in adulthood? When a potential client contacts me, I know that they might have been thinking about contacting someone for a long time. Taking the step to finally make that contact is brave, it takes guts, it puts them in a vulnerable position and I absolutely do not take that for granted because I know that client put herself/himself in that position because they need HELP.
If you’ve read this far, thank you because I’m finally getting to the point. You or someone you know, reading this now, might be in the “I hate working out but know I have to” position. What I want to ask you is:
Listen: It’s 2016 and almost anything is an exercise class now so I feel confident there’s something out there for you. It might be Zumba or Bollywood dancing; it might be martial arts, tap dancing or training for strong(wo)man competitions; it might be aerial arts or pole dancing (not at all kidding); it could be hoola-hooping (also not kidding) or tennis. It might even be strength training with me or any of my colleagues at TruFit, wink wink!
Here are a few ways to find options that might be right for you:
The MindBody App
Your local park district (if you have one)
Your local YMCA
Me! If you’re looking for something and can’t find it, email me! I’ll do my best to find what you’re looking for.
Here is the bottom line: There really is something for everyone. Disliking pushups or running a mile doesn’t make you suck (Usain Bolt has never run a mile; he doesn’t suck). You’re just on the verge of finding what might lead you to a more full, happy and healthy life! So get after it!
Most clients come to me looking to lose weight: sometimes just a few pounds and sometimes a significant percentage of body weight. The call usually comes after the client has already tried other weight loss programs that just haven’t worked (or sometimes have caused weight GAIN). Now, as many programs, nutritional systems and workout fads as I see out there, there is one weight loss method I’m not seeing enough of: Getting people to love and respect their bodies NOW so making healthy choices day to day becomes EMPOWERING, not threatening.
But first, here’s a crazy story: One of my Evanston clients had just joined a new gym near her house so she went to her free assessment because, she thought, why not? She met with the training manager, they chatted briefly and then he put her through a workout. Even though my client told him about her medical past, injuries and surgeries, the session ended up being a variety of totally inappropriate exercises that would have been difficult for most people.
Back in the office the manager told my client that:
Here’s the thing: We get so hung up on this idea that we need to weigh a certain amount (and we all have that exact number, right?) or fit into those high school jeans or we run ourselves crazy just so our thighs might no longer touch (Lululemon CEO Chip Wilson is not helping much with this).
We sabotage ourselves by saying things like, “I’m so fat I don’t deserve to be happy”, “I’m disgusting, I can’t believe I let this happen”. And then we watch shows where obese people are constantly berated and ridiculed, where their success is measured in weekly double-digit weight loss, how many times they puked during their workout or how bad they hit their head on the treadmill they just fell off of. Everything these days is extreme and no matter what we do, it isn't enough.
This is not a recipe for healthy, long-term, sustainable weight loss. This is a recipe for misery.
So here’s what I propose: Instead of pouring all of your energy into deprivation and loss, what if you focused on positive gains and milestones hit?
Let's rewrite the script, shall we? Here are 5 tips to get you started:
1. Give yourself credit! When you catch yourself doing something you couldn’t do last month because you got stronger or more flexible, take a moment to really reflect on that and thank yourself for getting yourself there. Sounds cheesy but taking those few seconds to reflect on how far you’ve come can go a long way.
2. Pick an exercise that you want to conquer: Doing a pushup or a pull-up or feeling better in a certain yoga pose. Do some research or consult a trainer to craft a plan to get yourself there. Instead of focusing on a number on the scale, you’re now constantly improving your performance.
3. Along those same lines, plan to do something you haven’t done before at the gym before you go; make this attainable but challenging. It can be a brand new exercise you’ve been meaning to try or lifting a heavier weight you haven’t lifted before. Then do it. It can be just once. But do it and then soak in the awesomeness.
4. Instead of banishing “bad” foods, incorporate more good foods to your plate. Start by adding one extra serving of vegetables every day for two weeks. (BTW, 1 serving of vegetables = 1/2 cup raw, chopped veggies or 1 cup raw, leafy greens.) Then continue with the veggies and choose another good habit to add for two weeks. Good habits add up.
5. STAND UP FOR YOURSELF! For every mean thing you tell yourself, talk back. Write out a mean phrase you keep telling yourself on one side of an index card and then put the rebuttal on the back. An example: Front “I can't believe I ate this whole burrito. Oh, well, guess I’m screwed for the rest of the day so I might as well keep going.” Back: “The rest of the day is actually filled with whatever I choose to fill it with and I choose to stand up, dust myself off and continue on with good choices because I know I can and I’ll feel so much better.” Read the card any time those negative thoughts pop up in your head.
Here's the bottom line (hence the bigger font, haha):
No matter what your weight loss goal is, you are always working on getting stronger whether you know it or not. Inside AND out. I tell people one of my training specialties is weight loss but really, I specialize in getting people stronger. And once I get my clients focused on that, too, that's when the magic happens.
F%^K leaving the gym feeling hurt and sad.
LEAVE THE GYM FEELING LIKE YOU COULD TAKE OVER THE WORLD BECAUSE YOU RULE.
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Have thoughts or comments? Leave them below! And if I can help you in any way, don't hesitate to email me at email@example.com or call at 312-497-8999.
I was recently asked to speak at a CRAVEChicago event about how to deal with freakouts and I thought, Well, the most stressful time of the year is almost upon us so I should share what I talked about!
There is a lot of stuff out there in the world that makes us freak out. From current events to what’s going on in our own overly-scheduled lives, I’m sure there isn’t a week that goes by when our hearts don’t stop beating with anxiety.
So why do we freak out in the first place? I think it's because we feel that we have no control over the situation at hand.
And why do we have no control over said situation? I think it’s either because we don’t have enough information to see the big picture (“I’m going out of town for the holidays and don’t know how I’m going to keep up with exercise!”) or we really don’t like the information we have and don’t know what to do with it (“There’s a freak storm coming and all flights have been canceled and I’m stuck at the airport with nothing to eat but McDonald’s!”).
Here are 4 steps that can help you gain the control you feel you don’t have:
1. BREATHE. We stop breathing effectively when we freak out. We start using muscles that aren’t supposed to do the breathing for us and then they get tight. Those tight muscles contort our bodies into funny postures. Those postures create a physiological response that keeps us from sleeping well, thinking straight and being happy. And those responses STRESS US OUT! It’s a vicious cycle. The cheapest and most effective way to get out of this mess is to stop what you’re doing for a few minutes and try this exercise: Lay down on the floor with your head supported so your spine is neutral. Get your legs up in the air so you have a 90-degree bend at the hips and at the knees. Place your feet either on the wall or rest your calves on a chair. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of 4 (1-Mississippi-2-Mississippi, etc) and then exhale through your mouth as if you’re breathing out through a straw on a count of 4 or longer. You want to breathe ALL the air out. Pause for 2-3 seconds and take another breath in and repeat all the steps. Do this about 4-6 times. It helps to imagine your whole torso as a balloon: breathe into your front, your sides and your back.
2. Zen Out. Physically get yourself away from the area where you are freaking out. Allow yourself as much time as you can reasonably afford to do something that takes your mind off of the situation. Sometimes when you let yourself step away from the craziness, you come up with the best solution on how to fix the mess. Take a yoga class or lift some weights; put on your favorite song and sing and dance to it; go out for a drive. Clear. Your. Mind.
3. Appoint and then call your personal crisis manager. If you don’t have someone in your life that holds that title, appoint one ASAP. My bestie Kate is able to step aside as my friend and calmly ask questions about what’s going on and then she helps me craft a plan with several options that tackle how to take care of the crisis at hand. Sometimes you need fresh ears from someone who is super smart who cares about you/your success and can also support you without judgement.
4. Complete a single task that helps you gain back control. To be completely transparent, I was FREAKED OUT after spending most of October out of town and then sick. I felt like I’d lost control of IzzyFit and that surely business had gone downhill and there was no way out. After going through steps 1-3 I was finally able to pin-point the task I needed to do: Take a hard look at my numbers. So I pulled up my spreadsheet, worked on numbers from the last month and a half for an hour and finally had some information to analyze. From there I was able to calmly form a plan of action to make sure I got back on track and now I can’t be more excited about things to come!
Freakouts are going to happen. Just know that they can be temporary if you allow yourself to go through the appropriate steps to regain control and rewrite the dialogue.
What are some ways you calm yourself down? Share your tips in the comments below!
While we’re on the topic: Do you want to know how to survive the holiday season without going insane or gaining weight? I’m hosting a Holiday Survival Workshop in Evanston in November. Check out more information on my Events page here!
When we approach something new, some of us get SUPER excited/eager/impatient about the journey that we want to do EVERYTHING we can RIGHT NOW to get to the good part. Patience is a virtue and some of us (like myself) just don't have it. So, appropriately, I'm going to skip ahead and tell you the moral of the story:
When we do asmuchaswecanrightnow, we b u r n o u t.
This brings me to Meredith's first five weeks of training. As long as I've known Meredith (going on 13 years), she's been someone who gives 1000% to her projects. It's not a stretch, then, to understand that she is 1000% dedicated to getting back into shape now. Which is great. Until it's not.
I'm speaking for everyone alive here when I say we have days when we can crank up the volume to 11, days we can't get out of bed and many days in between. The trouble, my friends, is when we expect ourselves to perform exactly the same way day in, day out, whether we feel awesome or just plain awful. Some days, Meredith is full of energy, in a great mood and her workouts are supercharged. Other days, after she hasn't gotten quality sleep, is feeling an incredible amount of stress or feels like she's coming down with something, she STILL feels like she should perform the same way as when she feels like the mom from The Incredibles.
READ AND REPEAT: it is OK -- encouraged, even -- for our energy to undulate. That's how we humans are built to work. Because we are not robots.
The greatest gift we can give ourselves when we work out is that of self awareness. If working out full force feels like it's going to knock you out for the rest of the day, scale back the exercise choices and knock the intensity down a notch, otherwise you're compromising your system and probably preventing your body from making the changes you want it to make. While Meredith yells at me in protest when I do this for her, saying I'm letting her "off the hook", I'm really just doing her a huge favor. She's still getting a great workout and her body will be better able to recover. And here's the secret: change happens in recovery from a workout, not during the workout itself.
While Meredith understands that lasting results come at a steady pace and we need to take it step by step and alter the plan from time to time, it doesn't take away the anxiety of: WHAT IF IT DOESN'T WORK? which is a very real, valid and natural concern. And while you're waiting for the physical evidence to prove that the occasional "slower day" is OK, you just have to trust the process.
Life is full of stressors and things you can't control. The only thing you CAN control is knowing you did the best you could that day to get you toward your goal, no excuses. Sometimes the best means taking it a little slower so you don't burn out.
Ok, week 5 measurement results time. I usually take measurements every 6 weeks but since Meredith went to San Antonio for 10 days we took them early. Drum roll please...
As of October 4 (I know, I'm really late with this post), Meredith:
Lost 5.62 lbs of fat (averaging about 1 lb per week) and
Gained 4.02 lbs of lean muscle that will help her burn even more calories!
[Enter thunderous applause here, she kicked butt!]
So keep tuning in for more updates and tips and, as always, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if there's anything you'd like to see covered as I blog about Meredith's journey!
I think my friend Meredith is amazing. A new mom, Meredith, just like so many mamas out there, juggles a super cute 19-month-old baby, a loving husband, a wonderful extended family, a super energetic dog, the household, a blossoming stationery company (check it out!) and she still manages to be an incredibly supportive and amazing friend. With all of the attention paid to the above, though, it’s no wonder Meredith has had a tough time reaching her fitness and health goals. (I’ll be honest: I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU MOMS DO IT!)
Here’s where IzzyFit comes in: Meredith has hired me to train her at home 3 times a week. Her goal: to lose 25-30 pounds in six months and to lower her high triglyceride level. The CDC suggests losing 1-2 pounds per week for healthy weight loss so we’re right on track timeline-wise AND even modest weight loss (I’m talking 5-10% of your body weight) can help tremendously reduce risk factors associated with heart disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and in Meredith’s case, high triglycerides, to name a few) and diabetes (high blood glucose levels).
Right now we’re ramping up Meredith’s muscular and cardiovascular endurance with a mix of bodyweight strength training and cardio work as well as taking small steps to introduce more optimal eating habits and weeding out the bad. More on that later :)
We kicked off our Wondermom Journey on August 29 and it will officially end March 1! I’ll be blogging about Meredith’s progress, the challenges we might face and the tactics we use to get through them that might interest you. If you’ve got specific subjects that you’d like me to address, drop me a line at email@example.com!
It still feels like “back to school season” (especially in Chicago where we’re wondering when the kids will actually go back to school) and I am reminded of my good ol' "what I did this summer" assignments of years' past.
Well, here's a 2012 adult version:
It all started on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day. My six-year-long romantic relationship ended abruptly. I thought we were going out of town for the weekend but learned that I would soon be moving out instead.
The following weeks were spent on autopilot so that I could continue training my clients while packing up my life in Redmond, WA. I can’t say I was taking particularly good care of myself. I lost at least 10 pounds (probably all muscle) and my hip, which I’d spent the first half of the year rehabbing, started hurting again.
I moved away from Redmond and spent some long-overdue family time on the East Coast as I carved out my next steps. I also started going to the gym regularly again and in particular, lifting. In the 45 days I spent in PA, I hit and then surpassed every fitness & health goal that I had set for myself at the beginning of 2012. I had intended on accomplishing these goals by my birthday in October. I gained back almost all of the weight that I had lost, but my clothes were still loose (which means I gained some muscle back!!). My hip hasn't hurt since. BOO-YAH.
By the time I moved back to Chicago in late August, I had no trouble hoisting my heavy suitcases around, moving those super heavy IKEA boxes up to my second floor unit, and putting my place together without any trouble or injury.
Training made me strong. And not just in the "look at my guns” way. What training did is make me feel like a whole person again. More than anything, it reminded me why I am a personal trainer.
I’m not just writing this post to let you know I’ve moved IzzyFit Personal Training to Chicago. I'm writing this post as a re-dedication to all of my clients - past, present and future. I know now more than ever what training can do for your whole self. The IzzyFit philosophy has always been that fitness should be an integrated part of your everyday life. Part of my job as your trainer is to figure out, with you, what that means.
Still, regardless of what it means, my number one priority is, and always has been, to make you STRONG. We all have one body and it is our vehicle with which we can achieve the kind of life we want.
You might want to be able to keep up with your 2-year-old without huffing and puffing; or to run a marathon without hurting yourself; or to make guests at your wedding gasp at how amazing you look; or to be able to walk around the streets of Paris without your knees hurting. You can have that.
I'm getting there - and now it is my mission to help you get there too.
The Get Micah Ready For Hawaii Project is officially over so I know the question on everyone’s mind is: How did he do? One word: Great! Here’s a breakdown of the results along with an explanation of the method to the madness:
Let’s go over Micah’s goals again: To get more defined abs and pecs (which translates into: Lose body fat (specifically in the abdominal area) and gain some muscle mass so he can have more sculpted pecs and abs). But before that, watch the final video!
My initial plan (as you can remember from our introductory video) was to start out with three weeks of muscular endurance and interval training followed by strength and hypertrophy training. This ended up changing a bit as we started to work together.
I decided to focus primarily on posture. All of us have muscular imbalances that throw off our posture in one way or another. I’d say the most common postural issues we see nowadays are hunched over shoulders from sitting at the computer all day as well as super tight hip flexors or super tight hamstrings (or both) from sitting all day which tilt our pelvises either forward or backward. These issues can all cause crazy things to happen up and down the body and until those issues are addressed, I believe it is irresponsible to throw in super heavy in an effort to “get big pecs”.
When we started training, Micah was hunched over with rounded shoulders. This caused his upper/mid-back muscles to be lengthened and his chest and lats to be really tight (but not necessarily strong). In order for Micah to have stand-out pecs, we first had to get his shoulders and chest to open up and his back to get a bit stronger.
Micah’s pelvis also happens to be rotated forward a bit. This usually causes a few things: stretched out hamstrings, stretched out abs and a really scrunched up low back. In order to try to pull that pelvis into a more neutral position, we had to focus on strengthening his core and hamstrings. With two sessions per week together for a relatively short amount of time, I chose to focus primarily on his upper body, core stability and keeping his heart rate up to maximize the calorie burn.
This kind of work takes longer than the seven weeks we had but I think you can see a pretty great postural difference in these pictures (I added black lines to trace his alignment from his ear to his hips so you can see the progress more clearly; you ultimately want a straight line down from ear to shoulder to hip):
So with all that said, here are Micah’s numerical results!
· 4 lbs lost – ALL BODY FAT!
· Down to 13.85% body fat which is less than 1% away from going from a “fitness” level to “athlete” level!
· Skin fold testing showed losses at all sites but the most significant loss was at the abdominal site (4 mm lost).
· Circumference testing showed 2 inches lost around his waist, 2 inches lost around his hips and 2.5 inches gained around his chest!
Muscle mass remained the same before and after which means Micah did a great job with his nutrition (specifically post-workout) so that his lean muscle could recover after workouts and not break itself down (see this post for an explanation). Micah’s fat loss and postural corrections alone make Micah’s pecs and abs stand out more than they did seven weeks ago.
Should Micah decide he wants to get more buff, I would suggest that he continue with the interval training to get even lower in body fat but to slowly add in more intense strength training coupled with a stricter diet heavier on the lean protein and choosy on the carbs and fat.
I hope these last 7 weeks have proven that the way to get a six pack and pecs does not happen by doing pushups and crunches all day. Putting together a program that addresses the individual’s needs and wants is tricky and I believe it is best to consult with a fitness professional before embarking on any new fitness regimen so you can avoid injury and get the results you want!
I hope you’ve enjoyed these last few weeks as much as I have. If you’d like to know more about IzzyFit Personal Training and how personal training might benefit you, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-497-8999.
We're at The Final Countdown! One more week to train until Micah's off to Hawaii! This means we need to get the biggest bang for our buck during the hour-long sessions we have left to help Micah lose fat and gain muscle. Here's how we're doing it: straight-up metabolic training. Metabolic training is essentially working with intervals. Very simply put, the combination of doing exercises with some intensity (low/moderate/high depending on how fit the individual is) followed by specific periods of rest can lead the body to a state of "oxygen debt". This makes the body work ultra hard AFTER the workout to get back to its resting state which means the body will need to burn calories until it gets there. This can sometimes take up to 48 hours. Talk about getting the biggest bang for your buck! (By the way, this is formally called EPOC: excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.)
Intervals have been our bread and butter since Week 1. They can be done in a variety of ways including:
The great thing about interval training is that it can be done by anyone! The key is to know the appropriate intensity, work:rest ratio and proper exercises so that your training doesn't lead to injury. Done improperly, interval training can be incredibly harmful, so always seek out the opinion of a health professional before you incorporate this into your workout regimen.
Speaking of injuries: everyone needs to avoid them (duh) so getting a good dynamic warmup in and incorporating "maintenance" exercises (like the tube internal and external rotations at the beginning of the video) are super important. High-intensity exercise takes a toll on the body so it needs some TLC before jumping into the meat of the workout. Cool downs and stretching post-workout are also key.
The next video will be the final one and in that blog entry I'll outline the complete method to the madness. In the meantime, enjoy Weeks 5 & 6!