General Health

How do you get out of your fitness funk?

It happens to all of us at some point - we get on a good roll, with work, with fitness, with life - and then life happens.

This is a photo taken by my friend Joe Chandler, whom I worked with at Rocky Mountain National Park all those years ago - he named this sleepy owl “Lefty” and I’m guessing Lefty is having his own fitness funk…

This is a photo taken by my friend Joe Chandler, whom I worked with at Rocky Mountain National Park all those years ago - he named this sleepy owl “Lefty” and I’m guessing Lefty is having his own fitness funk…

We miss one workout, then another, and then before you know it, you haven’t worked out in weeks, or did any meal prep, and you feel like a sloth.

Sloths are pretty cute though, you have to admit….

When we start to feel like we’re behind on everything - then we start to get overwhelmed. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m overwhelmed, I’m also prone to anxiety and fits of existential despair, fearing that I’ll never amount to anything every and also I’m a horrible person.

It’s a completely logical place to to when you get off track, obviously.

Friday, I asked my therapist to hold me accountable to three workouts over the course of the next week. Yes, I asked my therapist to keep me accountable to my strength workouts. Here’s why:

My workouts are my domino - I know that when I get my workouts in, other habits fall into place. 

If you are off track or have found yourself in a fitness funk, you don’t need all of the things, even if you have all of the feels.

Stop thinking of all of the things you need to or want to do, and find one.   

What’s the one action that can take that will propel you forward with all of the other actions?

I have a list of things I’d like to do, and a bigger list of things I feel that I should do. The best way for me to get out from under the weight of those project lists is to focus on the one.

For me, it’s my workouts. When I get my workouts in, I feel better. When I feel better, I eat better. When I eat better and workout, I sleep better - and have better brain function and I'm a better coach, co-worker, and spouse. 

For instance, I have many clients tell me that they know that if they go grocery shopping, that meal planning happens more easily. And when meal planning happens, meal prep happens. When meal prep happens, they feel in better balance and like they have more energy. When they have more energy, they workout.

And on and on it goes. 

So what’s the one thing you need to do?

Perhaps you need to put your screens away and get into bed by 9:00, because you know that when you do that, you get more sleep and wake up feeling more rested. Maybe you need to hit your 10 minutes of meditation, or a morning walk with your dog or 30 minutes on that new Peleton in your basement. 

The bottom line is that you don’t have to figure out everything. Not today, and not tomorrow. 

You need to figure out the one thing. That one domino that will help all of the other ones fall into place. 

Life is too short for black coffee

And coffee is even better in this Wonder Woman mug. Thanks Cheryl.

And coffee is even better in this Wonder Woman mug. Thanks Cheryl.

“I like cream in my coffee. And I like to sleep late on Sundays. And nobody knows me…”

While those things are both true, they’re also lines from a song – can you name it? 

About five years ago, when I hired my first coach to help me with both nutrition and exercise, I got pretty strict with my diet. I practiced intermittent fasting, (click here to understand more of what that is about), counted out my calories for every meal, and measured all of my macronutrients

It was the most time and effort I'd ever invested in my nutrition, and I learned a lot during those first few months. Tracking food intake, measuring portions and learning to measure those portions based on macronutrients changed the way I ate, and it helped me get myself back on track after being laid off from my full time job. 

It was also during that period that I started to drink black coffee. (And asking the kind people at Starbucks to put ice in my coffee so I could drink it the same day because nuclear).

I continued drinking black coffee for the next year or more, indulging in half n’half only on the occasional weekend or when I went home to visit my parents, because my mom makes the best coffee ever. It’s Maxwell House, she makes it with a Mr. Coffee pot that she bought for 50 cents at a yard sale and it’s the best. Coffee. Ever. 

Gradually, I started putting half n’ half in my coffee, not just on Sunday’s, but on Saturdays too. Then on Fridays. And then finally, I realized something:

My life is too short to drink black coffee. Black coffee is ok. And by ok I mean disgusting. Like eating coffee grounds. Probably. Not that I've eaten coffee grounds. Except that one time when I was desperate.

Have you ever read about natural highs? Waking up two hours before your alarm goes off and realizing you can nuzzle under the covers a bit longer, the feeling of brand new squishy socks, and for me, my first cup of coffee. With cream in it. 

After suffering through black coffee for a few years, I finally decided that cream in my coffee is my non-negotiable. 

Every day I have conversations with clients about nutrition, and I ask them to do the same things I listed above – track food – measure portions – and that information is often eye-opening. If you’re trying to stay at 1600 calories for the day and you’re putting 300 calories worth of sugar and cream in your coffee, then that is certainly something to pay attention to. But once you’ve educated yourself on where your calories are coming from – once you’ve begun to measure your salad dressing and servings of almonds and the tastes you take of everything while you’re cooking, it’s important to parse out what you truly enjoy.

I can forgo a second tablespoon of olive oil on my salad, I can be content with one small piece of dark chocolate - I'm willing to make other concessions. But not with my coffee.

Be honest with yourself about your quality of life - about the things that are important to you and that you truly enjoy - and, within reason, let yourself have it.

Because life is too short to drink black coffee.

5 random thoughts on training during the holidays

I’ve written only a handful of posts in December, so here is a smorgasbord of random thoughts for you on this Christmas Eve morning.

1. Doing lunges at a rest stop is weird, but not impossible

The trip from Maine to Pennsylvania begins with busy highways, three lanes of traffic, and the claustrophobic feel of the busy New England life. Gradually, as Massachusetts and Connecticut give way to New York, the exits get further apart, the highways merge to two lanes, and eventually, we’re making the final two hour drive on Interstate 80 to get to State College.

A Bonnie Raitt squat is a bodyweight squat. The rest of these exercises can be found on my  YouTube Channel .

A Bonnie Raitt squat is a bodyweight squat. The rest of these exercises can be found on my YouTube Channel.

And I’m going batshit crazy because I’ve been in the car for too long. Sheila does all of the driving since she gets car sick, so I vacillate between singing Barry Manilow songs and trying not to puke in stop and go traffic.

It’s delightful.

By the time we hit a rest stop, we park far away and I lunge to the bathroom, jog back and forth a few times, and do wide stance t-spine mobilizations in front of vending machines. 

Strangers make a wide arc to go around me. “I don’t know what you’ve got,” they’re thinking. “But I hope I don’t catch it.” 

2. I travel with my grid stick

My friend John always told me to travel with a mag flashlight, as it could be used to break a window should my car get submerged, or take out a stranger at the knees, but in a pinch, a good whack with my grid stick would at least stun someone.

Both of us like to be prepared, ok?

But that’s not why I travel with it. I use my grid stick to get the blood flowing when we get to the hotel or our final destination. I can use it in the car, and it feels good to aggressively work on some of those knots when I just. can’t. Listen. To. NPR. For. one. More . minute. 

3. Something is better than nothing

Yesterday I popped into the gym with my little brother for a quick workout. I was tired, hadn’t slept well in two days, and the last thing I wanted to do was train. But we both went anyway, and I got in a solid 45 minutes of work. I only did six exercises after a brief warm up, but it got my blood flowing and improved my mood. Sometimes I struggle to train if I’m not following a specific program, so it’s good for me to remember that doing something is better than nothing.

It was also great to see my brother isn’t doing any of the program I wrote for him, so it was a good reminder that I’m not necessarily a “coach” but just someone who makes suggestions to family members when they ask and then they largely ignore them.

Cheers :-)

4. Training during the holidays helps to promote kindness

You know that I believe in kindness as a core value for everyone. Well, we’re all less likely to get in screaming matches over politics or the last piece of monkey bread Christmas morning if we’ve done a little workout to get those endorphins flowing. Or to work out aggression. Either or.

And when I say workout, I mean you can go outside and take a walk.

5. You don’t need a gym to train

Sure I practice deadlifting my dog into the car, up the stairs, and onto the couch, but even if you didn’t have to lift your 55 pound hound, you can still get a good bodyweight circuit in. Follow the circuit on the picture to get your heart rate up, your endorphins going, and make people at rest stops stare at you sideways.  

Cheers. 

Wishing you the happiest of holiday seasons.

Random thoughts on training in my 40’s

Working with a bunch of under 30 guys means that I’m perhaps a tad more sensitive to my age than is reasonable. I promise you that once I came on board, coach's meetings became more challenging, especially when we talked about training “middle aged” clients. 

Josh: Generally we won’t have a 40 something year old…

Me: What? What won’t you have a 40 year old do? Hmmm??? What??

Josh: Drag an SUV across the parking lot with her teeth. 

Me: I'll be tying a rope to the SUV in the parking lot if you need me...

The most challenging part of aging for me, and I know I’m young, is balancing my athletic skills and wants with the realities of a 41-year old body that I’ve already put through the ringer playing various sports throughout the years. 

My competitive days might now revolve around golf and slow pitch softball, but I still want to train like an athlete - not just because it’s fun, but because it’s who I am. So with that in mind, here are those random thoughts.

1. Don't tell me I can't do something

I want to be like Donna, and Eileen and Kathy and so many of my other clients who are working out and training hard, and smart, into their 60's and beyond.

I want to be like Donna, and Eileen and Kathy and so many of my other clients who are working out and training hard, and smart, into their 60's and beyond.

Listen, I know there are things I shouldn't do anymore, in the interest of my long-term health. I might have to let go of that goal of running a marathon, given that I spent the past four months side-lined from my most recent attempt. 

But, if you know what's good for you, and me, you'll never tell me I can't do something. Maybe that's hard-wired from my years of being one three girls in Little League, but I'll break myself doing something if you tell me that I can't. 

We all have particular gym identities, and mine is that of an aging athlete. For me, that means that I want to throw medicine balls, deadlift until my face falls off, and move like an athlete. Let me do that, ok? 

2. Recovery isn't a suggestion, it's a necessity

I didn’t think anything about running or working out every day when I was in college and my early twenties. This week, as I’m finally picking up a training routine after being hampered by injury, I’m on my fourth day in a row of training, and my legs know it. So tomorrow’s workout will be foam rolling and light stretching, because I’m not a spring chicken any more. (More like early summer).

Recovery doesn't necessarily mean sitting around on the couch. Foam rolling, a massage, light stretching and walking can be part of a recovery day. 

3. If I don’t warm up, I pay the price

Pretty much what I just said. If I don’t warm up properly, which is following a complete foam rolling routine and a full body warm up, I’ll tweak something sooner or later. Our muscles aren’t filet mignon, they’re beef jerky. (It's a gross but effective analogy. Just think about ripping apart that jerky. You're welcome for the visual.)

You don't want to tear muscles because you skipped your warm up, right? Me neither. Let's get out there and show those Milennials how it's done.

Right after we warm up for 20 minutes and slather ourselves in Biofreeze...

4. I still think of myself as an athlete

I’m not going to the Olympics (maybe the senior ones someday) or making money as an athlete, but I still think of myself as an athlete. That means I want to train like an athlete. I want to move in other planes of motion. Think about the cone drills, back pedaling, drop step moves and shuffles we do when we play a sport. I might not jump onto a 32 inch box or explode on a sprint (I use the term sprinting very loosely) like I did when I was younger, but it's still important to train power and explosiveness. And I still want to move like an athlete. 

Playing sports isn’t just something that I used to do; it’s how I first learned to relate to the world. I was on my first team when I was five, and was on teams almost every year of my life right up until 2015. 

5. Be smart when it comes to injury

Remember that commercial about being like Mike? Yeah, be like Mike, but don't be like Kim. I’m the best example of what NOT to do when it comes to working out around an injury, for all of the above reasons. I find it hard to balance my competitive mentality with the restrictions of an injury, but the reality is, the sooner you take care of an injury, the sooner you get back to doing what you love.

This is an "area of opportunity" for me. But I think my last injury did more to teach me patience than anything I've previously dealt with.  

6. You might have to train differently than you used to

We have a client who has had a double knee replacement and double hip replacement, and she has a crazy hard core athlete mentality. But she’s also accepted the limitations of her body and embraced what she can do. It’s not that she can’t train - it’s just that she has to train differently. And she’s made peace with that.

All of us would do well to follow her lead. 

I often joke with clients that there should be a support group for aging athletes, and I mean that. I’m not sure that there’s anything more defeating than when you ask your body to do something (run a marathon, weed the garden, play a pick up game with your kids) and you find that you can’t do it.

Feeling betrayed by your body is an awful feeling. 

But it does no good to sit around and overthink about it. And it does no good to pretend that your body can do exactly what it did when you were 20. If we can learn to adjust expectations (not lower them necessarily), then perhaps we can embrace the privilege that is growing older.  

Often, I find it’s helpful to both have a coach, who can program for you, and a solid community of people who can keep you sane when you’re on the sidelines. 

And if anyone out there is looking for a coach, I'll be opening up a few spots in my private coaching group in September. 

Be strong. Be kind. 

 

Can you over-exercise?

In my family, stories of my Grandma Lloyd are legend. 

She was a 4’11 Irish woman who was notorious for speaking without a filter, a lack of attention to detail, being a horrible cook (spaghetti with tomato soup anyone?), and driving on the sidewalks.

Too much fertilizer, too much water, too much exercise. Too much of anything is no good. 

Too much fertilizer, too much water, too much exercise. Too much of anything is no good. 

One of the favorite stories is when my grandfather brought home a new tree for the backyard. After a few weeks, the tree had died, and my grandfather pressed her for what happened. 

“How much fertilizer did you put on it?” he asked. 

She disclosed that she’d been giving the tree four times the amount that was recommended and had killed the tree. 

“Well,” she said matter of factly. “I thought if one cup was good then four cups must be better.”

It’s easy to laugh and shake my head and chalk it up to another Grandma Verda moment (yes her first name was Verda), but the thing is, I see this everyday. 

In fitness. 

If three workouts per week is good, then six workouts a week is better. If five workouts is great, then 10 must be amazing. 

No.

In my college days when we we were down south for spring break, we would bust out two-a-days to take advantage of the warm weather. And even then, when we were in our teens and early twenties and our bodies could tolerate more, we did not perform two demanding workouts in the same day. We would bust out a tough practice in the morning before doing skills work and running plays in the afternoon. 

Because the most important thing in preparing for the season, aside from getting conditioned and knowing the plays, was staying healthy.

Staying healthy. 

Say that together with me. 

Stay healthy.

Working out is a lot like adding fertilizer to a growing tree or salt to a recipe. More is not always better. You can have too much of a good thing.  Less is more. 

Feel free to add your own cliche. 

If you want to dedicate that much time to your fitness though, I would offer the same message I did in my post the other day. 

Harder isn't always better.

You could go out for a long run in the morning and then spend an hour that same night foam rolling and doing active recovery work. Active recovery might get your heart rate up, but the goal is to work on your movement quality - perhaps by performing your warm up (you do warm up, right?) five times in a row. 

Instead of working out 12 times per week, workout six times and use those other time commitments to help your body recover.

Do you get soft tissue work done? Do you go for massages? 

Massage is not just a luxury. And it's not indulgent. Sure a Swedish massage can be just that, but soft tissue work can also go a long way in keeping you healthy. It can relieve stress and help you manage anxiety (both of which are paramount to keeping you sane and healthy), but a good massage can also increase your range of motion, help you sleep better, and enhance your actual exercise performance.

In fact, after experiencing tightness in my knee for the past week, I went for a deep tissue massage yesterday and my knee feels better than it has in two weeks. He worked all of the muscles around my knee and my range of motion is much better. 

Sure I could have spent 90 minutes running yesterday, since I'm signed up for a marathon - but I'm going to have a much better two hour run today because I spent yesterday caring for my body. 

And don't assume that working out 12 hours per week is going to get you to your goal faster. Because if you don't stay healthy you're going to have a tough time hitting your goal at all. 

More is not always better. 

Ok? Ok. Good talk. 

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