Changing your fitness focus - get out of the weeds

I’m a big fan of simplicity. One of the reasons I took up running in college was the ease of getting started. Put on some shoes and run. Boom.

Or, depending on how you roll - skip the shoes and just run. 

Over the weekend I joined other fitness professionals for a three-day fitness summit hosted by Perform Better. One of the speakers, Rachel Cosgrove has been training clients, and women in particular for over 20 years. She's an expert at helping people get results, and in her talk spoke to a good reminder that we all easily forget.


Focus on the big rocks.

This reminder has been a big part of my studies with Precision Nutrition - the idea of mastering the basics of getting enough sleep, enough water, fun (ok that's mine) as part of your base. I see a lot of clients start in the weeds - should I do intermittent fasting? Go Paleo? Should I take BCAA's and fish oil and hair of the lemur 22 minutes after my workout? 

Should I eat my protein while riding a goat off into the sunset with a koala bear? 

Yes, you should - but invite me along because I love goats and koala bears. 

A strong focus on those minute details can cause information overload and decision fatigue - and before you know it, you're too exhausted from trying to understand what's you should be doing and just throw in the towel.

(Hold on to the towel. No throwing of the towel. If it's yellow, you may wave it at Steelers' games - but you must not throw it.)

Some of the big rocks in training include training with a purpose 3-5 times a week, warming up with a purpose, and working on areas of opportunity, such as performing a push up from the floor or a chin up. 


Over the weekend, we got t-shirts that said: “stop exercising and start training.” I love the quote and I think this could be a blog post in and of itself. When you sign up to work with a coach, the two of you have a goal in mind and the coach develops a plan to help you hit that goal. Whether you want to drop a pant size, gain lean muscle or perform a push up from the floor - your programming is the road map you need to follow. 

Exercising is getting out and moving, which is good for you, but is there a purpose behind it? Do you know if what you're doing is going to help you achieve your goal? 

(To read more on why you need a coach, check out this post)


No, chasing your dog does not count as a warm up, although you do want to get your body temperature up. Warming up with a purpose means warming up the muscles and movements you’re about to use in your workout. We don’t do toy soldiers because we want to know if you’d make the Rockettes, we do that to warm up your hamstrings before working your hips. 


Are you getting enough sleep? Most of us know we’re not. According to the Sleep Foundation, adults age 26-64 need 7-9 hours and adults over 65 need 7-8 hours. If you are averaging less than seven hours of sleep per week, we know that you want to work on your batwings (one client’s name for skin on the triceps) and belly fat, but one of the best places to start is to get more sleep. That means turning off the phones and iPads 30 minutes before bed (or turn on the Night Shift which reduces the blue lights) and put a priority on getting more, quality sleep.


Recommendations from Precision Nutrition on water are that sedentary individuals drink at least two liters, athletes drink three litters, and athletes in hot weather climates drink at least four liters per day. Many of us would benefit from drinking more water. Especially those of us like myself who drink most of their water with…well…a lot of coffee in it…

Some of the other big rocks in nutrition include eating whole foods (single ingredient), eating slowly and mindfully, and following the formula of a serving of protein, vegetables, and healthy fats with each meal. 

Regardless of your goals, we live in a time of information overload. In fact, I saw this great quote from strength coach Ben Bruno the other day. 


Be careful of the weeds. Stick to the rocks. 

You don't have to earn your holiday cookies

It’s the holidays.

These are actually Sheila's homemade chocolate covered marshmallows. But you don't have to earn these either. Just ask very nicely and I'll give you some.

These are actually Sheila's homemade chocolate covered marshmallows. But you don't have to earn these either. Just ask very nicely and I'll give you some.

Time for being dragged through some Christmas tree farm in upstate Maine for two and a half hours until you can no longer feel your toes and you’ve found the “perfect” tree. Even if you passed the perfect tree 17 times in the first half hour.  

Oh…that’s not how you started your season?

It’s also time for listening to Dean Martin’s “Marshmallow World In the Winter,” wrapping presents with duct tape, and cookies. And....watching Christmas Vacation for the 3,457th time. And cookies. 

I’m not a huge fan of all cookies - my mother is a good baker, but she only ever used half a bag of chocolate chips when making three batches of chocolate chip cookies. Finding a chocolate chip was like finding the baby Jesus in a king cake.

But if you wag a peanut butter cookie with a Hershey's kiss in front of my face, you best set it down and walk away. Walk slowly, slowly, away.

People are making cookies. They are bringing them to work, giving them as gifts and hiding them from children so there will be some left for guests.

You should eat the cookies. 

No, don’t shove them all in your mouth at once like a holiday cookie chubby bunny contest. Moderation people. But you should eat them.

And you don’t have to earn them.

Let me repeat that.  

You don’t have to earn your cookies. You don’t have to do 10 burpees and 75 jumping jacks before you can have one. You don’t need to do walking lunges up and down the hallway after you eat one. You don’t have to punish yourself to enjoy a taste of the holidays. 

Exercise is not punishment. 

I know it can feel like punishment. But I hope you exercise because you feel good doing it. Because it feels good to work up a sweat and move your body. I hope you’ve already established an exercise plan that you follow on a weekly basis. Stay consistent with what you're doing, but don't give in to the pressure to feel like you have to do more because of food. 

If you want to go for a walk because your brother decided to bring up politics and that’s how you’ll relieve your stress - that’s a good reason to literally run for the hills. 

But don’t go for a walk because you had two of your co-worker’s famous bourbon balls and you feel you have to work off those calories. (Or a slight buzz. Easy on the bourbon next time Martha.)

You don't have to earn your food. And exercise is not punishment. Even pushing the sled. Really.

Nia Shanks writes a great article about good and bad reasons to exercise right here. And it’s worth the read.