What I See When I Watch The CrossFit Games

I’m not a Cross Fitter. I’m going to put that out there first. I’ve never attended a class, and probably never will. But that’s not because I have anything against it, it’s just not my training style (and doesn’t exactly fit in my budget either.. minor detail).  I would say that most people in the world fall somewhere near either end of the CrossFit spectrum. Either they hate it and think that it’s only for gym-rat idiots who don’t care about form or technique, or they think it’s the best thing in the world; a way of life that’s practically a religion. I fall somewhere dead in the middle of these two — I can see the good and the bad in it just like any other fitness phenomenon.

The thing is though, idiots are everywhere. CrossFit gets a lot of hate but let’s be totally honest here. There are idiot power lifters, idiot runners, idiot triathletes and idiot couch potatoes. There are idiots everywhere, but just because some of them happen to do Cross Fit doesn’t mean that the whole sport is idiotic. There are some things about CF that can be unsafe, yes, but the same can be true for just about any sport in the world. There are some parts of Football that I think are completely idiotic and unsafe, but that doesn’t mean that I stop watching, does it?

Anyway, my point is that I’m coming into this with complete neutrality — I don’t gush over CF athletes like they’re the next coming of Christ, but I can appreciate the fact the people competing in the CF games are most certainly athletes. But beyond a group of freakishly-genetically-gifted and ridiculously-hard-working humans, I see beauty, strength, and the most beautiful thing of all — differences.

Watching the CF games this weekend, I found myself saying things like “LOOK AT HER ARMS” and “OMG THOSE LEGS” over and over again. These athletes, and the women especially, are physical specimens. Some people may call some of them “bulky”, but I truly find muscle on women to be beautiful. I’d take defined deltoids and quads of steel any day, but that’s just my personal opinion. I know that not everyone feels the same way and that’s fine. But one thing to truly appreciate about this sport is that even though, yes, all of these women are muscular, there are so many differences in their shapes and sizes, yet they’re all completing the same movements and the same weights. There are girls with stockier shapes cleaning and pressing right next to girls with taller, leaner shapes. There are girls who’s abs could cut diamonds, standing next to girls carrying a little bit more body fat. But they are all incredible athletes, doing incredible things. The beautiful thing about this is that these women are not out there to look good or look sexy, they’re out there to perform. And, might I add, they’re doing one hell of a job.

The women competing in the CrossFit Games are completing events that many of us could never dream of, even with dedicated training. These are athletes in every sense of the word, not just some kids going to a “box” to throw around some medicine balls and climb some ropes. These women (and men) are impressive, and let’s not forget that just because you may or may not appreciate the sport that they participate in.

It’s also worth mentioning that in every event I’ve watched, without fail when there is one last person on the field trying to finish, the rest of the competitors are there, cheering them on until they are done. In what other sport do you see that? When else will you see the opponents who just won, cheering on those in last place? It’s competition mixed with camaraderie, and it’s one of the best things I’ve seen in sports in a very long time.

Yes, CF may seem a bit silly at times to those of us who don’t do it. Really, can someone explain a kipping pull up to me and why you’d want to do those over a regular pull up? I’m genuinely curious.  And I’m really not sure about the safety of a “Clean Ladder” where the competitors are putting out multiple max attempts in the span of a few minutes, but I guess that’s no worse than 300 lb linemen ramming their heads into each other, is it? But in all reality, it’s a sport, and it’s a sport that has gotten a whole lot of people off their couches, joining communities, and feeling like they fit in somewhere in the fitness world. So how can you really hate on that?

Watching the CrossFit Games has not made me want to join my local box, has not made me want to be “one of them”, but it has truly made me appreciate what they do. As someone who’s career is working with athletes, I can tell you that the athletes I’ve been watching this past weekend are doing more than many “traditional” athletes out there. They work hard, they may do some funky movements, but they’re training their asses off, and it shows. To me, anything that makes the world a more active place is a good thing, I just ask that people who do CF use their brains, and don’t do anything idiotic that may land them on the injury list. But then again, I ask that of the general population too, so I guess that’s really no different.

Readers: Do you CrossFit? Have you been watching the Games lately? Can someone tell me what the deal is with a Kipping pull up? :) 

Celebrating 32 (Yikes)

Well folks, here we are. The 3rd anniversary of my 29th birthday. :)

I like celebrating my birthday on the blog. It gives me a good snapshot of things to look back on each year, remembering where I was the previous year and hopefully seeing some progress or forward movement in some way. Looking back on last year’s birthday post, it’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since that time. I guess that’s how it goes, as you get older, the time goes by faster. Or maybe it’s just that as you get older you’re more aware of the passing of time… either way, now is not the time to get philosophical.

I am proud to say that after the crazy injury streak between my 30 and 31st birthdays, I have been injury free! Yes, I made it through the year without having to be in a walking boot, which is pretty amazing considering my recent past. I have been dealing with a flare up of some pretty bad tendonitis in my wrist because of all of the crafting I did for the wedding, but I don’t consider that an injury. Just the hazards of getting old, I suppose.

So now that I’m 32 and hopefully another year wiser, what have I learned since my last birthday? Well, a few things.

1. I can do it.

I know this sounds pretty vague, and I guess it is. But what I mean is that I’m finally figuring out that I really can do the things I want to do. They don’t just have to be dreams, and if I work hard enough, I can make some of these big plans a reality. I’ve now had articles published in a couple issues of Volleyball Magazine (check out the latest here), and that is something that I’m pretty darn proud of. Freelance health and fitness writing is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I’m just starting to believe that it’s actually a reality for me. I plan on spending the next year doing a lot more writing, submitting more pieces, and reaching out to other people in the fitness/health field to make this an even bigger reality, but the difference is that now I really believe I can do this, it’s not just a hypothetical plan anymore.

I also had a great proverbial kick in the pants when I listened to Kara Mohr at the Perform Better Summit earlier this summer. She built something very successful without first owning her own studio, etc. Listening to her speak, as cheesy as this sounds, was like she was speaking directly to me. I have some bigger goals, but I’ve spent the last couple years telling myself that I’ll get to them later, when I own a studio, or when I’ve done this or done that. Listening to Kara made me realize that I don’t have to wait until other things happen, I can start working on things now, because that’s how change is made. If I keep waiting, pretty soon I’ll be 40 and still won’t be any closer to my goals than I am now. So what if I don’t own a gym? Maybe I never will. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t do other things in the meantime!

Maybe the 30s are just naturally a time for this “I Can Do It” attitude? I don’t know, but I’ll take it!

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2. I could possibly compete?

I was able to hit some pretty strong numbers in the weight room this year, and that was without a coach or anyone else writing a program for me. Last time I maxed, I hit 235# deadlift, 185# back squat, and 125# bench. Not bad, eh? Then fairly recently, someone posted a chart of benchmarks for women to work towards in weight lifting — and I realized that I was hitting most of them. If I could do this on my own, what more could I do with a coach pushing me with a new program? What could I do with the excitement of competition looming over my head? I’m a competitive person by nature, but besides running races, there haven’t been many opportunities to take advantage of this. But what if I turned my passion, weight lifting, into something competitive? What if I entered a power lifting competition? This is a total hypothetical at this point, but I’m starting to realize that I could actually compete. It would take dedicated training and a program from a qualified coach, but it’s something I really want to look into. Stay tuned for any updates on that front, because you know if I register for my first competition I’m going to need lots of support from my amazing readers!

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3. Change isn’t all that bad.

In fact, in life, I think change is a pretty healthy thing. What good is it if everything stays the same all the time? I feel like we all constantly need to be evolving, need to be challenging ourselves in new ways. That’s why I did take a little break from the weight room this summer (I know this completely contradicts what I just said above, but hear me out). Deciding to run the Falmouth Road Race -a 7 mile hilly course in August- has taken me out of the weight room and onto the roads. This summer, my training has been much more about conditioning and running than it has barbells and plates, but I’m ok with that. I’ve been doing enough with my KBs and other equipment to keep my strength at an appreciable level, and I know that I’ll be able to build back up once this race is over on August 17th. A little change-up is good for the soul every now and then, and helps to keep us humble. This little break from the iron has taught me to appreciate running a little bit more, and has helped me to really enjoy my summer off with tons of time outside, exploring all of the beautiful areas of my neighborhood.

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So with that, I’m off to enjoy my birthday by doing absolutely nothing. And that’s ok, because it’s my birthday, and I can sloth around if I want to :)

Readers: Have you ever thought about doing a powerlifting competition? For those of you in your 30s, did you feel this change in perspective too, or is it just me? 

A Wedding, A Minimoon, and A Hike

Hello everyone! I’m back! My brain is back, my sanity is back, my attention is back… but now I have a new last name :)

For those of you who were wondering, our wedding weekend was absolutely amazing. Everything went off without a hitch, and I couldn’t have had a better time with all of our wonderful friends and family. The rehearsal dinner on Friday evening was wonderful, and was such a good way for our families to mingle a little bit before the big day — our families hadn’t spent too much time together before so it was nice to let them get to know each other a little bit better.

bridesmaidsMy beautiful bridesmaids at the rehearsal! 

will and steph

Will and I walking to the rehearsal..  

And the wedding.. Oh my goodness, perfect doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about that day. I’ll do an actual wedding recap post when we get the professional photos back from the photographer, but until then, just know that it couldn’t have been better. There were no issues, no drama, just a gathering of amazing people for a beautiful, heartfelt ceremony and one hell of a party afterward. I swear, I honestly took about a week to recover from that day — the wedding was on a Saturday, and it wasn’t until the following Friday that I actually felt rested, awake, and recovered! I think that’s a sign of a pretty good party — and also a sign that my stress levels were so high going into it that some R&R was definitely necessary.

And boy did we ever get some R&R! After the wedding, Will and I headed up to Bar Harbor, ME for our “mini moon” (we’ll be doing a honeymoon in December). We stayed up there for a few days, just enough to relax and decompress after the wedding weekend, and I’m so glad that that’s where we chose to go. The weather wasn’t perfect (rain for 2 full days), but I think that was honestly a good thing, because it almost forced us to spend time just relaxing instead of “go-go-going” to try to see all that Bar Harbor has to offer in our time there. We did get to see some great sites, go on an awesome hike, and eat tons of delicious food, but we also spent a whole lot of time just sitting on the porch of our B&B reading books, drinking coffee and tea, and eating homemade cookies. Can’t beat that :) And we did get a full sunny day at the end to explore Acadia National Park, which was gorgeous and I can’t wait to go back!

The hike we did while there was pretty awesome, and we chose it off of a recommendation of two of our friends who had just been to the area. Because of the stormy weather, we wanted something relatively quick but also a trail that would still be a little interesting. We ended up doing the Ladder Trail up Dorr Mountain and then across the ridge to neighboring Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the eastern coast. The hike itself was pretty much a straight shot up the side of the mountain, with a few ladders (hence the name) to assist on some of the steep scrambles. Thank God for those, because the rocks were pretty slippery that day, and we never would have been able to make it up -or down-  without those (wobbly) ladders. The hike itself was really awesome and we had a ton of fun, but unfortunately the view at the top was lackluster because of the weather. All we could see was fog, fog, and more fog, although there was something kind of cool/eerie about being on top of a mountain that you know is surrounded by the ocean and not being able to see a thing! The funny thing was when we went back up to the top of Cadillac on Thursday and saw the view we had been missing, it was a simply breathtaking view of the ocean and surrounding islands — I could have just sat there and stared all day.

All in all though, it was a great afternoon hike, about 3 miles round trip, and just enough of a workout to keep us both happy. If you’re in Bar Harbor and are looking for a shorter hike to the top of Cadillac, but one that will still give you a decent burn, I would definitely recommend this trail! And if you did it on a clear day, I hear the views are amazing the whole way up, not just at the summit.

I’ll leave you guys with some pics of the hike, since this blog IS about exercise after all! I’ll be back later this week with a recap of all of the amazing food we ate on the trip — hint hint, there was a whole lot of lobster! And then after that, I’ll get back to actual fitness/nutrition blogging, I promise ;)

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Wobbly ladders along the slippery rocks! 

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This should have been a gorgeous view beyond that tree.. instead it was a whole lot of fog! 

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Getting closer to the summit… very very windy up here! 

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Summit! No view of the ocean, but we had fun anyway :) 

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My new husband on our stormy hike! 

Readers: Have you ever been to Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park in Maine? Have you ever hiked Cadillac Mountain? What’s your favorite way to pass a rainy vacation day?

 

 

Life Lately

Life in General Lately

My brain is so scattered I don’t even know where to start! So I guess I’ll start with that. Anyway, the reason I’m so scattered is because…. I’m getting married in just a few days! Yes, by Saturday evening, I’ll be Mrs. Rondeau!! As you can see, I haven’t been posting very much for the past few weeks, mostly because I’ve been so consumed with doing last minute wedding stuff that I haven’t even had time to think about the blog. I haven’t been reading or writing lately, but I think it’s fair to say that my focus has been elsewhere. Our wedding is very DIY, which is fun but has also been keeping me extremely busy! I don’t know about any other DIY brides out there, but it seems like every project that I think will take no time at all ends up taking me several hours. Cue spending the last few days having to finish things up that I thought I would be done with weeks ago!

Not only have I been working on wedding crafts, but I also had my bridal shower and bachelorette all within the last month. My shower was at my mom’s house, and it was such a lovely day with so many great people, I seriously couldn’t have been happier. My bridesmaids did so much to put it all together, and I am so, so thankful to have all of them in my life!

Shower1One of the adorable projects that my bridesmaids put together! 

Shower2

Because when in Maine, you’ve gotta pose on a tractor, right? Bridesmaids and good friends :) 

My bachelorette was a weekend in Newport, which was seriously one of the most fun weekends ever. I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say that I have never laughed so much, eaten so much, and danced so much in one weekend. Oh, and there were a few cocktails had too ;) We had the best time, and I was so sad when it was over! Again, a huge Thank You to my amazing bridesmaids who planned such a perfect weekend. I love all of those girls so much, and am so excited to keep celebrating with them next weekend!

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Seriously, can you beat this view for cocktails? 

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Some Newport strolling on Saturday afternoon :) 

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One of my fave pics from the weekend. Best Bach weekend ever!! 

This week will be spent finishing up all of my crafty things, manicure and pedicure appointments, and just finalizing things at the venue. Everyone keeps asking me if I’m nervous or anxious for the big day, and the truth is, I’m not! I’m just super excited. Because I know that even if the day itself doesn’t go perfectly, at the end of the day we’ll be married, and that’s what really matters, right?

Ok, enough about the wedding, because that’s not what you read here for.

Training Lately:

I will admit – my training focus has changed a lot over the past 4-6 weeks. Being away from work (I have June and July off — how awesome is that?) means that I’m not in the gym every day (I work out at work). And to be honest, going into work just to work out makes me feel like I’m not having time off at all, so I have not been following my normal lifting schedule. I’ve been doing a lot more conditioning, stadium runs, actual runs, KB workouts, and park workouts. I’ve been in the weight room a little bit, but sparingly. At home, I’ve been doing a lot of body weight work with the rings and pull up bar, as well as some KB and sandbag strength workouts for lower body. Am I improving my deadlift PR? Nope, but I’m staying in great shape and I’ll get back to that in August when I get back into the weight room more regularly.

Another new addition to my training lately has been…

…wait for it…

…running!

New Balance approached me to run in the Falmouth Road Race down on Cape Cod in August. It’s a 7 mile race, and although I was very hesitant at first, I eventually decided that it’s a challenge that scares the crap out of me, but I think that means that it’s something that I can’t pass up. I’ve heard that the course is very hilly and tough, but also one of the most beautiful courses and a super fun race too, so why not challenge myself with something new? I’ve been running fairly regularly for the past month and have been feeling pretty good. I still can’t say that I love running, or that I’ll ever hit the runners high, but it has been a fun change of pace for the summer months. Plus, I think my regular stadium runs have helped to keep me in decent cardiovascular shape throughout the year, so I wasn’t starting at square one as far as running goes.

Run1My new NB kicks! I love them to death, plus, they make me faster. ;) 

Food Lately:

Food lately has been pretty similar to food always. I have cut back on alcohol besides my bachelorette weekend, and I’ve also been conscious of avoiding too many treats. As I said this weekend, I’m not trying to get “skinny” for the wedding (that’s just not me), I’m just trying to de-puff! During the summer months with the 4th of July and all of the awesome BBQs and get togethers, it can be tough to keep nutrition in check. My strategy is to never go into full-deprivation mode, because when you’re faced with so many options it can make you crazy to say no to absolutely everything. I choose treats that are absolutely worth it, enjoy a moderate amount of them, and enjoy every second of it. Besides that, I’ve just been trying to keep things fresh, enjoying lots of summer corn, fresh veggies from the farmers market, and even some new snacks (because snack time is my favorite time)! Here are just a few pics of some delicious eats lately..

Some great meals out..

Food2

This is an amazing steak salad that I got while at Perform Better in Providence. Steak AND potatoes on a salad? Yes please! 

Some simple meals at home..

Food4Lettuce wraps for lunch have been the usual lately! With a Grillo’s Pickle on the side, of course! 

Some delicious new snacks…

Food1Um… These are like heaven in a bag. If you like coconut, and you like caramel, these are for you! I could snack on these all day long if I’m not careful. 

And some new hydration options!

Food3Maple water is seriously good. With just a very light hint of sweetness, I actually prefer it to coconut water! 

And that’s my life in a nutshell lately. Have your training patterns changed with the warmer weather? Have you tried any great new foods lately? Anyone else getting married this weekend? :)

I can’t promise I’ll post again before the wedding, so if not… I’ll see you next week as Mrs. Rondeau!

Strength Is… Leyden’s Story

Today’s post is going to be something a little bit different around here. Beyond fitness, beyond nutrition. This is about life, a beautiful life that was far, far too brief.  This is a story that is very near and dear to my heart, and one that I need to share for multiple reasons. Yes, this is sad, and it may bring you to tears. But I encourage you to read on anyway, because underneath the sadness there is a story of true strength and determination, one that should be shared.

Leyden
Beautiful, perfect Leyden. 

Almost two weeks ago, my good friend Missy had to say good bye to her baby girl, Leyden. At 16 weeks old, Leyden passed away due to complications of congenital heart disease after a very tough fight on her part. When Leyden was born, it was known ahead of time that she would need surgery to repair three holes in her heart. However, complications during surgery led to intestinal damage, which in turn led to a cascade of multiple organ failure over the course of several weeks.

Throughout this time, Leyden showed her parents, nurses, and doctors that she wanted to fight on, that she still had more left to give. She gave and she gave, until her little body could give no more. Up until the very end though, Leyden fought with unprecedented toughness. She surprised her surgeons, doctors and nurses every day with  her resilient spirit, fighting through a fog of morphine and paralytics just to squeeze her parents fingers or open her eyes at the sound of their voice. This, the doctors said, was almost unheard of. But Leyden was a fighter, and she knew that those little squeezes were what her parents needed to get through those difficult days on end in the hospital.

Leyden2That smile that melted everyone’s heart instantly. 

Being able to visit Leyden in the hospital was a beautiful gift that I will forever be grateful for. Her giant blue eyes and infectious smile made everyone fall in love with her instantly. I will admit that the first time I held her, I was scared. She was so small, and I knew that she was fragile — I thought I was going to break her. But the next time I visited and she just cuddled up in my arms, I knew she had a place in my heart forever. The last time I was able to see Leyden, she was unable to give me that gorgeous smile — unable to flash those big baby blues at me. But I knew in my heart that that joyful little girl was in there somewhere, so I gave her a soft kiss on the forehead and whispered words of healing and hope into her ear.

Those words weren’t enough, nor were the prayers, whispers, songs, and hopeful musings of her parents, family and friends. When Leyden passed away in the loving embrace of her mother’s arms, she left a light and a fighting spirit that will live on forever. She is all of our angel now — everyone who’s lives she touched, no matter how brief.

But I’m not writing this today for me. I’m writing to spread the word of Leyden’s strength and determination, and also to help Leyden’s mother, my good friend Missy. The last thing that any grieving parent should have to worry about is paying the remaining medical bills, something that can become insurmountable after a 14 week hospital stay.  Please take some time today to send some loving thoughts to Missy, Mike and their families — thoughts of healing and hope. And please consider giving to this fund if you are so inclined. But most importantly, take a moment to love and hug those around you and appreciate them for their own beauty and strength — because we all could use a little bit of Leyden’s fighting strength no matter what life throws at us.

 

Please — if you share anything I write, share this. Leyden deserves to have her story told, and the world deserves to see how perfect and beautiful she was, if only for a brief stay with us.

Pearls of Wisdom from the Perform Better Summit

Last weekend I attended the Perform Better Summit in Providence, RI for the first time. I’ve been hearing about this summit for a while, but it generally falls right around the same time as the National Athletic Trainers Association symposium that I travel to every year, so I haven’t had the opportunity to attend. This year, however, with NATA being the last week of June, I sadly decided to forgo attendance at that one due to the close proximity of my wedding — I knew that being out of town for 4-5 days just before the big day would stress me out too much.

So for the first time this year, I made the trade! And I’m so glad that I did. As much as I love the NATA conference, and have a wonderful time each year, it was fun to go to something new with a little bit of a different focus. Perform Better brings together some of the biggest and best names in the Strength and Conditioning, Fitness, and Rehab worlds, and puts them all into one conference center for a few days. There are lectures and hands on sessions for almost each presenter, giving attendees a chance to practice what they’re learning right there on the spot. And if you’re like me and learn much better through doing, rather than listening, than this was perfect.

Throughout the weekend, I was fortunate to hear talks and interact with some beasts in the fitness world — Alwyn Cosgrove, Gray Cook, Martin Rooney, Dr. Stu McGill, Eric Cressey, Kara Mohr, among others. Yes, I was a bit star struck at times, but more importantly, I learned at least one thing from each of these people. Some sessions were focused on rehab/assessment, some were focused on different fitness tools and styles, and some on coaching and motivation.

Today, I want to share a few of these pearls of wisdom that I learned over the weekend, but keep in mind that this is just a tiny fraction of what I brought back in my brain from that summit. Whether you are reading this as a personal trainer/coach or as an average-joe fitness enthusiast, each of these points can apply to you in some way.

“There’s no best, just be better.” Martin Rooney – You don’t have to be the best at something — and as Martin said, heck, who cares who is better between Van Gogh and Degas? They are both masters of their craft, who is “better” is irrelevant. The same can go for coaching/training, and really anything you do in life. You do not have to be the best, just consistently become better than you were the day before. That is what matters. Whether you are using this as a coach or a client, this is what will help to create lasting change. Don’t waste energy on worrying who is better than you, just make yourself better, because that is something that you can control.

“Don’t seek to make people tired. Seek to make them better than before they met you.”  Martin Rooney – This is something that I think many personal trainers should take into consideration. There is a big difference between putting someone through a workout that will just make them exhausted, and putting them through one that will make them better. Create workouts that will enhance your clients well being — not just leave them in a sweaty pile on the floor, hardly able to move their limbs. And this can be applied to the average joe too– do workouts that make you better, not just the ones that leave you the sweatiest. A hard workout and a good workout are not always synonymous, so if you or your personal trainer doesn’t know the difference, I would recommend finding someone who does.

Focus on the “Other 23″. Kara MohrSo you see your clients for one hour out of the day (or on the flip side, you see your personal trainer for one hour out of the day). But what happens to the “other 23″? Creating effective change can’t happen in just that one hour of a workout session, because there are far too many additional factors that shape the rest of that person’s time and lifestyle. If you’re a personal trainer, figure out ways to shape the other 23 hours of someones day — help them figure out how to lead a sustainably healthy lifestyle outside of the gym. And for the gym-goers, make sure that you focus on that additional time as much as you do on your workout, because really, that’s what’s going to make the difference that you’re working towards.

Treat every client/patient/etc. as an individual. Not everyone needs the same corrective exercises, because not everyone has the same problems. Eric CresseyEric Cressey gave what ended up being my favorite lecture of the entire weekend. Probably because it was more sports-medicine based rather than fitness based, and I’m a nerd. Anyway, Cressey is a very well known “shoulder guy”, so his talk was appropriately about assessing scapular mechanics and positioning, and some ideas for corrective exercises for various problems. The big take home here is that nowadays, everyone is told to keep their scapulae (shoulder blades) down and back during every exercise.

We train this over and over again — I’ve told so many people to keep their shoulder blades in their back pockets I’ve started sounding like a broken record.  But the truth is, some people don’t need that cue. Some people have scapulas that are already positioned medially, that telling them to pinch them back only reinforces the problem. This doesn’t just apply to the shoulder, but for every inch of the body. No two bodies are the same, and no treatment or training program should be created for someone just because that’s what “most people” need. And if you are the one being trained? Make sure that your trainer has a reason for everything you do, otherwise, you’re just another name on a template.

Forget about the number on the scale or fat loss. Focus on the “inner athlete”. Alwyn CosgroveTraditional weight loss programs over the past couple of decades have been pretty ineffective — Alwyn showed us a graphic of how obesity  has increased in each state over the years, and while it wasn’t new information, it was horrifying. But what about all of these people going to the gym day in and day out? Why isn’t it making a difference? According to Cosgrove, we should be focusing on other things. We all have an athlete inside of us, regardless of whether you played sports in school or not. Helping your clients focus on abilities and goals will help them to achieve more than a fixation on the scale. And if you are the client? Forget about the scale — find something bigger to train for. Set a PR goal, train for an event, sign up for a triathlon. Whatever works for you, find your inner athlete, and the results will come, along with a boost in self esteem and confidence.

Take Recovery Time! Alwyn Cosgrove. Cosgrove runs a gym that seems like a dream place to work, and he has developed a great system of small group training. One thing that struck me was his description of the work/rest periods that his group circuit classes utilize, namely recovering according to heart rate, not necessarily a specific work/rest time ratio or rep scheme. Using specific heart rate values to determine work and rest can help clients to work out at a high capacity, instead of doing crappy, ineffective reps because they are not recovered from the previous exercise.  This would take some research, but it’s an interesting way to think of circuit training, compared to the usual 30s on, 15s off type of plan. Food for thought!

Again, I learned a lot more than this over the weekend, but this is just a quick snapshot into the awesomeness that was Perform Better.

Readers: Which of these messages resonate with you the most? If you are a personal trainer, which of these do you think is most important? If you are the client (or workout on your own), can you apply these to your own workouts? Were you at the Perform Better summit last weekend? 

 

 

 

The One Word Solution to Fat Loss

I should amend this title to read: The One Word Solution to Sane Fat Loss. Because anyone can lose weight if they take the train to crazy town and go way overboard with restriction, over exercise, etc. But is that sustainable? No. Will you go insane trying to keep up with it? Yes. So how can you be successful with fat loss while still keeping your sanity and enjoying your life?

One word: Balance.

Balance in your diet

I hate using the word diet, but what I mean here is not some short term restrictive phase to drop weight quickly. What I’m talking about is your overall diet strategy and lifestyle.

Long term fat loss and lifestyle change require one thing: a sustainable plan. If you try to cut everything that you love out of your life and leave it behind cold turkey, you will have a very slim chance of sticking to that plan two weeks, two months, six months down the road. And you know what you will have a great chance of doing? Face planting yourself into a binge of those very things that you promised to leave behind.

Balance is the key to continuing to enjoy your life while still making healthy choices to better yourself. Because what’s the point in losing all of this fat if you’re just going to be miserable? The point of making changes is to enhance your life, not make you feel like you’re living in a minimum security prison for the rest of your days. (Can you tell I’ve been watching Orange Is The New Black lately?)

Balance means compromising with yourself. Balance means deciding which treats are really worth your time, and when you actually want them. Balance means including your favorite things in your life, but doing so in a way that makes you in control of your intake, instead of the food controlling you.

Take, for example, my dinner out the other night. Will and I went to this amazing southern food joint here in Boston, on the way home from a Sox game at Fenway. Now, this place makes the most mouth watering, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits I’ve ever had. And I only go to this place once or twice a year, which means — you guessed it– I’m getting a biscuit. I also kept in mind that I am trying to lose a little bit of body fat right now, so I couldn’t go all out. I wasn’t going to deny myself that biscuit, I haven’t had one since last summer after all. But what I did do was keep the rest of my meal to protein and veggies (pulled chicken, collared greens, and cole slaw), and only ate half the biscuit.

I would show you guys a picture but I truly believe that piles of pulled meat are grossly un-photogenic. Despite what some other bloggers would like you to believe. 

This was an important balance for me. Would I have liked some mac and cheese with my chicken? Yes, that would have been delicious, but I had to strike a balance between the treat and the rest of my meal — especially when I’m consciously trying for fat loss. I didn’t necessarily want the mac and cheese as much as I did the biscuit, and that’s what I mean about deciding which treats are truly worth going outside of your healthy eating patterns.  And the beautiful thing about that meal was that I was able to savor each bite of that biscuit (they’re huge, so half was enough!), truly enjoying each moment of it without feeling guilty.  There were no feelings of “why did I eat that, I just set myself back!” afterwards, because I know that I had a good balance, and I’ve worked hard to figure out what that means for me.

But at the end of the day it was delicious, and it was everything I thought it would be. And it was 100% worth the indulgence.

Your balance can come within meals like this, or maybe throughout the day. Do you need a glass of wine after an especially long day? Okay, but maybe skip the chocolate after dinner that day. Dig into the office candy bowl today? Try going without sugar for the rest of the day. It’s all about balance, and finding what works for you.  The key is figuring out which indulgences are worth splurging on, and which you are reaching for just because they’re right there in front of you. Denying yourself every little thing that you want will backfire, I promise. It’s only a matter of time.

There are only so many times that your will power will say no before it breaks down and says yes. 

And at that point, it’s going to be more than just a few bites that you consume.

But balance doesn’t just pertain to diet when it comes to fat loss. Enter the other side of the equation:

Balance in exercise. 

Maintaining balance in exercise is just as important as diet, not only for fat loss but for general health and well being. When many people set out on a weight loss or fat loss journey, they tend to go balls-to-the-wall for the first week or two, and then become so burnt out, frustrated, or sometimes even injured that they give up. It doesn’t have to be that way! Exercise, just as in dietary changes, must be sustainable. Don’t set yourself a goal of spending 90 minutes in the gym, five times per week if you are working full time, in grad school, and taking care of a new puppy! Know your boundaries, know your limitations, and work around those.

But back to my point. If you are crushing yourself in the gym 5-6 days per week, ending up in a sweaty pile on the floor after every single workout, you’re doing it wrong. Not only are you doing it wrong, but you will get injured at some point. To be effective, exercise must be paired and balanced with recovery. Recovery allows your muscles to  heal and rebuild, is when your body replenishes energy stores, and is when you become the better version of you that you’re aiming for. Exercise simply does not work without recovery, not in the long run anyway.

Weight sessions should be balanced with mobility work, speed sessions should be balanced with recovery time, and long runs should be balanced with strength and rest. It’s an ebb and flow that’s necessary to allow your body to make the improvements that you’re asking it to, the lack of which is a recipe for disaster.

But what is the right balance for you? How many calories should you be eating? How much weight should you be lifting? How long should you be running — if at all? How many rest days should you take?

Unfortunately, there is no cut and dry answer to any of those questions. Every single person is going to have a different balance, because every single body is different. The most important thing is playing around with different ratios of work, recovery and nutrition — you may want to incorporate a coach or qualified trainer into these experiments, but experiments will be necessary. If you find a coach who tells you that you have to eat exactly the same as all of their other clients, and that you will follow the exercise protocol of all of their other clients, run the other way. That is not your balance — that is their balance. And what works for them may work for you, but it may not, and it’s going to take trip and error to find out.

Readers: How do you strike a balance in your healthy life? What are some indulgences that are worth it for you? Do you have a harder time striking a balance with diet or with exercise?