Wellness vs. Fitness: What’s The Difference?

A couple months ago when I completed my Health Coaching certification, I had quite a few questions about what that meant. What is a health/wellness coach? Is that like a personal trainer? Is it a nutritionist? Is it a life coach?

Well, the answer is none of the above, but parts of all of the above. A wellness coach is someone who helps their clients to find optimal mind and body wellness, often helping them with and focusing on inner behavior change. This can differ from a personal trainer or nutritionist who may just “prescribe” a workout or nutrition plan, with change coming from a strictly external source (the plan) rather than being driven by the client (changes in motivation, etc.)

And the truth is, neither of these are better or worse, but one method or the other does tend to work better for different people. Some have no trouble with the motivation or desire to modify their lifestyle, and for those people, a simple plan may be the best bet. But for those who also need a little bit of help finding their motivation, finding their drive towards making those behavior changes, and realizing that all of this lies within themselves, a wellness or health coach could be a wonderful fit.

Another question I get a lot is: So what does wellness mean anyway? Isn’t that just the same thing as fitness? To me, fitness is purely physical. It is the number of reps you can do, the speed at which you can finish a particular distance, or the number of pounds you can lift off the floor. It has to do with specific markers based on your size, gender, body type, training style, and training age. Fitness helps us to compare ourselves and others objectively, with hard numbers and data to back up those comparisons (whether we should be comparing at all is a completely different blog post!).

On the other hand, wellness encompasses so much more than the statistics and numbers that are utilized in fitness. Wellness incorporates certain things within yourself that can’t necessarily be measured in hard numbers or compared objectively to someone else. Your motivation, your past experiences with weight/fat loss, your attitude toward your ability to achieve your goals, your belief in your ability to stick with lifestyle changes in the future, and so on. There is so much that goes into wellness, beyond just how many pounds you can lift or how fast you can run hill repeats. When we’re talking wellness, your mind and your body are not mutually exclusive of each other. Instead, they work together, balancing each other on those inevitable days when you’ll have set backs or less than stellar performances.


So as you can see, while I do have my own answer to the wellness vs. fitness question, I also often turn it around on the question-asker. And that’s what I’m going to do today. What I want to know from all of you is what does wellness mean to you? And how does it differ from fitness (if you indeed see a difference?)

I will be taking a short break from all of my offerings on the blog (individual programs, personal training, wellness coaching) since I’m 40+ weeks pregnant at this point, but soon all of these services will be back in action! And during this time, aside from being a sleep deprived mommy monster, I want to reevaluate exactly what you all want to get out of this blog and coaching if you’re so inclined.

So please, in the comments below, let me know!

What does wellness mean to you and how does this differ from fitness exclusively?

What road blocks do you see in reaching optimal wellness for yourself?

What aspect of wellness do you find most difficult?

What aspect of wellness do you find most rewarding in your life?

Thanks so much for taking the time, and enjoy your day everyone! 

Are You As Active As You Think You Are? 4 Ways To Move More

So you go to the gym 3 times per week, like your doctor told you to. You lift some weights and jog on the treadmill for 30 minutes, do some abs, and call it a day.

You had a good workout, so now it’s ok if you just sit at your desk for the next 8 hours, and then in front of your TV for 2 more, right?

Unfortunately, not so much.

Yes, it is important and recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine that we get a certain amount of exercise per week, but those 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise won’t create the change that many of us are looking for. Any movement is better than no movement, but it’s also important to think about the rest of your day when you’re not in the gym.

I’m certainly not saying that you’re entire day needs to be spent on your feet or at a treadmill desk, but it is important to get in regular movement throughout your day, not just a 30 minute block at the beginning or end.

The movement fallacy.

Many people believe that if they get a workout in on a given day, it gives them the freedom to move less for the rest of the day, or to eat whatever they want for the rest of that day. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. A 30 minute moderate workout may only burn about 200-300 calories — the same amount of calories in one medium sized apple. Doesn’t seem so significant when you put it like that, does it? Regular exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, but what I find to be just as important is the amount of low intensity “lifestyle” movements you do throughout the day as well.  In other words, we need to be more understanding of the difference between exercise and simple activity or daily movement, and the necessity of both in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

These daily  movements come in the form of walking, standing, moving from place to place, even just standing for a periodic stretch break if you can’t actually get away from your desk at work. We’ve all been told a thousand times now that those long periods spent sitting are literally killing us, but we’re also told that 30 minutes per day of exercise will counteract that. Breaking up your sitting times at regular intervals throughout the day is a great way to ensure that you’re moving enough to make an impact on your health and your longevity.

So how can we move more throughout the day? It’s more than just picking a parking spot a little bit farther away; sometimes we need to be a little bit more deliberate than that. The following are 4 of the most consistent strategies that I use throughout my day to move a little bit more, a little bit at a time.

  • Pretend the escalators/elevators aren’t even there. Trust me, there are days when I’m exhausted and want someone to just push me home in a wheelchair. But I would say 99% of the time, if I’m coming out of the train station or going to one of my offices, I’m taking the stairs. Even when I’m tired, even when others are hopping on the elevator. Especially when the line for the escalator is long but the stairs are empty. Seriously — you’d be surprised at how often you can get somewhere quicker by using your own two legs rather than the machinery to get there.
  • Take a lap. If you are stuck in an office building all day, like many people are, hopefully you’re not actually chained to your desk (and if you are, you might want to speak to HR about that). Take a lap around the office in between phone calls, deliver a message to someone in person rather than through email, actually walk to the proverbial water cooler and have a conversation. If you are in the depths of a huge project and can’t do any of this, at the very least stand and do some light, unobtrusive stretching at least once every hour. I’m not talking about getting on the floor in butterfly stretch, but bring your arms up, twist your torso, and just move your body, even lightly, for a few moments. The extra blood flow may even give your brain a boost, giving you a bright idea for that meeting you have coming up.
  • Be Ambitious. Sometimes things like this do take some extra effort, and require a little bit of motivation. For some of  you, this may  not be an option at all, but is along the same lines of parking at a farther parking space. For those who are train commuters in a city, try getting off the train one stop sooner than you have to. I started this habit last year, mostly because I actually like that extra walking time on the way to and from work. It gives me just a few minutes to gather my thoughts, center myself, and decompress from the “go-go-go” of my work day. Yes, you do have to give yourself extra time, and this isn’t really realistic when the weather is miserable, but for me, one or 2 extra train stops meant an extra mile or more of walking per day. That adds up!
  • Make yourself a deal. Add in little bits of actual exercise, without turning them into a full on workout. For instance, there are certain times where I’ll tell myself that every time I walk past the pull up bar in my house, I have to do one pull up. One rep seems like nothing at the time, but when I pass through the same doorway 15 times in one day, that adds up to (you guessed it) 15 pull ups. Not bad for fitness “freebies”, right? You can make a similar deal with yourself whether or not you have equipment in your home. Commercial break during your favorite show? 15 squats and 15 glute bridges. Have a bench in your bedroom that’s the perfect height for incline push ups? Every time you enter that room, bang out 10 pushups. It’s easy, and it’s not something you have to do every day, but it’ll get you moving at times when otherwise you might just be sitting around.


Readers: How do you move more throughout the day? Is it possible for you to take a different train stop or find another way to sneak movement into your commute? 



Motivation Monday and Fitness Challenge #3

Before I get to the meat of today’s post, dare I ask: did anyone out there besides me complete their 200 Burpees? Or try out the burpee pyramid challenge from last week?

Let me know how it went!

Now before I give you your challenge for this week, I want to tell you about a part of my day yesterday that was so awesome it’s hard to even describe here.

Will and I set out around 11 am to do a workout down along the Charles River because it was such a gorgeous day. For those of you not from Boston, there’s a little workout area at one point along the river path that has pull up bars, different height benches, push up bars, etc. It’s kind of like a little mini “muscle beach” without the actual weights. Any given nice day in Boston you’ll usually see a handful of people doing various workouts there, and yesterday was no different.  When we got there, I payed particular attention to one gentleman who was doing all sorts of interesting movements, including a lot of work while hanging from his feet on the pull up bar.  After watching him for a little while, I started in on my own workout, and at one point I was approached by him because he was curious about some of the more creative things that Will and I were doing. (He was particularly interested in the backpack with a 40 pound chain in it… But again…That’s a different post).

Once we started talking to him, we all began sharing workout tips, trading techniques, and even sharing some of the equipment that all of us had brought.

Did I mention that this man, Ralph, was 72?

Here he is, talking to Will, who is using Ralph’s leg straps which allow you to hang upside down for ab work, etc. 

Note the backpack in the picture above. That’s the one that’s holding a 40 pound chain, and Ralph couldn’t wait to use it. After showing Will how to use his ankle straps, he put them back on himself, and after being hoisted up to the high pull up bar, proceeded to do upper body work as well as ab crunches while holding the bag.

Just look at the incredible shape he is in!!

After speaking with him about more exercises and he so graciously agreed to be featured on my blog, he also agreed to show us some of the more creative (and extremely difficult) things he had been doing when we first got there.

He honestly smiled the entire time. He was like a little kid up there!

 (Ahem, 72?!?!?) This man, Ralph, was incredible. He was passionate, curious, joyful, exuberant, and hilarious all wrapped up into one tiny, super-fit package.

And the kicker? By the time we were taking these pictures, it was about 1:00 pm. He told us he had been out since 5 am, riding his bike around to different outdoor workout areas and stopping for exercise intervals as he saw fit. Since 5 am! I don’t know many people my age who would have the stamina and endurance to do that, let alone someone who could be my grandparent.

So why am I telling you all about the incredible Ralph? I think it’s quite obvious. He is pretty much the definition of health and motivation. At 72 years old (I don’t think I can say that enough times), he trains at least 4 days per week, is in incredible physical shape, and is on no medications.

So next time someone asks you why you work out so much, or next time you doubt that starting an exercise plan really will make a difference, think of Ralph. Next time you don’t want to get your butt to the gym or do one of my challenges, just think WWRD (What Would Ralph Do?) 🙂  He was a great person to talk to, and I honestly can’t wait until I see him out there again. Maybe he’ll even agree to an interview one of these days?

Now that you’ve had that megadose of awesome, let’s hear today’s challenge. This week we’re going to take it back a notch from the madness that was Burpees, and we’re going to go a little bit more low-key. Your challenge this week is:

For some of you this will be easy, for some it will be a struggle. But remember, No Cheating! If you can only hold a plank for 5 seconds with good form, than you need to do about a bazillion (ok 96) sets of 5 second planks. If you can hold a plank for a minute, than really you just need a plank a day (plus a little extra somewhere in there).

**Good form for a plank means that you are basically forming a straight line from the tip of your head all the way down to your toes. NO “tent butt” or sagging midsection. Keep that core and glutes engaged the entire time in order to keep your form correct.

**Tip: Do these in front of a mirror so that you can see if your core is sagging or if your butt is creeping up. A crooked plank is no plank at all.

And with that, I’m off! I’ll be gone for the rest of this week for the National Athletic Trainer’s Association conference in St. Louis, and then for a little bonus time in Memphis. I’ll be putting up some great guest posts to finish out this week, and then I’ll be back next Monday. Enjoy your week, and don’t miss me too much!

Don’t forget to send me your plank videos and pictures if you want to be featured on the blog! (itrainthereforeieat@gmail.com)

Do you ever do outdoor workouts? Have you ever met someone like Ralph? Do you do planks in your workout regularly? 

Superbowl FUNday

Superbowl Sunday. A day notorious for 7-layer dips, guacamole, nachos, chicken wings, and all of the finger-licking good food you can think of. Oh, and a football game. (Or, for those of you who don’t enjoy watching football, there’s also the puppy bowl on Animal Planet or the Lingerie Bowl, if that’s more your style.) This particular Superbowl Weekend, I also had a friend’s birthday to celebrate, which ultimately led to copious amounts of food and drink in a 48 hour period.

So, for your entertainment, I’m going to do something that’s probably going to get myself banished from the “healthy living” bloggosphere for good.  I’m going to tell you everything I ate this weekend. Keep in mind that this is everything Extra that I ate. This is in addition to my usual breakfast and lunch.  Ready? Here goes:

Brownies  – 2 maybe?

Cookies -I made them, so obviously I ate some. I don’t even know how many. Honestly.

How could you bake these and NOT have some of them?!?

Birthday Cake – 1/2 slice

Oreo Cupcake – 1/2

Cup Cake Cone – 1 (Yes, that’s a cupcake cooked into an ice cream cone. It’s ridiculous. Ridiculously good.)

Fried Avocado – 2 pieces

Hush Puppies – 1

Buffalo Chicken Pizza – 2 slices

Pea Pesto Crostini – It’s a Giada recipe that my friend made, and they were delicous!! I probably had 4 of these.

Chips and Salsa

Chicken Wings – 8 maybe? who even knows

Nope, not the least bit healthy. But delicous? Yes!

So WHY am I telling you all of this?

Because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Yes, even though now, on Monday morning, I feel like this:

It doesn’t matter. And I really don’t feel bad about any of it. I enjoyed time with my friends, had some great celebrations, and savored (in slight moderation) some delicious treats that my friends made.  All it shows is that I’m not perfect (and I bet you’re not either!) But if you ask me, perfection is overrated. In a perfect world, all I would eat would be clean, fresh food, lean meats, grass fed beef, and fruits grown on trees in my own back yard. Actually, scratch that. In a perfect world, I would be able to eat all the chocolate, cupcakes,  and  chicken wings I want, and still be perfectly healthy.

But the point is, it’s not a perfect world, and it’s never going to be. There are always going to be days when you move a little less and eat a little more. There are going to be birthday celebrations and graduation parties and “hey it’s Friday and I just got through the WORST WEEK EVER” celebrations, and that’s OK. Should we treat every day like it’s a party with the best buffet table in the world? Or Every Sunday like it’s Superbowl Sunday?  No, but is it OK every once in a while? Say it with me:

So, after you DO have an inevitable “cheat” day like Superbowl Sunday, you have three options as far as I’m concerned.

  1. You can wallow in self pity, and continue to eat like crap, because you already ruined your diet lifestyle so why even TRY to be healthy now?
  2. You can beat yourself up over your “bad” day and vow to eat only spinach leaves for the next week.
  3. You can acknowledge that you ate some Damn good food yesterday, appreciate the textures and flavors you experienced, and move on with your normally health-conscious life.

Now I don’t know about you but I’ll gladly go with 3. (Those Oreo cupcakes were to die for, and honestly I should have eaten a whole one). Yes, a little bit of that negative-thought cycle of #2 might creep in a little bit, and maybe you’ll start craving more sugar for a few days after a day like that, but overall, you’re going to be ok. I’ll say it again:

You’re going to be ok.

One day does not make or break a healthy lifestyle. Just keep your goals in mind, and get yourself back on track. Maybe you should give yourself a little bit more of a calorie deficit for a few days if you really went overboard, or maybe you should tack on a little bit extra to your workouts this week, but unless you’re competing in a figure competition next Saturday, there’s no need to stress about this too much.  Once healthy habits have been formed, it’s easier to fall back into them, even after an over-indulgent day like yesterday (or, *cough* weekend *cough*).

And if you haven’t yet quite mastered the healthy living habits that you strive for, than there’s no better time than now to work extra hard on them! Just keep in mind that even if it takes you a few days to get back on track, better late than never, right? Positive thinking, hard work, and a little bit of self discipline will take to where you want to be. But take these  inevitable “cheat” days as they come, because it’s up to you to make the most of life along the way, even especially if a few detours include cookies, cupcakes, and chicken wings.