Don't be left out!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Start with a Stroll: The Benefits of Walking

Walking has many benefits.

Wait…don't leave yet!

I seriously debated giving this post a title totally off topic because I'm convinced people poo-poo the idea of walking far too often.

As you know, walking has been around for centuries, safe for the majority of populations, can be done with little equipment (just shoes really…and clothing.  No naked walkers please), completed indoors or out and can often be a great way to exercise with a friend or get some needed alone time.

I know you know walking has benefits, but just in case, here's a quick reminder form the American Heart Association.
Research has shown that walking at least 30 minutes a day can help you:

  • Improve your blood pressure, blood sugar levels and blood lipid profile
  • Enhance your mental well-being
  • Reduce your risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce your risk of breast and colon cancer
Despite all these reasons listed above I often hear comments like….

-I don't feel like I'm working hard enough when I walk
-Walking isn't difficult
-I don't even sweat
-I feel like I should be doing more

A few nights ago, I took a short, solo walk around my neighborhood.  The air was just a bit chilly.  The leaves are starting to change.  It was almost dark.  It was just perfect.  I'll admit, I was feeling a little down because I didn't plan well enough to get a workout in earlier in the day and "settled" for a quick walk before dinner.  Keep in mind, I had already worked out the six days prior to this so my guilt of not working out was stemming from unrealistic expectations, not from a lack of actual workouts.  In less than thirty minutes my mood was lifted, my stress decreased and I was more energized.

It occurred to me then I place entirely way too much emphasis on the physical benefits of exercise and often under value the mental and emotional benefits that come from even the simplest of movements like walking.  Exercise doesn't always need to be hard, difficult to leave me in a pool of sweat to be valuable.  Judging from the feedback I get when I suggest walking to others, it would appear that I'm not the only one who thinks this.

I could refer you to studies like this, this or this to prove to you that walking can help reduce anxiety, improve self esteem, and lift your mood almost instantly but it all really boils down to this equation

The psychological benefits of exercise can be just as important as the physical ones.  

A blog post titled, "The 'Do Something' Principle" by Mark Manson popped up in my news feed yesterday.  I don't know Mark and this happened to be the first ever blog post of his I've read, but in this particular post he pointed out that doing something, anything can lead to more.
"Your actions create further emotional reactions and inspirations and move on to motivate your future actions. Taking advantage of this knowledge, we can actually re-orient our mindset in the following way:
Action –> Inspiration –> Motivation

The conclusion is that if you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, then do something, anything really, and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself."
May I suggest that that "something" Mr. Manson is talking about could be….a walk?

That walk just might lead to an improved attitude, which could lead to making better choices, which could lead to better health.  As Mr. Manson pointed out, once you get the ball rolling, let the momentum take over.  Exercise doesn't always have to leave us utterly exhausted to be beneficial.  Sometimes it starts with a simple stroll.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"All About That Bass": Body Positive Music?

Last week a mature debate started when Mandie from Women Are Hungry posted her thoughts on Meghan Trainor's summer hit, "All About That Bass".  Trainor's song has found residency on iTunes top ten singles for many, many weeks now but it seems it's stirring up quite the conversation.

Fans of the song claim it's a much needed, upbeat, retro sounding tune that celebrates thick(er) women while critics are turned off about terms like, "skinny bitches" and "boys like…". One online publication even rewrote her lyrics for her to be more inclusive.

Do I like the song?  Yes.  Am I offended by it?  No.  Do I have way more offensive music in my library than this? Yes. Actually, I'd be embarrassed to share some of the lyrics in the songs I listen to.  Do I critique every single line of every song I listen to like some have with Trainor's song?  No.

Do I think you should like the song?  I don't know- that's for you to decide.

While I do enjoy the song, what I really enjoy is discussion that's surrounding it.

Regardless of what side of the argument you fall on, I hope we can agree that phrases like "skinny bitches", offensive or not, aren't necessary, and insulting someone else to prove a point should never be in vogue.

While I do think that Meghan Trainor's song had good intentions to promote a body positive image for girls and women, music that promotes self-love isn't a new concept. As my friend powerlifting blogger friend, Janis,  pointed out there are many songs and musicians that have been around for years that promote self-love, compassion for our bodies and acceptance without throwing stones at others.

So if you found you found yourself disappointed in Trainor's song (or even if you didn't), check out these top picks for body positive music for an instant mood boost!

"Video" India Aire:  

"Freckles" Natasha Bedingfield

"Try"  Colbie Caillat

"Brave"  Sara Bareilles

"Shake It Off" Taylor Swift

Your turn:  What's your favorite body positive song?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Focus On Basic Movements First

Last week one of my favorite trainers, Molly Galbraith posted this on Facebook…

Performing exercises that are way too advanced/complicated for your current ability level won't make you "better" more quickly. It will likely lead to one or several of these things:
1. Performing those exercises incorrectly
2. Failing to perform the exercise at all
3. Feeling frustrated with yourself/like a failure
4. Injury
I liken it to putting a Kindergartner in a Calculus class. They have no foundation upon which to understand, perform, or excel at Calculus. They have no context for it. They will not get "better" at math faster because they are in a harder class. They will not thrive.
Strive to master the basics first, then slowly challenge yourself with activities and exercises that are *just beyond* what you have already mastered.
Give yourself a chance to succeed and thrive.
If you haven't worked out in ages, start slowly. Don't throw yourself into a 90 minutes high intensity group class. That's unlikely to be beneficial or safe.
It's tempting to throw yourself into something extreme when you're feeling really motivated, but it rarely leads to long-term results.
Commit to something small and sustainable and build from there.

Boom.  Molly nailed it. 

Weather you're trying to keep up in a group exercise class or mimicking a cool move you saw a gym regular doing, people tend to want to skip ahead to more advanced moves before they're really ready, and performing moves you're not ready for is getting the cart before the horse.  

There are a few foundational movements that should be made a priority to master before progressing to more difficult variations of these exercises.  These basic movement patterns include the squat, hinge, lunge, push, pull, and twist/rotation.  

While there are tens of thousands of variations of each of these six movements, most exercises boil back down to these patterns, and performing these correctly helps to build a strong foundation for exercise.  Master these movement first, and work from there.  I understand that focusing on form isn't as exciting as getting out battle ropes and doing jump squats with them, but it's important nonetheless. Trying to perform moves that are too advanced is like building a house, and starting with the roof.

It baffles me when I see someone put one foot on a BOSU ball for lunge jumps when they're basic lunge stinks.  I'm not sure how to put this softly, but if you can do a lunge, you're not ready for lunge jumps on a BOSU ball YET.  As Molly said above, this is a good way to get good at the exercise with poor form, or worse, get injured.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again…there is no shame in regressing/modifying an exercise, so quit looking at what your neighbor in group exercise or the girl in the squat rack is doing and focus on what YOU can do.

Here are a just few suggestions of how you can build on basic movements to increase the difficulty.  Focus on perform each movement with great form before moving onto the next.  If you find one variation is too easy but the next is too difficult, try adding weight (dumbbells, kettlebells, etc) to keep it challenging.

Get really good at the basics and remember great things often come from small beginnings.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Core Stability For Moms Guest Post on DMMB

I am absolutely honored to have the opportunity to write a guest post for the Des Moines Moms Blog today on the importance of core stability for moms.

Weather you're a marathoner, crossfitter or self-proclaimed couch potato, core stability can make "mom life" easier.  Head over to the Des Moines Moms Blog to see more examples of core stability exercises like the one below, here!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

3 Things You Can Do Now to Promote a Positive Body Image for Kids

I'm fired up.  My news feed has been filled with disturbing images of little girls looking at fashion magazines lined with thin, beautiful models portrayed in a manner that suggests she feels bad about her body.  I'm so disgusted I'm not even going to repost it.

Along with those pictures is typically a paragraph or two about how sad of a world we live in that this happens to little girls so young.  There may even be a call to action to rid your house and life of these magazines, television shows, etc that continue to push these photoshopped images.  

We may have to agree to disagree here because I don't think that's the answer.  

Those "idealistic" images from the media only have as much power as you give them.  You're in control.  You're not the victim.   Sure, removing those type of images from your house may help for awhile but because you can't shield your child forever this shouldn't be your only defense.  

A while back I wrote a post about the connection between parent's and children's health.  One of the top contributing facts to child obesity is the parent's weight.  To put it simply, overweight parents are more likely to produce overweight children.  I'd have to think the same thing is true for body image.  Parents with poor body image produce children with poor body image.  Of course there is no scientific study (that I'm aware of) to prove this but when it comes to kids, it's generally a case of monkey see, monkey do.  

Would removing and/or limiting exposure to unrealistic, clearly photoshopped images and advertisements help?  Maybe, but you know what I think it more valuable?  Becoming a living, breathing, talking, walking example of positive body image yourself first.  

Stop trying to buy your kid's way to a healthy lifestyle via karate lessons and multivitamins and instead (or in addition to) live one yourself!  It's important for the both of you.  

I know this sounds good on paper but achieving a positive body image and exuding confidence can be hard to attain. I get it.  I've been there.  However, YOU are your child's first (and best) teacher they will ever have.  This needs to be a priority for the entire family (girls in the family or not).  

Weather you already feel comfortable in your own skin or spend most of you're time feeling less than you're best here are a three things you can start doing NOW to help promote a body positive atmosphere.  

Stop with the "f word":  Fat.  Stop using the word fat.  Stop calling yourself fat and stop referring to others as fat. Stop using it when they're around AND when they're not around.  I promise those little ears can hear a mile away.  Just stop.  

Let them see/hear about your exercise:  Take them to the gym with you.  Even if you drop them off at the gym nursery, it's important for them to see you making exercise a part of your daily routine.  Exercise as a family. Encourage them to watch you at a race or competition. Talk about your workout.  Share with them out great you feel when you're done.  Explain how you love your body and want to take care of it, keep it healthy so you exercise.  

Choose your words carefully: It's inhuman to feel confident all day every day.  I wouldn't expect that from myself and I certainly wouldn't expect it from my kids.  We all have days where we feel less than for whatever reason.  That's ok!  Talk it out.  Instead of, "I feel fat because I ate to much over the weekend so I'm going to go workout.", try, "I don't feel good about the food choices I made over the weekend.  I don't think I picked what was best for my body.  I'm looking forward to my workout to help me feel good."  Instead of "That food is bad for you.", try asking, "Is that a good choice for our body?" See the difference? 

Your turn:  What would you add to the list?  What can parents do NOW to promote a body positive atmosphere?  

Monday, September 8, 2014

3 Ways to Modify Pull-Ups

It seems like now-a-days more and more women are including pull-ups (or a version of them) into their workouts.  I can't blame them, pull-ups are a great exercise for many reasons.  Pull-ups are a compound exercise which means you can work multiple groups of muscles at one time, they help to increase strength in your back and core, improve grip strength, they can be done multiple places and let's be real, most likely repping out a few sets of pull-ups will earn you massive respect from your gym peers.

Sounds great right?  Just go do some pull-ups.

But what if you can't do even one pull-up, let alone sets of them?  You're not alone.  If I had a dollar for every time I heard a woman say, "My goal is to do one pull-up",  I'd be rich.  It's a great goal that many women have but hanging out on the assisted pull-up machine probably isn't going to get you there as the machine doesn't allow you to recruit and stability muscle like the traditional pull-up.

If your goal is to eventually be able to pull yourself up off a cliff or you'll fall 10,000 to your death do a pull-up try incorporating one of these pull-up modifications into your workouts. They can be performed in any hand position you prefer (palms facing away, neutral/palms facing each other or palms facing you) but I'd suggest you spend time training each of them.  If you're just beginning to work on pull-up strength, even just one set of 3-5 reps might be enough to tire you out.  Listen to your body and work up to whats challenge to you.

I can already tell what some of you are going to do….you're going to head to the gym with the best intentions of doing these but once you're there you're going to be too embarrassed, nervous, scared, self- conscious to try it.  Let me remind you that I currently can not do a traditional pull-up with a pronated grip (chin-ups and neutral grip sure).  I spend time at least once a week training them utilizing one of these modified versions to improve.  There is no shame in regressing/modifying an exercise.  If you're unsure of your ability try your hand at the assisted bench pull-ups first and progress from there.  

Assisted bench pull-ups:  Place a tall step/bench underneath the pull-up bar.  It should be high enough that when you're standing on top your chin is just over the top of the bar.  Place one leg on the bench and perform a pull-up using your legs only as much as you need.  The key here is to focus on using your arms to pull and slowly lower back down.  Your legs are just to fill in the weak spots.   I prefer these to using bands because I'm able to help myself more where I need it and less where I don't.  

Rack chins:  Place a barbell (or use the smith machine) high enough so your butt is not on the ground when your arms are fully extended.  Place your heels on a bench.  Perform a pull-up, relying on your lower half only as much as you need it.  The more weight you place on the bench the easier the pull up becomes.  
Negative pull-ups:  Jump up to the top of the bar and hold yourself in position as long as you can.  As slow as possible, lower yourself down to the ground.  This is the most difficult of the three options listed here.  As a general rule of thumb, if you can hang for five or more seconds you might be ready to complete a full pull-up.

Your turn:  What's your favorite way to modify pull-ups?  Have you ever tried any of these versions before?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

AMRAP Review

Truthfully, I'm a lift heavy weights, meat and veggies kind of gal and when I see a product that's marketed towards crossfit and labeled, "paleo, dairy-free, gluten free, GMO free, preservative free and artificial sweetener free", I just assume it's going to lack in taste and not for me.  But I'll try anything once and let me be the first to tell you, I could not have been more wrong about AMRAP bars.

Uh, did you watch that?  I'm not only sold but super motivated.

I recently had the opportunity to try AMRAP's (As Many Rounds As Possible) bars and was blown away by the taste.  These bad boys are made of high quality, nutrient dense ingredients, and while they do compliment a paleo diet, anyone can enjoy one.  
"Regardless of whether you subscribe fully to the Paleo Diet, the Mediterranean Diet, the Abs Diet, or no specific diet, there is one standard that you need to live by. Nutrient-dense foods are your gold standard. With this, AMRAP Nutrition is here to assist you in finding the highest quality ingredients for your body and life long health."~AMRAP Team
This is a company on a mission:
"As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP) defines our philosophy. Through determination, intensity, and focus, we aim to inspire and empower our community to reach their full health and fitness potential. Join us and together we will change the world."
With three new flavors including Almond Honey, Fig Cacao, and Cashew Vanilla, I promise you'll find something to satisfy your taste buds.

Each bar comes in around 300 calories a piece and is loaded with good fats and protein dense (each of these three bars has at least 12 grams of protein).  The ingredients in each AMRAP bar is carefully selected to increase endurance, help promote recovery, leave you feeling satisfied and beyond that, they just plain taste yummy.  Did I mention they're 100% paleo, gluten-free, GMO-free, dairy-free, and unprocessed?  Pretty amazing.

My favorite, the Cashew Vanilla, is unlike any other bar on the market.  It was soft but not too soft, chewy but not too chewy, and had just the right amount of cashew chunks in it for added texture.  While these bars would make a great meal replacement option, at 320 calories, I split the Cashew Vanilla bar up into two parts and was able to enjoy it for a mid-day snack twice.

Another bonus about these bars is the actual size of the bar.  They did not skimp on product size when making these.  Share it with a friend or enjoy a whole one yourself.  No baby portions here!  For volume eaters like myself, this is a match made in Heaven!

The GREAT news is that you don't have to take my word for it…AMRAP wants to give away THREE 8 pack of bars (almost a $50 value!) in the flavor of your choice to one of my lucky readers! Here are the details:

  • You must enter the giveaway via the raffelcopter below!
  • Winner will be drawn Sept 11th and notified via email.
  • While AMRAP did provide me with the bars, all opinions are my own. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway