Category: Fitness

Low on Willpower? How to crush your workout plan without it

I’m on week 10 of 12 week my workout plan, 4-5 days a week of lifting at the gym, for 30 – 60 minutes. This is the first plan I have ever done without skipping workouts or extending out the weeks and I am so proud! I’ve been doing a lot of introspection on why this time is different, and I have some takeaways that I know will help you achieve similar success.

We’ve all started an exercise plan before thinking that this time we’ll stick to it, and then we feel miserable when we don’t. I’m here to tell you that if you’re relying on pure “willpower,” not only are you going to have a hard time getting to your goal, but also it will not be enjoyable. There are better ways to ensure success:

1.  Small successes beget bigger ones

Motivation through negativity is the quickest way to fail. Posing pictures of people who have your “dream bod” or telling yourself that you need to workout because you don’t like your body may be motivating for a short time, but you can’t ride the negativity train for very long without losing steam and hating yourself along the way.  What’s more motivating? Meeting small goals and feeling good about them. Every time you meet a goal or see small improvements, you build positive momentum and want to keep going. When you start something new, keep your goals simple and manageable so that you can see results. For me, it was simply checking off the boxes on my workouts for the week and being able to see progress in the weight I was lifting from week to week.

2. Do something you actually like

This may seem obvious, but it’s a big deal. I like lifting and running, and I alternate between them depending on what I’m into at the time. Lifting weights makes me feel strong and confident and I think it’s fun to see how much weight I can do on a given day. If I didn’t enjoy it, there’s no way I would have gotten this far. This does not mean I am super pumped about getting to the gym every day that I go. I still have days where I’m not as into it, or I’m tired and just do the minimum to get it done. But for the most part, I like it enough to keep going. When you do something you like, it’s much easier to convince yourself to do it, even on days you’re not so motivated. And life is too short to spend hours a week doing something you totally hate.

3. Know what motivates YOU

This is the first workout plan where I had a physical book to write in and I learned something big about myself. I already knew that I enjoyed having a plan when I hit the gym so I don’t have to think about what to do or how long to stay. What I didn’t know was that I love keeping a physical record of the weights I’m using and seeing all of the check boxes in my own handwriting from week to week. Once I got a few weeks into the plan without missing a workout, there was no way I was going to have a week go by where I left boxes empty. It is super motivating and makes me feel accomplished. Again, feeling good about your progress means you’re more likely to keep going back for more. Keep in mind that everyone likes different things. Paper check boxes do it for me, but you may think it’s dumb to carry a book around and write things down between sets. Find out what YOU like and do it. And this may require trying several different things before you find something.

Willpower is not the way to results and you are not weak or lazy if you’ve been relying on it and feeling disappointed.  Skip “just do it” and build yourself up for success.

Curious about what my workout plan is? Right now I’m doing the “Get Jacked” plan from Girls Gone Strong. I highly recommend following them, and their founder Molly Galbraith.

Want to know why I became a health coach? Read my story.

ETM Reviews: Fitbit Ionic Smart Watch

I’ve had a number of people ask me what I thought of my new Fitbit Ionic watch, and I love it! So I’m sharing why in today’s blog. I’ve been wearing various models of Fitbit and Garmin fitness watches or step trackers since 2014, so I’ve logged a lot of steps and tried out all of the features.

Trackers I’ve used before:

  1. Fitbit pepple – super basic step tracker that you clip to you.  You set a goal and it shows you in lights how far you are to hitting it. Nice and simple if you aren’t into bells and whistles.
  2. Fitbit Charge HR – My second favorite tracker. I probably never would have upgraded from this if it were waterproof. It has a heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, activity/exercise tracker,  and a nice little screen to see the time and your stats for the day.
  3. Garmin VivoSmart HR – This is a good watch. It shows texts/calls, is waterproof so you can swim, does sleep tracking, and has a heart rate monitor. But is has no GPS, and the Garmin app is so not user friendly (especially compared to the fitbit one). I never looked at the app and the tracker lost it’s value as I paid less and less attention to my stats. Also, if you wear a Garmin running watch, it will not sync the steps from that and the VivoSmart.
  4. Garmin Forerunner 15 – Mostly a GPS running watch that works well, but also does track your daily steps. No heart rate or any other metrics.

And now I have the Fitbit Ionic. This watch is by far the best one I’ve ever used. Here’s why:

  1. It has GPS. I no longer have to look ridiculous wearing two watches when I run. And it connects to the satellites super fast!

    fitbit run map

    Track your runs with the Ionic’s GPS and see the route in the Fitbit App

  2. It’s waterproof. This is especially helpful when you are on island surrounded by water, or just don’t want to remember to take it off before showering. It has a swim mode and will track how far and fast you swim, and count it towards your activity minutes.
  3. It stores music. If you get Pandora (the paid version), Deezer or another approved music account, you can sync the playlists to your watch and run with music and no phone or MP3 player. You can also just store your music files on it. Connect some bluetooth headphones and you are out the door!
  4. It takes sleep tracking to a new level. My old Fitbit and Garmins tracked my sleep, but it was just awake and alseep time. This one tracks your time in different stages of sleep: awake, REM, light and deep sleep.

    fitbit sleep stats

    Track all of your sleep stages with the Fitbit Ionic Sleep Tracker

  5. It has built in breathing exercises and short workouts – try 3 minutes of guided breathing or a 7 minute warmup – all from the watch.
fitbit app

The Fitbit App is user-friendly and motivating

It’s safe to say that I am obsessed with this new watch from Fitbit and highly recommend it for anyone who wants to track steps, workouts or just general health, sleep and stress levels.

Know a friend that is looking for a new fitness watch? Hit share on your favorite platform below!

 

Feminism and Weight Loss – can they go together?

I’ve been studying personal development and nutrition for a few years now, and consider myself aware of media and how it affects women’s self-esteem and body image.

Whether you realize it or not, constantly seeing images of thin, photo-shopped women on social media, in magazines and advertising your favorite products can damage how you see yourself, and create body dysmorphia.  These images consciously or subconsciously tell you that your body is abnormal and needs to change.

As a health coach and self-proclaimed feminist, I encourage women to love their bodies and love seeing companies stop using photoshop in their ads. I think all of the women in my life are gorgeous.

However, the number one goal my clients and friends have is weight loss. Who am I to tell them that they can’t want to lose weight? And after coming home from a month-long vacation and noticing that my clothes were pretty darn tight, I started to think I could stand to lose a few pounds myself.

But there is NO way I was going to admit that. Judging my body based on its weight and feeling like I needed to look or be a certain way was just admitting that the media and all of its ugliness was right…right?

Body image can be a real mind f*ck, especially in the days of technology and social media. There is a whole industry targeting women, making them feel like they need to change themselves and buy certain products to do it. It’s in their best interest that you feel inadequate, and there are plenty of times a day that I and all women feel that way. Once you start creating awareness around the barrage of ads and subliminal messaging, it’s hard to go back and admit that you want to look differently.

How can you tell that something is what YOU want to do for your health and vitality and not something that you feel you need to do because of what the outside world is telling you?

There is no right answer, unfortunately. You have to examine your motivation, and the easiest way to do that is look at the language you are using when you think about starting to eat or exercise differently. Are you telling yourself that you’re fat and need to go look better for your cousin’s wedding? Or are you noticing that your energy is waning and you don’t feel as good as you want to, and you want to make some changes to get there?

See the difference? Both could have the identical outcome – e.g. a few more days in the gym every week. But completely different motivations.

Even if your motivation is just that you want your butt to be a little more poppin’ that’s okay. It is your prerogative to look and feel however YOU want to. But know that you may not stay on the workout train for very long unless you have a “why” that feels good to you. We can’t change our habits by beating ourselves into submission. Positive reinforcement will always work better.

More importantly, know that you ARE perfect the way you are now, and later. That you are worthy of love at every weight. It is possible to love yourself and want to change how your body looks and feels. Not only is it possible, but it will work better that way. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, and the patriarchy isn’t winning when you are making decisions that are good for you. The most important aspect of feminism is women having their own autonomy – the right to make decisions and be who they want to be, when they want to. And know, if you’re even thinking about this, that you are one step ahead of pervasive media. There is no shame in wanting to lose weight, or any other changes that you’re thinking about making. Do what is in YOUR best interest.

<3 Stephanie

 

 

Is your scale lying to you?


Did you weigh yourself today? This week? This month? Or are you avoiding getting on the scale because you won’t like the number that you see?

We have too many preconceived notions about the amount that we weigh, and we let it completely control what we think about ourselves and our fitness progress. Workout and diet programs promise that we’ll lose 15 lbs in 3 weeks, or gain 5 lbs of muscle, as if it will definitely happen, and in that order.

We think that it will look something like this:

 

When in reality it may look something like this:

Yes, those are all of MY weights, from the last 2+ years, in a chart (thank you Fitbit scale). Over the course of MORE than TWO years, I’ve gone down 2, almost 3 pant sizes. Does it look like it on there? Not really. That’s two years of different eating styles, workouts, and lifestyles. Two years of sometimes running a lot, sometimes lifting more, sometimes vegan, sometimes eating whatever on vacation, sometimes no sugar. Two years of getting fitter and stronger, playing soccer for the first time, running a 10k, and slacking on my yoga. The only thing that has been consistent that whole time is that I think healthy eating and being active are important, and no matter what I return to that in some way or another. And if you just looked at that graph, at the numbers, you wouldn’t think I’ve made much progress. But I am a completely different, much healthier, less asthmatic, lighter, quicker, less stressed person than I was then, I assure you.

Bottom line: go ahead and weigh yourself because stats are fun sometimes, but don’t get too serious about those numbers.

If you’re having trouble finding workouts and eating styles that work for you and make you feel good, contact me at healthcoachingbysteph@gmail.com and set up a free health coaching consultation. Real results take some time, but they are for life.

How to Be a Runner

Congrats! You’re a Runner!

If you’ve been on my Facebook or Instagram (@healthcoachingbysteph) you know that we’re doing the 2016 Runner’s World Holiday Run Streak, a challenge to run at least one mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. It’s been fun so far; some days are messy as I slog through a hot mile and wouldn’t dream of doing one step further, and some days are better, like today. After breakfast I decided to do my run. It was cloudy and slightly raining – perfect conditions. Everything lined up and I just decided I would keep going and ended up doing a 5K with a 10:30 average speed. While I’m writing this I almost feel like a fraud. “Oh ya I just woke up and did  5K, no big deal you know?” When did I become this person? I couldn’t even run a whole mile without stopping until about a year ago, as I spent my entire childhood getting doctor’s notes to skip gym class on mile day and my adulthood doing ANY exercise except running. I’ve been an Asthmatic since I was 5, generally not very athletic, the list goes on and on. So here are my top tips for getting your run on and becoming someone who can say obnoxiously nonchalant things about how long you ran this morning.

Follow a 3 days-a-week plan

Or any plan you like and want to stick to. There are different ones out there and most of them are several days a week, and they are good too. I just loved how manageable a 3 day plan was and how much progress I made without getting burnt out. I used this plan from Hal Higdon. Bonus points if you do it with friends. My fiance and lovely soon to be sister-in-law motivated me to stick to it and that really helped. Before we started that schedule a 2 mile run was a struggle for me. Just do your best and by the end it will seem like nothing.

Do NOT try to run faster

I learned this the hard way. Your speed will increase as you get stronger and run more and not a minute sooner. Trying to dramatically decrease your run time makes you alter your stride, puts a lot of stress on your body and increases your potential for injury. It is better to focus on keeping a light stride (so you’re not pounding the pavement) and a consistent speed. When I started the plan I described in step 1, the only way I could finish the whole run without stopping was by slowing down to a 11:15-11:30 pace. Even though I was slow, running the entire time conditioned my body better than a lot of stops to walk when I was running a speed I couldn’t maintain.

Strength train

Running will make your legs stronger, but I think there’s a plateau that you hit unless you strengthen them in other ways. Mix some squats and lunges into your workouts, lift or do some yoga or PiYo to strengthen your lower half and you will see more power during your runs.

 

If you have breathing problems you get a bonus step…

Clean out the cabinet

I have managed to practically eliminate my asthma through some changes in my diet and the products I use. I still may have shortness of breath when I’m sick, but when I’m healthy I can run and sprint and bike to my heart’s content. I reduced the processed food I eat and that always makes me feel healthier, but I really started noticing a difference when I started switching out my household and personal products to cleaner versions. I check everything I buy on Environmental Working Group’s website and make sure it doesn’t contain toxic ingredients. A great starting point is looking at your labels and avoiding anything that has “fragrance” listed. Good products will use essential oils and not artificial fragrances.

Have fun!

Daring Greatly: A Story About Barbells

When I started lifting weights a little while ago, I was in Maryland at a pretty nice gym. I was going almost every day at the beginning and just doing all of the different exercises and figuring out how to use the equipment was a good, soreness inducing workout. But there got to be a point where I started to plateau and didn’t feel like I was getting stronger.

I figured that if I practiced pressing 20 pounds over and over, that I would eventually be stronger and move up to 25s. Repeat cycle. Become superwoman. I am all about practicing and feeling like I can do things well before carefully executing (as you can guess – this is about more than the gym). Here’s what I figured out:

That is not how it works. It just doesn’t. If you keep practicing 20s you will be very adept at that weight and be able to do reps for days, but you won’t be any better at the next weight up. The only way you get to move up is by struggling through a couple of reps at the higher weight. It’s messy and hard and you can do a total of maybe 3 before your muscles are dead. Not pretty or well executed, but eventually you can do more.

At this ripe old age I’m starting to figure out that life is pretty much the same. You can’t get good at things before you try to do them, whether it’s running, figuring out at problem at work, or having a tough conversation with a friend. You can watch many YouTube videos or read books – trust me I’ve googled “how to run” more times than I’d like to admit. You will learn a few things, don’t get me wrong. But the only way to figure something out and get better at it is struggling through the beginning. Brene Brown calls it being in the “arena,” people crowded around while you’re wrestling a bull and all hell is breaking loose.

 

“I’m constantly reminding myself that I can’t wait until I’m perfect or bulletproof to walk into the arena because that’s never going to happen. We just have show up and let ourselves be seen – that’s my definition of ‘daring greatly.'”  -Brene Brown

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