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Fitness

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If you were able to track the course of size acceptance on the Internet, you’d see that Mopie was one of the pioneers of the movement with her blog Big Fat Deal, and hers was the first weight-loss blog I ever read. She’s also one of the people who inspires me and is probably the only person that I’d sing horrible duets with in public. —Weetabix

To some, we are mythical creatures, much like unicorns or hippogriffs: fat girls who work out. But we do exist—I’m living, breathing, huffing, puffing, sweating, hyperventilating proof. In my quest for size acceptance, I’ve been preaching the gospel of health at any size. In my own life I’d gotten the “any size” part down, but I was struggling with the “health” bit. Sure I eat my fruits and veggies, but the most exercise I got on any given day was multiple trips to Starbucks. And sex, which totally counts. But anyway, for long-term cardiovascular health and in an effort to stop feeling like kind of a hypocrite, I decided to give this exercise thing a shot.

mo pieI’ve been working out three days a week for a little over a month now. I figured I’d start small—see if I could stick to a workout schedule and slowly get used to the concept of myself as a Person Who Exercises. I started with 20–25 minutes on the elliptical trainer (a machine that doesn’t put strain on the knees, which is important if you’re me), and am now up to 30–40 minutes and the indoctrination is totally working, y’all. The other day at work I was stunned to realize that I fervently wished, at that moment, that I were on the elliptical trainer. (To be fair, I was sitting in perhaps the most boring meeting to have ever taken place in corporate America. I’m pretty sure even the slide projector was bored.)

So I don’t hate exercise now, and in fact, some days, I downright crave it. Not only that, I’ve successfully negotiated around many of the traps that are set for a fat girl going to the gym. I avoid the shower issue altogether by driving straight home after a workout and showering there. I put on the tight spandex outfit without blinking an eye. (Who wants to sweat in a T-shirt? Give me a spandex sports bra and tank top any day.) I’ve learned to put a lid on the negative self-talk when I catch a glimpse of my fat rolls bouncing in the mirror. (I just shift my gaze to my thunderously bouncing breasts and assume everyone who can see me is in fact hot for me.) I’ve perfected my workout playlist (featuring “Read My Mind,” “Accidentally In Love,” and “Flathead.” And, um, Constantine from American Idol. Don’t tell.) So my transition into the healthier new me has been, so far, pretty smooth. Mostly.

I’ve been experimenting lately with the elliptical trainers with arms. (When I strike it rich and can afford my own Precor elliptical trainer, it will be a kind with arms. Precor, call me. I would make an awesome spokespie.) They help me push my heart rate into my target zone (currently 72% of my maximum heart rate for my age, thank you, I did some math) more quickly and efficiently. So today I marched confidently up to one of the Precor machines with arms, put my water bottle in the cupholder and my towel over the arms and my iPod on the magazine stand and hopped on…

…only to have the machine make an incredibly loud, groaning, creaking, horrifying noise. Oh my God, irony alert. “Ned, get the camera! The fat girl just broke the exercise machine!” So of course I was mortified and I broke the code of silence of the gym and loudly and blithely said, “WELL THAT WAS NOT A GOOD NOISE! HA HA! I GUESS I WILL GO TO THIS MACHINE OVER HERE.  AND BY THE WAY THE MACHINE DOES NOT USUALLY MAKE THIS NOISE WHICH I KNOW BECAUSE I HAVE IN FACT HAULED MY FAT ASS ONTO AN ELLIPTICAL MACHINE ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS BEFORE OH DEAR GOD WHY AM I STILL TALKING.”  The slender woman next to me took pity on me and said, “Oh, that machine makes that noise sometimes.”  By which she probably meant, “Oh God, shut up, I am trying to listen to Justin Timberlake over here.”

I did, in fact, shut up, mercifully for all concerned, and actually began my workout. However, 10 minutes into it I realized that in my frenzy to fling myself onto a machine that did not groan as if it had been possessed by Satan, I had left my water bottle in the cupholder of the machine of evil. I was thirsty and I was sweaty and I didn’t want to break my stride. Dilemma!  So I waited until a tiny, skinny, blonde Cameron Diaz type approached the machine. I removed my iPod earbud.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but could you hand me my water bottle?”

“Oh, sure.”

“Thanks.  Er, you know, I got on that machine, and it made a really horrible noise.”

Cammy—I swear to god this is true—looked me up and down. “Well, we’ll see.”

Oh, man.  Now that stung.

Luckily for me and you and the honor of fat chicks everywhere, she got on the machine and it immediately made a horrible, grinding, apocalyptical creaking noise. I was panting and suffering and producing a river of sweat, but man, was I suddenly in a great mood. “Oh,” I chirped. “Yes, that was the noise, alright! Yesirree!” And so Cammy got off the machine and headed to a different one. And I felt a surge of vindication course through my veins. See, that noise wasn’t because I was a hippogriff. Precor wouldn’t do that to me. The machine was just broken or from the underworld or whatever, and now I knew it for sure.

But still—it was something that wouldn’t have happened to me if I were a thin person. It was a moment of feeling the self-consciousness that I thought I’d gotten past. But that’s the thing with the fat girl traps—when you least expect it, you’ll step in one. But there are compensations, I guess. If I were super thin, I definitely wouldn’t have the giant beachball boobs bouncing in the gym mirror. And then, would everybody in the gym still be hot for me? I sincerely doubt it.

Regardless of your athletic experience or current workout regimen, you are likely seeking an edge to motivate you in your quest to achieve your ultimate health and fitness goals. Oftentimes, we focus solely on the physical aspects of our fitness, while neglecting the development of a mental connection and commitment to our efforts.

By sincerely incorporating the following seven “mindset” methods, you will not only unlock your true fitness potential, but undoubtedly experience related breakthroughs in confidence, perspective, and pride in all phases of your life.

Step 1: Know Thyself

Self-assessment is the first step to successfully establish the foundations for a positive “mindset.” You must honestly examine your personal strengths, weaknesses, values, as well as internal and external fitness barriers.

positive "mindset."

Step 2: Design Your Vision

After considering your self in its current state, form a limitless vision of the future “you.” Create a prioritized list of your specific short-term and long-term health, sport and fitness goals, in addition to your personal, spiritual, relational, and professional aspirations.

Step 3: Shape Your Mindset

Connecting your dreams with reality is the next critical step. Identify the values, attitude, and healthy habits necessary for defining your “mindset,” in order to achieve lasting change.

Step 4: Ready, Action!

Now it is time to practice what you preach. Inevitably, your goals are only worth the price of the paper they are written on until your plan is genuinely put into practice. Be proud of your newfound resolve, continue to educate yourself further in the latest health and fitness strategies, and enlist the support of other like-minded individuals or professionals to further unlock your “mindset” potential.

Step 5: Pre- and Post-Workout Mindset

Before and after your workouts is the ideal time for personal reflection. Prior to exercise, sharpen your focus on your specific goals to gear up for a great workout. During your post-workout stretching period, construct a “mindset-centered” plan for the day to follow and consciously recommit your energy towards progress. Lastly, make proper nutrition, rest, and recovery a priority.

Step 6: Workout Mindset

“Mindset to the Max” Strategies:

#1: Diversify your workout (environment, mode, workout structure) to increase enjoyment and avoid performance plateaus.

#2: Utilize the human element (partner fitness, group classes, personal training, competitive events, service projects) for natural performance enhancement.

#3: Identify and include the best motivational methods for your success (books, music, a trainer, personal rewards system, goal reflection, measurements, health tests, etc.).

Step 7: Mindset Maintenance

From this point forward, reflecting upon your ideal “mindset,” and honestly evaluating your progress towards the changes you envision, will continuously generate a cycle of success. Remember monitor, motivate, and maximize!

When it comes to building muscle, you have to take many factors into consideration. These include rest, nutrition and supplements, which complement what you actually do in your gym workout.

An appropriate balance is required with regards to what is being eaten, as well as getting enough sleep, Doing this will ensure that your body is adequately repaired for the next time you work out. With regards to rest, ensure that you train for no more than 4 sessions per week and also try to get 8 hours of sleep per night.

This downtime will allow your body to repair itself and grow stronger after each workout. Just remember that you tear your muscles during a workout, so that they grow back bigger when you rest. What you do when you rest (such as eating with good nutrition and sleeping well) is crucial to your results.

building muscle

Your diet is critically important. Ensure you get plenty of protein from high quality sources, such as chicken breasts, fish and eggs. Carbohydrates are also important, as they fuel your body during a workout. Insufficient intake of carbohydrates will result in your body using its own muscle as fuel. For further advice on the best foods to eat, refer to diets for building muscle.

There are plenty of exercises to build muscle, however if you are serious on building a stronger and bigger physique quickly, you have to focus on a few necessities in your muscle building workouts. These include training with high intensity, focusing on lifting with good form and selecting big exercises to achieve maximal stimulation of your muscles.

A good example of a big exercise is the bench press, where it works multiple body parts, whilst being a relatively easy exercise to master for beginners. Remember to start light to get your form right, before going heavy to rip your muscles. Be careful to avoid common errors, such as arching your back when lifting or bouncing the bar on your chest. These are dangerous practices and commonly result in injury.

exercise

So in conclusion, when working out to build muscle, it is important to train smart, which includes getting adequate rest and eating the right foods. A well structured workout, which includes big exercises and high intensity training will also certainly help your cause. For more hints and tips check out workout tips for muscle. Good luck in your training and remember to persist. Building muscle is a gradual process and it is very important to stick with it over a long period of time.

Although I was always an active person, it never occurred to me that people made a living out of all things fitness until I left the Navy back in 2004. Let’s rewind for a second to see how I found this out and how I fell in love with fitness and made it my career.
I am old enough that, in my neighborhood, there were not many youth sports teams when I was a kid. In fact, I never played a team sport until I got to high school.

Luckily, I went to an all-girls’ private school where I was able to explore lots of different sports for fun and for competition. I tried it all: basketball, field hockey, cross country, horseback riding, badminton, lacrosse, volleyball, soccer, and dance. I learned how to warm up, stretch, cool down, and pace myself. I learned to love running and weight training and I would take both of those with me as I graduated and entered the United States Naval Academy.

And at the Naval Academy I learned to love a few more sports: powerlifting, cheerleading, and swimming. My time in the navy seemed a little surreal, but I time I would not trade for anything.

lost weight

So, how did get to fitness? Well, not directly. You see I didn’t really know what I was good at doing or what I should have been doing when I left the navy. After all, the navy taught me how to do quite a number of things, but I really wasn’t sure what that all meant. So I had a number of jobs in retail and education. Some were “glamorous” and some, well, not so much. But that is not the point. The point is that I knew I could not continue on this path of uncertainty much longer.

As shows like “The Biggest Loser” became more popular and the number of American adults and children with obesity-related illnesses continued to rise, I saw the numbers on my own scale head in the wrong direction.

And as I lost weight and tried out different programs, I realized that this is something I was getting good at and a way I could help people and make a difference in their lives. But I wasn’t sure if that was enough. It’s not like being a lawyer or social worker or nurse, but fitness careers are a viable way to help people, make money, and have fun at the same time.

Two years ago, after much debate and study, I became a certified personal trainer through ACE (American Council on Exercise). But that was just the beginning. I started coaching cheerleaders in Pop Warner (ages 5-15) and spent a season being an assistant coach for a girl’s swim team. At this point, I’ve been having a ball giving people the information I’ve learned and supporting them through all sorts of physical activities.

I started writing more and I really wanted to see where this fitness thing could take me. I didn’t want to be your average personal trainer. Nothing about me is average. I wanted to do more. I still want to do more. So, almost a year ago, I found a way to continue in fitness and be able to inspire and coach even more people (thanks to a Naval Academy classmate). That is through Team Beachbody.

Beachbody is the company that puts out at home workouts such as Turbo Jam, P90X, Insanity, and Hip Hop Abs. And it is through Beachbody that I have been able to transform my body more and finally begin to lose that excess weight that I first saw a few years ago (high weight of 198 pounds at only 5’3″ tall).

It was also through Beachbody that I came into contact with trainers like Chalene Johnson (the creator of Turbo Jam, Chalean Extreme, Turbo Kick, Hip Hop Hustle, and PiYo). I have also been fortunate enough to be in contact with her team at Powder Blue Productions and learn about how to become a fitness instructor.

Me? A fitness instructor? It had not occurred to me before, but I realized that I enjoyed the group format much more than the traditional one-to-one format as a personal trainer. This gave me a new goal for aspiration. Actually, a few new goals. It starts with my certification as a Hip Hop Hustle instructor. That is Chalene’s great dance workout.

Then I will get trained to teach Turbo Kick and PiYo (a great combination of Pilates and yoga like you’ve never seen). After all is said and done, I plan on becoming an Area Presentations Director (like Mindy in the Turbo Jam DVDs). Being an APD is the ultimate goal, but being able to bring fitness and health education to my community is the real benefit.

Throughout this whole process I’ve realized that it really is not about how much you know, but it is really about how much you care. I always thought I had to know more or lose a ton more weight before I could realize any success in the fitness industry. But the truth is that sometimes all people need to hear is that you were once where they are now.

Whether that was yesterday or 2 years ago. The point is my success, no matter how small it seems to me, may be the thing that gets someone thinking that now really is the time for them to live a healthier lifestyle. That’s what a fitness career is really about. It’s about the people I strive to help everyday. I also remember that it’s never about me!

Behind the fitness crazy are hundreds or thousands of gyms around the country. Yes, they contain equipment that can help you put on some muscle or lose some weight, or a combination thereof. But there are also things that they would never let you know.

One:

Gyms are crawling with bacteria. For the most part, gyms do not sanitize things nearly as properly as they should. Sanitation is often undermanaged, and because of this, it’s much more likely that you’ll contract athlete’s foot, or, during flu season, something nastier.

Many gyms contain traces of MRSA (a highly resistant form of staph infection) on much of their equipment. When you touch a weight rack or get on a mat, there’s a good chance you’ve got a strain of something potentially deadly on your body. Be very careful to wash properly after working out, especially if you’ve been working out heavily–after working out heavily, your immune system is lowered slightly.

working out

Two:

Many gyms aren’t equipped to handle emergencies, such as if someone were to collapse of exhaustion, sustain some kind of severe injury due to lifting too much weight, burst a blood vessel, or worse. Deaths have occurred in poorly equipped gyms from lack of preparation for emergencies.

Three:

Many (and I mean a vast majority of) the trainers in gyms have very little or any idea of what they’re doing. Be sure that the trainer you’re getting is certified or at least is very reputable among people you know and trust. A bad trainer can cause serious harm to you, if they suggest you do something that your body is not able to handle. In some cases, people with degenerative diseases have sustained severe injury from unqualified “trainers” instructing them to perform certain exercise regimens. Lawsuits have been filed in the past, though a lawsuit cannot repair permanent damage done from bad training.

Four:

Sometimes, the equipment is (get ready now) actually dangerous. Most businesses in the United States require a special license to own and operate; gyms are the exceptions. A gym can operate without a license, and completely fail at maintaining their equipment, allowing it to degrade and become more and more hazardous to an individual.

gyms

Five:

Fitness clubs and gyms can be very sneaky about making sure that if you get hurt on their equipment, you can’t sue them and win; in most cases, you won’t be given a gym membership without waiving your ability to sue if you sustain some kind of injury on their premises.

Make sure you know exactly what you’re signing to, make sure the trainers are qualified, and make sure the equipment is safe for you to use.

When I began to work out and lose weight in 2007, I had two main goals that I desired to achieve. These two goals were to improve my health, and to remove the excess weight from my body. I was not overly concerned about how my workouts were going to help me function every day.

However, within my first week of doing daily exercise, I found that my lower back was hurting when I did simple things around the house, like moving wet clothes from the washer to the dryer. It was important for me to ensure that I worked on my functional fitness.

Functional fitness exercises mimic real-life activities. Instead of the traditional exercises that are found at the gym, functional fitness utilizes multiple muscles and focuses on balance, core stability, endurance, lifting, and twisting. Exercises can be done using individual body weight, or by using various tools like stability balls, kettle bells, and medicine balls.

Why are these types of exercises vital for women to incorporate into their fitness routine? First, women are very busy creatures who are always moving their bodies in various directions. Think about all of the activities that our mothers and grandmothers used to do in a typical day when we were children.

My mother stayed at home with me, and she did the cooking, washing, ironing, floor scrubbing, grocery shopping, plus she still found time to play and dance around with my active self! Also, women can be more susceptible to muscle strains and injuries.

muscle strains

Some great functional fitness exercises that are effective for women include:
1) Squats with bicep curls.

Think about reaching down into a cabinet under the sink to grab the dishwashing liquid or to get the shampoo and conditioner. To perform this exercise, place feet shoulder width apart. Hold a weight in both hands.

Bend knees and push the behind back as if taking a seat in a chair or on a sofa. As the knees bend, straighten the arms toward the floor. Slowly lift the body up while curling the arms toward the shoulders. Repeat this exercise at least 8 – 12 times.

2) Overhead press with side leg lift.

Think about lifting a baby over the head or pulling a box from a high shelf, while trying to hold a cabinet door open with the foot. (Yes, I know, it does not sound feasible, but believe me, this type of move does happen.) To perform this exercise, hold a dumbbell in each hand, fingers turned away from the body.

Move arms to a T position, then bend the elbows up to the sky. Slowly press the elbows up until weights are almost touching as the left leg slowly lifts from the ground to the side. Lower both the weights and the leg. Repeat exercise, using the opposite leg. Repeat the set at least 8 – 12 times.

3) Arm and Leg Raise.

Think about lifting and holding a young child, or carrying groceries from the car to the house. This exercise helps build a strong core and lower back.

To perform this exercise, lie on the stomach (it helps to lie on a mat or towel) and stretch arms over the head. Slowly lift the left arm and right leg off the ground. Hold for three counts, then lower. Repeat move with right arm and left leg. Repeat the entire set at least 8 – 12 times.

Arm and Leg Raise

4) Stability ball exercises.

Core stability is the purpose of this fitness tool. My personal favorite move with the stability ball is to lie across the ball and push the body back and forth slowly across the ball. This particular exercise provides an incredible massage for the lower back, plus the abdominals are receiving a good workout as well.

Every woman should consider adding functional fitness exercises to their routines in order to perform their daily functions even better!