Monday, June 27, 2011

Trainer, Shape Thyself

I've spent the last three years staring down the question of what it takes to transform your body- for good, and what a journey it's been.  What can I compare it too?  I'm actually surprised at all of the things it hasn't been for me, like a struggle or a battle, a supreme effort or grind.  Perhaps if I had struggled or battled more I would weigh 113 instead of 123 right now, but then again I might be injured, or burned out, and weigh much more.

I did a lot of deep thinking after being quite frankly out classed in the Venus Index open competition in April.  What skill or inner drive was I missing that made me unwilling to eat even less and exercise even longer and harder than I was?  Honestly when it comes right down to the truth of the matter I now realize that I have strict limits as to how much pleasure and enjoyment I will give up in my daily life.  I will gladly drop my daily calorie intake to 1400, but I won't fast- even though I've seen how effective it can be, and I won't push myself past the point of enjoyment in my fitness practice, even though I suspect more strenuous effort could take me farther, and help me reach my goals faster.

You Work So Hard

Um, actually, I don't.  Yesterday, I was at the gym, and the very nice woman working the counter said, "You work so hard!"  And I thought, "This again?"  The fact is that I only  give maximum effort on the last one or two repetitions of any given set.  This is one of the vital points I want all of my clients, and anyone who is curious about my continuing transformation to understand.

The proportion of time I spend expending near maximum effort in any fitness routine is only about ten percent!  If I spend 120 minutes a week engaged in a focused routine of lifting, cardio intervals, and stretching, I am only spending 12 minutes at maximum effort in any given week.  The result?  Over the past three years and two months I have seen my fitness and physique improve steadily without a single gym related injury the entire time that I've been pursuing my goals.

Now I know that steady improvement and maintaining my weight at a BMI of 23 for two years is very nice, but I have a sneaking suspicion that some of my clients are going to want to get even leaner.  In the best of all possible worlds, those fabulously fit results could be achieved with the right balance of healthy eating, moving, and thinking.  (The thinking part is my personal favorite.)  So...

Trainer Shape Thyself

Right now I promise to spend the next eight weeks putting my money (and my fitness and nutrition) where my mouth is and following the plan of action that I will be recommending as a Transformation Coach.  Oh boy, this had better work!  At any rate, step one in my plan is awareness, and one of the best tools to foster awareness is... that's right, the before picture.  So here they are.  Back and side.  Not my best angles, not sucking it in.  But I'm gonna post them.  Really.  Right now.

You will be hearing plenty about the techniques I'm using to get the job done.  For now, three turbulence training workouts a week until after 7/26, when I'll be using routines of my own design.  (Always acknowledging what I learned from programs like TT and VI!)  My eating plan will be a balanced high volume program with lots of vegetables, moderate high quality protein, fruit, healthy fats, a bit of dairy, and limited grains simple carbs.  By the way, I do believe that moderate calorie restriction works, if you can stick to it!  That of course is one of the things I'm most committed to in my coaching: helping people learn to enjoy and stick with the kind of eating and exercise that works for them long enough to take them all the way to their goals.  For today, I'm starting with myself.

It is really taking a lot of courage to hit "publish" right now.  Deep breath.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What do Lee Trevino and David Feherty have to do with Fat Loss?

Last night as I was folding a basket of laundry, I glanced into the living room and saw Van tuning in to the Golf Channel.  Nothing unusual about that, but the program that came on was something new and different.  David Feherty, the funny, sometimes brilliant, sometimes tormented former professional golfer from Northern Ireland was about to interview legendary golf personality Lee Trevino.  I was intrigued, because I remembered that as a young girl I discovered that Lee Trevino was the kind of golfer who made the game worth watching, even for a girl who didn't play.  And Ferherty?  Well, I must admit I have a weakness for funny tormented fellows from the British isles, especially after they start to heal, as Mr. Feherty has.

So what does Lee Trevino have to do with fat loss?  If you saw the broadcast, you might think I'm referring to the moment when David asked Mr. Trevino what his addiction was, and Lee answered, "sweets," but I'm not.  I'm talking about Lee Trevino's passionate commitment to golf.  The first thing that really made me sit up and take notice was the fact that he didn't become a golfer until age 19.  A little surprising when young golfers like Rory McIlroy are generating so much excitement.  Then he described the attitude that I believe is the secret to his success.

Trevino said that every morning when he would wake up, he couldn't wait to get that golf club in his hands and start playing.

Passion for the Game- Every Day

This is the quality that makes satisfaction and success inevitable.  If you love the the activity, in and of itself, and if you practice it with love, it will take you to wonderful places.  If you happen to be in love with a golfer, you know that the game invites obsession.  If you begin to play, you'll discover soon enough whether the obsession will take hold of you.  Although I did start playing golf about twelve years ago (coincidence?  I think not) the passion didn't take hold, but three years ago it did grab me in another area of my life.

Every morning I wake up eager to pursue Perfect Physical Well Being

Yes, there are certainly more noble endeavors, but if men and women on all parts of the globe are waking up wondering how they can get a little white ball into a small tin cup faster, then I can certainly pursue my fascination with the health and beauty of the human body without guilt.  Or without much guilt anyway.  So if you want to feel wonderfully fit and energized, I say go ahead and give in to your passion for fitness.

What about those days when the passion isn't there?

Aha!  There is wisdom in Mr. Trevino's interview for the circumstance as well.  It's called practice.  Just as he practiced every possible shot, fairway, rough, sand, side lies, you name it, we have to practice the principles of fitness and transformation in every situation.  Will our practice always go well?  We all know it won't, but if we nurture the love for well being inside ourselves, we will keep coming back.  To the gym,  or the fitness space at home,  to the Zumba class, or the bootcamp at the park, to the produce section or the farmer's market.  We will keep coming back because we love what healthy eating and movement can deliver: physical well being, and the freedom to be our true selves.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Darn it! Had to throw out the Ezekiel bread.

Now don't get me wrong.  I love ezekiel bread, especially the raisin kind with a little bit of organic coconut oil and cinnamon on top.  Ooh the toasty crunchy goodness!  Then add a bit of organic peanut butter and look out taste buds.

I knew this was going to happen

Here's the thing, if I take a healthy food and bump it up with too many extra creamy gooey extras, it doesn't matter how inherently satisfying it is.  I will get triggered.  So what's a woman to do?  I want to look and feel good.  Really good.  Fantastic.  I have had this feeling, and I know how to get it back, and you can too.  It comes from finding the right balance between movement and eating.  When I am faithful to my moderate eating plan, and when I stick to my scheduled TT workouts I practically leap out of bed at 5:15AM feeling amazing.  I can increase that good feeling by adding yoga, Zumba, or dance to the mix.  One word of caution though.

The closer you get to your ultimate goal, the more delicate the balancing act becomes.

Back when I achieved my original transformation, I had plenty of wiggle room.  I was even drinking two glasses of wine a night :).  Over the course of 12 weeks I lost 14 pounds in spite of the fact that I strayed from my eating plan at least ten percent of the time.  Now my path has become narrower.  The wine is long gone, and it looks like the sprouted grains and oat bran will have to go too during periods when I want to use up fat.  By the way, I don't want to reduce too far.  I just want to let go of some fat and bloating that I've put on from recent indulgences.

But wait!  There is good news too.  When I eat right, which means building my body on a bed of vegetables, followed by protein, fruits, and healthy fats, the cravings really do fade away, and the sensation of well being that follows is so wonderful that it is worth every minute of planning and preparation that good eating takes.

This may be the true key

It is absolutely crucial that you find a way to give yourself the experience of well being that comes with the eating/exercise equation.  This means satisfying, trigger free meals combined with exercise that challenges you without wiping you out.  Specifically this is exercise that doesn't incite compensation.  (I will write more on compensation later.  It's defined as the reason why immoderate amounts of strenuous exercise can lead us to eat more.)  You need to become deeply aware of the foods that serve you best.  The more reading, research, and just plain listening I do, the more I realize that these foods are personal and individual.  Some people couldn't care less about the sweet creamy yumminess of bananas and peanut butter.  Others would reawaken all of their cravings for three days from a snack like this.  What I want to share is the fact that when you find your personal balance, a kind of magic happens.  The feeling of self mastery, the pleasure of knowing that you are treating yourself well, and the contented glow you see in the mirror will convince you that the energy you have put into eating and moving well have all been  worth it.

How long does this take?

In my experience, and I am not afraid to say that I've had a lot, it takes three days of clean eating and balanced movement in order to enter the happy zone.  It can happen faster or take longer depending on how much stress life is showing you, and I have to mention that hormonal cycles can have an effect as well.  Bottom line, the feeling is absolutely worth the effort, but there will be a part of your ego that may continue to whisper to you about the joys of sloth and indulgent eating.  The way to counter this is to get the experience of well being, and then to learn to trust it.

Sometimes I forget

Sometimes I forget how good healthy balance feels.  Luckily, I have support from like minded people, and it really is fun to share the journey with them, and with anyone who reads this blog.  By the way, today I'm feeling kinda bloated and not so hot lookin', but I'm going to go do my fitness routine, in public at a new gym anyway, because I know without a doubt that it will make me feel better.  May you find your balance today!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The End of Overeating

"You and I, we're like four year olds.  We want to know why and how come about everything."
                                                                                                       Alanis Morrissette

When I was six or seven years old, I first became aware that I don't eat like other people.  Up until that point, I remember being very proud of being a member of the "clean plate club."  I have a sister who is two years older than me, and she was something of a picky eater.  I remember that she even had to take iron pills for a time.  They were triangle shaped and their greenish black sheen was strange to me, and a little bit frightening.  I looked up to my sister, as she was more skilled at everything I wanted to do, and I know that I enjoyed being able to please my parents more than she did in just this one thing- my very healthy appetite.

There  is a brief period in our culture when it is highly desirable for a little girl to grow rapidly and well,  when putting on weight is a sign of good health and a mother's admirable skills in the kitchen.  That brief period was rapidly coming to an end for me.  I became aware that I wanted to start eating before dinnertime, and keep eating after it was over.  I remember sneaking bites of roast beef before grace was said, sometimes so many that Dad would look at my plate in shock when it was time to start eating.  Then there were certain foods that I loved so much that I just had to creep into the kitchen to eat more, even when everyone else was thoroughly satisfied.  What was it about Kentucky Fried Chicken that drove me to eat even more of it than my teenaged brothers?  I can literally see myself right now, standing by the kitchen counter, reaching up into that bucket.  The image is as powerful today as the taste and aroma were back then.

The list of foods that have a strange power over me is long enough to be a bit depressing, and sadly it seems to grow longer as the years go by.  Right now I am in the middle of an internal debate over bananas, grapes, and natural nut butters.  One thing I have learned on my transformation journey is that the foods that call to me and seem to control me have less power when I eliminate them completely.  At the same time, I deeply appreciate the genuine pleasure that fine foods, even those that contain sugar, white flour, fat, or lots of salt, can add to a happy life.

Now I want to know why these foods have such a hold on me, not only for my own benefit but for the people I will coach as a newly certified personal trainer.  I know very well that there are many people like myself who want to do more than build muscle and improve physical health and performance.  We want to learn to eat in a way that allows our fitness to show!  There are plenty of highly trained professionals like doctors and nutritionists and dietitians who can tell us what to eat for health and weight management.  I want to know how to stick to what's healthy and effective, and I want to share that knowledge wherever I can.  Why?  Because healthy happy people who are content with themselves are free to go out and share their best qualities with the world.

Last night, I finished reading, "The End of Overeating"  by David Kessler MD.  Doctor Kessler has personal experience with finding it impossible to resist certain foods, even when eating them stands in the way of health and self esteem.  The book looks at how processed foods are manipulated to excite all of our eating senses through taste, texture, palatability, and portions.  There is a multi billion dollar industry whose purpose is to discover what we crave and deliver it to us in ever increasing amounts.  There are certain combinations of stimulating ingredients, especially sugar, fat, and salt- I would add white flour- that override normal signals of fulness, especially in vulnerable populations, of which I am definitely a member.  The book goes deep into what is going on in the food industry, and then Dr. Kessler explores ways of dealing with eating in this very tricky environment.  He suggests structure through advanced planning along with at least temporary abstinence from trigger foods.  For a long time I have said that I never had a good idea that somebody else didn't think of first, and this is further confirmation.  Over the last three years I have been on a daily search for the foods that I can eat for nourishment, satisfaction, and pleasure that don't send me off on a feeding frenzy.  That quest continues to this very day.

One bit of very good news is that Dr. Kessler confirms what I've believed for several years now.  Even though exercise can't overcome a poor diet on it's own, regular enjoyable exercise can provide some of the same pleasures and create the same positive feelings we get from stimulating foods.  Hooray!  What that means for me is that we can fill that empty place we sometimes feel with movement instead of munchies.  What we have to do is become convinced that a walk in nature, a Zumba class, or a date with weights really can be fun, satisfying, and even extremely pleasurable when we access the feel good brain chemicals that are released by exercise.

So finally the great question you have to answer for yourself is, how will I eat and how will I move in a way that enhances my health and happiness?  What is your fit philosophy?  Yes, there may be deeper more noble pursuits that we can spend our free time on, but for me these are the questions that inspire my passionate curiosity.  So now I am literally going straight to the Fitbit website to log my food for the day before I eat it, and then breakfast!