Blog

Please Ask

Please Ask

Several years ago, I went on a large group excursion. I knew it was in the sun and might not be near drinking water, so I brought a huge bottle of water. I knew the water bottle would likely be a burden to carry, but I thought the alternative—not having water—was worse.

I’m thankful that I brought the water. The closest water was at least a fifteen minute hike from our starting location, and our instructor didn’t show any inclination of heading that way.  If we wanted to go get water, we were on our own. 

As we were packing up our gear at the end of the trip, I took a couple swigs from my water bottle. As I was doing so I overheard another young lady on the excursion loudly whisper to her partner, “How rude! If you have water you should share it!” 

It was startling. She was obviously upset. Why did this young women, who was practically a stranger, feel like I should have (A) Known that she hadn’t brought any water (B) Known she was thirsty (C) Known that she felt comfortable drinking out of the same water bottle as me & (D) Known that she wanted some of my water. Upon hearing her “request,” I offered her some of my water. I would have happily shared some earlier had she simply asked. (While I am a germaphobe, I’m very good at carefully pouring water into open mouths. Outdoor educators have mad skillz!)

As far as I know, no one is capable of reading minds. I’m certainly not. You may think it’s obvious that you need help, but it may not be obvious to others. On your health and wellness journey, you will likely need some support along the way. Even I do. Maybe it is just a kind word of encouragement from a front desk attendant. Maybe it’s someone to spot you while you lift weights. Maybe you need help from a personal trainer or health coach to guide you toward the path you would like to be on. 

Help is available, but you do need to ask.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week.

The best abs exercise is three sets of stop eating junk food

The best abs exercise is three sets of stop eating junk food

I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked which exercises target belly fat. Before I became a trainer and health coach, I had the same question. Belly fat is correlated with so many negative health implications. I was concerned that if I continued to gain weight in that area, my health would start suffering. 

My friends and I read the lists. You know the ones — the 10 best exercises to burn belly fat, the 5 best exercises to whittle your middle, the 8 best exercises to lose the muffin top…

These lists made it look so easy. Just do these exercises and — presto-chango— you too will have a flat stomach.  There was no way to fail but for lack of effort — if you still had belly fat you probably just needed to do more reps. I had a friend that did 200 sit-ups a day — 200! After our hard workouts, we would be starving and devour whatever food was convenient. Usually it wasn’t healthy, but we felt like it was ok because we just worked out so hard. 

What I know now is that some exercises are better at strengthening your core than others. (For the record, I like other exercises more than sit-ups.) Having a strong core is really important. However, it it is possible to have a strong core under a layer of fat. New research has shown that what you eat, and how, and when play a much larger role in body composition. My friend and I were unsuccessful because you can’t out-exercise poor nutritional choices. 

If you are trying to burn belly fat, I encourage you to put away the lists and take a holistic approach instead. Focus on eating quality food, getting quality sleep, completing quality exercise, and effectively managing stress. If you need help, I encourage you to find a trainer, coach or health advisor who is well-versed in each of these aspects.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week. 

You’re Not a Plant

You’re Not a Plant

I regularly walk by a pretty Crepe Myrtle tree with dark pink blossoms. At the tree’s base, there is a layer of smooth grey rocks, which obscure the ground from view. Peeking between these rocks are about a half-dozen Crape Myrtle sprouts. The odds are stacked against these baby Crape Myrtles. Unless someone transplants them, they are stuck in the environment they sprouted in—wedged between rocks and under the shade of a full-grown Crepe Myrtle tree. Still, these baby Crape Myrtles are surviving.

Just like plants, we all need certain things to thrive. Some of us are faced with more challenges than others. Maybe you are a cancer survivor who is still struggling with the side-effects of your treatment. Maybe you were injured years earlier and, because didn’t heal well, you are scared to move at all. Maybe you have many relatives who suffer from chronic conditions, and you’re worried that you’ll become sick no matter what you do.

Thankfully, we have more opportunities than plants to overcome our challenges. If we aren’t getting the things we need where we are—if we are just surviving— we can change our environment. We may be able to change how often we exercise, which type of exercise we do, where we exercise, and the way we do those exercises. We may be able to change where we eat, what we eat, and our relationship with food. We may be able to change our bedtime routine, our sleeping environment, and when we go to bed. We may not be able to change everything, but small healthy changes add up.

If you need some help creating an environment that helps you thrive, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A health coach can help guide you in the right direction. 

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week.  

Glamorous

Glamorous

In fitness like everywhere else, certain activities are more glamorous than others. Because they’re glamorous, these are usually the activities that get more attention in social media, news specials, magazines,  advertisements, etc. Hearing about the latest marathon, reading about someone squatting more than twice what they weight, or seeing someone nail (and maintain) a handstand may inspire some people to get in shape.

However, many people see these glamorous exercises — these major fitness feats — and feel discouraged.   

Ironically, it is often  the less glamorous activities — the basics — that most of us really need. Don’t let the name mislead you, these exercises are often challenging game-changers. Mastering the basics helps us to move better inside the gym — and more importantly — outside the gym.   

If you would like to improve your fitness and feel intimidated by what you are reading, hearing, and seeing, you are not alone. I encourage you to find a supportive fitness professional who can help you master the basics. Then, if you would like to, tackle the glamorous. 

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week.

I Ain’t No Sissy

I Ain’t No Sissy

A while back I inherited a personal training client from another trainer because the client wanted to train when the trainer was busy. Although the client agreed to the shift, I don’t think the she was that happy about it. She had already developed rapport and trust with my colleague during the initial visit. She knew she was giving up a trainer who had worked with professional athletes. 

The client was a former athlete herself, and she wanted to work hard. She was accustomed to pushing past her pain, and believed that was the way to progress. Maybe she thought that my suggestion to listen to her body was a bit too frou-frou. Maybe she thought that I was a sissy.

I chose some challenging exercises for our session. When I’m teaching someone an exercise for the first time, I usually demonstrate it. However, if the exercise is straightforward  and I don’t think the person will benefit from a demonstration, I may just explain the exercise. If the client seems to struggle or asks, I demo. Halfway though our session together we came upon one such exercise. She asked for a demonstration.

Of course, I was happy to demonstrate. When I demonstrated the exercise with relative ease, she seemed surprised. While it’s a simple exercise, for many people it is difficult, difficult, lemon difficult to perform. I think I gained some of her trust and respect by completing it. I think she realized that I could help her.

Even though phrases such as “no pain, no gain,” “pain is temporary, pride is forever,” and “push through the pain” are rampant in the fitness industry, it doesn’t mean they are right. Exercise doesn’t have to be painful to get results. Honoring your body is something that you can and should be proud of. 

Now discomfort, I recommend. I ain’t no sissy.

Thanks for reading. I hope you listen to your body and have a safe and healthy week. 

A Free Sauna

A Free Sauna

I take care of children for a couple of hours several times a month. Usually, we spend the majority of the time indoors, but when it isn’t raining we go outside for about ten minutes. Even though it’s a brief period — less than 10% of the entire time — that time makes a difference. A huge difference. The children seem much calmer and even more content.

Most adults spend even more time inside than children. We too could benefit from time outdoors. In recent years, there have been a raft of studies showing the numerous benefits of being outdoors. In Japan—a country famous for longevity and health—doctors actually prescribe shinrin-yoku (time in nature) to patients who want to get healthy.

I realize it’s the dog days of August, so there’s a good chance that it’s really hot outside. Staying outside for long periods of time may not be beneficial. However, if you hydrate well and wear proper clothing, some time outside may be refreshing . Think of it as a free dry sauna when the humidity’s low and a free steam sauna when the humidity’s high.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy some fresh air and have a safe and healthy week.

Back to School

Back to School

This week many students are heading back to school. It’s an exciting time — students get to see old friends and possibly make some new friends along the way. It’s also a time for book learnin’

Some students are able to thrive with just the classroom instruction, but others need extra assistance to do well. For example, maybe a student got hung up on subtraction. When the majority of the class mastered subtraction, the teacher began teaching division. Unfortunately, the student is now feeling completely lost. It could be that the student got strep throat and missed the subtraction lesson in school, or maybe the student just needed someone to explain it another way or break it down piece-by-piece. 

For a struggling student, having a tutor can be a game-changer. Good tutors have the ability to meet the students where they are and cater to unique learning abilities. Some students may only need to go to a tutor for a brief time before they can thrive in the classroom setting. Others benefit from a longer commitment.  

Group exercise is similar to the classroom, and personal training is similar to tutoring. Group exercise is an opportunity to learn and practice movement in a group. Some people thrive in this setting; some people don’t. If you aren’t currently thriving in group ex classes (using proper form, getting stronger, and maintaining a healthy body, etc), I encourage you to seek the guidance of a personal trainer. 

Personal trainers can meet you where you are, cater to your unique needs and abilities, and help you safely and effectively reach your goals. 

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week. 

Be Kind to Your Body

Be Kind to Your Body

When I taught outdoor education, I introduced my students to the “five finger contract.”  -The index finger represented their commitment to be safe, -the middle finger represented their commitment to refrain from put-downs, -the ring finger represented their commitment to try their best, and -the pinkie finger represented their willingness to try something new. 

If the students were able to fulfill all of these requirements, the thumb — which represented fun — would wrap around the rest of the fingers. Students would sign their five finger contracts with high-fives at the beginning of the week. 

No put-downs was probably the most often violated part of the “five finger contract.” But students rarely put down each other. They would put-down themselves.

I don’t use the five finger contract in my classes and personal training sessions, but maybe I should? 🙂 I see a lot of people use put-downs against themselves in fitness centers too. I find this heartbreaking. You don’t have to label parts of your body “bad” to make them better. You don’t have to beat yourself up to motivate yourself to work harder. 

What if you tried a more positive approach? -What if you celebrated the fact that you were physically able to make it to the fitness center in the first place? -What if you celebrated all the things that you are doing to improve your health and wellness? What if you framed all of your hard work as motivation to keep going?

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week. 

Cartwheels

Cartwheels

Being put together at all times seems really important, but is it?

Many years ago, I visited an old friend for a weekend. She had moved to a different town— hours away. During my visit, we went to a park with a large lawn. It was a beautiful day and many people were at the park playing ultimate frisbee, having picnics, and walking their dogs.  My friend began doing cartwheels and encouraged me to do the same.  

Even though it looked like she was having a ton of fun, I politely declined. I hadn’t attempted a cartwheel in years. I wasn’t sure I could still do one, and I didn’t want to look stupid in public. She argued that “These people are strangers that you will never see again. You won’t know until you try. Why not enjoy yourself?” She made a good point, and I had a lot of fun that day doing cartwheels. Like me, you may be hesitant to exercise for fear of looking bad in public.  

While I can’t vouch for parks, at many fitness centers there is a certain understanding among most people.They want to exercise and better themselves. Sure, there will probably be some people who are dressed head-to-toe in the latest designer fitness clothes, but they too want to get a good workout in. They are willing to risk getting red-faced, sweaty, and looking awkward so that they can take care of themselves.  

Fitness enthusiasts also realize that  spending this time looking less put together in a fitness center will allow them to look more put together outside the fitness center. It will help them to stand up taller, move with more ease, and have more defined muscles, etc. 

Why not get these benefits too? You won’t know how rewarding it can be until you try. If you need some guidance along your fitness journey, don’t be afraid to seek some support. 

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week.

Caring for others is wonderful; sacrificing your needs is problematic.

Caring for others is wonderful; sacrificing your needs is problematic.

I used to train at a fitness center whose members were cancer patients and survivors. Exercise has been clinically proven to promote recovery, and it was a wonderful opportunity to help a population I care deeply about. 

I soon realized that finding time to eat was a challenge. I was usually the only staff member there, and there was no break. Except for those who required appointments — such as those who had undergone treatment for brain cancer — participants came and went throughout the day.

I wanted to be available to help everyone who walked though the door, and I couldn’t really do that if I was eating at my desk. When I first started, I only ate when no one was there. Sometimes that meant quickly eating a few bites here and there and finishing the rest of my lunch at home. Thankfully, my sweet participants realized what was going on and encouraged me to eat — “Finish eating your lunch. Take your time. We can wait.” 

When you’re caring for those who want and need help, it can be tempting to sacrifice your own needs. Maybe you, like me, have experience skipping meals. Maybe you have stopped exercising or getting quality sleep. Whatever it is, I encourage you to meet your needs. Ironically, I was better able to help the participants when I ate my lunch. When you take care of of your own needs, you are better able to help others.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week.