Learning the value of – ME

I am feeling gratitude. I am feeling blessed.

These last few years been rough – but good. I had to throw my plan out the window – the career I was working  for was crumbling under my feet and I had to spread my wings to fly. I took myself across the country to experience the East Coast. I left everything familiar behind. I sold and stored my belongings – packing my life into my car. This experience was priceless.

I met one of my best friends – without her I would be lost.

I met a colleague, with whom I have endless conversations about the demise of our industry and our passions and visions for ourselves. He has been an indispensable resource.

I drove from Wisconsin to New York. Then From New York to Texas. Then Texas to Minnesota. In search of something that I did not know. I ultimately found it in Wisconsin.

Recently, during a discussion with my colleague – who is currently in Ohio, it occurred to me that I was in search of my value. MY value. I had to drive quite a ways, but I found it.

The things I learned

There are countless things that I learned. But there are several that have been ‘life-changing.’ I love how I can look back on my difficult times and see how they are blessings. I can remember dealing with knee pain and surgeries, thinking: why, why, WHY? But today, I am a much better trainer and coach because of that experience. I am much more invested in injury prevention, knowing the struggles of the aftermath. I wouldn’t exchange the years of pain for anything! But, what did my cross-country journey teach me?

I learned how to build and maintain relationships.

I learned to be confident in what I know.

I learned who my true friends are – some of this was very painful.

I learned how to let go.

I learned to enjoy downtime – something that otherwise had made me anxious.

I learned to be slow to talk (ok, so I am still working on this one).

I learned to stand up for what I believe in – this was moreso solidified.

I learned what my dietary needs were – and that I had fine-tuned my body far better than I had realized.

I learned that you can call yourself an expert, and very few will no whether you are or not.

I learned that the people in Texas really ARE the friendliest people you will ever meet.

I learned that I have a strong Wisconsin accent – although most of those telling me this had never met a true midwesterner – so they may be in for a shocker someday.

I learned how to say when enough is enough.

I learned MY VALUE.

The bottomline

I was called back to my home state. The former clients who have been displaced. I could not turn my back to the plethora of opportunities: writing, training, coaching, business development, corporate wellness, and MORE!

What is my value? I cannot quite put it into words. But I know that I offer something that very few do. When asked who my local competition is, I can confidently say: NO ONE. No one else does what I do, how I do it.

And that feels good.

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My love affair with peanut butter

I have a problem. I LOVE peanut butter.

The fact is, I am a recovering peanut butter addict.

Many fitness experts promote peanut butter. You can buy shirts that say, “will run for peanut butter.” And while peanut butter is good for you, there is the chance of having too much of a good thing! I often play this game with individuals when I ask “if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, and you didn’t need to worry about it having a negative impact on your weight or health, what would it be?” My answer is peanut butter. Hands down. Without hesitation.

Too much of a good thing?
It started with snacks – mostly an apple and peanut butter. Then celery with peanut butter. And carrots with peanut butter. The occasional ice cream with peanut butter. Or brownies with peanut butter. A pear and peanut butter. Sugar snap peas and peanut butter.

Then meals. A sandwich followed by carrots with peanut butter. An urgent breakfast – a banana with peanut butter. Chocolate peanut butter protein shakes. Chocolate peanut butter cottage cheese. Peanut butter on waffles and pancakes. Peanut butter on a turkey sandwich.

I am pretty sure peanut butter can be paired with anything.

As of a few weeks ago, I was eating peanut butter 2-3 times a day!!! Too much of a good thing.

My body said whoa
My body and digestive tract had been hollering at me for a while – I will spare you the details. I ignored them. I loved peanut butter. All forms – fake and natural, those with sugar, those with eggs, and those with nothing but peanuts. It tastes good! It satiates me and fills me up! And it is good for you!!

Win-win-win.

Elimination diet
In the nutrition world they refer to my recent change as an elimination diet: I gave up peanut butter as of August 12. And my body is thanking me. I did accidentally eat peanut butter while on a recent vacation to Chicago – it didn’t occur to me until I was half way through my sandwich.

I had a strong suspicion that peanut butter was the culprit to my discomfort. And it seems I was right. By eliminating it, I have been feeling 10x better

The bottomline
Regardless of what the food item is, it is not healthy to eat it all the time. This can lead to intolerances and sensitivities. (I seem to be prone to this as I had this occur with shrimp a few years back).

Is there anything that you eat too much of? Be mindful of what your body may be telling you about it!

There will be haters

This is one of the most challenging aspects of adopting and retaining a healthy lifestyle: Nay-sayers. Sabotogers. Haters. Insulters. The filterless.

Remember: This is your journey and no one else’s. No one knows what you know about you, has been through what you have, or has to do what you do. We are each our own. haters

More often than not, those who are negative are in the midst of their own struggle – and the negativity towards you actually has absolutely nothing to do with you!

Shouldn’t we want others to succeed?

Yes, we should. But we have cultivated an egocentric and selfish society. Women – particularly – often want to ‘one-up’ each other. Many individuals have the need to be better than those around them – and anything that threatens this perception elicits default behaviors – or defense mechanisms. Yes, putting others down can be and IS a defense mechanism.

Some of your friends and family will want you to continue to overeat, eat poorly, or skip exercise – because then they will feel better about there own unhealthy behaviors. There is comfort in numbers!

Other individuals simply do not understand. Some have been blessed with genetics that do not allow them to put on an extra 20 pounds. Some have always lived active, healthy lives and continue to do so without hiccups. DO NOT let their lack of understanding tear you down. Their comments can make you feel like your concerns are insignificant – ignore them. And know, that more than likely these particular individuals mean no harm – they just do not know any different.

Remove negative, increase positive

It can be difficult, but sometimes you must cut the negative out of your life. At times, this may mean separating yourself from family members or long-time friends. It might mean quitting a job. It may mean moving. Sounds like it could get financially stressful! I would be lying if I said that it will not be. But what is best for you in the long term? And how does this compare to the expense of treating depression, diabetes, heart disease, etc? Surround yourself with the individuals who will be supportive and positive and your journey will be much more pleasurable!

In other situations, you must ignore the negative. This takes practice – and is incredibly difficult. For example, I have had many sabotagers trying to coherce me into eating foods that were unhealthy. I learned to ignore them. I learned to walk away. Practice saying: Thanks, but no thanks.

Above all, the most important positive voice is your own! Your positive voice can be the best defense against the nay-sayers and sabotagers. When you hear negativity or criticism, you immediately know different with thoughts such as, “I am strong.” “I am on the right track.” “I am taking care of my heart, body, and mind.”

The bottomline

I do not have anything impressive or extraordinary to share on the topic. I just know, that I face negativity from those around me on a daily basis – and I know that you do too!

I know that sometimes the negativity is my misperception of things said – or not said. Knowing this, I can disregard the ‘negative’ and move on.

And yes, YOUR positivity is 10x stronger and more powerful than the negativity of others.

How do YOU manage haters, nay-sayers, or sabotagers?

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Breakfast – MY favorite meal of the day

You need to start your day right by boosting your metabolism with a solid breakfast. Typical breakfasts are carb-laden and protein deficient. I am guilty of this, as I LOVE pancakes! To help you out with that I’ve got a gift for you from me and my buddies over at Prograde Nutrition. It’s a delicious Protein Pancakes recipe. 

Thanks to the protein in the recipe your blood sugar won’t go crazy like it can just by eating a huge stack of pancakes with sugary syrup. Nope, this recipe will fill you up, nourish your body, and give your metabolism just the boost it needs.

Go get the Protein Pancakes recipe!

Be sure to let me know how you like it.

PS – Seriously, have a nutritious breakfast and your body will thank you for it ALL DAY!

http://betterbybecca.getprograde.com/prograde-pancake-recipe.html

Is body awareness important for fitness results?

Last decade’s trends of yoga, tai chi, and pilates heavily emphasize mind-body awareness. Some could argue it is about the mind communicating directly with the physical body.

Body awareness: Body awareness involves an attentional focus on and awareness of internal body sensations. Body awareness, as we define it here, is the subjective, phenomenological aspect of proprioception and interoception that enters conscious awareness, and is modifiable by mental processes including attention, interpretation, appraisal, beliefs, memories, conditioning, attitudes and affect. (Mehling, et. al, 2011).

I argue that body awareness – particularly as described as proprioception – is essential for all human movement. In fact, we KNOW that it is – watch The Man Who Lost His Body. Therefore, it is not a process specific to these specific schools of exercise.

Mirrors or no mirrors

I am opening a small training and coaching studio. I had no idea how stressful little decisions could become – wall colors, window treatments, signage, decorating, and on! I just want to train and empower individuals! One of the most difficult decisions for me has been deciding if I want mirrors or not. I have decided – no mirrors.

One of the most unique aspects of my training style is training body awareness (proprioception) and teaching individuals how to FEEL what proper positions and movements feel like.

Why do I do this?

If you need a mirror to find your proper posture, in daily living you will need a mirror to be reminded to find that proper posture. I want you to know what it FEELS like and know when you are NOT in proper position and need to re-position.

But why?

Proper posture and positioning can increase your daily caloric expenditure up to 30%. Yes, THIRTY percent. When you are in proper position you move better, feel better, and experience fewer aches and pains. As a result, LIFE is better!

A real-life story

I began my fitness career in facilities with mirrors – watching my form and technique. It never occurred to me to connect to my body and to be aware of what movements felt like. I was young. I had yet to suffer from injuries. And I just wanted to move. In time, I had to deal with my share of injuries (knees and back).

I trained without mirrors from 2009-2012. My movement improved. I became stronger. I became more aware. I did not suffer any serious injuries. My own awareness and fitness improved and I taught my clients the same.

I have been training with mirrors for the last 6 months or so – and I am experiencing more aches and pains. I am about to go back to no-mirror training and we will see if this improves.

The bottomline

Knowing what feels good or bad, right or wrong, is critical to an improved quality of life. There is a time and place for mirrors, but they are far from necessary – and who really wants to watch themselves in the mirror anyways????

CrossFit: The good, the bad, and the ugly

I have been avoiding this post. The thought and energy that I have put into this is exhausting. But time and time again:

Is CrossFit a good choice for me?

99% of the time my answer is NO! My intent is to educate and inform – including the good, the bad, and the ugly.

My need for answers and information

I am a person who needs answers. I need to approach a topic from all perspectives and angles before I make a decision. (I come across as highly opinionated, but I am also highly informed and I therefore have great confidence in my opinion.)

Given my need for information, I decided that I needed to seek out scholarly and scientific support for CrossFit – as if I wanted to promote it. I spent endless hours searching for anything peer-reviewed. I was searching for legitimate research for the CrossFit model. I sought the input of colleagues and exercise physiologists – do they know of any research?

Nothing.

I did come across a study that measured the energy expenditure of CrossFit workouts versus other high intensity workouts. I do not question that you expend energy, so this study was less than helpful (not to mention had only 40 participants). Beyond this, there was nothing scholarly. The health and fitness journals will not publish anything that lacks validity and reliability.

My thirst for reliable data and research was unfulfilled.

Been there, done that

I also participate before I draw a conclusion. I have been to a half a dozen CrossFit gyms – some in large metros and others in small town nowhere. Only one had reasonably qualified staff (St. Louis Park, MN). At each location, I was able to experience their ‘introductory’ class. Each class was taught a little different. At one location, we performed rowing, air squats, pushups, situps, and pullups. At another, the same workout but without the pullups. Each facility had large groups of prospects – there was no health history, no experience questionnaire, no technique instruction. You just went at it and completed the workout for time.

THE GOOD

I want to start with the good – because there are some good aspects. CrossFit thrives on building a community. Many joke about CrossFitters who have “drank the Kool-Aid” and the reality is that they have bonded with others. These social bonds – developed during times of vulnerability (most everyone has a certain level of vulnerability when trying to completely, physically exhaust themselves) – are meaningful and difficult to match. The support, accountability, and empowerment cultivated by the group dynamics is the #1 reason many individuals are attracted to CrossFit.

I must commend CrossFit, as many do require fundamental classes prior to graduating to full WODs. The only draw back to something like that is someone like me – new to CrossFit but not new to working out or the exercises – would be forced into those courses without the opportunity to bypass or test out if I can prove I have the ability and know-how.

Another good aspect is the use of workouts to measure improvements. This provides something tangible and quantitative to work towards. It is important to direct individuals away from weight-specific goals, so a goal to improve the time it takes to complete a workout is ideal. I do something similar – but different – for myself and my clients.

THE BAD

Not based on science

CrossFit is not based on the basic scientific principles established and continually tested by exercise physiologists. I did a scholar article search, looking for research that supports CrossFit – and I came up empty. The majority of articles that support CrossFit are written by Greg Glassman – who by the way quotes himself (big no-no).

I have asked CrossFit trainers and enthusiasts time and time again to show me the science from which the CrossFit model was designed – or the science that it follows. No one has been able to do this. Is it new science that has yet to be proven? The human body has not changed in over a hundred years – there is nothing new and the same principles apply today as they did then, and 50 years ago, and 10 years ago.

Wait a minute!

An interesting side note: Glassman – CrossFit founder – does not do CrossFit WODs. (Most say he suffered an injury that prevents him from participating. He does have a limp.)

I could not find a biography for Glassman. As far as the general public knows, he has no education nor credentials. If I had to guess, I would say that he has a marketing degree because he has done well in that respect.

Not ACSM’s Top 20

Here is food for thought, brought to my attention by a fellow exercise physiologists: CrossFit has never made it onto American College of Sports Medicine’s Top 20 Fitness Trends – a list they publish annually.

Why?

Because ACSM would never promote a program that so blatantly contradicts science and research.

THE UGLY

So there is good and there is bad. The same can be said for anything, right? But what is the ugly?

Injuries

SERIOUS and non-serious injuries persists. Yes, there is an inherent risk of injury to all physical activity. Yes, weight lifting has some of the lowest risk of any sport or activity – WHEN DONE PROPERLY. CrossFit is not known for proper form and technique – and watching it makes most professionals cringe.

Watch the CrossFit Games on ESPN – all of the top competitors are wearing kinesiology tape (a tool developed for physical therapist to use with clients through the therapeutic process). Kinesiology tape IS NOT something that makes you look cool. I used kinesiology tape after my knee surgery and through physical therapy to aid with the reduction of inflammation. It worked, I did my therapy, and I stopped wearing it. The use of kinesiology tape is indicative of impaired movement, muscular imbalances and weaknesses, poor quality of movement or mobility, etc.

You could argue that this is not a serious injury. Let’s think critically. How many of these athletes will compete for the rest of their lives? How many will have to give up some exercises completely because they lose mobility in their shoulder after working through this ‘non-serious’ injury?

Pain is NOT good and it is NOT something to work through. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong, “STOP.”

Threatens lifelong health and fitness

As mentioned above – how many athletes can sustain this level of training for a year? Two? Twenty? If an exercise causes injuries – whether it be traumatic or overuse – then it does not promote lifelong health and fitness – nor longevity.

Ask yourself, can you sustain this for the long term?

If an activity results in a chronic ailment that prevents you from living pain free – then it has negatively influenced your quality of life. Is that the goal of working out?

The bottomline

CrossFit is a workout for athletes. It claims to build athletes – but it does not train individuals to athletic fitness or using the basic scientific principles known to work – and known to reduce risk of injury along the way.

Is CrossFit all bad? No. Does the good outweigh the bad and the ugly? In my educated opinion – no. Plus, you can get a similar workout – with health and fitness benefits and greater concern for safety – from a functional fitness training facility with qualified trainers and staff.

p.s. Not one of my colleagues – most with master’s degrees, PhDs, and endless certifications – would workout at a CrossFit facility themselves. We are some of the fittest and most athletic individuals I know. We see the scientific flaws and prefer to train in safe, effective, and efficient manners. One has been a CrossFit Competition Champion 3 years running – never training ‘CrossFit.’ Something to think about.

p.p.s. Ask a medical professional – such as a chiropractor or orthopaedic surgeon – if he recommends CrossFit. Most will avoid a direct answer, he knows the inherent risks but it puts more money in his pocket.

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When it hurts to wear clothes

Pain is a major contributor to a perceived decreased quality of life. It is a reason not to workout or exercise – not to squat, not to run, not to lift weights, not to jump, etc. Nearly 100% of individuals that I talk to experience some kind of pain on a consistent basis. I wish I could write about a miracle to make the pain go away. I cannot. But the pain can be minimized and managed. I manage pain daily – through diet and exercise. One of my reoccurring pain experiences:

Sometimes it hurts to wear clothes.

It is difficult to explain. It is an incredibly superficial pain. Clothes hurt. Gently brushing my skin hurts. DO NOT touch me. There is no deep pain associated with this. The pain is regional – only occurring in my right leg, from my hip down. Sometimes it goes all the way down to my knee. Other times it only goes down halfway. Sometimes it is in the front through my quadriceps and other times down through the hamstrings. And I have determined no rhyme or reason for flare ups – while I know there must be a trigger and I am working to define this.

The cause

I have a partial nerve impingement. Given some of my previous diagnoses, I knew it was an inevitable occurrence.

The treatment

Resting is always a good idea.

Avoiding extended periods of sitting eases the uncomfortableness.

Dynamic stretching, hip mobility exercises, and nerve flossing can help to reduce the inflammation.

After years of medications, I avoid them like the plague. Not to mention, I have tried them and they do not work.

The bottomline

Stopped

I will not be stopped. I do not complain about or wallow in my pain – and I do not write this for pity. Friends and acquaintances often tell me – you need to workout less or that my exercise is making it worse. Sitting around makes it worse! I need to stay moving in a safe manner.

I am not immortal – despite what some think.

I simply WILL NOT be stopped.

How about you?

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The power of size 11 jeans

I only own one pair of non-athletic shorts.

No, this is not me!

I wear a lot of skirts and dresses. They are more comfortable and I enjoy the femininity – to offset the masculinity of my athletic build.

There is another reason that I only have one pair of shorts: They are size 11.

I refuse to buy more double digit sized articles of clothing.

It is just a number

I know, many woman would be thrilled to fit into a size 11 pant. But one look at me – I do NOT look like a size 11. Some would say I am a skinny-minny (inaccurate) but most have guessed me to be a size 6.

I wish I was a size 6 – – –

As a society, we have assigned a value to these numbers.  They signify beauty. They signify worth. Or the opposite – unattractiveness and unworthiness.

Again, just a number

There is more to this story. I have dresses in my closet – ranging from size 4 to size 12. It depends on the designer. It depends on whether it is “junior’s” or “woman’s”. It depends on whether it is sleeved or sleeveless.

I have workout clothes – ranging from sizes small to large. The same factors exist.

The bottomline

I know this. I know that clothing sizes – particularly for women – are arbitrary and just numbers. But they still get to me – just as they get to most women.

Having to try on the double digit shorts keeps me from shopping for them – let alone purchasing them.

But all-in-all, I love my body and I would not want for it to be smaller – and fit into size 6 shorts. But somewhere along the line, society brainwashed that number into my head – – – Even above, I wrote that I do not look like a size 11. What DOES size 11 look like? Again with the brainwashing!

The truth is, it does not matter. Based on the fact that I have such varying sizes, I assume other women do, too. So, numbers shnumbers, I am done with them and I am taking the power back!

P.S. I am not going to buy another pair of shorts. They just are not comfortable and that is all that matters!

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Debunking fitness myths

Each day we all talk to people that share stories and it can be difficult to separate facts from fiction. I cannot tell you how much time I spend educating friends and clients on the myths we are confronted with. Many myths about fitness have been proven to be wrong.

I am sure you have heard these statements before:

  • Doing crunches or working on an ab machine will get rid of belly fat
  • Machines provide a safer way to exercise
  • Women that participate in resistance training with weights will bulk up and look like a man
  • No pain, no gain

These are all fitness myths. Each of the above statements has been disproven by scientific evidence.

Crunches

First, simply doing crunches or ab exercises over and over will not alone get rid of belly fat. Doing these exercises will help strengthen these muscles, but they will not show as they get stronger unless you decrease your body fat above the abdominals. You cannot pick and choose where to burn fat. You need to decrease your overall body fat percentage to bring your abs to the surface.

Machines

Next, machines must provide a safer way to exercise. This is not always true. Unless the machine is set up for you to use properly, you may be putting yourself in a bad position creating muscular deficiencies. Working strictly on machines also removes the functional aspect of fitness.

Women & weights

Third, if you’re a woman and you exercise like the man next to you, then you will look like them. This is not the case. Women have 20-30% less testosterone then men. The only way you could bulk up as much as him is lifting far more weights than the average woman and having some sort of chemical imbalance. Don’t be afraid of weights. Resistance training will help you lose weight quicker, and keep it off for a long period of time.

No pain, no gain

Last, we hear this saying more than just in relation to fitness: If you’re not feeling pain, then you will not see any gains. This is far from the truth. There should be some soreness a day or two after exercise due to the muscles repairing themselves. This is a soreness or tightness, it is not a pain. Having pain during exercise could promote lifelong harm to your body. If you feel pain during an exercise, one or two things may be happening. You may have a pre-existing injury, or you are exercising out of proper position. If you feel pain, re-adjust to a proper position and see if it comes back. If the pain stays, go and see a medical professional to fix the problem before it is too late.

The bottomline

Often times it is difficult to decipher facts versus myths. Before believing what you hear, research it to find a good scientific answer. It may be true, but often times in fitness, these myths provide people answers as to why you should not exercise or do certain things – many offer invalid justifications.

And, never hesitate to ask me about what you hear on the street – I will gladly find you the truth.

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