Progress pictures – A good idea?

My answer: it depends. Progress pictures will be good for some individuals and bad for others. It is a question that I have been asking for myself recently – is it good for me – therefore I have been giving the concept a great deal of thought.

I know some individuals who take daily progress pictures. I know that if I took pictures everyday, I would become depressed by the lack of change from one day to the next (or perceived change in the negative direction). I would become overly concerned with my appearance (which is already borderline considering my concern with appearing as if I am someone  who works out). I think that an individual’s mental health, stability, maturity, and so forth have a significant influence on whether or not he/she can healthfully take progress pictures and use them for motivation and/or self improvement.

From a coach and trainer perspective, I encourage clients to take progress pictures every 4 weeks. This is often enough to be a reasonable amount of time to wait. It is long enough to see visual change – in some cases. And this schedule does not create a risk for obsession or unhealthy habit of picture taking. Why do I warn against progress pictures becoming an obsession? Do we need another way and reason to judge our own bodies and appearances?

So yes, I do take progress pictures

I take personal progress pictures. I do this on no specific schedule, just when I think about it. Lately, I have been overall pleased with what I see. Can you say the same? For a short time, I was experiencing anxiety over the imperfections I saw in these pictures. During this time, I was also taking daily progress pictures. I reduced the frequency of my pictures. AND I changed my thinking – seeking the positive aspects of each picture. I am becoming much more lean. When I put pictures from October and today side-by-side the difference is amazing to me. I am down 12-15 pounds, I do not weigh myself often enough to really know, and the difference in my definition is wonderful!

Method for measuring progress

I measure my progress with my physical fitness assessment – performed every 3 months – and progress pictures. I use pictures as part of measuring my progress for numerous reasons. One reason being that I avoid scales and weight goals. I have a history of never being satisfied with my weight. Once I reach the goal, I am continually decreasing my desired weight. This is unnecessary and even detrimental to my efforts.

An important note is that I can wear the same clothes – though they wear differently today than they did then it is not noticeable enough to me. I do not weigh myself. Clothes are not a good measure for me. I need a measure! I need these images to motivate me to keep my diet on track and stay lean. The primary change in recent months has been in eating habits – and slipping into old ways and still fitting into my clothes – that is risky business!

The phantom fat

What I see in the mirror is not real. I see more fat in the mirror than the pictures show. What a relief! I have discussed the realities of phantom fat – despite my awareness of this psychological enigma, it still sneaks up on me! What we see of ourselves is distorted – and this has been highly publicized recently with the Dove Real Beauty Sketches.

There is complex science and psychology behind the differences in how we view ourselves in the mirror versus in pictures – and each one of us has varying discrepancies. These discrepancies are the result of our personal thoughts and feelings. What we see in the mirror is a reflection of what we feel (the Beauty Sketches sort of support this phenomenon, as it is a result of the image we see of ourselves and we most often see ourselves in mirrors).

The bottomline

I am me. You are you. What works for me will not always work for you. And what works for you will not always work for me!

There is no right or wrong, good or bad. Each of us is an individual – making each of our experiences individual. I know others who take daily pictures and thrive. I have learned that daily pictures are detrimental for me. Most times, we need to experiment and learn through trial and error what will work.

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NO! You will not take my picture

It is time to get serious. Down to business. I need to ensure my physique is in optimal condition.

Why?

As I develop my website and business – I need to do a photo shoot.

Why?

Because I am the product I am selling. Not because I want to be – but because that is how it works.

I hate pictures

Some of the difficulty with this is that I am incredibly self-conscious. I hate pictures in general – let alone a photo shoot?!?!?? I am not concerned that the camera adds 10 pounds, but I do want to look fit. Okay I lied, I want to look ripped. But I also want to look real. So do I put on my game face or do I smile and have fun? Regardless, I am concerned with my arms looking muscular instead of fat. I want that definition. I want to present an image of a strong woman. A healthy physique but still a real woman.

Will my muscle intimidate? My mass is natural with my activity. There will be no bare stomach in my pictures – not my greatest asset. Would showing my weak spot increase my vulnerability and make me more marketable – I ask myself?

Opportunity for personal growth

Everyday is an opportunity for personal growth. Every day is an opportunity to tackle fear. Building a business – designed to guide others through personal growth – is growing me in unimaginable ways. I had not given thought to the fact that I would be marketing myself in pictures and videos. However, I believe this is a healthy step forward in my self-acceptance and breaking my self-consciousness.

How do you grow from day to day?

The bottomline

I am conquering another fear, of sorts. Along with this, I have provided myself with an amazingly powerful motivator to help me combat my desires to binge. I prefer to have something to work for – that extrinsic motivator keeps me on task.

How do you tackle fear?

What motivates you?

Response: Praying for Boston

It is a tragedy – to say the least. And it hits home. I have more than a dozen friends and clients who have run in the Boston Marathon. This prestigious event requires a considerable amount of time, effort, and heart on the part of the runner AND the runner’s family. Hours spent planning and training. The money spent on qualifying events, shoes, gear, and supplements. Only truly dedicated athletes – with the support of their friends and families – make it to Boston.

bostonI am thankful that none of my closest friends were running this year – but they are shaken. I am shaken. As we prep for the upcoming Green Bay Cellcom Marathon, I have more than half a dozen friends with their eyes set on qualifying for the 2014 Boston Marathon. It will happen for all of them – but now a part of me does not want them to go! There is a part of me that is thankful that Green Bay is such a small city – it makes me feel like it would be less of a target!

I will keep this short and sweet. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have been directly affected by this tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are also with those who have been indirectly affected – it has us shaking in our running shoes. Literally. But you know what positivity I take from this? I am more determined to run – and will run with all my heart!!

Yours in health,

Becca Rose

Finding motivation to run with the wind

It is April 14th, and it is snowing. It is pretty windy and only going to get windier. As I dress for my long run, I am struggling to find the motivation. I keep checking the weather on my phone, hoping that I either saw it wrong or it will change. But…it isn’t changing. And I had better get out there soon, because the blustery winds and snow/rain mix are on the way for the afternoon. photo (1)

I am doubting myself. I am not sure that I will make it a full 115 minutes — two hours? It is April, it is not supposed to be like this. This lack of motivation has be weighing my options.

I could run inside on a treadmill. Ha! I can barely run 30 minutes on a treadmill.

I could skip the run altogether. NEVER! Not an option.

And so it looks like my only options is to bundle up at fight my way through the mild winds.

What is my motivation? Well, my parents taught me to do what I say I am going to do —

How to measure fitness improvement

April 1. No pranks for me, I meant business! It was assessment day – meaning I had to repeat my baseline workout to see how I have improved since January. The bodyweight workout is designed to be indicative of overall fitness. Having regressed in 2012, I am determined to reclaim my fitness in 2013. Weight goals and measurements are not effective for me – in previous years obsessed with weight goals and always making them lower. I needed to focus on achievement this year!

My assessment measure physical achievement on basic bodyweight exercises. I was disappointed with my performance in January. I was most disappointed with my pullups and burpees – having allowed my fitness level to decrease significantly in the previous 9-12 months. However, I did not focus on these assessment results the last 3 months – and I built my initial training around my 2013 goals.

  1. Headstands & Handstands photo (26)
  2. Heavybag Crunches
  3. 10 STRICT pullups
  4. Replacement behaviors for emotional eating
  5. Bench Press bodyweight
  6. Squat 300 lb.
  7. Planche (last minute add on)

Mind Games

I was anxious the night before my assessment, in anticipation of my performance. While I have been training without fail and have seen weekly gains, I was presuming failure. I was experiencing a fear of failure. I did not want to have the same ‘scores’ – nor worse. However, there was absolutely no reason to suspect I would not display improvement.

Excuses

Sunday was a race pace 10K – and I admit my legs were a bit fatigued. The insane winds that I ran through exhausted my lungs more than usual as well. The night before my assessment, I was already making excuses – if I underperform it will because of my run today and I will know to rest the day prior to an assessment next time! 

I had expectations of my performance – and I honestly do not even know what my expectations were. In my mind, I simply needed to improve. And I was preparing excuses in case I failed! I reached out to a friend who help me calm my mind and refocus into a positive mindset.

Results

Well, I improved. And I performed well – improving on all exercises, even if just a little. I did not know what to expect and I am mildly surprised by some of the results. I have highlighted the greatest improvements:

Exercise Jan. 2, 2013 April 1, 2013 Percent Improvement
Pushups 55 63 14.5%
Squats 206 219 6%
Pullups 11 18 64%
Burpees 25 39 56%
Traveling Lunges 98 112 14%
BB Inverted Row 42 44 5%
SB Plank :35 sec :55 sec 57%
KB Swings (20kg) 81 90 11%

I finished with a 1-mile run at a 1.0 incline = 9 minutes 18 seconds (in January I could not complete a mile run after the workout).

The take home

The highlights.

  1. The minimal improvements on squats and lunges could be the result of Sunday’s training run. While I would have liked to see more improvement with squats, it is unrealistic to expect significant improvements in muscular endurance when I am working on my absolute strength for my 2013 goal.
  2. It is evident that my cardiovascular endurance has improved tremendously in 3 months – burpees and 1-mile run. My pullup training is demonstrating effective as well, with a 64% improvements!

Alterations needed?

  1. I need to closely assess my inverted row – which was more an issue of grip strength during the assessment. July 1, when I repeat the assessment, I will use straps for the inverted rows and hope to attain a score more representative of my back strength and improvements. I also reviewed my workouts for the last 3 months and with my heavy emphasis on pullup training, I have  sparingly performed these horizontal pulls – and this will change in the coming months!
  2. I will rest completely June 30th, in an effort to see greater improvements in squats and lunges.

The bottomline

I had let my fitness level slip – and with it my self-esteem. It was important to me to get back on track. I did this by setting specific goals. I also completed this assessment, allowing me to see my starting point and track my progress. And now I feel good about my success and I am motivated to work more!

Do you have specific health and fitness goals for 2013?

How do you measure success? Improvement? I am on a journey to be in the best shape of my life for my 30th birthday – in just over a month. While the ‘best shape of my life’ is still somewhat ambiguous, I have quantified it into this assessment and my personal goals for 2013.

Are you tracking your journey?

Notes: I chose not to complete body circumferences and body fat percentage for a few reasons – but mostly because I become obsessed with them. I do weigh myself and take progress pictures in addition to these assessments in an effort to monitor progress. I am down 4 pounds from January 2.

Devising a Saturday workout…

Saturday’s are reserved for recovery workouts. Saturday’s workout is the one that I do not have very well planned out. I generally have months of workouts planned – making it easy to roll out of bed and make it to the gym before work. Today is Saturday. I do not have a workout. Yesterday was my rest day, so I would typically engage in some form of intense metabolic conditioning. And here I am, writing again with my coffee. And there is a reason I am still sitting here (God has a plan) – Monday is April 1. What does that mean? Assessment time and time to repeat my workout and see if I have improved since my baseline workout in January.

Calculate and devise

As I am training for a half marathon in May, tomorrow is a 10K at race pace. With that in mind, I need to be kind to my legs today. I am inclined to exhaust my upper body – but that may still inhibit my Monday performance. So. What to do, what to do?

It is simple!
407

A recovery workout!

Okay, so different than my normal Saturday recovery workout. I ask myself, what would I do the day before the half marathon? That is what I will do today! No heavy lifting. No intense aerobics. A little running. A little bodyweight action to keep my joints lubricated and moving. Ah-ha!

My Saturday workout

A rarity – Here share my workout. I do not generally do this – for giving something away for free tends to decrease that things value. Do not get me wrong, I am glad to have individuals come and workout WITH me. And I provide clients and friends with a certain amount of additional access. But this is not the beginning of me posting all my workouts!

Warmup
Jog @ 5 mph – 4 minutes
10 Squat Jumps x 6 :30 rest
Circuit (4 sets x 12 reps)
Bodyweight Squats
Lateral Pendulum Lunge (12/each)
Supine Medicine Ball Diagonal Chops (12/each)
Crunches
Dumbbell Bent Over Rows As little rest as needed

Note: I attempted an internet search for both the lunges and chops to link to videos, but I could not find any that accurately present the exercise. I will attempt my own videos soon and add the links. The chop is similar to this but lying on the ground.

The bottomline

It is important to be body smart. Killing yourself in the gym every day is not necessarily the route to results. In fact, I generally do not encourage ‘killing yourself in the gym.’ There is a difference between working hard and smart and killing yourself in the gym – I prefer the former.

How do you work hard in the gym?

Headstands versus handstands

This post will be short, sweet and to the point. One of my goals for 2013 is to be able to do headstands and handstands with complete control. So I practice. This is what I am finding: powerful

Headstands are far easier than handstands!

Does that mean my neck is stronger than my arms and shoulders? No, it is because my shoulders are always exhausted – I need to give them more rest!

The bottomline

I have learned another tidbit about the importance of rest. If I truly want to attain my goals, I may need to cut back on my shoulder work…

An overlooked component of goal setting

In a recent discussion with a friend, I was asked about how I measure success with my clients – seen as it is well known that most individuals do not attain their desired results with personal trainers. Well the good news is, I can honestly say that I have had 95+% success with clients. Does that mean that all my clients have successfully lost weight? No. It means that I set my clients up for success. There is no room for failure.

How do I set my clients up for success? By giving them the tools that they need. By listening to their pains, needs, and desires. By asking questions – what has or has not worked in the past, what are the challenges and obstacles, what is the easiest, what is the scariest, etc.?

And among other strategies – success can be molded with appropriate goal setting.

Goal setting, plus photo (19)

I know, I know. You have heard it before – you must set goals. We are bombarded with the advice to set goals, but are we shown HOW to set goals? I often see one common flaw in most goal setting advice – negative terminology. I suspect that most of us do not give it a second thought. Most individuals do not even see the negative.

For example, I will not let a client set the goal, “I will lose __ pounds.”

Do you know what is wrong with this goal? You may immediately suspect that I do not want my client setting weight goals (which is true). However, I do not allow the use of negative terminology. This means, no goals with the words lose, less, not, don’t, won’t, decrease, etc.

Instead, we use the words more, improve, increase, will, etc.

Language and perspective can be incredibly influential. True, it is semantics. But our brain processes “I will wear a size 8” far differently than it processes “I will lose 2 dress sizes.” Successful goal setting is associated with acceptance of where we begin and building a map to where we will go. You want to improve? Talk with positivity. You want to fail? Use negative terminology. In the schools of psychology and philosophy this is called the Law of Attraction – that “like attracts like” and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results

photo

The bottomline

“Like attracts like.” You have to believe. You have to be optimistic. You must focus on the improvements and the behaviors you want to increase, rather than the negativities (e.g., telling yourself that you cannot eat something you actually want to eat). Below I have included the foundational steps of goal setting. Let’s set goals!

THE SCIENCE OF GOAL SETTING

You must be honest and realistic with a self-evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses so that you can set appropriate and challenging goals. Also, you must be honest with your process as you move towards a goal. If the goal is too hard or too easy, you can adjust it. If it is easily accomplished, reset for a higher standard. It is okay to adjust the goal based on your feedback and learning. By having a deadline or timeline for your goal, you are able to examine your progress and re-visit the feasibility of the goal.

1. Commit your goals to paper

2. Review your goals on a regular basis. Make your list of goals accessible, so that you can review it on a regular basis. Frequent reminders will help keep you on track.

3. Be specific. Set the goal to exactly what you want to achieve.

4. Be realistic. Begin by setting small, attainable goals in order that they will propel you into future success. For example, set a simple goal that you will avoid excess food at a party this weekend. Set another goal as simple as having a great workout tomorrow.

5. Focus on the short-term goals, as short-term changes in behavior will help you reach long-term goals. Set small goals to get the ball rolling, and success will breed success.

6. As you achieve your goals, return to your list and update the entire set of goals.

 

Finding more on a weight loss journey

A dear friend shares her journey and her heart.

To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. 
If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now. – Alan Cohen

Often times, when we discuss love, it is in relation to our connections with others.  We give love anthropomorphic tendencies, describing its ability to create harmony, whether through our own personal connections or a universal exchange (that links all persons in a global community).  Discussions regarding self-love are relegated to conversations relating its pertinence in the face of limited self-worth.  The implicit necessity of loving one’s self is paramount in establishing worthwhile connections with others. 

Since this blog is about health & fitness, I will tailor this entry, relating self-love to my weight loss journey.   

Last summer I began a journey towards health & fitness, though my immediate goal revolved around losing a tremendous amount of excess weight, my exigent goal was to learn to love myself.  My excess weight was a reflection of my inner turmoil, my struggle to find acceptance (a struggle I presumed to be externally founded…. thereby, extrinsically resolved).  I assumed that loving myself would be a natural effect of changing the way I looked physically.  By changing my appearance, I would become more acceptable to others, allowing me to become more acceptable to myself.  This change would provide an avenue for me to establish connections with others (at that point I was socially isolated, spending tremendous amounts of time alone with limited social interactions) and increase my self-efficacy (believing I could accomplish the many goals I had set for myself).  To a degree these presumptions were accurate.  I have changed the way I look, I am more appealing to others and have a greater sense of comfort in my physique, but that has not translated itself into increased self-worth. 

There is still a sense of lacking and deficiency.  As I strive towards attaining what I believe to be the “perfect body” (for myself), I constantly have to face the impact of my limited self-worth. I am faced with the unhealthy habits I’ve developed, as I strive to love myself . . .. having formerly “loved” myself with food.  I developed a reliance on food to cope.  In the absence of self-acceptance and social relationships, food became an ally.  In losing weight, the foods I formerly relied on for comfort have become an enemy.  They no longer provide me with the same semblance of peace or “happiness”.  I have come to realize that my perception of myself is highly correlated to all of my struggles, I have to resolve my intrinsic feelings of worth, so that I may find the acceptance I long for.  The lack of connectedness I feel with others is greatly attributed to the lack of connection I feel with myself.  Changing my physiognomy has not changed the pertinence of answering these issues. 

photo (15)

I have to learn to love myself, to be comfortable in my own skin, to appreciate who I am.  I have to become whole.  I have to learn to live, because I’m tired of feeling dead to myself . . .. not knowing or appreciating the characteristics that make me a worthwhile individual.  It’s exciting, this concept of self-discovery.  But this undertaking is by no means easy.  This process has been laden with valleys and peaks.  It requires changing my mind, literally.  Reframing thoughts, addressing hurts, and examining fears.  Exchanging unhealthy behaviors that were once associated with loving myself for behaviors that truly reflect love for myself.  In doing so, I am hoping to experience the tranquility that comes with loving one’s self.  Partaking in the ubiquity of love, as it connects me to those I care for. 

I am grateful for those who are willing to love me along the way, as I learn to love myself.

What has your journey shown you that you did not expect?

Will work for coffee

If you have read many of my posts, you already know that I hate aerobic exercise – commonly referred to as cardio. I incorporate my cardiovascular training into my strength training program and also finish most days with a bout of cardio. This is doable. And is my level of fitness adequate? Yes – but I will not be running a marathon anytime soon!

Tuesdays and Thursdays are designated as my aerobic fitness days. I begin each workout with a warm up and maybe some core (this is what entices me to get to the gym). The bulk of my work is done in aerobic intervals. I can stay on a treadmill 5X longer if I am doing intervals than if I do a steady state.

And when I want to quit, which is often with cardio, I tell myself that after my workout I can treat myself to a coffee. Mind you – I do drink black coffee and I allow myself to drink it whenever I want it so the concept of it being a true reward is mute. Somehow, this works for  me. While doing my intervals this morning, I thought I should make a sign, WILL WORK FOR COFFEE.

Why it works

There are multiple explanations for why my process works. I trick my own mind! I use strategies and mental skills to keep my head in the game! The most important? Goal setting.

Intervals = Task goals

We can improve motivation through goal setting (Hardy, Jones, & Gould, 1996; Wilson & Brookfield, 2009). While we often think of outcome goals (e.g., long-term goals) as big dreams or milestones that can only be achieved in time – those are certainly outcome goals – equally important are incremental goals. Some of these may be smaller outcome goals and some may be minute task or process goals. Each week, my Tuesday and Thursday workouts are outcome goals. And I set task goals that allow me to reach the outcome goal – completing the workout. Let me explain.

Because I do not enjoy cardio, it makes it hard to make it to the gym in the first place. Therefore, I begin my workout with something that I enjoy. Lately, I have been practicing headstands and handstands – which I thoroughly enjoy. I WANT to do my practicing and I have to go to the gym to do it. Once I am at the gym, I might as well put in the work! I’m warmed up and get right into my intervals, somedays :60/:90, some :30/:30, and so on. Honestly, the time split doesn’t matter all that much. What matters is that I think about getting it done one interval at a time. My mind is usually fighting me and I ask myself, why am I doing this again? So I start, telling myself that I will do half of my intervals and then reassess the situation. So,

          • outcome goal = 8 intervals
          • incremental goal = 4 intervals (reassess)
          • task goals = each interval

More often than not, by the time I have completed half of my intervals, I am pumped on adrenaline and working to the end is no longer an issue. And as a woman true to her word, and will not quit. I will not be stopped!

Short-term goals MUST be established. Short-term task goals will help increase self-efficacy and enhance sense of self-worth through the reinforcement of accomplishments (Hall, Kerr, Kozub, & Finnie, 2007; Wilson & Brookfield, 2009). Further, the use of task goals can encourage flexibility for those of us who normally retain a rigid approach to attaining perfection (Hall, Kerr, Kozub, & Finnie, 2007).

Self-regulation

Related to goal setting strategies is self-regulation. Kirschenbaum (1984) defines self-regulation as

“the processes by which people manage their own goal-directed behaviors
in the relative absence of immediate external constraints.”

Self-regulation generally requires five stages: problem identification, commitment, execution, environmental management, and generalization (Kirschenbaum, 1984). And you may find it beneficial to journal or log your personal stages. For example, I

  1. have identified a problem of disliking aerobics,
  2. have committed to a desire to change,
  3. will execute change through various workouts,
  4. have enforced that my workouts (including my headstands) must be completed at the gym, and
  5. will eventually apply what I learn to other generally difficult situations.

The reward system?

I motivate myself with the reward of coffee. But this is not a true reward. I would have had my coffee whether I had worked out or not. You see, I simply cannot function without coffee. So, what have I done here to improve my motivation?

I have ignited the reward center of my brain by placing pleasurable bookends on both ends of something I find aversive. We do not like everything that we do in life. Sometimes we just do things because we have to. Other times we choose to do things because we know the pleasurable outcome.

A bit about rewards

I want to advise against using food or drink as a reward. Hypocrite? A cup of black coffee contains 5 calories and caffeine has been shown to provide numerous post-workout benefits. If coffee works as a reward for you – that is the only exception I will allow! The problem with using food as a reward? If you are working towards adopting a healthy lifestyle, your reward of food becomes equally pleasurable and aversive. You have now confused your mind! (As if we do not have enough confusion in life!)

You are used to eating after your workout? Good, you should. Make it a planning and allotted for snack or meal! That is not a reward.

Plus, there are so many pleasures in life beyond food!!

The bottomline

I WILL work for coffee. The chances are, I would do more work for more coffee – but that is another post. I have some challenges for you. Are you ready?

  1. Find at least one exercise or activity that you LOVE.
  2. Incorporate that love into EACH and EVERY workout.
  3. Set a daily goal – and possibly task goals within that goal.
  4. Reward yourself for every goal you complete – large or small.

References

Hall, H. K., Kerr, A, W., Kozub, S. A., & Finnie, S. B. (2007). Motivational antecedents of obligatory exercise: The influence of achievement goals and multidimensional perfectionism. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 8, 297–316.

Hardy, L., Jones, G., & Gould, D. (1996). Understanding psychological preparation for sport. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Kirschenbaum, D. (1984). Self-regulation and sport psychology: Nurturing an emerging symbiosis. Journal of Sport Psychology, 6(2), 159-183.

Wilson, K., & Brookfield, D. (2009). Effect of goal setting on motivation and adherence in a six-week exercise program. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 7, 89-100.