Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Food Freedom: The 80/20 Rule

Pep Talk

Coming out of a holiday weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about nutrition and getting right back on track after eating foods that aren't necessarily a part of our normal diets.

Eating "junk" is a part of a healthy lifestyle -- yes, you heard that right.  It just needs to be a once-in-a-while occurrence and not the norm.  Celebrity fitness trainer Shaun T puts it perfectly; to paraphrase, he recommends that 80% of your calories are for health, and 20% are for fun.  Let's face it, you are not going to give up your favorite comfort foods for life.  Nor should you.  And you should not feel guilty, bad, or like a failure for eating them.

There is no perfection in the pursuit of health and fitness.  If you try to be perfect 100% of the time, you are setting yourself up for failure.

What you CAN do is confine those indulgences to special occasions (i.e. Memorial Day barbeques) and then GET RIGHT BACK to eating healthy.  I cannot emphasize the importance of getting right back on track enough.  The damage does not come from an isolated occurrence.  In fact, I personally find that a treat once or twice a week helps me stay on track the rest of the time.  The damage comes from feeling that the small slip has messed up your plan, so you continue to eat unhealthy foods for days or weeks on end. 

A Personal Observation
As some of you know, I am training for Ironman Lake Placid for the second year in a row.  Last year, I was obscenely strict with my diet (salads with chicken, no wheat or dairy, etc.).  And I leaned out very well between my healthy diet and training.  However, I dreaded social events because I was the odd-ball who brought her own food or wouldn't touch anything at the buffet.  I was clutching to the hope of the week after Ironman so I could pig out and eat all the foods that I missed.

This year, my approach is very different.  Yes, I am eating healthy 80% of the time.  But once or twice a week, I allow myself some treat meals when I can eat what I want.  Yes, at my Memorial Day barbeque, I had potato salad, beer, and pineapple upside-down cake.  But now I am right back on track and eating healthy.

I have been eating this way (80/20) for the past several weeks, and have made the following observations when compared to my progress last year:
  • I am leaning out just the same, if not even more rapidly.
  • I feel like I have more energy.
  • I am HAPPIER.
  • I feel like I can continue this endlessly, not just until Ironman.  I WANT to eat this way because of how good I feel (I am giving my body healthy foods most of the time, but I do not feel deprived).
The lesson: you do not need to be miserable to be fit.  You just need to be good most of the time.  After all, what is the point of being strong and healthy if you are also unhappy?  Everything is a balance, and that is the key to making fitness a lifestyle change that you can keep up over the long term.

Challenge Workout

Complete 200 squats as quickly as possible, taking as many breaks as needed throughout.  Pace yourself...you can do it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Five Whys

Pep Talk

You may have heard of the concept of the "Five Whys" before.  It's usually associated with business principles and root cause analysis.  Basically -- what is the REAL cause of your problem?  Finding the real cause ensures that you are actually fixing the problem, and not just trying to temporarily relieve symptoms of the problem.

For example, you might find that you can't fit in your workouts because you don't have time.  But is that all there is to it?  Asking yourself "why" five times might help you figure out the real underlying cause of your obstacles.

For example, let's say your problem is, "I keep missing my workouts."
  1. Why do you keep missing your workouts?
    • Because I don't have time. (Keep in mind that most people just stop here.)
  2. Why don't you have time?
    • Because the kids' schedules are crazy and I have to taxi them around.
  3. Why do you have to taxi them around?
    • Because no one else will do it.
  4. Why won't anyone else do it?
    • Because I haven't asked them.
  5. Why haven't you asked them?
    • I don't know.  I guess I could see if my friend could drop them off.  She's driving that way anyway.
This is just an example, but you can see how it can be effective in problem solving.  Let's look at an example related to nutrition.
  1. Why are you finding it hard to eat healthy?
    • Because it's too much work.
  2. Why is it too much work?
    • Because I end up having to cook two dinners.
  3. Why are you cooking two dinners?
    • Because my family won't eat the healthy meals.
  4. Why won't they eat the healthy meals?
    • Because they prefer eating junk food.
  5. Why do they prefer the junk food?
    • Because it's what they're used to eating.
From here, we've learned the real cause of this person's struggle with eating healthy:  their family isn't on board with a lifestyle change.  If we had stopped at the first question, we might have just accepted that it's just "too much work."  But by digging deeper, we can see that we need to engage the family more.  Some options could be to sit down and explain to the family why we are making a change to healthy eating, or even include them in the menu planning and cooking.

As you can see, using the "Five Whys" can be very helpful in removing obstacles from your goals.  Use it to stay on track and overcome any barriers getting in the way of your health and fitness!

Challenge Workout

Complete 3 rounds, taking breaks as needed, of:
  • 50 Squats
  • 25 Crunches
  • 10 Pushups

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Find Your Support System

Pep Talk

I don't care how independent you are -- EVERYONE, at one time or another, needs a support system.  Willpower alone is only so strong.  There will be times when you question your healthy lifestyle choices, your fitness plan, or the direction of your life in general. These are the times when it helps to turn to people in your life who can confirm that you are on the right track and help you stay focused.

Friends are a natural choice to keep you motivated.  Finding like-minded friends with similar goals can provide you with training buddies and sounding boards when things get tough.  Make workout appointments and use them as an opportunity to catch up.  The workout time will fly, and you will be more likely to follow through because someone else is waiting for you.

Support at home can be critical to your success.  Make sure that your family understands why your health and fitness are important.  You can be a healthier and happier person for them if you spend a little time a few days a week taking care of yourself.  This will help get them on board for helping out with chores so you have a little time to work out, or will help them adapt to a healthier dinner menu.  Explain the "why" to them and you may be surprised how supportive they can be!

Trainers and Coaches
If you are really struggling with commitment, it can be an awesome idea to get a trainer or coach.  Even a class instructor can keep you accountable to your goals.  Don't be afraid to ask for a little push from us to make sure you stay engaged -- that's why we're here!  If you are stuck in a rut, try out a new fitness class or training program.

Ask for Help Before You Need It
As much as we try, we can't always be superheroes and juggle everything.  If you feel the pressure of life causing you to slip, catch it before it happens and reach out to your support system.  A little positive nudge from those important people in your life can make a huge difference in sticking with your goals!

Challenge Workout

Complete 10 reps of each exercise, then 9, then 8...all the way down to 1 rep, taking breaks as needed:
  • Pushups (on even numbers, do Wide Pushups; on odd numbers, do Triceps Pushups)
  • Lunges (each leg = 1/2 rep; both legs = 1 rep)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What to Eat Around Your Workouts

Pep Talk

There is a lot of mystery around what you should be eating before and after your workouts -- and rightly so.  Everyone is different and the answer will be different depending on many things, such as your unique biology, taste preferences, schedule, what else you've eaten that day, etc.

Many times the only way to find what will truly work for you is through trial and error.  Here are some guidelines to help steer you in the right direction.

Before Your Workout
The biggest obstacle you have to face when thinking about your pre-workout meal is digestion.  You do not want to still be digesting food when you start your workout.  Your body can only exercise or digest; it struggles to do both simultaneously.  And in the end, one will win.  You can guess how your body decides to stop digestion while exercising.  Ewww...

If you are about 3 hours away from your workout, it's okay to eat a normal meal.  You should have plenty of time to digest it beforehand.  If your last meal was 4 hours or more before your workout, consider eating a small snack before exercising (about 1 hour before) to ensure you have enough energy to push through the workout.

The closer you get to your workout, the easier the meal that you choose should be to digest.  Hard foods to digest are fats and high fiber foods.  Things like nuts should be avoided as they are very complex and take a long time to process.  The same goes for beans and vegetables; eating a salad an hour before your workout might seem like a good idea, but in the end it won't feel that way.

Generally speaking, only consume 100 calories for every hour before your workout (for example, if your workout is 2 hours away, eat 200 calories of food).

Here are some examples of what you could eat based on how far away your workout is:
  • 3 or more hours:  A normal meal.
  • 2 hours:  A snack like a banana or apple with peanut butter, half a turkey sandwich, or a small bowl of cereal and milk.
  • 1 hour:  A very small snack with very little fat or fiber, like a banana, a piece of toast, or half of an energy bar.
  • 15-30 minutes before:  An energy gel or even some gummie snacks -- something comprised mostly of sugar to give you some quick energy.  Your body won't be able to comfortably digest anything else.  Some people might find it easier to just sip an energy drink during exercise rather than eat their calories this soon before the workout.

After Your Workout
Although there is going to be a lot of individual difference here, the wrong answer for everyone is, "nothing."  Even if you are working out before bed, you should eat something -- if only a small snack -- once you've finished.

A small post-workout meal is important for two reasons:
  1. It helps to kickstart muscle repair and the recovery process by giving your body the raw materials it needs to get stronger.
  2. It helps to curb extreme hunger hours later, which compels you to eat everything in the house.
It does not have to be a large meal.  You can get what you need by only using about 200-300 calories (and chances are you burned much more than that in your workout).  Make sure to incorporate some lean protein and healthy carbs.  Some great choices are yogurt and fruit, cottage cheese and granola, a banana or toast with peanut butter, a slice of bread and some turkey, or even cereal and milk.

After your post-workout snack, wait until you are hungry again and then continue to eat normally according to your meal plan.  Don't be worried that adding this snack will conflict with your goals by adding more calories.  In reality, I find that people eat less calories overall when they add this meal because they are less hungry later in the day and tend to eat smaller meals as a result.

Everyone is Different
Keep in mind that these are just guidelines and everyone will be able to tolerate different foods in different ways.  Use these guidelines to help figure out what works best for you.  Develop a plan and also a back-up plan.  What will you do on the days when time gets away from you and you don't have time to grab a meal?  Keeping some fruit at your work desk can be a solution -- something you can grab and eat on the go to make sure you have the energy you need to work out hard.

Challenge Workout

Complete the following exercises as quickly as possible, taking breaks as needed:
  • 25 Jump Squats
  • 60 seconds Plank
  • 20 Jump Squats
  • 45 seconds Plank
  • 15 Jump Squats
  • 30 seconds Plank
  • 10 Jump Squats
  • 15 seconds Plank
  • 5 Jump Squats