Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Do What Scares You

Pep Talk

Some of you may know that this weekend is an important weekend for me.  On Sunday, I will be attempting Ironman Lake Placid for the second time, hopefully with a finisher's medal in hand afterwards.  Pre-race apprehension is setting in, coupled with reminders of my painful and traumatic injury and DNF (did not finish) from last year.

Yet, despite all this nervous energy, I am excited.  Because (for the most part) I am taking on uncharted territory and challenging myself to do something totally new.  Honestly, I do not know what will happen on race day.  I know that I am trained and prepared, and ready to handle any challenges along the way to the best of my ability.  But anything can happen, and I find that both terrifying and exhilarating.

Throughout this whole Ironman training process, I have learned so much about myself -- physically, mentally, and emotionally.  When you tackle a goal that scares you, you discover parts of yourself that you never knew existed -- those small hidden pieces that show you who you really are inside.  Ironman has made me a stronger and more complete person than when I started.  No matter what the outcome, finish or DNF, nothing can take my personal growth away from me.  

I challenge you to find something that scares you and make it a reality.  Whether it's a 5K race, indoor rock climbing, zip lining, or competing in a Tough Mudder, find something that takes you outside your comfort zone.  Use it as an opportunity to discover your true self and what drives you as a person.  Embrace it as a chance to become wiser and stronger.  No matter the outcome, you cannot put a price on your personal journey.

Challenge Workout

Complete the following exercises as quickly as possible, taking breaks as needed:
  • 10 Pushups
  • 10 Lunges (each leg = 1/2 rep; both legs = 1 rep)
  • 9 Triceps Pushups
  • 9 Jumping/Hopping Lunges
  • 8 Pushups
  • 8 Lunges
  • 7 Triceps Pushups
  • 7 Jumping/Hopping Lunges
  • 6 Pushups
  • 6 Lunges
  • 5 Triceps Pushups
  • 5 Jumping/Hopping Lunges
  • 4 Pushups
  • 4 Lunges
  • 3 Triceps Pushups
  • 3 Jumping/Hopping Lunges
  • 2 Pushups
  • 2 Lunges
  • 1 Triceps Pushup
  • 1 Jumping/Hopping Lunge

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Exercising on Vacation

Pep Talk

It's that time of the year when everyone is going on vacation.  Sometimes the trips are so long that they can significantly derail your fitness goals if you take the entire time off from exercising and healthy eating.  What you can do instead is find compromises to stay on track.  Yes, it will be challenging to maintain the same level of workouts, either due to time or equipment limitations.  But there are still ways to make the best out of what you have.  Here are some options for keeping active while you're out of town.
  • Research your hotel or living accommodations first and try to book at a place with fitness facilities.  Many hotels offer amenities to guests like fitness centers, swimming pools, or even discounted guest passes to nearby gyms.
  • Look into your gym's visitor policy.  If it is a national chain, you may be able to visit a location near your vacation spot for free or at a significant discount.
  • You do not need a gym to get a great workout.  Turn your hotel room into a gym.  You can bring rubber exercise bands and do many of the exercises you can do with weights -- and they pack very easily in a suitcase!  
  • No bands?  Just do bodyweight exercises -- no equipment required (see below's Challenge Workout for a no-equipment workout you can do in your hotel room).
  • Bring a laptop or mobile DVD player and some of your favorite workout DVDs to do in your hotel room.
  • Make staying active a fun part of your trip.  You can go on a walk or hike to sight see, swim at the beach, or even rent bicycles to explore town.
  • Try to walk as much as possible.  Walking from place to place is a great way to add exercise without having to disrupt your vacation time.

Challenge Workout

Here is your special, no-excuses hotel room workout!  Complete 5 rounds of the following exercises as quickly as possible, taking breaks as needed:
  • 10 Pushups
  • 15 Crunches
  • 20 Squats

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The 80/20 Rule Revisited

Pep Talk

Ever since I first posted about the 80/20 rule regarding nutrition, it has sparked a lot of follow-up questions in the studio.  I figured it would be a good opportunity to use this week's Pep Talk to talk about it in more detail, and even show how it works in practice.

Nutritional Disclaimer
Before reading the information below, I just want to put a disclaimer out there that I am NOT a doctor or licensed nutritionist and I am NOT prescribing that anyone try any of these methods without first consulting with an educated professional to determine if it would work for them.  I am only sharing my own experiences in the hopes that it can inspire you to analyze your own eating habits and motivate you to make healthier nutritional choices.  Do not attempt any diet or exercise plan without first checking with your doctor to make sure it is appropriate for you.

80/20 is Not a New Concept
To be honest, I can't remember where I heard it first, but it is a phrase that has bounced around the fitness industry in several places.  Basically, it is a general concept for how to approach your nutrition.  You try to eat healthy 80% of the time, and then reserve the other 20% for fun -- things like parties, junk food, alcohol, family pizza night, etc.  The idea is that, as long as you are eating healthy MOST of the time, the other 20% won't matter.

80/20 is Not a Diet, It's a Guideline
The most elusive, but also most liberating, aspect of the 80/20 nutritional approach is that there are no meal plans, no specific calorie requirements, and no regimented rules.  You basically try to eat healthy foods in reasonable portions most of the time, and then splurge infrequently.  You usually do not have to go looking for a splurge; these happen organically throughout the week (work outings, date nights, etc.).  This is why it fits so well into a long-term lifestyle change.  But this is also why it can be confusing to adopt (i.e. How much should I be eating?  What should I be eating?).

The best way to adopt it is to look at your lifestyle and see what fits best.  Are there a couple of nights a week when it is difficult to stay on track, either due to family or work?  Or is it easier to dedicate a whole day to putting the nutritional monitoring on pause and treat yourself a little bit?  The answer is different for everyone.

80/20 in Practice
Let's look at an example of 80/20 in practice.  We'll call this person Subject AB.  Okay, it's me.  Anyway, given my schedule and workout regimen, it makes the most sense for me to eat cleanly Monday through Saturday.  And then I have reserved a day that I affectionately call "Sunday Funday" for any treat foods I'd like.

Here are my personal guidelines for doing this:
  • I track everything (YES, everything) Monday through Saturday in My Fitness Pal, a food logging app, to make sure I am within my suggested caloric allotment.
  • If I want a piece of pizza or a beer Monday through Saturday, I am free to have it, but I have to log it.  Many times this curbs me from making bad decisions.
  • I can have any type of food from any food group -- pasta, bread, dairy, etc.  There are no restrictions.
  • On Sunday, I do not log.  I find this freeing.
  • On Sunday, I am allowed to have whatever I want to eat, in whatever quantity I want, as long as I stop when I am full.  I do not eat to the point of discomfort.
  • On Monday, I go right back on track.  I actually WANT to go back on track because of how bad I feel after Sunday Funday.
I have spun my wheels for a while in the nutrition department, staying at the same weight for several years.  I attribute this to my poor nutrition and yo-yo'ing back and forth between an unattainable "perfect" meal plan and then pigging out when I felt too deprived to stay on it.  If I have learned anything during that time, it's this: no matter how active you are, you cannot out-exercise a bad diet.

And the Results?
Since putting 80/20 into practice, I am converted for life.  Below is some visual evidence of my progress while employing this new nutritional approach.

This graph shows my addition of the 80/20 approach in late April.  Until that point, my weight was stagnant for several weeks.  The orange line represents my daily weights recorded over the past three months.  The spikes are my Monday morning weigh-ins (the day after Sunday Funday).  As you can see, over time, the spikes never get as high as the previous spike, and the descents (my weight as the week progresses) get lower and lower.  The red line is a trend line that shows my average progress.  As you can see, it is continually moving downward.

Note: Yes, this is a chart of my weight.  Yes, I have preached many times about how weight alone is not the whole picture.  I am also measuring my body fat percentage along with my weight to ensure that all of my lost weight is fat and not muscle (which it is).  Throughout this process, I have maintained my lean mass and dropped body fat.

Here are some progress photos that show the physical changes as a result of using 80/20 for several months (also more confirmation that I have dropped body fat and not lean mass).  In fact, although I have not lost muscle, I have not gained any either.  I have just as much muscle on me in photo 1 as I do in photo 3...which shows the difference that a lower body fat percentage can make!
March 2015
May 2015
July 2015

But Wait...Aren't You Training for an Ironman?
Yes, I am training for an Ironman.  And yes, I can get away with eating more calories due to my higher activity level right now.  HOWEVER, I am also eating more calories throughout the week during my "80" phase to account for this higher activity level.  Right now, I am eating up to 3,500 calories per day, but I am just making sure they are clean, nutritious calories.  Once Ironman training is over, I will cut down my daily calories to allot for my lower burn rate (which will be easy to track using My Fitness Pal), but I will still practice the 80/20 concept with Sunday Funday.

Why 80/20 Can Work
The 80/20 concept is working for me because it gives me FREEDOM.  I am not restricted by what I can eat when I am in my "80" phase -- I just have to make sure I track it, which motivates me to watch my portions and make better choices.  And then I have the "20" phase to let off some steam and have my favorite foods.  And let me tell you, while I enjoy Sunday Funday, I am ready to get back on track Monday because I just feel GROSS afterwards. 

I find 80/20 effective and maintainable because:
  • This is a healthy LIFESTYLE for long-term success, not a temporary diet.
  • There are no restrictions on what you can eat (i.e. pasta, bread, dairy) during your "clean" (80) phase, as long as you watch your portions and track your calories.
  • There is room to mess up.  If you splurge, so what?  Just get right on track with your next meal and the damage WILL be contained.  This has helped me infinitely by removing the domino-effect binging that used to happen after I slipped a little bit during the week.
Ultimately you have to make the best decision for yourself in terms of what will work for you.  But hopefully by sharing my experiences with this off-beat eating strategy, you can see that anything in moderation can work.  You do not have to be perfect 100% of the time.  There is room for fun in any healthy lifestyle program.

Challenge Workout

The Deconstructed Burpee Challenge!  Complete 3 rounds of the following exercises, taking breaks as needed:
  • 10 Plank In and Outs (start in plank and either step or jump both feet in to a crouch position, and then back out to plank)
  • 10 Pushups
  • 10 Jump Squats