Never have I struggled with this concept more than I have these past 5 months. It was early September when I found out I was pregnant and to say it was unexpected would be the understatement of the century. Did I ever tell you I’m not big on surprises?
The first few weeks were the toughest and I cried, a lot. I felt very guilty for all of the negative feelings I was having. I mean, I should have been excited and joyful, like my husband. Thousands of women would give almost anything for the privilege of growing another human being. But, I wasn’t. I was absolutely terrified.
One of the things I like best about myself, one of the attributes I use to define me, is that I am a competitive CrossFitter. As that person I was happier, healthier, and more fit that I ever had been. Training intensely 5-6 days a week, sometimes with double sessions, was just part of my normal routine. I took a lot of pride in being able to do what I could do and I was more comfortable in my own skin than I ever had been. But, I couldn’t be that person and pregnant at the same time. So, who was I?
In those early weeks when visible changes had not yet begun to happen it was easy to keep my perception of myself. I didn’t look any different and I could still keep doing what I’d always done. Until one day I couldn’t. I remember trying to move a weight that earlier that same year would have been a piece of cake. Instead it felt like a million pounds and I was forced to confront the reality that my body was indeed changing.
More often than not I am finding it hard just to keep up with the regular programming and make it to class 3-4x per week. Week by week, the list of things I would have done with ease a few weeks ago and now know I will struggle just to get through gets longer and longer. This time of year is also Team training season and, for three consecutive years, since I began CrossFit, I have been a part of my gym’s competitive Regionals team. This year I can not be a part of my team, or participate in training, and I desperately miss being a part of it all.
My perception is, because I can not do what I used to do, I have lost what makes me – me. The reality, that part is just on hold. But, what drove me be strong and compete is still – and will always be – a part of me. Every day is not going to be a good training day. I may not use same weights or be able to do the same movements, but every day I am able train I make myself, and this tiny human, stronger. The goal has shifted from increasing strength to be a better competitor, to maintaining my strength in an effort to facilitate a healthy pregnancy, to ease labor and delivery, and to facilitate a healthy recovery.
I have good days and bad days. On good days I am able to appreciate and find joy in the changes I am experienceing. I can look forward to the future, and feel confident in who I am. On bad days think only of the negative and what I can no longer do. It is on those days that I am most grateful to have a husband, friends, coaches, and a community that help bring me out of my perceptions and back into reality – the reality that this is a precious experience…one that deserves to be savored , enjoyed, and appreciated because it will all be over before I know it.
There was a time in my life when I’d classify myself as a runner. During that time I trained for, and ran, two marathons and a Sunday wasn’t a good Sunday until I’d put at least 10 miles on the road with my favorite training partner. I felt better and looked better than I had in a long time because exercise was finally a consistent part of my life.
The thing about running is that it often doesn’t play a transient role in people’s life the way it did in mine. I’ve never met anyone more tenacious about their exercise regime than a runner – and especially a runner in training. Sick, hurt, it doesn’t matter…the running must be done!
Every year millions of runners take to the streets. For some, the local 5K is their goal. For others, perhaps a 10K or a half marathon. But for a growing number of runners, especially new runners, the goal is to run a marathon. Proper preparation and training, especially for newbie runners, often takes more than 20 weeks. And, for the majority of those weeks, total weekly milage exceeds 30 miles. But, is all that running good for you?
When I was living in RI, and running a ton, I knew several runners would train for 2 marathons per year, one in the spring and one again in the fall. Their days were scheduled around their running, they usually ran every day, and often for longer than 90 minutes. And, strangely enough, they were often some of the most injured and chronically sick people I knew. At the time, I couldn’t figure it out. They were exercising, often despite their injuries and illnesses, and they seemingly ate well. What was going on?
This article, posted today by Women’s Health, sheds some light on what may be going on inside the bodies of endurance athletes and is based on research published in several studies by the British Journal Heart, European Heart Journal, and the US journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. This article answers questions like, how much running is too much? And, if running a marathon is one of your New Year’s resolutions (or just something you’ve always wanted to do), how to train and increase your health instead of putting yourself at risk.
Running may not be for everyone, but exercise most certainly is. Exercise shouldn’t take hours a day…if fact, it shouldn’t! Read here to find out why. Today is a new day and a brand new opportunity to start your journey to better health. Now go out and GET SOME!
If you watched the news this week then you know the flu is a hot topic. In Boston Mayor Menino has declared a public health emergency. Yesterday morning on the Today show, all 4 hosts received flu shots on the air. And this weekend in Boston, there will be 21 free flu shot clinics in which all residents over 6 months of age are strongly encouraged to take part in.
Now, I don’t know about you, but the more someone pushes me to do something, the more likely I am not to do it. Or, at the very least, the more skeptical I will become about WHY it seems so necessary. I mean, if so many are getting sick with the flu, is it because they are unvaccinated, or is the flu shot not offering the level of protection it advertises?
Making the Flu Shot
Every year in North America the flu season begins on October 1st. On that date doctors’s offices and other health care facilities begin to offer the annual flu vaccines to their patients. See, unlike other vaccines that are effective in your body for many years (think the tetanus vaccine – its good for a decade!) the flu vaccine is only good for one year. Why, you ask? Because each year the flu virus that makes people sick is a little different from the year before. In that way its a lot like the common cold. You may feel, every time you get a cold, that it is the same cold you’ve had a million times, but in reality it is a new and unique virus to your immune system.
So, if the flu virus is a little different every year, how do scientists and doctors know which virus to put into the vaccine? Vaccines take time to be made…so, how to they know which flu virus to make into a vaccine in time to have flu shots ready for the start of October? Lastly, how effective is the flu vaccine?
Production of the annual flu vaccine begins in January/February of the year the flu vaccine is administered (the 2013/2014 flu vaccine is already in production). Based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), the US FDA determines which 2 virus strains will be a part of the annual US vaccine. Once the strains have been identified, it will take manufacturers approximately 6 months to grow the virus in either chicken eggs or chicken kidney cells, then turn the grown viruses into vaccines.
When it comes to effectiveness, the flu vaccine is only as good as it is close to the actual virus in circulation making people sick. If the vaccine is exact, protection is excellent, if it isn’t, protection is spotty at best. In addition, how your immune system responds to the flu vaccine will determine the level of protection any vaccine can offer.
In light of what has been on the news and what your friends and family may be saying, you are now faced with a choice. Should you get the flu shot?
Let’s say you’ve made your decision…
You’ve decided in favor of getting a flu shot. We already know that simply receiving the flu shot is not enough to offer the level of protection we expect from a vaccine. So, what can you ensure that the vaccine you’ve gotten will provide the level of protection it promises? The answer lies in a single word…SLEEP!
Simple, beautiful, delicious sleep allows your body to produce the antibodies a vaccine is designed to stimulate. As you can imagine, inadequate sleep equals inadequate antibody production. This means less than suberb protection, or in some cases, no greater protection than someone who opted not to be vaccinated.
So, is one night of good sleep enough to cover you? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Even if you got a good night sleep the night before you were vaccinated, and then went to be early the night of your vaccination, this would still not deliver the desired outcome. In order for your immune system to achieve what a vaccine promises, good sleep habits and a history of 7-8 hours of sleep per night are both necessary. And, if you regularly get less than 6 hours of shut eye per night, your likelihood of achieving full flu protection from a vaccine are even slimmer.
In addition, scientists have found that regular exercisers have an enhanced response to the flu vaccine, making it more effective.
You’ve opted to forego this year’s flu vaccine. You’re initial thought may be, “Doesn’t skipping a vaccination make me more susceptible to the flu?” The answer is a resounding NO if you know what habits can help you make the most out of your immune system. Best part is, these strategies work for all the nasty pathogens (illness causing bacteria and viruses) winter has to offer so, you’ll not only will you reduce your likelihood of coming down with the dreaded flu, but you’ll give yourself a free pass from suffering with that horrible cold everyone seems to be passing around.
Strategy 1 – Catch some ZZZZZs
Give your immune system a fighting chance by getting plenty of rest, especially when you are feeling a little run down. Regularly getting 8 hours of sleep is ideal.
Strategy 2 – Get some exercise.
Taking part in 30 min of daily exercise is the best way to ensure the cells of your immune system responsible for capturing and destroying foreign invaders, make contact with whatever could cause you to get sick. Keep it moderate though. Vigorous exercise that lasts longer than 30 minutes actually reduces immune function.
Strategy 3 – Reduce your stress.
Stress reduces immune function. Exactly what you don’t need when you are trying to fight a cold or the flu. Reducing your daily stress goes a long way in allowing your body to put energy where it needs to – keeping you from getting sick in the first place!
Strategy 4 – Avoid sugar like the plague.
Nothing slashes your immune function like sugar. Help keep your immune function optimal by reducing your white sugar and white flour consumption. And, get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for some much needed vitamins and minerals.
Well, its the new year and, I don’t know about you, but it seems every TV commercial and pop-up add I see, and every Groupon/Living Social deal that has appeared in my inbox are all related to the New Year’s Resolution Weight Loss/Fitness Phenomenon. From cries of, “This year I’m gonna loose weight,” to “This year I’m gonna get in shape,” it seems everyone is on the bandwagon. But ask any gym owner, or visit any gym now and then again in February, to see how long these resolutions hold on.
We are an instant gratification society with the belief that if I work harder then the results I desire will come faster. Unfortunately, when it comes to achieving the results we desire via exercise, that belief is doing us more harm than good. Case in point, the New Year’s Resolution exercisers.
Full of good intentions they enter the gym to do some cardio, maybe hit a few weights and get in some crunches. Over those first few weeks the “quick trips” to the gym take longer than expected. Time gets tighter and meeting the normal obligations of the day become more difficult. The to-do list gets longer and longer as the days pass. Then there is the soreness. When you first go back its hard to know how much is too much and more often than not we over do it. It is this combination of time requirements and soreness that ultimately derails even the best intentioned individuals.
So, if your resolutions for the New Year include getting fit or getting healthy, how can you turn them into a reality in 2013?
Step 1 – Build SMART Goals
Getting fit and getting healthy are great goals to have, but what do they mean? Can you define them? How will you know if you’ve gotten fit? How will you know if you’ve gotten healthy?
How can you define health? Learn here.
Avoid not knowing when you’ve gotten there by building SMART goals. SMART goals are:
Let’s face it…nothing is a better motivator to keep you on track than a looming deadline. Take the time to construct the specifics of your goals. When you know exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there it makes it easier to stay the course.
Step 2 – Less is More
Spending 2 hours at the gym isn’t doing you any good. And contrary to popular belief/conventional wisdom less is more when it comes to gym time. In a study conducted by the University of Copenhagen, researchers found that 30 minutes of exercise was as effective in reducing body weight and body mass as 60 minutes of exercise.
“The participants in our study trained every day for three months. All training sessions were planned to produce a light sweat, but participants were expected to increase the intensity and give it gas three times a week,” explains Mads Rosenkilde, PhD student at the University of Copenhagen in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and author of the study. Over the course of 13 weeks the participants who exercised only 30 minutes per day lost 2lbs more than those who exercised for 60 minutes per day.
But wait, the news gets better. In addition to weight loss, participants who exercised for only 30 minutes reported having more energy and eating less throughout the day. Plus, when it came time to exercise, they had the desire to do so, and they simply felt better all day long.
Over exercising – a classic mistake of the New Year’s crowd – leaves us starving and exhausted, eating more and moving less as the days pass. Not seeing the results you are striving for makes motivation hard to maintain, and before you know it you are back where you started. So, get in, get a good sweat going, and keep it to 30 minutes.
Step 3 – Great abs are made in the kitchen
No matter how many days you train, no matter how much weight you lift, no matter how many miles you log, you will never get the body you desire if you don’t feed it right.
Not sure how to feed your body right? Follow these simple guidelines to build healthy plates meal after meal. You’ll find that you sleep better, your energy is more consistent throughout the day, and you’ll recover faster from workouts that previously would have sent you over the edge.
- Get white sugar and white flour out of your diet.
- Fill your plate with fresh vegetables, lean meats, and fresh fruits at every meal. Yes, this means vegetables for breakfast.
- Drink lots of water. Whenever you think of it, take a sip. Carry a water bottle so this is possible at all times.
- Incorporate healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, butter from grass fed cows (Try Kerrygold), cage free/free range egg yolks and coconut milk/coconut oil into your daily meals. Read why coconut oil is more than just a healthy fat here and here.
During our first meeting I ask each of my clients to establish goals – where would they like to be, or where do they see themselves 1, 3, and 6 months from now. In almost every single case, weight loss – as in a decrease in pounds on a scale – shows up on the list.
How do I build appropriate goals? Read more here.
As Americans, whether we like it or not, we are a society obsessed with numbers. And in the case of the numbers on the scale, many view that number as a direct correlation of self worth. So, it is any wonder that, as Americans have gotten fatter, our clothing sizes have gotten bigger while the size tags stay the same and our idea of the “ideal weight” has also gotten bigger? In fact the average American woman is 14 lbs heavier, and her ideal weight is 11 lbs heavier, than 20 years ago. Such a large percentage of our population is overweight that when we see a person at an “ideal weight” we don’t think of them as normal, we think of them as thin.
With the holidays coming the demand for our time and energy will become even greater. For most of us this means, despite our best intentions, time for self care like exercise gets pushed off in favor of more pressing matters.
Often there is all or nothing attitude when it comes to treating ourselves right. If we are good, we are golden, perfect, and will sacrifice to maintain our status earning admiration from our friends and peers. Yet, when we go off the rails, we usually fall hard and stay there for a while before picking ourselves back up, dusting ourselves off, and starting all over again. For many, the down part lasts between the end of November and the beginning of January.
So, how do you break the cycle? How can you fit it all in without adding 2 hours to the day or going absolutely bonkers? It’s as simple as changing your expectations and knowing the difference between a setback and a failure.
So, lets start with exercise. You don’t have to spend an hour at the gym to have it count. In fact throw that idea away all together and adopt a more realistic idea of exercise. I like Matthew McConaughey’s motto – Break a sweat at least once per day. Simple, easy, opportunities are limitless and most of all, achievable – and in a very short period of time. How short – 5 minutes or less. Not sure where to start, give this a try. Do what you have time for and smile because you moved today!
So, those of you who know me know that I almost exclusively wear Lululemon, or more recently Athleta, clothing. I made a promise to myself that when I became a Health Coach, I would only wear clothes I found comfortable – aka workout clothes.
See, this comfortable clothing battle has been raging from the time I was a little kid. Just ask my mother. I was wicked to dress. I mean, what kid won’t wear jeans. Oh yeah, this kid… I sacrifice style for comfort on the regular. Not a good habit, I know.
Anyway, imagine my excitement when I found clothing companies like Athleta and Lulu who let me have my comfort AND make me look cute when I go out in public. There is only one little problem….the cost. I learned a long time ago you get what you pay for and these clothes are worth every penny.
But, getting your hands on these awesome clothes doesn’t mean you have to pay pay full price. Did I also mention I love a good deal? If you do too, then check this out!
Since the start of the fitness craze in the 70s and 80s a hot debate has raged. What is a better workout? Is it the lycra-clad aerobics Jane Fonda made so popular, or is it lifting weights like Arnold on Muscle Beach? The answer…it depends.
CrossFit Route 1 has just changed locations (come check us out!) and that means I got a new office space. So, to celebrate, I headed down to IKEA to for some brand new office furniture…alone.
I’ve always been a “I’ll do it myself” kind of girl, and a few years ago buying an entire office worth of furniture from a place where you have to do all the heavy lifting yourself would have been a daunting task. So daunting in fact that I might not have even tried knowing that I likely wouldn’t be able to lift all of the boxes.
I wasn’t that I wasn’t in shape. I went to the gym most days of the week mixing it up between an hour long session of assorted cardio, and a strength training class called Group Power. The thing is, for all the time I put into the gym, I still had little in the way of functional strength. Lifting everyday things, like the vacuum, the laundry basket, or the groceries, felt heavy. Because of this, a task like going to IKEA alone would have been out of the question.
This time I didn’t think twice. I knew what I needed to do, and I had the confidence in my own abilities to get it done. I am stronger than I ever have been. But, even better than just plain strong – I am functionally strong. So, earlier this this week, when a new client ask me about the benefits of CrossFit, my reply was simple – it makes everything else you do in life easier.
So, reader, why do you crossfit? And, if you don’t…what is keeping you from taking the first step through the door?
Do you know what really grinds my gears? Seeing a car with this bumper sticker.
Why? Because I don’t get the big deal. What accomplishment is it to sit in your car and drive to the summit of the mountain when dozens of hikers, standing with you on the summit, have used their legs to accomplish the same feat? In my humble opinion a mountain summit is something that must be earned. There is no bumper sticker that says “These Legs Climbed Mt. Washington”, although there is a t-shirt that says “This Body Climbed Mt. Washington”. I must admit, I am a proud owner of the latter. Mt. Washington was the first summit I’d ever bagged, but you don’t see me rocking that t-shirt every day of the week. Read the rest of this entry »