Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Importance of Being Consistent

Let's talk about consistency.

At any given moment, if someone were to come up to me and ask what my biggest piece of fitness advice would be, I can say with 100% certainty that it's to be consistent. It seems like an obvious answer, but you'd be surprised how hard it is to follow through with. I know, because I have fallen victim to the pitfalls myself on numerous occasions.

When I say to be consistent, I am not telling you to consistently take a walk once a month, or to exercise five days a week when you aren't tired, or busy. Consistency takes planning, time and dedication. It's incredibly easy to make excuses about why you can't do something. Consistency forces you to regularly think about why you should do something.

Depending on your goal, there are steps that need to be followed that insure you will get there. If your goal is to lose weight, you need to always think about better choices. You need to consistently get out and walk, or go to the gym three days a week like you planned. You need to consistently prepare your own healthier meals, or chose from the lower calorie menu. This isn't to say that you can't splurge once in a while, but that splurge needs to be the exception to the rule, not the rule anymore. If your goal is muscle growth, you need to consistently lift heavy things.

After I moved to a different state a couple years ago, I let a lot of my healthier habits slide. I was suffering from anxiety and depression and although I loved the new path I had taken, it took a lot to adjust. I had never lived anywhere else in my life and I left my entire extended family behind. Pile on a car accident in which I broke my dominant hand and I completely and utterly derailed. I gained weight I wasn't used to having on my body which made the depression worse and I became an "eat the Trader Joe's cookie butter outa the jar" kinda girl. Those cycles aren't easy to break. I know that. Just telling yourself you need to do something, or making a small goal is a huge step in the right direction. It took a good year and a half after the car accident before I could reboot myself and the only way I finally accomplished it is I made a goal that I knew I could obtain. I told myself that I was going to get outside and run five days a week. I called it my weekly dedication.

Your goal might not be the same. Your goal shouldn't be the same unless it also fits your schedule and ability. Your goal could be to swim for 20 minutes, four days a week, or to take a 45 minute walk after dinner each day. Pick whatever you like and do it . . . wait for it . . . dependably!

Ha! I gotcha! You thought I was going to say consistently, didn't you?  

Anyway, when I originally set my goal, I didn't give myself any other expectation except to run five days a week. This meant that some days, I really didn't want to get out there. Some days were dreary and rainy and anybody who knows me understands that when it's raining, all I want to do is curl up in a ball with a cup of tea and The Hobbit (the book, we shall never speak of those movies.) 

But I kept a promise to myself. I would run five days a week. All I had to do was put on my shoes and get out there, run for five minutes and it would totally count! So I'd get my shoes on. I'd step outside. I'd turn on my music of choice and I'd do what I said I was going to do -- and surprise! I would usually end up doing a lot more than five minutes. Even if I ran for five minutes and walked ten it didn't matter because I did what I said I was going to do. Some days were much better than others, but that's ok. That's life. The point is that I got it done.

And I know you can get it done. Before you know it, your strive for consistency will turn into habit and it won't feel like work anymore. It will become a part of your everyday life. It will become a part of who you are.

Trainers will tell you that you will only get results if you are consistent. They tell you this because it's true. You can't learn to play the guitar if you pick it up and strum a couple chords three times a year. What they don't usually tell you however, is that consistency does just as much (and in my opinion, more) for your brain as it does for your body. You learn to depend on yourself instead of others. You learn to trust yourself and love yourself for what you can and will accomplish. Hell, buy yourself some gold stickers and build a chart so you can put those suckers on each day you followed through with your plan. Not because you need to be treated like a child, but because it's a freaking gold star and you freakin' earned that biznatch. Make it fun. Treat it like a game. I know for me my love of roleplaying games comes through when I earn new achievements on my fitness apps. Whatever keeps it fun and whatever gets you out, doing your thing every day and every week.

My husband's rule is that he isn't allowed to play any video games for the day unless he has done some form of exercise -- how's that for keeping you consistent? Another way to hold yourself accountable is to reserve an audiobook or podcast that you really enjoy only for when you are working out.

Below I have linked a few fun apps to help you on your journey. These aren't necessary of course, so don't let lack of access discourage you. If you are able though, they can be a fun way to stay consistent. I'm not paid to mention these at all. These are just some of my favorites:

Zombies, Run!  --- Want to help collect supplies and build a bunker for people during the zombie apocalypse? I know I do!

Runkeeper --- Join challenges and earn badges for new accomplishments. Track your progress and get reminders sent to keep you accountable.

Fitocracy  --- Earn points and badges for each workout and see how you compare with friends on the leaderboard! Each activity earns a different amount of points. There's nothing like a little friendly competition.

Lolofit --- Lolofit has an awesome array of fitness apps as well as constant reminders for your next workout. My favorite is the Kettlebell app.

Audible --- Join to receive access to over 180,000 audio books to keep you interested.

We're Alive --- My husband and I really enjoyed this serial podcast when we first started getting into running. Think of it as The Walking Dead for your ears.

Freethinking Fitness --- Ok, ok. So this last one's me, but what's more accountable than a real person? You'll have access to a calendar (frequently updated by yours truly) reminders, workout routines and more! You can use it via the smartphone/tablet app as well as the website.

Shameless plugging aside, what I really want is for you to achieve your goals and to know that you can achieve them. It takes some dedication, but anything that is worth doing usually does. Whatever you find helpful in keeping you persistent makes this health nerd incredibly happy. So, have fun exploring! There are probably a zillion more where that came from and if you know of any great ones I haven't mentioned be sure to leave them in the comments! What helps keep you consistent and accountable? Do you have any fun, silly or serious tricks that keep you coming back and working hard?

Just remember that all of these are tools that can help you with the process, but the real work happens inside of you.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Fighting the Motivation Troll

Come on. I know you've heard of him. He lurks under the deep dark recesses of your couch like the bridge in some Scandinavian folktale. "As soon as this episode is over, I'm going to work out," you say as you sip the last, sludgy dregs of your coffee. It's Saturday, of course. There is no excuse not to work out. Work isn't waiting for you. Dinner isn't waiting for you. Sure, you have errands but surely you can fit in thirty minutes?

"Psst!" he whispers as he gently grabs at your ankles. "I know you are tired. I know you want to relax. This is Saturday. Time to rest. Time to chill and forget the stresses of a week of mediocrity."

You feel your body sink into the couch. His voice is hypnotic and you slowly drift into apathy just to avoid the stress you felt so powerfully all work week. If you fall asleep now, will you wake up ten years later? One hundred years? Will you wake up covered in cobwebs and the detritus of a long ago era? Will your tale be told and retold again and again throughout history as a warning to others against the dangers of the fairy realm?

Ok, so maybe I am being a little dramatic but know that it's only because I have a motivation troll. See:

Motivation is the hardest part of any active lifestyle. It's not the running. It's not lifting weights or burpees. All of those things are a piece of cake in comparison to the negative thoughts that occur within your own head. Whether that being your inner bully, telling you that you can't do it so why bother, or your inner enabler telling you that the couch is more comfortable anyway, these thoughts have a way of preventing us from performing actions that will benefit us in the long run.

It's a natural phenomena for us to want to avoid pain, but sometimes pain can be a good thing. Sometimes, a little pain is necessary in order to achieve something great. It is not unreasonable, however to understand why the thought of going through it can be hard to overcome.

I suffer on and off from anxiety and depression. This is why finding motivation to me can feel like battling a gnarly little troll. I may not be able to fight it with a sword or a mace but I can fight it through activity. The more I succumb to the couch, the more I can feel it's weight on my back -- growing bigger day by day until I can't even get out of bed. When it finally occurred to me that the more I moved, the smaller and more manageable the troll became, the easier it was for me to find the necessary motivation.

Your motivation might be different from mine. That's ok. The key is to find that kindling that fuels your fires - that gets you up, even when you don't want to be up.

Almost every day I struggle to get out there. For me, however, the thought of feeling depression take over, the self loathing and the nearly constant fatigue is my motivation to get me pounding the pavement. I have come to the conclusion that I'd rather suffer through thirty minutes of running (sometimes in the cold rain) than experience the depression I feel if I don't.

And, as if it were a miracle, I start to enjoy my work out. I realized that the thought of exercise is far scarier than the exercise itself and nine times out of ten, it's easier and far more enjoyable than I anticipated. Not only that, but the longer and more consistent I am, the easier it is for me to battle the inactivity. Most of the pain comes not from the workout, but the motivation to perform the workout.

And it's not a miracle at all. It's achievement. The more you achieve, the better you can feel -- the smaller the troll will become. It doesn't take overnight, but I promise you it will happen. I can't say that getting up to exercise will ever be incredibly easy - that fighting the couch will ever be a piece of cake -- but eventually the exercise will become easier until the only obstacle you have is putting on your shoes.

And we can all put on our shoes, right?

Sunday, January 3, 2016



I suppose if you are going to get to know me, I should probably start off by being brutally honest with you.

I am not an athlete.

I enjoy keeping up with my fitness routine. I enjoy eating healthy and I love keeping up with the industry. I am told by my doctors that I am in good shape and that I am one of their patients with the least paperwork.

I am a nerd for many things and one of them is fitness. However, I enjoy many other things as well. I love to read . . . science fiction and fantasy novels. I love to crochet and marathon Netflix while doing so. I love making chocolate truffles during the holidays, with real fat and real sugar and I will never be one of those people that make exercise and fitness the forefront of their lives.

This is me at Wasteland Weekend -- basically a Mad Max cosplay festival. NERD.    

     But it is an important part of my life, and it should be an important part of yours too. I became a personal trainer because a few years back I had an epiphany. It doesn't take much to slowly lose weight and get into shape. The only thing it takes is dedication and perseverance. I originally got into running when I was fighting to lose the weight after having a baby. It wasn't much. I have never had a weight problem, but that extra ten-fifteen pounds made me uncomfortable. I had to do something to get it off which involved more than I was normally accustomed to. So I start the Couch to 5k program.
     Working out is never really easy, but I learned that it doesn't have to leave you collapsed on the street, fighting to catch your breath. I started slowly, and built up slowly. Eventually, I was running 10ks and enjoying them. This made me mad. It gave me flashbacks of High School gym class and being forced to run a mile. Nobody ever taught us how to run. They just told us to, and we did. Once the mile was done, most of us were hunched over fighting the urge to hurl.

     Why was it that I was running over 6 miles and having a blast?
      I realized that:
     1. I took baby steps. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is your fitness routine. You don't graduate High School and then become a lawyer. And . . .
     2. I discovered what I enjoyed and just kept doing that!

    So much of the fitness industry is build around "Do this and you will lose weight!" Maybe that's true. Maybe you will lose weight on their gimmick of the season, but do you enjoy doing it? Do you want to keep it up forever?
     My approach to helping others is what I call a freethinking approach. Freethinking is defined as the process of forming opinions based on your own logic and reasoning and not just blindly following what someone else has told you. My goal is to help you discover what form of fitness you enjoy. It is to help you discover what foods, and flavors you like so that we can create healthy options for you to make most of the time. It's good to indulge on occasion and that is completely okay within a healthy diet. There are no off limit foods, there are just on occasion foods. And by on occasion, it could even mean once a day.
     I've often heard people say, "Life is short so I am going to eat [insert junk food]." This is so true, and yet life IS short, so wouldn't we want to also try to be the healthiest version of ourselves? There is nobody telling us that we can't be healthy and then have that office doughnut on Friday.
     I really want to help everyone achieve their goals. You could be like myself, and want to be healthy, fit and indulge from time to time, or you might want to get ready for your next fitness competition and start a really strict exercise and diet plan -- I can help with that too, but my message is that you don't have to live like the latter if you would be at your happiest with the former.

     The healthier you get, the better you will feel and your goal might even change halfway through. Sometimes we don't know how lousy we feel until we don't anymore. It might hurt a little at first, but it won't be unbearable and I will be here to help and encourage you every step of the way. Have courage and faith in yourself. You deserve it!