Monday, June 16, 2014

Be a Lion. Not a Sheep.

   I am officially in "post season" and couldn't be any more excited! Competition was more than I could have ever expected in every sense of the word: more fun, more challenging, more empowering, more taxing, and mostly more rewarding than I could've imagined. It gave me a whole new love and appreciation for the sport and my fellow athletes after experiencing first hand just how much discipline it takes to get to that stage. 
    Sure, from the outside it looks totally glamorous. And in reality, certain aspects are in fact, as glamorous as they appear but most certainly not all. 
   When you see a competitor prepare to hit the stage you can see many things: you can see their beautiful suit that shows off their "perfect" physique, you can see the over-the-top hair and makeup and the sparkly jewelry that pulls the whole look together, you may even see the confidence that she exudes when performing on stage. You may see these things and think how fantastic the whole "competition thing" is but what you won't see are the many nights she wanted to throw in the towel, the hours of cardio she pushed herself to finish when all she wanted to do was throw on sweats and watch tv. You won't see the thought and dedication that went into her meal preps or how many party invitations she turned down bc she had her sights set on something bigger and the countless hours she spent practicing her posing won't be tattooed to her forehead. You will never know the mental struggles they overcame. Those details are only known by the person who's enduring them. This is where the gold is. It's the whole reason for competing. It's proving to yourself that you're stronger than you think. It's proof that you can commit to yourself even when things get ugly. Especially when things get ugly. 
   Being able to walk across the stage is the cherry on top of the journey. It's a competitors moment to show the world that despite all the difficulties, all the crap, and all the exhaustion, they're able to stand poised, proud and with a huge damn smile on their face. Yes-the stage can feel incredibly glamorous but it's only a few short minutes compared to the hours, months or even years of hard, mentally emotionally and physically taxing work that they put into their bodies and into their craft. It's a few minutes of glory that simply says to the world that you didn't give up and you didn't quit on yourself. It's a moment that, if achieved, can change your life forever. 
   So often I'm asked by people around me how I'm able to just "not drink" when I go out some where or not over indulge on a piece of cake. This question used to make me feel superficial, like I was giving up life experiences with friends in pursuit of my idea of the "perfect body". I used to try to motivate them through my answers by explaining how rewarding it feels to make positive decisions for your body blah blah blahh. This is plain CRAP! Why is it that today it is so common for "bad behavior" to be encouraged (ie: eating terribly unhealthy food and writing it off as a life indulgence or drinking too much alcohol and justifying it with something as lame as YOLO) but when someone decides to make a positive change like cutting out processed foods or watching sugar intake then all of sudden everyone's got an opinion? 
   I was constantly being accused of being unhealthy bc I was on the 'thinner side' or that I was being extreme because I drank a gallon of water a day! The craziest were the comments I received about me "over exerting" myself in the gym. What the what?! Why did I let these people ever get to me?? 
   I seriously used to contemplate if they had a point, if maybe I did need more balance and normalcy in my life. Then I realized that is was far more simple than than that. The truth is....I pass on the cake and the alcohol and bust my ass in the gym instead because very simply put; I want to perfect my physique more than I want to quit. I want to push harder more than I want to be average. I want to excel more than I want to be complacent. 
   When I was finally able to know this in my heart I was never afraid of the critics. Society today is complacent with mediocrity. If I don't do anything else in my lifetime I hope that I can encourage one person to stop worrying about the opinions of others and to start doing THEM. To do what makes them happy and to say f**k the ones who tell you you can't. F**k the ones who tell you how hard it will be and do what you want to do. Because after all...a lion never loses sleep over the opinions of sheep. 

Today and everyday for that matter...I challenge you to be a lion, don't be a sheep 👊

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Blahhhhhs

   It's been SO difficult this past week to keep myself motivated in the gym. I'm not sure if it was the (unusually) cold weather or just the "I don't wanna's" but for whatever reason slipping into my gym clothes and getting my butt out the door seemed impossible. But whatever, it needed to be done. 
  Even though a few of my workouts were less than on point (very weak and lagging around) I'm proud that I at least showed up and put whatever energy I had in me, into my workout. I had to constantly remind myself of the 4 little agreements that everyone should make with themselves:
1) Be impeccable with your word 
2) Don't take anything personally 
3) Don't make assumptions 
And last but not least
   "Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret."
   This past week I can truly say that I did my best. Sure, it wasn't a killer workout, my legs/arms didn't feel like jello when leaving and I certainly wanted to be anywhereee other than in that damn gym BUT that doesn't mean I let myself down. 
I've spent too many years beating myself up over my own perceived failures and I don't plan on going back to that life of self pity. NO ONE HAS TIME FOR THAT SHIT. And if you do, you've got time to get in the gym! So whatever your best is today, give it ALL. 
   Stop letting your mind convince you that your body isn't capable! Our minds are our biggest obstacle. When you gain control of your thoughts, you gain control of your actions and your life. What is more empowering than that?!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Can't Argue with Science!

I was lying in bed last night and milling over the content of my whopping 3 blog posts and I began to overwhelm myself. Then I thought, well hell if I’m feeling like it’s information overload then your heads must be spinning. So considering the fact that I’m delving into nutrition this week, I’ll make an extra special effort to simplify the information without losing out on any essential points.  As always, if anything on here is in the least bit unclear I would love to help you understand. Please don’t hesitate to send me an email! The link to my email will be at the bottom of this post.

Last week we covered a basic format of the training schedule that I follow. I’m not a fan of fad workout plans/diets simply based off of my results, or lack thereof, so for me it was really about cutting out all that noise and going back to the basics. Going back to a more traditional way of exercising (weight training) and eating (balanced diet).  There are a million different weight loss gimmicks out there; teas, shakes, body wraps, pills, even sugar-like granules (what?) that all promise an outrageous claim like, “Blasts Belly Fat” “Drop 10lbs in 5 days” or my personal favorite “Blocks Carb Absoption!”. I think you are all smart enough to know that these products are 100% BOGUS and will only cause you to lose funds, not fat. So if you can’t take all those nifty little weight loss supplements, how you gonna lose any weight? Let’s take it allllll the way back to our early health classes when we learned about calories in versus calories out.

If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. It’s that simple. Our bodies are extremely efficient machines. We come into this world pre-programmed. Yes, all of our bodies are different so how quickly and where exactly we will gain and lose fat is all relative but how our bodies operate remain the same. I hate to break it to ya but it’s science people, we can’t change it. Since we can’t change it, we must learn how to manipulate it.

I personally follow a diet (eugh I hate that word, it has such a negative connotation, right?!) commonly called IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) but also referred to as “flexible dieting” or “counting macros” but it’s all the same thing. A very simple way of describing this plan is: it is a guide for maintaining a balanced diet that is ultimately aimed at reaching a specific calorie amount. In other words, you determine your daily calorie amount based off of your fitness goal (lose weight, gain weight, maintain) and then determine your food sources so that you consume all necessary Macronutrients. Your Macronutrients are: Fat, Carbohydrate & Protein. This is what creates your balanced diet.

For example, currently I am aiming my fitness goals atgaining weight (until Feb. 1st) so my calorie and macrobreak down looks like this on my normal training days…

Calorie Amount to Consume/day= 2,108 (Kcals)

Fat = 52 g

Carb = 270g

Protein = 140g

This means that every normal training day I choose foods that help me “hit” my daily macros. I know that if I consume 52 grams of fat, 270 carbs and 140 grams of protein that I will have met my daily calorie total. How do I know this? SCIENCE!


Every gram of Fat = 9 calories

Every gram of Carbohydate = 4 calories

Every gram of Protein = 4 calories

This is why foods heavy in fat are also heavy in calories and keep you feeling full for longer!

The best part about this plan?

You have virtually zero restrictions on your food sources!Your body cannot distinguish a difference between the sugary carbs you absorbed  from your bowl of breakfast strawberries and the handful of skittles you’re about to pop in your mouth. It only knows how to break down theirMacro (and Micro) nutrients. I like to think of it as your digestion system is the most loyal employee you’ll ever have; it doesn’t question your decisions, it just does its job.That being said, I wouldn’t suggest wolfing down a chicken for protein then snacking the rest of the day on peanut butter M&M s to hit your fat and carb amounts, because of a little thing called micronutrients. Your Micronutrients (fiber, Vitamin A, C, D, etc) won’t determine whether you gain or lose weight but they directly influence your health so these levels should be monitored as well.  

Generally, I do my best to get the majority of my calories/macros from minimally processed whole foods (think: lower tiers of food pyramid) for health and performance reasons. Then if I want to satisfy my sweet tooth/junk food craving, I just make sure that it still fits within my daily macro requirements. The 80/20 rule is my gauge in this area, 80% or more of your calories should come from whole foods.  This allows you to satisfy your cravings when they do come up without feeling guilty. This aspect of flexible dieting really changed my life. I was always choosing foods blindly simply because I thought they were “healthy”.  Now, I’m able to not only make conscious decisions about my food (not eating unknown portion sizes with zero regard for nutritional value) but I don’t stress after I splurge because I know with certainty that I have not exceeded my overall calorie/macro amount.

If you want to know more about this method of tracking your food intake (flexible dietingthere are tons of articles and videos online. You can visit and use their IIFYM calculator to find out what your macros should be or contact a coach who specializes in this form of dieting.BEWARE: as with any other diet/fitness plan, there are great coaches out there and then some NOT so great ones. Really make sure he/she understands the science behind the method.  A proven track record is great and a reference is even better! My coach Brian Melancon, owner of C620Nutrition, offers services that are completely diet/macro based.  You can contact him for a consultation. He’s the best and will definitely hook you up!

Along with my coaches help I also “follow” many fitness pages/InstaGram accounts of athletes who practice flexible dieting. Many will post recipes with the macros already calculated for you or offer tips for success. In the mean time, I’ll be working on posting my favorite recipes and full menu break downs.

While this is an individual sport, it’s definitely accomplished with group effort so don’t be afraid to ask when you need it!

I hope “flexible dieting” was explained in a way that’s not only easy to understand but also easy to implement in your daily life.  Before I go, here are a few items that I can’t live without. If you make these small purchases, your food tracking experience will go much smoother…

MyFitnessPal- FREE in the App Store 

This is the absolute FIRST thing you need to do beforestarting a flexible diet plan.

-Tracks all foods that you eat throughout the day

-Displays Macro break down clearly on Home screen, making it very easy for beginners

-Browse nutrition info entered by other users

-Most barcodes on packages will “scan” and pull up the nutrition content

-Enter your own nutrition info for food items & even create your own “meals” for the stuff you eat often (ex: spaghetti) & many other features

*if you don’t have a smart phone you can create and maintain an account online via desktop/other device

*I always double check the accuracy of the nutrition information before “adding” a food to my day.  They can beincorrect simply due to an updated product with slight macro change that was not updated on the app, slight product variation, human error, etc.

Food Scale - $20-$30 online or large stores such as Walmart

My Husband and I have owned 4 different scales throughout our macro-counting life. Our favorite was TheBiggest Loser scale ($22.90 at walmart) because not only was it inexpensive but it we found it to be the most accurate and definitely the most well made.  It was actually the first scale that Jarred purchased when he started flexible dieting roughly 3 years ago and it just broke on us a few weeks ago :(

-This is how you will weigh out any foods that are calculated in grams, ounces or pounds

-It is not REQUIRED but HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to purchase this item but it does help you to be very accurate when calculating, which is the ultimate goal

Measuring Spoons/Cups - $10 - $20 online or in most stores

The good thing is that many of you already have these in your home!

-You will use these when a measurement in grams is unavailable. IE: milk


The way you track your progress can be done a few different ways:  Scale, Measurements, Pictures

Since the changes I make in my diet are so slight and gradual, I find that the scale is the best way to accurately track my progress. The problem with the scale is that many people have a very unhealthy relationship with it. It is important to remember that its not the NUMBER you need to be focusing on but rather if there is any change. IE: if you are aiming to lose fat and your weight jumps from 157lbs to 158.8 in 2 weeks, you can safely assume that your calorie amount is too high and you can thenadjust it appropriately.

-weigh in at the same time every day to ensure accuracy. I would advise weighing in first thing in the morning afteryou’ve dashed to the bathroom for your morning pee andbefore you take a sip or bite of anything

-weighing in each morning gives you the best gauge on your average weight. Stress, sleep and carb sources can all affect water retention so weighing in daily will help you identify an irregular weigh-in. If you were to only weigh in weekly, you may by unknowingly holding water and inevitably basing your progress off of a false weigh in.

-remove all clothing before hopping on

-after weighing in, write down your weight or put it in your phone

-now go to the mirror and check ya lil sexy self out! I mean, who doesn’t love to start their day off naked?!

If you have any questions, email me!

If you are interested in macro coaching or have questions, email Brian!

If you want to complain about your day, email your friend!

Just Kidding.

Not really.

Until next time,

Have a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious week, yall :)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Weight Training For Beginners

We’ve all been there. Sweating, exhausted and panting over our beloved *enter cardio machine of choice here*. Mine was the elliptical. I loved that thing. It was gonna glide me into that perfect physique that I believed I was always meant to have but was denied to me by the ‘Hot Body’ gods. But this week we will be different, this week we will take an active part in changing our own (and as a result, possibly others) perspective on a cardio based workout plan. This week I challenge you to drop the cardio complex and begin a life of weight training in the gym. I can already feel the reluctance so let me ask you this: Has the cardio you’ve been doing gotten you the body that you want? If the answer is yes, then keep on goin' girl and do what you love! If the answer is no then I urge you to jump in to this challenge with both feet and never look back because trust me, you won’t want to.
Before we get to the technical stuff I wanted to address some common issues that tend to push people away from the gym. The first being that many of us feel that we need to be ‘fit’ in order to go to the gym when in fact, everyone was and is a beginner at some point.  We need to love ourselves enough to allow ourselves to be a beginner and stop beating ourselves up over the fact that we weren’t born an expert in this field. No one was but the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be in a position where the gym feels very comfortable to you and that’s when the fun really starts!
The other, possibly more crippling fear is what I like to call, gym-timidation. I myself have walked out of a workout because I was intimidated by the girl next to me who was beasting out 20lb bicep curls as I was attempting to perfect my zero weight squat. How silly. I allowed her (very apparent) hard work in the gym make me feel insecure and inadequate when it should have made me feel inspired and determined. DO NOT worry about where you fall in the spectrum of fitness. DO NOT feel inferior when using lower weights and certainly DO NOT compete with anyone but yourself in the gym. DO focus on where you want to be. DO focus on how far you’ve come (even if it’s just walking through the doors). And lastly, DO push yourself to your maximum potential because at the end of the day you are the one wearing the evidence of your labor.
Ariiiiiiight y’all get the idea, now on to the technical stuff...
Well I don’t know about you but personally I’m a HUGE fan of lists. I mean, HUGE. I literally make a list for everything that I can rationalize needing one. I developed this habit when I was in the 4th grade and realized that I was possibly one of the most scatter brained humans to have ever walked the planet. No seriously, ask any of my friends, if they could surgically implant my cell phone, wallet and keys in my body it would’ve been done about 4 years ago and we probably wouldn’t have been late to every event that I accompanied them to. Sorry guys. I’m workin’ on it. So yeah…back to the list thing. 
Too many times I would walk into the gym with no plan in mind and walk out 30 minutes later feeling disappointed because I hadn’t really done anything. I knew I had to somehow make sense of this whole “weight lifting” thing and kind of take my own approach rather than just follow what someone else did. I noticed that when I followed a routine that I found in a magazine or anywhere that half of the time I wasn’t getting a well rounded work out and the other half of the time I was frustrated because I didn’t have the equipment or machines needed to actually do the workout. I hope my explanation allows you to really create something for yourself because you’ll be more inclined to keep up with it that way. We will start with a simple approach of formulating our routine off of our lists.
So for our 1st list we are going to focus on the parts of the body. I’ve found that, for me, training by isolating my muscle groups really allows me to work towards the body that I want versus compound movements that are meant to train multiple parts of your body at once, these are usually full body workouts. This is not to say that those workouts aren’t beneficial or necessary, it’s just personal preference. I like being able to really focus my mind and body on specific areas, giving them my undivided attention.
The first time I did this my body part list looked something like this:
Biceps (front of the arm)
Triceps (back of the arm)
Shoulders (aka: delts)
Back (both upper and lower)
Hamstrings (back of the thigh)
Quads (front of the thigh)
After you have this in front of you (either this screen or on your own paper) you must make a decision on how many days you will actually be able to go into the gym. It doesn’t help you to be overly ambitious in this area, IE: choosing 6 days to start, so really think about what is feasible for you and your family. Weekends were always GREAT days for me to workout because I didn’t have work taking up most of my day so for me when I started weight lifting I knew that I could go on Saturday and Sunday and that I could push myself to go to the gym at least twice after work so 4 was the magic number I started with. If you can give 5 days that’s even better, and 6..well you get the idea. However, 7 days of the week is never advised for weight training (there are, of course, exceptions to this rule) because your body needs some time to rest and recover. 
For your 2nd list you will break up your body parts into groups based off of the number of days you will be training in the gym. Below is an example of both a 4 and 5 day workout plan.
4 days per week                                                     5 days per week
Day #1                                                                       Day #1
Bicep, Tricep & Shoulder                                       Bicep & Tricep
Day #2                                                                       Day #2
Quads, Glutes                                                           Quads & Glutes                                           
Day #3                                                                       Day #3
Chest, Upper & Lower Back                                   Chest & Shoulders
Day #4                                                                       Day #4
Hamstrings, Calfs, Abs                                           Hamstring & Calf
                                                                                    Day #5
                                                                                    Upper/Lower Back & Abs
**This is only an example, you can have your own variation ** BUT if you notice, upper and lower body are never worked out in the same day. This ensures that you will not over work that muscle group the next day. I personally tend to choose muscle groups by geographic relevance. IE….muscles that are near each other/muscles that tend to work “together”.
So now that you know what body part will be worked on what day, you need to decide which exercises you want to do for each respective part. When I first set out on my journey in the gym I decided that I would complete 3 exercises per body part. For example, I started with the 4 day plan so on Day #1 I would complete 3 bicep exercises, 3 tricep exercises and 3 shoulder exercises and I was DONE!
That’s probably my favorite part of lifting weights in the gym, that it’s not based off of the time you’re there, it’s based off of the work you put in. I was no longer a slave to the gym-clock; I wasn’t checking it every ten minutes to see when I had made an hour.  Instead, I was rockin’ and rollin’ in the gym, crossing workouts off like hot cakes (the most satisfying part of writing a list is crossing it off, right?!) I was zoning the world out and focusing on my breath, my music, my reps, my muscles working, focusing on everything else BUT the real world. Before I knew it I had crossed off my last workout and I had been in the gym for OVER an hour. What??? Did that really happen? Did I just ENJOY my time in the gym? Yep, I sure did brotha mayne, and ya know why? Because I was doing what I wanted to do, I was walking out of the gym feeling accomplished rather than disappointed. I wasn’t beating myself up over not being able to “keep up” in the boot camp class anymore; I was completing similar workouts on my own time schedule and was enjoying both the time I devoted to my workouts and my results much more.  I was focusing on MY problem areas rather than following a plan that targeted the general female problem areas.
Formulating your own workout plan is not only empowering but it’s exciting! You get to hand craft the muscle groups you want to focus on thus building the body of your dreams.
“So what exercises do I do?” Well, that’s up to YOU! Do you already have a favorite? Is there one you’ve always wanted to try? Is there one that causes you difficulty and you want to improve on it? Only you have that answer.
But would I leave y’all hangin’ like that? C’monnnn….of course not! Below is a sample of a FULL WEEK work out plan.  I chose my top 3 favorite (of the moment, because they are always changing) for each body part. I will do my best to create some videos for all you visual learners out there like myself! In the mean time, YouTube is a great resource for watching what “proper form” looks like; I’ve attached some videos for reference.
Sample Workout Plan
Day #1: Bicep, Tricep & Shoulder
B1: Dumbbell Curls | 3(sets) x(of) 12(reps) for each arm; can be done one at a time or simultaneously Short Video of DB Curls Detailed Video 
T1: Overhead Cable Tricep Extensions | 3x12 Overhead Tricep Ext. these really help you isolate your triceps
S1: Lateral DB Raises | 3x12 Lateral Raise Video < I was diggin’ his beer reference, of course
B2: Hammer Curls | 3x12 Video of Hammer Curl Form
T2: Overhead Tricep Extension | 3x12 Tricep Extension Video
S2: DB Overhead Press | 3x12 Overhead Press for Shoulders
B3: Cable Curls | 3x12 Video of Cable Bicep Curls
T3: DB Tricep Kick Back | 3x12 (each arm) Tricep Kick Back
S3: Arnold Press (w/ DBs) | 3x12 Best Arnold Press Video I Could Find
Day #2: Quads & Glutes
Q1: Quad Extension Machine | 3x12 Example of Quad Extension
G1: Cable Glute Kick Back | 3x12 (each leg) Glute KickBacks slow and controlled
Q2: Lunges (with or without DBs/Barbell) | 3x15 (each leg) Basic Lunge
G2: Hip Abductor Machine | 3x25 How To Use the Hip Abductor Machine
Q3: SQUATS (AKA: your best friend) this is a compound movement that will do WONDERS for you, I promise Proper Squat Form
            With a BB/zero weight to start
            3 x 8-10 reps
Really focus on form, push through your heels and squuueeeezzzeeeee those glutes ladies!!!!
Day #3: Chest, Upper & Lower Back
C1: DB Chest Press | 3x10 DB Chest Press Form
U1: Cable High Row | 3x10 High Row Video- Many Variations
L1: Banded HyperExtension | 3x10 Banded HyperExtension Video
C2: Chest Press Machine | 3x10 Chest Press Machine Form
U2: Bent Over DB Row | 3x10 Bent Over DB Row you can also do these one arm at a time, resting your weight with other arm against a bench/something fixed
L2: Lower Back Extension Machine | 3x10 HyperExtension Machine
C3: Cable Chest Fly | 3x10 can be done with cable high or low
U3: Lat Pull Downs | 3x10 Lat Pull Down Video
L3: SuperMan  | 3x10 each side Example of the SuperMan Workout
Day #4: Hamstring, Calf & Abs
H1: Hamstring Curl (sitting or lying) | 3x10 Example of the "lay down" curl
C1: Calf Press | 3x15 toes pointed straight ahead Calf Press/Raise
A1: Leg Lifts | 3x15 Laying Example  Hanging Example very slowwww and CONTROLLED
H2: Stiff Leg Dead Lift | 3x12 Proper Form for Stiff Dead Lift
C2:  Calf Press | 3x15 toes pointed inwards, like a duck QUACK QUACK!
A2: Plank | 3 x :30 – 1:00 (30 second – 1 minute) The Plank
H3: Traditional Dead Lift | 3x12  this is another GREAT compound movement that should be a staple in your routine Standard Deadlift Technique
C3: Calf Press | 3x15 toes pointed outwards, like a penguin...errrr what sound do they make?!
A3: Side Raises in Side Plank stance | 3x15 per side Side Plank Raises

**NOTE: Form is the most important aspect as a beginner.  THINK about the muscle you’re targeting, feel it as it’s working! Begin with a light weight/no weight until you’ve mastered your form. There is no exercise in the world worth injuring yourself over!!!**
Once you feel you’ve mastered your form, try adding in higher weights. You can experiment with lower reps as you raise your weight. For example: Week #1 you were able to complete your Lateral Raises using 3lb weights with ease, Week #2 you can drop your reps from 12 to 10 and try using 5lb DBs!
Now that you have all the basics figured out, get your butt in the gym and start perfecting that form! And while you’re there, scout out new equipment you want to incorporate into your future routines!
PLEASE, if you have any questions at all do not hesitate to leave a comment or contact me directly at 
I would love to connect with you and help in any way that I can!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Address the Stress

Your health dictates so much in your life: your performance level at work, whether or not you make it to the gym that day or even if you get out of bed. So if something has that great of an influence in our lives, wouldn’t it only make sense to make every effort to protect and preserve it?
            Every single day we are exposed to hundreds of stressors.  Stress comes from external circumstances like when you watch your bank account dwindle after paying this month’s bills or that pile of clothes that just won’t fold itself no matter how many Harry Potter-esque spells you cast upon it. Stress also comes from internal factors like when your mind keeps telling you the blog you’re writing is unbelievably trivial and to toss it in the trash. Both forms of stress can be harmful to your mental and physical self and if not released, will manifest in less obvious ways.
            Stress is a form of energy and as we’ve been taught since we were very young, energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only transferred.  For sake of this article we’ll refer to the transference of stress as “stress release”.  If we do not give our stress a release then its only option is to remain trapped.  This then creates a “fight or flight” response within our bodies and we do one of two things: 1) resist the stress with even more stress and produce and agitated demeanor or 2) have a complete meltdown and kick and scream until the problem fixes itself.  In either case we’re still left with the problem at hand and need to find a solution, or a release. 
            I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, a gastrointestinal disease, in 2008 and ever since then I’ve been forced to really redirect some things in my life in order to have less stress. See, my disease THRIVES off of stress, it’s the heart and soul of my condition but with the help of some truly amazing doctors/drugs and a lot of personal growth I was declared “in remission” as of December 2012! Interestingly enough, it wasn’t at this point that I saw just how drastically stress affected my life but more recently, namely around the time of my wedding.
            Yeah yeah yeah, every woman stresses when the “Big Day” approaches, trust me, I’m not about to give you a laundry list of the problems I ran into, you’ve heard it all before. It was how my body reacted to the stress that was shocking to me. By this time I was in remission for about 7 months. Usually when I would run into stress I would go into a “flare up” and the ulcers would begin to form.  This would pretty much ensure that I would be in uncomfortable pain for at least the next 6 weeks until we got my flare up “under control”.  The ulcers/flare up was my body’s form of stress release but now that I am on a stellar infusion medication called Remicade I simply do not have this reaction anymore. 
            When my schedule began to fill up between work, the gym, meeting with vendors and making my own decorations I decided that the best way to handle my stress was to manage my time better.  In theory, this was an excellent revelation. However, in hindsight the execution was embarrassingly poor. I decided that I needed to devote any extra time not spent at work to our wedding plans which meant that there was no time for the gym. I successfully chose to surround myself with stress and took out the only form of release in my life, working out.
            In the weeks approaching the wedding I broke out in hives THREE times, one being only an hour before my bridal shower. My immune system was completely shot from the stress, I was sick with a cough, sore throat and fever that started exactly one month before our wedding and didn’t improve for another 6 weeks prior to our day.  And to top it all off, I couldn’t zip my wedding dress! That was the moment that I broke down. I considered just living off of coffee and air until after the ceremony but seeing as this could possibly result in death I contacted my coach instead.  He advised me on how to safely reduce my water retention so that I could at the very least zip the dress. Which is exactly what happened. I was able to zip the dress and only that. And it looked a little something like this……….

…..the struggle was real.

What was the most shocking part of this all?

The next morning, in a desperate attempt to relive the most beautiful night of our lives I slipped on my dress just one more time. I didn’t know when I would ever have the chance again so even though it was going to be a bit of a struggle, it would be worth it. Wait what? What was that? The dress is already zipped?! Oh yes it was! And just a wee bit loose I might add! But what had changed? Not my time in the gym, obviously and certainly not my diet because I was eating my own weight in boudin balls. (For those of you who have never had boudin, I warn you, do not start now. It will be your demise.  Its components will disturb you but the taste. Oh my. Out. Of. This. World.) So naturally I allowed myself as many as I wanted because calories don’t count on your wedding anyway, right? Right. So that leaves us with the only logical component, the absence of stress. 
Stress can cause you to hold or “retain” water amongst many other things and now that I had finally released my stress the night before (between dancing, laughing with friends and family, a few adult beverages and being on the most intense life high) I wasn’t experiencing any of the negative side effects I had been dealing with only 24 hours earlier. This was a huge wake up call for me. I was no longer going to let stress impact my life in such a huge way.
But how can it be that easy? Well, it’s not. If it was, I’d have that sh*t mastered by now but it’s something I work at every single day because it’s worth it to me. I’ve seen how just a few changes in my reaction to/perception of things can allow me to have a little less stress and a little more enjoyment out of my life. Mainly for me it was realizing that the stresses will always be there so it’s more about gaining control over my reactions to the stress.
It’s something we’re all capable of and I believe as a whole “we” all ultimately want out of life but how we get “there” will vary like night and day.  If you’re having trouble dealing with stress in your life there are some questions you can ask yourself: What are your “triggers” to stress? Can you do some organizing in your daily tasks to lighten your load? Are you actually taking on too much?
Stress triggers are as unique as we are so you may or may not already know what yours are depending on how well you already know yourself.  I have zero problems admitting that I still learn things about myself all the time. When you do realize that something in particular creates stress in your life you obviously try to avoid it at all costs. But what if this stress is something that’s unavoidable, like bills for instance. HAVE A PLAN.  Know when this stress will take place and know how you will handle it.
If it’s simply day to day issues that have you feeling worn out then take a step back and look at what exactly your daily tasks entail. Stress can come from one major source but the majority of our stress is a culmination of small seemingly unimportant stressful events. Sure, work is unpredictable but you already know that every morning, in addition to work, you need to make yourself breakfast, walk your dogs and somehow get yourself to the gym 3 days out of this work week so plan for it! Take advantage of your coffee pot’s automatic function, make a breakfast sandwich that you can eat on your walk and pack your gym bag the night before so you can’t give yourself an excuse! Whatever your situation is, identify those small mundane tasks and coordinate them in a way that your life flows better so you’re able to deal with the “big stuff” more easily.
But sometimes we are taking on too much.  If you have trouble telling people “no”, you’re a self proclaimed people pleaser, or you think that things are always better off when you handle them than this is most likely a problem in your life. First ask yourself; am I using my waking/productive hours efficiently? If not, start doing that. Now. Cut out the crap that’s not adding anything positive into your life (like the countless hours of FaceBook/Instagram stalking that I know you do) to make room for things that are, like staying in the gym an extra 30 minutes or cooking yourself a homemade lunch for the next day.  Yes, I’m aware that this can all sound a bit cheesy but I promise if you make the extra effort to remove stress from your life, your body will thank you over and over again.
And lastly, the finisher, REALEASING STRESS.  Now that we’ve identified where our stress comes from and are using our time efficiently on things that matter most- what do we do with the stress that’s still there? We get rid of it! It’s my personal belief that stress should be met with equal (or greater) force of release. In other words, your form of release should conduct energy that is as powerful, if not more so, than the stress you’ve experienced. For example, you’ve just watched that horrible Sarah McLachlan commercial and now you feel the immense pressure to save the animal world. Calm yaself, have a good cry (<release of tension) and change the channel. But to alleviate anything from your average nagging stresses to the heartache after a breakup, physical activity can be the best tool to use! 
Personally I prefer to lift weights because of how it makes me feel during and after and obviously a huge added bonus is an aesthetic change (let’s be real here, we’d all be lying if we said that wasn’t one of the most badass aspects) but in terms of physical stress relief, this is only one of many options. Options like kickboxing, cycling and boot camp style workouts (like Crossfit) allow you to work out some tension while using your fellow athletes for encouragement and motivation.  If a more slowed down approach is better for you (whether personal preference or recovering from an injury) then step out of your comfort zone and try a yoga or pilates class where the instructor can give you some one on one attention if you have concerns about your technique. 
Just as we ended last week, whatever you choose make sure you’re staying true to yourself so that you can maintain these changes. We are setting ourselves up for SUCCESS here people!

Stress Free :) 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Goal Oriented

                In short, I am a “20something” female from South Louisiana with a passion for fitness. I’m not a doctor, a dietician or even a trainer.  I don’t pre-plan every meal and I don’t take a million supplements.  I’m not in the habit of starving myself or doing hours of cardio. However, I am consistent with my workouts, conscious in the kitchen, I strive for my goals and I have seen great results from the methods I’ve adopted.  Above all, I have a passion to help others daily, especially when helping them reach their fitness goals. It is my hope that the information I provide might inspire someone to be the best version of THEMSELVES and to kick start a training program today! This blog is my attempt at making a difference, my effort to contribute to the fitness community and my crack at getting others motivated in the gym!  So however you happened to come across this page, I am thrilled to have you. I just have one question for you- Are you ready to make a lifestyle change today?
The start of any fitness journey is always filled with excitement; whether it be fueled by excitement for the boot camp you just signed up for, the new workout clothes you recently purchased or even just the inner belief that you are about to transform into the hottest living being your ex has ever laid eyes on.  Whatever it is, it gets you there for the first time. It fuels you to be present and to go after your goals tenaciously.  But what keeps you going? What sustains that initial excitement and energy? Simply put: goals.
                Goals keep you in the gym, goals sustain the motivation and goals force consistency but only if you let them.  Now, it is important to realize that not all goals are created equally.  They come in many different shapes and sizes and are as specific or as general as you choose to make them.  Most importantly, whatever goal you choose to set for yourself, know that. it. is. yours.
                People can influence you both to pursue and to abandon your goals but only you fail or attain them.  So whatever your goal is today, know that YOU control it. Only you can make it and only you can break it!  Personally, I’ve gone through so many “goals” in the gym it would make your head spin like something out of the Exorcist.  I tried any and every “get-fit-quick” scheme there was.  If there was a new diet or “cleanse” to hit the market, you better believe I was first in line to try it! But after many failed attempts at my “fit lifestyle” I decided to stop trying to do things “my way” and I started reevaluating both my goals and my approach.
                Like I said, I have been through many ebbs and flows throughout my “fitness journey” but there were 4 significant shifts in my goals that I believe led me to the lifestyle I live today.
Method of Execution
To have a “perfect” body
Wishing, obsessing, diet restrictions, lifestyle restrictions, etc.
Zero physical change, binge eating to satisfy cravings, binge drinking, depression over failure, resolution to “start again on Monday”
To lose body fat
Ran 4 miles a day/cardio for 45min a day, only lean proteins, no carbohydrates after lunch
“skinny fat” look (we will address this term later on), little to no bodily changes, increasing consumption of alcohol to hide hunger pangs
To “tone up”
Little bit of weight training was incorporated, still doing heavy cardio daily, very restricted diet (I only incorporated what I thought to be “healthy carbs”)
Did not push myself 100% in the gym due to fear of “bulking”, nervously burning off any muscular “gains”
To have a strong and muscular build
Heavy weight training 4x/week, no cardio, began counting macronutrients ( a theory commonly called “flexible dieting”)
Happy with my body, wanting to help others achieve their fitness goals, wanting to go to the gym
                I must give a large amount of credit to my boyfriend at the time (now Husband) who urged me to get in the gym and start lifting weights. He opened that door for me and let me know it was possible, that it was possible for ANYONE who wanted it! As a female I was so worried I would become “manly” looking, I only wanted to “target” my fat areas. I hate to be the one to break it to you ladies but…….IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY! First off, on to the subject of “targeting fat”; the article I previously referenced does a great job of explaining this system but I’ll go ahead and summarize the general points.  Your body chooses where it stores or loses fat, you do not have a say in this matter...all we can control is how much fat we gain or lose.  This is not to say that our bodies cannot change over time because they most certainly can. You may find the first time you cut your body fat that you lose fat very quickly in your stomach yet on your next cycle of cutting fat you lose more quickly in your hips. It is also very important to remember that just like you cannot lose 20 pounds over night, you cannot gain 20 pounds over night. When it comes to “bulking”, we are simply not equipped with the amount of testosterone necessary to create that “bulky” look we’re all so irrationally afraid of.  We just aren’t.  And if you’re on the other end of your screen thinking that you’re that 1 in a Million gal who happens to bust open this theory. Relax, this is the only time I will enjoy saying this, YOU AREN’T THAT SPECIAL! Sorry, you’re chocked full of estrogen just like the rest of us J
                So now that we’ve worked through our bulking fears let’s get back to our goals. Personally, I believe it is important to have several goals simultaneously; a long term goal, an intermediate goal and a short term goal. A long term goal is one that you carry out for life. Some examples of long term goals are, “I want to live a healthy lifestyle” “I want to be an ambassador for health in my family” “I will work out to live a more stress free life”.  An intermediate goal is one that that you may see come into fruition in the upcoming months or even years. “I want to lower my cholesterol” “I want to run a marathon” “I want to lose 10% body fat” are all examples of an intermediate goal.  Lastly, set a short term goal to achieve for yourself.  Some examples of short term goals are; “I want to run for an extra half mile this week” “I want to hit my PR (personal record) in squats today” or “I’ll substitute my nighttime dessert for something more substantial”.  Any of these goals can be changed to make them your own; no goal is too big or too small.  However, when choosing your goals make sure that they are attainable for you physically at this time.  There is no quicker way to discourage ourselves than to set goals that cannot be reached and we are no longer in the habit of failure! We WILL set goals and we WILL attain them!
                So what are my goals you ask?  Well this brings us to the meat and potatoes of this blog.  Currently my long term goal is to maintain a healthy physique so my husband has a healthy partner for life and so my future children have a happy healthy momma!  My intermediate goal is the one that I couldn’t wait to share with y’all; my goal is to compete in a Bikini Competition.  Currently, I am still in a “bulking” phase so that I may build up AS MUCH muscle as possible before my “prep” begins on February 1st! I am incredibly nervous BUT the nerves have been my fuel in the gym and really have helped me push myself much further than I ever thought possible.  See, that’s the great thing about goals, sometimes you don’t realize how AMAZING your body is until you push it past the mental limits you had previously set.  My current short term goal is to really focus on building my glutes, hamstrings and quads. I want me some big ol’ tree trunks one day…and damnit, I’m gonna get em!
                Some of you MAY be wondering what I do specifically in the gym or for my diet in general (and for contest prep) and I am so happy to tell you that these details will unfold! I will share my favorite workouts and provide basic information on my method of dieting known as “flexible dieting”. Some of you may already be familiar with this term or perhaps with “IIFYM” (If It Fits Your Macros).  If this concept is new to you, however, you can read more on the website to become familiar with the subject. 
So now that we’ve set our goals, it’s time to get started! Go forth and enjoy your new possibilities, things can only go up from here!
Until next time-
Be Kind