I’ll preface this post by saying I’m totally supportive of anyone who trains for competitive reasons, whether it’s body building, bikini contests, marathons, triathlons, etc. I’m also all for setting out to accomplish something and adhering strictly to a plan until that thing is accomplished. We all do that in some fashion or another in some aspect of our lives whether it’s starting a business, raising children, planning an important milestone event or keeping to a budget. Goals are terrific and super, super important. Yay, goals!
Now that I’ve put that out there, I’m going to possibly confuse everyone a bit when I tell you about my fitness and healthy living philosophy because most people are used to hearing an all-or-nothing mantra from personal trainers. But if there’s any message I want to convey on this blog it’s authenticity – no BS or smoke and mirrors. No one is perfect and believe me, if you’ve spent any time at all in the fitness industry (even if it’s just going to the gym in a vaguely consistent manner), unfortunately you know that often there is a whole lot of effort (and marketing $$$) that goes into making someone appear perfect. But it’s just not my thing and this isn’t that blog. I am not perfect. There, I said it! I am just a woman who wants to be healthy and help others with the same goal, without being annoying about it (purposefully, anyway).
I can sum up my philosophy with three sentences:
- Workouts: Keep it interesting
- Food: Keep it real 80% of the time
- Body Image: Keep it in check
Workouts: Keep it interesting
I get really bored with doing the same fitness plan all the time. In fact, outside of training for the running events I’ve done in the past as well as those I will likely randomly sign up for in the future, I don’t think I’ve ever stuck to a fitness “plan”. That’s not to say I don’t have a plan, but my plan just happens to be to not plan too much (which is completely hypocritical of me because I am indeed a planner by nature). As I write this post I’m three days away from running a fun 5K with my kids in the stroller. It’s not a competitive race by any means but I have some benchmarks I want to hit with it: Run the fastest 5K I’ve ever run while pushing a stroller (a consistent 9-minute mile); Don’t feel like crap doing it.
That’s it. It’s not groundbreaking, but I’ve still done a fair share of preparation by running at least three days a week, training with sprint intervals, running hills on the treadmill (thank you, iTunes!), and just seeing how hard I can push myself. I’ve really enjoyed it, but three months later I’m totally over it and so is my body. I’ve stopped seeing the results I was seeing in the beginning and I’ve become used to everything both physically and mentally. It’s time to mix it up.
I practice this same philosophy when training my clients. Sure, you could realistically come in each day you see me and we’ll have a master plan and we’ll stick to that plan and never, ever stray. But then life happens, injuries happen, illnesses happen, vacations happen, financial burdens happen, being on the verge of a mental breakdown happens (I’m not pointing any fingers)…and you need to be able to adjust your fitness routine or you risk dropping it all together. I can actually see on a client’s face when they walk in the door if my pre-planned workout is going to go down well that day. If I’m not convinced it will, we change it up. I’m not saying that if your pre-planned workout sounds too hard when it comes time to do it you should drop it. Sometimes you have to know when to tell your inner critic to shut the @!#$ up and suck it up. But if your heart’s not in it and you’re going to come out of it feeling like a failure, then spend your time sweating in a way that’s going to be beneficial and leave you feeling better.
Mix it up, try new things, keep fitness fun. Do yoga one day, HIIT the next, weight-lifting after that, etc. Don’t ever be afraid to switch gears. Sometimes the easiest-looking workout is the hardest for your body to do simply because you never do it. Keep your body guessing and your mind will thank you!
Food: Keep it real 80% of the time
Although I don’t want to call it a “movement” since I really do hope it’s here to stay and not just a trend, the real food movement is big right now. Eat local, eat organic, eat clean, don’t eat processed foods, you know the drill. And if you don’t, check out THIS BLOG for a great lesson on what real food is.
I agree with all that, 100%. But I only practice it 80% of the time. The rest of the time I eat my TCBY frozen yogurt and my chips and salsa (not together, in case you had that image going on in your head). If I don’t allow myself a treat once in a while I will likely end up in a straight jacket, divorced, with kids who hate me.
But all kidding aside, diets just don’t work. You can do the shakes, the frozen meals, the multi-level marketing programs, and you’ll see results. Until you get sick of that food, sick of never treating yourself and sick of the guilt when you do treat yourself. Or if you’re like me, you’ll just get sick of having to do it. And then you’ll put weight back on and be back to where you started. Why not just eat well most of the time so that some of the time you can do whatever you want without the rude self-talk? This is also why I don’t do meal plans for my clients. They’re no fun, they’re not realistic, and they don’t work long-term. And while on that note, it’s worth mentioning that I also do not follow a set of guidelines when eating healthy other than consuming mostly clean foods and if they’re not clean they’re still whole, unprocessed foods that either don’t have a label because they’re not in packaging or if they do require a label it lists less than 5 ingredients. While I do dabble with recipes from every kind of nutritional influence, I don’t do Paleo or raw or vegan or meat-free or gluten-free. Of course if you do and it works for you long-term, I think that’s terrific. All bodies are different and what works nutritionally for one person won’t always work for the next. But eating real food 80% of the time will work for most.
Body Image: Keep it in check
This is perhaps my biggest point just because I think it’s easy to comprehend but it’s not implemented enough, especially in the fitness industry. Have you ever heard the quote: “I wish I were as skinny as I was when I thought I was fat”? Here’s the thing: No one notices your body as much as you think they do. I know that may sound harsh but I’m being serious when I say we are all waaaayyy more concerned with how we’re being perceived than the people perceiving us are. And that’s likely because they’re too busy thinking about how they’re being perceived. It’s one of those qualities that makes us human – our egos can really take over a room.
Yes, by all means lose that weight to make yourself healthier, stronger, and overall more comfortable and confident in your skin. Unfortunately I see people who achieve remarkable things like losing 100 pounds and they eventually go into a tail-spin over whether it’s enough, which body part looks fat now, which body part looks the best now, which food they should or shouldn’t be eating, it goes on and on. I know there are some really great exceptions to this and I’m not trying to generalize, but in my experience some people have actually become depressed after becoming extremely fit or losing a significant amount of weight because they thought it would change their lives MORE. They look for constant feedback and validation that they look good and when they don’t get it they think it must mean they’re still fat. You likely know someone like this. How annoying is that? Always keep your body image in check. Yes, we should strive to be the healthiest people we can be. But not at the risk of our sanity, our relationships and the way we view ourselves.
For me I think about my daughter and how I want her to feel about herself. I don’t want her to grow up with a mom who’s constantly looking in the mirror and commenting on how fat I look when I’m all dressed up, or wearing my swim suit, or just changing out of my workout clothes. I didn’t grow up with a mom like that and I truly believe it’s the main reason why I’ve never had severe body image issues, even when I was heavier than I should have been. I know my body’s not perfect. I know where my trouble spots are. I know there are other personal trainers out there with better bodies than mine. I also know that overall I’m pretty happy with the body I have. I could see my stomach stay perfectly flat every minute of every day, I’m just not willing to do what I know I’d have to do to get there (stop drinking wine, stop having an occasional frozen yogurt with my daughter, stop noshing on gourmet cheese and crackers and chocolate with my husband at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival the few times a year we go).
I could go on and on, but bottom line of my outlook on body image is keep it in check. Stay who you are fundamentally while always striving to be better in a well-rounded way. Forget the crappy self-talk, the fake smoke-and-mirrors expectations. Leave all that to Hollywood. This is YOUR life, live it! Now where’s my damn chocolate…