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What is Fitness Success?

business-idea-1240830_1920What is success? Long-term success means different things to different people, but I will share what my idea of fitness success looks like.

A measurable form of fitness success is that you’ve achieved a reasonable goal and maintained it for at least a year. I hate to break this to you, but maintenance can be the most challenging part of your fitness journey. Maintaining your results is truly believing that you deserve to feel great. It is making the conscious decision not abuse your body with food and inactivity (or excessive exercise) when you’re feeling upset or stressed. Success is that your physical and mental health are at the top of your priority list.

Success is continuing on your journey with contentment and not beating yourself up over the small stuff. Nobody feels motivated to exercise every day all the time. We all experience those cold, rainy days when you’re snuggled up on the couch or in bed and nothing in the world feels better. Or work has been wearing you down and all you want is to put on your pjs and binge watch tv. Whether or not you take that day off is irrelevant. One day off is not going to make or break your journey. It’s whether or not you get back on track tomorrow and the next day that will define your success.

Success is also not being terrified to go off track for fear of never making it back. While you should not allow peer pressure to determine whether or not you go off of your program, you should be able to deviate every once in a while if you choose to do so. Success is having the confidence that you can go off plan for a brief period of time and be able to come back and continue on your journey with focus and strength. Going off course should be a planned deviation entirely by your choice and entirely under your control.

Success is not allowing external influences to derail you. Whether you have kids, pets, work in an office, work from home, spouse, travel, we all have excuses and reasons to not exercise or eat well. We all have social events with great food and friends that push alcoholic drinks making it difficult to not over indulge. The difference between individuals that are successful on their fitness journeys and those that are not is a decision to stay the course. Repetitive decisions to stay committed slowly become second nature. Second nature then becomes a lifestyle. Choose to be successful, and you will be 🙂

Ashley Brodeur, MS, CPT
Owner, Active Lifestyle Fitness, LLC

Importance of a Warm Up

leg-swingLet’s get to it already! might be what you’re thinking as you run in from work ready to burn off some stress – or drag through the door ready to get it over with. The warm up might seem unnecessary or redundant in this mindset. I challenge you to approach your workout and your warm up with a different mindset: peace, focus, and preparation.

I find that if a strain or sprain occurs, it’s usually at the beginning of a workout. A lot of people run in from work after sitting in traffic anxious, annoyed, stressed, etc. The stress of the day (or thinking of the day ahead) sits on their shoulders and tightens their muscles. Tight, stressed muscles and joints are injured easily, and this is a reason why the warm up is extremely important to set the tone of the workout. Use your warm up as time to settle your mind and focus on being present in every movement.

During a warm up, you are also shifting blood flow to your muscles in order to enhance the delivery system of what they will need to perform your workout. Your blood carries special “packages” of nutrients and water that your muscle needs in order to contract and move your body. If the special packages haven’t arrived when needed, your muscular system can’t function properly and injury can occur. This can also happen if you’re not getting the proper nutrients in your daily food intake (if there isn’t enough in your system, it’s certainly not being delivered), but that’s another topic for another day!

Your warm up should be about 5-10 minutes long. It takes longer to warm up the body with age and in cold temperatures, so also take those variables into consideration. Your warm up should consist of exercises or movements that you are already familiar with – this is not the time to do new and crazy things. This is 5-10 minutes for your mind and body to connect. This is a time to shift blood flow to the areas you will need it and move your joints through full range of motion after they’ve been stiff all day/night. This is a time for you to leave your problems at the door and “check in” to your workout. Never skip your warm up!

Deviled Avocado Eggs

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Deviled Avocado Eggs

INGREDIENTS
3 hard boiled eggs, cut in half
1 large avocado
2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp cilantro
Pinch of garlic powder, salt and pepper
Sprinkle with paprika, optional

DIRECTIONS
Remove the cooked yolks from the hard boiled eggs into a bowl.
Add the avocado to the bowl next.
Then add the remaining ingredients and mash together well with a fork.
Add the mixture to the egg halves
Sprinkle with paprika if desired.

Source: http://www.tosimplyinspire.com/deviled-avocado-eggs.html

The Guilt Trap: Eating “Badly”

bingeeatingThe Guilt Trap begins with the statement, “I fell off track with my plan to eat well and I feel so guilty about it.”

Feeling guilty is not at all productive in this scenario. You might think feeling guilty will help you not do it again or help you get back on track, but I believe it’s the primary reason people stay derailed. It becomes a negative cycle you can’t get out of. You CAN fix it, though, if you’re willing to work on your mind.

Instead of entertaining negative thoughts about what you just ate, allow yourself to be human and say, “well, that happened” and move on. It’s not easy and it won’t get easy overnight. It takes time to retrain your brain, especially because most of us have conditioned ourselves to feel guilty about food for most of our lives. Have patience, and allow yourself time and practice to reverse that.

Later, when the moment has passed, ask yourself WITHOUT JUDGEMENT “why did I eat that / why did I eat that much?” Being able to pinpoint where you were at emotionally or physically at that moment can help you acknowledge it when it happens again. Here are a few examples:

• Maybe you haven’t been eating much during the day and then binging at night. That means you need to start eating more during the active portions of your day.
• Maybe work/life has been stressful and you’re using food in an attempt to feel better. If it happens a couple times a week, so what? This too shall pass. If it’s every day, check in with yourself when it’s happening, and find something else to do/eat.
• Maybe you’re out with friends, feeling happy, and eating everything in sight because it’s there. Again, if this is an occasional occurrence, let it be. If it lasts an entire weekend every weekend, ask yourself where you can make some modifications. Maybe breakfast and lunch are healthful meals, then you incorporate something you’re craving for dinner.

I believe that if we spent less time feeling guilty and judging ourselves, we would get out of our own way, and it would be a whole lot easier to accomplish our goals. I have one more scenario for you to consider: What would you say to your overweight child that just ate a few too many cookies? How long would you make your child think about the cookies he/she just ate?

I think you know where I’m going with this… so I will leave you with that 🙂

Ashley Brodeur, MS, CPT
Owner, Active Lifestyle Fitness, LLC

Patience: a downfall of the great

runningThis post is inspired by the Olympic men’s 5000m trial run that I watched last week. I love the Olympics, and I think there are a lot of life lessons we can learn from them. If you watch the track and field events, you know that a lot of times they run in a pack and pace themselves until the last stretch when they run like hell to make it to the finish line first. In this 5000m race, one man decided halfway through that he was going to sprint ahead of the pack. The announcers were doubtful of his approach, and began to discuss how patience is key in this event.

I can only imagine what it feels like to be in the event of your life having to practice that level of patience. I wish I could tell you I am the master of patience, but I struggle with it at times just like everyone else. I have, however, learned a lot about patience from my clients’ bodies.

I think we all know that body transformations don’t happen overnight, but practicing patience in this process proves to be a challenge for most. When I hear “I’m going to cut all carbs, only eat chicken, join a pyramid scheme supplement program, do cardio 2x day”… I am doubtful because you’re my track star running the race and you’re sprinting in front of the pack. I know that if you pace yourself and stay dedicated to the journey, you will make it to the finish line strong. I also know that choosing to sprint in front of the pack will lead to failure. You’re pulling out all the stops at the beginning of the race and will have nothing left for that last lap. Patience will help you win the race.

In the 5000m trial, the bell rang for the last lap and the pack started to run like hell, leaving that one man that was in front in the dust. The moral of this story is, have patience, pace yourself, and listen to your coach. It will be one of the most challenging tests of your life because we all want to be ahead of the pack NOW. Your body needs time to process, adjust, and balance. Slow and steady wins the race.

Ashley Brodeur, MS, CPT
Owner, Active Lifestyle Fitness, LLC
ashley@activelifestylefitness.com

Binging and Purging: More Common Than You Think!

Healthy-eatingMany diet programs and pyramid schemes make their money off of the thought that women eat too much. It must be true that, if you are overweight, you must sit around all day and stuff your face. You must be eating brownies for breakfast and ice cream sundaes for lunch and by simply “controlling your portions” and exercising, you will lose weight. Would you believe me if I told you that I don’t buy into that for the majority of the female population?

Ok, you’re thinking “…but I watch ‘My 600lb Life’ on TLC and that is definitely the issue!” For some people, it is, but I’m talking about the average woman that has 30-50lbs to lose and can’t seem to get it to budge. Do you eat healthy snacks at the office, order a salad for lunch, and still struggle to lose weight? These might be some reasons why…

1) You’re binging and purging. No, you’re not vomiting in the toilet, but you exhibit disordered eating that needs to be addressed. You are stuck in a negative cycle that keeps you at the same weight. You’re going wild on the weekend (binging) and then eating very little during the week to compensate (purging) until you do it again the next weekend. Another common issue: You’re eating very little during the day, binging at night, and eating very little the next day because you’re not hungry from the binge the previous evening.

2) You’re lying to yourself. I can’t preach enough about the power of food journaling. When you do it correctly, it forces you to face the music. Your weekend binge is 3000+ calories each day. When you come home from work and eat everything in the cabinet because you didn’t eat enough during the day, that’s an extra 1000+ calories. You can’t fully comprehend what you’re doing to yourself and your progress, though, if you’re not journaling or not journaling honestly.

For some women, it is an issue of eating too much, and that can easily be corrected. But if you fall into the binging and purging category I described (as I believe a large majority of women do), you have disordered eating habits. You’re compromising your health, quality of life, and weight loss progress. How do you fix it? Get rid of the thought that food is a reward for a tough week at work and/or a coping mechanism for stress. Eat enough high quality food during the day so that you’re not starving at night. Enjoy your weekends, but turn the binge into just one special dessert or meal you’ve been craving. Strive for balance, not extremes, and your body will align with the goals you have set for yourself!

Why you need to stretch after barre class!

figure-4-stretchLife is busy. We are often trying to cram our workouts in between errands and work just to get everything done that we need to do. It may seem that stretching at the end of your workout ranks low on your list of priorities and can easily be skipped, but I would strongly encourage you not to. Here are some reasons why:

1) Barre class is high repetition work, making the muscles short and tight. It’s important to spend a few minutes encouraging those muscles to return to resting length. Walking around with short, tight muscles WILL lead to injury.

2) Stretching promotes blood flow to the muscles. Barre training is intense muscle work, and we need nutrients to quickly return to those muscles to begin repair. If you’re looking to shape and sculpt your body, you need to assist in the repair process!

3) Stretching brings your heart rate and blood pressure down. Too many of us suffer from anxiety and stress that raises cortisol levels, leading to illness, injury, and making it difficult to build muscle and lose body fat. Taking a few minutes and “reset” your mind and body after your workout will benefit you today AND tomorrow.

4) You are supporting the people around you in completing the “journey” of your class. It’s important to end an intense class in a “zen” place, and by stretching at the end of class, you are enhancing the positive energy in the room and supporting your class members in their journey. Your class members will appreciate you completing the experience with them!

These are just a few of MANY reasons why stretching is important after your barre class (or any exercise session). Stretching has a lot to do with getting the results you want for your body. It may feel unproductive compared to the intense muscle burn during barre class, but stretching will benefit you in many other ways. And if you don’t do it for you, do it for those around you to encourage the “zen” of the space and the essence of teamwork!

Homemade Protein Bars

12643026_10153885878384919_7420266211543639391_nIngredients:
4 scoops Quest Peanut Butter protein powder
1/2c natural peanut butter
1/2c oat flour
1/2c water

Knead all together in a bowl, shape the ball into a rectangle (on wax paper or baking dish), and cut into 8 bars. Then put them in the fridge for several hours to harden.
Calories: 170, Fat: 9, Carbs: 8, Protein: 16

PCOS and Carbs

1546_38447_1_1_9727It took me a long time of reading and experimenting to discover that my body has a love/hate relationship with carbs that is more severe in women with PCOS. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking, ‘yeah! I can eat more carbs because I exercise and lift heavy!’ Then I do, and I instantly regret it. Living with PCOS is about finding that delicate balance between how many carbs your body can process without gaining fat and how few carbs you can get away with before you’re running to the store for cake.

If you don’t exercise, you can probably get away with a no carb diet. Regular exercise is crucial for managing your PCOS symptoms, though, so I wouldn’t recommend going that route. If you do exercise and you go too hard or you don’t find the appropriate carb balance you body needs, you will be eating everything that’s not nailed down by the day’s end. It has nothing to do with your willpower or dedication. It has everything to do with your body’s reaction to what you’re doing.

My body responds best with 1 serving of carbs before and 1 serving after my workouts. I may also have another serving of carbs later in the day if I’m feeling particularly hungry, but under 100g daily seems to work best for my body. I don’t have carbs at breakfast (though I do have protein/fat) because I will feel hungry and crave carbs for the rest of the day. If I indulge in sugar or processed carbs, I need to make sure I can lay down shortly after, because they wreak havoc on my body. As delicious as they taste, they’re usually not worth the aftermath.

My body reacts differently to a variety of “healthy” carbs as well. For example, I feel great when I eat 1 serving (1/2c) of rolled oats or quinoa. If I eat 1 serving of sweet potatoes or rice, however, I am hungry and have cravings for sweets within an hour. I strongly recommend everyone (not just PCOS women) experiment with carbs. Eat 1 serving of carbs and notice how you feel within 1 and 2 hours after that meal. I think you will find that your body has different carb preferences as well.

Lastly, I want to reiterate that everyone’s body is different. I am giving you this example of how my body tolerates carbs so that it may stimulate you to start thinking about your carb intake and how it’s affecting your body. Figuring out the formula for your body’s nutritional needs is key to feeling great with PCOS!

Ashley Brodeur, MS, CPT
Exercise Physiologist
Owner, Active Lifestyle Fitness, LLC