Tagged: fitness motivation

Flat or Round

As a business owner, I utilize many of the top social networking sites to promote Dane Life Fitness. Sites like Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr utilize a visual format to entice viewers to stop and read, and then perhaps “buy” whatever it is we’re selling.  Lately I have been dismayed as I see a huge surge in posts displaying women whose abs are so muscle bound that they sport more than the proverbial 6-pack – they have an 8-pack and oblique striations (see photo below).

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These are not muscle-bound she-men training for a body building competition, these are young (20-30’s) athletic women who have achieved the type of abs usually viewed only on super low-fat and fit men.  Clearly it’s great that women have figured out how to finally lower their body fat levels to such a state that their flat tummies rival men – OR IS IT?

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While I applaud these women who work hard and make their daily focus be exercise and extreme nutrition, I’ve stated time and time again that women NEED body fat if we are to be healthy.  Obviously we need our body fat levels to stay in a certain “lean” range for our health’s sake (17-28% depending on age and build), but the female form is not supposed to be as low-fat as the male body naturally is. Not to mention that the aforementioned extreme nutrition makes life sometimes feel stressfull — after all, we’re supposed to be able to enjoy  good food, wine and chololate (in moderation) aren’t we?! (Oprah says yes!)

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Why this is a detrimental trend in my view is because women with body fat levels lower than 17% can and do see a weakening in their immune systems, poor circulation (personal thermostat levels), menstrual and reproduction systems compromised, and thyroid confusion (thyroid malfunction is not surprisingly on the rise). It is especially hard on the body when these low-fat levels are forced vs. natural. What I mean by that is some girls/women are born naturally thin with super fast metabolisms. I was one of those – I was 5′ 7″ by age 15, but I still couldn’t break 100 lbs until I was about 22 (with 15% body fat). But I didn’t starve myself ever, I had (and still do) have a great immune system, and clearly my body could handle it. Forcing your body to have super low body fat levels when it’s not natural creates a great strain internally, especially on your organs.

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Now that I am in my 50’s, and while still lean and healthy (19% body fat), no longer sport my own concave lower abs, I realize more than ever how detrimental it is to women to be always told we need to have flat abs. We’re supposed to be slightly round between our ribs and hips – we’re supposed to be curvy and…well…feminine. These uber-lean models are changing what our young girls think about how their bodies should look.

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The worst part of this is that 85% of men when polled about their preferences fessed up to actually not finding super skinny or overly-toned women as attractive as someone with a little “softness” to their build. Men want us to be women – not walking muscles.  So one must ask, why are we so obsessed with a washboard stomach?

With all this as food for thought, once again I plead with all my female followers and friends to maintain healthy levels of body fat, but more importantly to love your bodies and your stomach in particular. Join me in re-labeling what is attractive and sexy in our own perceptions and embrace being well-rounded individuals – including our abs!

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Success Comes With Consistency.

Spring is here and the rush to get into bathing suit condition is on full swing. What that translates into with many is a hurried goal to lose body fat. Unfortunately that means people “go on a diet.” As I’ve discussed numerous times herein, “diet” implies temporary. Temporary changes will never garner you a permanent success. To get into healthy physical condition and stay there you need to be constant – success is achieved though consistency.

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That is true in all areas of life. Whatever your career, after college or time spent learning your trade, you must still consistently study and stay on top of any new trends, techniques or changing technologies that apply to your field. In relationships you must maintain consistent honesty and reliability. Likewise, your body must receive consistent exercise and healthy nourishment to maintain a healthy composition (lean muscle & body fat).

Diets do not work. They are not consistent. For a designated (short) period of time you eat limited choices of foods, in limited amounts, thereby depriving your body of the quantity of calories that you previously consumed (typically high-caloric foods to boot). Your body decreases in size to some extent (most say they’ve lost weight – but you know I’m only looking to see you lose fat).

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Once the diet is over (i.e., the desired scale weight is achieved), you resume your old habits and guess what – the weight (fat) comes back.

So if you are one of the many individuals seeking to look different this summer in a bathing suit (or in general) I suggest that this time you do NOT “diet.” This time you make a permanent change to your approach to nutrition – making it your lifestyle to eat smaller quantities of higher quality food (unprocessed, low in animal fats, salts, and sugars) while still allowing yourself to enjoy your favorite (or comfort) foods in moderation.

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Today I am not going to go into a detailed description of how to eat this way as I’ve done so many times in this blog, and I also offer customized meal plans to clients who seek to make their nutritional change permanent (http://www.workouts247.com). My goal today is simply to remind you that you’ve failed before when you’ve gone on a diet (probably more than once), and that this time you should change your approach if you are really serious about changing your body and health permanently.

Good luck, and I’m here when you’re ready to commit to consistency!

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Get Back On That Horse!

I’m sure you’ve all heard the sage old advice that if you fall off a horse, you must get right back on – both for your own confidence and to show the horse who’s boss. Well same goes for getting back into the gym after a prolonged illness.

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It’s cold and flu season and many of us, myself included, have succumbed to the creepy-cruds of never ending phlegm, constant coughing, and sapped energy rendering us weak as a newborn. While in the clutches of these annual viruses and their aftermath, it’s hard to image ever having enough energy and strength to get back to the workouts. This is when the line between those truly committed and the quitters is drawn.

Every January the gyms are crowded with new members and their fresh intentions to get into shape. Every March the gyms are back to 60% occupancy as those new members lose their motivation, often because of a winter illness that interrupts their new routines and dulls their mind set back into the complacency of being sedentary and eating out of boredom or emotional response.

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For those of us who have embraced the priority of exercise, it’s still difficult to get back into the swing of things after being sick, but we usually manage it within a few weeks. But those of you who were reluctant to exercise to begin with, it’s really hard to get the “mojo” back and push yourself again.

For those of you who can relate to this, I offer up a few tips to renewing your motivation and getting your butt back into exercise:

Start Slow.

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Sounds like obvious advice but it’s very common that after an illness many individuals try to resume exercise with the same energy intensity (or speed) that they had prior to being sick. The disappointment at finding that your energy is just not there, or worse yet, that you have a set back, is so discouraging to many, that they simply stop trying again.

You’ve got to be patient, but know this, your stamina and muscle memory will return faster than you think, especially if you take the first week at half your usual intensity. Stretching is also very important as your muscles have been relatively inactive during your illness. Even I have to follow this. My brain says get back in their and do your normal routine. But I know from experience that I will get half way through and be weak and tired. I do half the amount of sets as I’m used to and work with lighter weights. But by week 2 or 3 I’m back to full speed again, and I’ve suffered no set backs.

Nutrition & Hydration.

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Head colds and flus often leave us with dulled tastebuds and a lack of appetite. Antibiotics dry us out, and phlegm (mucus) is thicker when you are dehydrated. Coughing burns more calories than you can even imagine. Therefore, it is crucial that when resuming a workout, you make certain to have ingested enough calories, and in particular clean and complex carbs (yes carbs) to get you through even an half-speed workout. Water will flush the toxins, plump back up the muscles and get the blood moving to said muscles. All of this is essential to getting your stamina back up to full.

Stay Stable.

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When resuming exercise after an illness, your equilibrium and core strength may be taxed. Therefore, alter your exercises to be seated or use machines vs. free weights, just for the first week or two until you know that any residual light headedness or muscle weaknesses are overcome. No one needs to fall down in the gym on their first week back, right?

Refresh your Motivation.

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Remind yourself why you are working out – is there a clothing goal, a vacation goal, a reduction of high-blood pressure medicine need, etc? With your motivation firmly renewed your brain will help push you past those small moments of perceived exhaustion when you think about quitting.

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If you have any tricks you follow that you’d like to share with me and my readers, please do. Good luck, and persevere!