Thinking about something doesn't make it happen...but action does!
If you find yourself overwhelmed when it comes to taking care of your health and setting fitness goals you're not alone. Setting SMART goals is a wonderful, stress-free way to get moving in the right direction. Not sure what SMART goals are? Let's dive in and get you started TODAY!
S- Specific: Being VAGUE is a great way to fail…make a list of your goals and include details!
Skip "I want to lose weight!"
Instead "By Monday, March 20 I will be able to do 20 push-ups"
M- Measurable: Think of a marker by which you can measure your success! Great way to track progress and actually see how far you’ve come.
Skip "I want to feel better"
Instead "I will prepare healthy lunches every Sunday for a month to improve my nutrition at work to feel better"
A- Action: What are you going to DO to reach your goals? What steps need to be taken?
Skip "I'll join a gym for the year"
Instead "I'm going to get a coach for three months, sign-up for 3 group fitness classes a week and train 2x/week on my own."
R- Realistic: No one has time for 20+ hours of exercise a week for life! What can you actually commit and stick to? Do that!
Skip "I'm going to exercise 4 hours a day until I lose 20 lbs in a month!"
Instead "I will commit to the gym 3 days a week for a month."
T- Time-based: Give yourself a timeline and stick to it. It’ll be realistic but it will keep you on track as you go!
Skip "This year I'm going to feel confident in a bikini!"
Instead "I will lose 5 inches off my waist by Sunday, June 21".
💆Take a breath...wanting to change is the first step!
Ah, November. The leaves are turning, you're contemplating when it's appropriate to start listening to Christmas music and the holidays are just around the corner. 'Tis the season to eat, drink and completely fall off the fitness wagon! But before you go overboard on the pumpkin flavored everything (seriously, everything!) read on. Temptations will always be there, and treats and cheats aren't always a bad thing. Just remember to keep it balanced and make your health & fitness a priority, no matter the season!
No time to make it to the gym? Smash your goals in 5 minutes with this quick and easy routine! Repeat your workout for even more burn or challenge yourself by completing all 4. Burn calories & sculpt curves- no excuses necessary!
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You've decided to change your life and make your health a priority ~ congratulations!
Taking the time to invest in you is incredibly important and often times the hardest steps come first. To help you through the beginning of your fitness journey, let's talk about how you can monitor your progress, stay on track and still enjoy life.
Let's get started!
Monitor Your Progress
Most people use the scale to determine how well their fitness goals are being accomplished.
While the scale is one tool that can be used, you should also take progress pictures once a week in addition to measuring your waist. Use a tape measure and measure your waist at the belly button and track this number.
The reason why visual aids like pictures and measurements are helpful is because as you lose body fat and gain muscle, your weight might not change much. This doesn't mean you've failed - it just means that your body is adding muscle mass which is leaner and healthier than fat. Weigh yourself once a week at the same time, on the same scale and preferably in the same spot. Keep all variables the same so that you can get the most accurate reading.
Balance Your Diet
Whether your diet is as 'clean' as a whistle or you're a junk food queen, it's important to track what you're eating. Many people eat so-called 'healthy' or 'natural' foods and still struggle to lose weight. Why is that? If you are eating over your body's maintenance level for calories you won't lose body fat and it doesn't matter if those extra calories are in almond butter or french fries!
Pick a website like My Fitness Pal and track a few days worth of food. You might be surprised to see where you're spending most of your calories - even if they're in protein bars, salads or smoothies, they all add up!
Being aware of what a portion is can also help you on your quest to gain muscle and lose fat. Purchasing a digital scale and using it when you prepare food at home is one way to be 100% sure that you've got your portions right. Weighing food when you're at a restaurant or with friends isn't necessary - simply go for an item that has lean protein with vegetables. Ask for no oil or sauce on the side and inquire about how the protein is cooked if it isn't stated directly. There's no need to deprive yourself but when dining out, it's best to stick to the basics when you're committed to losing fat and jump starting your fitness goals!
Sweat It Out
If you're thinking about doing house of cardiovascular activity a week... think again! While cardio is essential to maintaining a healthy body, most people rely on it too heavily when they are trying to lose weight.
The key to losing body fat is changing your diet and eating below your maintenance level. If you are on track with your nutrition, workouts will give you the boost you need to gain muscle and lose fat. Building muscle is the key to reshaping your body, revving up your metabolism and keeping your bones healthy - a big priority for women of any age! A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat but muscle is lean, takes up less space, and burns more calories to exist. Sculpting sexy curves and losing inches isn't possible with just cardio - so head into the weight room at least 3 times a week to see the best possible results.
Total Body Transformation
Check out the total body routine from "Summer Body Secrets" - my new e-book about staying lean all year. These exercises will help you get stronger and more confident in the gym and beyond. Focus on perfecting your form before using weights - lifting with your muscles and not your ego is important to stay injury free!
(This post originally appeared on my tumblr account lilybirdlifts.tumblr.com in June 2015, find it here)
Last week after a particularly rigorous workout I started to feel fatigued and not just physically. As I wrapped up my stretching I could sense tears beginning to form and quickly caught myself- what was going on?
I had just completed a successful lifting session and felt great, but at the same time I was experiencing a feeling of vulnerability and overwhelming heightening of emotional awareness.
Turns out, I am not alone. There is a strong tie between exercise and emotional release and this phenomena is supported by anecdotal evidence and clinical trials held by mental health professionals. At the root of these occurrences are how intricately related human beings mind/body connections are. This may seem far-fetched in a society of people who tend to be disconnected from their physical forms for whatever reason, but as you connect with your body through exercise emotions are awakened in new, and sometimes powerful ways:
The body holds on to feelings, even if it seems the mind has dealt with them. So if a person has the opportunity to relax that area, whatever has been held there can come to the surface. The body wants to complete the emotional experience.
-Karol Ward, therapist
Exercise causes tension to release and endorphins to flow throughout your body so you might feel elated but also emotional at the end of your workout. Whether you are exercising alone or with a group many practices ask you to turn inward and reflect on your present feelings and experiences. These meditative exercises can stir up emotional vulnerability that can also cause you to have intense mental reactions to exercising.
In addition to exercise causing emotional release it also fosters positive trends across many demographics (varied by sex, age, race, socioeconomic status), as discussed in Current Opinion in Psychology:
…Exercise and physical activity are associated with better quality of life and health outcomes. Therefore, assessment and promotion of exercise and physical activity may be beneficial in achieving desired benefits across several populations.
Older adults responded particularly well to 24 week resistance training programs and women also reported a high level of increased emotional satisfaction after increasing their activity levels. These positive effects are not limited to weight training or ‘traditional’ workouts either: mental health benefits were also observed in groups that participated in activities such as hatha yoga and dance classes.
So- the next time you workout or exercise take some time before and after to reflect on your mental state. Review your day, what might be stressing you out (family, friends, work, etc.) and recognize that these issues, no matter how big or small, are within you. You don’t have to search for an answer, or know how to fix them, but simply acknowledging them can be enough to keep your body and mind healthy.
…and remember, you are making a positive change by exercising, no matter how often you do it, so celebrate that choice!
Sources (links to articles within titles)
Bennett, J. (2014, October 20) Why So Many Women are Crying at the Gym.Time.
Stenson, J. (2007, October 2) Moved to tears: workouts and waterworks.MSNBC Online.
(2007, October 4) Another Reason to Exercise: Release Pent-Up Emotions. Pop Sugar.
Penado, F, Dahn J. (March 2005 Issue) Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Current Opinion in Psychiatry.
(this post was written on June 17, 2015 before my first competition and was originally posted on my tumblr account at lilybirdlifts.tumblr.com)
I used to think that motivated, successful people were just special. They woke-up everyday ready to achieve their goals and I would never be like them.
Don’t get me wrong- I’ve achieved a lot and I don’t want to sell myself short. However, in spite of these successes I still didn’t consider myself ‘motivated’ because my mindset was all wrong. I was halfway there but I didn’t have the confidence or self awareness to celebrate what I’d achieved and continue working towards my life goals.
As I train for my first bikini competition I find that I’m learning a lot about how I view the world and myself. This isn’t just about changing my body or walking on stage in a fancy bikini (though that is a part of it!) this is about setting a goal and working tirelessly towards it each and everyday. Doing something that will improve my life forever and allow me to have a more balanced perspective on life. As I’ve been training I’ve learned a few things about motivation that I wanted to share. Like I said, I am not perfect and just started my journey but I think that reflection is a key to success so here we go!
1. No one is as dedicated as they appear
That pro bodybuilder on instagram that you follow, that YouTuber with the perfect body and that girl in the gym who kills it every time- they all have bad days. They might not look like yours but self doubt and less than stellar results and execution happen to everyone, regardless of how successful you appear. I would encourage you to form relationships with your role models so you can witness and experience just how many setbacks they face each day. Just because they have your dream job, body or life does not mean they’ve got it easy. Remember that success and motivation are based off of hard work and practice, not luck.
2. Champions don’t quit
Champions aren’t just naturally winners. I thought for a long time that if I wasn’t born to do something that it was a waste of my time. False. I encountered this at work and in life, so this wasn’t just a fitness or gym mindset. I counted myself out before even trying and that’s a surefire way to fail. If you never start how can you be a success? Whether you’re trying to lose 5 pounds, get promoted, or just live a happier, healthier life you must keep going even if you have a bad day, week or month. How is quitting going to help you reach your goals? It isn’t. It will just become another excuse to give up on yourself, and you should never, ever do that, no matter how low you feel.
3. Just. Keep. Going
Last year I was finishing up graduate school and I was taking a class on linguistics. It was the most challenging class I’d taken and I wanted to quit so badly. In fact, I contacted just about everyone I knew desperately trying to get out of it. The syllabus was huge, the course load demanding and the subject matter was foreign and overwhelming. I couldn’t do this! It was too hard! Turns out that I had to take the class, and once I knew that I got angry. How dare this happen to me! I was so close to graduating and this class was going to ruin everything.
Instead of completely freaking out, I begrudgingly took out that monster syllabus and started reading. I didn’t like it but I knew that without doing the work I was truly doomed. As I started to study class got a little easier and I started to understand more of what we discussed in class. Much to my surprise I was actually interested in some of what I was learning and that encouraged me to go further. I started participating and engaging with my classmates and professor and this newfound interest translated into a deeper understanding of the topics we were learning about and in turn improved my grades. After a difficult semester of long nights completing essays and journal entries I finally took our last exam and earned an A. I was so shocked because I thought that I was for sure going to fail. Was it easy? No. But could I do it? Yes.It just took changing my attitude and putting the work in.
4. Don’t be a victim
Taking on a victim stance happens to us all. There are so many instances in life beyond our control. Our boss can be in a bad mood, a loved one can fall ill or a relationship can crumble. I’m not saying that these life situations shouldn’t make us sad or call for self reflection. Instead I’m encouraging you to think about what you do control and try to work on that. With competing, it’s my diet. I hit my workouts with absolutely no problem and while I don’t binge eat anymore I’ve been known to be indulgent with my serving sizes from time to time. I blame it on a craving or a whim but guess what? Those excuses aren’t going to bring me closer to my goals, so why am I making them?
If I weren’t competing I could be a bit more flexible, but I’ve chosen to do this because it is challenging. I need to be meticulous and accountable because that’s part of the sport. I’m not punishing myself, but instead I’m investing in my success by following through. Try thinking about what you can do to help yourself without being negative. Reflect in a journal, talk to a friend or join a group of like minded individuals. For me I write and have a group of ‘fitness friends’ who raise me up when I’m struggling. Create a net of support for yourself and use it!
About the Author
Lily lives in the Bay Area of California with her husband. She loves to lift heavy, watch vintage movies and cheer on her fellow warrior queens!