Emotional, Mental and Physical Balance

This write up will come as no surprise to many of you. In fact, I’m sure you’ve told yourself and others close to you that you need to work on balance. How do you incorporate balance training into EACH day, and why? How do you train to be mentally, physically, and emotionally balanced? Read on.

            It would be hypocritical for anyone to claim to be a master of balance, so let me start off by transparently admitting this article is as much for me as it is for you. My primary goal in writing and publishing this is to tangibly simplify balance so that we may find it each day. I’ll start with my thoughts, tips, tricks, and personal goals regarding internal balance and end with the same point regarding physical balance.

Emotional & Mental Balance 

            Do you consider yourself functioning at a satisfactory mental and behavioral level?

If you answered YES, skip this section and jump to physical balance. Namaste to you, my friend. If you answered NO, then carefully review the following three questions and responses! 

            How do I improve my emotional/spiritual/mental balance?

  1. Talk to someone. Communicating about your feelings is essential, especially if you feel isolated during these trying times. Deep conversations will not only bring value to your relationships, but also provide stimulating brain activity. According to a fascinating article in Psychology Today, communication impacts hormone release! If you are living in state of stress, with chronic high levels of cortisol, it’s a natural response to shut down. Opening up, sharing, listening, and engaging are effective ways to combat chronic stress. (Nicklas Balboa, Richard D. Glaser, Ph.D.)

Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/conversational-intelligence/201905/the-neuroscience-conversations

  • Eat and hydrate well; exercise (more details in physical section)
  • Journal, Mediate, and/or Pray. Self-reflection may be intimidating, and that’s ok. You don’t have to do it each day, perhaps make it a habit on Fridays (more on that, too). Yoga is an excellent form of both physical and emotional balance training. If you are religious, spending time reading the history of your religion, following key leaders within your religion, and prayer are all things you may try to find both inner peace and balance.
  • Take a break to do something you are good at. Whether its doodling on a piece of paper for 5 minutes or spending a weekend day immersing yourself in an old hobby you stopped making time for, it’s important to build our self-confidence with things we love and are successful at!
  • Complete an act of kindness. It doesn’t have to be a grand act, or a massive, time-consuming ordeal. For example, I challenged myself to encourage someone new each day for a month by texting, calling, emailing, or writing a letter to someone I haven’t spoken to in a while. It took all of 3 minutes to complete each day, and hopefully started a chain reaction of positivity.

            What realistic, daily practices can I put into place?

You may be rearing back internally with the ever-common excuse “Well all that sounds great, but I just don’t have the time!” You do. Simply put. If you don’t have the time now, it’s because you’re not making the time. Here are simple ways to put the previous segment into action:

  1. Swap out your social media scrolling for 5 minutes of journaling, or an act of kindness.
  2. Wake up 3 minutes earlier to do a simple yoga flow before heading to work so you feel centered, awake, and BALANCED.
  3. Drink at least 2 bottles of water throughout your day, and eat fresh, colorful meals. For more tips on this, visit my Meal Prep 101 blog, a streamlined guide to quick meal prepping for beginners.
  4. When looking at your day, insert moments for you to pray or meditate or stretch.
  5.  On your lunch break, do something you’re good at! Choose one day a week, or a month, to journal.
  6. Commit to calling a friend or relative once a week to emotionally connect and decompress.

            Why should I sacrifice time and energy on improving internal balance?

If you answered “No” to my opening question (Do you consider yourself functioning at a satisfactory mental and behavioral level) then its apparent something is missing in your life. I’m guessing you’re “doing ok, but not great” or “really struggling, but afraid to admit it / show weakness.” You’re not alone. Take the steps listed in the previous segment. Do not settle for anything less than real happiness. It may not be easy to pursue internal, personal growth, but the alternative is staying stuck.

Physical Balance

            How do I improve my physical balance?

As a movement specialist for over a decade, this is my favorite question to answer! The answer is to start at the bottom (your feet and ankles) and from the inside (deep core stability). From there, we work up and out. This means we train each joint, starting at the toes and ankles up to the knees and hips, spine and shoulders, to be stable. This will allow the joints to move more effectively.

            What realistic, daily practices can I put into place?

Balance training is rewarding. If you spend just 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times a week focused on it, you will improve. Plus, the exercises aren’t strenuous. I challenge you to stand on one leg while brushing your teeth each day. Too easy? Try 10 single leg balance reaches on each leg, 10 single leg calf raises each day for a week, and 10 kneeling or full plank shoulder taps.(hold a plank, and touch the opposite shoulder with one hand before switching) That’s 3 exercises, 10 reps of each, every day for a week. It should take less than 5 minutes! If you would like more help with balance sequences, check out my YouTube page. I have several beginner sessions you can try! 

            Why should I sacrifice time and energy into improving external/physical balance?

Why, I’m so glad you asked! If you don’t’ take time to build your core and joint stability, your body adapts in a negative way. Movement will be limited, as your brain subconsciously knows a joint isn’t stable enough to allow a full range of motion. Eventually, these adapted and limited movements lead to an injury, typically one that seems like a silly, everyday type of movement. In order to move at your best, and feel your best, spending 5 minutes a few times a week to build your stability from the bottom to the top, and the inside out, will reap lasting physical benefits, both in injury prevention and athletic performance.

I hope this article inspires you to move with intention, reflect, communicate, and treat your body with kindness. You deserve to be happy, healthy, and balanced. ❤


Eating Out At Home – Creating Your Favorite Restaurant Eats Without Going Out!

We eat out for convenience, the experience, and to eat great tasting food. With COVID-19 rearing its ugly head, it may be awhile before we get our traditional restaurant experience. That shouldn’t stop you from being creative in the kitchen! I’ve recreated some classic favorites for you to make at home, along with tips and tricks to create a positive dining experience. Eating out at home is cheaper, healthier, and often times more memorable!

Each themed night will require a few special ingredients, so be sure to check the special grocery list I’ve included when doing your weekly shopping.

1. Bar Food

  • Jalapeno poppers
  • Wings
  • Baked Nachos

2. Wine Night

  • Cheese Board
  • Easy apps to pair with wine

3. Italian

  • Pasta Carbonara
  • Simple Salad w/ homemade vinaigrette

4. Surf N Turf

  • Steak & Shrimp
  • Grilled Corn

1. Bar Food

Grilling the wings instead of deep frying saves a ton of calories and mess! While the nachos and poppers may still pack some delicious calories in, using the best quality ingredients and portion control is your advantage for cooking at home! Use the best quality ingredients you feel comfortable buying at the store (quality cheese vs. pasteurized American or nacho cheese sauce for example).

Ingredients needed:

For the poppers:

  • 8-10 large jalapenos
  • 1 brick Cream cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten with 1 T. water
  • 1 ½ cups Dried Bread crumbs, OR 1 cup flour seasoned with salt/pepper for dredging
  • ½ cup olive or vegetable oil
  • For the wings:
  • Party wings (flats and drumsticks, skin on)
  • Drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 T. – ¼ cup butter
  • 1 large bottle of Franks Hot sauce

For the nachos:

  • 1 bag of Tortilla chips
  • 2 cups Shredded cheese
  • ½ Onion, diced 
  • 1 cup Salsa

Optional additional toppings: olives, sour cream, avocado, black beans, sliced jalapeno

Serving suggestions: Ranch, carrot and celery slices, additional salsa and/or hot sauce.

The first step in getting this meal to the table quickly and efficiently is to prepare the wings. Preheat your oven to 375, or smoker/grill if you have one (preferred method) Arrange you wings on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a sauce pan or large microwavable bowl. Combine with 1-2 cups Franks Hot Sauce. Tip: If you like your wings spicy, use less butter and more hot sauce. If you prefer mild, use more butter and less hot sauce. Regardless of your ratios, I promise you can’t mess them up! Brush the seasoned wings with the sauce. Whatever you have leftover can be used to baste the wings at the 10 minute mark. If grilling or smoking, baste when you turn them once, about 10-15 minutes in. Baste once more once finished grilling or baking. Can serve with additional Franks sauce (do not use the sauce you basted the wings in, its likely touched raw chicken!)

While the wings are grilling, prepare the nachos. Layer a sheet of tortilla chips on a baking sheet. Top with cheese and onions. If you’re serving a bigger group, add another layer of chips and cheese. Bake at 375* until cheese is melted. Top with salsa, and any additional toppings. Serve with more salsa if desired. Once you throw the nachos into the oven, check the wings!

While nachos are baking, and wings are grilling, fry up the poppers! Heat a deep frying pan filled with olive or vegetable oil. There should be no “dry” spots, so be liberal with the oil! Set the heat to medium high. Cut each pepper in half. Remove seeds. Use a knife to fill each half with a heaping tablespoon of cream cheese. Dip into egg/water mixture and roll in bread crumbs or seasoned flour. Place in oil. Fry until golden brown, turning once. I use tongs to careful turn the poppers so the filling stays in! When cooked, transfer to a plate with paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Serve nachos on baking sheet you cooked them on OR transfer to a fun platter, drizzled with your choice of yummy  toppings. Serve poppers on a plate with ranch to dip in if desired. Arrange wings on a platter with bonus sauce, sliced carrot and/or celery sticks, and ranch, if desired! Serve outdoors on the patio with appetizer plates or enjoy as a buffet while enjoy a sports game, re run, or movie!

2. Wine Night

A romantic meal on the patio is minutes away! . Get creative! Try different cheeses, wines, crackers, meats, and fruits each time you make this! Enjoy your favorite wine house playlist to complete the ambiance

Cheese Board:

  • 1 lb brick white cheese (I prefer Gouda or Havarti)
  • 1lb  brick yellow cheese (I prefer sharp cheddar)
  • 1 large cluster of grapes (you won’t need an entire pound)
  • 2 red apples (I like jazz, pink lady, Honeycrisp, and/or fuji)
  • 1 lb assorted antipasto (salami, prosciutto, etc.)
  • 1 jar olives (can be stuffed, as fancy /non fancy as you prefer)
  • 1 package crackers (can be gluten free if desired, just be sure to choose something sturdy!)

Serves: 2-3

To prepare: Slice cheeses into several small slices. Rinse grapes. Core and slice apples thinly. Drain olives. Arrange cheese, fruit, olives, and antipasto meat on a large wooden cutting board. Place crackers in a decorative dish next to board. Serve with your favorite red or white wine and small appetizer plates. For a decorative touch, you may consider leaving part of the brick of cheese unsliced and placing on board with a cheese knife.

Other wine-friendly appetizers:

Stuffed Dates:

Slice 20 Medjool dates in half, removing pit. Fill with room temperature goat cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a dash of paprika. Drizzle with honey.

Easy Skillet Quesadilla:

Heat a skillet on medium heat. Place one large flour tortilla (burrito sized) directly into pan. Sprinkle ½ cup shredded cheese on half of the tortilla. Add chopped cooked chicken, salsa, chopped peppers/onions if desired, or just keep cheese only! Fold the unfilled half of tortilla over filling and gently turn, cooking another minute or two. Both sides should be golden brown.

Serve with salsa.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries:

Melt a 4 oz bar of Bakers Semi Sweet or Dark Chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, stirring every 30-60 seconds until smooth. Rinse strawberries and pat dry, leaving stems on. Dip the small end in the melted chocolate and place on wax paper. Chill for at 10-20 minutes before plating on a decorative dish and serving with your favorite red wine!

3. Gourmet Italian

Delicious, decadent, and simple!

Simple Salad:

  • 2 cups spinach, stems removed
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar,  or balsamic vinegar reduction (my preference)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Place spinach and arugula in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, balsamic, olive oil and salt and pepper together (start with 1 tsp of each if you’re unsure.) Taste after whisking and add more salt, pepper, vinegar or oil depending on your preference. Drizzle slowly over greens (you may have leftover dressing). Toss to coat, serve with pasta.

Pasta Carbonara:

  • 1 lb package pasta
  • 8 slices bacon, cut in half
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (+ ¼ for topping, if desired)
  • 3 eggs+1 egg yolk , whisked lightly

Serves: 2-4

Directions: Start by cooking bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Place on paper towels to drain. Cook garlic on medium heat in bacon fat until fragrant and light brown. Remove from heat and pour garlic and pan drippings into a medium sized bowl.

Next, cook pasta (ideally thin spaghetti, but I’ve used all types of noodles) in a large pot of water. Add a dash of salt. Shoot for al dente texture. Reserve 1  cup of the water when draining pasta.  Place pasta in a large bowl.

Add cheese and whisked eggs to garlic. Temper the mixture with ½ cup of pasta water. Add to cooked pasta and toss to coat. Crumble bacon and add to mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Add more of the reserved pasta water if needed to thin the mixture. Top with additional shredded parmesan cheese if desired. Serve immediately with Simple Salad and wine!

4. Surf N Turf with Corn on the Barbie

Who says you can’t have a beach style theme on your back patio? This simple meal comes together quickly, and will be FAR cheaper at home than if you were to order out! Just be sure to get the corn, steak and shrimp when you hit the grocery store, as those are less frequently bought items. Enjoy out on the patio with a beer, glass of wine, or summer cocktail (find cocktail ideas on my website in Becca’s Kitchen tab)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, pasta, or rice (you can use leftovers or start by preparing as your first step)
  • 2 steaks
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • McCormick’s Steak seasoning
  • 1 lb frozen shrimp, thawed
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. garlic salt
  • 2-4 tsp. pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 ears corn
  • 1 stick of butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Serves: 2

Directions: Preheat grill or smoker to 400.*Place steaks on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and season both sides of steak with McCormick’s as heavily or lightly as desired. Place on grill, along with corn, in husk. Flip steaks and corn after 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté shrimp in a large pan with oil on medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Stir frequently to cook evenly. Once shrimp is no longer pink, remove from heat and pour the lemon juice over shrimp. Steak and corn should just be getting done!

Check steak with a sharp knife to check done-ness. Remove corn from husks.

If using leftover rice, quinoa, or pasta, place 1 cup on a plate and reheat, or if prepared first it should be cool. Place 1 cup on each plate. Soften butter in an appropriate microwave safe serving container and heat for :15-:20 seconds. Plate steak, shrimp and corn over rice. Serve with softened butter, salt and pepper.

I hope these options will help enhance your dining-at-home experience! Cheers!


Meal Prep 101: Keeping it SIMPLE

The trick in maintaining a healthy lifestyle is consistency. The first step is outlined in my last blog, Go-To Grocery List, which includes a checklist shopping guide to use when heading out for your weekly grocery trip. The second step is using those foods to make delicious, healthy meals! I’m going to keep it simple and provide you with a meal prep guide that will save you time and effort during busy weekdays. Even if you’re working from home, prepping foods will help eliminate the “grazing and gaining” trend!

            After you’ve successfully braved the masses at your local Costco or grocery store, follow the steps listed. I usually encourage my athletes and clients to do this on separate days to avoid feeling overwhelmed, but the choice is yours! I usually allow 60-90 minutes for grocery shopping and 60-90 minutes for meal prepping.

*If you have small children, add 1-2 hours on to that guesstimate 😉 

1.      Make your carbs ahead of time (30-60 minutes)

  • This is the best one because it’s EASY! Throw 2-3 cups of rice/quinoa into a rice cooker with the prescribed water amount and have it ready to pull out for a quick side dish. You can also boil a large pot of pasta instead for the same purpose. Tip: stir in a drizzle of olive oil and mix before storing.
  • If you’re on a sweet potato kick, now is the time to can slice the potatoes thinly and bake for an hour @ 375. Drizzle with oil, season with salt, pepper, garlic, and chili powder or taco seasoning. Start here as this step takes the longest.

2.      Slice and dice veggies. (10-15 minutes)

  • Dice/ Chop onions, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, etc. for MAIN DISHES
    • Slice carrots and peppers for healthy SNACKS
    • Place diced/chopped veggies in a large container to streamline dinner prep
    • Place sliced carrots and peppers in individual serving containers or snack bags for grab n go convenience.
    • I like to knock this out right after starting the carbohydrates; it’s the most tedious.

3.      Prepare your proteins (20-25 minutes)

  • Marinate your chicken, fish, pork, beef, etc. If you’re grilling or baking your meat, that’s as far as you need to go. When it’s time for dinner, all you have to do is pull the marinated meat out of the freezer.
  • I usually prepare 1-2 lbs. of turkey taco meat as a staple fridge item. You may prefer to do tuna or chicken salad, or beef tacos, or prepare a large container of tofu. Whatever your preference, I strongly recommend a mainstay item that you can build a meal around. Turkey taco meat can make a healthy salad, wrap, or rice bowl into a meal in 5-10 minutes. I prepare and store in a Ziploc container every week. Just throw ground turkey in a pan with taco seasonings and some water.
  • Rinse, slice/chop if needed, label and freeze any protein you won’t cook in the next 3-5 days. This eliminates waste, and the pressure associated with “needing to cook something before it goes bad.” Plus, it’s easy to grab a bag of sliced frozen chicken out of the freezer, thaw, and throw it into a pan to begin cooking.
  • Hard boiled eggs are a lifesaver for those who don’t get enough protein! Place a dozen eggs in a large pot of water, bring to a boil, boil 5-8 minutes, then turn off. Leave the eggs till they cool, then rinse with cold water. Shell, and place into containers or baggies for a high protein snack, or breakfast! I usually do this as my taco meat is cooking.

4.      Smoothies & Shakes (10-15 minutes)

  • Throw some smoothies in the fridge for an easy, healthy post workout snack or breakfast to go! Follow my Easy Recovery Smoothie recipe, or just throw fruit, almond milk, and protein powder into the blender and puree. Store in fridge or freezer.
    • If you’re a protein and milk/water only type, place scoop protein powder in shaker cups or baggies. Now, all you have to do is add liquid and shake. Brainless!

In a perfect world, your carbohydrates are done cooking as your proteins are finishing up so you can place everything in containers and store. I finish it all up with the smoothies or shakes before wiping down the kitchen. It may take a bit of fine-tuning your first try, so don’t hesitate to take notes on what you liked and what you want to different the following week to save time. It has to work for YOU. If you find a rhythm that works, you’ll be more motivated to stick with it each week. There’s room for variety, so have some fun being creative week to week. If you come up with any fun ideas or hacks, please share!


Go-To Grocery List For Consistent, Foolproof Meal Prepping

I’m going to cut right to the chase: in order to be successful with your weight and athletic performance, your diet needs to be sustainable, consistent, and balanced. You can’t expect to hop on a bandwagon plan for a month and then jump off when it gets hard. So, the first step in a healthy lifestyle should be committing to consistency for days, weeks, and months moving forward weekly grocery list is a manageable place to start. Print this off and bring it with you on every shopping trip. Sure, you can add to it or leave an item off if it’s out of stock, but the idea is a consistent base of ingredients that you can easily meal prep and cook from though out the week. The hardest part about cooking new, healthy meals is usually a lack of on-hand ingredients, which is the easiest out for take-out and unhealthy options that happen to be in the pantry. Let’s get shopping!

Pro Tip: Before heading out, use a pencil and check off anything you already have in-stock for the week, so you don’t over-buy.

Weekly Grocery List

  1. Protein Items
    • Tofu (expiration dates are usually 2-4 weeks, so it’s a nice thing to have on hand)
    • Chicken (breast, thighs, rotisserie, or canned- change it up each week!)
    • Pork tenderloin or thin cut pork chops (fine to alternate chicken/pork weekly)
    • Ground Turkey
    • Salmon or tilapia (fresh or frozen)
    • Bacon (I always have some in the freezer or fridge)
    • Canned black beans
  2. Dairy Items
    • Almond milk or lactose free milk
    • Greek yogurt (plain, nonfat. You can always add sweeteners or fat into a recipe later)
    • Eggs
    • Cheese- any kind! (shredded is nice to have on-hand as that saves a step, but block cheese is fine to pick up for variety)
    • Butter (I always keep a stock in the freezer for baking and cooking)
  3. Staple Items
    • Peanut or Almond butter
    • Olive oil
    • Almond flour
    • Oatmeal
    • Pasta (rice/gluten free noodles or regular noodles)
    • Brown Rice
    • Quinoa
    • Coffee
    • Whole grain bread or gluten-free bread
    • Honey
    • Soy Sauce or liquid aminos  
    • Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
    • Garlic Powder (unless you prefer fresh)
    • Cinnamon
    • Taco Seasoning (unless you have Chili Powder on hand)
  4. Canned Goods
    • Corn
    • Chicken or Vegetable Stock
    • Tomatoes (diced)
    • Pasta or Tomato Sauce
    • Salsa
  5. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
    • Citrus fruit (lime, lemon, or oranges for adding acid to meals and cocktails)
    • Bell Peppers
    • Onions
    • Leafy greens (spinach, romaine, Swiss chard, red leaf, and/or butter)
    • An Orange Item: butternut squash, spaghetti squash, oranges, or sweet potatoes
    • Apples
    • Bananas
    • Avocados
    • Asparagus and/or Brussel sprouts (I prepare them similarly and prefer to alternate every week)
  6. Snack Foods
    • Fig Bars (gluten free if needed)
    • Pretzels (for long training rides. Can omit if not an endurance athlete)
    • Unsalted nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios)
    • Cheese Sticks
  7. Freezer Items
    • Yasso Greek yogurt bars
    • Veggie Burger Patties (for a quick meal that’s not horrendous for you)
    • Frozen fruit (any type)
    • Edamame (for a quick snack or side dish)
    • Frozen, Riced Cauliflower
  8. Beverages
    • Sparkling Water
    • Vodka or Wine (if you’re a cocktail person, or like cooking with wine)

Again, you don’t need every item every week, but you should have a good variety of items stocked in your pantry, fridge, and freezer to make meal prepping and weekly meals a breeze. Stay tuned for next week’s blog (Time-Efficient Meal Prepping) using the items listed!


The Value and Disillusionment of Age Group Rankings

I am new to this sport, with just over 3 years of experience under my belt. Soccer and weight lifting were my outlet for a decade before I got into the endurance world. I grew up on a farm, which provided me with a strong work ethic and introduced the idea early in my life that women can step up and work just as hard as men. Bailing hay with my daddy, gutting a fish with my uncle, and lifting with the high school football team taught me a unique sense of character that’s still hard to put into words. I hope this snapshot sets the background for the upcoming content in this article.

            Of my 10 + years as a fitness professional, I’ve had the pleasure of training a variety of people: old and young; secure and insecure; divorced, single, and married; skinny and overweight, weak and strong, dedicated and somewhat lazy. It’s no surprise that as I’ve focused my personal goals on endurance training and racing that my clientele has shifted towards that demographic, too.

            At first, I was thrilled! An opportunity to use my passion in this new endeavor to help a new demographic of people, what could be better? Unfortunately, the world is not always sunshine and rainbows, and quickly a sense of defeat replaced my enthusiasm. The root cause of my frustrations? The rampant obsession with age group placements.

            Age group placing has value, without a doubt, in running, cycling, swimming, and multisport competition. It brings a sense of competition to the field, and can provide an extra push in workouts. In what other sport can a 25-year- old place 3rd in her field, while her father at 63 can also place 3rd in his field?! It’s an awesome way stay positive and competitive throughout the training and racing years. It levels the playing field between the youth and senior. For that, I am thankful!

            However, I have seen people completely demoralized when their dreams of placing in an event, or qualifying for something with an age group win, are dashed in one race. What kind of absolute rubbish is that? Sports are a LIFESTYLE, a celebration of hard work and dedication that most of us thrive on. Athletes that throw in the towel after a race that didn’t go the way they wanted it to remind me of pouting children that need an attitude check. Clearly, the intentions of training and racing are not to be a better person with an active lifestyle. Rather, it seems these people are “age group champions, or not athletes at all.” This all or nothing mentality is exhausting to witness, so I cannot imagine how exhausting it would be to live under such pressures.

            Athletes, I strongly encourage you to think about your training and racing intentions. Each session should have a focus, mentally and physically. Each race should have process (emotion-based) and outcome (results-based) goals. Why do you want to get faster? How do you feel when you train hard? What emotions are you seeking from completing a race or a workout? What makes you feel better about yourself? (fueling well, being organized with family/work/ training, hitting numbers you never thought you could, etc)

Age group placements and rankings are an awesome thing to check after a race to see if executing a plan aligned with beating people that happen to share the same birth year as you. How silly to allow self-worth to be determined by a sport, let alone a birthday. Don’t let that uncontrollable factor dictate how you feel about yourself. You can’t control who comes to a race, just like you can’t control weather and mechanical issues.

For me, training and racing next to men reminds me a bit of childhood activities, like learning to hunt with my cousins. I smile as I share a course that’s open to males and females alike. I know I’d make my high school boys proud as I pound the run hard and chick the field. Sure, it helps to be a strong, youthful athlete, but the sense of joy I feel by training and competing at my best is essential to my lifestyle. I respect my body, so I train it in a way that brings the best out of each muscle. I bond with my husband by sharing miles with him, and the emotional ups and downs training brings. Am I happier when I place highly at a race? Yes and no. I have finished quite well in my age group in some races, but been completely disappointed with my execution. I knew I could have done better. Placement is bonus, a detail that matters very little. My process goals, which consist of taking risks at certain points in a race or pushing through certain adversities, dictate how I feel about a performance 100x’s more.

How about we try to take some pressure of that pressure off? Try to think about your intentions: If an age group placing is important to you- awesome! I hope you can use that to develop yourself in a deeper way. If qualifying for an event is a MUST, list some reasons why training, racing, qualifying, and racing that event will make you a better person. What opportunities will you have, what risks will you need to take that will lead to you being a better you? Talk to some people who share your goals, and have successfully achieved them. This may help keep you, your ego, and your timeline in check.

Life is much too short to spend it comparing splits to people in a 5-year age category. Yes, a world championship event, or Boston, would be cool to compete in. I won’t deny that (though it’s not personally appealing to me, I acknowledge it is an awesome motivator) Sports are so much more meaningful than the sole “tunnel vision” drive of AG placing or qualifications. The process driving you to each workout or finish line should be so apparent. I hope that the character you develop, the audience you attract, the teams you build, the lives you change (including your own) drives you more than a medal that you share with thousands. Define what lifestyle means to you, and how sports fit into it. Figure out what drives YOU to push the pedals, lace up the shoes, zip up the wetsuit.


Why You’re Fat

Lifestyle management is a daily challenge. One slip, two slips, three slips…and a bad habit is formed with consequences that can be ten-fold. The purpose of this article is to raise awareness about lifestyle choices, without any bullsh*t. I’m here to speak truth, and offer a way out. If you need some life changes, this article will help get you on the right track. Let’s get right down to it. 

Main Causes of Obesity (from a trainer’s perspective) :

  1. Stress – 1 out of 75 adults experience panic disorders (National Institute of Mental Health)
  2. Lack of sleep – 1/3 of American adults report getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep/night (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) 
  3. Poor nutrition – The nationwide count for fast food restaurants has doubled since 1970! 

Common sense, right? The prior are three key ingredients to the Obesity Recipe and, quite frankly, get swept under the rug too much. While it may seem easy to “fix” stress, sleep, and nutrition, it’s actually the three topics I’m constantly stuck on with most clients. American lifestyle is high-paced, competitive, and busy. Is that an excuse? No. It is, however, an explanation – a piece to everyone’s individual puzzle.

Let’s look at stress, the causes and consequences, and address how to manage your lifestyle with proper sleep and nutrition to battle the bulge. 

Stress – the start of it all.  

To name a few of many causes: 

– Work – 80% of Americans reported feeling stressed at work, while almost 50% cited they need help managing stress. (American Institute of Stress) Changing careers, pressure to perform and hit deadlines, receiving promotions, and/or working split or night shifts are more specific examples of work related stress

– Fitness Routines – while it’s often a positive stressor, it’s still stress on the body. Training for a specific race, meet, and / or weight loss goals are examples of stressors. Even more specifically, high intensity and specific overload sessions are examples of things that can cause stress. 

– Family-  whether its chasing kids or helping a family member with an addiction or ailment, family can be stressful!

– Future of our country- surprisingly (or maybe not…) this ranked as one of the highest causes of stress in 2017. Some fear the national leader, while others are more stressed about how that specifically translates to things like Medicare. Long story short, Americans are the most concerned and stressed they have EVER been about this topic. (statistically) 

Any of these relate to you? If so, keep reading..

Consequences of short and long – term stress levels

*This is the main takeaway, so if you’re skimming, slow down here.

When we experience immediate stress, our body releases several hormones (you may recognize one in particular known as cortisol). After the removal of a short bout of stress, say a workout, or traffic jam, or busy day at work, some hormones dissipate, some stick around to make sure energy is restored. Here’s where insulin comes in. Elevating blood glucose (aka eating sugar) lowers some of these hormone levels. As we give into sugar cravings more, our bodies adapt. Soon, we need more sugar to relieve these elevated hormones, and after an extended level of stress (unsustainable amounts of high intensity exercises or prolonged lack of sleep, for example), elevated levels of said hormones hinder thyroid-stimulating hormones, the important ones that account for metabolizing 60-75% of our daily calorie expenditure) which in turn reduces quantities of hormones needed to regulate metabolism. Before we know it, we’re insulin-resistant with high levels of fat in our core. (NASM) Slippery slopes… 

Lifestyle Management 

Stress is a part of life. It always has been, it always will be. The reason why we’re more overweight is partly due to chronic stress from busy lifestyles, and the obnoxious amounts of readily available fast food and sugar. You’re allowed to be stressed! However, your reaction to stress has consequences. Do you want them to be positive (balanced diet and exercise) or negative (sugar cravings, insulin-resistance, weight gain)? *Note: discipline required to read further. 

  • Balance you life. Take 5 minutes at the beginning, middle, and/or end of your day to think about the positive aspects of your life. If you can’t fill 5 minutes with positivity, it’s time to make some drastic changes. If you’re one step ahead saying change is stressful, you bet your a** it is, but if short-term stress leads to relief of chronic stress well, that’s a trade I’d take any day. 
  • Incorporate aerobic activity. If all you’re doing is blowing off steam with ground and pound workouts, or avoiding exercise altogether, think about redirecting your time. If you’re not exercising, start with 30 minute walks 3 x’s a week. If you’re already exercising, step back and look at your approach. Do you need some aerobic activity to help reduce those stress hormones? Try doing 2 moderate workouts to 1 high intensity or anaerobic workouts. If you’re training for a specific, competitive event, be sure to include a recovery week every 2-4 weeks. 
  • SLEEP. Everyone is different, but the majority of us need 7-8 hours of sleep. This means exercising and eating at an appropriate time. Sometimes that means skipping an early workout if sleep quality was poor, while sometimes this means working out early to ensure a timely dinner and bedtime. Lastly, this means lights off and devices away by a certain time. If that’s too much to ask, reassess your priorities. 
  • Feed yourself. Under-fueling is an epidemic, in my dramatic opinion. Too many people work hard at demanding job, stress their bodies in training, and (in a futile attempt to lose weight) restrict calories. If give your body less than it needs to function, you only increase those naughty hormones I discussed. The result is fatigue, not weight loss. That’s depressing! If you’re unsure of what you need to ensure a healthy metabolism, consult a fitness professional. Nutrition is not a cookie-cutter plan. It takes time to find the right caloric intake for optimal performance and / or weight loss. 
  • Proper Nutrition. The minute you pull into McDonald’s after a stressful day at work after a poor night’s sleep is the minute you agree to the negative chain of events we discussed. To be clear: treats and rewards are part of a balanced routine, while stress-responses eating is an addictive habit. If you get promoted and celebrate with a milk shake, awesome! If you’re traveling for work, sleep-deprived, and react with a milk shake, not awesome. Set yourself up for success by grocery shopping for 1 hour, and meal prepping for 2 hours. That’s three hours of time on a day you’ve set aside each week to be successful during a busy week. If that’s still not possible, use an online food service to deliver healthy meals in stressful weeks. If you travel, plan your trip ahead to find walkable distance stores and be strong at company dinners. Skip the alcohol, bulk the vegetables. I could make this bullet a separate post, as this barely touches on ways to have proper nutrition. If you still have questions, feel free to reach out to me personally on this matter. 
  • Routine vs. Ritual: I’ve found most people to be creatures of habit. We prefer to have our schedule “normal.” For example: Breakfast at 7. Workout at 8. Shower and head to work at 9, so on and so forth. Bland, but seems to work…or does it? If you look at your schedule and find yourself going through your daily routine effortlessly, then it’s time to ramp it up a little. Rituals are meaningful tasks that specifically lead us closer to our goal. It’s the mentality behind the actions that make an impact. It’s quite possible your routine is holding you back from reaching your potential, merely by lulling you into mediocrity. Look at your day to day and find ways to insert rituals into your routine that will make you just 10% better. 

That’s it for today, folks!  Feel free to email me personally if clarification or personal advice is needed on any of the topics touched on today. 

BK


Periodization: What’s Your Purpose

Whether you’re a member of Curves, Orange Theory, a small group, a private client, or just working out on your own…are you training with a purpose? In other words, are there various forms of intensity incorporated in your routine to prevent a plateau? If the answer is no, then read on to learn how to optimize your training. If the answer is yes, are you training progressively in the right order? Read on to learn where to start, and how to progress safely with results.

Step 1: Baselines

In order to figure out where to start, there needs to be a baseline. This should be done during an assessment with a coach or trainer. Typically, we look at posture (where are you imbalanced?), flexibility, and movement with a few screens. The FMS movement screening process (my go-to’s are: Hurdle step, Overhead Squat, Stork Balance Test, Straight Leg Raise, Sit to Stand) can determine A LOT about a person. If you haven’t gone through this process, start there. You’ll need a set of eyes to determine your score. Seek a trainer for this if you don’t have one!

After determining your posture and movement “starting point,” a performance test or two is encouraged. This can be a 12 minute Cooper Test (go as far as you can in 12 minutes after a good warm up), a VO2 ramp test, FTP bike test, a 1-3 rep maximum test out on bench, squat, or deadlift; a maximal pushup, plank, or pull up test, a one mile or 5K test, or a 40 meter dash test. The list goes on, but the idea is each individual is tested based on their training goal. I try to pick a test relative to a client’s goal, and one that is appropriate for them based on an assessment. Someone who is fairly imbalanced or de-conditioned, for example, should not be doing a maximal test.

VO2 Max Testing (Anaerobic)
Sub-Maximal 5 Rep Testing

Once you’ve done an assessment and established some baselines, you’re ready to begin some structured training.

Step 2: Periodization

Let me be clear: Fitness is not about cool new exercises that make you sore. Fitness is programmed stimuli that encourages neuromuscular adaptations to take place. In other words, without new intensities, modalities (various equipment), variable rest and reps, how can we experience growth? Soreness is not a measure of how successful a workout is, though it can be a bi-product of a hard session. Take your assessment and baseline test, and work through the following stages:

  1. Stability: Focus on balance training and “fixing” some of those mechanical issues that showed up in your assessment. It’s ok to incorporate this stage into later training phases!
  2. Endurance: Focus on building your endurance, now that you’ve got a stable base! Reps are higher, rest is shorter.
  3. Muscular Hypertrophy: After building a stable base, and a formidable platform of stamina, begin pushing. This means some overload sets: strong intensity with fairly short rest.
  4. Maximal Strength: This is an advanced stage of training. Reps are LOW, intensity is HIGH, and rest is long. In order to be successful in this stage, you’ll need an excellent foundation of form, technique, stability, mobility, endurance, and strength or you will most likely suffer an injury. Try not to stay in this stage for an extended amount of time: decompression/ rest weeks are key in preventing injuries and overtraining.
  5. Power (if applicable): During the power phase, an individual is focused on producing the greatest amount of maximal strength in the shortest amount of time. Basically, after going through maximal strength training, the idea is to increase the rate of force produced. (NASM) Athletic movements that involve a lot of force are incorporated into training, and rest, volume, reps, and sets vary based on the complexity of the movement and the athlete/client.

Training Phase Chart:

*Typically each phase of training lasts 2-4 weeks, but varies based on the individual and his/her goals. It is also common to go back to phase or two before moving forward. It’s all about the individual!!!

Step 3: Decompression/ Re-Test

Foam Rolling = Decompressing. Can/Should be done in ANY phase of training! 

After going through a cycle of training (typically 12-20 weeks) an individual should go through decompression phase. This looks different for everyone. A cycle of training can lead to a race, strength test out (1-3 RPM), competition, etc. It is a good idea to take 2-4 weeks of decompression and active recovery, before going through another training cycle. Depending on the individuals goals, the baseline test completed at the beginning of training can be repeated, either before the decompression stage, or after the time rest and recovery. This is then used to program and build the next training cycle.

The recovery and decompression phase is a perfect time to go back to step one and work on imbalances created during a training phase. General movements patterns that work across the body, on one leg, etc. will help your mind and body be more efficient as you work towards a new goal. Training in phases prevent plateau’s, injuries (if done well), and increases retention and results. If you’re not training in phases, start. Why not?

Lastly, I encourage you to be humble and patient. It’s easy to get excited about progress and jump ahead, or stay at high intensities. It’s not super sexy and cool to work on balance and stability, but we all need it. Sometimes this means staying in an early phase of training a bit longer, or recycling to a stability phase before moving on. Please reach out if you have questions regarding phases of training and program design!

Best,

BK

Be FIERCE!