I’ve Changed: My Body, My Strength, My Goals

It’s hard to believe that for 7 years, I wrote a blog post almost every day. I love writing and if I didn’t have so much on my plate, I’d probably write a lot more. I have a lot to say and I’d probably save the people around me by writing more often 😉

The last 6 months have been interesting. My goals have changed, some of what I’ve been doing has changed, and I feel that I’ve changed mentally as well. Not to sound like a kook, but I felt these changes coming on. I kept telling people that I felt like change would be coming soon. Maybe I manifested it, or maybe I could just tell that my life was getting ready to adjust. Either way, it’s not unwelcome and I’m riding the wave to see where it takes me.

Let me back up and get you caught up on my 2017 thus far…

If you’ve kept up with me for the last few years, you’ll know that in January 2016, I started working with a Powerlifting coach (Jason Kelske….he’s still my coach 1.5 years later), as I wanted to see better strength results. I had geared my workouts back to gaining strength somewhere in 2014 (after a hiatus where I spent my time “chasing the sweat”, as I call it), and by the end of 2015, I felt that I had done what I could on my own to get stronger. I had plateaued in most of my lifts and knew a coach would be helpful. As a trainer myself, I truly believe that any trainer can benefit from having their own trainer. Whether you’re an expert in your field or a total newb, there’s something to be said about having a 3rd party assessing what you’re doing and making decisions on where to go next. There’s no emotion involved with a coach. When it’s you coaching yourself, you tend to overthink. I love having a coach and always learn so much from everyone I work with. I think it’s important in expanding my knowledge as a trainer and a lifter.

I started gaining strength rapidly with my coach and became totally addicted to it.

I believe when I started my numbers were roughly:

  • 155lb Back Squat for 3 reps
  • 105lb Bench Press for 5 reps
  • 185lb Deadlift for 5 reps
  • 3-4 struggly Chin-Ups (yes, I said struggly)

This past January, 1.5 years later, I hit some really exciting PR’s:

  • 225lb Squat
  • 148lb Bench Press
  • 275lb Deadlift
  • 10 bodyweight Chin-Ups

If you would have told me even a year ago that I’d hit those numbers, I would have said you were crazy. It was seriously an awesome feeling to do that!

But in January, I also weighed about 155-156lbs. I had “fattened up” in the winter, and since I was training really hard, I was able to get really strong.

The problem was, I wasn’t happy or comfortable in my skin.

This was me in February. I looked fine, but it wasn’t a happy weight for me (although I looked buff AF).

If you don’t know my history, here’s a brief overview:

-I started lifting weights in 2007 – I weighed approximately 130lbs at a height of 5’7

-I competed in my first NPC Bikini competition in July 2009 and weighed in at 127lbs on stage (and started binging and restricting immediately afterwards)

-I competed in my 2nd Bikini competition in August 2009 and weighed in at 134lbs on stage (due to binge eating and trying to “rectify” the binges in the prior month). I was told I should be leaner for my next show

-I ballooned up to 145-150 or so pounds by October of 2009 due to binging and restricting. I had developed an eating disorder through prepping for my show and after the show, I lost it. I couldn’t control it.

-I moved to Los Angeles in May 2011. I was still battling my eating disorder. I weighed about 155lbs and didn’t recognize my face.

-By October 2011, I had finally gotten tired of hating myself. I was sick of working out for hours, binge eating, starving myself, eating “clean”, worrying about how bloated I looked, canceling things because I was embarrassed of how I looked. I finally decided that I needed to just find a way to be happy with my body, STOP restricting foods, and release the pressure I was putting on myself.

-In September/October of 2012, I had made progress and was being much more free about foods I ate. I still battled with binge eating at times, but it was at this point in time that I decided to quit doing cardio (I was doing cardio 5-6 days per week in addition to either lifting weights or doing “functional” workouts–chasing a sweat and doing a bunch of plyometrics to induce said sweat). I lost 5lbs in the next 2 months by focusing on strength training (and training hard), not doing any cardio, and giving myself the break I needed when it came to what I was eating.

-Over the next few years, I finally had gotten through the weeds of my eating disorder. I felt comfortable around food again. I could have formerly “forbidden” foods in the house and not feel the need to eat all of it. It wasn’t easy and didn’t happen overnight, but by 2013/2014, I felt somewhat normal again. Finally.

So there’s my brief overview. Since 2013, my body has been “happy” at about 148-152lbs. It has fluctuated in that range consistently and has been a weight that I feel very comfortable with. My body composition has changed drastically since 2013 (see photo below), yet my weight has stayed pretty much the same. I’ve done a few cuts in the last few years and gotten down to 145 a few times, but overall, I’ve hovered around 150, and that’s pretty effortless for me. This means I’ve been able to get leaner and have more muscle mass and less body fat than I did a few years ago.

I’m roughly the same weight in each picture.

This is why in January when my weight was 155-156ish, I didn’t feel good. Sure, I was stronger than I’d ever been, but I felt fluffy. I realize that 5-7lbs may not seem like much, but the difference was noticeable enough for me to not feel my best.

I decided I wanted to get back down to where I’m comfortable (just under 150ish), but I also know my history with dieting and am very careful with it. I will be the first to admit that I SUCK at dieting. I haven’t taken off more than 4 days in a row from lifting weights in the last 10 years (and realistically, I’ve only taken 3-4 days off in a row probably a 2-3 times in that 10 years), but dieting is like this dangling carrot that I can’t seem to grab onto. With that knowledge of knowing myself, I decided to do a slowwwwwwww cut that didn’t require me to cut out too many calories each day, which would keep me from feeling like I was dieting.

It’s now August and I’m happy to report that I’m hovering between 148-150lbs these days. Yes, I took 5 months to lose 7-8lbs (I think I started cutting in March), but I didn’t feel like I dieted down at all. I stayed at a slight caloric deficit 5-6 days per week, and ate at maintenance or just above for 1-2. There were no drastic lows and no drastic highs. It has probably been the healthiest cut I’ve ever done in my life. I’m actually still doing it, as I have some new goals that I’ll discuss at the end of this post.

Currently:

Here we are in August 2017. As I mentioned, I am back to 148-150lbs and I feel good. I had a few minor injuries in April and May that caused my strength to take a hit, so my strength numbers aren’t what they were in January. I want to point out that none of my injuries have been serious and as a lifter, there WILL be minor injuries. Some will last 1-2 days, others will last a few weeks. It’s going to happen and the smartest thing you can do is to work around those injuries (and not through them). Do exercises that don’t hurt you and stay away from exercises that do. You’ll heal and be back to normal soon. Trust me. It’s better to take a few days/weeks off than months or years. If you suffer from a major injury, it can be much worse. I’ve been lucky enough not to have any major injuries in the last 10 years, but I continue to be careful. I want to be able to lift and be active for life, so it’s not worth risking an injury to set a PR. I always coach people to stay in control of their lifts. Even when it gets super heavy, the weight should never control you. I see lifters all the time who get cocky and go for a weight they aren’t prepared for. Their mentality is that they are just going to try and see if they can do the lift. There’s a smart way to push yourself and a dumb way to do it. I guess it’s hard to know what’s smart or dumb if you’re inexperienced (so if you don’t know, make sure you’re with someone who does), but someone who has been lifting for a long time knows. I am always in control of my lifts. ALWAYS. Even in my heaviest squats, which are the most terrifying exercise in the world to go heavy on (in my opinion), I don’t ever have a point where I feel like the weight is controlling me. I think that is a big reason I haven’t had any serious injuries. It’s also the reason why I won’t be breaking any world records any time soon, but that’s not my goal, so who cares. 🙂

Anyyyyyyways. Back to my minor injuries.

Hip Flexors: I was dealing with hip flexor issues for quite a while (8-9 months at least) that led me to the decision to stop doing back squats for about 6 weeks. They were just feeling tired and sore constantly. To the point that even a body weight squat felt difficult as I came out of the hole in my squat. It just wasn’t fun anymore. I had some MAT done and after just 4 sessions, my hip flexors are probably healthier and happier than they’ve ever been. I’m still amazed by it, but I won’t question it! I’m back to squatting now and at my most recent 1RM testing, I hit a 198lb back squat, conservatively. It wasn’t pretty (because let’s be honest, NONE of my heavy squats are very pretty #longfemurclub), but I probably could have done 8-10 more lbs, which is only about 10-15lbs less than my previous 1RM when I was 7lbs heavier.

Left Wrist: I had a wrist injury from doing dips that prevented me from doing bench press and barbell military press for about 3-4 weeks. I stopped doing dips and will probably never do them again, as there’s no need. They’ve never felt good and always cause me to get injured. There are plenty of other exercises for me to do. This is a big take-home point. If an exercise bothers you or constantly causes you to have issues, don’t do it. Find other exercises that don’t hurt you. There is no exercise you “have” to do. There are hundreds to choose from! Anyways, because of the time off from bench press, I lost some bench strength. I was able to build back up and while I didn’t hit my 148lb bench press last weekend at my mock powerlifting meet, I still got a 137lb bench and again, felt like I had more in the tank. I’m happy with that. While my wrist healed, I did push-ups from my fists, dumbbell presses that didn’t hurt, and pulling movements that felt okay.

Left Shoulder: In addition to my wrist, I had a minor shoulder injury. I can’t remember exactly what I did, but it started bothering me after I did a few grindy barbell military press reps. Ideally you won’t go to an RPE 10 on multiple sets of an exercise, but sometimes I’m on fire and I push too hard (Oops). Do as I say, not as I do. Anyways, I actually thought it was worse than it turned out to be. It was really hurting me, but (do not try this please), I decided to do an upper body workout to see what did/didn’t hurt me. Oddly enough, chin-ups didn’t hurt me at all and neither did most pulling exercises. I was also able to do some cable chest flys and they didn’t hurt either. I remember pushing through that workout and thinking “I’m either going to feel great after this, or I’m going to regret this decision”. Miraculously, my injury seemed to nearly disappear after that workout. It was one of those things that shouldn’t have happened and there’s no explanation, but it did. I would never, ever, ever, ever recommend it to anyone, but it worked for me. This is another example of something you’re able to do when you’ve been lifting a long time and know your body really well. You know how to “take chances” but not put yourself in a position of total fuck-uppery. Once again, please do not ever do what I did to “heal” your shoulder injury. Ever. Got it?

In conclusion, here’s what happened from January through today:

January 2017

  • Weight: 157lbs
  • Squat: 225lbs
  • Bench: 148lbs
  • Deadlift: 275lbs
  • Chin-Ups: 10 bodyweight, 2 reps with 25lb plate

July/August 2017

  • Weight: 148lbs
  • Squat: 198lbs
  • Bench: 137lbs
  • Deadlift: 259lbs
  • Chin-Ups: 9 bodyweight (I only tested it 1 time), 2 reps with 25lb plate, 1 rep with 35lb plate

The moral of the story is this: I’m not as concerned about being the strongest I can be anymore. Sure, I want to be strong. I want to be really strong. But more so, I want to be healthy, I want my body to feel good, and I want to feel comfortable in my skin. I want to be as strong as possible in THAT body. The one that feels amazing and has no problem stepping on the beach in a bikini.

(like I did on 4th of July with my fam)

July 2017

My goals now are to drop down to 140lbs (as slowly as a saguaro cactus grows) to do the following:

a) See what I look like

b) Hold my weight there and reverse diet my maintenance calories up

c) Build strength at that weight and see what I’m capable of

There’s no deadline or timeline for this. I want to enjoy life and being in a strict caloric deficit is not in my interests. What IS in my interests is to slowly chip away and do further experimenting on myself. I’d imagine around Thanksgiving or so I may be there, but we’ll see.

Anyways, that’s my update. I wanted to put this out there for a few reasons, but one being that I want to highlight that changing your goals is okay. If you aren’t happy with something, it’s fine to change course. There is no shame in deciding that something is or isn’t right for you. As one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite band goes….

“Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.” -Led Zeppelin

7 Hip Thrust Variations for Better Glutes

I wrote this blog for IRON Fitness, but I liked it so much that I asked if I could share it here too. As you all know, hip thrusts are one of my favorite exercises. I’ve now been hip thrusting for 10 years thanks to BC (The Glute Guy) introducing me to them. The full blog post is below:

 

This blog is all about the popular glute exercise, the hip thrust!

For some of you, you’ve probably walked by the Hip Thruster in the gym a hundred times and wondered why the powers that be decided to put Santa’s sleigh in the middle of the gym.

For some of you, you’ve seen the Hip Thruster being used and either thought “what does that even do?!” OR you wanted to try it, but you weren’t sure how.

And for some of you, you’ve used and love the Hip Thruster.

No matter which category you fall under, this blog post is going to benefit you (and your glutes) in a lot of ways! (7, to be exact).

First thing’s first: What IS the Hip Thruster?

The Hip Thruster is a piece of equipment developed by Dr. Bret Contreras that allows you to perform glute bridges (a.k.a hip extensions) in the most optimal way in order to train, strengthen, build, and condition your glutes. Strong glutes are important for sport’s performance (like sprinting and jumping), general back health (weak glutes are a leading cause of back pain), and the reason the majority of people do them: to have a nice, round backside.

The Hip Thruster’s design allows you to elevate your upper back, plant your feet without slipping, and provides the proper bench height to ensure that you’re able to extend into the ideal position for glute contraction. Typical benches in the gym are too high and if they’re not bolted into the floor, are very prone to moving during this exercise. Since we’re all built a little differently (short, tall, long legs, short legs, long torso, etc) there are times when an intervention (such as an airex pad) may be used to allow you to get into the proper position on the Hip Thruster. For most people, the height of the Hip Thruster is perfect.

Before I show you these 7 Hip Thrust variations, let’s talk about the basics.

Copy of Management Skills page 1 Presentation

  1. Situate your upper back on the pad of the Hip Thruster so that it is just underneath your shoulder blades.
  2. Keep your arms at your sides and make fists, or if you’re using a dumbbell or barbell, hold onto the weight.
  3. Your feet should be out in front of you at a distance that yields a 90 degree angle of your knees when you’re at full extension.
  4. Keep your chin tucked and ribs down. Find a spot in front of you and keep your gaze at that spot throughout the entire movement.
  5. Foot placements varies person to person. Here are some starting points, but over time, you’ll find the best foot placement for you that gives you the greatest glute contraction.
    1. Feet shoulder-width apart, facing straight forward
    2. Feet 2-3 inches apart, facing straight forward, with knees out.
    3. Feet wider than shoulder-width, toes slightly flared out.
  6. If you feel your quadriceps (top of your thighs) taking on a lot of the work, try playing with your foot placement. You can also place a small resistance band around your knees. This forces you to push your knees out against resistance, which will engage your glutes.

Ultimately, hip thrust form has some absolutes, but is a very individual exercise in many ways, so you’ll have to experiment to find what feels best for you. (Psst. We can help you with that, especially in our BRAND NEW Just GLUTES Small Group Training Sessions).

How to Perform the Hip Thrust:

Now that you know your setup, here’s how to perform the movement. The movement is the same for all variations, with only slight differences that I’ll discuss below.

Once you’ve set your back on the bench just underneath your shoulder blades, chin is tucked, ribs are down, and foot placement is set to your liking, drive through your heels, SQUEEZING your glutes as you come up until you hit full hip extension. At the top of the movement, your torso should be flat, knees at a 90 degree angle, and a good contraction in your glutes! With your chin tucked and ribs down, you’ll prevent yourself from being able to overextend, which can cause back pain. From here, you’ll lower back down and repeat.

Without further ado, here are 7 Ways to Perform Hip Thrusts:

Bodyweight

These are done just as described above. Beginners should start by doing 3 sets of 15 reps with pristine form. Once you’ve mastered that, you can begin adding weight, resistance bands, additional reps or tempo adjustments.

Dumbbell

DB-Hip-Thrust-1

DB-Hip-Thrust-2

To perform the dumbbell hip thrust, place the dumbbell on your hips. It will feel tight at the bottom of the movement, but that’s normal. As you extend your hips at the top, roll the dumbbell slightly forward to move it off of your hip bones. This is just to eliminate any irritation from the dumbbell being directly on top of your hip bone.

Barbell

Barbell-Hip-Thrust-1

Barbell-Hip-Thrust-2

To perform the barbell hip thrust, I suggest placing bumper plates on each side of you. You’ll also want to use the Squat Sponge (or another barbell pad) to protect your hips. Roll the barbell up onto the bumper plates and over your hips. Set up in your start position and then begin. You can perform these in a heavy rep range (1-5 reps), medium rep range (6-12 reps), or high rep range (13-25). It is best to practice all rep ranges, but depending on your goal, some rep ranges are better than others. Heavy rep ranges are best for strength, medium rep ranges are best for hypertrophy, and high rep ranges are best for conditioning and endurance. All three rep ranges can and will yield hypertrophy (muscle growth), but depending on the person, the rate at which this happens may vary.

Hip Banded

Banded-Hip-Thrust-1

Banded-Hip-Thrust-2

The Hip Thruster has pegs on either side to allow for an easy placement of a resistance band. Cross the resistance band over your hips, making sure it is securely wrapped around the pegs. For this variation, you want to have constant tension (meaning there is not resting position) throughout the entire movement. To do this, your starting position will be slightly higher as you find the point where the resistance starts. Once you find it, that becomes your starting point. Perform these reps in a shortened range of motion by going from your starting point to full hip extension. You can perform these as fast reps (do them as quickly as you can), at a normal rep pace, or by doing pause reps (details below).

Knee Banded

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P1000598

To perform this variation, place a small resistance band either just below or just above your knees (personal preference, but i prefer above the knees). You still want to keep your knees out, so having the resistance forces you into hip abduction, which will increase the glute activation. (In other words, it makes it harder and burns more.)

Pause Reps

Pause reps can be performed with any of the above or below mentioned hip thrust variations. To do these, you’ll pause at the top of the hip thrust and hold for any given amount of time. I recommend trying 3 second holds at the top of each rep for 8-10 reps. When that becomes easy, you can either increase the weight or increase the pause time to 5 seconds per rep. I also like to do a single pause rep at the end of any hip thrust variation that may last anywhere from 3-15 seconds.

Combos

The beauty of the hip thrust is that you can combine any of the aforementioned versions of this exercise and change the difficulty, feel, and muscle recruitment. Some of my favorites include:

  1. -Dumbbell + Hip Band
  2. -Barbell + Knee Band
  3. -Hip Band + Knee Band

As you find your form and become stronger, you can play around with these combinations as well as tempo changes (pause reps, fast reps, super slow reps, etc.) and see what you like best.

Take-Aways & Things to Keep in Mind

The big thing I tell my clients is that you have to figure out what you like best and what you feel most. For some people, heavy hip thrusts are the hardest variation. For others, high rep-hip banded hip thrusts are hardest. Personally, the Dumbbell + Hip Banded + Pause Rep hip thrusts are the biggest bang for my buck. With that said, I perform all variations of hip thrusts and at various rep ranges and tempos. This ensures that I am working my glutes in more than one way in order to get the best results.

As you can see, the Hip Thruster gives you the ability to really increase the intensity of your glute training. Whether you’re training for a sport (and yes endurance athletes, this exercise will improve your performance too!) or you just want to turn heads when you pull off your swimsuit cover up at the beach, the hip thrust is hands-down the best glute training exercise out there. It’s not the ONLY one and it’s important to train in different planes of motion, it definitely gives you a great return on your exercise-choice investment.

 

 

What 10 Years in the Fitness Industry Has Taught Me

This August is a big month for me, personally. It marks 1 year since I made a decision that turned my life around (for the better) in ways that I could have never expected, but it also marks 10 years since the day I walked into my first training session, another life-changing event (although I didn’t know it at the time). I realize that I’m writing this a few months early, but coming off of another great Fitness Summit in Kansas City with the best, smartest, and most realistic people in the fitness industry has me feeling the urge to do it now. I’m inspired, I’m reflecting, and I have a lot to say. And since I stopped living by “the rules”(<—whole other post right here) last August, I’ll say it now, because I want to.

A little background

I grew up as a total tom-boy. I remember my grandpa and I kicking a soccer ball around in my basement when I was just 4 years old. In our neighborhood, almost every house had kids and we would all meet outside, pick something to play, and play until it was dark out. This was every day after school that I can remember. It ranged from baseball to kickball, street hockey, basketball, butts up (who remembers that?!), etc. We made rollerblade ramps, created obstacle courses, and I don’t remember ever NOT being active. In organized sports, I played flag football (I was the quarterback) and baseball (1st base) with the boys. I stopped football in 7th grade when all the guys started playing tackle football, but kept playing baseball year-round on club teams until high school. I tried playing softball for 1 year on my high school’s team when I was a sophomore and was moved up to varsity, but it just wasn’t the same as baseball. I didn’t like it and decided to go a totally different direction the next year. My junior year of high school I was on the track team. I did high jump and long jump because I hated running (LOL). I made it to State for high jump and totally flopped there, but it was a really fun season. To this day, I still love jumping!

My freshman year of college was the first year that I wasn’t active. My roommate and I would try to go to the rec center to “work out”, but from what I remember, we would do a few sets of leg extensions and about 20 minutes on the elliptical. Then we would smash a bunch of sushi and Coldstone ice cream or order Domino’s pizza WITH brownie bites and devour the whole thing. We had “earned it” haha. I also vividly remember going on a diet of sour gummy worms and goldfish and losing a bunch of weight because I was barely eating. Who needs protein?

By the beginning of my sophomore year (August 2007), I just felt lazy and not like myself. I had been so used to being active my entire life that it just felt weird to be so sedentary. I decided to seek out a gym and found Lifts, owned by Bret Contreras. It was a small studio and only about 5 minutes from where I worked at the time. From what I remember, I wanted a personal trainer, but was also a broke college student. This gym was a personal training studio and only a few hundred dollars a month, so I think that’s what drew me to it initially. In hindsight, I’m SO lucky that I ended up here. In fact, my entire life would be different if I hadn’t.

Bret taught me how to lift weights right off the bat. With my athletic background, I caught on pretty quickly and became obsessed with it. I would spend hours at Lifts. I’d get there right after work, I’d workout, and I’d hang out there afterwards. I was also known for taking naps on the Reverse Hyper after I finished my workouts while Bret and the other trainers did their own workouts. It became my home away from home and to this day, the gym IS my home. (To this day, I can’t thank Bret enough for showing me the world of lifting weights).

There have been a lot of ups and downs in the last 10 years. It’s hard to remember every zig and zag, but I have learned so much and it’s shaped me into the person that I am today. Social media wasn’t as rampant then as it is today. We had Facebook, but it wasn’t wildly popular yet. I think we were still on Myspace back then too, if I remember correctly. There was no Instagram, no Twitter. Bodybuilding.com, T-Nation, and other fitness sites were where I got a lot of my information about what the fitness pros were up to and what the latest research said. Between my obsessive search for information and surrounding myself with the people that seemed to know what they were doing, I was able to gain a lot of good knowledge (and plenty of bad, too). It was a really different time (I realize I sound like an old woman, but it really was drastically different than it is today).

Today, I am a private personal trainer in the Santa Monica and Burbank area. I train clients in a private gym, at their homes, and at a movie production company. I also work on the business side of fitness with a company that helps gym owners run PROFITABLE gyms. It’s hard to do, but our company knows all the magic tricks ;-)!! All jokes aside, I love helping gym owners learn how to turn their passion into something they can do full time. I like being on all three sides of the industry: an athlete, a trainer, and a business consultant.

Through all of that, I have seen a lot. I still have much to learn and my favorite thing about fitness is that there is ALWAYS more to learn.

Here are the Top 10 things I’ve Learned in the Last 10 Years about Fitness

I Know Nothing

1. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I know nothing. Let me clarify. When I got into lifting weights initially, I literally did know nothing. But about 2 years in, I thought I knew it all. I spent ALL of my time either IN the gym OR perusing fitness articles. I spent every afternoon and night researching nutrition, fitness, different workout protocols, looking up what the bodybuilders were doing, seeing what other trainers did. I read everything I could get my hands on and didn’t have the knowledge to decipher the bullshit. I believed a lot of things that in hindsight, I realize was bro-science. I thought I was learning, and I guess I WAS learning, but not necessarily the right things. I did learn a lot of GREAT things as well, but I also thought I had it all figured out. Bret will never let me live down the day I came into Lifts after I had started working out at another gym and telling him that he was a good trainer to get me started, but my new trainer knew things that were more technical. (*bows head in shame* haha). In reality, I had gotten really into bodybuilding and was preparing for a Bikini show (2009, the first year it became a division) and a trainer at my new gym was teaching me all the “bodybuilding tricks”. I thought they were the end-all-be-all and would make ALL the difference I the world. Now I know better. I know that I know a LOT, but I also know that I have so much to learn. Enough that I’ll never stop. I’ll always be researching, listening, reading, attending seminars, etc. The difference now is that I DO have a good understanding of how this all works. I have not only learned from the RIGHT people, but I’ve experimented extensively on myself and my clients. I’ve surrounded myself and sought advice from the REAL professionals in this industry and I now know how to decipher bullshit. I know a lot, but I also know nothing. I like it that way. It keeps me hungry for more.

 

Follow the rules, then you can break them.

2. There are many “rules” when it comes to lifting weights and making progress towards your goals. They are there because they are based on what science tells us and this is what has been shown to optimize progress and keep you safe. Everyone should learn them. Everyone should practice them. THEN you can decide which ones you continue with and which ones you don’t. For example, these days I “do it all wrong”. I’ll lift weights fasted, I won’t drink a protein shake after a workout, I don’t wear squat shoes, I don’t wear a belt, etc. Is this ideal? NO. And I am in NO WAY saying that “you should do this”. I would never recommend this to someone. What I AM saying is that this is what works for me. When you’ve been training long enough and have followed the “rules”, you can start to break them. You learn what things work for you and what things don’t. For me, I like to train in the mornings and I don’t like eating that early, so I don’t. I find it annoying to bring protein shakes with me to the gym and by the time I get home, I’d rather just eat something instead. Sometimes, I don’t go home after the gym and I just grab a coffee and eat a few hours later. I don’t wear squat shoes because I don’t feel like carrying an extra pair of shoes with me to the gym. I don’t wear a lifting belt because I only want to be as strong as I am without one. I don’t want to rely on gear. Many will argue that, and that’s totally fine with me. I’ve stayed healthy and relatively injury-free for the last 10 years (minor injuries or nuances happen and are expected). I’ve been able to gain strength, stamina, and improve my form. This is what works for ME, even though it might not be perfect. The point is: learn the rules of lifting, practice them, find what you like and what allows you to continue making progress and staying healthy, do that. But don’t skip any of those steps.

Do the things you like, mixed in with the things you don’t like (but should do).

3. I had a conversation at The Fitness Summit about this exact topic. Some coaches and trainers are very one-track minded. They might believe powerlifting is the way, so all of their clients’ programming is based around powerlifting. They may believe bodybuilding is the best way to train, and so all of the programming is bodybuilding style. This is fine if the client likes that way of training, but I’ve found that most people like some type of combination. And that’s actually BETTER than only training one way. For me, I like to lift heavy with low reps, but I also like to do higher reps and “feel the burn”. In addition, the athlete in me still likes to run and jump, and so plyometrics and conditioning drills are something I really enjoy. I realize that I piss off my own coach for being this way, but I also know that training MUST be enjoyable in order for it to be something you stick with. I have gone through stages where my training leaned more towards one way than the other. I spent many years “chasing a sweat” and not making any real strength progress because of it. I haven’t always trained the right way and I’ve probably done more things wrong than right, but it’s also allowed me to figure out what I love, what I like, what I dislike, and what I downright hate or don’t feel. On my main training days, I prefer to start with 1-3 of my main lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, chin ups, hip thrusts) and then I’ll mix in some bodybuilding movements (more isolation-type movements), and glute-focused movements. I like to do 1-2 days per week where my focus is on conditioning and plyometrics. This might include things like: box jumps, squat jumps, step ups jumps, medicine ball slams or throws, sprints, sled pushes or pulls, etc. I also really enjoy going on long walks. If I take out any of these things, I don’t feel fulfilled. I also have to manage my physical activity so that I don’t overdo it, but incorporating these things into my training is what makes ME happy. I encourage you to find the pieces of training that you like and make sure to incorporate them. If you’re training for a specific event, you’ll obviously want to prioritize based on that. It may mean you don’t do EVERYTHING leading up to that event, but overall you should be able to do all the things you enjoy doing to make your program the best one for YOU.

Never stop learning.

4. Find the people in the industry that you feel aligned with (3-5 people you trust MOST) and listen to their advice. (make sure they base their teachings on the actual research and science, not made-up bullshit meant to instill fear in people). Attend seminars, watch webinars, watch their videos, follow them on social media, read their articles, and if you have the chance, talk to them in person or online. Keep up on the latest research as best as you can.

Experiment!!!!!

5. I can’t say this enough. People always think I’m “so creative” in the gym and not because I come up with ridiculous exercises that have the potential for more harm than good. What it refers to is my ability to figure out a way to make a movement work, even if I don’t have the ideal equipment. This comes from years of experimenting in the gym. I try everything I can. I try new exercises I see, I take an exercise and try performing it in different ways (different foot placement, hand placement, grip, angles, etc) to see what I feel best and what happens when I change any of those variables. I try different rep ranges, drop sets, adding bands to weighted exercises, and more. I’ve literally spent almost 10 years using myself as a guinea pig and I will never stop. I do this with my clients as well. Just because I feel something one way, doesn’t mean they will. Any of my clients will tell you, I ask a lot of questions. “Where did you feel that most? How does that feel? Which variation did you like better?”. We are all build a little bit differently and have varying mobility, so exercises can feel drastically different for different people and you may find that something you don’t like or don’t feel, feels fantastic for someone else. Try things, test things out, and I guarantee you’ll be a better lifter for it.

Everyone’s an Expert

6. People will always try to tell you a better way. Especially as a female lifter, you will come across people who try to tell you you’re doing it wrong or that there’s a better way. This is where sticking to the people you trust and also trusting yourself comes into play. At this point, I know what works for me pretty well and can easily ignore this unsolicited advice. But when I wasn’t as sure, it made me question what I was doing and at times, even CHANGE what I was doing (and usually not for the better). Is my foot placement wrong? Should I be looking up or down? THIS is when you use your trusted resources to figure it out. I have 3-4 go-to people in my life that I trust very much. I have gone to them throughout the years to ask questions like this when I’m unsure if someone’s advice should be taken or thrown out the window. In addition, if something feels right to you and isn’t hurting you, it may very well just be the way that works for YOU. Never be afraid to ask the people in your trusted circle, just make sure they know what they’re talking about. Some red flags when you receive unsolicited advice: “my friend does this lift with 23408324 lbs and this is how HE does it” <–we are all built differently. you are not this person’s friend and you don’t have their body. this is a ridiculous supporting argument, “I’ve been a coach for 100 years and all of my athletes do it THIS way” <–we are all built differently. if all of their athletes are doing something the SAME WAY, it’s probably because the coach only knows how to teach it one way. Over time, you’ll feel more comfortable knowing what you should/shouldn’t listen to but I highly suggest ignoring most of it and asking the right people when you’re not sure.

Things are going to change…a lot.

7. It’s okay to try different approaches. It’s okay to do things that aren’t ideal. It’s okay to screw up and “waste time” in the gym. You learn that way. You’ll go through physical changes, mental changes, taste changes, and you’ll start to find what you do and don’t like along with what works and doesn’t (for you). I started out with strength training, I shifted into bodybuilding for a few years, I stopped doing cardio and started making all of my workouts based around plyometrics and conditioning, and eventually I made my way back to strength training. I regret none of it and I don’t believe any time in the gym is wasted, even if it’s not optimal training. I learned (and continue to learn) from every session in the gym. I’d estimate that I’ve done about 3,000 workouts to date (I’ve averaged 1-2 days off per week for almost 10 years but have had many weeks with no days off and some with up to 3). I truly believe that each one has it’s purpose. Whether it’s a shitty workout that teaches you to get more sleep, or an awesome workout that was supposed to be shitty that proved to you that you can’t train based on how you feel all the time. Which brings me to my next point

Don’t train based on how you feel emotionally.

8. If I only trained when I felt like it, I think I’d probably workout 2-3 days per week. Some weeks it would be higher, some weeks maybe lower. I train regardless of how I feel emotionally. I go and do it and I do the best that I can. You cannot train based on your emotions only. Not if you want to make any kind of significant progress at least. With that said, if you PHYSICALLY feel like shit, that is up to you. Sometimes it’s better to rest, sometimes training makes you feel better. That is something you learn about yourself over the years. I am still learning it, but it becomes easier over time.

 Take rest days and don’t go balls to the wall every day.

9. STILL trying to learn and implement this one. I’ve gotten markedly better at this over the years, but I still have a hard time working out at a level 6-7. Rest and recovery are so important and truly do allow you to make better progress. Still though, it’s hard for some people to NOT push themselves to a 9 or 10 at every work out (hiiiii). It can be hard to take rest days when you love training and want to do it every day. BUT, it will make you a better lifter, a happier person, and overall stronger lifter if you do take rest days and go lighter on some days as well.

Enjoy the chance to move and be strong.

10. I look around and feel sad that so many people are sedentary. Many people my age (I’m 29) get out of breath just taking a brisk walk. They can’t lift their groceries or luggage. When you’re young, you’re just weak and it’s fine. When you get older? That’s a broken hip because your bones are brittle too. That’s health issues related to your weight or weakness. As we age, we aren’t going to become more mobile or stronger by doing nothing. Strength training, walking, being active, staying fit are ESSENTIALS in life. They are looked at as options in this society and I don’t believe that should be the case. It makes me angry that people think a sedentary life is the norm. I believe being active should be as much of your daily routine as brushing your teeth is, because what you do now WILL determine how you get around when you’re older. Do you want to have strong bones, feel good, be able to move around on your own and take care of yourself because you’ve continued to stay strong? Or do you want to have people help you to stand up out of your chair and get injured because you chose to let your body degenerate without even putting up a fight? You get to do this. You have the opportunity to give yourself more. Enjoy that, embrace it, and don’t take it for granted.

 

I could probably write about 500 more things I’ve learned, but these are the first 10 that came to my mind. I encourage you to find what you like and what works for you. You will find physical strength, but you will also find mental strength. I always say physical strength = mental strength. What you do IN THE GYM, will absolutely translate to what you do in everything else. Your relationships, career, friendships, and even the relationship with yourself. My way isn’t your way, but you do have a way. You may have already found it or this may be foreign to you and you’ll need to find a starting point. Don’t be complacent. You weren’t destined to be sedentary and “un-athletic”. We were meant to move. Give yourself the opportunity to grow. Both your muscles AND your mind.

Taking On Too Much + Yesterday’s Workout

Well, it sure has been a while since I’ve posted anything! It happens. I’m hoping to be able to pop in here 1-2x per week going forward. I have a lot to share and in addition to being a resource, I like to have an outlet to write in!

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(heyyyy! still flexin’ my life away)

Taking On Too Much

Something that I’ve been doing lately (besides working out of course ;-)) involves a whole crap-ton of introspection. Looking in to all that encompasses ME and figuring out what pieces are essential, and what pieces are just taking up space. (I sound so yoga-y, but I promise I’m not all meditative-hippie-sage burning….not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m just not even close haha)

While I’m generally a happy person, I’ve found that I also take on things that are there for no other reason then, THEY ARE THERE.

This can be good at times, but can also leave me really overwhelmed. It becomes a vicious cycle that looks a bit like this:

-Take on too many projects

-Not able to fulfill all projects (so someone gets delayed, cancelled, etc)

-I feel guilty because I’m not fulfilling all of everyone else’s needs

-I simultaneously feel that I am not fulfilling MY OWN needs because I’m busy trying to fill everyone else’s.

Does that sound familiar to anyone else? I know I’m not the only one, I’m just not sure it’s talked about much. 

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(yup, still flexing)

I’m beyond blessed to be given so many great opportunities. I’m currently training clients at 2 gyms, teaching classes at 3 gyms, training myself, training my online clients (you can go here for more info about it), and working full-time doing sales/marketing/admin/everything-in-between for my main job. Did I mention I’m also studying for my CSCS? On top of that, I have two different companies that have approached me in the last week to help them with their own email marketing. Once again…GREAT opportunities and I’m not complaining about that…but I am definitely in a predicament of sorts.

It leaves me with VERY little time to rest. The time I do have to rest, I end up trying to spend doing fun things because I don’t want to miss out on doing fun things just because I’m busy.

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(like wakeboarding and hiking!!!! no way i’m missing out on that!)

Do you see how this isn’t at all sustainable in the long-term?

But the question becomes, what do I give up? What is most important to keep?

I think this is something that everyone goes through at some point in their lives (and likely, multiple times), but it’s been very present for me lately and I am determined to truly figure out what I WANT and not just do things because others want me to do them.

I attended the Fitness Summit at the end of April in Kansas City (you can see my full review HERE), and I remember Alan Aragon making a comment about this very thing. He said that at some point, you’re going to have to learn to say no. To turn down opportunities, and to only go after the things that will be the most fulfilling.

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(Alan is the man! you are too Bret! ;-))

It’s a HARD thing to do when you actually like 90% of everything that you do.

Who do I say no to? Who do I turn down?

I’m still not sure what that answer is, but I risk a 2nd burnout if I don’t figure it out soon. (I had a similar burnout 2 years ago).

Unfortunately, I don’t have all of the answers just yet. And you may not either if this is something you relate to, but I think it’s still important to talk about it. To bring up the issue and connect with others who are in similar situations.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you want to chat! (email: fitlizzio@gmail.com)

Workouts

Ah, the very thing that started this blog in 2008!!! Yep, it’s been 8 years that I’ve had this dang thing. It’s had plenty of time where nothing was being posted, but it is still a very important blog to me and has YEARS worth of content. Old posts actually embarrass me, but I figure that it highlights a certain time in my life so WHATEVS, I won’t delete them.

In training news, I’ve been continuing to train as a powerlifter with the addition of some other exercises that I incorporate because I like them such as box jumps, various bodybuilding movements, and extra glute work (duh).

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Yesterday’s workout was:

Hip Thrusts

275×13, 305×10, 135 + knee band x 5-5-5-5 (5 reps + 5 second hold x 4)

Back Squats

165 x alt. 1, 2 reps for 10 sets

Deadlifts

175 x alt 2, 3 reps for 10 sets

KB Swings

70 x alt 10, 12 reps for 10 sets

This KICKED MY ASS. Not every day is this crazy, but this is just how it went down yesterday. Today I took it easier and did chin ups, deficit reverse lunges, and single leg leg press. Once upon a time (like up until 6 months ago), I used to try to go balls to the wall EVERY DAY. I’ve since gotten better at balancing the super hard days with less intense onces. Only took me like 8 years haha. (“FINALLY!!!” said every coach I’ve ever had).

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Speaking of that……this August marks 10 YEARS since I started working out. To some, that may seem like nothing, but it is a big milestone for me. I’ve been through SO MUCH in those 10 years and I fully plan to put out a picture-filled post that highlights the ups and downs and everything in between in the last 10 years.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I’ll be popping in again soon.

Keep up the training!

-Lizzy

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Round-Up: The 5 BEST Health and Fitness Articles I’ve Read This Week (May 2016)

I love to write, but some people (okay, A LOT of people) are way smarter than me and know a lot more things than I do.

I am constantly trying to take in more information, but my head is actually kind of small which leads me to believe that my brain only has so much capacity, which puts me at a disadvantage, and well, I just am not ever going to be the smartest person in the room. But i might be the most resourceful depending on who’s in the room, so here goes:

These are the 5 best on-bullshit, logical health and fitness articles i’ve read this week. Enjoy!

1. Superfoods List: The Best Foods That Burn Fat and Help You Lose Weight
IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK. PLEASE, give this one a read. My favorite quote from the article:

‘“Superfood” isn’t a scientific term. It’s not even a nutritional term. It’s a marketing term.’ – Jay

2. Are you sure you want that meal plan?

While I think there is a place for meal plans (meal plans that are used as a GUIDELINE, are flexible and not an end-all be-all that is), most of the time, they are exactly like this guy states. Some trainer telling their clients that if they eat these magical foods at magically spaced intervals throughout the day, they will magically see better results than anyone else.

3. Unneccessary Fitness Expenses

It’s true that there is a place for personal training, supplements, etc. But there are so many people who take advantage of this and try to sell people on things they don’t need, just to make a profit. This is a great quick read.

4. Top 10 Fitness Industry Charlatans

It’s important to take what “perceived experts” say with a grain of salt. Do your research and talk to people that are true scientists in their field. Most often, these are the people whose #1 priority is to sift through the bullshit and find the truth.

5. How Do I Know How Much Weight to Use In The Gym?

Shameless plug…but if I’m not writing things that I don’t think are the best, than why write at all? This is one of many approaches to getting stronger in the gym and it answers the common question: how much weight should i use in the gym? This should help you out.

 

Have more awesome articles that I should include next week? Comment below or e-mail me at fitlizzio@gmail.com

How do I Know How Much Weight to Use in the Gym?

How do I Know How Much Weight to Use in the Gym?IMG_0151

This is probably one of the most common questions I get from clients and friends alike. It makes sense, as everyone comes from a different level of strength and there isn’t really a “guide” that will tell you what weights you should be using. (Side note: Comparing yourself to other people is NOT the way to determine this.)

We are used to looking at a chart to let us know where we fall within a category.

  • If we are a certain height and weight, we should ideally be within a certain body fat range for optimal performance.
  • If we look at our height, weight, and activity level, we can determine approximately how many calories we should be eating on a daily basis.
  • If your heart rate is at a certain level, a chart at the gym will tell you what “zone” you’re in (I have an entire post on this topic coming in the next few weeks as well)

But when it comes to the weight room, no such chart exists. It leaves people doing the same weights with the same rep ranges for YEARS and wondering why they don’t see changes. It is a factor that pushes people to “confuse their muscles” because their current program is “broken”. So let’s break this down once and for all so you can start seeing results in the gym and feel confident that you’re using the correct weights for YOU (remember, everyone is different, ESPECIALLY when it comes to strength).

A Simple Way to Determine What Weights you Should be Using and How to Progress Each Week

1. It’s important to start out by having a plan when you walk into the gym. Whether that is a program that you got from a coach, a plan you printed off from the internet, or just a workout that you or a friend jotted down onto a sticky note, always walk into the gym with an idea of what you’ll be doing.

2. Buy a journal or notebook so that you can track your weights and reps. I know many people that will say “oh it’s ok, I remember all my numbers!”. I’m sure you do….until you don’t and you end up looking like a lost puppy in the gym. Just don’t be stubborn and write your damn workouts down. 🙂

3. Be sure that at the very least, there is a number of sets and a rep range for you to follow. You could also get more technical with predetermined rest periods and tempos, but for simplicity, we’ll leave that out for now.

4. You’ll also want to make sure you can perform the prescribed movement with a full range of motion with bodyweight before you start adding weights. For example, if your workout has you doing back squats for 3 sets of 10,  but you can’t do 1 barbell back squat with a full range of motion, you’d be better off backing down to either a bodyweight squat, box squat, or goblet squat to start.

5. Once you know you can perform each exercise with a full range of motion, you can start to begin adding weight. 

Alright COOL. So you’ve got your handy dandy notebook in one hand, your workout program in another hand, and your coolest workout outfit on (these are the important things people). You’re ready to go!

Using our previous example, your workout program says to do Back Squats for 3 sets of 10 reps. Those are your working sets and typically do not include any warm-up sets. You’ll want to warm up for a few sets prior to starting your working sets (more on that below). Ideally, you’ll also perform some dynamic movements before starting your workout as well.

Someone who knows approximately what weights they’ll be using for their working sets will know when they crossover from warm-up set to working set. Because of this, they will also likely keep their warm up sets shorter (less reps) in order to preserve energy for their working sets. You’ll get to that point in no time, but for now, our warm-up sets will be the same rep range as our working sets so that you can determine what your working sets will be without over/under shooting.

Let’s say you put the barbell on your back (45 lbs) and do 10 reps. It’s no problem and you feel like you could definitely do more, so you rest for a minute or 2 and then add 10lbs on each side (65lbs). You perform a set of 10 reps here and while it’s slightly harder, you still feel that you could go heavier. You add another 10lbs on each side (85lbs) and perform your set. This time, you struggle with the last 2-3 reps. While you could probably go heavier, this is where I’d recommend starting. Remember, you’re not trying to be a hero on Day 1. You’ll have plenty of time to go for PR’s later on, but determining a manageable starting point will set you up for success.

Since you’ve determined that 85 lbs is a good working set for you, you’d perform 2 more sets at 85 lbs and move on to the next exercise.

The next time that back squats are prescribed at 3 sets of 10 reps, you now know that you did 85lbs for 3 sets of 10 last time (because it’s written down in your AWESOME notebook that you’re still carrying around even though you spilled coffee on it this morning, right?!)

This week, you’ll want to try to add slightly more weight. Here’s what you’ll want to do now:

1st Warm up set: 5-7 reps at 45lbs

2nd Warm Up set: 3-5 reps at 65 lbs

3rd Warm Up set: 1-3 reps at 80 lbs

1st Working Set: 90lbs for 10 reps

From here you will decide where to go:

  • If you couldn’t finish all 10 reps at 90lbs, you’d go back down to 85 lbs.
  • If you completed all 10 reps and it was pretty hard (last few reps were a struggle), then you’d stay here for the remaining 2 sets.
  • If this felt pretty easy to you or you felt that you could do more, you may try for 95 lbs on the next set.
  • You can also increase the amount of reps that you did without increasing the weight used. For example, if you couldn’t complete 90lbs for 10 reps, but you could do 85lbs for 12 reps, that is still an increase in what you did the week before.

These strategies can be applied towards virtually any exercise. The big take away here is to try to increase either the amount of weight used or the reps completed each week. I say TRY because it won’t always happen. Some weeks the weight will go up smoothly and other weeks you will easily convince yourself that all of your muscles must have been abducted by aliens. And hey, maybe that is what happens. I’m no xenoarchaeologist.

While there are about 100 different ways you can determine what weights to start with and how to progress in the weight room, this is a very simple way to do it. You can continue to apply these principles each week to your workouts and over time, you’ll get stronger.

Be aware that at some point, the weights won’t go up as easily. Strength is not linear AND has diminishing returns. This means that a new lifter will likely see quick gains in a short period of time. Someone who has been lifting for many years sees much smaller gains over time. This doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong, it is just how the body works. It’s part of what keeps it fun.

I love to keep in touch with people and am happy to answer any other questions you have. Feel free to leave a comment below OR email me at fitlizzio@gmail.com. Even if it’s just to say HEY.

Happy lifting!

-Lizzio

 

Recap: The Fitness Summit 2016

An incredible weekend of learning and shenanigans has come to a close and I can’t wait until I have the energy to start processing it all (because I think I slept a combined 7 hours in 3 days -_-).

Thursday night, my friend and I flew out to Kansas City to attend The Fitness Summit. I’d never been before, but have heard great things about it. I have been craving some new learning experiences and since this meant I also got to travel to another city, this seemed like the perfect event.

Some of the presenters I was very familiar with and some were brand new. I walked away with a new perspective, tons of new information that I can apply to training my own clients, and new friends. Here are some of the recaps:

Tony Gentilcore

…went over the Deadlift. This was one of the presentations I was most looking forward to, since deadlifts are one of my favorite exercises. He not only went over technique and deciphering the type of deadlift that a client should perform based on where they are at physically, but also showed us some really awesome practical modifications to get clients to reign in their form and get their bodies to learn the proper patterns of the deadlift. I easily have 5-7 new deadlift modifications in my toolbox and I can’t wait to use them with my clients.

This article highlights most of the “hip hinge badassery” as Tony calls it.

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Source: Tony Gentilcore

Why this was so helpful: The deadlift is such a great movement because of the recruitment of so many muscle groups. Because of this, many people have a hard time following all of the cues and maintaining proper form such as pulling the hips back, engaging your glutes/hamstrings/lats, keeping your chest out, neutral spine, and the list goes on. I personally have 2-3 clients that have an extremely hard time with this and it limits our training a bit. I am 99.9% sure that with some of the exercises Tony went over, I’ll have these clients deadlifting with proper form very soon.

Nick Tumminello

…discussed single leg movements and this was a pretty interesting topic. We practiced several of the movements that he went over and while the actual movements weren’t necessarily new to me, some of the positioning was different. It was interesting to perform these single-leg movements (such as reverse lunges and step-ups) in different positions to recruit more of the glutes or to put a higher load on the actual working leg based on the rest of your body positioning. I also added some new-to-me single leg exercises that I can add to my arsenal.

This article goes over some of those movements.

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Source: Nick Tumminello

Why this was so helpful: As a trainer, the basics will always be the majority of what I’ll focus on with my clients. However, depending on the type of client (and especially the athletes), there are some single leg exercises that just do a better job at certain things. The more tools in my tool box, the better equipped I’ll be with my clients and their needs.

Bret Contreras

…talked about squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusts. While I’m pretty familiar with Bret’s style and have a slight bias considering I’ve learned a good portion of what I know from him, it was still a good refresher and I always learn something new from him. I think the biggest take away from this particular presentation was not being afraid to adapt. We’d all like to have optimal squat and deadlift form, but that isn’t always possible. We have to be able to adapt to what works best for the individual, even if it is outside of the “normal” technical recommendations. The main focus should be safety and as long as a client isn’t being injured, it’s okay to be less-than-perfect.

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Source: Bret Contreras

Why this was so helpful: I think as trainers, we get it in our heads that everything needs to be perfect at all times or else it is to be avoided. While I think striving for that perfect form is where we all should be thinking, accepting that that isn’t always plausible is also really crucial and making adjustments that will get the job done without injury is an option.

Last but not least,

Alan Aragon.

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, then you saw that he is my new #braincrush. Not only is he a brilliant guy, his delivery of information is incredibly sound. He gives real-world advice and leaves out the fluffy bullshit. I think I speak for most people at the conference when I say that he left all of us inspired and ready to take on the world. His tips and tools for pursuing your own career in the fitness business were really insightful and I think he touched on all of the “fear” aspects that many (if not all) of us have.

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Source: Alan Aragon

Why this was so helpful: I’m often crippled by fear and have often felt like the only one. Alan’s advice was to find the things you love in the industry and build your business around them. Not only that, but he provided some tools to figure out what those areas might be for people like me who aren’t 100% sure what that “dream job” looks like. Fear is present in almost every single entrepreneur’s venture at some point, but his best advice to move past that is to just DO IT ANYWAYS. You da man Alan.

(Also, he’s really freaking smart, so you should go look through his articles too.)

There were several other speakers that gave really great presentations and I think it’s safe to say that there was really something for everyone there. From the fitness enthusiast to the personal trainer to the nutritionist to the fitness business tycoon, there was plenty of good information in all realms of the fitness industry. I will definitely be back next year!

The Location

It’d be a tragedy if I also didn’t mention the amazing gym that the conference was held at, Impact Elite Gym in Kansas City. This gym had everything you could ever need/want (except a hip thruster) and had tons of space to do it. The “feel” of the gym was hardcore/oldschool and the bar at the front desk where they made protein shakes, pancakes (!!!!), and had all kinds of drinks and snacks was bar none.

As busy as we were, I obviously couldn’t leave without getting a workout in.

Here’s what I did:

-Good Mornings + Squats: 45×10, 75×10, 95×5

-Back Squats: 145x10T (got all 10 reps in 1 set)

10 min. AMRAP

-RDL’s: 145×10

-Squat Jumps: bwx10

I did 6 rounds in 9:36 and called it. It’s barely 24 hours later as I’m writing this and my glutes and hamstrings are already sore.

-Leg Press: 140×10, 180×10, 230×10, 270×10, 320×10, 320×15, 320×5

EMOM – 10 min.

-Kettle Bell Swings: 70×6

This workout kicked my ass and I ended up having to go back to the hotel to shower afterwards. Totally worth it though!

Time to go read, write, learn and GSD(get shit done)!!!

 

 

What I’ve Been Up To

It’s been a while since I’ve been an every-day-blogger, and for now, it’s what is working for me. There may be a day when daily blogging is back in my life, but for now I’m on the when-I-feel-like-it train.

I thought I’d pop in for now and let you know what I’m up to these days, so here goes!

Workouts

-Still doin’ it! It’s crazy to think that 9.5 years ago, I stepped into Lifts for the first time and started this crazy, wonderful adventure. I’ve been consistently working out since then and I plan on never stopping.

-My focus has finally shifted to powerlifting. It was something I’d been eyeing for the last 1.5 years and I had started gearing my workouts towards that style, but I finally bit the bullet and started training at a powerlifting gym this past January. I LOVE IT. Not only do I love the fact that I’m getting stronger, but the vibe of a powerlifting gym is just so much different than a regular gym. The focus is very little about aesthetics and very much about strength. You get a break from those who are there “to be seen” and instead get to lift weights with a bunch of like-minded people that also want to be strong AF. It’s quite wonderful. (I still do tons of glute work too, in case you were worried ;-))

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Food

-I’m eating what I want and being mindful of it. I’ve never been happier. I’m not focused on losing weight, I’m in control, and I’m happy with my body. Could I afford to lose 10-15 lbs to be leaner? Sure thing. But it’s not my focus right now. I’m simply focused on eating to fuel my workouts and also enjoying life.

Travel

-I’ve been gone almost every weekend this year! Multiple trips to AZ to see family, Seattle, Park City, Dana Point, and Maui. I’m headed to Kansas City at the end of this month for a strength training seminar and then to Big Bear at the end of June. I guess you could say I’ve got the travel bug!

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Work

-I’m still training clients at 2 different gyms, teaching a weekly boot camp, and working as a business consultant to gyms. The balance is great and I’m so happy that I’m able to work hard and play hard too!

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Oscar

-This is always the first question I’m asked by family and friends. “How’s Oscar?” He is definitely the star of the show and he loves every minute of it. This dog makes my life better. He’s the best friend I could ever ask for.

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That’s what’s going on with me! Tell me what’s up with you! Traveling? Working out? I want to hear about it, so comment below!

3 Things You Must Do to Reach Your Fitness Goals

I sat down here to write, knowing I felt like writing, and found myself with nothing to write about. Cool story, right?

But I also know that once I get going, sometimes the words just start flowing.

And as I started writing that, I instantly saw the relationship of that statement as it relates to exercise.

The fact that sometimes you are a little unsure, not in the mood, or flat out dreading a workout. But if you just start, maybe you’ll get into the zone and end up with a kick ass swole session under your belt.

it reminded me of why it is so important to push yourself to do something, even when you’re feeling unmotivated (and boy is this something I needed to remind myself of, but that’s another story for another day).

The #1 question I’m asked (and it’s almost on a daily basis) is how I find the motivation to workout consistently. Friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, random people at the grocery store, even fellow gym-goers are curious as to what I have that they don’t.

The answer is going to surprise you, I think. But first, let me fill you in on a few things about myself (and many other fitness “freaks”) that you may not know.

3 Misconceptions about the “Fitness Freak”

  • Working out consistently does not come from motivation. Yes, you read that right. I haven’t worked out consistently for 9.5 years because I was motivated. I’ve worked out for 9.5 years consistently because I made that choice. Don’t get me wrong, I find a lot of joy and fulfillment from working out. I have always been a bit competitive and have always been an athlete. One of my biggest fears is losing my athletic abilities. It’s the reason I not only lift weights, but find other ways to stay active as well. I also see how well working out translates into how I carry my personal and professional life. I see what getting stronger physically does to my mental wellbeing (it’s life-changing, btw). HOWEVER, if I only worked out when I was motivated, I guarantee that my workouts would be all over the place and extremely INCONSISTENT. Motivation is wavering. Sometimes it’s high, sometimes it’s low, and it usually doesn’t stay for very long. It’s unreliable and while you can take advantage of it while it’s visiting, you shouldn’t let it be your crutch or your reason.

 

  • You don’t have to love everything you do. As I stated above, I do love working out. But that doesn’t mean that I love everything I do to stay fit. There are plenty of exercises that I’d happily trade in permanently, but often times it is the exercises that you wish to do least, that you probably should be doing more. It’s fun to do things we’re good at. It’s not as fun to do things that we struggle with, so it makes sense that we all have exercises we hate. While exercise should generally be enjoyable and you should like what you do, be aware that there will be pieces of what you do that you may not always enjoy.

 

  • Piggy backing on the above statement, sometimes you will start to love the things you previously disliked. I used to despise chin ups and bench press. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t very good at either of them. But I also knew that I wanted to get better at both exercises, so I just did them. Low and behold, I now LOVE both of them A LOT. You don’t have to start out loving something to potentially start loving it. So hang in there, keep practicing the things you’re weak at, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn to love them.

3 Things You Must Do to Reach Your Fitness Goals

The 3 previous statements bring me to the answer you were looking for earlier in this post. The question of “what do I (and other fitness “freaks”) have that you don’t?”…

The answer is: NOTHING. 

Mentally, I don’t have any magic tools that you don’t have. As much as we all like to think we are “unique”, we’re also kind of the fucking same guys. Sure, we have unique qualities, but at the end of the day, we’re the same damn breed. (And before you tell me I have more time, I have the same 24 hours that you do. We choose the way we spend them.)

Now that we know we have the same tools to work with, it’s important to look at what will make us successful in our endeavors, whether fitness and health related or not.

  1. The goal has to be stronger than your excuses. If it’s not very important to you to be fit, it will probably be hard for you to choose hitting the gym over crushing an entire season of New Girl on a Tuesday night. Finding the reason WHY you want to be fit is crucial. Maybe it’s because you just want to look better naked (totally valid goal). Maybe you know that your family has a history of obesity-related health issues. The fact that you don’t want to be put onto 4 different medications in your mid-30’s. The bottom line is, if you don’t have a WHY, you will likely not be able to push yourself to make the time and effort to consistently exercise.
  2. Just like your muscles, mental strength must be exercised. Just as the current habits we have were learned, we can retrain ourselves to forge new habits. This doesn’t come easily, and requires us to practice. For example, if you’re used to getting home from work each day and sitting on the couch for the rest of the night, it won’t be easy to just start going to the gym after work instead. You may be able to get by with some motivation for a few days, but once that wears off (and it almost always does, hence my advice to NOT rely on motivation), you’ll want to go right back to sitting on the couch after work. These are the times that you have to exercise your brain. These are the times you have to fight the urge to sit on the couch, and just go to the gym anyways. Over time, your habits will change and it will get easier and easier.
  3. You have to be ok with NOT BEING PERFECT. This one is really difficult, but likely the most important. We love to beat ourselves up when we fuck up. We love to throw in the towel when things don’t go perfectly. We love to sabotage ourselves further when we’ve gotten off track even in the slightest bit. And what we REALLY need to understand is that we will never be perfect. We will fuck up, fail, derail, and make the wrong choice. It is not an if, it is a when. Being OKAY with that fact, is what will actually keep you ON TRACK with your goals. It sounds a bit ass backwards, but it’s actually the truth. It doesn’t give you a pass to skip the gym and eat like crap and then just throw your hands up and say “eh, i’m not perfect”, but it DOES give you permission to pep talk yourself and say “i fucked up, but i am not a fuck up. I got off track, but I will not stay off track. I fell down, but I will get back up”.

At the end of the day, consistency wins the race. It’s funny, because we like to think that the extremes are what get us from point A to point B. It couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the small steps that actually move us forward. It’s the acceptance that not everything will be perfect. It’s the fact that some days we won’t have time for our hour long weight lifting workout and instead, we’ll have 15 minutes in our living room to move. It’s the days you end up at a pizza joint with friends and decide to just eat 1 slice of pizza instead of eating 7 slices and writing off the day as an entire failure. THAT is how we reach our goals. THAT is how we get the things we’ve always wanted. We accept what is, and we do the best we can with it. 

Questions

1. Tell me, what is your goal and what stands in your way the most?

2. Do you push yourself to workout/eat well even when you don’t want to? Or do you give in to what you want to do at that moment?

My Fitness Journey: 9 Years of Ups and Downs Part 3

In my last post, I left off with my recovery from a bad relationship with food and my elimination of steady state cardio. It was something I knew I needed to do for a long time, but it didn’t make it easy. While it was difficult mentally, it was made a bit easier by the fact that I almost effortlessly lost 10lbs in the first 2 months of putting focus on weight training, doing very little cardio, and eating foods I wanted to eat without feeling guilt.

Slowly but surely, my goals started to change towards getting stronger and the emphasis on “losing weight” was dwindling.

Throughout the rest of 2013 and into 2014, I started to really remember why I got into this in the first place and started to remember my roots. I was taught how to lift weights first and foremost, and that was what I loved most.

I continued counting calories throughout all of these years. At some point, I switched from Sparkpeople over to My Fitness Pal, but I’m 99% sure that there isn’t a day in the last 9 years that my food isn’t tracked somewhere. Impressive? maybe. Scary? Definitely. It’s a sign that my relationship with food could still be improved.

Over the last 2 years, I’ve been really comfortable with my body and even though I’m not the lean bikini-competitor girl I once was, I’ve actually grown to love the body I do have, added body fat and all.

But still, there is a part of me that has wanted redemption. A part of me that wants to say a giant FUCK YOU to my eating disorder and to show it that I’m better than that, stronger than that, and can get lean WITHOUT losing my mind. It’s a me vs. me that I haven’t quite figured out yet, but also haven’t given up on.

I’ve tried a few times and have seen some success, but ultimately have failed. I’m actually not embarrassed to admit that, it just shows that I still have work to do when it comes to my relationship with food and my mindset.

I’ve worked with great coaches (Sohee and Erik) that have each taught me some valuable lessons, but ultimately, a coach can’t do the work for you. I’m a personal trainer and know this first-hand. I can’t make my clients take action, work hard, show up, etc. I can only guide them. The coaches I’ve had helped me as best as they could and I did see results and made progress with each of them. BUT, there has always been a fear in me that by heading down the road to fat loss, that I’ll end up in the same position I was in back in 2009. It’s, what I believe, has subconsciously held me back and made me self-sabotage my efforts.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about it over the last few months as I’ve tried to figure myself out and this is what I do know:

-I’ve been able to maintain my weight more or less for the last few years at a weight/look that I am comfortable with

-I’ve been able to lose fat, but haven’t really been able to keep it off (that’s the self-sabotage)

-I’ve gotten stronger and have continued to kick ass in the gym

-I’ve been paying entirely too much attention to what I eat

Did that last one make your head turn? Every article you read asks that you pay attention to what you eat. But this is what has really been striking me as of late. I’ve been tracking my food intake for 9 years and while that can be a great tool for some, I realize that I also have ZERO clue about what my body needs WITHOUT looking to see how much protein/carbs/fat/calories I’ve had for the day. I don’t pay attention to hunger cues very much other than when I’m hungry, I check to see how much i can eat without going over my numbers.

I’ve come to the realization that by tracking everything I put in my body, I’ve become completely obsessive. I could probably tell you how many calories are in almost any serving of food you present to me. I know HOW to eat, yet I rely on calculators. Exclusively.

I think tracking was a great thing for me for a long time, and in the future it may be a great tool for me again, but for now? I think it’s time for me to break up with My Fitness Pal.

I think I need to take a leap of faith and start learning to eat based on my hunger cues and what my body needs, as opposed to choosing to eat based on what the numbers are telling me. This may sound counterintuitive to some, but I believe it is a necessary step in my journey.

There is a good chance that in doing this, I’ll gain weight initially because I won’t really know how much I’m eating. At the same time, I do believe that over time, I’ve been doing this long enough (and know how to properly put meals together to fuel my training) that I think it will benefit me in the long run. I think it will be the key to me putting all this shit behind me FOR GOOD.

It’s a giant unknown, but is something I’ve pondered a lot in the recent months. It’s scary and that may sound silly to some, but it’s been my security blanket for 9 years. I think it’s time to pay attention to my body, and not my data.

It was a good run My Fitness Pal…and Spark People? Thank you for your help over the years, but it’s time. It’s time for me to give up the trackers for a while. Maybe I’ll be back to them, but for the next few months, they’ve gotta go.

FAREWELL TRACKERS

*I appreciate all of you that read through all 3 parts of this. It was a lot and definitely wasn’t easy to write. It’s a tough subject for me, but at the same time, if I can help even one person, it’s worth it. I believe going through that is part of what makes me a great personal trainer and coach to others. I’ve been there, I understand the struggle, and I’ve (mostly) gotten away from it. I’m not perfect, I haven’t solved everything, but I’ve been through quite a bit and have helped others in their journey as well. Please feel free to reach out to me (or someone) if you need help. You can e-mail me at fitlizzio@gmail.com or leave a comment on this post. 

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