So I turn 28 on Wednesday and I can’t lie: I’m going to miss 27.
27 has been the best year of my life so far, and this blog has been a main contributor to my happiness over the last few months.
Never in my life have I felt so sure that I’m on the right track, so thank you for supporting me in this journey. I couldn’t… well wouldn’t… have done it without all of you.
But it’s taken me 27 years to find this feeling. Over my lifetime, I’ve learned to love myself, treat myself right, and prioritize my health, and now I teach others how to do it as well.
Today, I’m going to go over some of the most important lessons from all my years on this earth so that you can find your thriving life, too.
1. Sleep is the most important factor when it comes to health. If you don’t get enough, your body won’t be able to recover from even a sedentary lifestyle, let alone an active one… which, if you’re on this site, you’ve gathered is the only way to achieve complete health and fitness.
2. Move every day. Even if it’s a walk around the block, get your blood flowing! It will benefit more than just your physical health- aerobic exercise will help keep stress at bay, stave off depression and other mood and anxiety disorders, and increase your natural energy.
3. BREATHE. A deep breath is my answer to many things- in stressful situations, when you’re feeling disconnected, when you are faced with big decisions… Breathing will help slow down your heart rate and your fight or flight systems so that you can think with a clear head.
4. Take time for yourself. Schedule it in! Find time to do something solely for you- read a book, write a book, go for a drive, go for a walk, etc. Do something by yourself that brings you back to your center and allows you to re-energize.
5. Get rid of your Biggest Loser expectations. In order to lose weight and keep it off FOR GOOD, do not expect losses in the double digits every week. The people on The Biggest Loser train at least 6 hours a day on a massively restricted diet. Expect a loss of .5-2 pounds a week if you’re losing the right kind of weight (body fat, not water or muscle) and want to maintain the loss. Even better, go by body fat percentage and lean mass.
6. Don’t trust your weight. I am a size 4-6 right now, but I weigh about 5 pounds more than when I was a size 6 five years ago. You know why? I’m buff now. ;) Not really, but kind of. I am denser, so I know not to go by weight too much because it so often fluctuates and can get you frustrated for no reason. Stick to how your clothes feel and how YOU feel.
7. Lift heavy. After years of trying to lose weight and get toned with cardio classes, long sessions on the elliptical, and eating a ridiculously low amount of calories for my activity level, I realized I didn’t want to feel like a zombie in order to be “fit.” When I started lifting heavy, I discovered it was easier to stick to a diet plan (not low calorie, but clean) without feeling like I was starving, and I gained muscle while losing body fat.
8. Lift no more than 30 minutes. This goes along with lesson 7- if you’re lifting intensely and heavy, you should be spent at around 20-30 minutes. THIS IS A GOOD THING. The systems that help you become a fat-burning machine work best when you go balls-to-the-wall fast and heavy until the body just plain doesn’t want to anymore.
9. Train your ass ON. One of the most important lessons I learned while training with my guru trainer, Yaw of Peak Performance Fitness, is that the butt is the key to everything working right in our bodies. In our sedentary society, it is way too common that our butts simply turn off because of constant sitting. In order for our bodies to function correctly (and to get that Jessica Biel silhouette), you have to turn your butt back on and keep it on through constant training.
10. If you’re only going to do one move for a flat stomach, CHOOSE PLANKS. The simple plank from your elbows works your entire core musculature, butt, shoulders, and cardio system… and you don’t even move! Start with 15-20 seconds, pulling your abs in and not arching your back. As you get better, work up to a minute for three sets with no more than 20 seconds rest in between! It burns, but it strengthens your body and your mind to push through it. Washboard abs anyone?
11. Spinning is not the be-all, end-all. After getting my corrective exercise certification, my theories have been proven. Spinning tightens all the muscles that a sedentary person is already tight in. Imagine someone hunched over a computer. Now imagine said computer guy hunched over a bike at high resistance, straining to get up that “hill.” Super-rounded back, hunched shoulders, crunched hip flexors, and aching lower back. In the end, it’s not worth the trouble it causes. I’d opt for running/walking or swimming.
12. Sprint! Instead of those marathon rides on the reclining bike reading a newspaper, do something that’s actually going to benefit more than your knowledge of today’s Family Circle. Sprinting is the best form of cardio to burn fat during and after the actual session, making you a literal fat-burning machine.
13. Find something you like to do. It doesn’t matter if so-and-so got amazing results with P90X; if you hate it, you won’t do it. Find something you love and experiment with other things, but focus on the mode of exercise that makes you happy, and you’ll be sure to work out more often.
14. Try new things once in a while. Though you should make sure you’re enjoying your workouts, mix it up every now and then to avoid plateaus and boredom! Look at local classes or races that can help liven up your routine, if only once every few months!
15. Wear clothes that make you feel confident while you work out. If you’re trying to lose weight, chances are sweats and a baggy t-shirt aren’t going to motivate you to get in the gym and show off your slammin’ duds. Get some workout clothes that you can’t wait to put on. They can be an investment, but think of them as extra motivation.
16. Music can be your savior. I used to exercise without music when I first started working out and now I can’t even imagine trying to get through a long run without it. All the zen people here will say, “you don’t need music- just enjoy the moment.” Well, my zen friends, I don’t find anything more enjoyable than listening to a power song on the last leg of a hill after already having gone 5 miles. It can fuel you by being another source of motivation and inspiration.
17. Find someone to be accountable to. Whether it’s a trainer, friend, family member, or coworker, find someone that wants to achieve the same goals that you do and stay accountable to them. If this person is going after the same things, you can both keep each other in check to make sure that you don’t stray off plan.
18. Remember that the people that are good at whatever mode of exercise you aren’t, started right where you are. Some people have natural talents for certain sports, but most of us begin at the bottom and work our way to comfort. Running is especially hard to get comfortable with. Give it time and patience. You’ll get there.
19. Be gentle on yourself. If you’re body isn’t recovering fully, you’re exhausted, or your time (for runners/swimmers) or strength is deteriorating, rest. Your body is trying to tell you something. You only get one, so make sure to listen to it!
20. A trainer offers more than just exercise programs. After hiring a trainer myself, I realize just how much they can help. They can see from the outside what you’ve been struggling with inside for years, and give you one simple tip to correct it. The good ones offer moral support, nutrition advice, and can even snap you back into reality when you’re about to quit because it’s “too hard.” My trainers are worth the money I pay them and more.
21. There’s a “diet” for everyone. If you read The 90% Principle: How NOT To Go Insane While Dieting, You know that I hate the word, “diet.” That’s because I don’t think anyone should ever have to go on a diet- you should be eating clean for life and energy, NOT to lose weight fast. Everyone has different carb sensitivities, protein needs, and fat needs, so no one diet is going to work for every BODY. Test different ways of eating and see what makes you FEEL the best.
22. You don’t necessarily need grains as part of a balanced diet. A few months ago, I cut out grains from my diet (except for that 10% of the time and right after intense weight training workouts). After the first couple weeks, it’s not hard to stick to, and I don’t experience that afternoon lull and sugar craving that I used to. Like lesson 7 states, however, this may not be for everyone- some people need more carbs to feel energized, especially if you take part in endurance sports or are a vegetarian.
23. Go off your “diet” 10% of the time. I don’t know what I’d do if someone told me that to be healthy I could never eat pancakes again… actually, I’m pretty sure I would pull all my hair out and quit personal training because I know I would be a failure at this so-called diet. There is no reason to deny yourself the things that you love 100% of the time, unless it’s a food allergy or intolerance. Allow yourself to go off-plan 10% of the time (3-4 meals/week) to avoid binges and plateaus.
24. Write everything down. I combine my food journal and my workout journal so that I can track everything in one glance. Whether you combine or not, I recommend that you keep track one way or the other. You can see what’s working, what’s not, and it’s a great way to stay accountable to yourself.
25. Prioritize protein. I have yet to train a client that has made protein the focus of their plate and NOT lost body fat. Lean protein from chicken, turkey, fish, or some vegetarian sources are great for keeping you satiated and raising thermogenesis, and thus, calorie burn in the body. This happens more with protein than it does witch carbs or fat.
26. Diet sodas are the devil. Even sodas without calories lead to sugar cravings and reactions in the body akin to the full-cal versions. Stick to water and unsweetened iced tea or coffee whenever possible, unless you want to count a sugary drink as one of your 10% meals.
27. Be happy with what you’ve got. Whether you’ve just started out on your quest for health and fitness, or you’ve been doing this for years, look at the things you have accomplished. Just started out? Congratulations! YOU made the choice to change your life as millions of people sit around waiting for someone else to do it for them. Been doing this for a while, but are stuck in a plateau? Look at all the things you have accomplished and be grateful for those, then pick one small thing to change and start with that. It may just be enough to kick you past that plateau and into even more results.
28. …YOU TELL ME: What is the best piece of advice for health and fitness that you can leave for me and the rest of the Strong Inside Out community? Don’t be shy! Think of it as my birthday present. ;)
Can’t wait to hear the best tips you have for me!
To your thriving life,