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GUEST POST: Beginner Workouts!!

GUEST POST: Beginner Workouts!!

I’m super excited to bring you my 2nd ever guest post!! My first guest post was actually my mother (she shared her thoughts on raising an overweight child) and today we’re taking a totally different approach. Today’s guest is a great friend of mine – a woman who inspires me and who constantly teaches me. She’s totally hysterical and 100% genuine – but she’s also a true expert in fitness, movement and creating a fat loss lifestyle. She has her Master’s in Applied Exercise Science with a concentration in Strength and Conditioning, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and is the beautiful face of The Lean Life with Keri. She has so graciously agreed to share with us her tips for beginner workouts and how to dive in to fitness without spending hours working out! In fact, her approach is not only effective, it doesn’t even require any equipment or a gym membership! She’s even included an actual workout to get you started!!! Without further ado…..Keri Mantie!

Starting a strength-training program can be super intimidating. There are so many different workouts out there, that if you don’t know where to begin, you might not begin at all. But honestly, it just doesn’t have to be that confusing. It doesn’t have to take a huge amount of time, and you don’t even have to belong to a gym to get started! You just have to, well, GET STARTED!

The awesome thing about being a beginner is that you have this HUGE window of adaptation where you will see some serious strength gains, and other awesome results, pretty quickly. This is not only exciting it’s also SUPER motivating, so long as you go about your programming correctly.

One of the biggest mistakes I see women make is starting off with the hardest classes, videos, workouts etc., and they end up getting either injured or burnt out. I am a firm believer in doing the basics, and doing them well. I don’t think it’s smart to do a million squat jumps in a workout if you can’t perform a body weight squat correctly. So, to get you started we’re going to keep things super simple and build all workouts around a small number of SUPER important movements: hip flexion/extension, upper body push/pull and core stability. You are going to do those exercises well before progressing to the next level.

Ideally, you want to begin every workout with some foam rolling and a quick dynamic warm-up. Foam rolling is a great way to massage your tight spots and better prepare you for your warm-up. The dynamic warm-up is a fantastic way to bring your muscles throughout their full range of motion and get them ready for what you are going to do next. It also enhances balance, coordination and gets your heart rate up. Here is an example of what I like to do with clients.

Here’s an example of a Level 1 at home strength training workout:

Day 1 Day 2  
Dynamic Warm-up Dynamic Warm-up
Front Plank / Side Plank:20 ea Bird Dogs 6ea side
1a. Body Weight Squat 1a. DB Bench 2-3 sets 10-12 reps
1b. Standing band Row 1b. 1 Leg RDL 2-3 sets 10-12 reps
2a. Glute Bridge 2a. 1 arm DB Row 2-3 sets 10-12 reps
2b. 45 degree Pushups 2b. Curl to Press 2-3 sets 10-12 reps
2c. Split Squat 2c. Lateral Squat 2-3 sets 10-12 reps

*After you complete your DWU and core work, you will do 1a and 1b back to back for your determined sets and reps, then move on to 2a, 2b, and 2c. Move quickly from one exercise to the next, resting as needed.

Like I mentioned above, as a beginner, you will adapt to your program fairly quickly. So if you are working out at home, you may want to invest in at least one set of dumbbells or a good band so you can progress the intensity of the exercises as you get stronger.

If you are not quite ready to make the investment for at home workout equipment, you can increase the intensity of your workouts a few other ways. You can work at a higher rep range for your body weight exercises (12-20), you can slow down the tempo of your reps (:04 second count down, pause, :01 count up), you can decrease the rest between sets, and finally you can progress to a more difficult version of the exercise. For example, your glute bridge would progress to a single leg glute bridge.

However, when you are doing exercises requiring you to use a weight, you want to make sure that the weight is challenging. Lifting heavy (with good form) in my opinion, is the second most important component to body composition change. The first being nutrition. “Heavy” is a relative term and will be different for each and every one of you. That doesn’t mean that you should be grunting, groaning and heaving your weights around while working out, it just means that you should feel like you did something. Your last 2-3 reps should feel challenging.

I’ve included a brief description of all exercises for you here. If you are uncertain if you are performing them correctly, I encourage you to think about hiring a trainer to teach you proper form on the basics. You don’t need a bunch of sessions, just one or two to make sure you’re building a solid base with good form.

And if this still seems a bit intimidating, just do something! You can get amazing health and fitness results by just moving more. Even a quick dynamic warm-up, thoracic spine mobility and a few core exercises can be very beneficial in addressing some of the common areas women need attention just based on what we spend most of our time doing like sitting, driving, looking at a computer screen etc..

Bottom line is you have to actually enjoy what it is that you do, or else you’ll dread it and eventually stop. Remember that anything is better than nothing!

If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to email me!

Exercise For Weight Loss – How My Plan Has Changed

Exercise For Weight Loss – How My Plan Has Changed

Ugh, what is the best exercise for weight loss? Talk about a loaded question with a million answers. When people are thinking about weight loss or wanting to reshape their bodies, exercise gets a WHOLE lot of attention. Seriously. There have got to be HUNDREDS of news headlines every freaking day claiming that this, that or the other exercise is the holy grail of weight loss.

Let’s just get real for a second, ok? Exercise is not, has never been and will never be the holy grail of weight loss. Remember that 80/20 principle we talked about? 80% or more of your success and results will come from what you put in your mouth. Your nutrition choices, and how they facilitate fat loss and hormone balance, are the primary determinants of your progress. Period end of discussion.

With that said, exercise is absolutely part of a healthy lifestyle and can certainly accelerate your weight loss results. Just keep in mind that you CANNOT out exercise a crappy diet. You just can’t. And you’ll be pretty miserable trying so don’t even bother. (Been there, done that.) If you don’t have your diet right, no amount of time on the treadmill is going to get you where you want to go.

When I first decided I needed to get serious and transform my health (and weight) once and for all, I weighed over 300 pounds. I felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of changes I needed to make. I knew that if I tried to do everything all at once I’d get frustrated, feel like a failure, lose hope and probably never reach my goals. I began to focus on cleaning up my diet and didn’t want to have to worry about “gym time”. So I didn’t. No guilt, no pressure, I just identified the biggest rock (food) and invested my energy there.

I did, however, buy a treadmill. I wasn’t ready (or willing) to jog or even walk briskly. The thought of it stressed me out and I didn’t want to take on anything I wasn’t SURE I could do. I put the treadmill in front of the TV and many evenings, while watching a TV show, I’d walk very, very slowly. I didn’t break a sweat. I didn’t want to. I just wanted to move a little bit more. Sometimes I’d walk for 5 minutes. Other times I’d walk for an hour. I did that consistently until I had lost my first 50 pounds.

By the time I had lost 50 pounds I was feeling pretty comfortable and at ease with my new way of eating. It felt effortless. It wasn’t a strain. I wasn’t obsessing over food or white-knuckling it through my days to avoid a binge. I felt in control. Everything was good. I was ready to take on more and I decided I wanted it to be working out.

I joined a gym and hired a trainer. I worked out with him 2-3 days each week for 30 minutes per session. So we’re talking 60-90 minutes PER WEEK. I would characterize those workouts as cardio/resistance. We definitely lifted weights but nothing all too heavy. We focused on high intensity workouts that included resistance but also included LOTS of movement so my heart rate was always elevated. The goal was to not stop moving, maintain my muscle mass and burn fat. We definitely weren’t focused on building strength at that time.

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I have to say that those workouts helped me fall in love with fitness again. I had once really loved it but let’s just say “we lost that lovin’ feeling” for a while!! It came back! I started doing some additional workouts on my own. My confidence started to grow. I bought a few kettlebells and a few times a week I would do swings and goblet squats in my home office. I actually even brought one of the kettlebells to work and I’d often take a break in between meetings to knock out 20-50 swings! I was really loving it.

By this point I had probably lost about 100 lbs and my weight loss was beginning to slow. I was seeing sagging skin in my arms and belly and wasn’t too happy about it. I talked to a number of experts, did a lot of research and made the decision to switch personal trainers. I started training 3 mornings each week (30 minutes each session) and we really focused on full-body strength movements. I’m talking squats, deadlifts, etc. I knew I needed to get stronger and build a better foundation so I could have a strong core and avoid looking like a huge sack of skin. On the days I didn’t workout with my trainer I would do high intensity cardio workouts. Uphill sprints, burpees, jump rope – you name it. It was hard but it was good. I was training 6 days a week and continuing to make progress.

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I wasn’t surprised when I hit my next plateau. I was pissed but I wasn’t surprised. That was just about 2 months ago. I am closer than ever to my goal weight and my body just isn’t quite as responsive. I’ve lost a ton of weight in a fairly short period of time and understandably, my body has adapted. I made the decision to change trainers AND change gyms. Instead of a traditional personal trainer, I now work with a strength coach three times each week. We work on form, speed and strength. We focus on large muscle groups, lifting HEAVY weight and truly finding my inner athlete. Three days a week I’m working strength with Blaze and the other three days I’ve switched it up: 2 days I do longer duration cardio workouts. I used to avoid traditional cardio – those types of workouts weren’t good for me at the beginning but now my body is really responding to them. That is an important point to make: what works for you will likely change throughout your weight loss. That’s ok. That is normal. Your body will adapt, you’ll gain strength and endurance and you’ll need to switch things up. Don’t get frustrated by plateaus – embrace the opportunity to work on a new area of your fitness and wellness.

Here’s what I have found is most important when it comes to pinpointing the best exercise for weight loss:

The exercise you actually do trumps the exercise you think you should do but always avoid. Seriously. If you hate running, don’t run. If you love Zumba – go Zumba your ass off!! Sure, there will always be good/better/best when it comes to effectiveness but no one will argue that the most effective workout is the one you’ll actually do. And you know which one you’ll make time for? The one you love.
Listen to your body. For several months I over trained. I pushed myself too hard and I hurt my knees in the process. Unfortunately, I’m still paying the stupid tax on that. The pain flares up every now and then. I want to push through it. I hate being injured. But I don’t push. I back off and always, always, always avoid aggravating the injury. There’s always an alternative. Chill out. Don’t take yourself out of the game by being stubborn.

Expect plateaus. You cannot do the same thing indefinitely and expect to get the same results. Your body will adapt and your results will slow. Don’t get frustrated, just roll with it and use it as an opportunity to try something new.
Lift heavy things. LIFT HEAVY THINGS. I’m serious!!! LIFT HEAVY THINGS!!!! I don’t care how old you are or where you are in your fitness journey – LIFT HEAVY THINGS!!!!

I want to end this little ditty the same way I started it. The most IMPORTANT thing you can do for your weight loss an health goals is clean up your diet. You don’t need to take on the world all at once. If that is where you need to improve, focus on improving that. Put your energy there. Take your time. Practice, practice, practice. You don’t need to take on exercise if you aren’t ready. You will serve yourself (and your health) by mastering your nutrition and adopting healthy, moderate nutrition changes. Add the fitness component only when you’re ready and don’t be afraid to go slow.

Workout Motivation: 3 Ways to Keep Going

Workout Motivation: 3 Ways to Keep Going

We all need a little motivation for our workouts sometimes. Pushing through a workout isn’t always easy. I’ve had tons of days in the gym when I just haven’t felt totally connected to what I was doing. I didn’t feel like putting in my best effort, I didn’t feel strong or I didn’t feel motivated. If I gave in to those feelings every time, I’d rarely get in a good workout and I certainly wouldn’t be able to build much strength, endurance or mental toughness. When I’m not feeling like putting in the hard work, I have a few steps I work through to get my mind in the right place and bust out a killer workout.

If my issue is that I don’t want to go to the gym in general, I don’t even listen to that voice in my head. It’s not an option (unless I’m injured or it’s a rest day). I will, however, tell myself just to go and get started. If I need to change plans once I get there and do something other than what I’ve planned, that’s OK. But rule number 1 for me is just get there. There will always be reasons not to go, but what will make the difference in whether or not I reach my goals is my ability to follow through. I follow through. I get to the gym.

Sometimes, though, even when I’m there I just don’t really feel it. Maybe I’m tired or feeling frustrated and the last thing I want to do is push through a hard workout. Here are some tricks that have worked for me.

  • Pick a motivating scenario and play it through in your head. Do you have a class reunion coming up or maybe a friend’s wedding? Imagine exactly what you’ll wear and how flawless you’ll look in it. Imagine how people will react when they see what a transformation you’ve made. Think about how proud you’ll be and how excited you’ll feel. Think about every single detail and truly dive into the moment. Oftentimes this is the strategy I’ll use when I’m doing bike or rowing sprints and I want to quit. Not only does it really motivate me but it also helps distract me and the time flies by more quickly.
  • Play a song that really speaks to you. When Katy Perry’s “Roar” first came out, I think I kept it on repeat during my workouts (not really, but almost!). It can’t just be a song that you like or that energizes you. It has to be a song that really tugs at that person you want to be or that goal you know you can reach. Lose yourself in that song for a moment. This is usually enough to trigger me to remember that the ONLY way to my goals is through pushing myself. If I’m comfortable all the time, I won’t be stretched enough to get where I need to go.
  • Imagine what is happening inside your body as you push yourself. I do this all the time. Maybe it’s my inner dork, but it really works for me. For example, I hate burpees. They’re hard. They make me sweat and they make me breathless. But damn do they work. Usually when I do them, I want to quit within a minute. Instead, I imagine what’s happening in my body as I work so hard. I imagine fat being released from cells. I imagine it being carried through my body (thanks to the increased blood flow from those damn burpees) and entering another cell to be burned. I imagine my legs or my belly getting leaner as I push myself to the max.

I don’t know what will work for you but I do know this: giving up won’t work. Never pushing past your comfort zone is not what it will take to get you to your goals. It’s not supposed to be comfortable. Embrace the discomfort because it’s what is required to transform you into what you’re trying to become.