It happens to all of us at point or another. We think we are doing everything right.. exercising and eating as ‘clean’ as we possibly can. But then it happens.. you’re stuck and you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what you’re doing wrong.
Here are the top 3 reason’s that can stop your progress, and tips on how you can move past them.
1. Not Sleeping Enough
Sleep deprivation can affect your concentration and impair your memory; can make you feel lazy and less motivated (the thought of working out will feel like a major hassle); and affect your performance levels.
Insufficient sleep can also cause you to gain weight over time, by decreasing your body’s levels of leptin- a hormone responsible for making you feel full- and by increasing your levels of ghrelin, which increases your appetite and makes you want to eat more. (according an October 2010 article in the journal “Best Practice and Research: Clinical Endrocrinology and Metabolism.”)
Another downside of sleep deprivation is the affect on your body’s ability to release growth hormone. By not getting enough sleep you are limiting your body’s ability to recover and regenerate cell & muscle tissue.
- ensure you are getting good quality sleep, about 7-9 hours will ensure your body will function at its best.
- avoid high sugar, refined carbs before bed time as this can raise your blood sugar & stress the organs involved in hormone regulation. Have a high protein snack instead.
- avoid screen time exposure 2-3 hours before bed as the blue light emitted from your devices can disrupt your circadian rhythm (if not, consider installing a blue light filter app)
If your brain detects the presence of a threat, whether it’s from a dangerous animal, work, or financial troubles, it will trigger the release of a cascade of chemicals, including adrenaline, CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone), and cortisol. Your brain and body are preparing to handle the perceived threat by making you feel alert, ready for action and able to withstand an injury (fight or flight).
The release of adrenaline decreases appetite as blood flows away from the internal organs and to larger muscles to prepare for “fight or flight.” But once the effects of adrenaline start to wear off, cortisol, (the “stress hormone”) remains and starts signaling the body to replenish your food supply. Today we use up a lot less energy dealing with our stress compared to our ancestors (they had to fight off large animals), yet we are stuck with a neuroendocrine system that didn’t get the memo, so our brain is still going to tell us to reach for that cookie.
Besides fighting off large animals, our ancestors had to worry about famine. Their bodies learned to adapt by storing fat supplies for the long haul. Because of this when we are chronically stressed by life and/or work demands, the excess cortisol in our bodies slows down our metabolism, increasing visceral fat (belly fat). This type of fat releases chemicals triggering inflammation, putting us at an elevated risk for developing heart disease or diabetes. As you can see, chronic stress in our lives takes a major toll on our bodies.
- practice relaxation techniques
- find a quiet space & focus on some deep breathing
- learn how to say no. Distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts” and, when possible, say “no” to taking on too much.
- exercising too much without proper recovery can also impact the body in a negative way. Ensure you allow your body sufficient time for recovery. (Read my post on rest and recovery here).
3. Input vs. Output
By now you should know that your goals (whether its gaining mass or losing body fat) is dependent on whether you are fueling your body appropriately.
If your goal is fat loss then your output (exercise) should be greater than input (food). If you are consuming more than you are burning off, or if the quality of food is poor then you will not lose fat. Be cautious, though, to not restrict your calories too much as this can actually hinder fat loss as well and wreak havoc on your body, especially in women. The safest way to fat loss is learning portion control, eating quality, unprocessed foods, and having a proper weight training program.
If on the other hand, your goal is to gain muscle, then your input (food) should be greater than output (exercise). If you are not eating enough and exercising too much then you will not gain muscle muscle mass.
- for either goal, you should aim for nutritious, unprocessed foods. Include lean proteins, fruits & vegetables (especially greens), and healthy fats.
- limit high sugar, processed foods.
- have a proper weight training and HIIT program to help build muscle.
- be patient, it takes time. If you are gaining or losing too fast, then its likely not happening at a healthy level.. which is not sustainable in the long term.
There are other variables that come in to play, but I believe these are the top ones. Ultimately it comes down to listening to your body. Our bodies will always tell us if something is not working.. you just have to learn to listen.
Happy Training! 😊
Rest and recovery; the R & R’s of the fitness world. Most may think they are the same thing- and while they are both critical elements of any successful training program- they are also the least utilized.
First, a little math
- The average person may train about 4- 8 hrs/ week
- This leaves you with 152-156 of non-training hours/ week to rest & recover
You would think that’s more than enough time to recharge and be ready to hulk-smash that next workout, yet there are some that will be walking into the gym and dragging through their workout.
Rest: according to Merriam- Webster
1: repose, sleep; specifically: a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities
2a: freedom from activity or labor
b: a state of motionlessness or inactivity
c : the repose of death
3: a place for resting or lodging
4: peace of mind or spirit
Most of these (except for 2c) are a combination of time that is spent sleeping and not training. It is also the easiest to understand and implement.
Recovery: encompasses many aspects and refers to techniques and actions that are taken to maximize the body’s repair. Recovery involves different systems in our body that require time to repair, these include muscle repair, chemical and hormonal balance, nervous system repair, and mental & spiritual.
For most, the goal should be to have a a good balance between exercise, nutrition, and rest & recovery. Make heath and fitness a priority without personal sacrifice. Don’t be afraid to enjoy a night out with friends, or a piece of your own birthday cake. Unless you are a professional athlete, don’t overwhelm yourself with perfection.
- Get enough sleep. Although different for everyone, the recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7-9 hours. Sufficient sleep helps to with mental health, hormonal balance, and muscular recovery.
- Here’s some tips on improving your sleep quality
2. Keep Hydrated. Water is critical to our bodily functions. It aids in nutrient uptake, helps regulate body temperature, protects and moisturizes the joints, and aids in riding the body of toxins. Drinking adequate amounts of water is critical to health, energy, recovery, and performance. The easiest way to check for dehydration is in the color of your urine. If it is a dark yellow, then you definitely need to increase your intake.
3. Nutrition. Everything you eat has the ability to help heal your body, or to hurt it. Eating clean and balanced meals in moderation, and reducing the amount of processed foods is proven to be effective to remain healthy and increase performance. Pay attention to how your body reacts to the types of foods you consume. I believe that unless you have a reaction to it or an underlying issue, there’s no need to cut out specific food groups. Including variety in your food choices will make it easier to eat healthy.
4. Stretching. You should be able to move your joints through their full range and be pain free. If you can’t then that means that your flexibility is being compromised. Having a desk job can contribute to tight hip flexors and bad posture, so be sure to include dynamic stretching in your warm-ups and save the static stretching for after your workouts. Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility.
5. Self-Myofascial Release. This works by finding tight muscle areas, applying pressure to those trigger points to release the tightness, and then ahhhh!! This can be done with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or your hands. (Just an fyi if you’re new to it: self-myofascial release is painful at first, but so, sooo good afterwards)
6. TLC For Those Injuries. It goes without saying that if you have an injury, your rest and recovery will be longer. Remember to use the typical heat, ice, compression, elevation for any injury you may have. The more tlc you show it, the faster your recovery.
And that’s it. Ensure that your body gets the care it needs. The fact that you are already exercising is great, and with enough time to recuperate, your hard work in the gym will surely show!
Happy Training 🙂
To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.
“What should I do today?”
“Legs.. I’ll do deadlifts. No, wait..maybe some squats..when was the last time I did squats?”
If you’re deciding what your workout will be as you’re walking into the gym.. then I’m sorry to say.. but
In order to see any results you need to have a structured program. Walking into the gym, let alone trying to reach any goals without a fitness plan, is like trying to drive in a foreign country without a map; you will eventually get somewhere, but where you end up may or may not have anything to do with where you actually wanted to be. Without a proper fitness plan you have no way of tracking your progress, and no way of knowing if you will reach your goals.
The Right Way
Write down your goals. This is the first step to create a fitness plan. Do you want to reach a certain PR in your deadlifts? Do you want to chisel your back? Maybe you just want to feel comfortable on the beach. Whatever your reason is to workout you need a structured fitness plan to get you there. Once you’ve established what you want to accomplish, you need to create a ‘map’ to get you there, these are your short-term goals. Short-term goals are mileposts on the way toward your long-term goal.
- Long term goal: doing 12 unassisted chin-ups
- Short term goals:
- wk 1-4: build muscle strength by doing band assisted chin-ups
- wk 5-8: work on holding your weight- negative chin-ups
- wk 9-12: 3 unassisted chin-ups x 2 sets, 1.5min rest between sets (add 1 set per week)
- wk 13-16: 4 unassisted chin-ups x 3 sets, 1.5 min rest between sets
- wk 17+ : gradually increase reps per set, until 12 straight reps achieved
Establishing a fitness plan eliminates the guess work and tracks your progress. Having a schedule to follow helps eliminate the “I’ll do it tomorrow” thought pattern and holds you accountable. Once you get into the habit of following a plan, you’ll see how easier it is to get through your workouts which in turn helps motivate you to succeed. Also by having a visual record of your progress means you can actually see how far along you’ve come, which is always motivating.
Keep It Simple
It doesn’t need to be fancy (unless that’s your style). Simply having a small journal with your workouts written in them and space to write in reps, sets, weight, is enough. The main point is to make it a habit.
And that goes for any goals in general. The only way to ensure you reach them is by writing them doing, creating a ‘map’ & then following it. It eliminates any guess work, helps you be prepared for any obstacles you may encounter, and serves as a visual record of how far you’ve come and how much closer you are to your end point.
And that’s that.
Happy Training 🙂
I’ve seen it too many times… back when I worked at gyms and still now when I work out at my local commercial gym: alot (not all) of women are neglecting the big old compound exercises. The reasons could be many:
- Lack of knowledge: not knowing how to correctly perform the exercise
- Intimidation: some women feel intimidated walking into the free weights section because of all the testosterone around. I say OWN it.. do your thang girl!!
- Have been misinformed: some women might still believe that these big lifts are just “too manly” for them, totally not the case.
I could continue, but then this would turn into a looonnnggg rant.
Ok, so moving on… these lifts I like to refer to them as the “Build-A Body” group, because when implemented correctly can help ‘build’ your lady bumps and humps 😉 and who wouldn’t want that?!
- The Deadlift: A foundational lift. This exercise mimics everyday movements like bending and lifting (ex: picking up your little one). This one is my ultimate favourite lift. With so many different variations, I incorporate the deadlift in almost every one of my workouts. Muscles worked include:
- entire posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, hips): equals a beautiful backside
- engages your core musculature (internal girdle): a strong core increases overall strength, protects your back, and lets you wear those crop tops without thinking twice
- biceps and forearms: develops your grip strength so you can lift more heavy SH*T!
- Here’s a great article on deadlifting written by Tony Gentilcore (who is only the world’s deadlifting god)
- The Squat: Another foundational lift as you do this movement every time you sit and stand. With many variations to choose from, you can never get bored of this one.
- helps build and shape nice thighs
- helps build glutes
- builds overall strength
- The Hip Thrust: This one is a great glute builder/ isolator exercise. Remember that your glutes are pure muscle and in order to grow them you need to learn to fire the glutes and stimulate them properly using heavier loads, varying rep ranges, etc. You can increase or decrease the intensity level by doing body weight hip thrusts, adding bands, doing singe leg variations.. possibilities are many.
- Pull-ups: This is the ultimate upper body exercise as it builds incredible strength. As a multi joint exercise:
- works & strengthens entire back musculature, shoulders, biceps, grip strength
- creates a tapered effect of the back making your waist look smaller
- different hand positions target the muscles a little differently/ changes difficulty
- Vertical/ Horizontal Presses: These include push-ups & variations (horizontal press exercises); military press, push-press, shoulder press, etc (vertical press exercises). These exercises:
- increase upper body strength (women have less muscle mass compared to their lower bodies.. we gotta work harder at it!)
- work your chest, shoulders, triceps and core
- Band assisted push-ups (beginners)
- Awesome push-up variations (advanced)
- Military Press helps build amazing shoulders
- Push Press helps build raw strength. Improves shoulder stability. And can I just say it look badass when a woman does it!!
So here it is ladies.. a short list of some lifts to definitely include in your training. Don’t be intimidated or embarrassed of walking into that gym and grabbing some iron. Your body will thank you 😉
Happy Training 🙂
So with the New Year approaching, the gyms will be full of those whose resolutions are to: lose weight; build muscle; gain strength; build booties; tone.. etc etc.
Now are these goals being set realistically? The majority, probably not.
You see we tend to have our eyes set on the end result.. but a lot of people don’t take into account the steps needed to get you there.
And what happens when you’ve bought a gym membership/classes and/or spent an ‘X’ amount of money on a personal trainer; or purchased the services of a nutritionist..and after the first few weeks have gone by you realize you haven’t seen your numbers change.. or that you’re still having to struggle to put on your favourite pair of jeans? What happens then?
You lose motivation. You want to give up. You think it’s impossible.
But the truth is, it’s not impossible. Everything is possible with enough determination, dedication, and… the proper plan.
Coaches have game plans; architects have blueprints; teachers have lesson plans… (you get my drift). These plans have a basic structure to them: the necessary steps needed to achieve an end result.
They provide guidance. They provide a time frame. And there will even be a plan B, C, or D in case something goes wrong.
This is where having a plan set in place is crucial if you are serious about your fitness goals.
Setting Realistic Goals
○ Be specific. Instead of saying I want to lose weight, state the exact amount of fat loss you are looking to achieve. Ex: 20pds of fat mass
○ Make sure that the goals you want to achieve are realistic. If your goal is to lose 20pds in one month, you might want to re-evaluate. Healthy fat loss is 1-2pds per week (4-8pds/month), this ensures that you are not losing a significant amount of muscle mass.
Track Your Progress
○ This is an important part of reaching your goals. Keep a workout journal to track your progress in the gym; a food journal or calorie app will help keep track of what and how much you’re consuming.
My favorite way of tracking my progress is with pictures. By taking bi-weekly or monthly pictures I can compare and actually see changes in my physique that I might miss by looking in the mirror.
Note: I did not include weighing yourself as a way to track progress because the scale does not tell you the whole story. The scale might not even budge but if your clothes are suddenly fitting better or even too big..then you know you are doing something right.
○ Hey, life gets in the way more often than not. Obstacles are also a natural part of change. By coming up with strategies to overcome obstacles, you won’t be caught off guard when you hit a speed bump.
Avoid seeing obstacles as a reason to quit, instead use them as a learning opportunity and improve on strategies. This will ensure you are ready the next time you find yourself in the same situation.
(Here’s a good article on setting fitness goals.)
So to all those starting new at the gym this January.. I wish you luck & success on your fitness journey.
To the veterans.. I wish you gains, gains and nothing but gains! 💪
From the moment I picked up my first piece of iron in my highshool weight room I knew what I wanted to do.
I still remember it as if it was yesterday.. a small, windowless room with dark grey walls, a few posters that included the anatomical positions, the muscular system, and an exercise guide for the universal cable machine that sat in the middle and occupied most of the room. It was an intro to weight training, which was part of the phys ed. curriculum for grade 12. The feeling of holding those outdated dumbbells was something I can’t describe.. but my curiosity for this unknown world is what I found alluring and was my first step into this industry.
The first time I opened up my first anatomy & physiology books in college I was overwhelmed with information about the human body. I was mesmerized by the way the body works both physiologically and physically. This only served to reaffirm my belief that I was on the right path.
It’s been almost 10 years in this industry and I have learned so much in the classroom, from fellow trainers (especially from the last studio I had the pleasure of working at) and from experience.
It’s true that in this industry it’s easy to become certified as a personal trainer.. but what sets apart the real trainers from the fake is the willingness to learn & continue learning, the passion for helping others and the commitment to the work. A good trainer inspires, educates and listens. We give tough love when we need to and praise you when accomplish goals.
My journey in the fitness world is now taking me in a new direction. I am nervous and excited as I have slowly been building up to this. I am still eager to learn as I think it’s imperative to keep learning new skills..and I will continue to do my best.
The iron jungle has been my classroom, my work, and is my refuge. It is where my journey began and where I continue to be. It is a place where I have unleashed my frustrations, pushed myself beyond my limits, and grown as a trainer and coach.
It’s where it all began 🙂
So you’ve probably heard alot about the different body types and might be confused as to what this all means ( don’t get confused with body shape, ex: hourglass, pear, apple, square..etc).
THE 3 SOMATOTYPES
In the 1940s Dr. William H. Sheldon introduced the concept of body types, or somatotypes. Since then, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and even doctors have used it as an aid in designing effective, individualized fitness plans. The concept is that we all fall into the three categories below (although you can possess attributes of two different categories or even all three). Keep in mind that these are generalizations on basic skeletal somatotypes.
The body type that we are born with is based on an inherited skeletal frame and body composition. Most people are unique combinations of the three body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. Some typical somatotype combinations include pear-shaped ecto-endomorphs (thin, delicate upper bodies & high fat storage in the hips and thighs), and apple-shaped endo-ectomorphs (high fat storage in the mid-section & thin lower bodies).
The “I” Type
• Aka: Ectomorph
• Are thin, with smaller bone structures and thinner limbs ( Ex:typical endurance athlete, basketball players, runway models).
• Low body fat & low muscle. They have a hard time gaining mass.
• Have a fast metabolic rate.They’re high-energy and tend to burn off excess calories with near-constant movement throughout the day.
•High tolerance of carbs. Can eat almost anything without affecting their weight.
Nutrition & Training for ” I ” Types
• Higher carbohydrates in the diet + moderate protein + lower fat intake.
• Limit cardio to 1x/ week or even eliminate if possible
• Train each body part 2x/ week
• Vary your rep range. Train in the 5-8 rep range for your compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc.), but go up into the 8-15 rep range with smaller muscle groups.
• Ensure proper rest & recovery as this body type can easliy overtrain.
The “V” Type
• Aka: Mesomorph
• Athletic, solid, and strong. Not overweight and not underweight,
• Can gain and lose weight without too much effort.
• Usually have a considerable amount of lean mass (Ex:explosive athletes like sprinters, wrestlers and gymnasts).
• Are built to be powerful machines. Excess calories often go to lean mass and dense bones.
• Tend to be testosterone & growth hormone dominant. If active this type can easily gain muscle and stay lean.
Nutrition & Training for “V” Types
• A mixed diet, with balanced carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
• Cardio should be 3x/ week or less. Mesomorphs will benefit most from HIIT
• Due to rapid adaptation to conditioning, the body should be constantly hit with a combination of slow & moderate exercises, focusing on full ROM with weight training exercises that use fast reps produce good results.
• Hitting compound muscle groups with heavy weights followed by targeted isolation and definition exercises at a mid rep range of 8-12 works well. Legs should be hit with both low and high reps.
The “O” Type
• Aka: Endomorph
• Larger bone structure with higher amounts of total body mass and fat mass. (Ex:Football linemen, powerlifters, and throwers).
• Have the slowest metabolism
• Are built for solid comfort, not speed.
• Naturally less active, which means excess calories are more likely to be stored as fat.
Nutrition & Training for “O” Types
• Endomorphs don’t tolerate carbohydrates well, especially if they are sedentary.
• Do best on a higher fat & protein intake with a lower carbohydrate intake being properly timed (typically post-workout).
• Cardio should be about 3-4 sessions of cardio per week of about 20-30min
• Training should include high intensity exercises with minimal rest periods between sets (60sec or less).
• To achieve maximum muscle mass, push every set for as many reps as possible, increase weight when you can to maximize progressive overload. This will keep you within hypertrophy ranges (muscle building rep ranges) & help you burn off fat & build more lean mass.
So I think I’ve covered the basics. Hope this helps you understand your body so you can adapt your eating and training to best suit your goals.
For more detailed information on nutrition for your body type (which includes some nice infographics) click here.
So you decide to try that new workout routine you found online. You start off great, working out steadily but a week (or two..or three) into it you realize it’s not working for you, so you stop.
Maybe a month later you find a book that promises to ‘melt that belly fat’ and you have all intentions to clean up your eating, and you do…for a week. But then you get frustrated because this book is just the world’s biggest ‘foods you can’t eat’ list and you give up.
You then buy a special on 3 months of boot camp or kickboxing classes and go religiously..till you feel burned out.
Another few weeks go by and you decide enough is enough and you spend serious money on some fancy detox and meal plan given to you by a holistic nutritionist and you couple that with working out almost every day…But
NOTHING. IS. HAPPENING!!!! (sound familiar?!)
Short Answer: You’re doing too much at once and not giving your body a chance to adapt.
Lets start with the nutrition aspect:
Save yourself money and and time and avoid getting sucked into these fancy diets, detoxes, and pills. You may think that they’re working at first but any weight lost is most certainly water weight.. and it will come right back.
The best and most effective way to lose body fat is to have a meal plan that works for you! Not a meal plan that you find online or borrowed from a friend. Everybody is different. With different metabolisms, different body compositions, different caloric needs. What worked for Joe or Sally will not work to the same effect for you.
Most people are misinformed and think that in order to lose weight you need to stick to a mere 1500 calories a day and eat chicken & asparagus day in and day out (I’m being dramatic I know :()
But if they only knew that there’s more to life than just eating chicken & asparagus!,
Quick Fact: Being on a low calorie diet for too long will sabotage your metabolism, prevent you from building muscle tissue, cause hormonal imbalances, seriously affect your energy levels..and so much more. (Learn more about effects of eating too little here)
The best way to go about losing body fat without compromising muscle tissue is by eating more. For someone who is just starting off, if your goal is fat loss multiply your current weight by 10-12 to give you a caloric range you should aim for. Start at the higher end of your caloric range as you want to be able to eat as much as you can while losing body fat.
(For building, multiply your body weight by 16-18)
Ex: using my weight of 142pds and taking into account the number of times I workout, my caloric range for a deficit phase would be 1988-2272 calories/day
From there make sure to include a lean protein, complex carb, and a healthy fat with your meals. The frequency of your meals should be roughly every 3-4 hours.. which works out to 5-6 times a day (your main meals, with snacks in between).
Moving on to the exercise part, again you want to make sure that you stick to one program..and one program only… and give your body a chance to adapt. Ideally you want to include 3-4 workouts per week (it goes without saying that I am a die hard fan of the iron, so I will always be an advocate for it!). Your workout program should incorporate compound movements as these engage alot of muscles and you get the most bang for your buck. Also any exercises to strengthen any weak areas should be worked into your program as you dont want to have any muscle imbalances as this could lead to injury.
The funny thing about the human body is that it likes to be in a state of balance. So any time that you upset that balance..in this case with exercise.. it will quickly work to repair itself and return to homeostasis. The result would be a leaner, stronger body that will have you smiling from ear to ear.
So to sum it all up, if you’ve been trying to lose body fat (or gain muscle) for a while now, and you have not seen the changes you had hoped for, maybe it’s time you step back and re-evaluate what you are doing. Going from one thing to another is just causing chaos on your body and making you miserable. Focus instead on following a well balanced nutrition & workout program and STICK TO IT.
And then your body will thank you 😉
I started the week off right. I got a metabolic workout in right in the morning (done at home). I’m not a fan of cardio as I get bored quickly (exercise ADD?!) so this is my go-to for some serious calorie burn.
First let’s cover some background on metabolic workouts.
What Is It?
The simple definition of metabolic training is a workout containing structural and compound exercises done with little to no rest in between exercises. This maximizes caloric burn, increase metabolic rate (amount of calories your body burns at rest) during and after the workout, and seriously challenges your cardiovascular system.
Because structural & compound exercises are multi joint exercises (like squats & chin-ups) they require an intense amount of energy to execute, and when done as part of a metabolic workout you are really burning off that fat. The calories burned during this type of training can easily reach around 500 calories for a 30 minute workout, increasing your metabolic rate anywhere from 10-25% for up to 48 hours, and some studies have shown an increase in metabolic rate for up to even 72 hours. Over time these hundreds of extra calories burned can become significant.
(Here’s a study on impact on post exercise oxygen consumption.)
My Workout: Ascending/Descending Ladder
● DB Front squat (30 pds)
● DB Bent over row (30 pds)
》Set 1: I did 1 rep of each, then 2 reps, then 3…till I reached 10 reps (note: I did not stop at all till I finished the set) Completed in 21min 15sec
》 Set 2: Worked backwards from 10 reps to 1 😧 Completed in 24min 42sec
Variation: I used weight to up the intensity level. To make it easier lose the iron and stick to body weight exercises.