The Fitness Industry Needs a Makeover

The Fitness Industry Needs a Makeover

For most of my time in the fitness world, I refused to identify as a “fitness” person. I didn’t want people, especially clients and patients to think I was obsessive with my diet and lived at the gym.

Because to me, that was fitness. I wasn’t, and am still not into fitness. Or at least not that kind of fitness. It turns out that fitness is bigger than what I thought it was and what I was shown and exposed to 24/7. Just because the industry standard seems one way, doesn’t mean it has to be that way forever.

In fact, it’s time for a change.

It’s time to shift away from obsession, restriction, and extremes; and to move towards acceptance, variety, and the middle ground.

Diet culture has had a firm grip on the fitness industry for too long. It has led to literal OBSESSION over food, exercise, and our bodies. To the point that we don’t even know how to take care of ourselves. All we know is dieting and weight loss, even at the expense of our health. Don’t believe me?

Think about these questions for a moment:

How many foods are on your “do not eat list”?

How many social activities have you missed due to feeling guilty for skipping a training session or not being able to eat your pre-planned meal?

How many times have you found yourself eating a food until you’re sick because you have restricted it from your life for so long you feel you have no willpower?

How often do you ignore your body’s cries for a rest day, only to drag your exhausted butt to the gym and put it through yet another grueling workout where all your lifts sucked and you weren’t able to make progress, or worse yet, injured yourself…again?

How many times have you tried on a pair of jeans and cried because they didn’t fit. And then preceded to run down your list of things you’ll do starting Monday to finally lose that weight. How often do you wonder how everyone else seems to have so much self-control and willpower with eating?

It can be super frustrating. And disheartening. I know because that was me. Years ago.

I would start out really well with the whole gym and eating healthy thing “under control” until life threw me a curveball (because that’s what Life does). Whether it was a switch in my schedule, a poor night’s rest, a party, the gym equipment I needed being used, it didn’t matter. Literally anything would throw me off. And I’d tumble right down into a fuck-it-all spiral. Any “willpower” I had would evaporate. My logical brain would take a nap, and my emotional brain would take over.

Sometimes that would look like giving up on my entire training session for the day. Or maybe just my normal eating habits for the entire weekend. At worst, it would look like giving up on all of it alltogether for months.

It happened over. And over. And over again. A cycle of being “on” and “off”.

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately this is the story of almost every single woman I work with. If this is you, you’re not alone, and I’m here to let you know that nothing is wrong with you.

Well, nothing except that maybe you’re surrounded by diet culture and it’s caused you to become obsessed with dieting, fat loss, being thin, and manipulating your body into some obscene social standard.

Diet culture has us all thinking we need to be dieting 24/7. That our entire purpose on this planet is to present bodies that are good to look at. That we aren’t worthy until we have achieved that mission.

It has us complementing weight loss and judging weight gain in friends, family members, and people we hardly know. It’s made us think that confidence is earned through creating a thin, “perfect” body.

It has allowed Multi-level Marketing (MLM) Companies to exploit our emotions, frustrations, powerlessness, and desperation with flashy words like fat burning, catabolic, anabolic, clean, etc.; sexy transformation pictures over a short period of time; and empty promises of finally getting the confidence and happiness you have been searching for.

The irony of it all? We seriously suck at creating long-term weight loss. At least 80% of weight loss is unsuccessful, and 95% of diets are unsuccessful in the long term.

So what gives?

If it isn’t working, it’s time to change something. It’s time to stop chasing fat loss and shrinking and a perfect physique and obsessing over fitness. It’s time to start learning how to actually care for your body, and create sustainable long term habits.

We have to shift away from this obsession with weight loss, and start focusing on behaviors that promote true health & well-being.

How can you know what your body needs for the day if all you can think about is fat loss?

Maybe if you were able to check in with your body and get some rest when your body needed it, you wouldn’t feel that your willpower sucks, because your brain would be able to help you make better decisions. Yes, that actually happens- too little sleep results in less logical thinking (pre-frontal cortex) and more emotion-driven decision-making via an increase of the emotional center of the brain (amygdala). This makes you more likely to engage in risky behaviors with less logic.

All that is science talk for “less sleep = less ability to make smart decisions that will benefit your health”.

When you are chasing fat loss, all that matters is getting in your exercise to burn calories. Your decision-making is clouded by an obsession with manipulating your body instead of caring for it. This is why most people skip rest days even when they need them or will literally trade sleep for exercise. They are too attached to “burning calories” and are afraid they’ll gain weight. When it’s all about weight or fat loss, guilt and shame keep you from being able to make decisions for your health in the long term.

That is the never-ending cycle of diet culture.

Switching gears away from weight or fat loss and towards behaviors that nourish your body is like lifting a 12 ton weight off your shoulders. It allows you to:

  • Give yourself permission to rest when you need and to make decisions that are centered on what your body needs.
  • Heal your relationship with food.
  • End the restriction <–> binge cycle that is holding you hostage from staying consistent.
  • Eat a doughnut on a Sunday morning, and feel satisfied after 1 or 2, without feeling guilty that you “fell off” again.
  • Eat and move on with your life.
  • Enjoy exercise again.
  • Focus on the life experiences your body provides for you.
  • Enjoy your life again.

Letting go of weight loss and dieting allows you to take back your power that’s been stolen through diet culture, a little at a time. It starts with letting go of fat loss and the idea that your happiness and worth are tied to how your body looks.

While we can’t control every reminder and reinforcement from diet culture, we can control how much of it we support with our time, energy, and money.. And in that way, we can be the catalysts for change in the fitness industry.

Here are 10 immediate action-steps you take right now:

  1. Surround yourself with people that remind you that there is more to life than dieting and living at the gym.
  2. Delete or block all your MLM friends that want to sell you their newest “clean” shake or 21-day transformation challenge.
  3. Stop following accounts of people who you think are “body goals”.
  4. Start following a vast array of bodies on social media, especially ones that look like you. Fitness and health do not have one “look”.
  5. Buy yourself clothes that fit you NOW that you feel good in.
  6. Support, like, and share content from anyone who promotes these messages and emphasizes health over just fat loss  and achieving a particular physique.
  7. Invest in coaches and programs that are credible and don’t prey on your insecurities.
  8. Remove yourself from conversations and relationships solely focused on self-deprecating comments and dieting.
  9. Fire coaches or trainers who prescribe very restricted diets, shame you for not sticking to their plans, or encourage the “no excuses” mindset that makes you feel guilty for skipping a gym session for some rest.
  10. Stop buying waist trainers and sucking in and trying to shrink. Let your belly relax so you can breathe and utilize proper core stabilization strategies.

We can change the face of fitness. Diet culture doesn’t have to be this rampant. It is up to you and me and everyone to upgrade the industry. 

We’re in this together!

PS. I’m not anti-fat loss. If that is your jam, cool. I am here to help those who struggle and obssess due to the constant reminders from diet culture that we need to be small and thin and obsess over shrinking. I am well aware that some people may benefit from fat loss for their health, but the statistics show we suck at sustainable fat loss. Therefore, something needs to change. 

 

4 Things You Have to Give Up to Make Peace with Your Body

4 Things You Have to Give Up to Make Peace with Your Body

If you are a female, chances are you’ve gone through at least a period of your life where you felt at war with your body. I know because I’ve been there.

Most of my 26 years on this earth consisted of disgust, frustration, and resentment towards my body. I thought it was normal because every female around me was doing the same thing. We women literally bond over our self-hatred towards our bodies. Don’t believe me? Then you’ve probably never seen Mean Girls. The scene where every single girl takes her turn pointing out what she hates about her body? Yeah, that’s pretty close to real life.

But just because something is common does not mean it’s normal.

It’s not really our fault. Most of us grow up constantly reminded that we should hate our bodies. These reminders come from those around us and those we look up to (mothers, sisters, cousins, friends, role models, etc). And from magazines always telling us how to improve ourselves (because we are never enough). And from companies built around creating products to fix every part of our bodies they deem a “flaw”.

It’s unfortunate, but it’s the world we live in. The best part about the whole thing, though, is that we can change it. We can stand up to all of it and take our power back.

Is it easy? Hell no. This problem is the product of the BS women have been force fed for centuries. It won’t be fixed quickly.

It takes a ton of effort. It’s a constant practice. But it’s easier when we do it together.

But where the heck do we start? How do we even begin to tackle this global issue?

It starts with us each making peace with our own bodies. Below are 4 things we need to stop doing and steps to take instead. And none of it is advice to just “love yourself”. Because that is utter bullshit.

1. NEGATIVE SELF-TALK

That little voice in your head? She has a TON of power. And right now, that power and energy is probably highly negative. The crazy thing is, those things we are saying about ourselves in our heads, we would never in a million years say them to anyone else we love. So why do we think it’s okay to say it to ourselves?

This is probably one of the hardest things to change, but also arguably one of the most important. The first step in fixing it is awareness. Right now, you probably aren’t even aware how much negativity is living in your head. So your job is to start paying attention. Become non-judgmentally curious. That non-judgement part is key, by the way.

Notice patterns. Really hear the things you are saying about your body. What are they about specifically? Are there particular times this negativity gets worse?

This information is key to changing your current belief system about your body. Understanding what your negativity centers around will help you unpack some of the beliefs you’ve been conditioned to hang on to throughout your life. None of those beliefs are yours to keep.

The second step is to either replace that negative thought with a neutral statement about your body OR to switch the focus on to something positive or something you like about your body.

A neutral statement is a statement without feelings attached. No negativity or positivity. It usually just states a fact.

A positive statement can be anything you like about your body or anything you appreciate about it. Gratitude is super powerful.

Here’s an example:

While trying on shorts, you catch a glimpse of cellulite on your legs and you think, “Gross, cellulite is disgusting. Why do my legs have to look so awful.”

  • Step 1: non-judgemental curiosity. Ask yourself why you think cellulite is gross. Is it really gross, or did you just become conditioned to think that?
  • Step 2: Replace the thought with a neutral or more positive statement.
    • Neutral: Look at your cellulite and think, “I have cellulite.” That’s it.
    • Positive: Focus on something you like about your legs or practice gratitude for what they help you do. “My legs might have cellulite, but I am thankful to have legs that help me squat down to talk to my children.

2. WEARING/BUYING CLOTHES TOO SMALL

Actions speak louder than words. And this says it all.

Whether you are wearing uncomfortable clothes that don’t fit because you’ve gained weight, or you’re buying yourself new clothes in sizes too small for “motivation”, it’s all fueling your hatred towards your body.

By refusing to buy yourself clothes that fit after you’ve gained some weight, you are telling yourself that you are not worthy of feeling comfortable or wearing nice clothes. This is reinforcing the idea that your weight or body is tied to your worth. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

You are a living human being and that makes you worthy. End of story.

Yes, this also applies to buying the new swimsuit or dress 2 sizes too small for “motivation” to lose weight. You deserve to wear the cute dress now. You are worthy of wearing cute clothes no matter your weight.

Buying and wearing clothes that fit you is how you show yourself that you believe you are worthy. It’s an act of love for yourself.

3. SELF-DEPRECATING COMMENTS

Yes, even if they are jokes. Stop it. There are plenty of people in this world who will try to tear you down. Let them do it.

Plus, there are tons of other funny things to joke about. Be more creative.

These comments are super common after women get compliments, especially. Instead of accepting the compliment, we tend to downplay it by responding with a comment tearing ourselves down. That’s not productive, and it’s once again fueling this war that has been waged against our bodies.

Example:

I love your dress. It looks great on you!”

“Really? I feel like it just accents my muffin-top, but thanks.”

4. COMPARING YOUR BODY TO SOMEONE ELSE’S

You cannot be someone else. Your body will never be anyone else’s. And to covet other people’s bodies is doing your own a disservice.

How would your mom feel if you wished for a different mom constantly? Or what about your significant other? It seems absurd to treat your relationships with loved ones this way, so why would we do this in our relationship with our bodies- the most important relationship we have?

I get it, we are in the social media era. Instagram photos of people’s “perfect” bodies with 8,000 filters on them lend themselves to constant comparison. But we have the option to stop. If there are particular people that trigger you into comparison on social media, unfollow them, de-friend them, or mute them.

Take control of what you can. And every time you find yourself falling into the comparison trap again, stop and remember your body is the only one you have. It is your vehicle for experiencing all the amazing things life has to offer.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Again, making peace with your body does not happen overnight. It’s a constant practice. But it’s time we stopped spending so much energy fighting our bodies. There is something beautiful about letting them be and appreciating them for what they are. Plus, the world needs us to put that energy into something more productive.

My last piece of advice? Remind yourself every single day:

“I have more to offer this world than what my body looks like.”

3 Ways to Overcome Speed Bumps

3 Ways to Overcome Speed Bumps

Life is full of speed bumps. I know, I know, corny analogy about life full speed ahead. But seriously. It’s true. And it’s supposed to be that way. You know how everyone says how fast time flies? Imagine if we had no speed bumps along the way forcing us to slow down. Yikes. So while these speed bumps seem like inconveniences, they are doing you a huge favor. Whether you are aware of it or not.

The truth is, we need to slow down sometimes.

In this current day and age, we are all on the go. ALL. THE. TIME. With screens in front of our faces 24/7, we never get a chance to really be alone. To slow down. To see and experience what’s right in front of us. It’s hard to when we have access to everything else that’s going on all over the world.

Is it convenient? RARELY. Is it necessary? ABSOLUTELY. Is it up to us to make the most of it? BINGO.

Regardless of WHY the unforeseen events and challenges are presented in our paths, it’s up to us to handle them. We have the power to control how we respond. Whether or not we rise up to the challenge and appreciate it for the growth it can provide is up to us. This could look like an unforeseen work event taking over one of the 2 days you are able to workout, or a new injury forcing you to reconsider your entire training approach. Literally anything forcing you out of your usual routine.

Most of us will get frustrated. Cuss. Swear. Take it out on friends and family. Blame everything and everyone else. (I’m definitely guilty of all of those at some point). Everyone deals with these speed bumps and feelings of frustrations on their health journey (whether they share them publicly or not).

It’s those who stop for a moment and remember that there is always an opportunity for growth and those who learn and practice the skill of gratitude daily that will reach their goals. 

Think about all the times you passed a street with what seemed like 20 different speed bumps on it. How angry did you get? How annoyed were you? Did it allow you to stop and see the beautiful neighborhood you’ve driven through every day the past couple years? Or did those speed bumps force you to slow down and prevent a tragedy of hitting a dog that decided right then to chase the squirrel on the opposing side of the street?

When it comes to pursuing health, speed bumps aren’t just a possibility. They are an expectation. There will be things life throws at you and forces you to slow down.

But like a regular speed bump, you have to keep going to finally get over it. If you stop, not only will you get stuck, but you can even roll backwards. No matter what is happening in your life, there is always something you can be doing to make sure you are still taking action. There will always be a way to make do with what you have. There’s always a better choice that can be made somewhere.

Maybe you can’t afford a gym membership at the moment. Instead of giving up, this is a great opportunity to get creative with objects in your house or outside! It’s possible. I’ve been there. And I’m thankful for that time in my life because now I can squeeze in a workout just about anywhere thanks to my creativity I cultivated during that difficult time.

Maybe your schedule changed, leaving you virtually no time for a gym session. Another creativity challenge. Where can you squeeze in a few squats or a walk? Even a 10 minute kettlebell session can suffice. Anything to keep the ball rolling until your schedule frees up again.

Regardless of your situation, there are always ways you can make better choices towards optimizing your health.

Here are 3 things to remember for when you hit the inevitable speed bumps on your health & fitness journey:

1. Keep going no matter what. 

Like I mentioned before, starting requires the most energy. It’s no wonder you feel so drained with all the quitting and having to start all over again. How many times have you missed one workout or one week of workouts to just give up on it all together and get stuck in a rut?

Focus on the 24 hours in front of you. What can you do right now or today that can help you keep the ball rolling? It doesn’t have to be anything drastic. Just something. Put your energy into it. It’s all about momentum, and the act of putting forth effort is all it takes to keep the ball rolling!

2. Gratitude wins. 

Most people respond initially to these setbacks or challenges with frustration. Or blame. Some may even catastrophize them into something much bigger, exasperating the situation and playing the helpless victim. But we are not helpless. Yes, life does throw us some pretty nasty curve balls at times that are beyond our control. But we control how we react. And reacting by finding something to be thankful for? That’s how you win. That’s how you keep from getting defeated by the all-or-nothing mindset.

There is always something to be thankful for. For example, imagine a time you were under a great deal of stress. You didn’t sleep the night before because you had a big work presentation or exam that day. But you head into the gym anyways. As you start your workout, your start to feel lightheaded. Or your warm-up is feeling like your 1-RM. You begin to feel frustrated. This is one of your workout days. How could your body have betrayed you like this? 

Instead of getting wrapped up those feelings of frustration, take a moment to think about your situation. Your body is just letting you know it’s exhausted. Try to cultivate some gratitude and be thankful for the opportunity to celebrate what your body can do. It’s doing a fantastic job at keeping you alive, despite you asking it to perform without giving it the proper rest it needs. Meet your body in the middle. Drop those silly expectations that everything needs to go according to plan. Let your body be a dynamic, changing body. Give it a break. Be thankful that you were able to step foot into the gym that day, even if it means a light mobility session.

Everything doesn’t happen for a reason, unless you decide to look for that reason. It’s up to you.

3. Everything is temporary. 

Go back and read that again. And once more actually. Now screen shot that shit and put it on your phone since you already check that 3,000 times a day. No matter the cards you’ve been dealt, they are temporary. The world is always spinning, and everything is in a stream of chaos, constantly changing. We are all always adapting.

Your situation is not permanent. Unless you succumb to it and become the victim of paralysis. Take action, no matter how small. If you are feeling stuck, it may be time to brainstorm what actions you can take to make a change. If you hurt your shoulder or have family in town interrupting your typical workout schedule, it’s okay. The shoulder will heal (especially if you go get it checked out by someone who understands movement and can help you) and your family will return to their homes. Life will get back to normal. Or you will find a new normal.

Plus, you should be enjoying time with your family if they are visiting. Not stressing about missing a workout or two. Don’t miss out on life because you’re stressed about your routine getting interrupted.

Goals are not met in a day. Or a week. Or even a month. Sometimes you need to slow down and allow life to happen. This is how you create a sustainable healthy life that you love. Embrace it.

10 Training Tools For Home Workouts

10 Training Tools For Home Workouts

Since starting a full time job as a physical therapist at the beginning of the year, my free time has diminished greatly. Working long hours with a long commute to and from work has left much less time for training. Add in a dog with separation anxiety at an all-time high, and I’m left with 1 day a week to get into the gym.

Of course I know 1 day a week is not enough to meet my training goals and needs, but luckily, I have enough equipment at home to get in what I need and maximize my training time.

I know I am not the only one who has experienced this time barrier. While many people can get over the barrier by re-assessing priorities, many people simply are unable to make it into the gym on a regular basis.

The good news? You can definitely still achieve your goals- you just need to be smart about how you maximize the time you do have. One of the ways I have made this work is quick workouts in my living room! I’ve gathered some equipment over the years that help me train what I need in my apartment. This takes away the time involved in driving to the gym, parking, waiting for equipment to be free, etc. (and decreases the anxiety my dog has from me being gone all the time- yes that’s real life-he’s been destroying our door).

You’ll see below the top 10 pieces of equipment or tools I recommend for those of you wanting to maximize your training time but don’t have a garage or a ton of spare cash to create a home gym. For each tool I mention, I have even linked my recommendation, making it easy for you to get started right now! Check them out and click on the link to get over the time barrier and start tackling your health and fitness goals!

1. Kettlebells: 

I own several because I love them so much. Kettlebells are the #1 tool I recommend having at home to maximize your training time and reach your goals. They are super versatile, portable, and are the perfect way to get a high intensity training session in. Combine resistance training with cardiovascular training helps you maximize the time you have available to train! 

Ideally, you will want 1 heavy, 2 moderately heavy, and 1 lighter kettlebell. But you can definitely get away with one moderately heavy kettlebell to start! I linked a 16 kg kettlebell here, which is usually a good starting point.

Of course this is a more expensive tool, but it is an investment in your health. Plus the kettlebell skills are endless, so there is always something fun to try or work on. You’ll never get bored!

Pro tip: these are pretty expensive-I get it. And the shipping cost when purchased online is usually just as much as the kettlebells cost. My husband and I bought ours on a Black Friday Sale that included free shipping.  So watch out for sales during holidays, especially Black Friday. You don’t want to skimp on kettlebells. Get the heavy duty ones, so they last. None of the plastic pink kettlebell stuff.

2. Mini Bands:

One of my key pieces of equipment for glute training. The little extra band helps me really target my glutes. Especially when I don’t have access to a heavy barbell. And when I am performing heavy barbell thrusts, these little bands give an added edge that light my glutes on fire!

3. Monster Band:

I have one the thickness/resistance level similar to the purple one linked here. Of course owning multiple is beneficial for variety, but you can definitely get away with just one! This band is a great resistance for banded goodmornings, banded hip thrusts, assisted pull-ups, suitcase deadlifts, and a ton of other great exercises.

This is also the 1 piece of equipment I always travel with because it takes up a small amount of space and can be used to create a full body workout almost anywhere!

4. Physio/Exercise Ball

This is one of the classics most people have. I love using my physio ball to train abs with a stir the pot exercise or to train my hamstrings with a physio ball hamstring curl.

While it’s not necessarily one of my prioritized pieces of equipment, it definitely provides a different stimulus and various options other equipment doesn’t allow for.

5. Val Slides:

These are another extremely versatile training tool. These are great for a variety of lunges, hamstring curls, and added challenges to planks. Plus they’re super cheap!

6. Foam Roller:

With foam rollers, any size will do, but I personally have and recommend the 36-inch foam roller. I love foam rolling right before bed and on days that I feel particularly sore from heavy training days.

Foam rolling has some great benefits. It works to aide in some of the inflammation that happens with delayed onset muscle soreness. It also works to calm the nervous system down. This is why we usually feel our muscles are less tense and that we have better mobility after. Foam rolling is a great pre-sleep routine for this reason!

Foam rolling does not, however, break up scar tissue. You would need a scalpel or knife for that (seriously, we can’t break up scar tissue with a roller or our hands). 

7. Therabands:

You don’t need to go crazy with these; although it is easy to do so. I have about 3 or 4 of various thicknesses. I use these for warm-ups or finishers for my shoulder workouts or added resistance to various exercises.

8. Suspension Trainer:

I linked the one that I have which is the most popular, TRX. This is a more expensive piece of equipment and definitely not necessary. But due to it’s versatility and ability to put up literally anywhere (in a door in your house or apartment or even on a tree branch outside), I had to include it.

I love using this for almost any exercise from assisted exercises like single-leg squats or lunges, to inverted rows. I also love using this for mobility training and strengthening my joints at ranges I don’t own yet!

9. Pull Up Bar:

This is a must if you are looking to getting your first pull-up or improving the number of pull-ups you’re able to rep out. This was one of the key factors that helped me get to 10 unbroken strict pull-ups. I had this hung in the doorway and did a pull-up every time I passed under it for weeks!

Of course if you don’t have a pull-up yet, you’ll need a little assistance to do so, but this will help you get a pull-up faster than ever. Use a chair to help you get to the top and lower yourself down, as slowly and with as much control as possible.

10. Jump Rope:

Since I live in an apartment, I don’t use this as much in my living room. I don’t want to do that to my neighbors. But this has come very handy for keeping my heart rate up during circuits when I go to my apartment gym, when I’m traveling, or when I train outside. Which is why this definitely made the list.

Plus I love how jumping rope challenges our coordination. We tend to neglect training things like coordination and balance. Things that we take for granted until we are affected by a disease or injury that compromises them.

So there you have it. My top 10 tools for training at home. Most of them are super affordable and hardly take up much space! Stop stressing about missing your workouts when you aren’t able to make it into the gym. And if you’re someone who is afraid to start lifting weights in a gym, you can easily start in the comfort of your own living room!

Last but not least, I will be sending out my living room workouts with these pieces of equipment regularly, so get your email on my list if you haven’t already!

Happy Training! 

Top 10 Mistakes Women Make in Health & Fitness

Top 10 Mistakes Women Make in Health & Fitness

While we have certainly made great strides in the female fitness world, there is still a TON of room for improvement.

Below are some of the most common mistakes I encounter regularly with clients and patients (and been guilty of myself) in the past 9 years of my experience training myself and other women. It’s time we create some change!

One of the most important components of cultivating a healthy lifestyle is constant auditing. Always striving to get better. Below are 10 ways you can improve your healthy lifestyle to ensure you get the most out of the precious time and energy you are putting in to taking care of the one and only body you will have for life.

1. Training for aesthetics only.

This is #1 for many reasons, most of which are near and dear to my heart because this was my #1 mistake when starting out. I was never able to be consistent or actually achieve anything and I never understood why. Why? Because my intentions stemmed from hatred for the current state of my body. I didn’t want to nourish my body. I wanted to punish it for causing me so much pain. Change it for being different than the world told me I should look. But I was missing the point. My body wasn’t the culprit, it was these crazy expectations I had for my body. I wanted my body to be something it wasn’t intended to be. I was doing my own body a disservice. And I know I’m not the only one.

Ask almost any woman in the gym for what drew her into the gym, and most will tell you they want to change something about the way their body looks. While it is not inherently wrong to want to change something about your body, it can often facilitate an unhealthy relationship with training and healthy eating, especially when it comes from a place of hatred, disgust, and frustration. All of those were the emotions that fueled my hundreds of attempts and failures at cultivating a healthy lifestyle.

By solely training for aesthetics, not only are we doing our bodies a disservice, but we are also putting pressure on something that is dynamic. Our bodies are supposed to fluctuate and change. Putting this pressure on our bodies becomes an issue because there is a tendency to attach happiness and well-being to how we look. I have seen women completely change their attitudes for the ENTIRE day depending on whether or not their stomachs looked “flat” in a picture or mirror (also guilty as charged!). We cannot control the way our bodies looks our whole lives, and why should we want to?

You were placed on this earth to provide the world with talents and skills that involve much more than how your body looks.

2. Overemphasizing cardio.

Most women live on the treadmill or elliptical in the gym. This is typically due to one of two reasons: 1) they are operating from an oversimplification of calories in:calories out for weight loss mindset, or 2) they are too afraid or intimidated to step foot into the weight room.

Much of this stems from the 1980s aerobics fads. But the secret is out and so are the training fads from the 80s. This is definitely a fad that has faded more, but I continue to see it lingering around too often.

Cardio is important, but it is merely a tool, one piece of the big puzzle. A balanced training program will include just enough, but not too much, cardio training. Why? Because it is possible- and common- to overtrain with cardio. It can create hormone imbalances, facilitate insulin resistance, wreak havoc on cortisol (especially if you are already stressed regularly and not eating to support your training habits), and even lead to weight gain, ESPECIALLY when paired with cutting calories and undereating.

When it comes to cardio training for general health, we rarely need more than 30 minutes a few days per week. Yes, cardio is important and should not be overlooked. But, you can totally lift weights in circuits with little to no rest to elevate your heart rate and kill two birds with one stone.

3. Not lifting heavy enough.

Our bodies adapt to the specific demands we impose upon it. If we are lifting small pink dumbbells over and over without progressing, our bodies will also not progress. If you want to be strong, you need to train for strength! This means lifting a weight that is challenging for you. Three pound dumbbells are not enough!

One of the biggest issues in healthcare, particularly for females as they age, is fractured hips. This often leads to severe disability and further complications, leading to a shorter lifespan. Why does this happen? Women are prone to developing osteoporosis, especially after going through menopause. Hormone changes and sedentariness are the perfect storm for this disabling injury. The good news is that we can prevent it! By building our bone density as much possible before menopause, we will be less inclined to develop osteoporosis and have much stronger and more resilient bones overall. Bones will literally grow more dense with strength training. As we use our muscles to move the weight or perform the exercises, these muscles are transmitting forces to the bones, stimulating them to grow thick and strong.

Another problem I see as a physical therapist in elderly women? The loss of strength in older females leading to the inability to perform basic activities such as getting up off of the floor or toilet. If we naturally lose some muscle mass and strength as we age, imagine how much quicker we will reach disability if the strength bank is already running low. If that doesn’t make you want to go pick up some heavy things off of the floor instead of those pink dumbbells, I don’t know what will.

Lifting weights should feel like a struggle. Embrace the struggle.

4. Core training all wrong.

Abs: the most common thing I see women “training” in the corner of the gym or under the stairs on a yoga mat. Also, one of the first things I educate my clients about. The purpose of your abdominals is to keep you upright, to resist motion through the spine so you can protect your back and generate more force through your arms and legs. With that being said, it doesn’t make a whole ton of sense to train abs with crunches, bicycles, standing side crunches with a weight (my personal least favorite), and all the other ab exercises involving a ton of crazy shear forces through the spine.

Instead, train anti-movements for the spine. These are things like dead bugs, stir-the-pots, pallof presses, bird-dogs, unilateral exercises, weighted carries, etc.

5. Performing sloppy repetitions.

 Women of the world, we are naturally the more bendy gender. We have more flexibility. Which is awesome. But, that also means it’s easy for us to be pulled into positions without effort. Especially with weight. This is problematic during weight training because we can get into positions with a load that we don’t have the best stability in. It also means we have a tendency to use momentum during exercise, rather than pure muscular strength. With the use of momentum comes a lack of control and extra movements at joints that shouldn’t be moving during the exercise. The less extra movements we have, the less risk we are for pain or injury, and the stronger we will be in the joints that are supposed to be carrying out the movement.

Crisp, clean movement = happy joints.

How do we fix it? Practice the law of irradiation. Learn how to properly create intra-abdominal pressure to stabilize your core. Use your muscles to pull you into each part of the exercise.

The tl;dr: don’t be sloppy with your repetitions and you will get stronger.

6. Unbalanced training schedule.

This is two-fold. Most women I know do not incorporate rest. This means both rest (active recovery) days as well as understanding that NOT EVERY WORKOUT NEEDS TO FEEL LIKE YOUR REGINA GEORGE AFTER SHE GOT HIT BY THE BUS. There. I said it.

Most women feel that they need to wring out their shirts with sweat or their workouts weren’t effective. This mostly comes from a lack of understanding how exercise and the body works. Think more about exercise as a request for change in the body rather than “calorie-scorching”.

The effectiveness of your workouts does not correlate to how much you sweat or how close to death you feel when you are finished.

It’s perfectly okay to actually walk out of the gym feeling refreshed rather than beat down. In fact, some of your training sessions should probably feel comfortable, especially when your body is feeling less than optimal and run down. This means you need to let go of your “all or nothing” mindset. Get comfortable with adjusting your workouts as necessary if you want to make this a lifetime habit. Adaptability rules. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. You’ll be surprised at how different you will feel by respecting how your body feels and training accordingly- like your body is no longer betraying you!

8. Undereating.

This is a big one. (Well, if we’re being honest they all are, but nonetheless, this one is very important as it can lead to negative repercussions that are very difficult to mend). Most women think they need to exercise more and eat less to lose weight or achieve their goals. That couldn’t be further from the truth and we need to move far away from this oversimplification of how the body works. Many women who utilize this approach end up with all kinds of hormone imbalances, and many often gain weight! Instead, we need to think about eating to fuel our activities throughout the week.

This is especially true when it comes to consuming protein. Women rarely consume enough, despite the emphasis that has been placed on it in the recent years.

Don’t oversimplify your eating plan by just counting calories. Make sure you are eating enough to fuel your body with the energy and nutrients it needs.

9. Underemphasizing stress management and sleep.

We all know we need to manage stress. And get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Just like we all know we need to eat more vegetables and less McDonalds. However, the practical application and the prioritization has been lacking, especially in the recent years with the hours in front of a blue screen increasing drastically.

High stress + lack of sleep + overtraining + undereating/under-nourishing your body = hormonal wreck.

And we wonder why it’s so hard to lose weight, reach goals, or feel good.

We all need a stress management practice daily to function optimally. That can look like anything from prayer and meditation, to walks outside. Anything that allows you to unplug and desensitize yourself from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Something that helps you check back in with yourself and how you are feeling.

And when it comes to sleep, 7-8 hours is a general rule of thumb to strive for. And most importantly, this needs to be quality sleep. No interruptions. No drugs used to induce (yes, over-the-counter melatonin counts as a drug- it totally messes with your natural circadian rhythm). You should feel rested when you wake up.

10. Taking advice from fitness gurus & instafit models. 

I get how tempting it is to think you need to follow all the fitness models. They all have thousands of followers and seem so “fit” – obviously they know what they are talking about, right?

WRONG. I wrote a blog all about how to find a coach that’s best for you here. Sometimes it’s hard to decipher who is educated and knowledgeable compared to those who care mostly about their online presence and looks rather than their clients. And unfortunately, much of the female fitness world is filled with women (and men) who will spend more time trying to achieve a particular look than learning and bettering themselves to provide the best information for their clients.

No, you don’t need to try all the crazy glute exercises you see on Instagram. Nor do you need to try wraps to shed a few pounds. Or try anything else that is a quick-fix. Find the people who are telling you the hard things. Who empower you with knowledge and information. The ones who are real and honest. Those are the coaches who will go above and beyond for their clients and provide you with the best, most evidence-based research to help you create a healthy life that you love. So you can reach your highest potential.

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