Learning to Love You

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I’ve always been pretty skinny and as a young girl in a country where people tend to admire those of a larger persuasion, this did not do much for much self esteem. For a long time I wished that I could be fuller and more voluptuous. Where were my huge breasts and hips!! Add to that my short hair, imperfect skin and HUGE glasses. I was often reminded of my imperfections in ways that were less than kosher. I never wanted any attention drawn to me and was often quite happy to fade peacefully and quietly into the background. It took me years to accept my body and to love who I saw reflected in the mirror.  This journey began in my early 20’s but it really only fully culminated in my early 30’s (I’m still in my early 30’s).

I fully appreciate and love my body. I don’t aim to be more voluptuous (in fact I don’t want to; I love more of a svelte shape) and I even wear my hair short. What’s interesting is that I did start to put on a little weight at one point and then early this year I wrote myself a plan to ditch those extra pounds. Imagine trying to become the thing that you were teased for! The world is interesting eh? One of my colleagues told me I really needed to put on some weight as I had become too skinny. I am still the same size. Because this is where I want to be. And someone’s opinion of me won’t alter the view I have of myself. That’s a position of mental strength.

Well I guess the question on your mind is how does one go from a place of weak self image to one of strength. The country still likes those of a larger, more voluptuous persuasion so the dynamics of the environment have not changed significantly. The environment didn’t change; I changed. I changed my mindset and self view. I embraced me and all that was unique about me that I loved. I recognised that we are all different people with a combination of various attributes that define who we are. These are not limited to looks but extend to personality and the sheer energy we exude.

That may all sound very airy fairy like you don’t have something tangible to take away. So let me give you something a little more tangible. A positive self image isn’t only based on looks; it’s everything about you that makes you who you are. I began to appreciate myself more each time I conquered a situation where I initially felt uncomfortable. I realised I didn’t die and each step of the way I became stronger. I hated doing presentations in front of a room of people where all attention was on me so I did more of that. I wasn’t great at first, you could probably see my nervousness but I pressed on. I didn’t die! I hated asking questions in a room full of people – again attention and what if I said something stupid. So I did more of that. I didn’t die! Yes, I’ve had people laugh at me but guess what again, I didn’t die. Each step of doing something a little out of the norm for me helped me to embrace a little more of me.

On the looks front I realised I like the simple elegance my frame allowed. I like a modelesque look that’s toned and athletic. And as someone drawn to a Claire Underwood style it worked for me. I just had to ensure that my clothes were all well tailored to my body. Because I know what I like when people suggest changes that are not aligned I can easily dismiss them. I don’t want bigger breasts and I’m quite comfortable with my hips. I know who I am, I know what I like and I don’t try to be something different to please the masses. Reaching this point is the single, biggest step to being truly confident and having a healthy self-image. When you don’t know who you are or what you like you sway with the wind and the wind can crush you.

What I like may not be what you like and that’s fine; we are all unique individuals. On your fitness journey just remember to know who you are, know what you like, know where you are going and to embrace and love you at every stage.

 

 

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Walk Your Way to Your Summer Body

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It’s summer and the weather is hot! This is the time for swimsuits, shorts and tanks. If you are in Barbados it’s time for parties and Kadooment Day! This all means we want to get our bodies summer ready. I’ll share a little secret with you: you don’t have to endure cruel and unusual punishment to reach this goal. Exercise should be fun! It should be something you want to return to often because you love how your body feels. When you find that movement that gives you life and energy it’s no longer just exercise; it’s fun!

Walking may be that movement for you; give it a try. Try the below programme for 4 weeks and see how your body feels and looks. Don’t forget you must include at least 2 strength training sessions each week and please please…puh-lease eat healthy! You don’t want to lose progress due to bad nutrition. You cannot out-exercise a bad diet! Well some special individuals may be able to but seriously it’s not worth the hassle. See here for tips on improving your eating habits,

Choose your days; you would know your schedule better than most. We need 5 days each week.

Week 1

Day 1 – Walk for 30 minutes at a moderate pace

Day 2 – Walk for 30 minutes incorporating intervals – 30 secs high, 30 secs low

Day 3 –  Walk for 30 minutes at a moderate pace

Day 4 – Walk for 30 minutes incorporating intervals – 30 secs high, 30 secs low

Day 5 – Find a hill. Use the up-hill as your high interval and the downhill as your low. Do this for 20 minutes

Each week add 5 more minutes to the time you are currently walking. At week 3 reduce your low intervals by 5 seconds to 25 seconds. At week 4 reduce your low intervals to 20 seconds.

Have fun walking!!


Shopping Healthy: Navigating the Supermarket

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You’ve firmly decided you are ready to eat healthy; “it starts today!” The problem however….you have no idea where to actually start!

Good nutrition begins with your shopping and making sure you stock your home with healthy options. Start with preparing a list of what you actually need. Try not to enter the supermarket and randomly pick up items as you meander through the aisles. Impulse will take over and you will find yourself choosing less than healthy options. If you don’t have a plan temptation will create a plan for you.

The (Avoid Temptation) Plan

If you are like me you don’t have a lot of time on your hands; I’m always thinking fast, simple and easy. You’d be amazed at how some really delicious meals are not very complicated at all. Allocating some time for prepping when you have more time available, like perhaps the weekend, can also help you save time during the week when time is a little more lean.

Okay back to the shopping. My shopping is broken into heading to several locations; this is because I like fresh local fish, fresh local meats and fresh vegetables and herbs. You may be different. I think in food groups when I compile my list. It looks a little something like this: Grain | Protein | Fruit | Vegetables | Dairy. Under each heading I choose options for the week. Grain might include wholegrain cereals, wholegrain bread, oatmeal, wholegrain crackers, brown rice, pasta. You can also include couscous or quinoa. Not all of these options are on my list every week; it all depends on what’s currently in the cupboard. Protein options include fresh local fish, canned tuna, canned sardines, fresh local lamb, pork or chicken, eggs, peanut butter. Fruit includes bananas, plantains, oranges, apples, plums, grapes or whatever local fruit is currently in season. Vegetables include carrots, spinach, broccoli, peppers, beets, onions, sweet potatoes. I try to get a mixture of different-coloured fruit and vegetables as varying colours have varying nutrient profiles. My dairy includes low fat milk, low fat yoghurt, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese.

When preparing my meals I go back to that awesome tip from Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook – try to eat at least 3 kinds of food per meal and 2 kinds of food per snack. So an example of a day in my life may look something like this:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with banana & apple, 2 hard boiled eggs and a glass of milk

Lunch: Baked chicken with steamed vegetables, plantain and sweet potato

Dinner: Pasta with canned tuna, cheese and broccoli

I also include items like green tea which I drink at least 2-3 times a day. I might have a snack between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner depending on the length of time between both. This snack is likely to be trail mix (be sure to read the ingredients to avoid highly sugared and salted options) as this covers several food groups and it’s quick and easy.

On Sundays I do meal preps. I season the meats I know I’d like to use for dinner so they are readily available for cooking.

I hope this helps with tackling your shopping on your road to healthy eating.

Good luck!


Weight Loss Tips

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I recently lost weight; it was only a few pounds (and predominantly from my mid-section) but to many it looked like I had lost a lot of weight. After initial questions on if I was going through a difficult period in life or if this was an intentional act (which it was!), people starting asking how I achieved this loss. I didn’t employ a fancy, designer diet, nor did I increase the intensity and frequency of my workouts significantly. I simply made a few minor changes in my life. Here’s how I did it:

 Nutrition! Nutrition! Nutrition!

I attended a friend’s birthday “lime” in January where she prepared fresh fish gathered from the market. This fish was delicious! It was so delicious I decided I would head to the market the next week, source some of this fish and cook it myself. Thus began my journey of heading to the fish market almost every week to buy fish. Suddenly I became very excited about cooking. I started buying lots of vegetables and steaming them in my steamer (who was very happy to make a reappearance). I realised after I had steamed a few veges (sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, etc.) and plantains and paired with some fish I was full and the meal was tasty. More importantly it was healthy and well-balanced!

I then thought I would like to try some meat. I made my way to another market to buy fresh lamb and pork. I became more than a little obsessed with finding the right way to season these meats, experimenting with various herbs I sourced in the market. Again I paired with a nice mix of vegetables. Sometimes I made a potato mash with spinach or prepared brown rice or pasta as my side. Eventually I found myself enjoying cooking, eating healthier and really really enjoying my meals.

This eventually got me to start thinking more about my lunch choices. I started experimenting with different types of sandwiches. One time I did tuna but instead of using mayonnaise I thought I would use mashed plantains (can you guess I really love plantains….and brackets!!). It was delicious. All of this playing around with food made me even more picky if I had to purchase lunch. Suddenly I was eating even better.

Planning My Workouts

Remember back in January when I talked about making changes to my fitness routine? Read here. Those changes worked! They were based on my goal of reducing body fat without stripping away my hard-earned muscle. That plan helped keep me focused on my goal without guessing each day what I was going to do next. It also helped me build in my performance increases. Planning is essential my friends. In a future post I will outline how I go about making a plan in more detail.

So overall nothing too fancy, just good ole diet and exercise…and here I am, a few pounds lighter and visiting my seamstress to get my clothes altered.

(Did you notice how much I wrote on nutrition vs. how much I wrote on exercise? This is about the weight [no pun intended] you need to give to both these areas for successful weight loss.)

Good luck!


6 Tips for Motivating Yourself to Get Up and Work Out!

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It’s hard; I know! Sometimes I don’t feel like taking one step out of my bed (or off the couch, depending on the time of day) to exercise. It’s easy to assume that because I am a personal trainer that I am always bouncing off the walls ready to put in a session. Let me assure you, that is not true. Sometimes I need to motivate myself to get up and put in the work.

So how do I do it? 

I employ a number of strategies; I’ll share a few with you; I hope you find them useful.

Approach 1: Workout Gear

It helps that I have a mild (severe) obsession with workout apparel. I therefore buy myself cool workout gear I love to wear. The motivation is even stronger if I am leaving my home and sharing my awesome fashion choices with the world. Truth be told perhaps only I think my workout fashion is awesome and maybe others are looking and wondering “What is that girl wearing?”No matter, putting on workout clothes gives me an immediate high therefore just thinking about my outfit is enough to get me excited about the workout.

Approach 2: Thinking How My Body Feels After A Session

This is especially useful for me for morning workouts. Every time I work out in the morning I feel ready and energised to tackle the day. Problems seem conquerable, difficult personalities seem a little easier to handle and I move with a quicker pace in my step. Overall, I just feel happier! So when it feels like a chore to do my morning workouts I just think of the after effects and that’s enough to spring me into action.

Approach 3: Watching Kanye West Fade Video

If you have ever watched this video there is little more I need to say. If you haven’t I suggest watching it here: Fade Music Video. Talk about body goals! This works for females; I’m not sure the equivalent for males. But this definitely gets me moving, mostly if my workout had to be pushed to the evening and I was having a little difficulty convincing myself to workout after a long day’s work.

Approach 4: Creating a Music Playlist that Excites Me

Music is my drug of choice. It has such an emotional effect on me. I can feel the energy of a song and it makes me want to move. When I download a new song I’ve been crushing on I can’t wait to play it, many many many times. A playlist filled with energising songs can get me moving. I always make sure I have several lists ready to go depending on my mood.

Approach 5: My Polar A360

Yes, I am one of those people; I love tracking my workout and reaching for targets. I love reviewing my weekly performance in my Polar Flow app and I hate disappointing myself with dismal showings. There is a certain weekly mileage target I aim for and the thought of missing that target is enough to get me going. After each workout I review how much time I spent in each heart rate zone, the miles covered, my average pace etc. to ensure I am following the fitness plan I have laid out for myself.

Approach 6: Creating a Fitness Plan

Take the guessing work out of it! I hate getting up in the morning or returning home in the evening and then trying to figure out what I am going to do. Those minutes are enough for me to convince myself that the bed or couch is way more enticing. I take a few minutes (maybe 30) to create my monthly fitness plan and then I follow that plan as closely as I can. Having a plan also gives me something to track, which as I explained, I love tracking!

So those are a few of my motivation tactics. I hope you find something useful in there that may be able to assist you with making that step (get it) to working out and doing so consistently. Consistency is your friend if you want to see results.

Good luck!


To The Hills! Including Hills In Your Walking Workout.

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On several occasions I’ve encouraged you to add hills to your workout. Adding hills creates diversity and has the added benefit of burning more calories. However, how exactly do you walk up and down hills??!! I wondered this myself when I started walking and made it a point to find out the answer. After spending lots of time working on my walking technique, the last thing I wanted was that it totally disappear when I found myself in the midst of a hill. I figured you too may have similar concerns so here are a few tips:

Up Dem Hills

By now we know that proper walking technique dictates landing on your heels with ankles flexed and rolling through smoothly to the balls of your feet right to toe push off. Focusing on this movement will be your best friend when walking up hills. When you land with your feet flat instead of flexed you create a brake which prevents you from moving uphill swiftly. This is the last thing you want! You want to be a lean, mean swift-walking machine! Shorten your stride and try to land with a straight leg. Look up the hill and avoid leaning forward from the waist. The straight leg may become more difficult to maintain as the hills get steeper. In these instances where you cannot help but bend the knee focus on landing with your toes up.

The Downhill

Again the focus is on landing with those toes up. (Sensing a pattern here?) Keep the stride short and leg straight. The straight leg is very important here. When going downhill many persons tend to bend their knees placing undue pressure on this joint. This makes you more susceptible to injury or can aggravate old injuries. To protect your knees focus on that straight leg. Keep the leg straight until it passes behind the hip and your back leg is swinging forward.

Now it’s time to get out there, find a hill and start practising! Do several hill repeats to get the feel for the technique. You’ll be mastering hills in no time. Good luck!

 


Choosing the Right Walking Shoe

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You’ve been out walking consistently for a few weeks and you’ve decided that this is the form of cardio you really enjoy. When you started you threw on some old workout clothes and some sneakers you had lying around. See you weren’t sure if you really were going to stick with walking so you didn’t want to invest a lot of money. Understandable. Now you’re sure! You are ready to buy your first pair of walking shoes!

Here are a few tips to guide you through that process.

Proper walking technique dictates that you land on your heel and roll through smoothly to your toes. This requires a  flexible sole and a low supportive heel that rounds in instead of flairs out. This will facilitate proper movement much more easily.

After walking for a long period of time you’ll find that your feet will expand. You therefore need to shop with this in mind. It is most ideal to go shopping at the end of the day after you have been moving around for a bit and your feet are at their maximum. You should have plenty of room for your toes to wiggle without your feet sliding forward from the heel. Also remember to take the socks you intend to wear! And try on both shoes! You may need to go up by 1/2 a size or so to account for foot swelling and socks.

Make sure the shoe is lightweight and breathable. You want to maximise comfort and a heavy, stifling shoe will become very uncomfortable during the course of your workout and make it more difficult to maintain proper technique.

After about 3-6 months you’ll need to change your shoes as they will begin to lose cushioning. Keep track of your mileage and change every 350-500 miles dependent on how the shoe feels. You should be able to feel if a change needs to happen on the low end of the range or the higher end.

Remember the brand is not important; get the shoe that feels right for you. Happy shopping!