Endurance

Thirteen months and thousands of miles of training had all brought him to this moment. He approached, for the fifth time, the blue tarp, makeshift tent adorned in Christmas lights, welcomed by a blue dinosaur wearing a Santa cap. The volunteers working the aid station were tired, but cheerful, trying to keep each runner that passed through their establishment as comfortable as possible on their quest to reach 100 miles. This landmark was the 15.5 mile marker on a 20 mile loop and this was his last time approaching it, putting him at mile 95.5.

The thrill of the race had been lost to the trail hours before. Every step was pure agony. The repetitive impact of feet meeting trail, rock and root had taken its toll on every ligament and bone. The well of adrenaline was dry. The desire to be done was overwhelming, but the thought of taking just one more step inconceivable. At this point in the race, even with all the effort, determination, focus and training the thought of stopping is there. It’s human response to this type of physical exertion.

So what then, when all the glory of the finish seemed like a mirage, and the pain of enduring 4.5 more miles felt crushing, transpired to propel forward motion? The answer to that question is the topic of this post.

Any time we set a goal, or take on a new project the excitement and newness of the challenge generates an energy that almost effortlessly moves us forward. We are on track, getting it done, proud of our work, patting ourselves on the back and the goal seems well within reach. As time passes we see some results of our efforts and those results fuel the focus to keep pushing. Often the gains that we may have experienced early on begin to slow down, the going gets tough. The option of quitting is there beckoning us back into the hole of a comfort zone we crawled out of in the first place. We question why we ever thought we could do this, how bad do we really want it, is it even possible, we make excuses and we procrastinate. This is the brain’s defense mechanism against doing something it knows is going to be uncomfortable or difficult.

When the newness wears off, the results go unnoticed or unseen, and we arrive at what seems an insurmountable wall separating us from our own personal finish lines, practicing endurance is what eventually delivers the dream. Endurance is the ability to resist, withstand, recover, and have immunity from hardships, disappointments, fatigue and boredom. Developing endurance is achieved by placing ourselves in situations which require us to practice overcoming the aforementioned obstacles little by little. No one who wants to be successful jumps straight into a 100 mile race. Months of training at shorter distances, building endurance is what allows finishers to run, walk or crawl across the line.

The pursuit of any goal in fitness, relationships, career or nutrition requires endurance. Maybe you have been “good all week,” with your nutrition plan and suddenly someone brings your favorite dessert into the office or friends suggest a night of heavy drinking. Perhaps you’ve been busting your butt at work for recognition and a promotion that doesn’t seem to be happening, so you feel like giving up and rationalizing mediocre work. What if you’ve been putting a ton of effort in with your spouse only to feel like there is no reciprocity and you are tempted to resign yourself to a lackluster relationship for the sake of harmony? Those situations are in that moment your mile 95.5. What will you do? Will you exercise endurance and finish the race, or will you disqualify all that you have already invested for the sake of what momentarily feels more comfortable?

Peace, love and running.

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Despite all the rage, You are still just a rat in a Cage

Choosing WHOLE foods, meaning foods that come straight out of the ground, off the tree or from the farm with minimal processing is a very important part of practicing integrity with nutrition. The more whole foods we can incorporate into our daily intake, the better. In addition to choosing whole foods it is important to also determine the balance of macronutrients by which your body performs most effectively. What is your ideal ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat? This answer is unique to each individual and it is an ongoing self performed science experiment that we sadly never learn in the classroom. (I hope to change that one day.) The first step in using yourself as your own scientific test subject is to identify your body type.

We are all fearfully and wonderfully made in a variety of shapes and sizes. Determining a general macronutrient ratio depends on the shape we most closely identify with. There are three commonly used somatotypes that can help you figure out which you relate closest to. The International Sports Sciences Association depicts these types:

Ectomorph: If you’re an ectomorph, you’re naturally thin with skinny limbs and a high tolerance for carbohydrates. Usually, your metabolic rate is fast. A good starting macronutrient ratio for you would be something like 25% protein, 55% carbs and 20% fat.

Mesomorph: Mesomorphs are naturally muscular and athletic. They have a moderate carbohydrate tolerance and a moderate metabolic rate. Mesomorphs can usually start at a 30% protein, 40% carb, 30% fat macronutrient ratio.

Endomorph: If you’re naturally broad and thick, you’re probably an endomorph. Endomorphs have a low carbohydrate tolerance and a slow metabolic rate. If you’re an endomorph, try a ratio of 35% protein, 25% carbs and 40% fat.

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Now, while the above information does have some scientific basis, it is not the end all be all to personal sound nutrition. There are always exceptions. But, as a general jumping off point these are satisfactory guidelines. Once you’ve identified your somatotype and begun structuring your intake around those percentages you can fine tune the numbers to yield the result you are looking for. A tool that I use to see a broad overview of my macronutrients is the dailyburntracker.com .

Another approach to determining your macronutrient balance is through mathematical equations, which is definitely more precise. After you’ve been following the guidelines above for a while and want more fine tuning, the more precise calculations will get you there. These calculations are determined by finding your Basal Metabolic Rate (the amount of calories your body needs to survive), knowing your Activity Factor (the total amount of calories you need to do what you do every day), and defining your goals and lifestyle. The easiest way to discover these numbers is to ask your personal trainer to schedule your nutritional consultation. While trainers are not nutritionists or dietitians, they are required through their education to learn the basics of sound nutrition and how to manipulate those standards to help clients achieve goals. The cheaper, but lengthier and potentially frustrating approach is to DIY by using credible resources on the internet. The resources are out there, but if you aren’t overly familiar or confident with the material it can be cumbersome.

So, now that you recognize that your nutritional intake is an evolving balance that requires education and practice, I urge you to invoke your inner scientist and let the experimentation begin! Once your meals are balanced according to your beautiful body’s needs you will feel more energy and you will start to see a leaner, stronger and healthier you. You can do it!

More Revival, Less Survival

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here!!!!!!! The last bits of Halloween candy have thankfully bit the dust, the sparse leaves are fighting to hang on through the frosty, late fall air and every commercial entity is bursting with the message that the holiday season is blooming! There are so many great resources available offering insight and tips on how to survive, “The most wonderful time of the year,” but this little word nugget is here to encourage you to use this holiday season as a reminder to revive your fitness and nutrition decisions now and arrive at January 1, 2015 in the greatest thriving condition you’ve ever been! Yep, that’s right, I’m challenging you to not only make this the hap happiest season of all, but the health healthiest season of your LIFE!!!!!!

Society has somehow taken the day we reserve for thankfulness and transformed it into a day where gluttony, over indulgence and waste is not only socially accepted, but expected. Ouch, yeah it’s the truth. Think back to the poor pilgrims and Indians on the first Thanksgiving. Their binge meal was likely the equivalent to half of our first plate on Thanksgiving day, and they probably felt as if they were living like kings. Half those pilgrims starved to death their first winter. We are blessed with such great access to food now that we lose authenticity in our appreciation of it, because we do not know what it feels like to really, “starve to death.” I encourage you to recognize that as you sit down to dinner this turkey day. Instead of the mindless inhalation of thousands of calories, serve yourself a few of your favorite things, and allow yourself to experience a sincere gratitude for having those things at your table. While taking part in the holiday, remember to be thankful for your health maybe by doing a workout that morning or going for a walk after dinner. The world may condone sloth and gluttony, but you can choose how you want to celebrate, and you can still celebrate while practicing moderation and mindfulness!

Many people report feelings of exhaustion, stress and depression in the last 2 months of the year and the first month of the next. Since they know these feelings are coming, and they are just “too busy,” they allow themselves to,”take a break,” from routine exercise. I cannot verbalize enough how detrimental to your physical and mental health this sabbatical is. First of all the body does not adjust itself to accommodate the holidays. The metabolism doesn’t do overtime to burn the unnecessary calories, and the muscles don’t get up and work themselves. Secondly, the mind doesn’t stop needing the release of endorphins and feel good neurotransmitters that come with exercising. So discontinuing exercise as a means of reducing your stress levels will end up doing the complete opposite. If anything, I encourage you to take this holiday season by the french horns and recharge your energy by elevating your exercise endeavors. Do you want to feel like the dead brown needles at the base of the Christmas tree, or do you want to be the shining star that spreads a glow of warmth, light and love to everything surrounding it!?? YOU get to choose! The holidays are not something to be survived, they are a wonderful time to embrace love and life and to allow yourself to thrive.

I am thankful to you for reading this and I wish you a wonderful, happy and healthy holiday season. I love you!

Count von Count?

Measurements are the numbers we assign to various objects. In many fields these numbers allow for precision, continuity, validity and reliability. In the realm of health and fitness we have an eclectic array of measurements from which we can choose to identify our placement in the spectrum of what is “normal,” and healthy. These methods include, Body Mass Index (BMI), body fat %, weight and waist to hip ratio among many others. Then, collectively as a society we also measure ourselves by clothing sizes and styles, comparisons to photos on pinterest and instagram as well as fitness magazines, and tape measured measurements. Whew, that’s allota numbers to keep track of and be measured by.

Throughout history being “fat” was regarded as a favorable condition and associated with people of wealth. Many held the belief that having more to squeeze at night was somewhat of an insurance policy in times of sickness. The idea of obesity being a pathological state has only made its way onto the radar in the past century, with morbid obesity being identified as recently as the primary decades of the 20th century. Sidenote; the timing of this classification interestingly aligns itself with the increased accessibility of the motor vehicle. Obesity related illness and death was identified early on by insurance companies! HA! Of course it was. Insurance companies discovered a relationship between their obese policy holders and increased death claims which then prompted the need for an index of normal relative body mass. The less the insurance companies have to pay, the happier they are and in this case it was a good discovery (if only they would wake up and see the benefits of preventative medicine now). And so the Quetelet index, commonly known as the BMI was born as a way to assess relative body mass. While the BMI is an effective tool in loosely identifying where we fit in the spectrum, it is certainly NOT 100% accurate or a true reflection of your fitness level. It does not take muscle mass, fluid, or bone density into account and for anyone who works out consistently it is an arbitrary number.

If ancient Egyptians could see us stepping up onto the scale today they would think we were all cray cray. Scales were historically used to measure goods for trade, 30 pieces of silver, grain etc. They were used to determine the VALUE of what was being weighed. The idea that we consciously or not step up onto a scale to determine our own value is antiquated and unnecessary. How many times have we all allowed the number on the scale to either deflate our demeanor or empower our ego? So many people often associate their body weight with their level of success, potential, beauty, happiness, and sadly, their worth. Let it go, let it go! (queue Frozen music).

Did you know that there was a time when clothing was made to fit the individual, instead of the individual trying to fit the clothing!!?? Wow, how much sense would that make? Once upon a time, prior to the 1800’s all clothing was made in the home or by a seamstress or tailor. Apparently the union of sewers got together and realized that the range of body dimensions wasn’t vast, so creating standardized sizing would allow for their mass production. The first to lose the individuality of fit in clothing were men during the Civil War. Due to the great need for uniforms after the onset of the war, standardized sizing was implemented and continued in menswear once the war was over. It wasn’t until the roaring 20’s that women’s clothing adopted the standard sizing approach. Development of mass production methods, the explosion of advertising, and the accessibility of national markets through chain stores and mail order catalogs, added to the success of the women’s ready-made clothing. Standardized garments were portrayed as cutting edge and chic during a time when consumer businesses were changing Americans impressions of mass-produced products. Rather than seeing the standardized clothing for what it is, a loss of individuality, women accepted the apparel as easy, cheap, disposable and current.  So you see when we go to the store and one day we wear a size 6 and the next day a size 10, it is not a reflection of our worth, physical condition or overall health and beauty! It is another arbitrary number to count because mass-produced products do not account for all of the wonderful nooks and crannies that make us who we are!

So if we can’t empirically rely on BMI, body weight, or clothing sizes to tell us how fit or unfit we are, then how do we measure it? Well, first is by feeling. Ask yourself how you feel in your body, alone, un-compared to anyone else. Do I feel lethargic, bloated, fatigued, embarrassed and winded, or do I feel energized, lean, strong and confident? Then ask yourself if you are physically able to do everything that you want to do, or need to do? Are you panting for breath after a flight of stairs or walking in from your car in the morning? Are you able to get down and up from the floor without a crane to help? Are you able to get into and out of the bathtub without having to have something to hold onto? Can you carry 6 bags of groceries in from the car without being exhausted? Can you run and play with your kids and keep up with them? These are the types of questions we need to ask ourselves in regards to our health and fitness. Instead of setting a goal to fit into a size 5, make a goal to run a 5K. Instead of working to fit into size 34 pants guys, work to see how many miles you can walk or run in 34 minutes. Make the goal about fine tuning your individual body to perform to its potential and allow your own personal progress to be your method of measurement. Stop counting the numbers that do not acknowledge the priceless gift of your unique being.

Thank you for reading!  I love you!

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Wednesday Workout Challenge

Although I think it’s great to workout in a class or with a trainer, I also understand that many times it’s just not possible. Here is a workout you can do on your own with a dumbbell and an exercise ball, or neither! If you do not have the equipment, just pretend it’s there and keep the same form. For the pushups, just position your hips up towards the ceiling and head down towards the floor. For the Froggy Swingers – KEEP YOUR BACK FLAT AND YOUR BUTT DOWN!!!! The worst thing you can do in this exercise is hunch over when going down or coming up from the dumbbell swing. Keep your abs engaged and your bodyweight in your heels the whole time. Do 12 repetitions of these two exercises as many times as possible in 10-20 minutes, whatever you’ve got time for! This 2 exercise workout will work your entire body, focusing on your core first and foremost but also fully engaging your glutes and thighs, shoulders and back. Good luck! How many times were you able to complete this?? Share your success!!

25 Days of Christmas in July Challenge!!!!!

For starters the focus of this blog is NOT exercise. However, since it’s something I do you may see a little sneaky whisper about exercise from time to time. I would love to invite everyone, everywhere to participate in the 25 Days of Christmas in July Challenge. Each day in July, leading up to the 25th, the challenge will issue a special present which you will tear into 25 times consecutively. If you already embrace a fitness routine this challenge will be the “bow on top” of whatever your fitness package may be. If you do not exercise regularly then this is a great time to unwrap the warrior within!!! Modified exercises will be available when appropriate so let go of any trepidation or fear and have fun with it! Just to be clear, by July 25th you will be performing 25 repetitions of 25 different body weight exercises, and you will feel like you are the star on top of your own Treetop Training Christmas Tree!!! To get daily updates and videos on the exercises like www.facebook.com/treetoptrainingllc . Can you feel the merry-ness already!???