Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lessons From a Couch To 5k Program

Yep, I’m back in action!  First blog of the new year, so Happy 2015 to all of you!  Hope it’s be a healthy year for you so far.  I’m always looking for new and different ways to challenge my body, and this year I started with a Couch to 5k Program.  For those that don’t know, this is a running program designed to help you run a 5k race.  Before we get ahead of ourselves, no, I haven’t run a race…yet.  In following this eight week program, it reminded me of the benefits a training program can provide.  It also taught me a few things about myself.  Here it goes…

First of all, it’s no brainer cardio.  It tells you exactly what to do: when to run, when to walk.  The only thinking you need to put in is where to do your workout that day.  I did a combination of treadmill on snowy days, sidewalks and city trails when they were dry.  The last is my favorite I must say.  Each workout was 30-40 minutes in length with a warm up and cool down.

The workouts week one through six are interval training, ie walk for this long, run or jog for that long.  They progressively change from mostly walking to mostly jogging/running, then the last two weeks are all running (except the warm up/cool down).  This type of progressive interval training gradually lets the body get stronger and builds endurance.  It’s easy to push yourself harder by sprinting instead of jogging for an interval or two.  Being the numbers nerd I am, I used the Runkeeper app to find out how far and fast I went each time.  Farther and faster was the rule week over week.

Each week of the program includes three days of workouts.  I experimented with the days of the week I ran, depending on my schedule and sometimes the weather.  What was I thinking doing this in winter in Colorado?  I would say the majority of the weeks I did the program Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.  I found that having three days off in a row made Monday’s runs feel HARD.  The weeks I did Monday/Wednesday/Friday were my best, where I ran the fastest, felt awesome after each run and wasn’t as much of a disaster the following Monday.  Running is an activity where consistency is your friend for results.

A regimented routine, interval training and consistency all make this a program I would recommend to someone who is looking to challenge their body in a different way.  Now, what did I personally get out of this program?  I learned I’m not a runner, but am certainly capable of running with no aches and pains.  Stretching before and after is critical to my success with running.  Interval training does indeed kick start the metabolism.  I enjoy being outside to do my cardio, but I already knew that.

I hope your spring activities take you outside, and give this program a whirl to change up your routine, or to even train for a 5k race.  Whatever you do, just keep moving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Make The Most of Rest Days

It seems like after Halloween, things kick into high gear for the rest of the year.  Christmas appears in the stores, it gets dark earlier, so many activities are going on.  If you are able to keep up with your workouts, you have likely noticed that you’re busy but quite effective at budgeting your time.  With all this going on, rest days become quite treasured.  Those days are super important, so here are a few tips to make the most out of them.  

First of all, please take a break from your intense workout sessions.   Your body needs time to recover and replenish.  Muscles will appreciate the rest, and reward you long term with results.  It’s up to you and your schedule how many to take each week.  Mine tend to be one or two, spaced out during the week.

Rest days are necessary for weight loss.  In order to keep on track towards your individual goals, try to watch your food on the days you don’t workout.  Stick with your diet plan on these days.  When you add a calorie-rich cheat day to a day when you aren’t as active as usual, it’s a double whammy to your plan.  Some good ideas are protein rich foods and lots of vegetables (but then, that’s every day I suppose).

If you can remember back to high school physics, and I understand some of you may have blocked that class out of your long term memory, one of the laws of physics states a body in motion tends to stay in motion.  Rest day doesn’t necessarily mean a couch potato day.  Get out and be active in a light intensity kind of way.  This is actually very simple to accomplish.  Take the dog for a longer walk (trust me, they won’t mind one bit), play with your kids at the playground, do a yoga DVD at home, shovel snow if that’s the reason for your rest day.  Even household chores can be applied here…scrubbing floors is definitely not sitting still!

The whole point of a rest day is to rest your body so it’s recovered and ready for the next days of hard work.  Treat your body well and schedule rest days when possible, knowing that your schedule may dictate some of those days.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, readers!  See you at the gym!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Preparing for the Holiday Season

Today I was looking at the calendar, and simply can’t believe the holiday season is nearly upon us.  Maybe it’s the lack of snow, but to me it feels like summer was just a couple of weeks ago.  I suppose it’s time to figure out a plan for the holidays, ie how to be at my healthy best during these sometimes troublesome months.  Here are a few tips to help you get ready for the upcoming season.

First, recommit yourself to your workouts.  Making sure they happen now will help you fit them in later.  Get them on your calendar and make those appointments with yourself happen.  You could even up the intensity a couple times a week, and fire up that fat burning machine.  As you know, your workouts will help with your stress levels, keeping your stress eating in check.

Next, ditch the Halloween candy.  It’s soooo tempting to have “just one or two, since they are so small.”  I’ve heard it before, and I know for me if it’s around, it’s much harder to resist.  No sense in sabotaging any progress you plan to make during November, right?

As far as your food, take a look at your New Year’s resolutions and goals.  You don’t have to wait for the calendar to change years to reevaluate your eating and make some adjustments.  Check your vegetable intake, sugars and protein amounts and confirm they are in line with your goals.  Again, getting back in the routine will help you when things get really crazy in a few weeks.

Get out your calendar, and fill it with everything you can right now, through the end of the year.  This includes your workouts, meal planning, grocery shopping, etc.  If it’s on the calendar, you may be more likely to fit it in, just like the parties, events for the kiddos and work deadlines.  You will also be able to figure out what days might be the best rest days for you, and plan those as well.  Planning ahead is critical in losing weight – wouldn’t that be something if you didn’t gain a pound, or even lost a few before the end of the year?

Plan now, and keep up with your workouts and healthy eating.  It will help once the holiday season officially starts and help keep you on track.  See you at the gym!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Keeping Perspective: What Defines Progress

I don’t know about you, but I am super excited for fall!  It’s my favorite time of the year…football, cooler temps, changing colors, honey crisp apples.  Some people see this time of year as an end to summer, which I suppose it is.  I see it as a time of change and transition, which isn’t a bad thing.  Sometimes change is needed to gain perspective.

Just like everyone else, my clients (and me for that matter) experience plateaus, plummeting willpower , boredom and feeling  like their weight loss journey is an uphill battle.  Newsflash: it is, and it’s not over when you reach your goal.  Some phases are easier than others.  It’s important to keep perspective on what’s important in your journey (hint: it’s not the number on the scale).

First, take a look at how you feel when you are consistent.  This applies both for your food and exercise.  How do you feel when you are on track with your workouts?  Recently, I took a much needed break from the weight room. I knew I’d get back in there, but my body was in a rut and telling me to cool it for a little bit.  Instead, I enjoyed the weather with long walks, trying to beat my time on some of the routes.  I took yoga and Pilates classes, both at the gym and online in my basement.  I focused on increasing my flexibility and core strength and saw gains quicker than I anticipated.  I felt great!  The scale hasn’t budged, but my clothes fit differently in a good way.  My return to the weight room was also impressive.  Since I took a break and increased strength in other ways, I am now able to lift heavier weights, which will result in more lean muscle mass and increased metabolism.  I’m incorporating the flexibility training into my regular routine, instead of something only every once in a while (I'm bad about stretching regularly).

Same deal can happen with food.  The change of season is bringing new produce into season, such as apples and squash.  More substantial meals sound better when it’s not blazing hot outside.  Now I’m not saying load up your plate, but rather load up your plate with nutrients in the form of vegetables, maybe a new recipe for chicken on the side.  Most of us don’t get our daily dose of vegetables, and it’s amazing how much better you can be, physically and mentally, with those consistently in your diet.

It’s all about balance, and keeping balance in perspective.  So what if the scale doesn’t move?  If you are changing things up and continuing to plod in the direction of your goals, you will indeed get there one day.  Stress is counterproductive when it comes to weight loss.  Instead, shift your focus to how you feel, the pains you no longer experience, and how those clothes fit a little looser, that’s what matters.  Stay off the scale for a month and see what a difference that can make.

Enjoy this time of change, readers!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My First 13er

Many of you may already know that I’m a native Coloradoan.  I love living in this state and taking advantage of what it has to offer, can’t imagine living anywhere else.  One of the “things” that Colorado is known for is its 14ers, or peaks over 14,000 feet in altitude.  Many seek to summit at least one of these in their lifetime, and I guess you could say I’m one of them.  The title of this blog isn’t a typo, I’ll get to that in a minute.

A couple of weekends ago, four of us set out to conquer Mount Evans.  Yes, we know there’s a road that will take you to the top, but the hike is half of the reward.  We started at Summit Lake and headed up Mount Spalding, the mountain next to Evans.  The trail takes you to the top, and then you cross a “saddle” to reach Evans.  The summit is then on the far side.  Spalding is listed at 13,842 feet, thus making it a “13er.”  It was a super windy day, and this was noted early in the hike.  As we climbed Spalding it tapered off a little and didn’t seem so bad.  And then we reached the saddle.  The wind was coming out of the west, and fairly mean.  We spoke with a seasoned hiker on her way down and she said that this was the first time she was unable to reach the summit (of Evans) and the winds were ferocious…her estimates were upwards of 70mph.  Eek.  We figured we would get as far as we could and see how it goes.

So we crossed the saddle.  The ascent up Evans has lots of boulders and requires some crafty maneuvers.  It was more windy here than the saddle.  It was then we stopped to evaluate if we should continue.  The gusts were so strong they could almost knock you over.  A couple of us went to scout out what we had left and saw more boulders but it didn’t seem unreasonable.  Then a huge gust hit us and we decided it was unsafe to continue.  No need to be blown off of a mountain that day.  Back we went, again over Spalding to the parking lot.

We were a little disappointed we didn’t make it to the top, to stake our claim on the summit of a 14er.  We also realized that the day wasn’t a failure.  We did climb to the top of a 13er, less than 200 feet from 14,000.  We were able to fight the wind while it was safe to do so.  It was the highest most of us had hiked.  And Evans (along with the other 14ers) weren’t going anywhere, standing by to challenge us the next time we wished to try again.

Some people call me Bright Side Jen, because I choose to note the positive side of a situation.  That day, we realized what we accomplished, and there was unfinished business to be tackled another day.  Two members of that group returned to Evans last weekend and happily took their pictures on the summit.  Me?  I’ll try again next year, maybe a different mountain for a different challenge.

Think of how this can apply to your weight loss journey.  Sometimes you may fall short of a goal, but don’t forget what you have done so far.  Keep striving in that direction!

Hope you had a wonderful summer readers!

Mount Evans from the trailhead

 Mount Evans from Spalding