Push-Up Challenge Update (I Still Hate Them)

As you may know, this year I have been participating in a Push-Ups challenge.  For the entire year.

First, I committed to doing one hundred push-ups every day for the month of January.  Then I continued in February by committing to 50 push-ups every damn day for the rest of the year.

I hate push-ups.  I STILL hate push-ups.  But I’ve been doing them.  Consistently since January 1.

Pushups

And I was getting really good at them.  I was flipping them out without a hitch.

Then back in March I (somehow – not push-up related) injured my shoulder.  In fact, I injured it quite badly tearing the rotator cuff in two places.  And now, 6 months later, it’s still not any better.  I’m finally in physiotherapy for it.  I’ve seen a couple of doctors, had an x-ray (pointless, BTW), and was prescribed some medication.  None of it has helped.  I have another appointment with a doctor in a few weeks, but for now it’s just pain, pain, pain.

And ripping out those stupid push-ups was almost nil for a while.  But I found a way to do them that does not cause me pain (or a lot of swearing!) and for months, I have been practicing modified push-ups with a shoulder rotation.  Now I’m sort of back to the point where can use more body weight and do a few that way, but after about a dozen or two, I have to break or go back to a modification.

But, I will continue with my challenge of 50 push-ups each day until the end of the year.  And you should consider doing them too.

Here are 5 reasons (there are many more!)why you should being incorporating push-ups into your daily activity – even if you’re not exercising regularly:

  1. Builds Upper Body Strength: you can build upper body strength without having to use a ton of weights. Push-ups target the shoulders, pecs, and triceps which will develop a strong and defined upper body.
  2. Strengthens your core: most people don’t know that a strong core is key to a push-up. Ever wondered why your hips sag or hike during your push-ups? Your abdominal muscles are acting as stabilizers during the push-up just like they would in a plank.  Weak abs = poor push-up form.
  3. Increases energy quickly: Sure does! Popping off a few push-ups can immediately boost your energy, increase circulation, fire up the brain, and heat the body .
  4. Increases Bone Mass: Bone mass naturally declines with age, which can leave bones prone to fracture. It’s crucial to perform weight-bearing exercises to keep bones strong. Since pushups strengthen major muscle groups as well as the wrists and elbows, your risk of injury will be reduced because you‘re keeping these body parts strong.
  5. Weight loss: Since the push-up is a total body movement it will increase your heart rate quickly and, in turn, can/will/should/may result in burning more calories, promoting weight loss and overall improvement in your body composition.

~FB

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Weight-lifting – Why Reps are Ruining Your Gains

Once upon a time, somewhere along the way, someone came up with the magic number for reps in a weight lifting set.  A set of 10 or 12 or 15 reps in set is considered key….and this ideal number may be ruining your gains.

Men's Health

via Men’s Health

The idea of a 12-rep set stemmed from studies that your time under tension (how long a muscle is under strain during a set) is surpassed at 45 seconds and gets closer to 60 seconds in a set.  Your tempo in your performance should be considered more important and valued higher than your reps.  Your tempo should be enough to elicit hypertrophy (the growth and increase of the size of muscle cells) and the main goal is to prolong the eccentric contraction (or negative) on the way down in your lift (i.e. 1-2 second contraction on the way up and 3-5 second contraction on the way down).

Our fixation on the 3 sets of 12 (or 10 or 15) is killing our gains because is does not reflect on the study of how we got to the “magic number”, but instead, focuses solely on the “magic number”.

Most people, when weight lifting, instinctively start out with a weight that is comfortable in order to ensure they have the energy to get through all reps.  What would be more beneficial to muscle growth (or hypertrophy) is to start with a heavier weight and lift to failure.  If this means you max out at 8 or 11 reps, then so be it.  Focus on the time and effort you are putting into a rep and not on the number of reps in a set – and on your time under tension – and watch your gains increase.

~FB

Push-Ups

Let me say this:  I hate push-ups.  I’ve said it before.  And I will likely say it again.  I hate push-ups.  I have hated push-ups for as long as I can remember.  I’m not sure why, but I would rather do 100 burpees than do 10 push-ups.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do them and I make my class participants do them.  It doesn’t mean I enjoy them.

I think my disdain for them originated because I had such little upper body strength.  Therefore, I had a difficult time performing them.  Then, a while back, I started doing them all the time.  I even got a set of those perfect push-up handles and my push-ups improved and increased.  Then, I had a terrible back injury and my push-up ability sort of went down the toilet.  And I guess I lost any motivation to improve them.

 So, for the month of January, I committed to and participated in the 100 a Day Push-up Challenge.

Push Up Challenge

Ugh.  As soon as I committed to this I dreaded it.  But I committed…

I started the challenge by doing 10 here and 10 there.  I’d do all varieties of push-ups – regular, modified (from the knees), triceps, etc.  Eventually, I moved on to doing 30 regular push-ups, followed by 20 triceps push-ups twice (50 and 50).  Eventually, I was doing as many push-ups at a time that I could do.  Sometimes that would be 50, sometimes it would be 70, and by the end, it was 100.  I did my push-ups anywhere I could…at the gym, in my living room, or even in the lunch room at work.  I made sure I got them done.

Over those 31 days I noticed that my arms and back and stamina for those wretched push-ups because stronger and increased.  I didn’t dread getting down to the floor to do the darn things as much as when I first started.  I was able to fling off more and more at a time and it made me happy.  (Not as happy as when I finally finished the challenge.)

I had fully intended to continue doing a push-up challenge – committing to doing 50 push-ups a day for the year.  I started off okay, but then I got hit with bronchitis and a throat infection and the flu and my push-up training came to a bit of a halt for a week or so.  But, the last few days I have gotten back on track and have completed (at minimum) my 50 push-ups a day.  My hope is that by the end of this year (Lord, give me strength..we are only in February) I will finally enjoy doing push-ups.

If you want to get in on this, comment below and let me know you are going to COMMIT to doing 50 push-ups a day, every day, until the end of 2018, and watch your body change and your strength increase.  It takes just minutes a day.  Why not commit to this with me?

Cheers.

My Top 5 Wellness Favorites

wellness

I was asked recently about favorite personal wellness tips and as I’ve been reflecting on my regular routine, I’ve been able to narrow them down.  Here are my top five favorites:

1.

Exercise and nutrition/clean eating.  Obviously I have a passion for fitness and good basic nutrition.  They have become such a huge part of my life that it is more than apparent that they would be number one on my list.  And, since I believe fitness and nutrition go hand-in-hand, I have joined them as top rank.  I am a huge lover of cardio, but for the past 8 months, I have been completely obsessed with my strength training and have been focusing most of my gym time on that.  I would encourage everyone to add a strength training routine to their regular fitness regime.  I’m also a cheerleader for clean eating and following the Whole 30 program.  I am not a clean eater 100% (I literally just ate a handful of salted caramel chocolate chips), but I often try to stay away from processed and junk and fast foods as much as possible.  In fact, I am gearing up for a Whole 30 in a few weeks.  I also love starting my day off with some form of exercise.  It used to be a crazy Insanity workout or other form of cardio, then it was yogo, and this summer it has been early morning walks.  I am so in love with my early morning walks for a few reasons but the biggest one is the solitude in the mornings.  It’s usually just me out there and I love the stillness and the quiet and the fresh air in my face.  I also love the little feeling of accomplishment in the mornings and the walks have been giving me that.

2.

Water.  Lotsa water.  I love water.  It’s my favorite drink.  In fact, aside from a morning coffee or the occasional glass of wine, it’s the only thing I drink.  And I drink a lot of it. Water is essential in every day life – you can read here a past post on why water is important.  I love water and I constantly have a glass of it on the go, whether I’m at work or working out, I try to continuously guzzle.

3.

Sleep.  Sleep is right up there with water – it’s essential.  And it’s a big part of how I’m going to function.  I hate not getting enough sleep.  About 5 years ago I had a bad bought of insomnia for months on end and it was terrible.  I was barely functioning.  I was a walking zombie.  I’ve written two posts previously on sleep and I stand by my word (you can read them here and here) and there’s also plenty of research being done by companies, like Elysium Health , on the science behind sleep—you can learn more about their findings on cellular health and NAD+ and their connection to sleep here .  I love sleep.  I try to get as much as I can but it doesn’t always work for me.  A good night would have been sleeping 7 hours but most nights, according to my FitBit, see me sleeping anywhere from 5 to 6 hours.  Eventually, when I’m exhausted enough, I’ll manage a good 7 or 8 hours, but I will always strive.

4.

Me Time.  It’s really important – no, make that crucial – that every person take some “me time”.  Although my morning walks and other workouts can often be accounted for as me time, I like to find time during the day just for me.  Time far away from chaos and hustle and bustle and social media.  This me time is usually my reading (or writing) time.  I am an avid reader and become completely enthralled in my books.  And I look forward to curling up under the summer sun or before bed to leave where I am and, instead, get lost in the words of my book.  I urge everyone to take 20 minutes (at least) each day to themselves.

Sparkles

5.

Quality Social Time.  I am a social being.  In fact, my nickname has always been social butterfly.  Just as it’s important to take me time, it’s also important to have social time with other people.  I love spending time with my family and my friends and my co-workers and my workout buddies.  Getting out and enjoying the company of others (and allowing them to enjoy your company) is very important to maintaining good mental health.  And mental and emotional health are just as important as physical health.  Having fun or having a good cry (if required) are important to keeping us healthy and balanced.  And this means getting social in person – not hopping onto Facebook to chat.  Your mind, body, and soul need you to interact with other human beings.  So, whether you go to a fitness class or a Bible study or book club or just get together with your friends or family, ensure that you do it.  Often.

mind-body-soul_design

So, that’s it.  Those are my personal top 5 (I’m sure there are more) favorite wellness tips to living a healthy life.  What are yours?

~FB

 

Fitness Favorites

I was recently asked what my absolute must-haves are when it comes to working out – what items I can absolutely not live without when it comes to exercising.

WATER

Water

This girl needs to stay hydrated.  I usually go through a couple of bottles of water when I’m at the gym.  I’m constantly guzzling because I’m sweating so much (it’s super hot at my gym) and I’m always trying to quench my thirst and dry mouth.  I try not to drink too much at once to avoid stomach aches, but when I’m at the gym I’m usually there for a while and going all out and water is definitely a game changer.

COOL AIR

Fan

via Daily Mail

I cannot stand being hot when I am exercising.  I find that if I am overheating I am not crushing my workouts and just feel gross.  I tend to run hot when I exercise, so I like to ensure that I am being cooled down efficiently.  So, in addition to replenishing my water intake, I also like to ensure that I can keep cool – either with multiple fans, open windows, or air conditioning.  If I’m at the gym then I usually hog the oscillating fan(s) and also make sure the overhead fans are so (I’m nagging for air conditioning).  If I’m working out at home I usually have the windows open or the AC on (if it’s summertime).  And if I’m teaching a class I take advantage of what’s available (inside = fans or AC / outside = shade and hopefully a slight breeze).

MUSIC

iPod

I 100% need my iPod when I’m working out, especially if I’m running.  The right song can keep me going.  (My song of choice for my run lately has been Anyway You Want It by Journey.)  When I ran my first 10k a few years ago I ran along to Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen on repeat.  It kept my perfect pace.  If I’m strength training I will put on a random play list and let the iPod work its magic.

HAIR GEAR

hair ties

This includes hair ties, headbands, hats, and bobby pins.  I have naturally curly hair and a whole heckuva lot of it and it is constantly in my face.  It is my second biggest peeve when I’m working out – right behind being hot.  I can’t stand little fly-away hairs in my face so I try to make sure I have what’s necessary to keeping my Wookie-do out of my eyes.

FITBIT

FitBit

I totally had buyer’s remorse when I first purchased my FitBit, but now I am addicted to it.  I love being able to track my steps, my distances, and my heart rate when I’m working out.  I picked up the HR Charge specifically to keep track of my heart rate. Since I have a heart condition, I figured it would be interesting to track the pattern and BPM and anything else that would correlate.  I also love the step challenges – within a group or simply on my own.  I am very aware of how active I am throughout each day and honestly make more of an effort to get up and move – especially if I have been sedentary for too long.

APPs

Aaptiv

I’m really not an app-y person when it comes to my exercise routine.  I’m fairly rogue that way.  I’ve downloaded apps in the past and rarely utilized them.  But one great new app I’ve reviewed is Aaptiv.  Aaptiv is an on-demand audio fitness app that combines the guidance of a trainer with the perfect playlist.  If you are considering a fitness app as part of your routine, you should definitely check out Aaptiv.

Aside from proper footwear and a good sports bra, that about does it for my list of workout must-haves.  What are some of your favorites?

~FB

My Saturday Morning Workout

Lately, I have been killing it at the gym and in my classes.  I have been expanding my horizons and trying all sorts of different exercises and techniques and really working on improving my form and overall fitness level.  I have totally upped the ante.

I’m a huge fan and supporter of body-weight exercises.  In fact, it’s what my boot camp classes are based on.  No equipment.  100% body weight.  My family fitness classes are similar, but often we will bring out some equipment to keep the younger participants keen (although, let me just say that the kids are LOVING this program, and if you don’t think your kids would be interested in fitness and exercises, try working out with them!).  In my family fitness classes I have used jump ropes, hula hoops, and a few balls.  And aside from gliders (which are TOTALLY body-weight exercises) that’s the only equipment I’ve ever used in any of my classes.

My gym workouts and my at-home workouts, however, are an entirely different story. I try and utilize as much equipment as I can at the gym – things I can’t use at home, like the rowing machine, the Smith machine (be still my beating heart), heavier weights, even a Bosu ball (for burpees – again, a body-weight exercise).

Until recently, a lot of my home workouts were body-weight based: doing some of my boot camp classes, or videos like any of the Insanity series, P90-X, Jillian Michaels, etc.  But since I got my dream boxing bag for Christmas, I’ve been using that a lot as part of my home exercise, and often incorporating weight-lifting, and running the stairs into the routine.

Today was a gorgeous day in Nova Scotia; it has been sunny and warm and it truly feels like the start of an early spring (we’re gearing up for some snow tomorrow though.  Bummer.), so I took advantage of the sunshine this morning and moved part of my workout outside – coming back inside for other parts of the workout that I wasn’t able to access in the fresh air.

A few years ago I found a bombdiggity weighted jump rope at a local store.  I loved it so much that I went back and bought the remaining ropes.  Seriously.  I have a small stock, just in case.  I also bought one for my boyfriend so that we can both take advantage of the awesomeness.

weighted-jump-rope

For my warm up I brought the rope outside and skipped away.  It was so wonderful to be able to warm up outside.

Oustide jump rope

This was basically me this morning. (via Yahoo)

Once warmed up I moved back inside so that I could do a boxing workout.  I boxed my butt off to some upbeat music, while doing burpees and squats in between.

boxingbag

Just call me Rocky Balboa

I also took advantage of my resistance bands and my newest obsession, my suspension training system.

Squat Row

Resistance bands are really just as good as weights – and certainly more mobile. (via Google)

I did a bunch of variations using the resistance bands – from squat rows to bicep curls to overhead extensions.  I did it all.

I took my suspension training system outside and channeled my inner Candace and inner Norman and performed different variations of exercises, such as: mountain climbers, chest press and fly, to the full body row (below), planks with a leg extension.

Suspension Candace

Candace Cameron Bure (and Kira Stokes) via Instragram

Norman Reedus Suspension

Norman Reedus via Men’s Fitness

I did circuits of all of these exercises, moving from inside to outside and enjoying every bit of it.

You don’t need a lot of money or a gym membership or even a lot of equipment to get in shape.  If you’re not into body-weight training – or want to move outside that realm for some of your workouts, invest in a few small pieces of fitness gear: resistance bands usually run between $10 and $30, smaller weights can be purchased fairly cheap at places like Canadian Tire and Walmart, weighted jump ropes can be picked up pretty much anywhere, including some discount and dollar stores.  Suspension Training Systems can be pricey.  Mine was an investment that I decided to go ahead with since I can use it personally and for my clients and, well, because #obsessed.  My boxing bag was a Christmas gift and something I’ve been wanting for many years.  It too was an investment (gifted to me), but you don’t necessarily need a boxing bag to enjoy a boxing workout.  There’s nothing wrong with shadow boxing or cardio boxing <- those will definitely get your heart pumping.

And all of the above (minus an actual boxing bag) are mobile items.  So you can move your workouts outside, or pack your gear when you’re vacationing, or even take with you to a friend’s house so that you can exercise together.

The ultimate goal would be to take advantage of both body-weight training and inexpensive workout gear.

~FB

Finding Inspiration

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s.  And back then, we didn’t have cable at home.  And certainly, we didn’t have overwhelming channels that today’s folks have to choose from.  But, we had a few staple television shows that were watched – The Cosby Show, Who’s the Boss? (my favorite), Growing Pains, etc.  And I was obsessed with teeny-bopper magazines that showcased all my crushes (Kirk Cameron and Michael J. Fox), and potential best-friends (Alyssa Milano).  The famous were beautiful.

When Full House made its way to my television. I instantly was in awe of Candace Cameron.  Aside from the fact that she was Kirk Cameron’s little sister AND had had a small guest appearance on Who’s the Boss?, she was the first girl I’d seen on TV that looked like me: cute curls, a little chubby, and with the “Charlie Brown cheeks” that she referred to in a later episode*.  It was wonderful that I could finally identify with someone on TV and in magazines.  I was elated.

young-cc

How cute was she?

Although Candace said she never had an issue with her weight while filming early in the seasons, season 4 of Full House aired an episode called *”Shape Up”, in which DJ goes on a crash diet to slim down for a pool party.  This was an emotional episode for me for me to watch.  Although my eating disorders didn’t begin until a year or two later, I could completely relate to how DJ was feeling and could already see my own disordered eating and outlook.  (Note: While preparing this post, I re-watched the episode for the first time in likely 20 years and had the same emotional response I had the first time it aired.  To this day, it breaks my heart because I know the struggle and I know that most little girls have and will continue to have this struggle at some point in life.)

Later on, Ms. Cameron Bure declared she developed eating disorders a few years after the show had finished filming.  (Although, she states that it had less to do with her weight and more to do with where she was in her life, emotionally and physically.)

Since her days of self-destruction, Candace Cameron Bure has completely changed her body and her health.  She has an incredible workout regime, and one of the best (celebrity) trainers, Kira Stokes, as her own.  And I have found inspiration in them both.

These two have some of the best workouts I have seen.  As a trainer – and a trainee – I am often looking for ways to keep workouts fresh, innovative, and fun.  And these two ladies sometimes help me get there.

candace-and-kira

Candace Cameron Bure and trainer Kira Stokes (photo via Cameron Bure’s Instagram)

 Aside from gaining inspiration for my workouts, I have found inspiration in Candace  herself, from how she approaches fitness and clean eating and even spiritual health.  Three topics I already have in common with her.  Her approach to how she keeps her body lean and how she looks at her muscle and her strength is refreshing and it’s nice to actually see and hear a celebrity talk about it all and show how much dedication it takes her to keep her body in tip-top shape.  Especially when so many celebrities make the claim “I eat whatever I want and don’t work out.”  Pffftt!!

candace-cameron-3-times

Via US

Although Candace Cameron Bure is a celebrity and she has personal trainers and has appeared on Dancing with the Stars where she spent endless hours each day for endless months dancing non-stop, she is also a woman who has worked incredibly hard to get to get and keep a strong, toned, lean body.  Believe me – that takes work!  And, again, I find it inspiring that she has been so inclined to share her journeys with us, the public.  Through her books and her social media accounts and her television appearances, she has been delightful in showing us that if you set a  goal – and work for it – it can be reached.

And what’s even more delightful, and something I have found truly inspiring since I was a pre-teen, is that when she was a young actress and already a very public figure, she never had issue with her body – even, as it has been stated, when other people had. She was a great role model in childhood and continues to be a role model in adulthood.

I will continue to find inspiration from her.  Where do you find yours?

~FB

Raise the Bar

Twinkle

The other night I had a new personal training client.  She’d never been in a gym before (other than the previous week when she picked up her key) and wanted me to show her around.  As I was giving her a tutorial on the cardio equipment I asked her what her thoughts were on strength training.  She admitted that she was nervous about it and didn’t want to “bulk up”.

I explained to her the importance of strength training and showed her around the weight room and demonstrated some workouts with the weights and got her going with a small routine to incorporate into her workouts.

The following we day she sent me the following note:  “Thank you for your help.  When you emailed the other day saying you were going to make me look like a rock star, I thought “she’s funny”.  Now, I want to look like a rock star!”

It was so nice of her to send me a message but what made me really happy is that she was excited to start her workout program AND start training with weights.

Try not to be intimidated by a workout.  Go into your exercise program excited and open to new ideas.  Don’t be afraid to raise the bar.

~FB

A League of Our Own

ARMS

I saw this today and thought it was pretty rad.  Okay, honestly, I saw this gal’s arms first and was totally jelly – but when I read the caption I though, yeah, I’m definitely in a league of my own.  In fact, we all are.  Especially when we hit the gym.  There should be no competition at the gym, unless it’s with ourselves.

Coincidentally, I had a gym date last night with a friend.  We totally did our own things but it’s sometimes still nice to make plans to workout just so that we can see each other.  While I was warming up on the treadmill another girl came in.  I’ve seen her there a few times before over the years.  And she’s one of those girls that goes to the gym with her hair down and curled and a full set of make-up on.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’d just come from work AND I had a great hair day yesterday, but as soon as I walk thru those doors the hair goes up in a ponytail and the sweat starts to roll.  I’m not there to impress anyone.

Once I was finished warming up I hit the strength room and loaded my weights onto my buddy Smith.  I was doing my thing.  Curly Locks came in and lifted her free weights.  She did her thing, I did mine, and that was it.  We didn’t pay attention to each other.  When she was done she took her curls and left.

Maybe she didn’t want a hard, sweaty workout.  Maybe she was going  to work, or maybe she was heading to a hot date.  Or, maybe she’s one of those people who drops into the gym on occasion, gets her minimal workout in, and feels good for the next 3 months.  Who knows.  Regardless, it’s her business, and my workout is my business.  There was no competition between us because we are both in our own leagues.  My goal last night was to increase my weight.  I am constantly in competition with myself these days and I’m winning.

(Call Charlie Sheen.  #Winning)

~Fit Bitch

Misery

I’ve been running pretty much non-stop for the last year – and then some.

I’ve been so ecstatic about getting back into my running, and although I’ve had a few set backs with my tarsal tunnel, this past weekend I really feel like I’ve hit a wall.

Last week I could feel my ankles getting a little worn.  I’ve been running so much the last two weeks and I could feel the wear and tear.  Thankfully, I had Thursday night off from Zumba (as you likely know, Thursday is my favorite night of the week.  I hit the gym right from work, run a few miles, get some crazy strength training in, hit the stairs for reps (the last few weeks it’s been a minimum of 2000 steps), and finish my night with Zumba – and I love every minute of it!) and decided to take it semi easy.  I did get some strength training in, but decided to forego the run.

Friday night I didn’t run, I hit the gym and did a workout on the elliptical for a warm up and then killed it in the strength room with my old buddy Mr. Smith (Machine), but by the time I got home I could barely walk.

I’d had my shoes off at work all day and as soon as I got home I had to jump in the tub to soak my ankles.  Then I iced them.  And when my boyfriend got home I got him to rub them.  And that’s how it was all weekend:  soak, ice, rub, repeat.

It literally feels like splinters of bone peeling off the insides of my ankles.  I feel like poor James Caan in Misery with crazy Kathy Bates swinging that sledgehammer.

misery-ankle

*OUCH*

I am so cranky that I’ve been sidetracked by this pain, but there’s nothing I can do about it.  The pain is so intense that I can’t even tell if it’s a flare-up of the tarsal tunnel or if it’s something else.  All I can do for now is rest and keep soaking and icing my ankles – and hope for the best.

I mean, in all honesty, I can (for the most part) still work out – but I can’t overdo it.  I don’t want to exert too much extra weight on my ankles so I will have to modify the strength workouts.  And it’s pretty clear that I will not be running this week (although, the weather people are calling for a major storm tomorrow anyway, so perhaps my {outside} running may not have happened anyway).

I’m hoping for a speedy recovery from this.

~Fit Bitch