(Another) UPDATE: Women Who Lift Heavy Unite!

I’ll be honest – it’s been a while since I set foot in a gym. Of course, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working out, I’ve just be doing it at home. Since my husband bought me some cute workout clothes for Christmas, I decided I should put them to use and go to the gym. (When I work out at home, I’m usually in some Felix the Cat boxers and an over-sized t-shirt from some work event that I would never be caught wearing in public.)

So I get to the gym, change by my usual locker, and head down to the women’s fitness area. I’m doing the 15-minute workouts, which consist of a very quick circuit with very limited rest. So I need everything within close vicinity and easy to access. As you might recall from my original Women Who Lift Heavy UNITE! post and the first update to this saga, the main workout floor is usually overflowing with testosterone-laden Arnold-wannabes.  And everything is so spread out and machines are high in demand, it’s just a pain to hog a bunch of weights AND a machine for my circuit.  So I go to the women’s fitness area which is much less crowded and circuit-friendly.

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Umm, what am I supposed to do with these tiny weights? (photo credit:rick's old photos)

I get to the women’s fitness area, reserve myself a bench, and head over to the weight rack. Hmmm…5’s, 10’s, 15’s, 20’s…20’s…20’s…Where did my 30’s and 40’s go?

THEY’RE GONE! [dun dun DUUUNNNNN]

Oh, young trainer behind the fitness desk, you’ve failed me!  Two months ago when I asked you to kindly put heavier weights in the women’s fitness area, you made every effort to fulfill my request, leading me to believe that you understood my plight!  And now, behold, you’ve receded into the unforsaken mindset that women wouldn’t lift anything more than 20 pounds. 

<Insert unnamed health club here> has officially lost the brownie points they earned with me.

I don’t know what’s more upsetting: 1) that they realized that no one was using them in my absence so decided to remove them because they don’t believe they should enable women to lift heavy, or 2) that no one else was using them.

Either way, I turned around, threw my towel over my shoulder, and left the women’s fitness area in disgust.  If that young trainer were standing in front of me, he would have gotten a sharp ponytail wisp in the face.

I made my way down to the big workout floor, past the women on the ellipticals and stairmasters, and joined the men in their evening ritual of grunting and iron pumping.  The two other women in the room were quietly pushing through their sets amidst the macho-fest surrounding them.

Stand proud, sisters.  Stand proud.

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photo credit: Pranav Singh
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8 Goal Setting Guidelines to Help You Win in the New Year

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I know it’s kind of late to be talking about goal-setting since New Years Resolution time has passed, and about 80% of the general population has already given up on them.  I’m running a little late.

I already set some good high-level goals, but I know they’re not done yet because I need to get more specific.  So I’m in the process of doing so.  That got me thinking – what makes good goal-setting? 

Remember in high school – or was it college?  its’s all a blur to me anyhow – you were taught to make goals SMART (S=specific, M=measureable, A=attainable, R=realistic, T=timely)?  That’s all fine and dandy, but there’s got to be more to it than that.

Before I get into it though, I have a slight problem with the good ol’ SMART acronym that I need to get off my chest.  S, yes.  M, yes.  A, yes with a caveat.  R, yes with a caveat.  T, yes.  Explanation:

A.  “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” – Walt Disney.  Did anyone ever tell Walt Disney that his vision for a huge, magical theme park with mice in tuxedos and singing and dancing bears was unattainable?  You betcha.  So, this gets us into a discussion around visions vs. goals, which can be a meaty subject on its own.  Here’s how I see it: a vision is your long-term picture of what you want in your life.  Goals are how you get there. 

So, should your goals be “attainable”?  Yes, these are the stepping stones to attaining your big, scary vision.  BUT, they should be on “the teetering edge.”  As James Ray would say, they should be set so you don’t know whether they excite you or scare the shit out of you.

R.  See “A” above.  I always thought the two were the same thing, but for the sake of having a clever acronym were split into two.  (“SMAT” doesn’t sound as cool as “SMART.”)

Now that that’s off my chest, onto my goal setting guidelines:

  1. My goals are SMART, as we discussed above.
  2. My goals always span 5 categories: physical, mental, relational, spiritual, and financial.  Well-being encompasses all aspects of life, so I strongly believe that you need to give attention to all areas.  Some may get more attention than others at any one time, but there should never be one that is completely neglected.  I typically have one or two goals per category.
  3. My goals inspire me.   You are never going to achieve them if they don’t spark some kind of fire in you.  If it’s just words on paper, that’s all they’ll ever be.
  4. My goals are on the teetering edge.  Again, see discussion above.  They’re one step beyond what my initial gut reaction says I’m capable of. 
  5. My goals are written down.  Writing them down brings them one step closer to becoming reality.  If they’re just floating in your head, they’re likely to be forgotten.  Also, writing them down sends a strong signal to your unconscious (a.k.a. subconscious) mind that you’re committed. 
  6. My goals are written in the first person, are in present tense, and include a statement of gratitudenew-picture-4.  Setting your goals as “I am measuring at X% bodyfat, and am so grateful for it” or “I am so grateful now that I donate $Y to Charity Z once a month” is so much more powerful than “I want to weigh X lbs” or “To write Y blog posts every month.”  It sends a strong signal to your unconscious it’s already here and this is who you are.  In a great post about New Years Resolutions vs. Goals, Tim Brownson, UK qualified Life Coach, says it “forc[es] [yourself] to view [yourself] differently.”
  7. My goals are broken down into 1-year goals and then further broken down into 1-month goals.  Obviously I set my 1-month goals on a monthly basis.
  8. I reserve the right to revisit and reshape my goals.  Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a cop out.  I’m not saying that you should change your goal just because you’ve gotten lazy.  Sometimes you may discover down the road a goal doesn’t align with your vision.  Or maybe you underestimated the commitment required for another goal, and this one has to give way a little.  Whatever the case, sometimes goals have to change.  As long as it’s truly for a good reason, that’s okay.

I highly encourage you dedicate some good, quality time to goal setting.  It provides great clarity for what you want in your life, and is a great way to get motivated, inspired, and focused for the upcoming year.  I know it’s done that for me, and I’m ready to take on 2009!

Feel free to post some of your goal-setting guidelines as well!

To your health, prosperity, and happiness,
Julie (The Fitness Wife)

High Fructose Corn Syrup: A Modern-Day Food Dilemma

High fructose corn syrup (or HFCS) is quite the buzz word these days.  Similarly to trans fats, HFCS has become ultra taboo to mainstream America. 

Various studies have controversially linked HFCS with the recent rise in obesity and diabetes.  It’s cheaper and sweeter than sugar, easier to transport, and extends the shelf-life of various popular food products.   

Go to the grocery store these days, and you can find it pretty much anywhere: ketchup, soft drinks, bread, even children’s vitamins!  Since sugar is so expensive, let’s sweeten everything with this highly processed compound!  Sounds like a good idea!

Poor HFCS, getting such a bad rap.

But it’s made out of corn, isn’t it?  Yes, it’s derived from corn.  So why not call it a vegetable?  (BTW, corn is not a vegetable; it’s a grain.)  But everything is derived from some sort of naturally-occurring ingredient.  Then some are heated, twisted, wringed out, spliced, and osmosis-ized into something else so it vaguely resembles anything even close to its original form.  Such is HFCS.

Time magazine quoted Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, saying, “High-fructose corn syrup starts out as cornstarch, which is chemically or enzymatically degraded to glucose and some short polymers of glucose. Another enzyme is then used to convert varying fractions of glucose into fructose…High-fructose corn syrup just doesn’t exist in nature.”

Now the Corn Refiners Association is trying to say HFCS isn’t as bad as it sounds.  (Hm, does clearing up HFCS’s bad rap sound like it would be in their self-interest?  I wonder…):

HFCS Ad

So maybe it has the same number of calories as table sugar.  So maybe when it comes to pure calorie-counting, it’s not so bad.  But to me, it still doesn’t sound like something I care to have in my body. 

I’m no nutrition expert, but I do know one thing – our bodies are intelligent machines. However, throw something in there that’s been totally morphed into something crazy like HFCS, and it won’t know how to react to it.  So it’ll react in a not-so-favorable way.

This is why I always prefer Sugar in the Raw, agave nector, or natural pure cane sugar over Sweet & Low, Equal (lovingly referred to as “Pink and Blue Death”) or Splenda.  Your body is a naturally-occurring mechanism.  Feed it with fuel that’s as close as you can get to its naturally-occurring state.

Do your own research.  And decide for yourself whether or not you want to feed HFCS to your children.  As for me, I plan on feeding my body, and the bodies of my future children, something that hasn’t been treated with something highly processed – or “osmosis-ized”, my new favorite word (yes I made it up) – like HFCS.

Do What You Gotta Do…Then Make It Work for You

My last entry got me thinking more about “cheating.” Why am I so concerned about “cheating”? Some of you might be thinking, “That’s no way to live – always having to stop yourself from eating something you enjoy.” That reminded me of a conversation I recently had with one of my good friends who is currently on a mission to lose some weight.

My friend is a very social individual. One night she’s out with one friend, and the next night she’s out with another. The common factor is a bottle of wine and dinner at some fancy restaurant. Besides the fact that she was spending WAY too much money on eating out, she was not eating very healthy, which didn’t help her at all when it came to her fitness goals.

She felt that there was no way her lifestyle and social calendar could uphold any type of “diet”, and she didn’t think that depriving herself from eating the food she enjoys was any way to live.

This is where we get into the whole “diet” vs. “lifestyle change” issue. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say it: “Diets don’t work. Lifestyle changes do.” Which is easier to do? Change how you eat for a month, or change how you eat for the rest of your life? I put my money on #1. The problem is, any results you saw from that diet will soon disappear, and you’ll be left at square one.

So I believe that to have any kind of lasting results, you must change your eating habits, or your lifestyle with regards to food and nutrition. However, what kind of lifestyle do you want to live? What is acceptable to you?

You’ve heard me talk about the 90% rule. Allow yourself a “cheat meal” only 10% of the time. Seems kind of strict, doesn’t it? Who wants to keep count of all their meals and how many of them were “compliant”? And who wants to wants to keep track of all the “compliance” rules?

This is where I blur the lines between a “diet” and a “lifestyle change.” I think if you’re going for a specific goal – to lose X pounds, to decrease bodyfat by X%, to fit into your old cocktail dress in time for your girlfriend’s wedding – you have to play full on. If you want more than snail-paced progress, you have to bear down, make sacrifices, and adhere to your “compliance rules”. You need to prioritize and say for example, “Right now this goal is more important than going out to dinner with my friends every night.” Do what you gotta do.

Once you obtain your goal, then if you want to maintain those results you have to take what you did and make it work for you in the long term. Go into maintenance mode, so to say. So maybe that means you don’t count your calories anymore, or you allow yourself starchy carbs even though you haven’t worked out. Or maybe you allow yourself a moderate “cheat meal” more than 10% of the time.

But you won’t go back to eating creamy pasta every night, making a run to the golden arches for lunch every other day, or eating a chocolate lava cake for dessert every single weekend. You have new habits and operate under new knowledge, so you can’t go back. “Man’s mind stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.” — Oliver Wendall Holmes

What I’m saying is, do what needs to be done to get to your goal. Once you get there, it’s okay to take it back a notch or two. Understand, however there are consequences. You might experience a slight decrease in energy, you might not feel as lean or rock hard. You might even gain a little bit of bodyfat back. But it’s all about tradeoffs. To enjoy life, if you truly feel you need to take it back a notch, then I propose you do it. Make it work for you. But keep in mind the consequences and what consequences are really, truly worth it to you. I highly doubt after accomplishing your health and fitness goal, you’ll think going back to your original unhealthy ways would be worth it. At least, I hope not.

So yes, while I was trying to achieve my goals, I was religious about the 90% rule. I logged my food, I watched my calories, I made sure I always ate a protein with a fibrous carb at every “eating opportunity.” Now that I’ve gotten there, I don’t pay as close attention, but I am ALWAYS cognizant of what I’m putting into my body and how it’s affecting me. I still make healthy choices, but I don’t freak out if I occasionally eat a snack without a source of lean protein. And I occasionally allow myself the pleasure of a warm, chocolate lava cake.

So what happened to my friend? She made a sacrifice, stopped eating out every night, and limits herself to one glass of wine every other week. She logs her food, eats plenty of vegetables and lean protein, and limits her sugar intake. She’s well on her way to her fitness goals. But once she gets there, I have a strong feeling she’ll stop logging her food and she’ll probably drink more than one glass of wine every other week. And that’s fine because to her, it’s worth it. (What is worth it, and if it’s truly worth it is another conversation.)

You know yourself better than anyone else. You know what’s important to you. Live life to the fullest. To you, if that means occasionally enjoying a bottle of wine with an old friend, more power to you.

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When the Cat’s Away…

I am a cheater. My husband has been out of town for the past week, and while he’s been gone, I’ve been cheating. About a year ago, he regularly went out of town once a month for work, and I cheated back then too. I cheated in the kitchen, I cheated in the bedroom, I cheated in the car, and I even cheated in my office.

It’s not something I’m proud of. This weakness of the flesh is a sore reminder that I’m human with carnal urges. How can I say no when temptation is staring me in the face? When I can feel the intense yearning deep within me…

Whoa, stop me before I get carried away and start talking about something totally unrelated to what I really mean to talk about: Snickers bars, chocolate covered pretzels, McDonald’s french fries, and hot fudge sundaes. Mmm…

*Sigh* So I know I’ve talked about the 90% rule and allowing yourself a cheat meal 10% of the time. And I admit that this is probably easier to uphold when your husband is your personal trainer. Here’s a secret: when my husband is away, the temptation to cheat is, like, 500% greater.

No one is here to slap my hand. I’m like the kid after trick-or-treating who is stuffing her face with the candy her mom told her to put away because she turned away for two seconds.

What about personal accountability, you say? I know, I know. Hey, just because I’m a trainer’s wife, and just because I have chosen to start living a healthier lifestyle doesn’t mean I stop having all urges to indulge. Especially when no one is watching.

But I’m watching. I’m watching, and I have to live with myself afterwards. I’ve heard about a few strategies to stop yourself from reaching for the food that you know shouldn’t come anywhere near your mouth. Things like saying, “Oh well, it’s not part of my plan” and moving on from the tempting situation, or saying, “Thank you that I have food, but not this food.”

What tends to work for me – when I truly apply myself to doing this – is to just quiet my mind. Because usually while I’m reaching for the chocolate chip cookie, thoughts are churning through my mind like a whirlwind: “Mmm…chocolate. I love chocolate. But I shouldn’t eat this. Think about how you’ll feel after you eat it. But it’s just one cookie, it can’t hurt. But one cookie will lead to another cookie. And I didn’t even work out today, so I didn’t even earn it. But chocolate is so goooood…”

So the trick is to cut it off at the “Mmm…” or as soon as you can. Some have described this as the “chatterbox” in your head. And then move your body away from the cookie. As Alton Brown says, “Step away. Just step away.” (Well, that’s usually in the context of over mixing wet ingredients with dry ingredients when baking, but it works for my purposes too.) And then occupy your mind with something else. Like updating your status on Facebook or something useless like that. Or finishing that email you meant to send to your co-worker before lunch.

Okay, so tonight my method didn’t really work for me. I knew I should have eaten the salad with grilled chicken and balsamic vinaigrette, but the Panino Italiano with prosciutto and hot coppa was just crying out to me.

At least I’ve moved on from the hot fudge sundaes, Take 5’s, and Whopper Juniors from the cheating days of my past. This is progress. Next business trip he takes, maybe I’ll take the cheating down another notch. Probably a good idea.

Breaking Free

In my last post, I revealed that before I started working out regularly, I went through seven years of trying and failing. A vicious cycle that got me zero results and got me pretty down on myself. I was finally able to break free from that cycle, or the “thermostat”, about ten months ago. So how did I break free?

Before I get into that, I have to throw in a little disclaimer: I am not a therapist. I am not a personal trainer. I’m merely a person who’s also struggled with having the discipline and motivation to work towards her fitness goals. I can only share with you what I know – what worked for me. Everyone is wired differently. Everyone has a different background, different lifestyle, different situation in life, etc. Take what you need from what I say, make it work for you, or just leave all of it.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here goes.

The turning point came for me one night over dinner. My husband was telling me about his FitCamp program. It’s a 12-week program that includes group personal training classes, a nutrition program, before and after photos, progress tracking, etc. To qualify for the program, you have to go through an interview so they can get a feel for what your goals are and why you want to transform your life.

That got me thinking. What are my motivators? Why have I been trying to go to the gym for the past seven years? On a superficial level, it was always just to “look good.” I never really took the time to dig deep and figure out the real “whys.”

So after some soul-searching, I realized that it wasn’t about “looking good.” It was about more than that. Firstly, I didn’t just want to “look good.” I actually wanted to be the type of person who is healthy and fit. In other words, I wanted that feeling of achievement knowing that I reached the goal I’d been striving towards for seven years. I wanted to know that I grew as a person and was therefore able to get there and uphold a way of life I’ve always wanted to. Secondly, I’ve always wanted to help my husband grow his business. How could I represent his company in any way without “walking the walk”? And lastly, I wanted to be an example to my future children. How could I teach them to live healthy lifestyles if I’m not living one myself?

These were the true “whys”. Only after I identified them did I finally have a deep, emotional drive to achieve my health and fitness goals.

I met with my husband, and I told him that I wanted to join his FitCamp. Before that, I had never taken any kind of group fitness class. So this was stepping way out of my comfort zone. But I realized that I needed to hold myself accountable. For me, what better way to do that than to make it visible to other people when I’m not pushing myself hard enough or when I get lazy and skip class.

I interviewed with my husband told him all the reasons why this time I was serious about making a lifestyle change. I also set a timeline for myself – my cousin’s wedding in Vegas in four months.

Then the work began. It wasn’t easy, but I got there. I didn’t reach my goal by my cousin’s Vegas wedding, but that’s okay. I didn’t give up, and about a month later, I did get there. I knew I would.

The FitCamp was the jumpstart I needed. When the 12-week program ended, I continued to focus on the progress I had made, and I never wanted to risk losing it. I’ve found that once you get over the initial hump, it gets much easier. I stopped craving all the bad food (the bad food didn’t taste as good anymore either), and working out became less of a choice and more of a way of life.

Some days I’m still tempted to skip the workout, and yes sometimes I do. But I forgive myself, move on, and know that I’ll do better the next day.

So in summary, here’s how I broke free from my thermostat:

1) I took the time to do some soul searching and uncovered the real, deeply emotionally compelling reasons I wanted to reach my fitness goals.

2) I said these reasons out loud to someone else to hold myself accountable.

3) I set myself up in a situation to hold me accountable – the FitCamp. The key for me was that I made my quest visible to other people, surrounded myself with people who were also working towards similar goals, and made it fun.

4) I set a timeline.

5) I knew I would get there.

6) I was patient with myself.

So there you go. Like I said, take what you need from this and make it work for you. Hopefully I gave you some ideas about how you can break free from your thermostat. I think the most important things are to find the deep, emotionally compelling reasons behind your goals, be patient with yourself, and know you’ll get there. I mean really KNOW it. And you will.

Best wishes on your journey!

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It Just Kept Pulling Me Back

Believe it or not, there was a point in my life when I had never set foot in a gym.  At least, not by direction from my middle school P.E. teacher.  I had never played sports – again, not when it wasn’t a requirement to pass the 8th grade.  And I never ran or participated in any outdoor cardiovascular activity – unless I was chasing my dog across the park after he decided to ditch the collar around his neck.

So when I met my husband, and I reluctantly agreed that partaking in some kind of physical activity would be a good thing, I knew I was in for something that was way out of my comfort zone.

That was 2001.  Today, I can proudly say that I exercise regularly.  However, what might shock some of you is that I’ve only been exercising regularly for about ten months.  [GASP!]

In the words of Dr. Meredith Grey, “Seriously?”  Seriously.  Oh, there were streaks of a good two or three months when I was religiously going to the gym every week.  But for the most part, I was going in streaks of three weeks here and there, take two weeks off, go for another two weeks, one week off, and so on.  There were times when I wouldn’t go for months.

Needless to say, with the exception of the three-month streak, I never got any good results with such inconsistency.  I would get all gung-ho about it, lose interest, and then make up some excuse as to why I had to take a “three-week break.”

When I look back on that seven-year cycle of trying and failing, I think I can now see what was going on.  I’ve heard it best described as a thermostat.  I first heard this idea from James Ray, author, philosopher, and entrepeneur, and recently was reminded of it when I read a former colleague’s blog, “When your Mind is Stuck.”  (I highly encourage you to check it out.)

I described the termostat effect in my comment on his blog:

“Your mind is like a thermostat, where the temperature you set it to (usually a comforable 72 degrees) is your comfort zone. Every time you step away from that 72 degrees, it wants to pull you back. Back to what is safe and what it’s used to. When you carry out actions that are outside what you normally do, it will do everything it can to pull you back to what resonates with your current programming (limiting beliefs, values, etc. that serve that bad habit).

Breaking free of this pull is perhaps one of the toughest things to do. You must acknowledge the programming that is pulling you back, and re-adjust your programming to something that serves you (much easier said than done)…you can start small, but the most important thing is to just start. The more often you step away from that 72 degrees, the weaker the thermostat’s pull will become.

This is something I by no means have mastered, but every day I try to be ‘comfortable with being uncomfortable.'”

You see, over the course of those seven years, I was constantly being pulled back to what I was used to – a life of physical inactivity. Although I knew in my head that it was an unhealthy way to live, my past programming and unspoken limiting beliefs – that I’m not coordinated enough, that I’ll never have the figure I want, that people in my family just don’t work out, that I just don’t have time – were dictating my actions (or lack thereof).

It wasn’t just that I was lazy, it was that breaking free of any bad habit that supports that past programming is a freakin’ hard thing to do. It takes a vision of what you want to accomplish, compelling reasons driving that vision, a serious commitment to accomplish that vision, and it takes a shift in those unspoken beliefs that are holding you back. 

First step is to figure out what those beliefs are.  Then replace them with your vision and know that the vision will come to fruition.  (If you’ve read the book Eat, Pray, Love – another read I highly recommend – understand that your vision is your tree calling to you.)  Focus intensely on that vision, shut up the chatterbox in your head (more on the pesky “chatterbox” later), and just act.  The thermostat’s pull will eventually weaken.

Whew, I think I’m getting a little too deep, even for my standards right now.  Bottom line, recognizing why you keep going back to your comfort zone, i.e. recognizing the thermostat’s pull, is the first step in breaking the cycle. Like I said, this is not an easy thing to do, and is easier for some than for others. (Sciences have been dedicated to studying why this is and how to conquer it. Check out a blog on my husband’s website about Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.)

In my next post, I’ll share with you how I broke free from my thermostat. Until then I ask you, “What’s pulling you back?”

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Survival of the Fittest

I took a self-defense class today.  A good investment for a rainy, Sunday afternoon if you ask me. 

My husband and I like to hit and wrestle each other (not hard, and playfully of course)…actually, more like he likes to show me whatever cool lock GSP had on whatever UFC fighter he contended with the other night.  [Sigh]…GSP…What a hottie…Oh, sorry.  Got lost in a dream world for a bit. 

Anyway, even though we just play around, he sometimes grabs me and then asks me, “What would you do if some guy grabbed you like this?  How would you get out of it?”  And all I can do is flail my arms around and squirm.  Not very effective.  And I know, this is not a good thing.  Hence, the self-defense class today.

We learned about being aware of our environment, aware of verbal and non-verbal cues from others, and aware of what tips us off.  We also learned some very useful ways to get out of certain grips and situations when being threatened by an attacker.

I’m a petite person.  If a 6’2″ monster is grabbing me by the shoulders, there is no way in hell I am going to be able to get all J-Lo in “Enough” on his ass.  Nor should I expect or try to.  The point is to “stun and run.”  Get out of the grip, hit or kick him where it counts, and get the hell out of there to safety. 

As was taught to us, it’s not about strength, but about being simple and smart.  But, if there are any factors that can work towards my favor should I ever find myself in the situation where I need to defend myself or my loved ones, I’m going to make damn sure I do what I need to do to get those factors working in my favor.  What I’m trying to say is, as J-Lo did, I’m going to become as strong as I can be.  I’m going to become as fast as I can be.  I’m going to become as alert and alive as I can be.

I’m going to prepare myself.  Not that I expect or want to attract being in that situation.  But I should have the tools, the knowledge, and the awareness should I ever need it. 

This weekend I recognized another reason I do what I do – another reason I try to eat well, exercise regularly, and take care of my body in general.  Not just to look good, not just so I can run a marathon if I choose to, and not just so I can have a sense of achievement.  So I can hit hard, so I can kick hard, and so I can run like hell to protect myself.

Whatever your reasons are, add that one to your list.

*If you live in the Seattle Metropolitan area and are interested in taking a self-defense course, contact Kamara’s Harmonizing Martial Arts at 206-265-2957 or hma@guardup.org.

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I have a 2-pack!!!

Well, when I flex really hard.  And when the lighting is just right.  And if I squint my eyes just a little bit and turn my head about 30 degrees to the right.

Hey!  Don’t rain on my parade, okay?  This is significant!  I can’t remember the last time I could even remotely see any resemblance of an anything-pack! 

And yes, I have been known to spend good, quality time in front of the mirror admiring my pre-rockhard, washboard abs.  My husband just rolls his eyes when he walks by and laughs, “Oh my gosh.”

Like I said, don’t rain on my parade!  I focus on the progress.  See, a lot of people will focus on the bellyfat and arm flab (or the stick arms and pigeon legs).  They’ll look at what they don’t like and out of anger or distaste, will work out to change what they don’t like about themselves.

I have a different strategy.  I choose to focus on what I do like and the progress that I have made.  And I make fitness and nutrition about accentuating that, and allowing everything else to catch up to it.  And that applies not just to whether I like how a certain body part looks.  It applies to whether I’m happy with my energy levels, my current state of flexibility, and my ability to dance like a disco queen to a cheesy ABBA song.

Gratitude is one of the most powerful things in the universe.  Be thankful for what you have.  Focus on what you like about yourself, about the progress you have made, and you’re bound to get more of it.  If you constantly focus on what you don’t like, you’ll always overlook the progress that you are making, and you’ll always be able to find one more thing you can pick on. 

I challenge you to pick one thing you like about yourself.  Do you have nice ankles?  Or a nice, angled chin?  No matter how miniscule, pick something.  Focus on that.  Spend time in the mirror looking at it.  Yes, make your family think you’re totally vain about it! 

Have you made the slightest bit of progress since you started working out?  Dropped 2 pounds?  Do your jeans feel just a looser?  Dwell on that!  Be thankful for it, and celebrate! 

So don’t laugh at me when I shout from the rooftops that I have a 2-pack.  That 2-pack is just the beginning of more packs!

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”  — Michelangelo

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UPDATE: Women who lift heavy UNITE!

Surprisingly enough, I actually got a response to my inquiry about putting heavier weights in the women’s area at my gym.  (Read about it here.)  Only two days after I received the email from the nice, young personal trainer I spoke to saying they’d “definitely consider it,” I got an email from his manager indicating they were going to put in heavier weights that same day!  And they did! [Insert Hallelujah Chorus here.]

Granted, they only added a set of 25’s and a set of 30’s – way short of the 50-60 pounders I asked them to incorporate into their dumbbell ensemble – this is progress.  They’re supposedly looking into incoporating up to 50 pounds by way of Power Block dumbells.

So they still have yet to follow through completely on their word.  Hopefully they don’t disappoint me. 

I was in there today using the 25’s, and it’s not far off that I’ll need to upgrade to using the 30’s.  Pretty soon I’ll need those 35’s or 40’s.  (Not to mention that I already need those and heavier for single dumbbell squats (aka plie squats), but I’ve been avoiding doing those because of the lack of appropriate hardware.)

So yet again, I will keep you posted.  At least I got a response that indicates they acknowledge there’s a need for heavier weights in the women’s area.  I hope I’m not the only one using them!