muscle tips

How to Successfully Adopt a Lifestyle Change

Not a diet. Diet implies temporary, and what we need to do is form a set of new, sustainable habits for the rest of our life.

A lot of you probably have a daydream of taking a black, billowy trash bag and planning a SWAT-style assault on your fridge and cupboards and then setting fire to the dumpster you hurl it into. Naturally, you’ll dash over to the grocery store and purchase a ton of strange-looking foods you don’t regularly eat, or never eat! Then you’ll slap on a pair of shiny new shoes and go run a 5K. This works for–some people. Honestly, few people.

The reality for many people; however, is they get off their foray after a few weeks. Why is that?

Think about it. How long did it take you to really get into the groove of your current habits? Months? Years? If you’re trying to simultaneously kiss soda and chip’s ass good-bye, change every bite of food you eat, and start a fitness routine. Guess what? Stress, stress, stress! Your stomach was used to those portion sizes (whether too large or too small) and some of your favorite snacks, your brain is literally addicted to it. A lot of people will reach nuclear meltdown levels trying to transition to a healthy lifestyle this way.

Just like it took you time to form your current habits, it’s going to take some time to form your new habits. I truly do empathize with the feelings of wanting everything to be different right now, but realistically we can only handle a certain amount of stressors and change at one time.

Start With Nutrition Habits: While I really would recommend finding a few cheeky ways to get more active, you’ve probably heard some variant of “can’t outrun your fork,” or “it’s 80% nutrition.” Well, it really is true. Being more active is absolutely crucial to improving overall health in the “endgame,”  but we’re still playing the “tutorial” and the dietary aspects of our lifestyle change are the bulk of the impact. It goes beyond that, though. I’ve written more about it here, but being a beginner can be genuinely hard at times!  It takes a lot of time and effort to get oneself to a point where they can physically and mentally handle what entails “regular, moderate exercise.” One part of making that transition easier will be better nutrition and hydration.

Start With an Easy Target: I always tell people if they drink a lot of soda, juice, or sweetened tea/coffee to start here. Sugar provides us pretty much no nutrition and removing the pulp from fruit makes juice not that great for us, either. Drinking more water is not negotiable and replacing these beverages with water will do a surprising amount of good for how you feel–all by itself. I recognize how hard this one can be to kick, but sweetened beverages really do load many people’s lifestyles with a lot of bad juju.

If you don’t have a beverage problem, maybe you do have a condiment/dressing problem and can reduce the quantities and find alternatives. Maybe you party-hardy a little too much and need to cut down on alcohol. While I said “easy target,” no one said it would be that easy, but you probably have an idea where most of these so called “empty” nutrients are coming from.

Transition Bad Habits a Few at a Time: The opening of this probably already made it clear, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. You probably have an idea of what some of your most problematic habits are, so choose one; maybe two, and see how you adjust over a week or two before considering the next step.

Small Swaps: Start switching out various items in your pantries, fridges, and lunchboxes with simple alternatives. Change white breads, rices, and pastas to brown. Take the bag of chips from your lunch and turn it into a few servings of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Pick out a leaner cut of meat and use a little less dairy, if you eat them. Little changes can have massive results.

Learn Moderation: Remember that whole sustainable part at the very beginning? Our lifestyles do need to reflect our real lives. Well, my real life has a love of chocolates, pastries, and candies. So, it’s not realistic for me to say “no chocolate, pastries, or candies.” Food molarity can be a pretty toxic outlook on eating and life in general. Instead of labeling foods as “bad,” just learn and respect the limits. There are times where you have to say, “enough, is enough,” but living in a constant state of “no” is not realistic or mentally healthy for most people. It’s OK to love indulgent food. Think about how long your life is going to be. So, now think about how dinky an occasional treat will be in retrospect.

Depending on Your Struggles, Consider Therapy: As we know, many aspects of unhealthy eating habits are actually unhealthy mental habits. Depending on the severity and exact nature of those problems, never be embarrassed to seek professional help. I struggled with stress eating and even binge eating for most of my adolescence, and finally getting help for my anxiety disorder played a pretty crucial role in improving both my physical and mental health. If it’s not a possibility at this time, consider journaling.

Walk Before Your Run: Literally and figuratively. I’m going to recommend this previous post I recently wrote again, but when you’ve gotten a few habits cracked and feel like you’re ready to start amping up your activity, start with low impact and low equipment exercises. If it has been years, or if you’ve never exercised, it takes some easing into it. I recommend walking to all beginners because we already know how to do it, have what we need to do it, and probably won’t hurt ourselves.

So, there you have it. Tackle small challenges and get your body acclimated to them before you consider some of the overarching and holistic goals you have for your lifestyle. That said, we’re all different. If you still want to try and do that 180-flip, I can’t stop you and some people are successful that way. No two people or personality types have the exact same problems or strategy for overcoming them. However, if you’ve gotten frustrated and thrown in the towel a time or two, consider the scope of change and how to realistically implement it over a period of time.  We didn’t form our old habits overnight.

10 Tips for a Fit Summer

Weights before Cardio: Performing weight training first will ensure you’re strongest when you lift. Plus, it  depletes your glycogen storages, so when you do cardio your body will be more likely to burn body fat for energy, helping you get leaner faster than if you did cardio first.

More then Abs: The six-pack may be the centerpiece, but to really impress people, focus on working your entire body, including the chest, back, shoulders, arms, and yes, even your legs. Don’t be too obsessed with ONLY the muscles you see in the mirror, make sure you take the whole body approach. 

Fiber: Increases heart health along with aiding digestion. You will also fill fuller and more satisfied which helps to curb overeating.

Protein: Eating more protein will help the body regulate blood sugar and increase nitrogen for the brain. It will also allow muscles to take in a more constant flow of amino acids in order to properly recover from weight training.

Probiotics: These will help the digestive system breakdown your foods properly. They will help to insure nothing is wasted or stored as fat within the body.

Coconut Oil: Assists with brain health, increases overall energy levels and decreases appetite. 

Hydration: Being dehydrated can cause havoc within a body made up of mostly water. Aim for 8 glasses to a gallon a day depending on size, weight and training regimen. 

HIIT Training: High Intensity Interval Training has been proven to burn more calories during and after training than low intensity steady state cardio, aka jogging. It is also a time saver, thus making it more bang for your buck for those of you who are running on a tight schedule. A 20-minute HIIT session can replace a 30- to 35-minute low intensity session. 

Big Sets: The goal is to perform at least four different exercises in a row without resting. An example would be Squats followed by Leg Presses, Leg Curls and Calf Raises. These type of bigger sets make your workouts more intense, reduce the amount of time you train and aid as a cardiovascular workout as well. 

Shop Smart: When in the grocery store, the healthiest items are not in the isles, but actually on the outside surrounding them on the perimeter. Keep this in mind when you’re shopping, because shopping in these sections will be best for your health, development and even your wallet.

Weightlifting for beginners

Have you ever walked into a room and everyone has stopped what they’re doing to look at you? So you go red, mutter an apology and stumble out? Well that’s what my first foray into the weight-lifting area of a gym was like back at university. 

It took me a while to go back and that was only with another woman to keep me company. Since then I’ve fallen in love with lifting weights, especially with how it makes me feel and how it enables me to sculpt my body. Also, I hate cardio and find it much easier to push myself when it comes to picking heavy things up and putting them down again. 

But I’ve been asked many times about how to get into weight lifting so I thought I’d put together a beginner’s guide to weight lifting for men and women (because the weights room can be a scary place for men too!)

Step 1: Picture the hero or heroine in your favourite film and strut into the place like you own it. Hold your head high, have confidence in yourself and remind yourself that you’re there to enjoy it 

Step 2: But don’t be scared about asking for help

Step 3: Nail the basics. I’d recommend that you start with a squat, a deadlift, a shoulder press and a bicep curl. Watch videos on YouTube if you really don’t want to ask for help but remember, personal trainers and gym instructors are there to keep you safe

Step 4: Perfect your technique before you start adding on any serious weight because bad technique + heavy weights = all of the pain 

Step 5: Once you’ve got the technique down start adding the weights on. You should be using a suitable weight for the number of sets and reps that you’re doing. At the end of each set you should be feeling like you can’t really do many more. This is how you force your body to adapt and hit your goals, whether they are strength, hypertrophy (muscle growth) or endurance

Step 6: Track your progress rather than trying to remember all of the numbers. I keep a note on my phone of all of the weights that I’m currently lifting

Step 7: Just like with any other physical progress you may hit a plateau. If this happens, have a deload week. Try some lighter weights or try some other things. When you come back to it you’ll feel fresher and most likely will be able to push your weights up

Remember, it’s never as scary as you think it’s going to be and everyone is much friendlier than you think they’re going to be!

If you’re really struggling it might be worth having a session or two with a personal trainer to put together a programme and show you some of the moves.

Now, please excuse me while I go and hit a PB…

Rectus abdominis / “abs”
Functions: flexing the spine („sit-up“ movement), rotating the spine sideways
Antagonist: erector spinae (explained here)
Origin: crest of pubis (lower end of pelvis)
Insertion: inner side (”costal cartilages”) of the ribs 5-7, xiphoid process (lower end) of sternum
Form: The abs muscles are actually pretty easy. We all know this “sixpack” analogy, and starting at the belly button upwards, you form the segments with the middle line and its subdivisions. Note that the upper segments are separated by a slanted line, while the others are much more horizontal. If the torso bends to a side, the abs bend also but only from the belly button upwards. If you look at the abs from the side, you can see that each segment has its own visible thickness (at least on muscular people). And as always, go into depth about this with Proko :)