Archives 2019

How To Lose Weight When You’re Already In Shape

Our bodies like a set point, whether we like that weight/shape or not. It’s why even though we may fluctuate a little here and there, most of us manage to wear the same size clothes for years. Our bodies say, “I like this weight. I’m comfortable here. I’ll adjust your metabolism and hormones accordingly.”

Here’s a more detailed article on that point:

When you have a significant amount of weight to lose, or you have real diet changes to make, or exercise/physical activity is not part of your regular life, then weight loss can come easily as it’s a shock to your body, and your body responds quickly. I say “easily” but I’m talking how your body reacts, not you. You may have a hard time mentally and emotionally dealing with all the difficult changes – and that does not come easily.

But what if you’re already in good physical shape and eat a healthy diet? If you’ve previously lost weight, then your body has adjusted its metabolism to not have to work as hard, as it’s not carrying around an extra load, so you actually may have to eat less and exercise more to see continued results. Your body is smaller and thus doesn’t need as much fuel to maintain its current weight. Yes, you have likely made your body more effective and efficient with burning calories as you’ve become healthier, however discovering that calorie-to-exercise ratio for your body may take some trial and error as you discover what works best for your body.

Imagine doing bodyweight squats while weighing 185 lbs. Then lose 20 lbs, now weighing 165 lbs, you continue to do the same number of bodyweight squats. Which scenario is more difficult? Which requires the body to work harder?

Think of your body/shape/weight in its form right now. Is it harder for you to do a bodyweight squat, or a squat with a 20 pound barbell?

As your body adjusts to the weight and exercise, your exercise routine must also adjust to see continued results.

If you run 3 miles three times a week, every week, do you think it’s just as hard the first time you did it as it is now? No! Sure it’s still a good workout that helps maintain your current health status, but the key word here is “maintain”.

The first time you drank alcohol, did one beer or one glass of wine make you feel a little tipsy? How about years later, are you still a lightweight, or has you body adjusted to handling two or three beers or glasses of wine? Maybe more?

As your body adjusts to the intake of calories, or to the stress of physical activity, YOU must continue to adjust or it will fight you to maintain its current status.

Here’s a checklist to help you understand if anything is holding you back:

– Have you made any adjustments to your exercise routine in the past few months to make cardio either longer/harder, weight training heavier/harder?

– Have you made any adjustments to your caloric intake recently? Even if you feel you should maintain the same caloric intake, does the quality of those calories need to change? Such as less sugar that if not used as fuel will be stored as fat. Is there extra sodium that could be taken out? Some processed carbs that could be substituted out with natural ones?

– If you don’t feel you are ready to adjust the intensity of your cardio or weight training, can you add extra activity? Even something as less strenuous as a 30 minute daily walk on top of your regular routine can start making an impact on your weight loss journey.

– If you cannot carve more time out of your day for exercise than you already do, can you run/spin faster? Can you incorporate more sprints that cause a positive stress on your body to be on high alert, thus it will react by burning more calories?

– Are you drinking enough water? Around 2 liters should be your daily goal to prevent dehydration and to ensure you flush out your system adequately.

Good luck. Stay positive. Remember to love yourself throughout the whole journey. If you need help with exercise ideas, check out my Independent Package options for self-accountability workouts.

Bodyweight Workout For Beginners/Returners

For some folks the idea of integrating exercise into your life can be daunting. With all the gym commercials, fitness influencers on social media, and sexy underwear advertisements it can indeed feel like having a fitness lifestyle is too much to handle. A lot of work. Unattainable.

Let me clear up some of the unnecessary messages that are out there, and give you a great starter workout!

First of all – to live a lifestyle that successfully includes exercise does not mean you have to have six pack abs, Carrie Underwood legs, or a sculpted rear end. You can indeed be on a healthy track, and be “in shape” with some cellulite and a small muffin top.

Yes I am sure we would all love to look utterly fantastic, but unless we put in some extraordinary amount of diet and physical effort, and for some of us, figure out how to change our genetics, it’s not reasonable. It’s not attainable. But what is attainable is a healthy resting heart rate, a strong core to support our low back, and cardiovascular skills to keep us playing with our kids. That is what an exercise lifestyle is really about – not about looking hot and sweaty in a sports bra. Eventually you may indeed look in the mirror post workout and look and feel amazingly attractive, but you don’t need the six pack abs to feel that way. Whatever healthier, happier version of yourself comes out of incorporating exercise into your life IS GOOD ENOUGH!

For my beginners, or my getting-back-into-it’ers, I have an at-home, zero equipment (okay, one chair is needed, but I know you have one) workout for you. It does not take too much time, and you can even do it on the go as you travel. If you read this, and do this, please let me know how you felt about it! I appreciate feedback.

Note: If you have any health concerns, or chronic physical injuries, please confirm with a medical professional before attempting these exercises. If you need to seek an alternative exercise for one of these, ask me and I can help you. If this is too easy for you – GREAT! If it is too difficult, play around with the number of repetitions or amount of time. Decrease if you have to, and add weights when appropriate, if available.

My Favorite Things – Fitness Edition

Ever bought something online at the mercy of hoping some group of strangers reviews were truthful? I find myself looking for key details, a substantial amount of positive opinions, and for clothes I definitely need picture proof before I’ll pull the purchase trigger.

The holiday gift buying season is upon us, whether you’re ready for it or not, and for anyone looking for ideas for that fitness guru/exercise buddy/fit mom in your life, I’m giving some reviews and ideas from items I have fallen in love with – not just like, love! I like finding useful little things that make big impact on my daily life, without costing a bunch of money. All of these items cost $35 or less! So here you go:

Duduma Polarized Sports Sunglasses

If you dislike squinting while running, and hate when sunglasses slip down your nose or rub the top of your ears raw, then I have some great (inexpensive – yay!) sunglasses to recommend.

These things are only $20, and they have lasted me in high heat and humidity, through marathons, and they stay in place! No you’re likely not going to pair them with a cute dress, they are for outdoor exercise activity as they definitely look sporty. They look very gender neutral too, so even my husband has borrowed them for runs and playing softball.

Aurorae Yoga – The Ultimate Racer Back Tank Top

Let me be clear – this tank top is pictured as being worn alone and giving full coverage. That’s not true unless your chest hangs quite low. But! I don’t like the feeling of loose tank tops when I’m working up a big sweat. Nor do I like to constantly have to pull it back into place. This tank is fitted, soaks up the sweat, and I wear it underneath another tank/tee/sweatshirt. I currently own three! They are limited on stock right now, so hurry if you want one. They are true to size, and the material is stretchy and comfortable. They are long in length, so if you have a problem with shirts being too short for your long torso, I highly recommend adding this to your exercise wardrobe.

Dasuta Sport Athletic Headbands

As I’m writing this I’m starting to see a trend – I love things that stay in place as constantly having to reposition my shades, shirts, pants, headbands would drive me crazy. So these headbands! If you follow me on Instagram (@couragetosweat) you have likely seen me in these. I wear them any time I exercise outside. They absorb sweat so it doesn’t trickle down my forehead. They cover up my crazy hair and flyaways. They come in several colors to make an outfit more fun, or to even help you be seen if you’re out running at dusk or dawn. Andddd they stay in place! They’re also stretchy without hurting your head like the small tights ones often do. They also hold up very well going through the washer and dryer.

ANBES Wireless Earbuds

I have not tested out the battery length for these to hold up during a full marathon, however they have worked for multiple hour workouts without recharging, so for 5Ks, 10Ks, or lifting, they will do the job! There are SO many options for wireless earbuds at all different price points. Searching for them can honestly be a headache. I previously tried two other brands that didn’t work. I also refuse to pay the price Apple is asking. One brand wouldn’t stay in my ears, and the other had a crappy battery life, but these stay in my ears and last – yay! They have a loop that goes around the outer ear that is not uncomfortable, it simply helps me feel that they’re truly secure so as I’m moving from exercise to exercise they stay in position. You can run, do burpees and pushups in these with no problem. They simply sync with the bluetooth on your phone, and off you go!

Contraband Pink Label 5137 Womens Padded Weight Lifting Gloves

These come in a few different colors, so pick your style. They help me when my hands are sweaty so the bar doesn’t slip from my hands. They also help me avoid calluses so I don’t get “man hands” from lifting. They also give me a better grip on the pull-up bar, since I can’t quite 100% rely solely on my strength yet to stay up there. They don’t feel hot, and I can easily transition from weights to bodyweight exercises without bothering to take them on and off.

WOD Nation Pull-Up Assistance Bands

Let’s be real here – pull-ups are not easy! They take a lot of strength and practice. They require good form or you’re bound to hurt in a number of areas. If you don’t have access to a pull-up bar that has the knee bench to assist you, or you simply don’t like that, these bands are perfect! There are different sizes and colors depending on your weight and how many pull-ups you can currently do. You simply wrap the band around the top of the pull-up bar (please carefully read the instructions online or watch a video before attempting this!) and then stick a foot into the part of the band that is hanging down, and voila! You’re on your way to gaining pull-up strength. These bands are tight and sturdy, so if the bar is quite high, do not bust your butt or pull a muscle trying to stick your leg into this thing from standing on the ground. Grab an exercise box, bench, or even a chair to help you safely get into this. These are easily portable, so if you plan to exercise at a park with equipment, you can bring it along in your bag.

CRZ Yoga Racerback Tank

Full confession – I may have a tank top problem. I own many. Like many, many… They’re my go-to tops. There’s going out tanks, bedtime tanks, exercising tanks, wear under a sweater tanks, and so on. I don’t love them all, and I’m definitely not brand loyal which is likely why I’ve tried so many, but this one I recently found and I fell in love. I should buy more – no, no stop Jen… It’s a sturdy material, absorbs sweat, does not require another tank underneath, is a great length, and truthfully I feel attractive in it. I like a good workout tank that not only stays in place while exercising, but makes me look good so I feel confident. It is fitted but thick so it’s more forgiving.

And there you have it! If you have any favorite fitness-related items you recommend, send them my way! Happy shopping!

At-Home Workout Guide

Some of the major barriers to an effective, motivated workout is time, location, and an exercise plan. If you don’t have enough understanding of why to workout what muscles, or when, or even how, then fitness classes with an educated instructor is a good alternative. However, if classes don’t align with your life schedule, and you can’t seem to get to the gym, then an at-home workout may be the solution to getting your fitness on track.

Yes, there are many exercise programs out there you can do from home. Some require you to purchase equipment, or signup for a subscription, which is all fine if you’re dedicated to your fitness journey. But! If you’re trying to start your fitness journey slowly, to tackle the basics, or you already have an effective workout plan but need extra help on the days you cannot get out of the house, this guide is for YOU!

Buckle up, here we go! Here is a list of exercises you can do in your house, without purchasing any equipment:

  • Pushups
  • Situps (I recommend putting your toes under a couch to ensure you use your core, instead of straining your low back and hip flexors)
  • Squats (Regular, Sumo, Crisscross Jumping, Pulsing – there are a lot of options here)
  • Lunges (Forward, Reverse, Pulsing)
  • Curtsy Lunges (Your form MUST be on point or you could tweak your knee. If you have a history of knee problems, I do not recommend these)
  • Planks (Forward, Static Hold Left and Right Side, or Side Pulsing) – You may do this with your palms down, or for a greater core challenge, go on your elbows and forearms
  • Tricep Dips (You can use a chair that is pushed against a wall so it doesn’t move away from you, or remove the cushions from the couch and use the firm part – ensure elbows are pointed back)
  • Burpees (these are advanced, and if you have any issues with your knees or low back, I do not recommend)
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Arm Circles
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Dead Bug Core Exercise
  • Static Wall Sit (Either pick a goal time to hold it, or see how long you can hold it and try to beat it the next time) – Get that butt down! Parallel with your knees.
  • YTW Shoulder Exercise (you can do this on the floor)
  • Planks with side-to-side toe taps and/or alternating heel raises
  • V-Sit (Arms and Legs straight – hold it for time)
  • Dragon Walk (this will require space and coordination)
  • Glute Bridge (on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor, and raise your hips/butt up) – You can increase this challenge by adding a weight to your pelvic area or switching to a single leg raise
  • Russian Twists (If you cannot raise your feet, start with your feet on the ground and work your way up over time as your core strength improves)
  • Standing Calf Raises

I just listed 20 exercises that don’t require equipment! TWENTY! All that can be performed in your living room, on your own time, and can still kick your butt!

Now that you know what exercises can be done, how many do you do? How often? For how much time, or number of reps? Some of that depends on your current fitness level, but here are couple variations to try and see what works best for you:

Option 1: All About Time

If you prefer to watch the clock instead of counting repetitions, a pre-set time may be easiest for you (your phone has a timer!) 30 seconds or 60 seconds are good starting points (plus or minus 15 seconds if you are weaker or stronger in some areas).

Choose exercises from the list above (the number is dependent on your fitness level, and can be tweaked depending on how you feel afterwards). Try one for your pre-set time, then move to the next. Alternating muscle groups (ex: core exercise, followed by shoulder exercise, followed by leg exercise) is more likely to enable you to go for more rounds. Go through them, see how you did/how you feel, and decide if you want to go again.

Option 2: All About The Burn

If you prefer to hit a muscle group hard for a quick workout and quick burn, this is a good option. Choose your exercises, group them (core, legs/butt, arms/back), decide if you’re going for time (30-60 seconds) or for reps (10-15, give or take) and then begin with one muscle group, perform those exercises, then move onto the next. Finish, rest (if needed), and then begin again (if able).

How often? That depends on your activity level. If this is the only workout you are doing, I recommend doing this every other day. But! See how you feel. If you’re at the beginning of your fitness journey and you are sore – not just a regular sore, but painful sore – allow your muscles to rest longer. Stretch and hydrate!!!

How to keep yourself on track when home life can be so distracting (laundry, kids, cleaning, sports and shows on TV, that enticing comfy couch, Facebook):

  • Put a specific workout time on your planner/calendar, so it has a set time in your day, not just a “when I get some down time”.
  • You can choose to integrate some of these slowly during a movie or show. Choose to not fast forward through the commercials, and do these exercises during that time.
  • Elect to require yourself to do the workout before you are able to do something else, such as doing them in the morning before you have coffee, or in the evening before you’re allowed to have a glass of wine.
  • Invite your spouse, neighbor, teenager to do these with you if you need an extra boost in motivation or accountability.

Stay optimistic, and realistic! You will not do an at-home workout and suddenly be a fitness star. But you will slowly start to see changes in your muscle tone, your motivation level, and your understanding of different exercises. This will (hopefully) lead to a desire to want to try and learn more – such as integrating weights, or trying new equipment at a gym. Just like when you were learning to read as a kid, you have to first build a basic foundation of understanding, until one day you’re just rocking it!

Good luck! Ask me questions if you need help. Reach out if you’re interested in any of my training packages too.

Tone It Up – The Basics of Weightlifting

Weightlifting 101 Infographic

We each have our different styles and preferences when it comes to strengthening our muscles, but here’s some important information to keep in mind as you train:

– If you don’t/can’t maintain proper form through the entire motion of each exercise, you WILL injure yourself. You WILL create a negative impression towards lifting. Ask for help from a professional if needed, or decrease the weight as you practice to get the form correctly.

– Do not lift everyday. If you are able to, then you didn’t use enough weight or do enough reps/sets the day before. Two or three times a week is enough. The other days can be left for cardio, Yoga, Pilates, body weight exercises or stretching for recovery. Your muscles NEED to rest or they will break down and not strengthen.

– If your heart rate needs it, or it’s just your exercise style, you may completely rest between sets (30-90 seconds) or move onto strengthening a different muscle while the first muscle rests, and then come back to it for another set/round.

– If you have absolutely no idea where to begin, or what exercises to do, ask a professional, or do your own research. Research is a bit more time-consuming, though cheaper. It won’t critique your form, but with basic, simple exercises you can start to build up a bank of exercises and increase from there.

Hey Monday – you do you, boo!

Mississippi Gulf Coast

It’s Monday again, and my advice to you this week is one of the more recent sayings of my generation – “You do you, boo.”

We can become overwhelmed trying to figure out how we are going to do everything, and if we are doing said things the correct way, that we sometimes get even more behind! So here’s my take on some of the popular life advice out there and how I think it can fit better into your life:

We frequently hear things we are supposed to be doing, such as — Eat healthy. Meditate. Pray more. Find “Me Time”. Exercise. Ensure our children get 60+ minutes of active play. Make goal lists. Keep our house clean. Become minimalists. Embrace nature. Travel. Read to our kids. Always be striving towards a new challenge.

Look, LIFE is a challenge enough without my now to-do list on how to tackle it correctly!

So let me break it down:

1) Eat Healthy. Don’t get caught up in the latest diet trend trying to figure out what is/is not the right one, or start shoveling anything that says organic into your mouth in an attempt to make yourself feel better. If you’ve been eating like crap, pick up an apple. Slice up some cucumbers. Add some non-greased-up food into your life and check it off the list.

2) Meditate. This doesn’t mean you have to sit down for 20 minutes and then be stressed 20 minutes later that you “wasted” 20 minutes. To one person 20-minutes of calmness might be exactly what they need, and to another it may be popping on headphones and dancing while you check “vacuum the house” off your list.

3) Pray more. I’m bad at this one, and I don’t have much advice to give other than if you believe in some higher being and praying to Him/Her makes you feel better, then yes, get on it. Maybe before you pick up that phone in the morning, or as you close your eyes at night. Seems simple and reasonable enough, doesn’t it? I’ll work on it.

4) Exercise. I think this can tackle “me time” at the same time can’t it? Music in the headphones, daydreaming that you’re an amazing karaoke star shocking everyone you know (Am I the only weirdo that does this?) or watching HGTV on the gym’s treadmill.

5) Ensure our kids get 60+ minutes of active play. Accept that some days this won’t happen. Accept that sometimes you’re running around to appointments. Or that it’s 105* outside and Mom is no mood to feel like a roasted pig. Forgive yourself – and then figure out how this can actually be achieved. Recess at school? Great! Kid goes to an after school sports activity? Perfect! Send him/her out in the yard while you get in your exercise? That works too!

6) Make goal lists. If you know what they are, do not get yourself into a frenzy about not being organized and fancy about your goals. If you know what they are, and whether you’re working to achieve them, and you’re happy with that, then carry on.

7) Keep our house clean. I like to clean on Mondays because the weekend can bring about anything, and if it’s spent at home there’s bound to be dirt and chaos somewhere. Remember you’re making memories in that house, not a catalog photoshoot. Yes, let it look the way you want, with the decor and comfort that makes it feel like your space, but every homeowner has sticky crap on their baseboard from some unknown substance somewhere, so nobody is perfect, and don’t you let anyone tell you otherwise!

8) Become minimalists. I agree that extra unused stuff has got to go, but I am not to be made to feel guilty when I find cute, yet realistically unnecessary fall decor. If you see the pumpkin, want the pumpkin, can afford the pumpkin, don’t let this self-righteous feeling of minimalism make you feel guilty about that pumpkin. Buy it, move on, go box up something at home and donate it. It’s all a give and take, right?

9) Embrace nature. Y’all I love being outside in the sunshine. A cool unexpected breeze is the best. But trekking through the woods not knowing when a snake or other unexpected creature may lurk is not my style, unless I’m with a group of people and one of them can become the victim instead of me. Find the nature that makes you actually enjoy it – me, I love the beach! I can sit there all day and night. But I can’t get there everyday, because I have things to do. Find your nature, and get there when you need to recharge.

10) Travel. Yes it is the best thing in the world to actually see and experience the world, but we all have different budgets and priorities.

11) Read to our kids. Sometimes time is not on our side and those little crazies just need to sleep. I get that parent guilt of not reading to them just before bed – I know it’s real, I feel it! Most nights mine get books, but I have to remind myself that they did read at school. They did get the whole rest of their day tailored to them, and if it’s way past their bedtime, or mom is just DONE, they need to sleep. So push the guilt aside. You’re not alone if you miss a night. If they got it elsewhere, I will say this again – Forgive. Yourself.

12) Always be striving towards a new challenge. If life is currently a challenge for you, don’t add another one. Don’t feel guilty because you’re not studying or training for something. Get what you have going on now in order, then consider adding something later. And if you don’t want to – that’s fine, go find that nature you’re supposed to be seeking, pack a veggie sub, meditate and do some yoga. You’ve got the time, right?

Nobody has the answers on how to do all of this correctly. You do you, boo.

Just Another Motivated Monday

Monday is up there for one of my favorite days of the week. Yes, Monday. I’ve never quite understood the “Monday Blues” thing, but maybe if I was trapped in a job or environment I didn’t want to be in, then I’d get it.

Here we are on another Monday. Another fresh start. Another chance to grab this week by the you-know-whats and make him your you-know-who. (I’m trying not to use foul language here, please tell me you understood that sentence.)

So how does one combating the Monday Blues, start the week off on the right foot and keep the motivation going the rest of the week? Even if you partied too hard, or feel overwhelmed and exhausted – You. Can. Still. Do. This.

Step 1: Make A List (but you may have to rethink how you make that list)

Yes, I know a list is not a new revelation, but I want you to consider how you write that list. Often we put big ticket items on our to-do lists when its the little items that are actually clogging up our brain. We all have those pesky tasks that nag us but never seem important enough to handle. “One day I’ll get to it.” I agree, sometimes life is too busy to sweat the small stuff, but if you’re already sweating it, you’re not going to cool down until it’s handled. If every time you open that guest bedroom closet you groan in annoyance at the clutter, then clear the clutter. Put it on the list and handle it. If something is clogging up space in your mind, you’ll never make room for the big ticket items until it’s done.

Unless something is due by a specific date, make the list for the entire week. This way it allows you the freedom to pick and choose what items you handle each day and you can delight in your productivity as you watch the items be ticked off everyday, instead of mumbling about daily items being carried over to the next day’s tasks.

Step 2: Don’t start Monday off with crappy food choices.

If your health and well-being is a priority in your life, then starting Monday off with terrible food choices is not going to get your mental health started off right. Yes it is highly likely at some point during the week you’ll eat something maybe you could have replaced with a healthier option, but you’re more likely to feel okay with it, to forgive yourself for it, to not have a grumpy attitude about it, if its not on Monday. Grab a piece of fruit, or make an egg white omelette (I’m not against regular eggs, I just think egg whites are easier for omelette flipping) and get your Monday energy a healthy kickstart!

Step 3: Prepare yourself for that “Ah crap!” moment.

Without fail, something always happens that causes an, “Ah crap!” Like you forgot to wash your child’s stinky uniform socks before today’s game. You forgot something was due and you’re currently experiencing a slow technology episode, and you’re five seconds away from throwing an inanimate object across the room. An emergency arises and you “do not have time for this!” It is going to come. Accept it. Own it. Yell incoherent noises if you have to, but when the mayhem is over, it’s over. You cannot allow that one panicked time to completely mess up your positivity and accept defeat. None of that, “Ugh, I give up, maybe next week will be better.” If it’s Wednesday, this week isn’t over, so maybe in an hour life will be calmer again, if you allow it to be.

We all know that so much of life is determined by attitude. To get happy results, we must have a happy outlook. Make your lists. Eat that energizing food. Accept the mayhem when it happens, because it happens to all of us, and keep trucking along. Get that Motivated Monday started, and if Monday sucks, there’s always To-Do-It Tuesday. And if Tuesday sucks too, there’s always Winning Wednesday….