52 Healthy Habits: A Rant on Sugar, Cocaine and Artificial Sweeteners

One thing I love about writing a blog is it that it gives me a chance to air my grievances (even when it isn't Festivus!) to no one in particular and everyone on the internet all at the same time. 

When things bother me, I usually tell my husband, but when I start to notice his eyes glaze over I know it's time to get it out in writing. He even told me once, "You need to blog about that because I stopped listening 10 minutes ago." Hah. At least he's honest. 

I am not usually someone who rants. I usually keep things that bother me bottled up inside until it explodes...like a normal person. Just kidding. 

Last Friday we had a health fair at my corporate marketing job. It was a half day event when speakers came in to educate us with seminars and they served a delicious healthy lunch. It's a great benefit and I usually look forward to hearing speakers on various topics. It gets me out from my cubicle for a few hours and immersed in the world I love, heath and fitness. 

scenes from our healthy lunch - colorful mini peppers.

scenes from our healthy lunch - colorful mini peppers.

One of the speakers was a doctor. When you have some letters behind your name and a book under your belt you command a certain amount of respect and authority. Everything started out great. He showed us a sugar cube that equaled four grams of sugar. He taped plastic baggies of these sugar cubes to popular food products that are often marketed as healthy options. That box of organic bran cereal? Six cubes (24 grams of sugar) per serving...and watch out, that serving size is only 3/4 cup. So-called healthy yogurt? As many sugar cubes as a can of Coke. It can be eye-opening for someone who never really thought about hidden added sugars in their diet.

It was a great visual representation of the amount of sugar in processed foods and how, if we don't pay attention, the sugar adds up quickly and can hurt our health and body composition. It is a an important message that most people need to hear, but this is where things went south, in my opinion. 

He then recommended to replace the sugar in our diet with artificial sweeteners (he said he preferred to call them sugar substitutes) and not to eat any foods with more than 2 grams of sugar per serving, and this is where he really lost me....not even fruit.

He suggested that when you are in the produce section of the grocery store to think of bananas and grapes (and sometimes apples) as bad and berries as good. My takeaway from his message was that all sugar is bad and artificial sweeteners are the solution to the sugar problem because they do not spike blood sugar or raise insulin levels. 

He said sugar causes the same reaction in the brain as cocaine. Message received doc, Cocaine bad = Fruit bad. 

Look, I'm no doctor. This guy is clearly educated. He went to medical school and treated cancer patients. I respect that level of commitment and service. I went to a community college and have some personal training and nutrition certs. He obviously is far ahead on the education front. But I have something he has seemed to miss: Common sense, or at least context. 

It is irresponsible to tell the general population that fruit is bad and artificial sweeteners are the solution to the sugar problem. Yes, bananas are high in natural sugars but they are also nutrient-rich and have benefits. Are there better things you could eat? Maybe. But is it the worst choice? Absolutely not. Is natural sugar as bad as cocaine? Let's not be ridiculous. (To be fair, he didn't say that directly.) No matter what your health and fitness goals are, a banana, a cupped handful of grapes or an apple is generally a good, healthy choice for most people.

I like to look at all foods on a continuum. What food choice would be a little bit better? What food choice would be worse? If we are always inching towards making healthier, better choices, we are on the right track. We have to get away from all the all-or-nothing, it's either good or it's bad mentality. 

NUTRITION INFO

One small-to-medium sized banana (100g) contains about 89 calories, 1.10g protein, 0.33g of fat, 22.84g of carbohydrates, 2.60g of fiber, and 12.23g of sugar.

Bananas are rich in potassium, vitamin C, and manganese.

 

We can get into a discussion about high level athletes or physique stage competitors with body composition goals and how eliminating certain foods (temporarily!) can help them meet these aesthetic goals. However, in the context of our health fair, we are talking to office workers who are sedentary for at least eight hours a day looking to improve their lifestyle and eating habits. For general health and weight loss, moderate amounts of fruit is A-ok.

Most people eat a poor diet and a piece of fruit would be an improvement on a daily snack. Herein lies the problem: If you label fruit as bad, and you already know that a Snickers bar is bad, maybe you would just choose the snickers bar because it tastes better. After all, they are both bad, right? Um. No. 

When people start to label food as good or bad it causes all kinds of problems. It can lead to nutrient deficiencies and maybe worse, disordered eating or thinking. Especially when things get labeled as bad that are, in fact, nutritionally beneficial. For health (body and mind) we should aim to eat a wide variety of whole, minimally processed foods that we enjoy, in proper portions.

We are not talking about the nuisances of food intolerances, diabetes or other outliers. My problem is telling a room full of office workers that fruit is a generally a bad choice for them.

Nutrition isn't as hard as the industry would have us believe. It's just that there are so many mixed messages, that people start to get confused. Most people don't need to worry about the possible downside of eating a piece of fruit because they are still drinking soda, eating processed foods or restaurant meals on a regular basis and sleeping five hours a night. Let's work on improving the basics before we start talking about advanced diet strategies. 

On the subject of artificial sweeteners, I don't mind artificial sweeteners...wait for it...in moderation. Like anything else, what you do every day is more important than what you do occasionally. I happen to like the taste of Diet Coke, probably because I drank it most of my adult life. These days, I don't drink it often, but when I am craving a Coke, I go for the diet option. If I preferred the taste of regular Coke I would go that route. It is an occasional indulgence, not an everyday activity. For me, it's no problem.

I don't, however, recommend artificial sweeteners as a solution to your sugar problem. They are probably fine for most people in moderation, but we should be aiming to move towards whole natural foods whenever possible. If the problem is too much sugar, let's fix the problem by reducing added sugar intake (mostly by reducing processed foods), not just band-aid it by replacing all of our sugar intake with artificial sweeteners. 

I am all about balance, finding that sweet spot of sanity and sustainability. What healthy foods do you enjoy eating? Eat more of those. What not-so healthy foods make you feel like crap later? Eat less of those. Learn to tune in to your body's natural signals. If a less-than-healthy (notice I didn't say 'bad') food brings you joy, then definitely enjoy it in moderation without guilt. It sounds overly simplistic, but when nutrition is so far off track, it's exactly what we need: simplicity. 

I'm no smarty pants doctor but if you like bananas, go ahead and eat them. 

For my 52 Healthy habits this week, I encourage you to eat a piece of healthy, natural fruit every day this week, limit added sugars and artificial sweeteners and oh yeah, don't use cocaine. How's that for health advice? Who wants to hire me to speak at their health fair? My presentation will be called 'A Rant on Sugar, Cocaine and Artificial Sweeteners' Hah. 

Seriously. Need help with your nutrition strategy? Tired of dieting? Want help making healthy choices part of your lifestyle while staying sane and balanced? My nutrition and lifestyle coaching program begins in June, get on the list for a big pre-sale discount. 

Do you agree? I'd love it if you would share.

Need to catch up on the 52 healthy habits series? 

52 HEALTHY HABITS SERIES

week 1: Early to Rise
week 2: Track calories
week 3: Macro cycling
week 4: Morning pages (journaling)
week 5: Stop the scrolling (reading instead of social media)
week 6: Be a good student (take time for learning) 
week 7: Strength Training 15 minutes per day   
week 8: Eat more protein
week 9: Take a coffee break (break from caffeine)
week 10: Mindful eating
week 11: Create and follow a sleep ritual
week 12: 10 Easy ways to eat more vegetables

Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

Are you a Dallas/Fort Worth local? Join us for my free Saturday morning bootcamps

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.

How To Cut Carbs Without Cutting Your Sanity

Let me start by saying that I love carbohydrates. It's my favorite macronutrient. Our bodies need carbs, especially if we are athletes. Who am I to deny my body something it needs. Amiright? 

Food is not just about nutrients and fuel, it is also about enjoyment. We need to find the balance of what we enjoy eating and what is good for our bodies. Let's find the sweet spot of sanity and sustainability. What healthy eating habits can we sustain for the rest of our lives?

If you tell me I can never have a carb again, then we are not friends. That is simply not sustainable for my lifestyle. I want to be healthy, but I also want to enjoy my life. Finding that balance is key. 

Cutting carbs is popular on the diet circuit because when we cut carbs we lose water right away and the number goes down on the scale. It isn't magic. In the beginning it is likely water weight. It's great. You look a little leaner, the scale shows a lower number and the button isn't popping off your pants anymore. You probably didn't lose fat, but you lost weight. I get it. It feels good. 

When we cut carbs we also cut calories. If you order a hamburger without the bun, you just cut 150-300 calories from your meal. The calorie deficit is also contributing to your weight loss.

I don't have any issues with limiting carb intake to reach body composition goals, the problem arises when we ignore our bodies feedback and take it too far. Our bodies have a way of telling us what it needs. We just need to get in tune with our bodies to hear these messages. 

Carbohydrates aren't bad. When we demonize foods we end up unbalanced and risk nutrient deficiencies. Our ultimate goal should always be health and balance. That includes a healthy body and mind. We shouldn't stress about any foods.

Our bodies are all different and we have different tolerances to carbohydrates. While some people may thrive on a low carbohydrate diet all the time, others will be grumpy, low energy and...did I mention grumpy? (Raises hand.) It's all about experimenting with carb intake and honestly assessing how you look, feel and perform. If you look, feel and perform your best on a low carb diet, then go for it. If you feel like $hit after day three and your workout sucks, maybe it's time to eat some oatmeal.

We are all individuals and have individual nutrient needs. Just because your friend claims to to have lost 20 pounds and feels great on a low carb diet, doesn't mean your body will react the same way. In turn just because I feel like crap on a low carb diet doesn't mean all my clients will too. As a nutrition coach, it is not about pushing my personal diet strategies on my clients, it is about working with them to establish a protocol that works best for their body. 

The key to achieving all the benefits of a low carb diet without going crazy is in carb quality and carb timing. 

FOCUS ON CARB QUALITY

The first way to cut carbs without cutting sanity is to simply cut out processed carbs. If we limit our carb intake to whole foods we eliminate most of the problems with carbs. Carbs aren't bad in themselves, it just so happens that most processed foods are carbs.

If you first work to eliminate or reduce the white flour, added sugar, salty snacks, most packaged foods, cereal, beer and soda you cut out the carbs that are less than ideal. What's left? Fruit, oatmeal, potatoes, whole grains, vegetables, quinoa and rice as some examples. If you limit processed foods and added sugars, that is probably all the carbs that most people need to cut. Especially athletes.

I am also not saying never to eat a potato chip or slice of pizza again, just that these things should be the exception, not the rule. What you do daily matters more than what you do once in awhile.

CARB TIMING

Once you have already reduced processed carbs from your diet you can take it to the next level with carb timing by consuming most your carbs for the day right before and after your workouts and reducing carb intake on your rest days. This is an effective way to ensure your body gets the carbs it needs to perform well, while reducing the chances that there will be excess calories that lead to fat storage. 

Remember that carbs don't make you fat. Fat doesn't make you fat. Calorie surplus over energy needs is a major factor in fat storage. It's about balance. 

Focus on eating whole nutrient-dense foods in proper portions from a variety of food sources for happy healthy body and mind. 

HOW'S THAT WORKING FOR YOU?

There is a lot of controversy surrounding nutrition and people can have very strong beliefs about their diet approach, the best way to eat healthfully and lose weight. The truth is there is no one best diet. Each of our bodies are different and only we know how our bodies respond to different diet philosophies. The problem only arises when we ignore our body's natural feedback in order to stick to a diet that clearly isn't working for us. The bottom line is that if you can honestly say that you LOOK, FEEL and PERFORM your best, then I'd say keep doing whatever you are doing. 

Me? I'm sticking with healthy carbs. Need help with your nutrition strategy? Tired of dieting? Want help making healthy choices while staying sane and balanced? My nutrition and lifestyle coaching program begins in June, get on the list for a big pre-sale discount. 

Like this post? I'd love it if you would share.

Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

Are you a Dallas/Fort Worth local? Join us for my free Saturday morning bootcamps

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.

 

 

 

MINI BAND EXERCISES FOR RUNNERS

Welcome to the latest edition of Workout Wednesday! When I talk to runners about strength training we often talk about minimum required dose. Runners aren't usually thrilled of the idea of spending hours in the gym each week. They run because they love to run. They strength train (or they probably should) because they want to be a stronger, faster runner while reducing the chances of injury.

Minimum required dose is the least amount we can do to get results. The truth is you don't need to spend hours and hours in the gym each week. You can spend 10-15 minutes at the end of each run, or 30 minutes three times a week or an hour twice a week. It depends on your goals, your lifestyle, your preferences and your abilities.

My friend took these pictures for me in the #ShredShed and she sent me this GIF. 

My friend took these pictures for me in the #ShredShed and she sent me this GIF. 

If you want to be a great runner it makes sense to spend a lot of time running. However, investing the time in strength training often yields big results for runners. It is OK to start small and build over time. A little strength training is always better than none. Our goal should be to become well-rounded athletes. 

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click on a link in the post and make a purchase I make a small percentage of the sale with no additional cost to you. No one is getting rich here, it just helps with the running (pun intended) of this blog. 

This is why I love mini bands. They are very inexpensive, portable and the exercises can be done anywhere at anytime (well, maybe not in the halls at work or school). You don't need to invest a lot of money into strength training equipment, these little bands provide plenty of resistance. You could even put one in your running belt so you can squeeze in some exercises after your outdoor run. 

 

This weekend I hit the #Shredshed to show you some exercises you can do to incorporate glute/hip strength training into your running routine. Weak hips are often the missing link for runners and can be the source of all kinds of problems and injuries. A little pre-hab can go a long way in injury prevention. 

If you are brand new to this or if you don't have mini bands, you can do these exercises without the bands to start and then add bands in a few weeks in order to continue to progress. Our bodies adapt to the exercises that we do, so every three to four weeks look for ways to make the exercise harder, either by adding more resistance, more reps, more sets, more days, etc. 

I recommend starting by incorporating these exercises at the end of an easy run day two times per week. Start with 2 sets of 10 reps of each exercise. I like to do them in circuit fashion, moving from one exercise to the next with little break, then repeating the circuit one more time.

You can buy mini bands here on Amazon.

Coach's Tip

Be careful not to let your knees collapse inward when performing any of these exercises. Work to keep your knees out and inline with your toes. 

what NOT to do.

what NOT to do.

Good luck! Give it a try after your next easy run and let me know if you feel the burn! 

Like this post? It helps me a lot when you share or save to Pinterest.

Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

Are you a Dallas/Fort Worth local? Join us for my free Saturday morning bootcamps

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.

52 Healthy Habits: 10 Easy Ways To Eat More Vegetables

Welcome to the latest edition of 52 healthy habits, when each week I tackle a new healthy habit. Healthy habits are the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle. In this series we look for ways to take small steps forward towards a healthier body and mind. It's not about overhauling our whole lives, it's about tackling one small lifestyle change at a time.

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, from beginner to elite athlete, there is always room for incremental improvements. It's the small things that snowball into big changes. Consistently improving your lifestyle will yield lasting results.

As much controversy that exists around diet and nutrition, one thing that is almost universally agreed upon is that most of us need to eat more vegetables. If you shudder at the thought of choking down soggy steamed squash, I have some better ideas. Vegetables are healthy, convenient and delicious!

This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I make a small percentage of the sale with no extra cost to you. No one is getting rich here it just helps with the running (pun intended) of this blog. 

WHY VEGGIES?

Vegetables are high in nutrients and fiber and generally low in calories. They help you feel fuller, longer with less calories. They help fill you up and keep your digestive system healthy. For best results try a variety of multi-colored veggies. Look to add a variety of green, red, orange, purple and yellow vegetables to your diet. It's nearly impossible to overeat vegetables, so next time you're looking for a side dish, a meal or a snack, a vegetable is always a great choice.

10 EASY WAYS EAT MORE VEGETABLES

Add veggies to your eggs

Cut up some peppers, onions, mushrooms and spinach to scramble into your morning eggs. I often prep the vegetables by cutting them up on Sunday for the week, then in the morning, I can just grab a handful and toss into the pan with my eggs. 

Add spinach to your protein shake

An easy, sneaky way to get in a serving of greens is to add a handful of spinach or other leafy greens to your protein shake. When you mix it up with fruit and protein powder you won't even taste it. Think about what other veggies can you add for an anti-oxidant boost. Carrots, celery, cucumbers and beets are all good choices. 

Eat a small spinach salad with every meal

Instead of a side of processed carbs, order or make a salad as a side to your main dish or eat a salad with a lean protein as your meal. You can choose the convenience of pre-washed salad or choose raw spinach that needs washed and cut for a much lower cost. 

Snack on raw veggies

Raw veggies make a great snack. You can chop and wash them yourself to save money or buy them already cut and prepped for convenience. Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers and celery are all great choices. 

Buy frozen veggies

Frozen vegetables have nearly the same nutrient profile as fresh vegetables. Even if we lose a little in the process, frozen vegetables are still better than not consuming vegetables at all, or say, ordering a pizza. In other words, we do the best we can with what we have. When in a pinch, steamed frozen veggies can be a great option for a quick healthy serving of vegetables.

Add double veggies to a casserole

Casserole dishes are an easy way to sneak in some extra veggies. Just chop and add, or use frozen, you really can't go wrong. Shredded vegetables, like zucchini or summer squash, can be added to your favorite casserole dish without affecting taste or texture.

Dip and spice up

Vegetables don't have to be boring. Uses spices to flavor cooked vegetables. Melt cheese over your broccoli, dip those raw vegetables into a guacamole mixture or make your own Greek yogurt-based dip. 

Make veggie noodles or spaghetti squash

I love spaghetti squash. It is easy to prepare and when you top with pasta sauce and parmesan cheese you may not even realize you're eating a vegetable.

I also love those veggie spiralizers that turn your zucchini, carrots or summer squash into pasta-like noodles.

Join a vegetable co-op

Join a local vegetable co-op to try a variety of fruits and vegetables. You support local farmers while getting an opportunity to try different types of vegetables you normally wouldn't buy. Variety is a huge factor to ensure we are getting all of our vitamin and mineral needs. 

Supplement with powdered greens

Once you added all the whole foods you can in your meals, it may be time to supplement if you still are not meeting your requirements. Whole foods are always better, but a powdered greens supplement can help fill in the nutritional gaps. 

Just try one or two of these suggestions this week to add more vegetables in your diet. I always like to look at a diet as what we can add, rather than what we will take away. If we add vegetables first, we may be less likely to fill up on less-healthy alternatives. 

Are you with me? 

Need to catch up on the 52 healthy habits series? 

52 HEALTHY HABITS SERIES

week 1: Early to Rise
week 2: Track calories
week 3: Macro cycling
week 4: Morning pages (journaling)
week 5: Stop the scrolling (reading instead of social media)
week 6: Be a good student (take time for learning) 
week 7: Strength Training 15 minutes per day   
week 8: Eat more protein
week 9: Take a coffee break (break from caffeine)
week 10: Mindful eating
week 11: Create and follow a sleep ritual

Like this post? It helps me when you share or save to Pinterest. 

 

Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

Are you a Dallas/Fort Worth local? Join us for my free Saturday morning bootcamps

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.

How to Set Goals That Stick: Process vs. Outcome

It's April and a great time to review those New Year Resolutions. Remember those? How's it going? We've had three months to kick off our new year goals. If you are rocking and rolling then congratulations on being part of the small percentage of people that stick to their New Year goals after March 1st. 

If you've struggled to stay committed or forgot all about those goals by now, never fear, we don't have to wait until 2018 to give it another go. April is a new quarter and a perfect opportunity for a new start or a chance to evaluate (maybe change?) those original goals. The truth is if you made big goals for 2017 and they didn't pan out exactly as you hoped, it probably is not your fault. It's the fault of the goal itself. We are human and have certain universal limiting factors. We can make intense goals then try to white-knuckle our way into achieving them using willpower and extreme self-discipline but that hardly ever works. The better way to lasting change is to change the way we set goals. 

HOW TO SET GOALS THAT STICK

You know about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, right? Make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. These are all important factors for goal setting. In a nutshell, instead of saying that your goal is to lose weight, it is better to say that you want to lose 10 pounds of fat in two months by exercising 4 times a week and reducing calories by 250 per day. Be specific as possible with a goal that you can measure, that is realistic and doable within a reasonable timeframe. 

The biggest issue with most goals is that they are outcome-based goals alone. It's OK to have outcome-based goals (lose fat, run faster, lift heavier), the problem is that we can't always control the outcomes. We can't wish for our goals to come true, we have to work for them. The trouble is that our bodies can be snarky (yes, it's a word) and sometimes even if it seems we do everything right, we still don't see the outcomes we want in the time we expect. That can be frustrating and cause some people to become disheartened and give up.

Some of that may just be having realistic expectations. If it took you five years to put on extra weight, it's just not realistic to expect that you will lose it in two weeks or two months. Yes, we all want results as quickly as possible, but slow and steady wins the race. The secret sauce is finding the sweet spot between sanity and sustainability. We want to set goals we can achieve over the long term without driving ourselves crazy. Healthy lifestyle includes healthy body and healthy mind. If your goals are making you miserable, interfering with your family and social life or making you feel bad about yourself, it might be time to refine your goals. 

SETTING PROCESS GOALS

You set your outcome-based goals (lose fat, run faster, lift heavier, etc.). The next most important thing to do is set your process goals. What are the things you need to do each day in order to achieve your goals? If your goal is to lose fat, then your process-based goals probably would look like something this:

Cardio exercise 3 times a week for 30-45 minutes with one intense interval session, full body strength training 2-3 times a week, 8-10k steps a day and reduce calorie intake by 250-350 calories per day, reduce added sugar intake to under 20 grams a day. (This is just an example, if you are starting from zero, then you would build up to this over time.)

Your goal would be to check off each day or each week that you completed the process goals. At the end of two weeks you might decide to reward yourself (healthfully) for completing all your process goals, even if you didn't see large improvements in your outcome goal. 

If you are nailing the process goals, they become habit. When healthy habits are part of your lifestyle they go a long way to helping you achieve those outcome goals. It's about sustainable actions over the long term. It's not what you can do in one hour or in one week, it's about what you can sustain over the long term. In other words, it is better to lose 40 pounds slowly over six months, than it is to starve yourself, lose it quickly and then gain it back because you reached your goal weight and loosened up on your unsustainable practices. Trust me when I tell you I learned this lesson the hard way.

Here is an example: I am studying for my Precision Nutrition Sports and Exercise Nutrition Level 1 certification. I set process goals and outcome goals each week. My goals last week were to study one hour each night for six nights and at lunch three days per week. I planned to complete three chapters in seven days. See how I included both process and outcome goals? 

Ollie, my study buddy.

Ollie, my study buddy.

At the end of the week I met my process goals but not my outcome goal. I studied each night and at lunch as I had planned but only completed two out of three chapters because I underestimated the length of the chapters and therefore had unrealistic expectations of my outcome this week. It took me longer to get through chapters 13 and 14 than anticipated. I was tempted to rush through the workbook questions in order to finish faster and possibly be able to get in another chapter this week, but I quickly realized that hurrying through the chapter to meet some arbitrary goal was not serving me and my larger purpose (you know, to actually learn this stuff).

So I slowed down and did what was realistic and sustainable. I am closing in on the end of this certification, so an extra few days or an extra week won't make a difference once I am certified, but slowing down to make sure I learn the material is key to my success with the program. I still consider the week a success because I did the actions I needed to do to meet my long term term goal (pass the certification test). 

You see, my outcome goal was unrealistic but I didn't know it until I started the process. This often can happen with our health and fitness goals. Rushing through or trying to speed up the process does not serve us in the long term. 

(Edited to include that I passed the certification test!)

ACTION STEPS

Set your outcome-based big goals, then decide on the actions you need to take each day and each week to reach your goals. Then focus heavily on these process-based goals. Judge your success by your completion of the process goals. If you are unable to complete your process goals, make them smaller until they are achievable. Failed to workout for an hour four times last week? This week try to achieve just 30 minutes 3 times. You have the rest of your life to progress forward. Start small for the best chances of success. A 15 minute workout that you completed is always better than an hour workout you didn't have time to do. 

It's important that your process goals are sustainable. What can you do every day for the long term without driving yourself crazy?

Experiment and find out and you'll be well on your way to achieving all your goals. 

Like this post? It helps me when you share.

Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

Are you a Dallas/Fort Worth local? Join us for my free Saturday morning bootcamps

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.

 

 

 

 

Rock 'n' Reps Pyramid Workout

Are you ready to Rock 'n' Rep? Welcome to the latest edition of Workout Wednesday! This week I have a quick workout for you to try after your next easy run. It's the Rock 'n' Reps Pyramid workout. The rock part is an isometric hold. This means you hold the position for the time indicated. You can you use a timer or just count one-mississippi, two-mississippi, etc. Then perform the assigned amounts of reps for each exercise. 

SQUAT PYRAMID

5 second isometric squat hold, 5 reps
10 second isometric squat hold, 10 reps
15 second isometric squat hold, 15 reps
10 second isometric squat hold, 10 reps
5 second isometric squat hold, 5 reps

PLANK AND PUSH-UP PYRAMID

5 second isometric plank, 5 push-ups
10 seconds isometric plank, 10 push-ups
15 second isometric plank, 15 push-ups
10 seconds isometric plank, 10 push-ups
5 seconds isometric plank, 5 push-ups

BRIDGE PYRAMID

5 second isometric bridge hold, 5 reps
10 second isometric bridge hold, 10 reps
15 second isometric bridge hold, 15 reps
10 second isometric bridge hold, 10 reps
5 second isometric bridge hold, 5 reps

This is also a fun one to try if you have a partner. One partner would perform the reps while the other partner holds and then switch roles before you work up and down the pyramid time/reps.

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Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

Are you a Dallas/Fort Worth local? Join us for my free Saturday morning bootcamps

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.

52 Healthy Habits: Create and Follow a Sleep Ritual

Welcome to the latest edition of 52 healthy habits when each week we tackle a new healthy habit together. 

Last week our healthy habit was mindful eating. This includes paying attention to hunger and fullness signals, eating slower and avoiding all distractions during meals. This was harder than I anticipated. I didn't even notice that it had become a habit for me to catch up on my Facebook feed in the morning while I shovel in my breakfast. After all, I don't have a lot of time in the morning. I was multi-tasking, but at what cost? While I was catching up on my "on this day" Facebook updates I was scarfing down my eggs, barely tasting them or even noticing that I was eating. I had developed this bad habit that I didn't even realize until I started to pay attention. 

It seems easy so I was surprised when I struggled last week. Sitting at the table in the morning without my phone felt weird and I felt oddly anxious. I tried counting my bites and setting the fork down between bites like we talked about last week. It sounds easy, it was harder than I thought. It is definitely something I need to continue to work on. But that's why we do this, right? Small improvements every week. 

I also want to mention that my caffeine reset from two weeks went well. I mean besides the misery that was the first five days, of course. I went two full weeks without coffee to reset my tolerance. I only intended to go for one week, but felt so great after those pesky headaches went away that I extended it for another week. After two weeks I am ready to reintroduce caffeine. I am looking forward to my Monday morning cup of coffee and i'm sure i'll feel its positive effects after just one cup. 

CREATE AND FOLLOW A SLEEP RITUAL

In our busy lifestyles we often glorify lack of sleep. Someone might even brag that they get by on five hours of sleep, but they are missing out on the fact that most of our body's recovery processes happens during sleep. If you are eating well, exercising, but not feeling great or seeing the results you desire, then lack of sleep may be to blame. Most adults should aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. If you are getting a lot less than that, start by adding just 30 minutes a night. 

We always seem to be looking for the magic bullet to achieve our health and fitness goals, trying new supplements, intense workout routines, macro manipulation and meal timing. While these things can be helpful as we work to meet our goals, we shouldn't be attempting advanced strategies until the basics are covered. Sleep is an important basic. Are you getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep?

ESTABLISH A ROUTINE

Try to get up in the morning and go to bed at the same time each night (yes, even on weekends) in order to establish a sleep routine. 

TURN OFF ELECTRONICS

60 minutes before bed turn off electronics in order to prepare your brain for sleep. Shut down Facebook, put away the blogs (yes, even this one) and say goodnight to your Instagram friends. Try to read a book or magazine to unwind for an easier transition to sleep.

AVOID CAFFEINE & ALCOHOL

Alcohol may help you fall asleep but it will disrupt that much needed deep sleep. Caffeine may cause you to have trouble falling asleep in the first place. Try to avoid caffeine eight hours before bed. 

LIMIT WATER INTAKE BEFORE BED

To avoid getting up in the middle of night to use the potty, avoid excess fluid intake before bed. 

SET UP YOUR ENVIRONMENT FOR DEEP SLEEP

Sleep in a cool dark room. I wear a sleep mask. 

I am as guilty as any, scrolling my iPad while watching TV to unwind before bed. While I usually sleep 7-8 hours per night, I am going to work on improving the quality of my sleep by creating and following a healthy sleep ritual.

Are you with me this week? What can you do to increase the number of hours of sleep or to improve the quality of your sleep. Your body will thank you. 

 If you are interested in nutrition and lifestyle coaching starting in June get your name on the pre-sale list for a reduced introductory price. 

Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

Are you a Dallas/Fort Worth local? Join us for my free Saturday morning bootcamps

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.

 

 

Easy DIY Race Medal Hanger

Full disclosure: I'm terrible at DIY projects. I long to have the talent of those Pinterest sorceresses who magically turn random craft supplies into beautiful works of art. When I look for projects I usually search "kid friendly" to make sure it is within my scope of abilities. My largest limiting factor is patience. When I start a project, I just want it to be done, I don't want to wait for the paint to dry or to carefully cut out anything. Can't I just buy one? I needed a DIY project so easy that even I could do it. 

This idea to attempt my own DIY project stemmed from the fact that my current race medal holder is full and I saw one on Etsy that I loved for $75. It was gorgeous, but $75? It looked easy enough, maybe I could do that. I may not be good at DIY, but I had a backup plan...hubby! 

He actually had another big project going on around the house and my medal hanger was probably the last thing he wanted to focus on, but I think when he saw my sad DIY-self trying to spray paint chalkboard paint, he felt pity for me and helped...err...took over. 

posing with my project in front of the #shredshed

posing with my project in front of the #shredshed

MATERIALS

Shopping for supplies? That I can do. 

I walked all over Home Depot looking for the perfect piece of wood and actually ended up buying a particle board shelf because it was already primed and just about the perfect size.

From Home Depot I bought the shelf, a can of chalkboard spray paint, a wooden dowel rod, a couple of hooks. About $13 total

From Hobby Lobby I bought wooden letters and metal clips. $7

Does the teal color look familiar? It's leftover from the #Shredshed.

 

THE PROJECT

Hubs helped me tape off the board so I could spray the chalkboard paint. I was seriously annoyed when he told me we had to wait 24 hours for the chalkboard paint to dry before we could tape it off to paint the other side. Seriously? Ugh. Waiting. 

We (I use the word "we" liberally) painted the dowel rod white and cut it down to size. (Probably not in that order) Hah. 

I painted the letters, but I painted them on a magazine and that was a terrible idea. Don't do that. The paper stuck to the letters and I spent years (slight exaggeration) cutting the paper off the edges with a razor blade. I also used a paintbrush which was terrible idea number two. Hubby did the 2nd coat with a mini roller. 

lesson learned: Don't paint on a magazine

lesson learned: Don't paint on a magazine

Once everything finally dried and I cut off all that paper, hubs helped attach the clips, screw in the hooks and glue the letters. 

The idea was for it to say "RUN GOALS" and then I could write my current run goals in chalk under the letters. My super crafty-talented friend is going to help me paint the letters GOALS in white paint in some fancy hand lettering under the word run, but we haven't had a chance to get together on that yet. 

I know what you are thinking, For a DIY project, there is not a lot of "Y" going on. So maybe it's a DIYH (Do it Your Husband) or HDI (Husband Does It).

The Y in my DIY at work

The Y in my DIY at work

I'm grateful to have a hubby willing to help me with these types of projects, otherwise I might have had one of those Pinterest-fail pins to share. 

I think it turned out cute and best of all it was made with love. Perfect. Now I just need to add wall hangers on the back and find a spot for it in the #shredshed.

What do you think? Are you a DIY Queen or DIY-deficient, like me? 

Do you display your race medals? 

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It helps me when you share on save on Pinterest

 

Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

Are you a Dallas/Fort Worth local? Join us for my free Saturday morning bootcamps

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.

 

 

Interval Running Workouts to Increase Speed

Welcome to another edition of workout Wednesday. This week we are talking running intervals. Intervals are get a great way to improve speed, VO2max and running economy, especially when you are short on time. Intervals allow you to up the intensity for short periods of time to get the maximum afterburn effect. We are going to dive into different types of interval running workouts. Sprinkle these workouts into your training once or twice a week to reap the benefits of interval workouts.

TABATA

I love the Tabata protocol and if you only have four minutes to workout this is the interval for you. After warming up, run 20 seconds as hard as possible (95% of max heart-rate) then rest completely for 10 seconds. Complete 8 rounds for four minutes. That's one set. Recovery fully between sets. Repeat as many times as your fitness levels allows up to 30 minutes. 

TEMPO INTERVALS

A tempo pace is the fastest aerobic pace you can maintain for a steady-state run. It should feel comfortably-hard. If you ever raced a 5K for time, that is likely your tempo pace. With tempo intervals, after warming up, hold that pace, about 80% of max heart-rate for 15 minutes, then recover with a slow jog or walk for 5 minutes. Repeat.

Another tempo interval variation is to run for five minutes at a comfortably-hard pace, followed by five minutes of easy pace. Repeat for 30 minutes.

V02MAX INTERVALS

VO2max is the size of your aerobic engine. It's the maximum rate at which you consume oxygen and the best indicator of your aerobic fitness.

Warm up then run for 3 minutes hard at 95%-100% of max heart rate. This is the fastest you can run for three minutes without stopping. If you ran faster, you wouldn't be able to keep up the pace for three minutes, if you ran slower, you could probably go on longer than three minutes. It may take some experimenting to find your pace. Run three minutes at an easy pace to recover. Repeat according to your fitness ability up to 30 minutes.

HILLS

Every runner's' favorite interval workout is hills! Right? (crickets). This treadmill hill pyramid variation will challenge you. Hills are great for building strength. After warming up run one minute hard at 2% incline, then recover for one minute at 0% incline. Increase the incline each rep to 4%, 6%, 8%, then back down to 6%, 4%, 2% incline with a one minute easy jog recovery between reps at 0% incline.

Always warm up for 5-10 minutes before beginning a challenging workout and cooldown for 5 minutes once complete. Intervals workouts should be done 1-2 times a week for most runners and 3 times maximum for well-trained athletes. Always allow your body time to rest in-between intense workouts. Remember that adaptation (getting faster, stronger) happens during rest, not the workout. Allow your body the time to properly recover to reap the benefits of these challenging workouts!

Like this post? It helps me so much when you share or save to Pinterest.

Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

Are you a Dallas/Fort Worth local? Join us for my free Saturday morning bootcamps

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.

52 Healthy Habits: 4 Tips for Mindful Eating

Last week was rough. You may recall I gave up coffee as my weekly healthy habit in order to reset my caffeine tolerance. It is something that I do occasionally when my caffeine intake increases a lot and I realize that my morning cup (errr...I mean pot) of coffee just makes me feel normal rather than giving me an energy boost. It's an simple fix, give up caffeine for about a week to reset, then slowly introduce caffeine back into your diet. I said simple, not easy. 

I felt like crap all week. I was fine Monday morning, but by Monday evening the headaches started. I was cranky, irritable, unfocused and wasn't managing stress well (and it turned out to be an unusually stressful week). It took five solid days to feel normal, but once I got over the withdrawal symptoms, I felt clearer and better than ever. I think I am going to stay off coffee for one more week before I reintroduce it.

I was surprised to find that I enjoyed drinking my mint, caffeine-free tea in the morning as much as my coffee. I'm sure I will introduce coffee back into my diet eventually, but for now I am going to stay off caffeine.

WHAT IS MINDFUL EATING?

I may have mentioned that I am studying sports and exercise nutrition with Precision Nutrition. It is an amazing course and I am learning so much about the science of nutrition and lifestyle coaching. I should be able pass my exam by the end of April and I am introducing my nutrition and healthy lifestyle coaching services starting in June. 

In lifestyle coaching one of the key principles is to start with basics. It sounds like common sense (or un-common sense as hubs likes to say), but so many people are worried about supplements, meal timing and macro splits but don't have basic nutrition and healthy lifestyle habits in check. It sounds more exciting to try intermittent fasting or the ketogenic diet, and there is nothing wrong with those things in theory (possibly under the supervision of a Registered Dietitian), but if you are sleeping five hours a night and binge eating or drinking on the weekends, there are more important things to tackle first. 

Mindful (or intuitive) eating is one of the easiest ways to regulate intake and calorie balance because our bodies tells us what it needs. But because of our busy, technology-driven lifestyles, most of us (including me) have lost touch with the signals our body sends to tell us when we're full or hungry. We eat based on the time of day or our emotions and we clean our plates regardless of fullness signals.

A lot of us were brought up to clean our plates at dinner. My dad used to joke that I had to finish dinner or send the leftovers to a starving kid in Africa. (That's probably politically-incorrect to say now, but it was the 80s) We were taught not to be wasteful, but perhaps we should have been taught to listen to our body's signaling cues of hunger and fullness. 

Enter modern day technology and our hectic lifestyles and it got worse for all of us. Not only were we not listening to our bodies natural cues, but we were scarfing down food in the car on the way to work, or in front of the computer or TV. We lost our ability to sense hunger cues and we stopped enjoying our food. Yes, food is fuel, but food is meant to be savored and enjoyed. It's hard to do that while you're scrolling your Facebook feed over breakfast (I am as guilty as anyone).

Our bodies have built in signally cues to tell us what it needs. If we eat when we are not hungry and don't stop eating when we are physically satisfied, we can end up with a less than ideal body composition and overall health. 

5 TIPS FOR MINDFUL EATING

1. EAT SLOWLY

If you eat too quickly, your body doesn't have time to send the fullness signals to your brain and you may end up overeating or feeling stuffed 10-20 minutes later. There are several ways to tackle slowing down. One way is to time how long it usually takes you eat your meal, then try to add five minutes next time. Another way is to chew your food 20-30 times before swallowing. Try setting down your fork or taking a sip of water between bites. Choose the strategy that works best for you.

2. APPETITE AWARENESS

Hunger is a normal and healthy biological response. Fullness and satiation tells us when we've had enough. If we eat because it's a certain time of day, we are bored, upset or because of a habit (like always eating popcorn when we watch a movie on Friday night) then we might not be paying enough attention to our body's signaling cues. 

When you sit down to eat a meal, before you take the first bite, ask yourself how hungry you feel. Just be aware of your appetite. When you are eating slowly try to notice when you start to feel full or satisfied. Stop eating once you've had enough. Notice how you feel after each meal. Just taking the time to think about it can help you get back in tune with your appetite.

3. AVOID DISTRACTIONS

Turn off the TV, put away the cell phone at the table and don't try to eat while working at your desk. If you are a distracted eater then it's harder to pay attention to your body's cues. Have you ever scarfed down a meal in front of the computer and didn't even notice or taste it? I have. 

In our busy lifestyles it can be hard to do, but it is worth it to take the time to walk away from the technology and enjoy a meal. It's not to say you can never enjoy a meal while watching TV but it should be a conscious choice that is an exception, not a normal behavior. 

4. SAVOR FOOD

Pay attention to the food you are eating. Smell it. Look it at. Examine the texture. Think about the ingredients in it. Take note of what you observe. Even if you are enjoying an indulgent meal, take it slow. Sometimes when we slow down and think about the food we are eating, we discover that we really don't even enjoy some of those unhealthy foods, we eat them because they are cheap and/or convenient. Enjoy your food, no matter what you are eating, healthy or not. Take the time to savor your food and relish every bite. 

I am going to apply all these strategies this week. It will be a change for me to put away my phone and eat slowly. Will you also give it a try and let me know how it goes? If you are interested in nutrition and lifestyle coaching starting in June get your name on the pre-sale list for a reduced introductory price. 

Playing catch up? Follow along with the 52 Healthy Habits series:

52 HEALTHY HABITS SERIES

week 1: Early to Rise
week 2: Track calories
week 3: Macro cycling
week 4: Morning pages (journaling)
week 5: Stop the scrolling (reading instead of social media)
week 6: Be a good student (take time for learning) 
week 7: Strength Training 15 minutes per day   
week 8: Eat more protein
week 9: Take a coffee break (break from caffeine)
 

Like this post? Please consider sharing. 

Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

Are you a Dallas/Fort Worth local? Join us for my free Saturday morning bootcamps

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.

 

 

 

 

Beginner Kettlebell Circuit Workout for Runners

Welcome to the latest edition of Workout Wednesday! This week we are talking kettlebells! One of the reasons that I love kettlebells is that they are great for incorporating a cardio and strength workout in one. The kettlebell swing is a great exercise to get your heart pumping, and for that reason the swing is the cornerstone move in this kettlebell circuit workout for runners. 

I call it a beginner kettlebell workout because it is great for someone who is new to kettlebells to get a feel for the tool without too many complicated moves. There is nothing overly technical here (see notes below to ensure you are performing the swing correctly) and most of these exercises can be done with just a dumbbell too.