How to stick with your fitness routine

How to stick with your fitness routine

This was originally published back in 2011 … I’ve updated it and guess what? It’s still true!

It’s a roller coaster many of us have ridden …

You’ve been spot-on with your clean eating. Your workouts have been pretty stellar. Basically, you’re killing pretty much every area of your program.

And then … pizza happens. Or maybe an extra glass (or two) of wine. And then you miss a workout or two.

Suddenly, you are a failure. You suck. You can’t stick with anything. So, you do the only thing that makes sense. You throw up your hands and give up. 

DON’T DO IT! 

That’s an example of black-or-white thinking, and it never works. I’m gonna help you stop that, now.

How To Stick With Your Fitness Program

A while ago at a wellness class at my gym, we talked a lot about food and what/when to eat.

One thing that struck me is how we think that there are mythical humans – human who are NOT us – who always eat “perfectly” and who never indulge and/or are rarely tempted.

That person doesn’t exist. That’s a robot. Everyone slips up now and then, and it’s the way that we THINK about those slip-ups and manage them that makes all the difference.

Sometimes there’s pizza at work, and it shows up at the exact wrong moment – when you’re hungry or tired (key times when we are at risk), or when you least expect it. 

Let’s not forget about the times you’re at your wits end: stressed, emotional, too busy, and just plain “over” everything. Or your friends/family are pestering you to JUST GIVE IN this ONE TIME.

These are not the result of any intrinsic weaknesses in YOU. They are problems/hurdles/obstacles that we all face.

And the way to solve them isn’t to point the finger at yourself … instead, look at the situation and try to figure out how to fix THAT.

I’m going to outline a few real problems/situations from my own life, and how I (mostly) work around them now.

Riding The Struggle Bus

First of all, it’s hard for me to talk about being on the struggle bus because I am afraid I’m letting people down. They always seem so disappointed to know that there’s not going to be a day when they magically wake up and poof! all of these little struggles disappear. 

Wouldn’t it be great if there was hope for this? Yes, it would. 

The good news is that avoiding struggles gets easier the more you practice certain habits. But even then I find myself circling back around to a few key problems.

Breakfast

I get up really early because I go to work really early. But I don’t want to get up any earlier than I have to. I really, really, really don’t.

Even though we’re hearing all about the powers of intermittent fasting, studies continue to show the importance of eating breakfast, and I know if I don’t eat a good meal early in the day, I’m gonna be hungry later.

Well, I don’t want to prepare a full meal in the morning. And I won’t. I know this, because several times I planned to cook breakfast and it didn’t happen and I ended up grabbing something in a rush, which wasn’t the best way to start the day.

So now I cook my breakfast the night before. 

Some nights (like last night) when I get home after 7 p.m. and then the phone rings and the dog starts barking and I have a gazillion things to do, I don’t want to precook my breakfast.

But I cook it anyway (last night I scrambled 3 egg whites, 1 egg, and a cup of broccoli, adding in some goat cheese). It’s in the fridge waiting for me, and will be microwaved and eaten with a slice of Ezekial bread as soon as I press the “publish” button this post. (Note: I’m on a med that requires me to take it first thing in the morning and to wait an hour before eating, which is why I didn’t eat it as soon as I woke up. 🙂  )

Running Out of Food Mid-Week

This is embarrassing to admit, but every Thursday night I found myself going through the drive-through for supper.

And I was doing this while still sweaty after teaching a high-intensity group exercise class. My stomach would be grumbling and I’d be mad at myself for putting crap into my body, even if it was from the “healthy” and “low cal” menu.

Sometimes when voice on the drive-thru speaker asked, “Would you like some nachos with that?” I would answer, “yes.”

Driving home, I’d be hating on myself. I would be all, “WHY DO YOU ALWAYS DO THIS? WHYYYY?”

And then I realized: hmm. I always do this. Why?

Duh. I was out of food at home. I was hungry. I needed to eat something immediately after class. Why didn’t I already have something on-hand?

There was a reason.

See, I tend to rock my lunches and dinners all week long …  until Thursday. I work late both Wednesday and Thursday nights, and by Thursday all the proteins I precooked for the week on Sunday are gone.

And I am HUNGRY when I leave work Thursday night because I cap the day off by teaching a group ex class. Here’s a formula that will also apply to you.

Hungry Wendy + No Food In The House = Danger

Planning = Winning

What I do now is plan ahead for this. I find time during the day on Wednesday or at lunch Thursday to make sure I have food for later. Nothing that requires much prep but is more than a salad-bar salad. Yes, it’s a pain to find that time, but that little bit of pain is worth it in the long run.

Perhaps that’s a big “duh!” but it’s that kind of silly little problem that often derails our plans and makes us think we’re failures with no willpower and that we should just give up.

Look closely at the times you tend to slip up on your eating plan, and see if there’s a pattern. And if there is one, come up with a strategy that helps you work around that problem.

  • Maybe you eat on Friday nights because you’re lonely or it’s become a form of entertainment for you. Entertain yourself with something else!
  • Donuts at the office on Tuesdays? Bring something else, something healthier and lower calorie, to eat instead. And avoid being them around them, if at all possible.
  • Weekends – always an issue. Have a plan in mind.
  • Eating out. I don’t know about you, but there’s something about eating out that makes it feel like an “occasion.” But if you do it a lot, it actually is just another meal. Think about what  you’re going to eat and how you’re going to ask for it to be prepared before you get to the restaurant.

It’s not so much about willpower as it is about identifying the problems, and then solving them.

Now, off to enjoy my eggs. 🙂

Are personal trainers “rent-a-friends”?

Are personal trainers “rent-a-friends”?

I’m tidying my website and found this article I wrote for the Bangor Daily News in 2011. I wrote it after a fitness franchise banned trainers from its facilities. 

I considered deleting this but I have an even stronger belief that if you want to get fitter and stronger, you’ll benefit from occasional tune-ups with a good trainer.

Should you hire a personal trainer?

It definitely won’t hurt and it probably will help. You might not need long-term training, but when you’re lifting heavy weights or performing specific exercises, you’re challenging your body. You need to know how to do that correctly so you get stronger and fitter, not injured. This can be invaluable whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting your fitness journey.

I’m a trainer and I love working with other fitness pros to get stronger and better! They keep me honest and working to my potential. 🙂 

Bucking the trainer-as-friend trend

By Wendy Watkins, Special to the BDN

A while ago, making a big splash in the fitness industry, one of the bigger gym chains decided to ban personal training.The CEO said trainers were basically “rent-a-friends” for clients.

I’m a personal trainer and I admit it: Sometimes I have to nudge a few of my clients to chat less and exercise more during our sessions. Some talking is important because it helps the trainer judge how hard the client is working, plus we get to understand the stress-causing factors in a client’s life that might be affecting their bodies. But trainers are there to help clients safely challenge their physical limits, not to be a therapist or confidant.

Is one-on-one training really necessary? It depends.  (Click for the rest, which coincidentally explains how I ramped up some clients’ results …)

Pumpkin Pie Protein Bars

Pumpkin Pie Protein Bars

There’s only one problem with this Pumpkin Pie Bar recipe.

It’s too delicious.

Seriously, I always end up having to give these bars away or else I’ll keep snacking on them!

I first started making these bars about 10 years ago and they still make me as happy as ever! I’ve tweaked the recipe over the years – it’s forgiving, especially the base recipe. (NOTE: You likely will not have good luck substituting non-dairy milk in the filling.)

Since I enjoy a “oat-ier” base because of its heartier/nuttier taste, I make my own oat flour. Feel free to experiment with other flours – just remember: nut flours require less butter since they come preloaded with healthy fats.

Pumpkin doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. It’s very nutrient dense (it has a lot of nutrition in it for its caloric load) and yet it can still taste like a treat.

Keep these stored in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy!

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Base
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup oat flour (I grind oatmeal in my high-speed blender)
1/2 cup flour (experiment with your favorites)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup cold grass-fed butter, cut into small cubes

Filling
2 cups organic skim milk
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 15-oz can real pumpkin puree
5 scoops (equal to 125 g) vanilla protein powder (OWYN or Sun Warrior are my go-to brands)
3 large organic omega 3 eggs
Coconut sugar, to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine first three base ingredients in bowl or stand mixer. Add the cubed butter to the other ingredients, squeezing the butter into the other ingredients to form a coarse breadcrumb-like texture. Press into a 9×13 baking pan, and bake for 12 minutes.

While that’s cooking, bring milk and spices to a boil in a saucepan. As soon as it boils, transfer to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the pumpkin first, then the protein powder, and, finally, the eggs. If using the coconut sugar, add here.

When base is ready, remove it from the oven and pour the pumpkin filling mixture on top. Place back in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the filling as set (it might jiggle a little in the middle, but is somewhat firm to the touch). Cool, cut into 8 pieces and store in the fridge or freezer.

Per serving: 313 calories, 10 grams fat, 4 grams fiber, 34 grams carbs, 23 grams protein.

No-Bake Cookie Oatmeal

No-Bake Cookie Oatmeal

Back in 2010 when I first published this recipe (which I’ve since updated), this was one of my favorite mini meals.

And why wouldn’t it be? It contains chocolate AND peanut butter. What could be better? It’s also filled with protein, fiber, antioxidants, and contains very little fat.

Yes, I know we are rethinking our whole relationship with fat, but it’s energy dense (high in calories) and when you’re watching your macros, that can play a role in your food decisions.

Back when I competed more regularly, this was one of my go-to breakfast meals. It powered me through my mornings and kept me feeling full till noon.

No-Bake Cookie Oatmeal

Ingredients

1/2 cup gluten-free old-fashioned oatmeal, dry
2 tablespoons PB2 (powdered peanut butter) (if you don’t have this, use 1 tablespoon “real” natural peanut butter)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (the kind you bake with)
1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder (I use Sun Warrior)

Cook the oatmeal in 1 cup of water, as per package directions. Place oatmeal in a bowl and add dry ingredients, mixing well. If it’s not sweet enough for you (it is for me), add some stevia. Voila! Done! Delicious.

To make this richer, you can make the oatmeal using coconut or almond milk.

Nutritional breakdown:
260 calories, 7 fat grams, 8 grams fiber, 36 grams carbohydrates, 23 protein grams.

With 1 tablespoon “real” peanut butter if you don’t have access to PB2:
313 calories, 13 fat grams, 7 grams fiber, 33 grams carbs, 21 protein grams

Oatmeal turkey pizza crust

Oatmeal turkey pizza crust

I love recipes that don’t have to be EXACT. This one doesn’t — and it’s a good guilt-free way to indulge in a dish that’s usually not so healthy for us: Pizza!

I started making this back in 2011 after seeing it in an issue of Oxygen magazine, but have revised it over the years. Feel free to play around with the toppings (the last 7  ingredients).

You can add a Mexican flare with salsa, mix up the veggies, try different cheese — your choice!

Makes 1 serving

Oatmeal Turkey Pizza Crust

Ingredients:
1/2 cup gluten-free oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground flaxseed
2 oz extra-lean ground turkey
1 cup chopped baby spinach
1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste
1/4 cup 1% cottage cheese
2 tbsp red onion, chopped
2 tbsp red bell pepper, chopped
1 roma tomato, sliced
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix together first 4 ingredients. Flatten this oatmeal crust into a disc shape on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, flip over and bake for another 5.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Spread out on top of the oatmeal cake.
  4. Bake until cheese melts. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan (optional) when it comes out of the oven