Wondering If You Need a Gym Timeout? Here’s How to Know

Wondering If You Need a Gym Timeout? Here’s How to Know

Hey hey hey, my #beastmode #gymmotivation #crushingit people! This post is for you.

When was the last time you took a break from working out?

I’m talking about taking a real break … not just a day or two off from your usual routine.

If you spend at least 45 minutes a day getting sweaty, most days of the year … probably for years on end … I’m talking to you.

You might go to the gym, run, or take group ex classes, or maybe you do exercise videos at home. And most of the time when you work out, you push yourself.

Maybe you need a vacation from your workouts.

BEFORE YOU THINK “STOP BEING WEAK” AND QUIT READING ….

Don’t Be Me

First, just so you don’t think I’m being Judge Judy: I am you.

Well, at least I was until a few years ago, when shit happened and I suddenly couldn’t work out every day. (Ironically, that “shit” was a bunch of random health issues and injuries I thought I was protected from because I worked out and ate a clean, balanced, and healthy diet, took my vitamins, and did all the “right” things.)

When I had to cut back on my workouts, I thought I would balloon up in weight, or suddenly lose my fitness base, or I don’t know. It just seemed like something bad would happen, or maybe I just wouldn’t feel like myself any more.

For sure, I would lose that odd virtuous feeling I had after a good workout. (See? I know you.)

Not working out every day sucked, big-time, until I noticed something.

On the days those random health issues weren’t nagging at me, I actually felt pretty great.

Fewer Workouts = More Energy

I had energy I didn’t know I was lacking before. It took me a while to realize this, but little things started to change.

One night I noticed that I wasn’t stressed about getting to bed at a certain time. Seriously, I used to be obsessive about getting enough sleep, so that I could make it through the following day.

But the realization totally hit home when, on a weeknight (OMG!) I found myself getting ahead on my weekend chores. There I was, standing at the kitchen sink, thinking, “Who am I? How did this happen? I’m like a normal person, but I didn’t even know I wasn’t normal till now.”

Because usually, I would have collapsed on the couch, nodding off till bedtime.

Are You Part of the <5 percent?

Now, remember: I’m a personal trainer, so fitness is my pretty much my life. I work out, I have taught (easily) hundreds of group ex classes over the years (which require hours of practice), plus it’s not unusual for me to demonstrate exercises for clients several times during training sessions.

Meanwhile, most of us struggle to find time to work out a few times a week – due to our schedules, interest, or motivation. Truth: according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, only about 5 percent of Americans get 30 minutes of exercise a day.

Even though I was so active, according to the medical literature, I also wasn’t in the overtrained crowd, or even in the overreached crowd.

Mostly, I was in the over-worked-out crowd, as are many of us who include “fitness enthusiast,” “gym rat,” “exercise nut,” “athlete,” or other exercise-activity descriptor in our identity.

I Dare You

If any of this is you, I’m throwing down a dare. I dare you to unleash the beast. How about you take a week off?

And THEN, after that week, try working out only every other day. Do that for a month.

Scary, right?

You won’t fall apart. You won’t even lose strength or fitness. And you also won’t gain weight, unless you start eating extra.

I promise. Like 100 percent promise.

Seriously. Be a real beast and be brave. Be human. Just try it.

Get some balance back. Your life is waiting.

Why You Can’t Give Up, Ever

Why You Can’t Give Up, Ever

I have a funny story for you.

About 3 weeks ago, I started a “30-day get-back-into-shape” plan. I’d just come off a bad spell – including a weekend in the hospital. That’s a long story all on its own, which I’ll write about soon (when I’m feeling brave).

Basically, though, I was sick of feeling sick.

My plan was going great. I was working out every day (just right, not too much), making headway on some business and personal stuff, and I was happy with the progress I was making.

Seriously, even though I was concentrating mostly on cardio exercises during the first week (part of that long story), I was getting stronger. One night I had my group training session clients do some sun salutations, and I was surprised at how easily I could lower into chaturanga without going to the floor, and push into full upward-facing dog.

It felt amazing.

In fact, that’s when I started thinking about putting together a real 30-day plan for this blog, that I could do in real-time with my readers. How awesome would that be? (Awesome!)

And then that let me to think:

“Slow down, speed racer. You know how it’s gone these past few years. If you make this a ‘thing,’ you’re gonna jinx yourself. Instead, write about it offline as you go, get the 30 days done, and THEN publish it for readers to follow along with.”

‘Ha, Ha, Ha!’ Saith The Universe

The next morning I woke up at my usual time and walked the dog. I noticed I felt colder than usual and generally “off.” I couldn’t seem to warm up when we came inside, so I took my temp.

It was 94 degrees … on two different thermometers.

Now, on the one hand having a low temp wasn’t shocking, as I was just coming out of a significant thyroid “crisis,” caused by a medical snafu (that long story I referred to above). And I always run a low temp anyway (again, thyroid).

But on the other hand, that’s ridiculous. I bundled up, drank some hot tea, and kept moving, and eventually my temp came up a little bit, so I went to work.

By nighttime, I was downright sick, with a real fever this time, and for the next three days all I did was sleep.

That meant I missed a major exam I was supposed to take for an advanced qualification I was working toward. Plus, I’m self-employed, so my income took yet another hit (part of the long story).

Mostly though, I basically 1) felt like shit and 2) was beyond embarrassed by this nonstop barrage of problems. Plus, I was exhausted and I looked like a stoner because I was so tired.

Not very fit-spirational!

To top it all off, I developed shingles … and out of the blue my knee started hurting, which made me walk with a limp.

Did you ever see the old Mary Tyler Moore show, where she goes through a bad spell? It’s considered one of the top 100 sitcom episodes of all time – it’s called Put on a Happy Face. It’s a classic because we can all relate to it.

When I went to see my doc, a few more things came up (part of that long story, having to do with thyroid issues).

We agreed: I was in the midst of a bonafide “spell.” Like, all I could do was laugh. But … also not laugh.

Because how would I turn things around?

How to Get Out of a Rut

… or stop getting your ass kicked, and start kicking ass instead.

I already knew the answer, and I sure wish it was sexier. There’s only one real way to move forward, even if you’re in the middle of a “spell.” 

The bad news: It’s the opposite of following a 30-day plan.

Now, I already knew all this based on my numerous (ha!) years of experience both living my life and coaching others. But the thing is, like everyone else on the planet, I wanted a plan that took me from A to B to C … preferably as fast as possible.

The good news: The key to moving forward is simple, whether or not you’re in a spell.

You just have to keep moving ahead, probably more slowly than you like, at least to start.

The bad news part two: You have to be patient, do stuff you might not always want to do, and get a little uncomfortable from time to time.

Seriously, I’ve used the whole “be patient, take your time, do a little bit of something every single day” routine numerous times. It’s how I got into fitness in the first place, after a partially misspent youth. It’s also how I achieved my goal of writing for major newsstand magazines, got a publishing deal on a book, trained for and finished a triathlon, prepared for a bodybuilding show, and more.

Chances are you won’t move toward your end goal in a straight line, and you might even back up/move sideways a little. You might even move at a snail’s pace.

Also, chances are you are gonna have to make some trade-offs along the way. 

We’ve all seen the meme:

 

It’s pretty accurate.

And none of this means you can’t follow a 30-day plan. But what it does mean is that it might take 45 (or more) days. You might change vehicles mid-trip. You might decide you actually enjoy the scenery on a particular detour, and you could even change your ultimate destination.

The thing is, you just can’t stop.

Here’s my plan. Do a little working out every day. Load up my diet with nutrient-dense foods (I have a great recipe tomorrow). If I’m tired, rest.

Reevaluate in a week.

Are you ready to start with me? I have a feeling that the trip is gonna be worth it.

13 Motivational Videos To Get You Pumped Up and Back On Track

13 Motivational Videos To Get You Pumped Up and Back On Track

Looking for a jolt of inspiration? 

There’s nothing like a good motivational video to get you fired up for your day.

I know that when I’m feeling a little off (or lazy, uninspired, or like chucking all my goals), it can be hard to pull myself back on track. I have lots of little tricks – journaling, getting outside, working out – but sometimes even those tricks don’t work.

That’s when I go in search of motivational videos. 

If you’re having one of those days, at least one (and maybe all) of these videos will help pull you back on-course.

1. Make The Choice For Toughness

Lesson: when it comes right down to it, success is a matter of heart, and if you have the heart, you have the will to succeed.

Duncan Keith definitely exemplifies this. He trains hard (mind, body, and spirit), eats clean … and he shows that he definitely pushes past the pain/discomfort to get the job done.

It’s all about making good choices, whether or not things are going your way.

2. Change Your Thoughts to Change Your Life

Do you lack motivation? Or find it hard to stay motivated?

What if motivation isn’t the real issue? Our brains are not wired to like change – in fact, change might even go against our survival instincts.

Here’s how to make a mindset shift and retrain your brain for success.

3. Define Your Strengths, Define Your Life

Misty Copeland is the first African-American female principal dancer for the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, after overcoming early rejection.

Her story is always so compelling!

4. A Single Choice Can Change Your Life

How Henry Rollins went from being an assistant manager at a Haagen-Dazs shop to becoming the lead singer of Black Flag.

“I don’t have talent, I have tenacity,” he says, adding that he knows he has to “watch, shut up, and learn” to succeed.

5. Be The Hero(ine)

There are so many great Joe Rogan motivational videos it was hard to pick just one, but this is a classic.

Your life is a movie … be the hero, not just a supporting character.

6. Be Good, Treat Others Well, and Treat Yourself Well Too

You already know what you need to do.There’s no magic involved.

Just do it. 

Still not sure? Joe breaks it down for you in simple, easy-to-follow steps.

7. Destiny Is Calling You: Are You Gonna Answer?

This compilation from Oprah teaches that “failure” isn’t really failure. Instead, it’s an opportunity to correct your course so you can move closer to your best life.

She says each feeling of failure, loss, or unease is a cue to move in another direction.

8. Here’s Where You Find Your Motivation

Most of us wait for motivation to strike, but here’s the thing: it rarely just shows up for us.

Retired Navy SEAL and podcaster Jocko Willink says you can’t just “turn on” motivation, drive, or passion.

Instead, he says it boils down to your reason why, and he outlines how to discover that.

9. Find Your Greatness 

What is greatness, and who can achieve it?

Where does greatness live, and what does it look like?

Here’s a series of playful videos from Nike. (Don’t try the pogo stick trick. Ever!)

10. Still I Rise

In this video, tennis great Serena Williams reads the powerful poem “Still I Rise,” by Maya Angelou.

11. Be Unconventional

Uncommon habits, unpredictable results.

Skiing legend Bode Miller talks about how he pushes his limits through unorthodox means.

12. Celebrate Your Life

In this compilation video, women from across the world talk about finding pride and self-confidence in the face of adversity – often when their cultures didn’t encourage it.

They share inspirational stories of overcoming amazing odds.

13. The Power of the Solitary Traveler

This video talks about the challenges of solo endeavors, of overcoming and achieving goals on one’s own.

Using inspirational quotes, it outlines how the hardest walks lead to the highest destinations – and if you work hard,  the right people will show up in your life, and you won’t always be a lone wolf.

What are YOU going to achieve?

How do you stay motivated? Do you have any favorite videos? I’d love to see them.

If this post pumped you up, I’d appreciate a like or a share. 🙂 Thanks!

The Crazy Way I Got a Fitness Book Deal [Video]

The Crazy Way I Got a Fitness Book Deal [Video]

Ever wanted to write a book? Or wondered how to get a book deal?

The other day I did a Facebook Live stream about how my own book deal came about, along with my thoughts about the process.

It’s below, raw, casual, and live as can be! 

My opportunity to write an Idiot’s Guide book came about organically – I really didn’t seek it out. Basically, I saw an opportunity that seemed like a no-brainer, and I went for it.

Book Deals are Fun, But Don’t Expect $$$

In the live stream, I tried to answer some questions people have asked me over the years … like the random guy who sent me a series of interrogating private messages trying to get me to tell him how much I got paid.

Or, the secret you need to know to get started writing for major newsstand publications. Once I learned this secret, I had two accepted queries within two weeks.

And, most importantly, will you really lose 20 pounds in 2 months if you follow the plan I outline in the book?

What I Would Do Different Next Time

There was little incentive for me to market this book very hard because I had already gotten paid for it, which was a good thing/bad thing, given the state of publishing these days.

Plus, I didn’t even know HOW to market it, really.

Now, I definitely would be more proactive about marketing, although I’m still pretty clueless about all that – but now I have a better idea of what to do and where to go. I’d definitely get over myself and let the world know about the book’s benefits.

And if I were to do it again, I’d likely pursue another book contract immediately following the publication of the first book. Although at the time I wrote the Idiot’s Guide, I was really busy with personal training and the gym, so I didn’t have the time for it. Or the support.

Because here’s the thing with writing: It’s a solitary pursuit. I know for me, personally, I end up in my head too much if all I do is write. And I’m old enough and wise enough to know now that’s not always the healthiest way for me to spend my days.

In fact, it’s one of the reasons I am so passionate about fitness and helping others love it too: It clears my head.

I’m smarter now about creating that solitary–social balance that many of us struggle with. Plus, being around other people opens your mind to new ideas – and improves the writing.

Would I write another book? Heck yes! How about you? Do you have a book in you, just waiting to be unleashed?

Top 2 Ways to Get off Your Ass and Start Moving

Top 2 Ways to Get off Your Ass and Start Moving

DonkeyHave you ever felt so overwhelmed by everything you think you’re supposed to do that you decide to take a nap instead of even trying?

Or maybe you feel like there are too many choices to make before you begin. Or perhaps you think everything has to be perfect before you take that first step.

“Paralysis by analysis.” It’s a legit condition and it even has its own (albeit in need of clarification) Wikipedia page.

I’ve been there. In fact, I’ve been there for the past week or so.

I know for a fact a lot of people get this feeling when it comes to fitness because they tell me about it all the time.

They decide to start working out and suddenly are faced with an overload of information about what they should do, how and when they should do it, and also how often.

It’s intimidating! Why would you want to start something new when, according to the “experts,” you’re going to be doing it wrong anyway?

Seriously: Is cardio bad or good (it’s a controversy!)? How hard and how often should you work out (another controversy!)? Are you doing the right strength-training exercises and are you doing them properly (another controversy!)?

Overwhelmed …

So how should you (re)start your fitness routine? 

Pick something you enjoy (or don’t hate). And do it. It’s that simple. And do it today, not next Monday. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.

You’ll feel better for starting, trust me. 

And here’s that list I promised in the headline.

Top 2 Ways To Get Off Your Ass and Work Out

1. Stand up.

2. Go for a walk (or dance or bike or lift or do lunges and pushups).

Here's One Sneaky Reason the Scale Won't Budge

Upset that the scale isn't changing? Step away for a week.

Upset that the scale isn’t changing? Step away for a week.

Have you ever felt frustrated when it seemed like no matter what you did, you couldn’t lose weight? When the scale simply refused to budge?

That happened to one of my fitness coaching clients recently.

My client (we’ll call her Tammy) had been killing it in the gym nearly every day for weeks, lifting weights and doing cardio. She prepared her meals in advance. She logged her meals in a food journal.

Heck, she even measured out her water intake.

Then one day I saw her fighting back tears during a workout. I pulled her aside so we could talk.

“I don’t know what I am doing wrong,” she told me. “I am ready to give up. The gym has always been my happy place and I’m starting to hate it.”

Now, Tammy is not a quitter. We went over every detail of her plan for possible problems. (There weren’t any.) Finally, I suggested she do one thing differently. She thought I was crazy, but she did it anyway.

The next morning she stood on the scale (even though I had told her not to).

It was down 3 pounds.

And she had just changed one little thing.

Crazy, huh?

Stress is a bitch

Have you ever started a new fitness or weight-loss regimen with full force? You make a plan, you get all your gear assembled and then come Monday morning you are all-in: diet and workouts are ON!

The next few mornings you weigh yourself, looking for the scale to suddenly reflect all your hard work.

And maybe it does drop a pound or two over the first week. And then …

Nothing.

And you think you might be slacking a little so maybe you do extra workouts. Or eat a little less. You weigh yourself in the morning. And then again at night.

And still … nothing.

It doesn’t make any sense.

And yet it does. Your body is a finely tuned, complicated machine but it’s also kind of dumb. You might be exercising and dieting to get healthier and fitter, but your body doesn’t know that. All it knows is that things have changed – it’s being worked harder on less (and different) fuel – and it surmises that it’s under attack. It wants to survive.

It starts churning out extra hormones to fuel itself to combat the attack. The weight loss temporarily stops – a normal phenomenon generally lasting a week or so.

But when that happens, we start to mentally freak out and even more stress hormones are dumped into our system.

We go into lockdown mode. Progress comes to a halt.

I find this phenomenon happens more with women and more often still after they reach their mid-30s. It has happened to me, too. There’s only one thing you can do.

You have to trust the process. You have to relax.

During my conversation with Tammy, I asked her if she could do anything more than she was already doing to achieve her goal.

No, she said. She couldn’t.

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, I asked her: “You can’t do more than the most you can do, can you?”

She frowned. “No.”

“Then you’re off the hook, right?” I asked her. “You can’t do any more. So just let all that stress go, and trust the plan.”

Sure: I know it’s easy to say, “Let the stress go.” Doing it is another matter. How, exactly, are you supposed to stop being focused on the results of all that effort – all the workouts and the attention to the diet?

You relax. You make time for a bubble bath or you browse a favorite store, or you get a massage or pedicure. Maybe you curl up on the couch with a good book and cup of tea. For every bout of intense activity, make a little time for relaxation.

(I also told Tammy to stop weighing herself for a week, but she didn’t listen to that part.)

And maybe the scale doesn’t drop 3 pounds immediately, like it did for Tammy, but it will begin to move again. More importantly, perhaps, a figurative weight – all that stress – will drop, and with it gone, you can enjoy your workouts again.

Make a plan and work the plan

How do you know if your plan is trustworthy?

Work with a respected resource. Hire an experienced personal trainer. On a budget? Find a well-vetted online resource and browse their free programs.

Or hire a virtual fitness coach who can design a plan for you and coach you through it online.

Set your plan, work your plan – put it on autopilot, even – and let the results roll in.