Lots of people ask about strategies for “surviving” the Holidays while dieting. Traditions and tempting treats abound, and everyone seems to be indulging. And you’ve heard the same advice over and over again, right? Like, bring a healthy dish to the party, drink water in between the wine, chew gum while cooking, stay away from the buffet table, and so on.
Most everyone knows that strength training is important if you want a strong body and a nicely-muscled physique, but it’s also important for many other non-cosmetic reasons.
A study published by a German science journal pointed out the numerous benefits of strength training for aging gracefully and healthily, including: reduction of age related muscle loss, increase in muscle strength and mass (as the trainee in this story, demonstrates in the gym), reduction in the loss of bone density, and improvement in posture and coordination (which helps decrease the likelihood of falls).
Now before you start thinking: “it’s probably too late for me,” or “the gym is for muscle heads,” or “the weight room is intimidating,” I’d like you to introduce Tom, a client of mine for over 6 months, who is 76 years young.
Getting older doesn’t automatically preclude you from learning how to lift weights and resigning yourself to a loss of strength and functionality.
The effects of age related muscle-wasting (sarcopenia) may be counteracted by resistance training (J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Feb;25(2):326-33.), and we’re not talking about the little pink dumbbells, either. Somewhere around 60% of a maximal effort weight and higher reps, and even using free weights (not JUST the machines). For more information on the causes, prevention, and treatment for sarcopenia, there’s an extensive article on the BrinkZone HERE if interested in additional information.
Older trainees in the gym normally stick with familiar cardio machines, but if you’ve ever seen Al in action, you might want to clear some space. Al’s been a client of mine for over half a year now, and in that time he’s seen some impressive gains in strength and coordination.
Which is important when you also have Parkinson’s. He’s also in his 70’s.
Although Al’s determined personality makes our work outs fairly intense, trainees with Parkinson’s can use resistance training pretty much like everyone else. And just like anyone else, he got stronger with a basic program for resistance training.
I’ve written several articles for The BrinkZone on weight training, fat loss, fitness modeling, bodybuilding programs, and various of motivational articles. The articles were meant to inspire and motivate both men and women to embrace the fitness lifestyle, and maintain the healthiest, leanest, strongest body possible no matter what age or excuse. And speaking of (good) excuses, stay-at-home, post-partum, and working moms are among one segment of the population that can benefit the most from simple, basic knowledge of weight training and fat loss advice that can help get them lean, strong, and healthy.
That’s why I’ve produced a book and DVD that addresses the many challenges that moms of all strides face when trying to achieve fat loss, and can help inspire you to lose that baby weight for good. It’s a great program that’s simple and effective. Perhaps you’re a new mom or maybe a mommy of two or more, and you’re ready to drop a few pounds, and get back in your pre-pregnancy clothes. Or maybe you just want to get in the best shape of your life. This program is for you.
As we get older, get busy with families and work, go to one too many office parties, happy hours, and cupcake shops, we often don’t notice the slow creeping on of pounds. Or maybe we do. Or maybe you wake up one day and can’t get the jeans to fit or the shirt over your bellybutton. Short of buying an entire wardrobe, you’re faced with a dilemma.
Understandably, the last thing most of us want to do is go on a diet or reduce calories. The very thought of doing so sends some of us into a tailspin, feasting “last supper” style, or running to the donut store before we begin a weight loss diet “tomorrow.” The good news is that you can make gradual, small changes and lose weight effortlessly. The same way you allowed small changes in your diet that added the pounds on gradually (the extra wine at happy hour, the chocolate kisses at the front desk, the cupcake at the birthday party, the desert you could have split, the caramel machiatto, etc), is the same way you can effortlessly lose weight by making small changes.
So you survived Thanksgiving, and are praying that the added cost of pumpkin pie + halloween candy + office parties + Christmas parties + New Year’s doesn’t totally derail your fitness or weight loss goals. Perhaps up until you turned comfort food corner, you’ve been doing real well.
In reality, if you intend to take off the weight and keep it off, Holiday season or not, you’ve got to be continually vigilant about the choices you make year round. And sometimes it seems that some of us have a way easier time than others being mindful about food or fitness choices on a regular basis, while others more easily succumb to temptation when faced with it (this tends to be worse during the Holidays when sweets and comfort foods are EVERYWHERE).
It’s not like these people are super-disciplined humans with no sense of smell for homemade chocolate chip cookies, but the one thing they probably have in common is willpower- the power to use discipline and self-awareness to make choices that steer them towards achieving their bigger goal, no matter what the occasion.
The good news is you can exercise your “willpower muscle” much like you exercise your muscles when you lift weights. The more you “train” your brain to either resist a temptation or make a positive choice, the easier and more natural the process becomes. If you stop and think about it, how many times have you been faced with a temptation and you hear two voices in your head battling it out?
And how many times have you “spent” your mental energy all day at work, resisting the urge to tell a complaining customer or boss to shove it, then come home and bury your sorrows in a cheesecake or a bottle of wine (or both!)? Perhaps you’ve exhausted your willpower muscle, and something has gone on in your head that either steers you to make the best choice for your diet/fitness goals or away from it.
You’ve heard the saying; if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And a simple way to fail on your weight loss effort is to let the fast-food burger joint have its way with you. One of the best ways to circumvent the nagging desire for the donut/cupcake/candy bar/chips and salsa (insert personal craving here) is to prepare meals in advance and keep your fridge stocked with meals that have a long shelf life.
Thankfully, the recipes included here don’t require much skill or particular fondness for cooking (though it helps to be creative), nor require you to be in the kitchen too long. I’ve tried to include recipes that are big on flavor and easy to make. And because I live in Austin, TX there’s a definite nod to the local taste preferences, and because I’m from India, you’re going to see the requisite curry recipe.
If you don’t already have one, a kitchen scale will be a useful tool, in addition to your measuring cups and spoons.
Having worked in the fitness industry for over 10 years now, what I’ve learned from watching the trends is that one particular trend or “guru” will claim that their way is the only way to get fit or achieve your fitness goals. Even if that means you MUST supplement with some plant extract or completely eliminate grains and any thing that looks like a carb from your diet, the ONLY way to achieve fitness superstardom is by following a straight, linear path.
I love fitness, but it’s not a religion. You aren’t always going to walk the straight and narrow, and nor do you have to. It’s perfectly fine to do a mix of low intensity and high-intensity cardiovascular work, for instance. Not every single workout requires interval training, high-intensity interval training, tabatas, and the like. If your body wants to crank out some moderate steady state cardiovascular activity without dripping buckets of sweat, you’re still doing a whole lot better than if you had done absolutely nothing.
Along the same lines, not every workout in the weight room needs to translate into the requisite day-after (or two days-after) muscle soreness. Bodybuilders popularized workout splits that might have them in the gym 6 days a week, but beginner trainees can see results with as little as 2 to 3 times per week full body workouts.
SO YOU’RE A MOM. Maybe you’re a new one, or one with a toddler, or one or two (or more!) children around. Your life is busy. I know, I get it. And as a trainer, a mom, and a trainer TO moms, I’ve heard more than my fair share of excuses (some good, and some bad) of why some mommies just can’t take the time or make the effort to hit the weights, get to the gym, work out in the home, and exercise. Here’s what I’ve heard, and here’s how to fix it.
1. I have no time. BUSTED: Set your alarm clock earlier, cut out pointless behaviors (watching TV, surfing the internet), work out when baby naps, involve baby in your daily walks, take a mommy and me stroller class (or something similar), make exercise a priority, budget your time better, leave the dishes in the sink, or hire a housekeeper to free up some time. Seriously, if you can’t take 3 or 4 hours out of every week to dedicate to fitness and wellness, that’s saying something about how you value your own health.
Working with athletes (and athletes at heart!) is one of the joys of being a personal trainer. They are the client that works hard from start to finish, shows up on time with a great attitude, always up for a new challenge, enjoys setting PRs, improving their endurance, participating in the toughest of races (willingly!), and hardly ever complain.
But even elite athletes and bodybuilders take measured rest periods after hard training seasons, and you should too. That doesn’t just apply to training, either. Long term goals, like “I would like to lose 50 lbs in one year,” require a long-term, well-thought out plan with measurable goals. And just like the example of our hard training athlete, your long-term plan should include a scheduled diet break.
How do you know for how long, and when? Some people need breaks every 6 weeks, some 12 weeks, and some can go a little longer. As with your training, the more aggressive the program may be, the more probable it is that you will need to take a break sooner. Either way, your body will likely protest if you’ve been doing the same thing for too long. Your progress stalls, your strength or endurance may possibly decrease, you hit a plateau, the scale doesn’t budge, and you no longer feel the same level of motivation. And staying motivated is important when you’re committed to better health in the long run.