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.
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.
“why haven’t you heard about this yet?” and that is exactly how I feel about Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program for raw strength. I can see how it’s probably far less intimidating to go with whatever everyone else is doing, like the latest bikini body in 30-days program, Zumba/Kickboxing class/Yoga class (all in one now!) , P-90X, or the latest Jillian Micheal’s DVD because your neighbor (I’m not your neighbor), BFF, co-worker, etc did it and so why can’t you? You might be the same person who thinks a powerlifting program like 5/3/1 is only for powerlifters, but it isn’t. The way this program is written (simple), everyone from the relative beginner to an experienced lifter can bust through a training plateau (we’ve all been there), set new personal records, and get a whole lot stronger… man or woma
It’s only week 1 for me on Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 Program, billed as: “The Simplest and Most Effective Training System for Raw Strength” and I’m already having a blast. Course, if you know me, it doesn’t take much to get me excited about barbell training, but the combination of simple, effective, and raw strength sealed the deal for me. As a mom juggling two jobs, a simple, efficient, and effective training program is the only kind of training I really have the time for. In addition, 5/3/1 lines up perfectly with my goals, to get stronger in the big lifts: squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press (OHP). And although the program enjoys plenty of popularity among powerlifters who use Wendler’s 5/3/1/ program to prepare for meets. I see absolutely no reason why I can’t try it! In fact, I’ve always admired the brawny powerlifting culture: it’s somewhat hidden from public view, but full of heart.
Busy professionals like us have a laundry list of excuses of why we are justified in abandoning our fitness goals while on travel, and some of them are actually pretty good! But, for the most part, it really isn’t all that hard to make it work. I wrote a piece earlier on eating right on the road here: but I wanted to share some real life experiences from clients, fellow gym-enthusiasts, and professional competitors on tips they have used to make it to the gym, while on the road.
1) Even if your hotel gym sucks, get to it, and put in your sets and reps. A strong male client of mine commented while he was on travel: “I’m jet lagged, the hotel gym sucks, and the heaviest DBs I can find weigh only 60 lbs, but I’m making it work.” Moral: Even with the lousiest tools, you can still “make it work.” Be creative: superset, bump up your reps, keep your heart rate up and keep your rest periods short, do challenging body weight exercises when possible.
2) Do your research and plan ahead. I know clients who look into what kind of gym their hotel has even before they look into the local weather. If you like what you see, great. If you don’t and you crave more, look beyond for a bigger gym. The internet is your friend. I know of a professional powerlifter who travels extensively and manages to keep up with his lifting program, 4 days a week, no matter where he travels. Powerlifting watch has an excellent gym locator link: here Some gyms will sell weekly passes or daily passes, so ask to speak to the manager and see what kind of deal you can get. Plan ahead if you’ve got some really big barbell needs, as most hotels won’t appreciate you deadlifting their treadmills and benching hotel guests.
Will wrote a piece on Why Your Workouts Suck http://www.brinkzone.com/strength-training/why-your-workouts-suck/#more-862 and I thought I’d go on a bit further because with all the other possible things that might suck in your life (traffic, frizzy hair, the electricity bill, your dog’s farts—and yes those are my problems), your workout ought not to suck. Part of my mission in this blog is to help the newbie pave the trail from the couch to the squat rack, but the path can be confusing, and is littered with sucky advice. So, what are some of the things you can do to avoid a sucky workout, other than the things that Will has already pointed out?
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, it’s much more fun to eat big and be strong. On 1400 calories a day my energy levels were very low, and I was a grouchy monster on low carbs. My soon to be 3-year old had enough sense to say, “Mommy, you’re being mean!” But when all was said and done, by the mid-September I was at 112 lbs-and had lost 6 lbs in a about 4 weeks. Certainly not earth shattering results, but I was not after dramatic weight loss, as this could also signify loss in strength and LBM.
The end result….
Welcome to Part 2 of the journey to getting lean and mean!
As the second and third weeks progress and I as I cut calories, I would note some dips in strength for some lifts but not for all. I could usually attribute a bad day to poor sleep, straying from my usual workout time, or another calorie adjustment. The fact that I wasn’t seeing dramatic losses in strength was a really good sign that I wasn’t losing much in the way of LBM. Still, I really, really missed picking up heavy weights, so made a pact that we were just on a “time out.” I’d be back for more heavy metal in no time! Some people might be able to continue with heavy (i.e., 85% of their 1 RM) while cutting but not me. It just felt far too taxing. Cutting made me realize how very much I am in tune with my body, how making minor adjustments always translate into something else, and it reassured me that my instincts would really help me proceed through this journey. Everyone is different, and what works for me might not work for everyone.