Tag Archives: Beauty

You Had Me at Namaste

It’s a very simple scene.

Me: Shopping for some curtain rods in Bed, Bath and Beyond over the weekend.

Two Women: One pushing a shopping cart alongside the other. 

Woman #1: “What does namaste mean?”

Woman #2: “I think it’s something like ‘the light in me honors the light in you.'”

*Long Pause*

Two Women: Laughing insecurely and hysterically.

Here’s why this scene knotted my insides. And here’s what namaste means and why it’s not really a laughing matter…

 

 

When I studied yoga in India, I found it fascinating that people would greet one another with the phrase “Hari Om.” The direct translation of this Sanskrit is broken into two parts: Hari relates to the Hindu God Vishnu who is considered “a remover of sins or bad karma,” and Om is considered a sacred syllable that encompasses the entirety of creation from start to finish. As yoga teachers-in-training we were told simply that the phrase loosely means “remember God.” And so, every asana practice (physical poses of yoga) began and ended with this phrase, reminding students from all around the globe and of various belief systems that the divine exists within the physical.

“God” doesn’t seem like a topic that has to do with fitness and wellness but that’s actually a false notion. One of the six branches of wellness is spiritual wellness. It’s as fundamental to our overall well-being as physical and emotional wellness. Just as important as our careers. As essential to our vitality as having a healthy network of friends and family to lean on. In my opinion, even though I consider myself a Christian and could preach on the merits of Christ, not every person has to share similar beliefs to access higher spiritual energy and fulfillment. By keeping our spiritual dimensions awake – whatever they are – we pave the way for better health and improved healing, patience, gratitude and joy.

 

 

When I heard the two women shopping at Bed, Bath & Beyond, laughing at the meaning of “namaste,” a part of my heart broke for them. The fact that they scoffed at a word that means spiritual and mutual respect for other humans and the places within ourselves that are deeper, truer, and purer than the surface, is upsetting to me. Not because I was offended by these women but because I see how much more one can gain in health when these deeper layers within can be unearthed. Looked at without fear and insecurity. These women both appeared to be suffering from various physical ailments and I wondered if they opened themselves up to being vulnerable with a higher power if their health might begin to move in a new direction.

Other rough translations and interpretations of the word “namaste” include:

“I honor and appreciate you”

“The divine in me honors the divine in you”

“I bow to you in respect”

“We are equals”

“Whatever is beautiful in me honors whatever is precious and beautiful in you”

 

In Western cultures, namaste has become synonymous with a feeling of relief at the conclusion of yoga class, a feeling of appreciation for the teacher or gratitude for the brief span of time carved out from life’s busyness to exercise and stretch. The word has become so popular and, at times, generic, that word-play t-shirts are now sold with phrases like “Namaste in bed today” and “You had me at Namaste.” It’s cool that the phrase is becoming less obscure but, as we all know, anything that becomes mainstream can lose a bit of its origins. And namaste’s origins start and end with something intangible and within. The invisible lines that connect us. That level the playing field of our bodily struggles, making us all the same.

 

 

Let’s not forget these lessons in our haste or quest for higher physical beauty and fitness.

Namaste to you.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

The Controversy Over Fit Moms

Whether you love ’em or love to hate ’em, there’s little doubt that a big splash has been made in the blogosphere and on social media by self-professed “fit moms.” The cliche image of a fit mom is that of a woman stripped down to her sports bra, wearing tight-fitting spandex, working out while her little ones run around her, sit on top of her, and tag-along as she does her errands and chores. Why the fuss over these healthy mamas? What is it about them that’s so alluring, intimidating and inspiring all at once?

 

Here’s the truth about “fit moms”…they’re NORMAL. Yes, I promise. They are.

They’re normal women who are trying their best, through controversial posts and all, to inspire other women to improve their health. And even though their posts might look picture *perfect* their lives most certainly are not, and neither are their bodies, regardless of the glam poses they strike while they flash their six-packs. Every mom, dare I say every WOMAN, is imperfect, even when striving to appear the opposite way.

There are thousands of Instagram celebrities who strut their hot stuff while manipulating their body angles to look their best, deleting all the flawed and REAL trial runs before selecting the most flattering video or picture for a post. This is all phony, it’s true. BUT, I will also say that *most* of these women (although certainly not all) are trying to figure out how to inspire others. The problem is that not every woman is positively influenced by these images.

As a fitness professional, even I can feel intimidated and shamed by these posts when I’m having a bad day. Or even a good one. I can feel self-conscious, wondering if I should be working out harder even though I have vowed not to overdo it on exercise during years of my life where childbearing and a healthy balance for my body are essential. But then I take a step back and ask myself what these feelings say about ME instead of “THEM.”

 

 

The thing is…in our society, and particularly in all forms of media, image is glorified. Obviously. But when I ask myself who I am without my image, and without the typical titles of wife, mom, daughter, fitness professional, writer, UVA and Georgetown graduate, and lover of interior design, I come up with something more authentic. When I strip away the materialistic, the aesthetics, and the titles, I’m so much more. And so are you.

I’m a spiritual being. I’m positive energy. I’m a woman who pours out her heart to strangers because it seems better to connect than disconnect. I’m a listening ear because I believe everyone has a story to tell. I’m a believer in God, even when there are a thousand reasons to doubt and buy into all the lies this world tells me about who I am and who I should be. I’m a hopeless romantic because I believe wholeheartedly in love itself rising above all things. I’m a constant giver-to-others who has been learning to return some of that love to herself….by reminding myself who I am, not relying on the world to do it for me.

 

 

When we only look at the surface of fit mom posts we see the following…

Amy Updike

A fit mom who competes in beauty/fitness pro competitions, baring her sculpted, bikini-clad body before judges to be pitted against other ripped and lean women.

When we look deeper and listen we see…

A woman who desired to live a healthy lifestyle through fitness competitions and who was faced with feelings of stress when she began competing with “deflated” boobs post-breastfeeding her first child. Amy explains that her chest wasn’t just flat but wrinkled too, making it impossible to “push up” anything in her bikini competitions. Amy states that she actually liked her athletic-looking body (flat chest and all) and enjoyed the freedom of lifting weights without her chest in the way, but felt pressured by her competitions to take action. She decided to get implants and underwent multiple surgeries that caused complications and ongoing pain. Amy finally decided to “explant” and tell her network about the news. Amy explains in a video confessional that she knew the implants were for shallow reasons but she thought it would make her feel a little better about herself. See…even people who win bikini competitions can be self-conscious at times.

Sia Cooper

A mom of two whose Instagram following is gigantic and who is sought-after for endorsements. Sia’s beach life and abs are swoon-worthy but there’s more to the story…

When we look deeper and listen we see…

Sia is a woman who has overcome a tough childhood and a mother telling her that she was never good or pretty enough. She is a woman who has suffered from body dysmorphia, depression and gender disappointment. She is a woman of grit who is trying to prop up others through honesty and humility. And yes, maybe a little oversharing, but when you have 630K+ followers…that’s what they demand. So they can’t complain! Plus, oversharing the bare truth is where we find meaning and empathy.

Maria Kang

Mom of three boys, Maria was slammed for posing for a picture in a sports bra alongside her sons as babies/toddlers (3 yrs, 2 yrs, 8 months), with a caption over the photo saying “What’s Your Excuse?” To some people, the photo appears intimidating and arrogant, until you learn more…

When we look deeper and listen we see…

Maria has suffered from depression and bulimia, and was filled with fear when she was unemployed, lacking health insurance and pregnant with her first child out of wedlock. She experienced all the feelings you would imagine for a woman in this position, but as she started pushing forward and hoping a little harder, her fear gave way to perseverance. And a self-created mini empire for fitness fanatics. 

 

 

You see…just like Maria Kang’s burning question, “What’s Your Excuse?” all of these fit moms are confessing to be filled with the same excuses, fears and challenges as the rest of us are, yet they find a way to harness their self-doubt and become proactive for their health. None of them has a perfect life or perfect body. Heck, I’m sure many of them battle old demons regarding their body images, but they still try. They still try to find “healthy” in the middle of their snot-smeared, toddler-tantrum, sunrise-to-sunset days.

When I ask myself if I’m a “fit mom” I guess the answer is yes. I may not have a million followers…or even feel entirely comfortable with social media, to be honest…but I’m proactive about taking care of my health, in and out of the gym. So yea, in addition to being a fitness professional, I’m also a fit mom, a tired mom, a reaching-for-a-glass-of-red mom, a bath-time-singing mom, a trying-hard-to-work-hard mom, and a NORMAL mom. Just like ALL of us. Toned abs or not. And the sooner we lift each other up, instead of size each other up, the faster we all rise.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

The Truth About CrossFit

I get this question a lot: “What do you think about CrossFit?” Here’s the thing…I could give you my opinions but they are just that; opinions. The real, objective truth about this controversial fitness company can be summarized when you understand the one thing that most people don’t realize about CrossFit and which applies to all of its locations. So, here it is…the truth about CrossFit.

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Drumroll please….

THE TRUTH:

CrossFit is NOT a franchise. It’s a licensed brand. Knowing this simple fact explains the entire controversy surrounding the CrossFit brand. Allow me to explain…

In most franchises, there are standards that franchisees must abide by. A gym franchise will have the same look, experience and employee standards from one location to the next. In licensing, all that is the same from one location to the next is the brand, the name. Everything else is basically left up to the affiliate who purchased the rights to license the brand.

On CrossFit’s website, the easy steps to affiliate with the brand are explained: “Write us an essay (application), license a name, set up a website, send us photos and you become part of the growing community of CrossFit affiliates.” Rights to this powerhouse fitness name are a matter of writing an essay, attending a weekend-long seminar, finding a location and insurance for a box, and paying an inexpensive, annual licensing fee. This will result in two types of box owners: 1) Professionals who go above and beyond to equip their facilities with best practices and seasoned professionals, and 2) People who are not professional in the way they recruit their employees and run their gym.

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This is what causes some boxes to have the best personal trainers in the industry and others to have professionals who lack appropriate credentials and experience. The discrepancy in professionalism leads to wide gaps in safety standards and exercise programming. Such significant differences cause some CrossFitters to be fiercely loyal to the brand and leaves other box members disillusioned as their safety is risked by instructors who can’t properly support participants during workouts.

So, there you have it. The good and bad rumors about CrossFit are all accurate. It depends on who you ask and where (and with whom) they have worked out. In truth, this isn’t very different from gym franchises. Every participant in any fitness program will have a unique experience contingent on a number of factors. It’s up to YOU to decide who you can trust, not just at CrossFit boxes but everywhere. The good, the bad and the ugly can exist in just about every fitness brand. Advocate for your health with informed decisions, a little trial-and-error, and knowing when to step away from a haphazard or dangerous exercise environment. There’s a better place waiting for you around the block.

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Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz-blue-sea

Healthy Grocery Store Routines

If you can change your grocery store routine for the better, you can change your life. I’m totally serious. What we eat impacts our energy, body shape, body image, confidence and overall vitality. Healthy eating habits aren’t just about weight loss or gain. There’s a reason women and men trying to conceive are told to watch their diet for three months prior to trying. Even people attempting to heal from a physical injury are consulted on how best to eat to reduce inflammation and improve more quickly. The scope of what we can change through better eating is endless. The best place to start is your grocery store routine. From the moment you arrive to when you leave, there are simple strategies you can use to make the experience healthier. Here are 5 easy ones to try.

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1) Where You Park

We’ve all been there…driving furious laps around the grocery store parking lot, attempting to find a space near the automatic front doors. It can feel like a personal assault that no spaces are open when we are in a hurry. We may even roll our eyes in exasperation as someone packing up their car with grocery bags seems to take fooorreeevvveerr.  

Instead of wasting time trying to find that golden parking lot spot near the front or waiting for slowpoke to roll out, just take the first spot that you see. Why waste time going up and down the lanes when you can save time by parking in the first open spot (even if it’s way in the back) and walking in to the store? The extra steps won’t hurt you. In fact, changing this simple “find the easiest route” mentality is a huge deal. If we look at walking 100 yards or less from our car to the store as a nuisance, what other forms of movement throughout our day are we trying to shortcut? Do we avoid getting up more than a couple times a day from our desk to stretch, get water or loosen up with a little stroll around the office? Do we routinely take the escalator when the stairs are right beside it? Change this one simple thing and you’re on your way to including more movement across your whole day.

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2) Shop the Periphery

The periphery of the grocery store is where the good stuff is. You might be thinking I’m wrong because the cookies, crackers, chips and soda are all in the aisles, but I promise you, the periphery of most stores is where you want to do the bulk of your shopping. Why? The perimeter is where the fresh items are: fruits, vegetables, freshly baked breads, meats, fish, and dairy (or dairy substitutes rich in calcium). These foodstuffs are lowest in additives like sugar, sodium and processed chemicals. They are also lower in calories than processed foods and can be delicious on their own or cooked with a little olive oil or some spices.

There are some healthy items such as beans, legumes, plant oils, nuts and grains that can be found in the aisles, but if you spend most of your shopping experience wandering up and down tossing boxes and bags of food into your cart, you’re probably missing out on the most nutrient-dense items your body needs to thrive. Next time you’re grocery shopping make note of where you’re spending most of your time. See if you can pull away from the chip aisle in favor of the produce section.

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3) Plan Ahead

Healthy eating takes planning. Writing down how many meats and veggies you need for the week is a helpful way to have a game plan versus walking into the grocery store, getting overwhelmed thinking about dinner prep, and buying frozen pizzas and burritos. Leave them for hungry college kids to buy. If you balk at the prospect of making a unique meal for each dinner and/or lunch of the week then find two or three recipes that you can tackle one weekend afternoon and separate into meal-size portions for the whole week (or toss some in the freezer for later). Whatever works for you, write it on a notepad or in a phone memo. You want to go in to the store knowing what you’re buying so that last-minute stress and indecision can’t throw off your choices and wreck an entire week of eating.

Another way planning ahead with a list helps is to keep you from overindulging, especially if you go to the store hungry. This will always backfire so try to go after you’ve had a meal or snack. For example, ever gone into Trader Joe’s in the fall? Every inch of that store boasts a delicious pumpkin item from pumpkin butter to pumpkin ice cream. It’s serious pumpkin overload for both lovers and haters of the food. For those of us who LOVE this time of year, especially at TJ’s, it’s nearly impossible to walk out of the store without making impulse buys without a grocery list plan ready.

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4) Allow Yourself a Splurge (or two)

Would it be fair to walk into pumpkin heaven (see above) without allowing myself to splurge on an item or two? No. That would be mean and cruel. Allowing yourself a very specific number of splurge items to buy is totally fine each grocery trip. I suggest two. I usually allow myself to buy some of my favorite sweet potato crackers as one splurge item and then, depending on the week, will let myself get either dark chocolate or coconut milk ice cream. I don’t eat any of these things in excess or all at once, but I like having them in my kitchen for moments when a little something special fits the bill.

Contrary to what people might think, allowing yourself to eat things that you crave can result in eating less, not more. Studies have shown that people who try to deprive themselves of desirable foods end up caving and eating way more of them (they even think about those foods more too!). People also tend to “eat around” what they really want. For example, they really want ice cream but will try to eat some nuts to satisfy their craving first. When the nuts don’t seem to work, they eat some bread or cheese, and on it goes until the person finally eats the ice cream. At this point, they are feeling so guilty for having overeaten other items that they also overeat the ice cream in a shame-binge. Save yourself from this. Just eat the darn ice cream already. And buy it too. 

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5) Get Active as You Exit

We often stand twiddling our thumbs while the cashier swipes our food items and bags them too. Instead of sitting back waiting to complete your transaction, try offering a helping hand. Start bagging the groceries. You will burn a little more energy, make things faster for other shoppers if the lines are long, and will help the friendly cashier with her job. Help out even if they aren’t friendly – you never know what someone is going through! You will also benefit by getting out the door faster and you will save your bananas and eggs from getting crushed. Always a worthy cause to motivate a shopper.

Lastly, as you prepare to leave the premises, your grocery bags neatly stowed in the trunk of your car, there is one last step before turning your key in the ignition. Put the shopping cart away!!! I see grocery store parking lots littered with shopping carts from people too lazy or busy to be bothered to complete this simple step. It’s a courtesy to the people working at the store and other drivers whose cars are at risk of getting hit by runaway carts. Just like step one in this article, this transition in mentality, taking action instead of the easy route out, transcends into other areas of your life too. This same mentality controls whether or not you get off your couch on the weekends and go on a run. It dictates whether you order take-out or cook something healthy.

Keep making the simple decisions that are best for your health and body. It doesn’t have to be hard. It can start with these basic steps at your local grocery store!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz-blue-sea

Are Fitness Trends Worth Your Time?

Every season an assortment of new fitness studios seems to appear on the market. There are popular new trends like intergalactic spinning (an immersive experience with CGI graphics) and pound (literally pounding to the beat of a drum while doing a mix of yoga and Pilates exercises), and old trends like aerial silk and mini trampoline workouts. These kinds of hip workout environments can cost $12-$35 per class. Are they really worth it?

The best way to decide if a fitness trend will take off or tank is to use my HABIT evaluation method. Ask yourself the following questions to decide whether a trend will fly off your radar or become a habit in your exercise repertoire.

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Are you afraid of getting HURT?

If you’re afraid of getting hurt or have an impending injury, you’re not going to move very freely during your workout. Restricted movements can actually lead to a greater risk for injury. When you regularly perform exercises in a shortened range of motion, you aren’t optimally strengthening the muscle. This creates a lose-lose situation where you’re not able to fully enjoy yourself AND you’re putting your body through the ringer. No Bueno.

You need to find fitness classes and experiences where you are confident that you can perform well enough to avoid injury. I’m not saying you have to be the best in class (then none of us would show up!), but you can’t walk in super intimidated or guarded. With your defenses up, your walls are actually at greater risk of crashing down because exercise form and flow suffer. So, if you’re terribly afraid of heights, maybe steer clear of the aerial silks? Freezing up or choking at 10 feet off the ground probably has some consequences…

Are the instructors ATTENTIVE?

The best exercise experiences have qualified instructors who pay attention to their participants’ needs. Rookie instructors are often so absorbed in trying to juggle everything (or in getting their own workout in) that they lack attention to details like participants’ form, smooth transitions and timely cueing. If the instructor or trainer seems to flounder right when you’re in need of some extra help to keep moving fluidly – and safely – through the workout, this probably isn’t a place worth your time and money, even if all the popular fitness websites and bloggers are hyping it up. They’re probably just trying to find something new to talk about!  
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Does it fit in your BUDGET?

I hear people say that they love Soul Cycle or Pure Barre classes but wish that they weren’t so expensive. Even the most popular exercise formats may be too much of a stretch for some wallets. If that’s the case for you, don’t sweat it. Don’t let the expense of certain exercise formats or gyms demotivate you. If it stresses you out to pay for pricey fitness, you’re not helping your mental or financial health either, both of which work in concert with your overall wellbeing. There are too many options out there to believe that only the most popular and expensive classes are going to get you into tip-top shape. There are plenty of nontraditional workouts to enjoy. There are also lots of free demo classes at studios to check out and affordable group workouts run by trainers in local parks (not to mention open running and cycling groups). The body and health you desire can be achieved by a number of means.

On the other hand, if you’re the type who is extremely motivated by the steep financial commitment of several hundred dollars a month (or more) for fitness, then calculate your losses every time you consider sleeping in instead of getting up for your workout. Those dollar signs can add up quickly, even from behind closed eyelids!

Is the experience INTERESTING?

Are you interested in the exercise trend and is it any fun?! If you’re going just because you hear it will give you great results, but you hate every minute of it, it’s probably not going to integrate into your list of exercises for the future, so why bother? Exercise can be hard and fun at the same time. Don’t waste precious money, energy and time on something that isn’t. There are too many unique options out there…and you know never know what trend is coming up next!

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Does it work with the TIME you have available?

I’ve seen it time and time again; people sign up for a morning workout program (even though they’re a night owl, not a lark) and think they will make the time for it. The first week or two they jump out of bed, eager to make their commitment stick. After a few solid weeks, they become wishy-washy, and by then end of the program they’re feeling guilty for having missed out on so many classes that they throw in the towel for the rest. It’s important to be realistic about what will integrate well with your work and life schedule. If you’re a social butterfly at happy hour or have lots of work dinners to attend, prioritize morning workouts. If sleeping in and a slow breakfast are requirements for getting you off to the right start, then consider a lunchtime or after-work exercise schedule. Once you find your optimal workout time, be consistent and get it done!


 

If you’re eyeing up a juicy new trend, or a popular oldie but goodie, make sure you to determine whether or not it will Hurt you, have Attentive instructors, fit in your Budget, be fun and Interesting, and work with your schedule and Time available for exercise. When you find an exercise class, group or program that has the potential to become a HABIT instead of a one-off experience, you’ve found a winner. Bounce, spin, lift, plie or run till your heart’s content! For better or worse, I’m sure there’s a workout somewhere that tries to fit all of that in under five minutes. It probably claims that you will lose 30 lbs. in a month by doing it too. Feel free to keep your guard up about some things, people!

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

wellnesswinz blue sea

Bulky vs. Long and Lean

People are often concerned that they will get “bulky” when starting a workout program. I hear something like this a lot: “I want to get lean and toned, not big and bulky.” Packing on bulky muscle isn’t likely something you have to worry about though. Here’s why you don’t have to stress about bulking (unless you want to!) and how you can adjust your workouts to feel “long and lean.”

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Why You Don’t Have to Stress About Getting Bulky

Bulking takes a LOT of effort

I hate to say it but you will probably have a harder time increasing muscle size and strength than having an overabundance of voluminous muscle suddenly added to your frame. A couple months of hitting the gym is not likely to make you truly bulky. Even regular exercise only does so much to build up muscles in a “bulky” manner. This is especially the case for women due to differences in hormones that prevent us from being able to acquire muscle in the same way that men do. Not fair, Mother Nature. Not fair.

The truth is, bodybuilders spend a ton of time hitting the weights (we’re talking potentially hours every day of the week) and follow a very strict diet (much more protein than the average person consumes). So don’t sweat it if you’re trying to avoid your pants feeling too tight or your suit jackets not fitting. Although, in my opinion, if this results from healthy muscle gains then you’ve got a GOOD “problem” on your hands! Your exercise program will probably not be vigorous or specific enough to bulk you up.

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Heavy weightlifting does not necessarily result in bulky muscles

Heavy weight training and light weight training aren’t all that different. If you exercise, with any weight range, to the point of fatigue, you will get micro-tears in your muscles which repair and allow you to become stronger and more toned. Building muscle can result from any kind of physical exercise, weight training or endurance activity. This is a good thing, just to be clear! Heavy weightlifting tends to get a bad rep though (among people concerned about bulky muscle), but heavier weights are one of the most efficient ways to spend your time exercising since they give you great results. The more you progressively overload your muscles with heavier resistances, the more muscle you will gain. The more muscle you have, the higher metabolism you create for yourself and the more calories you burn overall throughout the day. Greater calorie burn = greater potential for becoming lean. When coupled with a balanced diet that is…sadly, you still can’t eat cake every night and get away with it.

To sum, building muscle strength through light or heavy weight training (although the latter is generally more efficient) is not synonymous with the specific training for maximal muscle acquisition that comprises the process of bulking.

What ACTUALLY Makes Someone Look “Long and Lean”

We’ve all seen that person walking into the gym with muscles so puffed up that their arms barely look like they will touch their sides. Clearly, this is not a physique that screams long and lean. More often, images of ballerinas and thin Pilates instructors come to mind. In reality, there isn’t a lot these individuals are doing to “lean out” their muscles though. They often look “long and lean” because they are themselves thin and toned. Sometimes this is the result of hard work and sometimes it’s simply genetic.

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While it’s true that stretching helps elongate muscles, stretched out muscles don’t aesthetically look a whole lot different than tight muscles. There’s no major discernable visual difference in spite of what many Pilates, Barre and yoga instructors might preach. Yup, the “long and lean results” claims are mostly marketing ploys. I haven’t met a single person who is 5′ 4″ that has done Pilates three times a week and looked “longer.” Have you? Someone doing Pilates, Barre or yoga might look lean (although typically cardio exercise and weight training produce a leaner physique thanks to burning more calories), but they aren’t suddenly looking like some sky-high beanpole. They probably feel longer thanks to muscles that are nicely stretched out throughout these exercise formats. Balancing strength and cardio exercise with stretching is the ideal way to help you feel longer, relax tight muscles, speed recovery and avoid injury.

As an exercise professional, I can tell you that the only way to *potentially* look “longer” is simply by being leaner – and maintaining tall posture. Perhaps less bulk on your frame (from shedding fat, not muscle) will help you look in the mirror and say “aha! I look taller!” If so, wonderful! Whatever helps ya sleep at night and, of course, stay healthy.

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Here’s how you get and stay lean:

  • Burn calories. Through whatever exercise modality you love and can do regularly, workout to burn energy and shed fat. As you lose a layer of fat your muscles will emerge. Ever seen a young skinny boy with a six pack? He didn’t work for those ripped-looking abs at the ripe age of 10, he just doesn’t have much fat to cover them up! Yes, a six-pack lies within all of us. Literally. 
  • Do a variety of exercises. That’s right, not just Pilates or yoga. If you continue to stimulate your body through new exercise types and challenges, you will avoid a training plateau and continue to reap calorie-burning and muscle-building results. This will lean you out. As mentioned earlier, don’t forget to stretch!
  • Switch up the way you work each muscle. One of the ways that bodybuilders achieve bulk is by repeatedly doing the same exercise over and over again at heavier and heavier weights. There are lots of benefits to this, don’t get me wrong! You can achieve great strength gains, burn fat and boost confidence as you master your technique, but you are also more likely to hypertrophy specific muscle fibers that will get larger over time and *may* result in a little bulk. To avoid this, try rotating what type of equipment and angle you use to work each muscle group. For example, try doing chest fly instead of push-ups to work the chest muscles. After mastering the chest fly, try an incline bench chest press with dumbbells. Keeping the muscles stimulated in this manner will help them stay strong and balanced. It will also help you achieve an overall toned look.
  • Eat clean. There is no way to get lean without controlling caloric intake and the best way to do that is to limit junky foods which are laden with calories. Eat clean, get lean. It rhymes!
  • Drink lots of water. Our muscles swell or hypertrophy after tough workouts, retaining fluids during the healing process. Help your body out and drink lots of fluids to keep things moving and avoid feeling puffy. Sometimes people quit effective workout routines before they’ve had a chance to see results because this post-workout muscle swelling can feel bulky. But it’s not! It’s a sign of progress! 

Get long and lean, or get bulky if that’s what you want! Whatever your fitness aspiratoins, just stay YOU in the process. And have a little fun while you’re at it!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea

The Ultimate Guide to Pre-Workout Supplements

Even as a personal trainer I spent my early career hesitant to approach the topic of supplementation. I was confused about some of the existing information out there and wasn’t sure about my stance on it. Today, I believe supplementation is a personal choice and one I encourage each person to consider and weigh for themselves. This infographic, so kindly provided just for us by Supplement Mart, makes all the confusing terminology easy to understand so you can make the decisions best for you and your body! Now raise a protein drink and cheers!!!

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Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

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The Lighthouse Method for Fitness and Wellness

Stacy S. Kim, PhD and author of The Lighthouse Method, helps people navigate what she calls “life junctions” or times in your life when you feel stuck, frustrated and unfulfilled. While her book and speaking engagements usually revolve around helping women revamp or launch their careers, her coaching and suggestions are excellent and can be easily applied to the fitness and wellness space. So, what is this methodology? How do you apply it in your own life to get out of a rut? How do you use it to enjoy your body and health? Let’s explore together…

Lighthouse

When people come to Stacy they are often frustrated and lacking answers. They want a career change but they don’t know how to achieve it. Sometimes, they don’t even know where to start because they aren’t sure what they want to do. As a personal trainer, I can say that this happens to me a lot too. People come to me feeling like they need to try something new for their health and wellness, but they aren’t sure where to start. The sea of information is overwhelming and getting started feels daunting. As coaching professionals, it’s important to help people get “unstuck” and to navigate them towards answers. For this reason, I love Stacy’s approach…

Stacy encourages people to forget about drawing up a perfect roadmap for their career and happiness. In fact, she says to ditch the planning altogether! Shocker to all us Type A ladies, I know. The need for a perfect plan leaves many people in decision paralysis and/or feeling stressed out. They are unable to take the first steps of action because the timing or logistics of their “perfect” plan fall short. There is never a perfect way or time to get started on a perfect plan. For example, a mom wants to work with disabled children but doesn’t have experience to gain a job in special education. She starts planning out how to get a degree in order to become qualified, but the analytical planning (how to apply for schools, where they will be, the financial commitment, juggling study time with family time, etc) keeps her from feeling like she can take action. She gets stuck trying to navigate and her good intentions are so fraught with perfectionism that she pigeon holes herself into inaction.

Likewise, a lot of people wanting to change their health try to think of the perfect weight loss plan before getting started. They map out exactly how many days they want to be active each week, where they will work out, the times of day that work for them to exercise and even how they will start a diet plan. Sounds great, right? Not so fast. Before you know it, there are so many preconditions necessary for exercise and eating well that it becomes difficult to get “all the ducks in a row.” Before you know it, broccoli is spoiling in the fridge and guilt is piling up about the tennis shoes that are still stowed in the front hall closet.

So, how do you get unstuck? How do you move forward? 

Stacy suggests thinking of a lighthouse. The light may be barely visible, but it still has the power to help boats navigate. Similarly, think about whatever inkling of a feeling you have about what you want to do or what you enjoy the most. It might not be crystal clear, but whatever it is, that is your lighthouse. For example, a woman might really love crafting (i.e. “her lighthouse”) but she doesn’t understand how that could correlate to a career. She was formerly a lawyer before becoming a stay-at-home mom. Stacy would encourage this woman to find the time, in small ways, to do more crafting. Over time, it may evolve into an unexpected path or it may make her a more joyous person and bring clarity to other parts of her life.

I encourage readers and personal training clients to think of their health, fitness and wellness in a similar vein. For example, what do you enjoy the most when it comes to exercise? Maybe instead of thinking about your “need” to hit the gym five times a week you can become more active simply by allowing yourself to do something you genuinely enjoy? Perhaps participating in a tennis league twice a week will be so fulfilling that you find yourself suddenly willing to drop by the gym and eat more healthy! Another example; if you absolutely hate kale, why force yourself to eat a kale salad just because you hear it’s a super food and feel like you should fit it into your diet? That’s only going to make you gag! Although I love me some crispy kale chips. Instead, try eating veggies like you enjoy them on a holiday or special occasion. Maybe this is enough to make you get creative about other ways to eat them (and perhaps more healthy ways?!). In short, we are better at caring for ourselves when we come up with a “lighthouse” or some activity we know deep down will fulfill us.

What do we do after we discover our lighthouse?

Rowboat

Stacy points out the obvious: we will never get to our lighthouse if we don’t step in the rowboat and start rowing! In the process of rowing, we actually have to turn around backwards in the boat. In other words, we have to temporarily forget about our lighthouse/large goal or vision and focus on the task of rowing. If we focus too much on the lighthouse we will never get to it. We must take action and row the boat.

Cheers to Memorial Weekend, WellnessWinz readers! Discover your lighthouse and start rowing soon!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Proper Nutrition for Healthy Skin

It might surprise you that what we consume is just as important as the products we use when it comes to keeping our skin healthy.  It’s important to get the nutrients we need to keep our skin looking great.

So, what foods can help keep our skin healthy?

  1. Eat foods rich in Vitamin A.  This vitamin is important for overall skin health.  Foods rich in vitamin A are carrots and low-fat dairy products.
  2. To help prevent age related issues caused by sun exposure, make sure you get plenty of Lycopene in your diet. Some foods that contain Lycopene are tomatoes, guava, and watermelon!
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids help nourish the skin and regulate oil production. Fish, flax seeds, and eggs are all examples of foods high in Omega-3s.
  4. Vitamin C. This vitamin can help fight wrinkles. Some foods that are rich in Vitamin C are sweet potatoes, squash, melons, and citrus fruits.
  5. Vitamin E helps repair damaged cells. Get the benefits by eating nuts and seeds.

A healthy digestive tract is also important to keep your skin looking great.  These are some additional nutrients you should include in your diet to help keep your gut and skin healthy:

Fiber – Foods rich in fiber will help your digestive system remove waste.

Probiotics – These healthy bacteria will help balance your digestive tract

Digestive Enzymes – These can assist in helping you get as much nutrition from the foods you eat as you can.  Look for a quality digestive enzyme.

I hope you learned something new from these tips.  Check out our infographic below that illustrates the importance of how proper nutrition and a healthy gut can help keep our skin healthy!

Personal anecdote from Maggie, author of WellnessWinz: When I started taking probiotics and eating veggies at every lunch and dinner, my skin improved dramatically! Wellness is in the little details and adjustments we make in our lives. 

Healthy Skin infographic non-branded

This article was contributed by Samantha Thayer at USANA Health Sciences.  Infographic design by Taylor Romney, and used with permission.  For more information on how you can love life and live it, visit us at our blog, What’s Up, USANA?. Thank you, Samantha and Taylor! I know I learned something and I’m sure readers did too!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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What I Learned About the Body…after I got hit by a car (Part 2)

If you’re joining the story now, please feel free to read the first part of it: http://bit.ly/1Leo8Fp

These are lessons that I have learned the hard way and that I’m here to share.  

 car accident 4

 

Lesson #5: Don’t give up on finding the right care from the right professional

It can be incredibly difficult to navigate the confusing network of health professionals. So many people get lost when they try to figure out if they should seek treatment options from general practitioners, massage therapists, physical therapists, acupuncture specialists, chiropractic doctors, nutritionists, personal trainers, psychologists, and more. One common question is: “Should I try one at a time or opt for multiple forms of treatment at once?” This is a tricky question to answer because it’s very different for each and every person, according to their condition and stage of healing.

For me, I’ve tried it all. Literally. I sought out acupuncture and cupping techniques with one specialist, cognitive therapy for post-traumatic stress with another, chiropractic adjustments with two doctors, physical therapy with five different professionals, and massage therapies from an uncountable number of nimble-fingered individuals. This is not even an exhaustive list of the professionals I worked with while trying to recover from my accident. The reason I kept trying different things is because every person gave me a different opinion. I would give heed to their opinion and try their approach for a while and if it wasn’t working out, then I moved on to the next.

Although I had moments when tears of frustration would roll down my face, feeling like I had set out on a fruitless treasure hunt, I just knew that I had to keep trying. What on earth would happen if I gave up?!  Thus, the years stretched on, but ironically, I started to learn so much more than I bargained for. I began to learn how to heal other people who were dealing with back pain. In the time that it took me to heal my own, I helped over a dozen people quickly dissolve their issues. Perhaps, I thought, those seemingly pointless efforts with other health professionals weren’t such a waste of time after all!

In the end, I’ve learned that different stages of healing may require different forms of assistance. For example, there was a time when the most important thing for me to do was heal emotionally. Once I was calmer, I began to believe in the physical healing process again. Once I rebooted that journey, I found that needling in physical therapy worked for a while, to bring flexibility back to stiff muscles that had been stuck in spasm. At another point, I found that my muscles were flexible enough to allow my back to get adjusted into alignment by a chiropractor. And finally, I found that my body was getting better and better at keeping me in alignment all on its own, thanks to being able to increase strength training again.

car accident 5

This long, drawn-out process is just my story. (Believe it or not, we barely scratched the surface.) It doesn’t have to be so convoluted for everyone. What’s important is that you keep looking for the right help. Once you’ve found a great professional, give them time to really impact your body with their treatment/approach. Full healing won’t happen overnight so try not to leave after your first session expecting the process to be done.

Lastly on this subject, although I’m preaching to give practitioners time and patience, it’s also important to recognize and get out of a bad situation. One chiropractor I used to work with actually had the audacity to tell me not to gain weight, citing that it wouldn’t be attractive to men. It was so out of the blue (not to mention UNCALLED FOR) that it completely took me aback. I told the chauvinist straight to his face that he was lucky he said that to me and not another woman because I wouldn’t sue the pants off of him for harassment. This was not the first comment of his that was inappropriate. I walked out of his clinic that day and never turned back. There is nothing more damaging than someone who is supposed to heal you trying to tear you down instead. I deserved better. You deserve better.

 

Lesson #6: Inflammation does weird things to the body

Yes, it’s true. When inflammation is high, your body reacts in strange and confusing ways. For example, I already mentioned to you that my body gained a lot of weight during this time. Part of this weight gain was my body hoarding fat because it was scared for its life (rightfully so). Another part of the weight gain was because of excessive water retention. My body couldn’t figure out how to flush anything through its system because it was so backed up and slowed down by all the stresses it was trying to combat.

I can remember one evening when I was with a group of friends, and the guy I liked at the time, at a bar. I drank a cocktail and it sent me over the edge. I felt sick and got an intense menopausal-like hot flash. I couldn’t understand what was going on with my body. All I knew was that I needed to cool down FAST. I was profusely sweating through my dress. I told my friends that I needed to go to the bathroom but instead, I snuck around the bar counter and flung open a beer fridge’s door. If I could have squeezed my whole body into that cool little space I would have. I was desperate.

I understand now that when the body is severely inflamed, even simple things like eating a food that you are sensitive to, or drinking an alcoholic beverage, can tip you into unpredictable states of discomfort. I wish I could say exactly what happens to each person in every scenario known to man, but I can’t. I can only say that keeping attuned to your healthy – or unhealthy – habits is more important than ever. Pay attention to how your body is reacting. It’s a powerful experience to realize just how prepared our bodies are to defend themselves. It physically feels like a bad thing, but it’s actually a good thing in the end.

There was another time that I experienced something really bizarre, that I think may have been related to inflammation too. It happened to me was about a year after the accident. I went for a jog on a treadmill one afternoon. It felt good. Later that day, I had red spots all over my legs. I couldn’t tell if they were burst blood capillaries, an allergic reaction, or what! Even doctors weren’t sure. It was terrifying.

I’m still not sure what the red spots were from but I have my suspicions. I was hyped up on Ambien every night, to help with my insomnia, and I took pain killers from time to time, when my pain got really bad. In other words, my body was dealing with a lot of foreign substances. It seemed that anything wacky was game to happen.

Since I noticed that my body was obviously NOT okay with me putting anything foreign or toxic into it, I started to strip down my diet and reduce medications. I was extra careful about everything I put into my body. Over time, eating clean and being cautious about medicines really helped me. I think the crazy bodily dysfunctions were its way of telling me to stop putting foreign substances into it, and to let it do what the human body is best at: take care of me.

car accident 1

 Pictures on top = post-exercise red spots.

Pictures below = marks from cupping treatments I did for a while…definitely not ideal during sundress season. 

 

Lesson #7: If your spirit is defeated, your body is defeated

A few months after my accident my cousin visited. She was excited to see Washington, DC and at the time, I lived smack dab in the center of “the action.” She was in my bathroom, showering and primping to get ready for a fun girls’ night out, while I was in my bed, head spinning and body screaming for more sleep. She came into the room and asked if I was feeling okay. The only thing I could say was “I feel like I want to go to sleep and never wake up again.”

She was in obvious shock at my statement and shared her concern. I had to explain to her that I wasn’t suicidal; I just didn’t want to keep fighting. I was spent! My comment just felt like the most natural statement I could make at the moment.

This feeling of burnout lasted for a while. I made many careless mistakes during that time in my life. I went out partying, initiated arguments with my family over nothing, and showed interest in “bad boys” when I had forever favored mamas’ boys. It wasn’t until I started to put more effort into finding peace within myself and with God that I got back on track.

I decided to initiate this process by taking a month off of work. I spent lots of time soul-searching in coffee shops and wrote a book that reconnected me to my faith. As I wrote, I started to realize that I wasn’t alone. I could stop feeling so afraid. I can still remember the day that I fell down to my knees in my shower – it hit me out of nowhere that God had been there for me the whole time, even when I had forgotten and lost my way. I began to understand how to replenish my spirit and thereby discovered energy to move forward and physically heal.

 

Lesson #8: The universe has a wonderful way of bringing the right people your way during times of need

I wonder if I would still be married to my husband if I hadn’t been hit by that car. I know it sounds crazy but it’s true! I met my husband during my “bad boy” streak and he was the farthest thing from dismissive, rude and reckless. He was compassionate and full of life. Although I tried to shrug him off, his persistence and light kept me tethered. Although I didn’t feel attractive or worthy at that time, he saw every good thing about me even though I was focused so exclusively on the bad.

I remember the night that we met. We ended up dancing for hours. Dancing became our favorite thing to do during the first few months of knowing one another. It felt great. We would find places to dance in the city and would continue dancing in our living rooms. Wherever we were, we found a way to celebrate and have fun. It was the most refreshing experience ever.

I really do believe that he was sent into my life at the exact right time. He helped show me that healing was possible and that there is much to be excited about, even when you’re not feeling physically great. I would briefly forget about my pain while I was having fun and laughing with him. Soon, the bouts of pain became less frequent and less severe. Eventually, I would go an entire 24 hours without severe pain. Even when pain did hit me with a vengeance, I found new ways to stay calm because I realized that someday I would get over it completely. Everything was going to be okay.

0376-Maggie_and_Casey

 

Lesson #9: Moments of weakness and frustration are not signs that you’re failing to heal

I wish I could say that healing is a linear process but alas, I can’t do that. I had many hang-ups and pitfalls along the way. Sometimes I would feel gently defeated and other times I would feel like an utter failure, but I learned to get over those negative mentalities. I learned to get stronger each and every time.

Simple moments challenged me, like when I slipped on ice during the winter and my back went into a brief spasm, and when friends would ask me to go to tough exercise classes with them and I would have to say no even though I had formerly always said yes. There were other more profound moments that set back my body and spirits too. For example, one mid-summer day I collapsed in my apartment building’s elevator. I had been carrying heavy groceries because I was planning to spend the whole day cooking for family. It was a quiet hour in the middle of the day so no one was around to help me. I crawled, dragging my groceries along the floor. I tried to stand up but keeled over again. I kept trying to get back on my feet but I collapsed another two times as I made my way down the hallway to my apartment. Once inside, I cried until I was too tired to cry more.

Although moments like this have the power to defeat you, they aren’t a sign that you haven’t made progress. Every time I would reignite the pain, I would get over it a little faster than before. Each time, I learned something valuable.

 

Lesson #10: Learning to let go is the final step

Has my body reached pre-trauma condition? Honestly…no. But, have I fully recovered? Yes. Let me explain…

Up until a few short years ago, I still had to put a heating pack on my back a few times every month. I would also occasionally have a sleepless night or two when my nerves would get set off and I’d fear falling back into insomnia. To this day, my back and hips have remained a little more sensitive and prone to instability. I keep it under control though.

My heart will always feel a little bit sad when I think of how dark some of those days of pain were but I also know that they taught me a lot. I decided years ago that I would be okay and my body has followed me in that decision. I’ve learned exactly what to do in 15-20 minutes to immediately correct a flare-up that would formerly last for months. I’ve also learned that I’m capable of surviving one of the worst kinds of pain in the world – the loss of self-identity. If I can rediscover myself and come out stronger, I know that you can too.

Recovery is possible when we decide to let go of hurt and move on. It’s a single, simple, profound decision [to let go] that one has to consistently choose, every day and during every moment of frustration. It’s a decision that is made in the midst of pain that can pull you through to the other side.

I believe that the power of letting go can have a meaningful impact in anyone’s life. I encourage you to give it a try.

 

I sincerely hope that sharing this authentic story will help someone else

find healing and joy soon too.

“Start believing you can.”

Maggie

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