Tag Archives: Wellnesswinz

The Latest Trends that Threaten our Fitness

There are some older fitness and dieting trends that women now understand are baloney. Others that have more recently emerged, however, threaten our health and fitness in new, unanticipated ways that throw us off our game. Today, we will take a magnifying glass to the unfortunate, latest trends in fitness that threaten our efforts to become fit. We will also discuss how to live your own life by rules that work for your body’s personal needs.

 

Post-Baby Expectations and Pressure

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Almost every woman has an immediate interest in feeling like her “old self” again after having a baby. Whether you’ve given birth to children before (perhaps many years ago) or have a female relative or friend, you can empathize with the emotional and physical struggle that can ensue post-natal months of sleep deprivation, crying through the night, dirty diapers, and hasty efforts to satisfy family needs at meal times.

Recent pressures from the media, to lose 20-30+ lbs of baby weight in under 30 days, are unrealistic. While it’s helpful to lose the majority of the weight in under a year, it’s also a challenging prospect when hormones are experiencing a daily rollercoaster ride. Every woman’s body will respond differently according to oh, say, 1,000,000,000 factors during those initial post-natal months.

While it’s inspiring to see that baby weight CAN be lost and a flat belly CAN be regained (in some cases), weight loss should not be a measuring stick of maternal success nor an opportunity to shame one another for less successful efforts.

Maria Kang, a mother of three young boys turned social media celebrity, became famous for a picture she posted of herself in her underwear, posing on her knees with her three adorable sons alongside her. They’re all under the age of three…so at least they won’t remember this photo-opt with mostly naked mommy. Across the top of the professionally done, glossy photograph, and just above Maria’s perfect smile, perky boobs, and tight tummy, is plastered the question that spawned media attention, debate, admiration, and ridicule: “What’s your excuse?”

Maria, to her credit, intended to inspire women, not ridicule or shame them, and she has. Her latest mission is the “No Excuse Mom Movement” where women support one another through workouts and keep each other accountable to goals. The movement embraces ALL different body types. This is the important, critical point – women of all different body types have babies and women enter the motherhood journey with different obstacles in their paths.

Tips to encourage women (yourself or loved ones) to feel their best post-baby:

  • Be patient with your body and its terms – motherhood is tough.
  • Enlist a woman’s help to buddy up for gym/workout time – maybe even just a simple walk during lunch a few times a week.
  • Although day one is not the time for a tough workout, don’t delay the simple things like clean eating and minimizing stress – these will both go a long way towards your health and your baby’s health too.
  • Keep a journal of positive moments both for you and your growing family and for you on your personal journey of health – celebrate even the small feats like drinking more water, getting a few minutes of extra shut eye, and eating more vegetables.
  • Keep focused on your personal journey rather than comparing yourself to someone else’s experiences and “failing” before you start due to intimidation.

 

The Thigh Gap Controversy

Legs

I must be living under a rock because I only recently heard of the “thigh gap.” A friend asked me if this was something women can achieve through exercise or if it’s just something else to add to the long list of unrealistic standards women impose on their bodies.

When she asked me, my mind immediately jumped back to middle school when I was in a swimming pool with a friend one night. She compared her legs to mine in the underwater light that cast shadows of our lower bodies across the pool floor. She said “perfect legs have space in the middle like mine when my knees are touching.” I looked at my legs in the water…no space. I remembered in that moment, that when I was even younger, in elementary school, a friend commented that my legs were a lot bigger than hers.

Now, it will come to no surprise to you that I still have nice “sizable” thighs to this day and frankly, I’m okay with it. It’s how I’m built. My legs are muscular and have allowed me to work out for the majority of the days of my adult life. They also hold more body fat than my stomach and mid-section, which is my body’s way of staying fertile and protecting against disease.

For women with my body structure, pining after a “thigh gap” is a waste of time. Only through drastic, unhealthy measures will this be achieved. “Reportedly, some teenage girls have taken the view that the bigger the gap, the more beautiful the girl. However, some have resorted to extreme dieting and surgery in order to try to obtain it. Critics are concerned that young women may develop an eating disorder by trying to obtain a body shape that is unnatural for them.”

There are some women, however, who have this body structure naturally. That’s okay, too! Everything must be framed around the question “what is natural for my body?” Katherine Timpf wrote for the National Review, “I have a thigh gap. Guess what? I’m also a healthy weight for my height. I’m not disgusting or scary, and I don’t look this way because an industry oppressed me into believing that I have to. I look this way because of my body structure: thin legs and wide hips.”

Tips to know what is normal for your body:

  • Look at your family members’ bodies – yes, everyone is different and our lifestyles may differ somewhat but genetics do play in. For example: I’m pretty sure my dad appreciates my mom’s lower body “assets” and I have no doubt that probably 25% of why my husband married me is thanks to my similar body shape, haha.
  • Consider consulting with a fitness professional who can discuss what various measurements mean for your body and health – weight on the scale, circumference measurements, and body fat measurements.
  • Consider what your body type is – pear, apple, hour-glass, triangle, etc.
  • Ask yourself (and answer sincerely): “Can I feel better and be more confident in my body if I eat better and exercise?”  And next “What is a realistic size I want to be and can stay, healthfully, for years to come?” If you answer in truth, rather than based on societal pressure or an extreme body type, you will figure out where and if there is a difference lying between your actual body size and a size that will help you live happier and healthier years.

 

Exercising and/or Bulking too Much

Bulking

Just as women can go too far with dieting or overeating, we can also go too far with exercise. In the past 5-10 years I have noticed that more women are excited to demonstrate that they can hit the gym 7x/week, run marathons, or weight train for bikini or figure competitions. These efforts are awesome and show how far we’ve come as a gender – just decades ago women were criticized for working out if it gave them muscle because it “isn’t feminine.” Pssssh. On the flip side, these hardcore efforts also deplete our bodies and can be just as unhealthy as other extremes.

Over-exercising, overeating, or under-eating are all different faces of the same monster. It’s the same monster that kept our hunter-gatherer ancestors alive and supporting one another: dopamine. This hormone triggers us to repeat behaviors that we deem positive for our survival. In modern times, since we’re equipped with easy grocery store access, modern-day appliances, and fast ways to socially connect, we don’t fear survival so much…instead, we often fear not meeting modern day, self-imposed standards for what we “should” do and how we “should” look.

Here are a few examples of how this works:

  • A woman makes herself throw up to become thinner and feels good, like she is closer to her goal afterwards. Ding!! Shot of dopamine in her system.
  • A woman is stressed about her job and knows that the rich taste of gooey brownies makes life feel better so she decides to eat three at once. Ding!! Shot of dopamine in her system.  
  • A woman exercises regularly and feels she must set herself apart from the throngs of gym-goers, striving for higher excellence, so she decides to work out for twice as long as usual, taking creatine to power her workout, and fueling up on protein-powder based shakes afterwards. Ding!! Shot of dopamine in her system.

As you can see, dopamine makes us feel “safe” even when our behaviors are risky. Thanks to this feeling of safety and accomplishment, dopamine is the most addictive hormone in our bodies. We crave it more and more AND MORE. As you can imagine, this spirals into extremes that threaten our health if we aren’t careful.

Women realized years ago that amenorrhea (i.e., loss of a menstrual cycle) due to over-exercising (typically excess cardio exercise) and under-eating is dangerous. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet realized that losing a cycle because of weight-lifting may also be potentially dangerous for our long-term health. “Bulking” is increasingly popular in the fitness realm and involves regular heavy lifting and eating excess protein calories while minimizing carbohydrate intake. This causes stress to the kidneys, sometimes causes excess proteins to be present in our bloodstream (which they shouldn’t be), and may cause amenorrhea.

Amenorrhea indicates that you aren’t presently fertile and may be accompanied by such symptoms as milky nipple discharge, hair loss, headaches, vision changes, excess facial hair, pelvic pain, and acne. Developing this condition appears to be more about low energy availability for the body than being merely underweight. So, even women at healthy weights can develop it.

Focusing on intense goals such as running a marathon or bulking for a season or so is okay. Heck, I’ve done both before! But we must be careful that we’re not hurting our health or ignoring our optimal needs.

Finding a balance is tough. I get it. So, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help stay in check:

  • Have you been eating enough fruits and vegetables or are the majority of your calories coming from animal and plant proteins?
  • Have you given yourself a few days off from the gym over the past few weeks to month or do you feel like you “have to go” every day?
  • Are you feeling more sore and tired after your workouts and never “bouncing back?”
  • Is your sleep becoming disturbed or restless?
  • Are you exercising through physical ailments with the mentality; “no pain, no gain?”
  • Are you obsessing over your goal to the extent that it is hurting your personal life or your professional obligations?

I hope reading this article, and its many nuances, can help you and/or the women in your life find health and happiness! You deserve it. She deserves it. 

Have you ever had challenges with your health because of pressure you feel about how your body “should” look? Please share your story or share this article! Let’s all pay it forward.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amenorrhoea

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/amenorrhea/basics/symptoms/con-20031561

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/395879/thigh-gap-shaming-not-body-positive-katherine-timpf

http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/maria-kang-no-excuses-fit-article-1.1994785

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thigh_gap

Quick Tips to Kick a Cold (lend Mother Nature a hand)

I was sitting down last Friday morning to prepare for Monday’s blog post when a friend asked for some quick, simple steps for kicking a cold she felt coming on. I’ve been handed this question in between more sniffles than I can account for, so it makes sense to defer my original article for later and offer up a few simple suggestions for kicking the one thing that makes the depths of winter worse than they already are: a head cold.

I’m not a doctor, but I’ve been told before that I’m a healer. Still deciding if I agree. If so, this isn’t because of mystical powers or celestial intervention. Not that I’m opposed to living out a Spiderman story of my own.

So, why can I help myself and others heal quickly? It’s because I’m a firm believer in the body’s ability to heal itself with proper rest, nutrition, and circulation…and when up against infirmity, I don’t belittle these essential lifelines. Or, for that matter, pop half a dozen pills and expect my body to “just deal with it.”

Nourish your body

Here we go…simple tips to lean on. If they don’t work, I’ll bring you chicken soup.

1) If you’re not having any digestive issues, try to eat as many greens as possible. Also berries, salmon, and mixed nuts have tons of health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties.

There have been numerous studies done on the benefits of nuts. Mixed nuts actually help reduce cardiovascular disease, cancer, infectious disease, annnnnddd RESPIRATORY disease! (We’ve all had a cold that’s moved from our heads to our chests…ouchy.)

2) Take a daily multivitamin as a nutrient safety net and a probiotic to build back the good bacteria in your gut. Make sure to consult with a doctor about the appropriate dosage for probiotics, especially if you’re on other medications.

Also, if you love your morning cup of java, try to leave your vitamins at the office to take at lunch or another time of day when caffeine isn’t in your system. Even though coffee can feel like your best friend, it actually reduces absorption of key vitamins and minerals (including Vitamin C and Zinc – crucial ones for your immune system)!

Coffee lover

3) Speaking of Zinc, this wonderful mineral is key for a healthy immune system. Oh yea, I said that already. It has been proven to shorten the duration of the common cold (whoopee!!!). If you’re like me, and you’re not chomping at the bit for oysters, lobster or red meat on a weekly basis, then you may not be getting enough Zinc. I do just love a juicy burger though.

A great way to get more Zinc during the onset of a cold is by taking Zinc lozenges. You can find these at most pharmacies near the throat drops. Zinc in the lozenge form tends to be easier on the stomach at non-meal times than a pill supplement.

4) Sometimes (when I’m super motivated), I will take Echinacea and/or have tea with it as an ingredient. Echinacea is a powerful herb that reduces the symptoms of colds by boosting the immune system. The jury is still out on whether it can also prevent colds.

If you want to find a robust tea, I suggest Yogi Teas. They are complex and delicious. They also evoke memories of my yoga studies in India…we had tea at least three times a day. The aroma of brewing tea wafted across the ashram, assailing my olfactory senses in fresh and delightful ways each day. Ahh, memory lane.

5) Did someone say India? Oh yes! I remember scarring you all a few months ago with visuals of me doing cleansings One of these cleansings is for your nasal passages. Cleaning them with a Neti Pot helps flush out debris and allergens. Your nose deserves a good cleaning just like your teeth!

It may be intimidating at first, but it will be worth it. You can pick up one at your local pharmacy. Quick tip: Don’t let your significant other watch…it ain’t pretty.

Chicken Soup

I hope these simple suggestions work wonders and help you stave off colds until spring allergies kick in! *Wink Wink* If not, the offer for chicken soup still stands…

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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References:

http://www.anti-agingfirewalls.com/2013/12/01/nuts-over-nuts/

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-981-echinacea.aspx?activeingredientid=981&activeingredientname=echinacea

http://www.webmd.com/allergies/sinus-pain-pressure-11/neti-pots

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc

https://www.yogiproducts.com/

 

The Spice of Life

YALA! Lets go-Blog jpeg

What do I have in common with Oprah? We’re both champions of Laurent Amzallag, DC’s favorite fitness motivator. Oprah chose Laurent as a fitness expert for her “Live Your Best Life” tour. ELLE Magazine, FOX, NBC and CBS have also featured Laurent and his unique, invigorating cardio workout class YaLa, which means “Let’s Go.”

Tons of women enjoy Laurent’s workout program on a regular basis and allow it to recharge them physically and emotionally. Through his leadership and encouragement, many women, including myself, have discovered that they are worthy of feeling sexy.

I’m honored to have known Laurent for six years. I met Laurent during a “dark time” in my life when we were both working at the same health club. I was suffering major back pain due to a car accident. I was losing sleep and gaining weight. My confidence was dwindling. I realized that as a young woman, I had been using my physical strength and appearance as a crutch for self-worth.

I remember asking Laurent “How are you doing?” on a particularly glum day. His response caught my attention, “Great, Maggie! I say any day above ground is a good day.

It’s this kind of attitude that makes Laurent a ray of sunshine to all those around him. He can make anyone realize that “sweat is the spice of life” (a regular quote of his) and I have seen women, young and old, leave an hour of working out with Laurent with smiles stretching from ear to ear. He’s hard to ignore and impossible to forget. Ladies, enjoy this one-of-a-kind man and his message for YOU!

Check out the video below. What are you waiting for?! YaLa! Let’s Go!

Ready for more YaLa inspiration? Feel free to connect with Laurent:

Youtube Channel:
YALA! Fitness
Vimeo (free and On Demand videos)
Twitter: @yala_fitness
Enjoy the journey-Blog jpeg
Yours in health and wellness,
Maggie
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How to be Balanced in Your Body

YOU MUST START BY BEING BALANCED

Pete McCall, Fitness Expert with the American Council on Exercise, explains that “progressing to resistance training before addressing muscular imbalances may actually worsen any existing dysfunctions and could lead to long-term injuries.” Your body craves stability and balance. It makes your nervous system feel safe and preps your body for performance.

This may be one reason why stretching for over 60 seconds before exercise has been suggested to decrease performance; it takes away the tightness or feeling of safety/stability from the body. I talked about this a bit more in a former audio post: http://bit.ly/1ytjX36 (I hope you’re as entertained listening as I am making these soundbites! Corny, I know.)

The balancing act

What does this mean in simple, relatable language? It means that if you have an ache, pain or imbalance in your body, it’s not wise to ignore it or to “power through it.”

I can’t tell you how many stubborn people I’ve had to turn away from bootcamp classes. I’ve seen people limp during warm-ups and argue, “Oh no, I’m cool. I’ll be fine.”

One man in particular, who I turned away from bootcamp, later confessed to me that he was coming to work out against doctor’s orders. He was slated for knee surgery in a few short weeks! I expressed sympathy for what he was going through but not without telling him that he better have a medical clearance before I let him come back to class. I can play bad cop all day long…

If you’re dealing with physical ailments on a regular basis then consult a professional. Learn how to get your body feeling balanced and comfortable day-to-day before going after heavy weights or intense exercise goals. Your body will thank you for it!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

 

References:

https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/684/ace-integrated-fitness-training-ift-model-for

Move in Ways You Never Thought Possible

3 PLANES OF MOVEMENT = BETTER TONE & STRENGTH

A simple concept from what I will call “Exercise 101″…

Your body moves in three planes of motion.

1- Side to Side (Frontal/Coronal plane)

2- Forward and Backward (Saggital plane)

3 – Twisting/Rotating (Transverse plane)

Why should I care?

It’s worth knowing and internalizing this simple piece of information because our bodies feel their best when we strengthen, move, and stretch in all three planes of motion. When we work our bodies too hard in one plane we tend to fall prone to injury and dysfunction. Similarly, if we avoid a plane entirely then we may find certain exercises, sports, or daily activities difficult.

For example: If a woman only bikes, runs or does the elliptical, then she is only moving in the forward/backward plane. This means that over time, she will lose the ability to move efficiently in twisting or side-to-side motions. The challenges may be subtle or debilitating. She might be more prone to ankle sprains when stepping onto an uneven sidewalk curb or she may find that twisting to one side to pick up her toddler is uncomfortable.

The following two pictures will help you visualize these planes of motion and see how they apply to movements you may already perform.

3 Planes of Movement

In the picture above you will see three planes of motion in action. The woman playing soccer is stepping to the side for the ball. Really not sure if she has just kicked the ball or is getting ready to receive it. Hm. The women in the middle picture are riding bikes. As mentioned earlier, bike riding is in the forward/backward or saggital plane. Lastly, the woman playing golf has completed a powerful twist, driving her into her backswing.

3 Planes of Movement 2

Let’s go from more active pictures to passive ones. In the picture above, the woman on the far left is doing a side stretch. The woman in the middle is stretching forward to loosen her hamstrings. The woman on the far right is in a yoga twist called “Half Lord of the Fishes” or Ardha Matsyendrasana (as I learned to call it while training in India).

As you can see, moving in lots of different planes is not rocket science. It’s simply something to become aware of and to consider as you choose your sports, exercises and daily habits so that you can feel your best.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Saving Time in Your Workout

LESS CAN BE MORE

Although a study conducted by John Jakicic encouraged a lot of discussion in 2008 about the exact amount of exercise one needs to maintain weight (150 minutes/week) and lose weight (275 minutes/week), there is much to be said for reaping benefits from less exercise.  Shorter, more efficient workouts (i.e., high intensity) are now being acknowledged by many experts as an effective means of weight control when combined with monitoring diet. Exercising for excessive hours may not actually pay off (or be worth it)!

HIIT Training

There is some evidence that exercising for over an hour a day may actually result in “diminished returns.” In other words, your body adapts to the stress and will figure out a way to conserve energy, expending less energy as a workout progresses compared to when it begins (again, typically for workouts over an hour).

Ultimately, if you are time pressed and looking to seriously burn calories then you have two options:

1) Lift heavy. This will increase the calories your body continues to burn after the workout.

Calorie burning analogy: After a red hot fire the embers burn for hours.

2) High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This kind of training will increase the number of calories you are burning in a short period of time because you are pushing yourself to exercise near your max heart rate. With quick recovery intervals between explosive/intense/energized bouts of effort, you will burn calories faster and be able to leave the gym sooner.

Calorie burning analogy: Think of a bonfire that roars ferociously for a short time before getting extinguished.

NOTE: If you are not conditioned for cardio or weight lifting exercises, or have never been taught proper form and recovery techniques, it’s best to set an exercise foundation before getting acquainted with these more advanced techniques. Check out Before You Hit the Gym to learn how to get yourself there. And don’t forget, I’m here if you have questions or need help!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Words of Advice from DC’s Wisest Trainer

FASTER DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUAL BETTER

There are countless maneuvers at the gym that I will call “cringe-worthy” because an individual moves through an exercise with terrible form, all for the sake of doing it quickly. Although these individuals think they look pretty sophisticated, they actually appear sloppy and out of controlSorry to break the bad news. Not to mention, they risk getting hurt.

Lots of people who are new to personal training will try to rush through all their exercises but they’re usually with the trainer for a full hour no matter how fast they push! It’s important to slow down…and sometimes, in more places than just the gym…

Side note: “Sorry” to anyone who has trained with me and fought tirelessly to speed up the clock in order to end the torture…guess you know already that it didn’t work out for ya. Wink. 

Rushing vs slowing down

One of the wisest trainers I know is Abdul-Karim al-Jabbar. He is regularly featured by The Washington Post as one of DC’s top personal trainers. Rightfully so! Fellow trainers revere his Jedi focus and energy. 

One of my favorite things that Karim says to his clients is “let’s just focus on making the exercise look good.” Karim knows that concentrating on poise and control allows an individual to get more out of the exercise. It will help her concentrate on target muscle groups and resist using momentum or inappropriate muscles for assistance. In other words, the exercise becomes more concentrated and more effective.

If that doesn’t convince you, then perhaps the words at the top of Karim’s website will: “You are a masterpiece! Love yourself!” He believes you deserve the best and so do I!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

 

References:

http://karimfitness.com/

 

Your Booty is the Best

YOUR GLUTS ARE YOUR BEST ASSET

What lady doesn’t want to hear that her booty is her best asset?! Just imagine…there are cat calls left and right as you sashay through your day. Or maybe that’s kind of creepy?  Man-oh-man, lady, your derriere is AMAZING!

If you’re thinking “no way, that doesn’t apply to me,” then think again. Of course it does! Here’s why…

The muscle in your rear end is actually the largest in your body. You’re probably thinking, I already know this and it’s why buying jeans is such an ordeal. This isn’t something to be upset about though. It’s something to embrace!

Love your booty

The size of our bottoms means several positive things:

1) Power. The glutes are often referred to as the “powerhouse” muscle group. They act as a “Commander” over other muscles during exercise, taking over much of the responsibility for working hard. Powerful glutes are why tennis players can lunge quickly to return a strong serve. They are what allow a soccer player to kick the ball far across the field. They are what energize a gymnast as she flips and cartwheels through a floor routine.

2) Increased Caloric Burn. The large size of the glutes means that they are also capable of expending more calories compared with smaller muscles when they are worked. This is what I call “good stuff.” So, if we get the lower body involved in an exercise session then we’re going to burn more calories. For example, if you’re doing a shoulder press while also performing squats then you are burning more energy compared to just doing the shoulder press. Pretty straight forward stuff.  

3) Function. One of the first things I do for clients with back pain, knee pain, and/or ankle instability is strengthen their glutes. If the glutes are not strong then dysfunction will follow. Safe and controlled exercises such as hip bridges, glute kickbacks, and side lying leg lifts are a good place to start. Anything that activates the glutes will help to gradually (or even rapidly) improve other areas of the body. Why? Other smaller muscles have to work harder when the “Commander” (see #1) does not perform her job effectively. In essence, this tires them out. Poor little things. 

4) Desirability. Men are attracted to the toosh/heinie/derriere/booty/junk-in-the-trunk. It’s primal. And women are attracted to men with powerful bodies too. It’s not a bad thing! Having muscle and even some “fluff” in your rear end is natural. Now, just because you don’t have a JLo or Kim Kardashian booty does not mean that yours is unattractive. Also, just because you might have cellulite or stretch marks, does not mean that you’re in the minority. It’s common and normal. Please don’t feel ashamed.

Unfortunately, we lose sight of just how treasured our own tooshies are because of all the photoshopped, smooth, and tanned bottoms abound in the media. I’m sorry but no one has a naturally tan bottom mid-winter…or even in the summer unless you flaunt a thong…I smell something suspicious people!!!

Enjoy yours and put it to good use for your workouts and needs!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie Winzeler

wellnesswinz logo 2

Men’s Health Next Top Trainer Finalist Weighs in on Women

Today we have a special treat as former contestant and finalist from the Men’s Health reality show “Next Top Trainer,” Kevin Mullins, weighs in on women’s wellness. Kevin is my male counterpart in the sense that he goes to bat for women and puts their greatest needs as his highest priority. His advice is honest and authentic. His training style is serious (and effective) but his personality can be goofy and light-hearted. Side note: we banter like siblings all the time. I regularly poke fun at him for eating “all the wrong things” to fuel up for workouts but then he manages to attain a six-pack. Geesh. Show-off. 

Handing it over to Kevin… (and my side commentary)

Fitness is Changing.  More specifically, fitness is changing for women. Gone are the days where women blindly jump on treadmills and elliptical machines and plod away for hours on end only to deprive themselves of much needed calories for the rest of the day after. Thankfully, an increase in the available education for gym goers and fitness professionals alike has helped women train appropriately and maximize on progress towards their goals, while also maintaining their health and well-being.

The fact that you find yourself here on Maggie’s awesome site proves that quality, unbiased, and factually supported information is readily available. Knowing her for years, I’ve seen her consult textbooks, research studies, peers, and her own intuition when building programs, teaching concepts, and sharing her passion for fitness. With Maggie, you are in great hands! (Maggie: Stop Kevin, you’re making me blush!)

I hope my two cents don’t disappoint!

Fitness is changing

How We Got Here

As a trainer I have supported, guided, and trained a wide variety of clients in a variety of locations and settings. I’ve stood beside professional athletes, fashion models, pregnant mothers, and college-aged young guys and gals. I’ve had some amazing experiences and breakthroughs with many of my clients, and intend on having many, many more.

Nothing, however, provides as much satisfaction to me as guiding women, young and old, into a new era of personal fitness. See, for far too long women have been misguided in the gym setting. Everything from “6 minute buns” in the 90’s, the popularity of Zumba and dance-based classes across America, and the creation of Curves has segmented women from men in the fitness setting. Add in provocative, sexually driven ads of ripped, but scantily clad, women in every women’s magazine and there is no wonder why many women are frustrated by fitness.

Frankly, it’s not fair. (Maggie: It’s refreshing to hear a man agree!)

Now, I’m not saying I don’t support a good Zumba sweat, or a nice at-home DVD for the busy-on-the-go woman. In fact, I support all of my clients being active as often as possible. Take a hike, a run, lift weights, dance your booty off, or dust off that old Jane Fonda tape…I don’t care! Just move.

Yet, “just moving” only gets you so far. If it’s progress you seek then it’s progress you must chase.

We want progress! You want progress!

Thus comes the need for women, like men, to train to be stronger. Yes, STRONGER. I implore you to put a little trust in fitness professionals and start picking up heavier things when you go to the gym. Let’s learn why! (Maggie: Yes, please!)

believe in lifting

A Quick Lesson in Science

Now, it wouldn’t be fair for me to talk about strength and how to train to achieve it without paying some time and word count to a bit of the science.

What is Strength, actually?

Strong is watching a baseball player hit a home run way over the fence. Strong is also watching an Olympic gymnast nail a dismount from the bars and not flinch, or an ice skater hit a Triple Lutz with grace and beauty.

Strong isn’t ugly.

There is an antiquated assumption that for a woman to be strong she must be big and “manly.” Women such as Maggie herself, Neghar Fonooni, and Molly Galbraith (the creators of Girls Gone Strong) prove that strength and beauty go hand-in-hand. (Maggie: Whoa, Kevin! Just threw me out of my ballpark – equally thrilled and in shock.)

The neuromuscular system is the “highway of information” that runs throughout our body. Our brain communicates to our muscles and our muscles communicate what they are sensing back to our brains. Oftentimes, a deficit in strength output is resultant of inefficiencies in this system. Imagine trying to win the Tour De France when you’ve never really ridden a bike before…No Bueno

Therefore, strength gains often come in the absence of muscle mass gain. In fact, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, all progress in the first 6 to 8 weeks of a strength training program can be attributed to neuromuscular efficiency, and not a change in muscle mass. (Maggie: Yes! I mentioned this in Frenemies.)

So, fear not! Strength is very independent of muscle size. You can train to achieve it without waking up tomorrow looking like Chris Hemsworth. I’m still trying to find what will make ME wake up looking like him though!

So, what is it then that makes my muscles bigger?

Oh my, oh my! If there were one answer to this question then you would be far more impressed with the muscularity of the men that attend your gym or fitness center.

Hypertrophy, is the fancy science word for muscle growth, and it is a darn hard physical phenomenon to achieve. The most modern studies have pinpointed training volume and time under tension as the foremost variables that cause a muscle to grow or not.

So, now that you know that strength and hypertrophy aren’t much like each other, you should feel more at ease for trusting me. If not, then let me give you one more reason why you don’t have to worry about looking more like the Beast than the Beauty if you start to train strength!

Men have an estimated 10 times the amount of the hormone testosterone as women.

Testosterone is the sex hormone that helps keep body fat levels low and muscle mass higher (i.e., the major physical difference between men and women).

Yet even guys struggle endlessly to put a single pound of real muscle on in a year. So, if a male struggles with muscle gain and has 10 times the potential for growth then I promise that you have nothing left to fear!

(Maggie: Okay, okay! Enough of the science Kevin…)

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Why You Should Train for Strength

I know what you are thinking…”this sounds great and all, but why do I want to be stronger?”

Here are my top 3 reasons women should train to be stronger!

  1. Lifting near maximum weights in exercises such as the squat and deadlift have proven to release calcium into the bloodstream. This will strengthen bones and go a long way towards minimizing the risk of osteoporosis.
  2. Lifting weights and achieving strength is also an exercise in postural control. Learning to position and move through exercises such as the deadlift and overhead press will help you understand correct spine, hip, and shoulder alignment. Furthermore, you will strengthen postural muscles such as the gluts, hips, and spinal erectors, so that they can better support you in everyday life.
  3. Lifting for strength is a measurable challenge. Instead of going to the gym and trying to burn off yesterday’s mimosas, and chasing an image that isn’t fair in the first place, you show up with the intent of changing numbers. Even if you lift 1 pound more than you did last week then you’ve made progress. Progress makes you happy and increases rates of compliance to exercise programs.

These are all incredible reasons to start training to be stronger. If you need any other ones, Maggie and I will be more than happy to provide you with a plethora of them!

Where do I Start?

Great question, ladies! I really feel like we are on the same page here.

Training for strength doesn’t have to be intimidating. You don’t have to venture into the jungle of sweaty, cut-off shirt wearing guys with their headphones and shaker bottles right off the bat. You can stick to that machine you’ve been working out on for a while but this time, GO HEAVY! Do this with every move you do. Try to do 5 sets of no more than 3 to 5 repetitions. That last rep should be very hard! (Maggie: Kevin has put ME to the test with a strength program before – I really saw results!)

Here are my 2 guidelines to get you started:

  1. Do a Set of the exercise. Could you have done more? If you think you could have done 3 more reps then add 5 pounds to the lift. If you think you could have done 5 or more extra repetitions then add 10 pounds to the lift.
  2. Focus on progress week-to-week not day-to-day. Take notes and observe trends.

I truly hope that you feel a little inspired to start training to be stronger! I hope that you can be an example for your friends and family. The most powerful people in the world are the ones who are willing to test the waters and take the risks. We follow risk-takers because we trust them and their intuition. Be the one who starts the change!

Thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you,

Kevin

(Maggie: Clap-Clap-Clap-Clap!)

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About the Author

Kevin Mullins is a personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach for Equinox in Washington DC. Kevin was selected as one of Men’s Health magazine’s 2014 Next Top Trainers, and appeared on a reality show with some of the best trainers in the country. Kevin has also written and modeled for MetRX magazine, is an avid deadlifter, and teaches group exercise classes. Kevin can be contacted at Kevin.fit2last@gmail.com and maintains his own website, complete with blog, at KevinMullinsFitness.com.

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This Girl CAN

Sport England, a UK government agency, found that 75% of women want to participate in sport and exercise but are afraid to get involved. Widespread hesitation stems from “fear of judgement” and “worries about being judged for being the wrong size, not fit enough and not skilled enough.”

This is really upsetting news because the Women’s Sport Foundation has suggested that sport and exercise has a significant and positive impact on women’s physical and mental health. Women who have participated in sports are less likely to experience an early pregnancy and to be victims of domestic abuse. They also tend to have higher levels of self-esteem and confidence. Not to mention the plethora of other benefits.  

It’s imperative that as mature women, we decide to cast aside feelings of insecurity in order to live life to the fullest. We must rise to the occasion and start believing we can. Once we embrace movement and our bodies, future generations of women will feel the liberty and empowerment to do the same.

A lot of what helps us get involved in sports and exercise is finding something that’s fun. I have recently been honored with the opportunity to write a guest post for Fit Mommy Diaries, a blog that has roughly 2 million sets of mommy eyes on it every month. Whoa, mama – literally! My guest post implores women to find what sport or exercise works best for them:

“Keep trying out classes until you find one that you love! Also, try not to doubt your ability to get into the shape you want just because you found out that training for a half marathon isn’t your mojo. Try something else! There are plenty of exercises, classes, races, groups, and more to get involved with. Think of it like dating – you don’t have to settle for the guy who asked you out on your first date. Unless it’s life-long love, why would you?! First dates can be uncomfortable, stressful, and awkward. *Or am I the only one who experienced this?* Trying out new exercise routines can feel the same.”

To discover more about how to find a routine that is fun and how to balance it out with what your body needs, feel free to check out: http://bit.ly/1y8oODm. Sia, the fit mommy behind the blog, is a shining example of a woman who is brave and willing to be up close and personal in order to inspire other women. Now, we’re not all going to have Sia’s impressive toned abs, nor do we all need to share what we might prefer to keep personal, but we must, must, must believe we can.

Check out this 90 second video by Sport England that is rapidly spreading across the web…ironically, it’s titled “This Girl Can.” How fitting. It will make you feel like getting up from your desk or chair to do a victory dance. This is what real women look like when they work out. It’s awesome. 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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References:

http://fitmommydiaries.blogspot.com/2015/01/featuring-guest-blogger-fellow-personal.html

https://www.sportengland.org/our-work/national-work/this-girl-can/

http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/