Ever since I began taking my fitness adventures more seriously, more people approach me asking for advice. There are a few types of questions I get the most: How do I get abs? What exercises should I do to slim down my thighs? What can I do to tone up my arms? These are all valid questions. These are the type of questions on which many mainstream personal trainers or fitness programs have built their name. The promise of “10 Pounds in 10 Days!” or “Leg-Toning Workouts!” have many people desperate to work their legs EVERY TIME they go to the gym in order to see some kind of a result.
Now, I’m not going to pretend to be a certified expert here. I have a L1 CrossFit Cert, and that definitely does not cover bicep curls or lateral raises in order to reach a particular aesthetic look. However, I have made fitness the center of my hobbies and research for quite some time.
The truth about how to slim down your legs, get toned arms, or obtain that six pack?
Caloric deficit = overall fat loss = a more defined physique
You cannot do a million squats or crunches and expect to see toned legs or abs. As awesome as that would be, it simply doesn’t work that way. An overall loss of fat will lead to slimming down your legs or gaining definition in your arms. That means calculating how many calories you need in a day, creating a negative, and incorporating an appropriate amount of cardio.
I’d like to include another disclaimer: you CAN do more leg exercises to gain more muscle in your legs, etc. BUT, you will not see that definition until you reach a lower body fat percentage.
Being the honest person that I am, that is how I generally answer the questions I began this entry with. Sure, I could tell people I do legs twice a week because I’m trying to make improvements there, but I want to make sure they are aware that hard work will go totally unnoticed if they don’t wrangle in the diet and cardio as well. I hope this was helpful to some of you, and let me know what you think below! 🙂
Diet “quick-fixes” are a pretty common aspect of the fitness world. Everyone wants to have a great body, but they don’t always have the motivation or desire to put in the work. So they think some Hydroxycut or wrap bullsh*t is going to give them the body of their dreams. I’m not making fun of those people. Don’t get me wrong; I bought my fair share of money-wasting products when I first started working out. I wanted it to be easy, too. That leads me to what I’ve learned is the best kept “secret” of the fitness industry.
Flashback to four years ago: summertime 2013. I was 22 years old. (Wait… that can’t be right. I was definitely younger.) I started my “fitness journey” roughly one year prior (2012), and I typically worked hard in the gym. Sometimes I’d go in there and mess around, or my workouts weren’t super intense simply because I was not yet aware what I was and am capable. On the other hand, my food intake was… sporadic. I’d do so well all day eating my fruits, veggies, complex carbs, and lean proteins. And then it was dinner time. And so I ate a lot of food: pizza, burgers, chips, you name it. I wouldn’t really call it binge eating because it was controllable. I just knew I’d worked hard, so I wanted to eat some food! I earned it, and I was hungry. I sometimes ate “good foods” for dinner, too. I also bought fat burners because I loved to waste my money.
Flash forward to present day: summertime 2017. I am 26 years old (I’m probably just going to stay 26 forever – still need to figure out how). I go to the gym almost every day. I eat my prepped meals the vast majority of the time. I take vitamins. I look completely different than I did three years ago.
The biggest fitness secret? Are you ready? Consistency. That’s right. Reliable, boring consistency.
The biggest difference between my “before and after” story is just that: consistency. I thought I was working hard and being consistent years ago, but if anyone offered me a margarita, I ALWAYS accepted. If anyone wanted to go out to eat, I assumed my diet for that meal was trashed before I even got to the restaurant. If a friend wanted to hang out in the evening (my regular gym time), I simply didn’t have time for the gym that day. I did work hard in the gym. I did eat well. I just didn’t do these things in a regular manner.
Consistency can be boring. Consistency can be tiring. Hell – the other night I dreaded going to the gym. I’d already been up at the crack of dawn to do cardio, meal prepped, worked eight hours, and got home around eight PM. I sat on the couch & debated simply staying there and hanging out with Jim & Pam (any Office fans?). Then I made myself consider a few things:
There are a million thousand hundred tons (I love a good hyperbole; it’s fine) of people out there who are busier than me.
Consistency not intensity.
I didn’t have the energy for a goal-crushing, life-changing workout, but I had the energy for a workout. So I got off the couch and went.
That’s what you have to do to truly make a change in your physical appearance. GO & be consistent. You don’t have to kill it every time. You don’t have to make yourself so sore you can barely walk the next day every time. You just have to get yourself there (all together now) every time.
I want to take a minute here to share something I tried that really opened up my eyes. I have been feeling very stressed & busy lately. I was convinced I didn’t have any spare time for what I want to do. I was too busy running around from work to coaching to the gym and back home for dinner. All I wanted to do was schedule a freaking hair appointment, but my schedule was stuffed to the brim. This happened the other day when I was trying see my chiropractor. I simply cannot fit everything in. I don’t have TIME to work on my blog. I don’t have TIME to try to change careers. My twenties are slipping away! I don’t have time for anything, and I don’t even have kids (like seriously though – how do you moms do it?).
I decided I needed to look at things a little bit more objectively and with less emotion. I decided to do some math. Yes. Math. Awful, panic-inducing math. No worries though – it’s just simple addition and subtraction.
There are 24 hours in a day. I took what hours I dedicate to the various things in my life and added them all up. I even decided to tackle one of my busiest days.
30 minutes: get ready for work/eat breakfast
30 minutes: drive work work
8 hours: work
30 minutes: drive from work to coach
1 hour: coach
20 minutes: drive from box to my regular gym
1 hour: workout
10 minutes: drive home
That is a total of almost 11 hours. So I truly do have 11 hours of the day where I am busy with things for which I have committed myself. Now, lets add in sleep. I do not function well with less than 7 hours of sleep, so that is a new total of 18 hours where I am booked.
That means there are SIX hours left. What am I doing with that time? Granted, sometimes that is spent grocery shopping, meal prepping, etc. but honestly… much of it is also used cruising Instagram or vegging out while re-watching The Office. I could make wiser use of that time. Here I am panicking that I don’t have enough time in the day to spend doing anything I want to do, but I somehow managed to find six extra hours. I then took some time to write down what I want to accomplish during these six hours, set a specific bedtime, and actually commit to getting up earlier.
Think of your time as a budget. After all – time is worth more than money. Time is why people work so much. Having time means having freedom. I encourage you to go through the same process I did; add up all of your “busy” hours and see what you have left and effectively budget the leftovers to things you need to accomplish or things you just simply WANT to do. This was a nice reminder that I am in control of my life, regardless of how much I think I have to give away to other engagements. You make time for what you want to make time for.
Okay – so I admit. I’m still a newbie at the whole bikini competition thing. I have competed in two shows (Illinois State Championships & Indiana GNC Classic) this year and total in my life. However, I do know one thing that I excel at (drumroll please): eating. Therefore, I decided to construct this blog to let you all in on my favorite products to use while dieting – my “diet hacks” if you will.
Before I get too into the actual meat of today’s discussion, I want to make a little disclaimer. I recognize that just because something is low or zero calorie does not equate to it being healthy. The ingredients in some of these products might be a bit questionable. I totally get that, but when you are dieting crazy hard for a show, all you want is some freaking FLAVOR! I cannot tell you how often I told my husband, “I just want something that makes me happy to eat. I want something that tastes good.” Eating the same foods day in and day out while on prep can mess with you mentally. Or maybe not, maybe you have superman/woman mental strength. Kudos to you. I sometimes did, but many times… I just didn’t. So, without further ado, here are my top four products to use while dieting. Enjoy!
Walden Farms Pancake Syrup
This product is seriously my number one, MVP, one true love when I’m on prep. I’ve mentioned before on my Instagram, but my favorite meal I ever had on prep was always breakfast. I’d have three egg whites, one whole egg, about 18 carbs worth of oatmeal (measuring things in carbs is a complete other topic – ya feel me?), ½ tbs of coconut oil, and I’d mix it all in one bowl with THIS MAGICAL PANCAKE SYRUP. I know it sounds weird, but I promise it is a game-changer. Even if you don’t like the idea of putting eggs in your oatmeal, this stuff tastes pretty good on protein waffles, regular oatmeal, whatever you normally smother in syrup. Oh, it’s also literally zero calories. Your eyes are fine.. I did write zero calories. I don’t know exactly what that means for my overall health (I’m not going to pretend to be a nutrition expert), but I do know what it means for my macros.
G Hughes Sugar-Free Hickory BBQ Sauce
This was another total game-changer during my prep. I was having an immensely difficult time choking down 99% lean ground cardboard (oops… turkey), but adding some BBQ made it taste a million times better. The best part? There are only 2g of carbs per two tablespoons. Praise.
Fudgcicle Original Fudge Pops and Popsicle Brand Tropical Paradise Pops
Alright so I didn’t eat this on prep. I didn’t know they existed yet. Well, I knew they existed, but I just kind of forgot about them between the time I turned eight and twenty-six. The calories and macros on these are also mind-blowing. The fudge-pops only have 40 calories and 9 carbs per popsicle, and the tropical ones only have 15 calories and 4 carbs per popsicle. They definitely taste like quadruple those numbers.
Pretty much any brand I’ve tried here tastes pretty darn good… except for La Croix or whatever. I just can’t do that stuff. I really like True American or Sparkling Ice. I also love that they have a thousand time five hundred flavors, so your taste party opportunities can be endless.
Kernal Season’s Popcorn Seasonings
I love adding these to my veggies! The garlic parmesan on cucumbers is by far my favorite. These seasonings will definitely add some flavor to your foods! However, they can be a little high in sodium, so be careful with that!
I have been a candy fanatic for as long as I can remember. To my dentist’s dismay, sour candy is my favorite. Warheads, Sour Punch Straws, Sour Patch Kids… my mouth is already watering. I always laugh when I read those statuses: “Fruit is nature’s candy” IT ISN’T THE SAME! IT JUST ISN’T. Well.. candy is a big no for most dieting (or most healthy eating), so I had to find something that provided me with a fruity flavor. Sugar-free Jell-O to the rescue! My only tip here is to use less water than the package suggests, otherwise it gets super runny and less satisfying to eat. Plus you can put it in fun shaped silicone molds and then you feel all kinds of fancy. If you want to be super extra, use part regular water and part flavored water. Taste. Bud. Party.
Alright crew – that’s it! Next time you have a craving for something, I hope one of these products can help you out! Until next time,
Hey party people! I have wanted to write a blog post that centered more on the other aspect of my fitness relationship: CrossFit. I’ll start with my background in relation to this oh-so wonderfully obsessive hobby.
I remember when a friend of my husband’s suggested that we try CrossFit. We gave him a look that screamed how dare you suggest something so stupid? After all, CF was for people who didn’t know how to lift weights properly. Crossfitters were always getting injured. They didn’t care at all about form, but rather they just wanted to write up a good score. Have you noticed how I’m writing in past tense? Well.. our friend finally dragged us to his box, and I got my rear handed to me. It was awful! I felt like I didn’t even know what a gym was. I cannot recall the specific WOD (workout of the day), but I do recollect the feeling of inevitable death after the workout. I might be acting a tad dramatic, but HOLY CRAP this CrossFit stuff was tough.
Well, as you I’m sure you guessed, we apparently thought it was “fun.” I distinctly remember a conversation with my husband a few months into our CF adventure. He described the major difference between the atmosphere of box vs a regular gym perfectly. I’ll attempt to paraphrase (and probably butcher) it here: he stated that in a regular globo-gym, everyone has their headphones in. People are in there to get a serious workout (or at least look/act like they are) and are not there to support others or make friends who obviously have the same interests. He argued that regular lifting now seemed incredibly dull compared to the loud music, sweat, shirt-ripping-off, atmosphere you encounter in a CrossFit gym. I agreed.
We were obviously hooked. I’ve done four local competitions now. CrossFit has a way of doing this to people; it is similar to a cult mentality, but man oh man do we LOVE it. And for good reason, too. I’ll go more into that later.
Anyway, we had been doing CF for about two and half years when I realized my obsession with the health and fitness spectrum was getting quite serious. I decided that it made sense for me to get my Level One (the basic certificate you can get to coach at a legitimate CF box). I completed the course and I now coach at my local gym. I am still working on a way to balance CrossFit with my bikini competition training, but I think that it will be a great way to add some conditioning!
Okay – that short background ended up being longer than I intended – my bad. Moving on:
Is CrossFit for you? When I tell people that I coach or do CF, I am often met with the same response: “I could never do that!”
THAT STATEMENT IS SO FALSE THAT I DON’T EVEN HAVE WORDS. Just kidding. I always have words 🙂 CrossFit is for everyone, and I’m going to explain why in just four reasons.
Modifications/Scaling:A regular workout is generally programmed as “RX,” and this means that the workout has a specific weight, number of reps, etc. that should be performed. However, most people at our gym do not do RX workouts. They will scale or modify the workouts to meet their needs. For example, a common WOD in this community is called “Fran.” RX Fran calls for 21-15-9 of thrusters and pull ups. This means you would complete 21 thrusters, 21 pull ups, 15 thruster, 15 pull ups, 9 thrusters, and 9 pull ups. The score for this workout is the time in which it took you to complete. For RX, men would use a weight of 95 and women would use a weight of 65 for the thrusters. If you are a female who wants to do this workout but there is no way you can do thrusters at that weight, then all you have to do is lower the weight. You can do 15 pound thrusters for anyone at your box cares – as long as it is a good workout for YOU. Anything in these workouts can be shortened, scaled, changed, lightened, etc. according to whatever that particular person needs. Hell – you can do air squats if you can’t do thrusters! All anyone asks is that you do something that you find challenging as an individual.
Community/Camaraderie: Okay guys.. I’m honestly not kidding when I say that CrossFitters have the most bomb social aspect to their gym. Seriously. Go drop in at a gym and you’ll see everyone high-fiving after a workout (there are some people who immediately run around after tough workouts high-fiving everyone. I’m like… laying on the floor dying. How do they do it?). I never tried to hit a PR at my regular gym and heard anyone cheering for me while I was stuck in the middle of my squat. It truly is that environment and those people that can push you to hit your personal bests. I’ve also made some awesome friends through CF. My gym had an intramural competition during the Open (a big national competition). It was an absolute blast! We completed workouts with most of the people from the gym gathered, cheering for you to PUSH HARDER! How can you not crush it in type of atmosphere?!
Self-Confidence/Goals/Accomplishments: Before CF (and bikini competitions), I never had any clear goals in the gym. Look good naked? Idk. Once I started doing CF, I was able to start setting goals according to performance. I wanted to deadlift 220, squat 200, and clean 140. I didn’t give a flying hoot what I looked like during it. I think that this concept is especially important in our social media-obsessed world. Many women (and men) base their gym goals from what other people look like, and that is neither a positive nor achievable goal. CF allows you to set goals that are specifically tailored to the individual and based on specific, measurable numbers. It also provides you with an insane feeling of accomplishment when you finally do hit that goal. The day I back squatted 200? BEST. DAY. EVER.
Lifestyle-Encouragement: I never realized this until I obtained my Level 1, but CF is a “fitness-class” that honestly endorses fitness as a lifestyle choice rather than something you do because you feel guilty that you ate a whole pizza yesterday. That is how fitness should be. It isn’t something you can switch on and off or decide you’re into for a week and expect some crazy results. The CF community encourages consistency (PREACH) and solid nutrition with some freedom as its background. I specifically remember an instructor at my L1 saying something along the lines of (oh lordy, here I go trying to paraphrase again): Follow your nutrition plan, but not down to the minute detail where you miss out on life experiences. Don’t be so obsessive about hitting your nutrition numbers that you refuse to take part in Thanksgiving dinners or have a beer on the weekend.
CrossFit truly is for anyone. It encourages a community that will push you to be your best and still support you when you feel like giving up in the middle of a workout; it creates an environment of high expectations and good examples. You can’t find that at just any gym.