fitness, Weight Loss

What REALLY Works for Fat Loss

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Losing weight is notoriously difficult, both to achieve and to maintain. There are so many diet ‘gurus’ out there just trying to sell a book or a supplement with pseudoscience and it makes it confusing for anyone to understand what exactly they need to do to lose weight. So, what actually works? Thankfully, there is a large body of evidence that shows a few things that do work for weight loss. Unfortunately, it’s nothing new or exciting and it won’t sell a ton of books or make anyone a million bucks. But, if you’re ready, here are the 5 most important things to focus on for weight loss.

 

  1. Nutrition. The only way you lose fat is to consume fewer calories than you burn. It’s just the way the human body works and there is no way around it. Every diet on the planet works for fat loss if it causes you to be in a calorie/energy deficit and not one of them will work if it doesn’t. Just remember that as your body gets smaller it will require less energy, so you’ll have to adjust along the way.
  2. NEAT. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This is all the movement that isn’t an exercise session. Fidgeting, doing chores, showering, etc. This makes up a majority of your energy expenditure outside of what your body burns just to stay alive. So, stand instead of sitting, get up more often, and park farther away. All that seemingly meaningless movement during the day is actually very meaningful when it comes to fat loss.
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  3. Exercise. While an exercise session does not burn a significant number of calories for most people (usually far fewer than your fitness tracker will tell you), it does help in reshaping the body which is what most people want. It also leads to muscle gain which makes your body much more efficient at burning calories throughout the day and night. Resistance training with a progressive overload focus will be most effective.
  4. Recovery. If your goal is fat loss it is important to manage your sleep. More waking hours leads to eating more, stressing more, and recovering poorly from workouts and daily activity. So go to bed and make sure to do what you need to to get consistent, restful sleep.
  5. Stress Management. Stress impedes your ability to make positive decisions when it comes to diet and exercise among other negative effects on the body and well-being. So, go to therapy and make sure you’ve got some good coping skills for when the challenges of life come.

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If you are ready to seriously address fat loss, take a look at these five areas and then make a commitment to be consistent. It does not make any difference what kind of diet you choose or exercise plan you embark on if you are not able to be consistent. Nothing works if you don’t stick with it. So, choose a plan you can really live with over time. And be patient. There are no quick fixes. It really does just take time. If you miss a few workouts or overeat, just keep going the next day or the next meal. Don’t give up.

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Embracing Fitness as a Training Ground for Building Better Character

Pain hurts. Struggle can be agonizing. Completing a project that is mentally or physically challenging can feel tedious and uncomfortable.

So, we avoid. We put things off. Procrastinate. Hire the hard work out to someone better suited than us. We stuff down our pain instead of opting for healing because it feels easier.

 

And even though we feel weak, ashamed, and like a complete fraud when we quit or avoid hard things, we keep trudging down the same path.

 

Some of us spend our whole lives avoiding struggle. We parent our children from the sole motivation of keeping them from heartbreak and pain. And we live our lives from the same goal.

 

And then we wish. We wish we had done the thing we always said we’d do. We wish we knew how to build this or play that. We wish we were more successful, healthier, stronger, better at relationships. We wish.

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All the influential and inspiring people in the world tell us the same thing. Embrace fear. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. The clichés ring in our ears like church bells at noon, but we know we’ll dismiss them as soon as we encounter a difficult situation. They’re right, we’re sure. But comfort is addicting.

 

What we don’t know, is that running toward pain and struggle and fear and discomfort isn’t just for accomplishing BIG dreams and finally checking that incredible thing off our bucket list. Nope. It’s necessary just to become better people than we are today. Right now.

 

To move forward at all, we have encounter at least some discomfort. It’s essential. We are either facing something hard head on, or we are stagnant in our character. It’s how life works. We are overcomers or we are succumbers.

 

It’s so daunting though, right? Facing the hurt and adversity in our path in order to become ourself. The real, whole, self we always wanted to be.

What if there was a practicing ground for doing hard things? A less daunting place for risking a little embarrassment in order to become more complete, more generous, more loving, and more alive versions of ourselves?

 

Fitness is that place for me. I get to choose everyday between comfort and struggle. Excuses and integrity. Shame and courage. Jealousy and generosity. Succumbing and overcoming.

 

Does that sound a little off-base? A little too small and easy? Well, hear me out.

 

I am an introvert to the core. I like to be home with coffee and quiet, and most days when I drop my kids off at school, I think to myself that the easy, comfortable thing to do would be to go home and drink my coffee in peace, read a book, or stroll around Target alone.IMG_2190

But, I have a choice to make. This is my prime time to take care of my body. I know if I don’t do it then, I will struggle to find time to do it later. So, I am cultivating a practice of embracing something that feels a little like a struggle some days to do the better thing. The thing that will bring me more benefit.

 

See, I know I am a better mother and wife and person when I take time to exercise my body AND I always feel really good when I finish my workout, physically and mentally. Of course, I take time to rest and read and enjoy quiet time regularly, but that is not a healthy habit for me to embrace every morning at the sacrifice of moving my body, so I have to risk discomfort to build my character and my health.

 

Now that I have been committed to this practice for a while, I have found it easier to do the other things that I used to put off and make healthy choices in other areas of my life. I will have the hard conversation with a loved one now because I know it leads to a better relationship. I know a messy house causes me stress, so now I fold the laundry instead of watching television. I call on a friend when I’m struggling emotionally instead of isolating, even though going inward feels more comfortable to me.

 

Do you see where I’m going with this? Using fitness as a training ground for life may sound silly and inconsequential, but it has made a real impact in my life. I know what it says about my character when I plan to do 5 sets of squats, but quit after 4 because I’m tired or it sounds too hard today. And I am taking that lesson into the rest of my life. I will play with my kids for 20 minutes instead of 5 because I know what that means to them and says about me.

 

When I feel jealous of another woman at the gym because she is leaner or stronger than me, I can choose to go home and pick her apart in my head or to my husband OR I can choose to notice my jealousy, go to her, and give her a compliment.

 

So, I aim for the latter. I am an introvert who approaches strangers in the gym to give

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compliments. Regularly. Because I would rather be an encouraging woman than a jealous one. And, you know what? I will probably never see that person again. It’s an easy way to practice. Way less threatening than approaching a colleague or school mom, but it’s a good lead-up for encouraging those women too.

 

Maybe even this feels overwhelming. So just start with one thing. Wipe down your yoga mat, or gym equipment when you’re done with it because you are not a lazy or entitled person. Be the person you want to be for just one hour at the gym. And then, watch how your life changes outside of it.

 

Fitness can be just about your body if you want, but there is so much more that you can gain. What if you tried embracing all of it to welcome more wholeness, strength, and joy into your life?

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3 Things Every Exerciser Needs

IMG_1085Exercise doesn’t need to be complicated. You can get a perfectly good workout at home without dumbbells, benches, or pull up bars. But, as a personal trainer, here are the three things I think every exerciser should invest in. And don’t worry, none of these are going to break your bank.

1. A Stopwatch

Okay, I know this seems too

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I know you may think you can accurately count seconds in your head, but you probably can’t. Or you’ll get distracted. Or you’ll pick up your phone and five whole minutes later (which will feel like 30 seconds) you’ll finally get to your next set or round.

So, just use a stopwatch to make sure you are timing your rests. Your workouts will be so much more efficient and every phone has one these days, so there’s really no excuse not to!

2. A Foam Roller

There is no question about it, this is absolutely the piece of equipment that I recommend most often. If you don’t have one, you need one, in my opinion.

IMG_1096Foam rollers allow you to basically massage out knots in your muscles. Knots in your muscles, or adhesions as we call them in the fitness world, will make you uncomfortable, alter your movement patterns, and eventually lead to injury.

Foam rolling (a.k.a. self-myofascial release) is essential to keeping your muscles healthy, maintaining flexibility, and reducing soreness. And, you can pick one up for around $30, so it’s affordable for most anyone.

3. A good pair of shoes

Are you pulling out the same grass-stained, 6-year-old sneakers you wear to mow the lawn when it’s time for a workout? If so, stop it right now and get yourself to the shoe store!

A good shoe is so important! You are putting a lot of pressure on your feet when you exercise, so you need to take care of them by giving them the proper support for the activities you’re doing.

For most people, a cross-trainer will be sufficient. If you’re doing power lifts, you’ll want to consider something with a more solid sole. If you’re doing plyometrics, jumping, etc., you’ll want something more flexible.

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Not sure what shoe to buy? There are plenty of shoe stores that will assess you and help you find the right one.

Once you have these three essentials, you’ll be set for an efficient, safe, and comfortable workout.

Are you already using any of these? Is there anything you find to be absolutely essential to your workout that isn’t on the list? I want to hear about it! Let me know below.

 

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Routine is not a four-letter word

 

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Image credit: Bobmaconbusiness.com
My wife and the other half of the Lynx Fitness duo, Kim, was recently putting together a yoga-inspired workout plan for a client when, during her research, she came across the following passage from a book by Judith Lasater.

“…renew your commitment to practice on an ongoing basis … The highest form of discipline is consistency: powerful transformation can come from regularity.

That last part resonated with both of us. It is such a simple statement yet it holds a mighty truth, especially as it relates to committing to a lifestyle of health and fitness.

In our time as personal trainers, stressing the importance of an all-in commitment to the routine of a fitness program has been the No. 1 thing Kim and I have to work through with our clients. It’s not easy to convince people that the transformation they desire comes from regularity – a term far too often associated with boredom and stagnation.

Interestingly enough, Kim’s discovery of this powerful statement on the importance of consistency comes as I am working my way through reading the book, “The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business.

In one section of “The Power of Habit,” author Charles Duhigg describes research performed in 2002 by New Mexico State University in which 266 people who worked out at least three times a week were studied to understand why they were so committed to their exercise regimen.

The study found that while they all had different reasons for beginning an exercise program – for various motivations and goals – they continued because they, in essence, craved how exercise made them feel. So much so that it became a habit as powerful as a smoker’s addiction.

Ninety-two percent of those studied in one group said they exercised because they essentially craved the way they felt after a workout – the endorphin rush. Another group responded at a 67-percent clip that working out provided a sense of accomplishment as they tracked their progress, which they craved.

Here’s what all this really boils down to: To realize the fullness of your body’s potential and to achieve your health and fitness goals, it is going to be hard not only as you begin this new lifestyle, but also at times along the way when your life circumstances change or your goals change or as setbacks arise.

In those times, as Lasater said in her book, commit and recommit to consistency on an on-going basis. Commit to regularity. Commit to just committing.

Because if you do, there will come a point where you forget that it’s hard and you’ll cross a threshold where it – exercise, fitness, health – just becomes who you are. You’ll find joy in the routine of working out. You’ll crave the rush of a completed workout more than you’ll dread starting one.

And that is where your powerful transformation truly begins.