5 Ways to Get Excited About Your Packed Lunch

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5 Ways to Get Excited About Your Packed Lunch

Day after day, we tend to be creatures of habit, and that will more often than not be reflected in what you eat. Bringing your lunch to work can seem like a drag and a hassle, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are 5 ways to spice up your packed lunch!

1. Ditch the salad.

Don’t dread what you eat - switch out your salad for zoodles (zucchini noodles)! They’re super easy to make, and you can top them with your favorite salad toppings. Zoodles can be treated like pasta, so you can top them with your favorite protein and sauce of choice to get your pasta fix. Grab a spiralizer on Amazon to help make your zoodle dreams come to life!

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2. Amp up the flavor.

If you’re bored of salt and pepper, try some other flavors to add to your protein or sauce. For those of you that like spice, adding in cayenne pepper or even smoked paprika can give your meal a nice kick. A quick teriyaki sauce only takes 3 ingredients: 2 parts soy sauce, 1 part rice vinegar, and a little honey.  

3. Fill your sandwich with color and texture.

If you’re a sandwich person, ditch the boring cold cuts. Treating yourself to shaved turkey from the deli adds a more rustic feel to your lunch and can alleviate your lunch box blues. Adding texture to your sandwich also helps - take a look at a banh mi: typically made with carrots and cucumber, which add freshness and a nice crunch.

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4. It's all about the presentation.

Who doesn’t like presents?! If you don’t want to change up what you’re eating, packaging your food differently can make you more excited to eat at work. There are plenty of great bento-style boxes to store your food on Amazon or other food-related websites. A little homage to the cafeteria tray can spark a friendly lunchtime conversation with co-workers. Using a bento box allows you to portion the components of your meal, giving you a better idea of just how much you’re truly eating.

5. Treat yourself!

You may occasionally be okay with the monotony of eating the same thing every day, but cravings may still arise. If you’re craving the ice cream, let yourself have the ice cream! Grab a friend from work and plan a dessert outing for later in the week - by the end of the week, you’ll have something to look forward to during lunchtime.

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These little tips can be very helpful when stuck in a rut with your food. Don’t be afraid to try a new recipe or to get out of your comfort zone! You never know - you may even inspire others with your creativity. Now, get out there and eat!


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Lessons on Loving Yourself | Part I

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Lessons on Loving Yourself | Part I

A DAY IN THE LIFE

My average day looks a little like this -  It starts with a 20-30 minute commute to work. I clock in, check my inboxes, and get to work. Four hours later, I tend to get hungry, so I might go walk to a nearby cafe or grocery store to grab a quick bite to eat. Back to work, and I'm grinding until it's 5 PM, and now I'm getting "hangry" and restless, but it's almost time to go home. 6 PM -it's time to clock out. My eyes are fried from looking at the screen all day. My fingertips have probably punched thousands of keys. My index finger feels lost without my trackpad, and my body is sore from sitting at a desk.

My name is Emily, and I am the Marketing and Graphic Design Coordinator here at Perform for Life. Before I start talking about my journey to healthyness, I'll give you a little background on who I am and what my life is like. I recently graduated from the University of San Francisco, and I quickly jumped into "adulting." My way of doing that was working multiple jobs to pay for rent for the first time in my life, but working at this gym specifically has made me realize how unhealthy and unbalanced my life has been.

When you read the P4L blogs, you're used to hearing from an expert. I am just an everyday person, and honestly, I've never been fit or athletic. Let's take it back in time - I was the kid who was picked last or finished last in the mile. The other kids used to make fun of me and say, "You're skinny, why are you last?" This made me even more shy about exercising because I felt that my body type gave people the expectation that I must be fit. 

In college, I was blessed with gym membership at Koret...but I only went to eat their sandwiches. I was intimidated by all the "gym rats," and I couldn't even bring myself to work out with my friends, because I was self-conscious about the way my body moved or that I was doing it wrong. Long story short - I've never worked out and this needed to change.


THE WHY

I decided to embark on this journey for a few reasons.

  1. Simply put, I need to move more! A sedentary life makes me restless and damages my body in the process. If I'm in my twenties, why do I feel like such a grandma on the inside? 
  2. My energy tank is feeling low, and I'm going to have to start paying attention to what I'm eating. Was the food I was eating making me feel sluggish?
  3. I want to look and feel good. I want to feel confident in my body as a whole and comfortable in my own skin. My overall goal is to have a better relationship with my body.

THE PLAN

  • Personal training once a week for 3 months.
  • Swing dancing or another form of exercise at least once a week for 3 months.
  • A focus on a low-glycemic diet every day for 3 months to help me store less fat and get more complex carbohydrates instead of simple sugars. 
  • Cutting down on some of my guilty pleasures - cookies, pastries, and boba.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED IN 2 WEEKS

1. The more people there are involved, the more exciting it is. Happiness and healthyness are contagious. My boyfriend felt inspired and joined me along the way, my bosses are helping me figure out ways to eat better, and sometimes people occasionally cheer me on or check up on me. If you're doing it alone, it's harder to keep yourself accountable.

2. Being healthy is an investment in yourself and your future. Everything adds up quickly, especially as someone who didn't have a good diet or workout routine as a part of her life before. I bought new shoes, new clothes, and new food. Plus, if I wasn't already working here, I would've had to search and pay for a gym and personal trainer.

3. It's super hard to be a one woman crew with a whole lot of extras. Now, this is more on the technical side, but working out while recording myself or just editing the videos, in general, is a lot of work to manage on my own.

 
This is an example of one of my set-ups.

This is an example of one of my set-ups.

 

4. You're stronger than you believe. I'll admit, I am a carb queen! I love love love bread, and I've always loved sweets. It's been hard for me to resist sugar, because I never realized how many things had added sugars.

5. Social settings can be hard, and I feel like there's a stigma around being on a "diet." I put it in quotation marks because I'm basically weaning myself off of processed foods. I also often feel shy about telling people I'm changing my diet, because from my exterior appearance, they would assume I am trying to get skinnier. Let's face it - here in San Francisco, we've got a lot of great food, and it's hard to go out with friends and not eat all of the things I used to eat so freely. The first day of my low-glycemic diet my boyfriend decided to take me out on a date - let's just say I started the diet the next day.

6. These minor changes have fueled the foundation for a better me. It's like Emily 2.0. Upon exercising and eating healthier, I started wanting to do more to keep improving myself and taking better care of my body.

7. I really crave the taste and feeling of eating cookies. My favorite dessert is a freshly baked, chewy chocolate chip cookie, and I've been thinking about it every day since I started. Dark chocolate alone and Arctic Zero just aren't enough.

8. It's challenging to prioritize meal prepping. For one, I don't usually like eating the same thing all week. Plus, by the time I get home, I'm exhausted. As someone who works an office job, I find myself eating out more often than not, but I'm working on it!

 
 

9. I'm crooked! In high school, my godmother stopped making a dress for me, because she said my shoulders were uneven. During my first session with Brandon, I discovered she was right! One of my shoulders is higher from the other (as seen in the photos below), so we're working on correcting that.

10. Cheat day turns into cheat week, and suddenly, you've fallen off the tracks. My best friend and I went to Ghiradelli Square this past weekend, and I caved. I got a strawberry nutella crepe AND clam chowder bread bowl. From that day on, I had been craving cookies more often and found myself cheating more frequently. Justine has reminded me of the 80/20 rule (or sometimes 70/30), which allows me to eat the things that I loved before but in moderation and to not judge myself for it. We're all human. This is a process.

 
This is the smile of someone who was overjoyed to be eating a crepe after over a week or not having sugar.

This is the smile of someone who was overjoyed to be eating a crepe after over a week or not having sugar.

 

Follow Emily's P4L journey on our Instagram and Snapchat to see more videos like this!


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The Downfall of Plentiful Information

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The Downfall of Plentiful Information

The Internet is an amazing resource. It allows virtually instantaneous access to the latest and greatest information. One important caveat: a lot of the information is inaccurate. This is true with any medium, but because there is no quality control that content on the Internet has to go through before becoming public domain, low-quality content is especially pervasive.

Although this may be perspective bias on my part, the fitness industry is one particularly prone to the aforementioned problem. There is a minimal amount of regulation in the industry, lots of self-proclaimed experts, and a plethora of fads and polarizing commentary. Let’s discuss some critical thinking strategies you can use to determine if the information you are reading is accurate.

Unfortunately, if you really want to have a clear picture of what research indicates, you need to see it firsthand to see if the popular literature matches up with the research its suppositions are based upon. An alternative strategy is to find fitness professionals who you trust to make a synthesis of research in the field that injects as little bias as possible.

Be wary of very general or absolute statements. Any sweeping statements about an exercise or product being “bad” or some kind of panacea should be carefully considered. For example, I’ve seen numerous articles that declare “sit ups are bad for your back.” There is A LOT of nuance missing from this statement; the resultant statement is so oversimplified it bears little resemblance to what the original research on sit ups and spine health actually indicates. The following more accurately describes what the original research suggests:

When subjecting the spines of pig cadavers to the stress of a sit up, compressive forces measure over 3000 Newtons. This exceeds an established threshold for safe loading of the spine for workers. The main researcher who measured this level of spinal loading suggests that you can similarly stimulate some of the trunk muscles without as much compressive load on the spine, and thus you should consider using alternatives for chronic low back pain patients.

That’s a mouth full, and it doesn’t have quite the same headline buzz that “sit ups are bad” does. I understand why popular literature doesn’t tend to go into that level of detail. It’s not as flashy, and honestly, a lot of the folks writing for popular fitness publications don’t have the knowledge base to properly interpret the direct research. Unfortunately, this kind of simplification completely obfuscates the original recommendations. Basically, if you are doing many hours of sit-ups per week or are a chronic low back pain patient, then sit-ups may be a poor choice for you. For most people, who perform minutes worth of sit-ups over the course of a week with a healthy spine, they are probably completely fine.

Pay attention to very specific language in research compared to popular literature. Simply changing one or two words expressed in research can completely change the message. Sometimes this happens while paraphrasing the research directly, and sometimes it happens through a game of Internet telephone where people rehash information they read from other popular literature sites repeatedly. Either way, the implications of this small change can be pretty important.

For example, I have seen many sources of information suggest that low carb diets are optimal for fat loss. Low carb diets have not been shown to be more effective for fat loss. However, low carb diets have shown superior weight loss. Even then, this is only true in the short term. This is an important distinction, because when people say they want to lose weight, what they actually want is fat loss (most of the time). Fat loss is what leads to measurable improvements in health and has positive aesthetic implications. Weight loss, on the other hand, can include loss of muscle mass, body water, bone mass, or glycogen stores (our body’s storage depot of carbs). None of those sources of weight loss are particularly desirable from a health or vanity standpoint. Although there are potentially some psychological benefits to seeing bigger scale changes early in a fat loss program, statements like the one above are ultimately misleading. In the case of a low carb diet, losses in body water and stored glycogen do indeed account for the differences noted in weight loss when compared to a more balanced diet. Also, over the long term, there is virtually no difference in terms of fat loss or weight loss when comparing the two types of diets.

Be careful to differentiate between research that studies chronic and acute changes in physiological markers. This is the same as simply asking the question: did the research measure changes over a short or long period of time? For example, a commonly suggested benefit of lower body resistance training is that the increase in anabolic hormones seen after training very large muscle groups (i.e. the muscles in the legs) helps to potentiate growth in the upper body. Among fitness researchers, this is known as the hormone hypothesis, and it has largely been debunked. This kind of distinction is tricky, because typically the acute research does indicate a possible connection over the long term, but it always needs to be measured directly. In this case, the transient changes to hormone levels seen after a workout seem to have virtually no impact on muscle growth at all, let alone muscle growth in a different region of the body. It’s not an unreasonable assumption, but an assumption nonetheless. To be fair, there are numerous other reasons to train the lower body, but the very temporary surge in anabolic hormones isn’t one of them.

The last piece of critical thinking information I’ll suggest is make sure there is a body of literature supporting an idea, not just one study. In the fitness world, research is often riddled with poor statistical power - that is, sample sizes are very small, adherence is sometimes questionable (further shrinking sample size), and there are some individual differences in physiology. The result is that a finding in research typically needs to be duplicated many times over before it becomes clear that there is a connection. If you read an article referencing a recent piece of research, awesome! However, instead of taking the finding of that study as gospel, I would instead file it under “keep an eye on this topic,” and look for further research that corroborates the original finding later down the line. One example of this (sort of) is based on studies looking at interval training for fat loss. There is a phenomenon called EPOC, which basically describes a lingering demand for additional energy by your body for hours after a very intense bout of exercise, such as high-intensity interval training. This looked really promising, and for a while, HIIT cardio was touted as the holy grail of cardio for body composition changes. Unfortunately, further research indicated that this additional energy demand was much less than initially thought. Ultimately, the overall energy expenditure of an exercise bout is by far and away the most important factor related to body composition changes, and the deficit created by EPOC is too small to turn HIIT cardio from a reasonable alternative to steady state cardio into a fat loss phenomenon.

That’s all I have for today. This blog post is a lot more technical than some of my earlier ones. If some of this stuff went over your head, that’s okay! Not everyone is prepared to interpret research at all, let alone on a topic that requires a pretty substantial knowledge base to fully grasp. The best alternative is to find professionals you can trust to interpret this information for you. That might be a source of popular literature that implements these critical thinking strategies, or it could be a personal trainer that tries to keep up with current research. A couple of my favorite websites that really comb through new research as it comes out are:

The first one can be pretty dry to read, but the second one is reasonably digestible by the layman or average fitness enthusiast. Keep up the good working trying to stay informed and educated, just be careful not to get thrown off track by gurus and flashy headlines. Good luck out there.


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3 Signs You're Overtraining

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3 Signs You're Overtraining

Overtaining is defined as “…a maladapted response to excessive exercise without adequate rest, resulting in perturbations of multiple body systems (neurologic, endocrinologic, immunologic) coupled with mood changes.” 

Simply put, overtraining occurs as a result of exercise without adequate recovery. This can cause, among other things, increases in body fat, a plateau or reduction of lean (muscle) mass, an elevated resting heart rate, increased levels of stress, increased likelihood of injuries, decreased performance, and a weakened immune system.       

It’s necessary to be clear on one thing: overtraining will NOT occur in a vast majority of the population. Most busy professionals simply don’t have the time to put into the gym that would cause them to fall into a state of overtraining - it is much more likely to occur in athletes. However, it is also necessary to note that when a person reaches a state of overtraining is largely dictated by their recovery time outside of training.

At the cellular level, exercise is stress on the body. From a strength training perspective, hypertrophy (muscle growth) occurs only after muscle fibers have been torn and subsequently repaired. When performed in the correct dosages and with adequate recovery, the net result will be a positive bodily adaptation (increased aerobic capacity, increased muscle mass, etc). However, if too much is performed, or the recovery period is inadequate, and this pattern remains consistent, then overtraining may occur. High-stress levels from everyday life could also increase the risk of overtraining. Your recovery may be inadequate if:

  • you sleep less than 7-9 hours
  • you don’t eat enough/your body doesn’t get the micro- and macronutrients required for proper recovery
  • if you don’t allow enough time between workouts.

Intensity is also a player in overtraining: the higher the intensity of the workout, the more time should be given to allow for proper recovery. So, a person performing HIIT workouts (high-intensity interval training) should ideally allow more time between sessions than someone performing a brisk walk or moderate intensity resistance training. Like I said, exercise is stress at the cellular level, so if you lead a high-stress lifestyle, HIIT is most likely not for you: the last thing someone who deals with high levels of stress needs is an exercise that will put much more stress on the body. High-stress individuals will often respond better to low or moderate intensity workouts.

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As a trainer, I realize time and time again that less is more. People believe that they need to be pushed to their limits during each workout to achieve their goals, and that this is essentially the only way to do so. However, the body will only respond positively to a certain amount of stimulus, and after a certain point, this excess stimulus could potentially push you further away from your goals rather than closer to them. The point at which overtraining is reached is different for everyone, and depends on multiple factors. If you aren’t seeing results, or even seeing the inverse of your desired results, consider what you’re doing to recover outside of the gym, and consider whether or not your workouts are complimentary to your stress levels and lifestyle.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435910/


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You Are Not Broken

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You Are Not Broken

All of us suffer from injuries and issues from time to time. As well, structurally we are all different, and for a variety of reasons, some of us are more flexible at certain joints and stronger performing certain movements.

Comparing yourself to another person, a younger version of yourself, or some ideal standard is not the best idea.

For a fitness professional, there is value in establishing baseline levels of performance and fitness, as well as creating a common language with which to speak to other professionals. However, you have to be careful not to interpret these descriptions and assessments of you as determining what’s wrong with you. Rather, these tools are used to see where you start so appropriate progression can be used to get you to the next level, wherever you happen to begin your fitness journey.

Forgive us fitness professionals. We like to optimize the results and performance of our clients, but sometimes we focus a little too much on “what’s wrong” with someone rather than what’s right with them.

Honestly, most of the time I think these issues are a bit exaggerated in importance anyway. Our hearts are in the right place, but sometimes the language we use - and thus the way we frame things - can paint an unfortunate picture for our clients. We like to use the word corrective exercise to describe tools used to address these “weaknesses.” I don't like this term for a multitude of reasons. First of all, the term corrective exercise has no clear definition. For some folks who have been out of the exercise game for a long time, or were never really a part of it, starting with exercises that involve only limited loading to begin regaining this lost fitness is appropriate. This doesn’t mean that a bodyweight squat is any more “corrective” than a loaded front squat, but it is fair to say that some people aren’t ready to try a loaded front squat just yet. Don’t worry, you’ll get to the tougher exercises soon enough. All exercises are just exercises, some just impose a greater challenge on the body than others. There’s no clear delineation between exercises that fall under the corrective category or the traditional category. To be clear, I don’t have an issue with the exercises that typically fall under the corrective category, I just think the language we use is a legitimate contributor to the problems we see in our clients. Not only this, but I also think we sometimes focus a little too hard on perfection (sorry, it doesn’t exist in human movement) before we challenge ourselves further.

Another gripe I have with the use of the term corrective exercise is the main connotation that is attached to this word: you’re broken and need fixing. Pain is a fickle beast. There is an increasing amount of evidence that the traditional postural structural biomechanical model of pain (pain is caused by poor posture, alignment, range of motion, etc.) is missing some pieces of the puzzle. The biopsychosocial model tries to shore up some of these weaknesses of the other model. It brings biochemical environment as well as psychological status into the picture. With this in mind, we have to be careful not to create a nocebo effect with all our talk of dysfunction and correction. A nocebo effect is like a placebo effect, except negative. As professionals, we should be better about using appropriate language to avoid this insinuation. As clients and fitness enthusiasts, do your best to focus on your strengths, your plan to improve, your goals, and anything else that paints a positive picture about your health and where you’re headed.

Remember folks, we’re not indestructible, perfectly symmetrical, and built for timeless function, and that’s okay. Just because you have an asymmetry, are a bit hunched forward, or your lower back goes out once every few months, doesn’t mean you’re broken. You’re made to move, and if you train your body to move, it will adapt to those demands. Don’t be afraid to move, be inspired to move. Fearing movement because of ‘dysfunction’ is a great way to create a positive feedback loop of inactivity where you avoid movement until you’re “fixed,” so you never really do enough to get past your issues. Get stronger, increase stamina, and learn to smile while you’re active. I assure you that you’re capable of more than you think you are right now. Explore new movements, try your hardest, and don’t be afraid to fail. We need to do these things to learn and improve. Happy exercising, and remember to have faith in yourself as a human who was made to move!


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