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Screw the Scale

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Screw the Scale

I get this question a lot: “I just started exercising, so why am I gaining weight?” I’m pretty sure many of us have experienced this. We start a new training program and the number on the scale stays the same, or even worse, it goes up. Truth is, this is completely normal - and temporary. When we start a new exercise program and our bodies aren’t adjusted to that type of stress, our muscles may become inflamed. Most of the weight you see on the scale is probably not fat, but temporary water weight due to inflammation. However, it could also be an increase in muscle mass. Yay!

Again, one reason you may have gained weight in your first month of training is due to inflammation. When you work out a given muscle, you’re basically causing tears in your muscle fibers. This is usually referred as "microtrauma" and is why you feel sore the next day. But on the bright side, your body heals these little tears and makes your muscles stronger as you continue to lift heavy weights - essentially, your body adapts to the stress. That’s how you can get stronger and more fit: you create adaptation to whatever you’re doing, whether its cardiovascular training or strength training. During the first month of a new training program - especially if you’re new to fitness - there’s definitely going to be a lot of adaptation going on and these fluid build-ups caused by inflammation might show up on the scale. But don’t worry, once your body is adapted to this stress, the scale should go back down. Just keep working hard and trust the process.

Another reason why you might see weight gain within the first few weeks of training is that you’re building muscle faster than you’re losing fat. Muscle is more dense than fat, thus taking up less space. Next time, rather than stepping on a scale, measure your circumference instead. It’s often the case that, if you do gain muscle mass, the scale might go up, but you’ll probably fit better in your jeans.

Often times, we define fitness by body weight. I’ve seen so many people throughout their fitness journeys lose motivation because the scale wasn’t budging. But what does that number really mean? Does that mean they’re not progressing? Not getting stronger? Not becoming healthier? Chances are, the answer is no. Place the scale aside and focus on what really matters. Do your clothes fit better? Do you feel better? Are you happier? If the answer is yes, disregard the scale.

People may not consider the early changes to their bodies as a good thing. The key is to not let that number define your hard work and discourage you from working out or eating healthy. So, instead of weighing yourself, pay attention to what really matters: strength, endurance, health, how you feel, and most importantly, happiness. You’re so much more than just a number! Again, once you’ve been working out consistently, your muscle gains and water weight should stabilize. So keep doing what you’re doing and don’t lose faith. Be patient. Stick with your program. Don’t let any arbitrary number tell you how well or not you’re doing if you’re seeing positive physical changes. Like what successful people say, “Age is just a number.” Well..your weight is just a number, too.


 

 

 

 

 

 

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How "Why Not Now" Started

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How "Why Not Now" Started

When it comes to making fitness a priority, we've told ourselves, "We'll start on Monday," or "It'll be my New Year's resolution."  Well, why not now?  Empower yourself in the present and make it your lifestyle!

Movement

How many of us are in love with fitness, training, rehabilitation, or anything related to the word I try to avoid using: exercise? Okay, I like to call any of the previous terms “movement” because it’s more intentional and it’s something we all need to do not only to survive, but thrive. You don’t need to love to move, but you do need to commit to movement in one form or another. For some of us, it’s because we’re training to perform our best at something. For others, movement may be used to recover from injuries. For most of us, exercise is not natural or enjoyable but we know we need to do it in order to look, feel, and be the best versions of ourselves. Believe it or not, I don’t personally enjoy fitness unless I’m training for a sport or an event. There are a few unique specimens who are passionate and sometimes obsessed with resistance training, running, plyometrics, etc. because it’s fun for them and allows them to reach a state of flow. Flow, aka “the zone”, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. We can discuss that next time as it’s a subject that I’m particularly interested in. For now, let’s stay on task - I’m here to talk about: commitment.

Commitment

“A commitment is falling in love with something and then building a structure of behavior around it for those moments when love falters” - David Brooks’ lecture “The Next Big Challenge In Your Life”

I’m currently falling in love with the idea that I will be a parent soon, but I refuse to have a “dad bod”. My love and commitment has evolved, changed, and failed me several times - and that’s fine. I don’t have sporting events to train for, and I have no interest in training for a recreational event at the moment. In 2016, my commitment was to avoid having surgery to repair my ACL (yes, not having the surgery is an option). My focus was training hard to build the strength and body awareness necessary to have a fully functioning knee without a fully functioning ACL. Life is full of twists and turns and you don’t always have time to prepare for them, and that’s where motivation comes in. Your motivation is dictated by the current challenges you face. Motivation will keep you committed, and most importantly, keep you disciplined enough to keep you moving forward.

A Winning Mindset

Prior to the 2013 season, Russell Wilson inspired the the Seattle Seahawks with the phase “why not us”. In February of 2014, they won their first Super Bowl. Inspired by Russell Wilson, Justine and I came up with P4L’s slogan of “Why Not Now?” Why wait until tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year to focus on your fitness? Or better yet, why wait to commit to something you love? We all have a love for something, and that love will motivate us to stay committed to reaching our goals.


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We're All Human, Too

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We're All Human, Too

As a trainer, I often get asked by others if I love exercise. Now, the answer to that question can be tricky. Speaking for myself, I’d answer it with a yes and a no.

Yes, because I love the feeling after a hard workout of knowing that I finished it. Yes, because I love the feeling of knowing that I’m getting stronger after each workout when I see my numbers go up. Yes, because after I work out, I feel as though I’ve sweated out all of my anxieties and have a clearer mind.

On the other hand, no. No, because I often feel pressured by social media and the people around me to look a certain way. No, because even as a trainer, I get intimidated by some people at the gym - there is always someone who is stronger and more fit than I am. No, because sometimes, the reality of the day takes over and working out just won’t cut it.

Now that doesn’t seem like an answer you might hear, right?

I’m only human, and sometimes choose my bed over the weights. I, too, like to indulge in Salt and Straw’s newest holiday flavors. I, too, am like every other person on this planet, so when I feel a little self-conscious about how I look, I want to change it.

I am by no means saying that I’m perfect. What I am saying is that it’s okay to take time off of exercise because you don’t have, and can’t find, the motivation to go. It’s okay to take time off of exercise because you’re bored with your current routine. It’s okay if you sometimes feel weaker than you did during the previous workout. All of these things are okay, they’re normal, and they happen to everyone.

But what can you do?

Should you quit? NO. Never.

You can keep moving, keep striving to be a better version of yourself, and lastly, know that there is always tomorrow - the weights will still be there.


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Why You Should Watch Your Habits Not Your Weight

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Why You Should Watch Your Habits Not Your Weight

I started my foray into exercise like many of you: in response to frustration with body image. I was around 210 lbs. at the age of 15, and this discontent resulted in dieting and exercising my way to about 160 pounds. Unfortunately, after settling into my first real relationship, the good habits didn't stick. Luckily, I was able to keep the weight off despite my lack of motivation once I reached this goal. As research suggests, and many of you can attest to, regaining lost weight is very common.

Now let's look at my second attempt at structured exercise a couple years later. I decided that I really enjoyed getting stronger, which was something I experienced in a resistance training class in high school. I made my mind up to focus on that aspect of self-improvement this time around. I had found something somewhat disconnected with my body image, yet with time my confidence was improved to a new level. As well, this time it stuck, and I have been regularly exercising for nearly 15 years now. 

I have worked with a lot of clients over the years, and everyone finds different things to ignite that passion for activity. I would say that it is a slim minority who find long-term results who only focus on training for looks, weight, and body composition. For everyone else, performance does more for motivation and confidence. The most trainable physical quality we have is strength. It is not uncommon for people to double or triple their strength with proper training. Furthermore, if you really train to improve this quality, body composition is very likely to improve as well.

One of the major downsides to training for looks is the subjectivity of your self-perception. Have you ever “felt fat?” This feeling doesn't only exist for folks who are obese, it is something that folks with healthy body fat levels also experience.

Our body image is incredibly fickle, and trying to set yourself up for a lifetime of success with exercise built on a foundation so volatile is a recipe for disaster for most of us.

Another advantage to training for strength is that it promotes regular progressive overload. You have to continually challenge yourself to pick up heavier weights to spur adaptation. Once again, this practice is very likely to lead to improvements in body composition. This basic tenet of exercise science is often ignored but is certainly one of the most important components of a successful exercise program.

I know it's hard to care about strength for some of you, but I'm willing to bet you will encounter moments in your life where you truly appreciate it. I have heard tons of client stories about being empowered by their newfound performance capabilities. Often times I hear stories of things people did with their children, how they were confident enough to try something they wouldn't have otherwise tried, or simply how many things they notice in everyday life seem easy when it used to be hard.

I'll share with you the first moment I truly appreciated my increased strength. I was on the island of Capri in Italy. My grandmother, who was terminally ill, sold her house and used some of the money to take one final dream vacation. Thankfully, I was included on this wonderful journey. Beyond her illness, she also had serious arthritis problems and a fairly recent hip replacement. When we finally got to the Blue Grotto, which was the central activity around which she planned this trip, she was crushed. There was a set of what seemed to be a couple hundred stairs to get down to the boat that would take us inside. She couldn't do it and told us to go on without her.

Photo Credit : Khachik Simonian

Photo Credit : Khachik Simonian

I wouldn't accept this; I picked her up and carried her down and up those stairs so she could realize her dream. The folks waiting at the bottom even clapped for us when we made it down. She must've told that story 100 times before she died. It was one of her most memorable experiences, and one of her most proud moments as a grandmother.

Photo Credit : Will van Winergerden

Photo Credit : Will van Winergerden

If I had never started trying to improve my strength, I would not have had the confidence to even attempt this, let alone the physical capacity to do so. This is the kind of thing that provides a lifetime of motivation to continue exercising. I have days where I feel like skipping my workouts too, but recalling this moment, among many others, can be very powerful for keeping consistent. 

I urge you to experiment with this mindset. It may not be for you, but as stated, a ton of my clients have found a lot of joy, pride, and confidence by focusing on this aspect of their transformation rather than body composition. Sometimes viewing things through a new lens can lead to an appreciation that wasn't there initially. Now go: be strong, and be beautiful.



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5 Places to Unpack Your Passion

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5 Places to Unpack Your Passion

Last September, I found myself sitting in front of my computer, debating whether or not to sign up for a 3-part course called "Confident Cooking" at Sur La Table. I wanted to sign up, but I knew that I wouldn’t know anyone there and frankly, my cooking skills were severely lacking. In a moment of blind ambition, I pressed purchase.

Fast forward to the first class: I showed up early, put on my name tag and apron, then took a seat waiting to see who I’d be working with for the next 3 weeks as we conquered making chowder, biscuits, risotto, pasta, and more. I ended up getting paired with a newlywed about my age and her mother-in-law. As we talked, I discovered we had a lot in common and that they too weren’t pros in the kitchen - it was quite a relief to learn that we all had this in common.

Image Credit :  Kaboompics

Image Credit : Kaboompics

Over the next couple of hours, I learned how to properly use a Chef’s Knife and worked with my team to prepare a great meal. By the end of the class, we’d made a delicious salad with purple grapes and toasted walnut vinaigrette, buttermilk biscuits with maple butter, and a pot of sweet potato chowder with chicken and corn. The first class was a success: the food was delicious, I didn’t burn any food, and no injuries from the knife work. I left feeling energized, accomplished, and proud of myself for trying something new. I couldn’t wait to tell my roommates about the class and pick a night to cook for them that week. Needless to say, they were impressed by my new skills. Over the next few months I took a few more classes, cooked for more friends and along the way, I discovered a passion for cooking - one I never thought I’d have.

Image Credit : Kaboompics

Image Credit : Kaboompics

How did I end up at a cooking class?

Earlier that September I had been doing quite a bit of soul searching - I was trying to find my happiness. I asked myself a couple of hard questions: aside from continuing education for work, what have I learned for myself lately? When was the last time I tried something new?

During my search, I realized that learning makes me happy.  I missed everything from the challenge of a new activity to conversing with family about these challenges. Most of all though, I missed the fulfillment that conquering these new challenges gave me.  
Three hours into Knitting Boot Camp...

Three hours into Knitting Boot Camp...

Realizing that the only learning I had done in the past few years was centered around work was a motivator to sign myself up for my first cooking class - and I’m extremely happy I made the decision to do so.  Since September, I’ve continued to go to new classes outside of my comfort zone. Last Saturday, I spent my day at Workshop SF learning how to knit! Not my most successful endeavor but it was a fun day meeting new people and trying something I hadn’t done before.

 

I’m so happy that I made the decision to step out of my comfort zone and try something new, and I would encourage others to do the same.

San Francisco has an abundance of places to take workshops/classes to learn or even just try something new. I invite you to get our of your comfort zone and explore interests that may bring you happiness.


Top 5 Places I Recommend:
 

Workshop SF: Their motto is “Drink Beer and Make Stuff.” Workshop SF offers a wide variety of classes, ranging from making leather wallets to sewing to brewing your own beer and pretty much everything in between. Check out their website to see everything they’ve got to offer.

Image Credit :  Pixabay

ODC: Located in the Mission, their facility offers traditional dance classes (tap, ballet, jazz) and even goes into an eclectic offering of Salsa, Belly Dancing, Bollywood and admittedly what sounds the most fun to me: “Vogue and Tone.”

Image Credit : Pawel Kadysz

San Francisco Outdoor Adventure Club: Full of multi-sport weekend trips, this is the one if you’re ready to brave a new physical endeavor. Their trips include weekends in Tahoe, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting. If you need a getaway, consider signing up their surfing and beach vacations in Costa Rica.

Image Credit : Dino Reichmuth

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Endgames Improv:  Most classes here are about 3 hours long but are fairly small, allowing for a lot of personal interaction. You can hone your skills in character or scene work, sketch writing, or musical improv. While you’re a student there, you also receive free admission to all of their shows.

Image Credit : Markus Spiske

Sur La Table: Classes include basic knife skills all the way through baking macarons and cooking various cuisines (French, Thai, Italian, etc). Classes are offered on weeknights and weekends -  they even have date night options that both friends or couples could attend together.

Image Credit : Tranmautritam


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