Should I diet before vacation?

If you mean, “Should I continue an existing diet/healthy habits I had for several weeks or months prior to vacation?” by all means, continue!

If you mean, “Will crash dieting and exercising like a maniac make me look lean for vacation?” then the answer is probably not.

Here’s why: A one or two week diet before vacation will cause you to shed mostly water weight and MAYBE a pound or two of actual body mass. You’ll look lean for your first day of vacation and by day two, after you’ve traveled, eaten a burger and poured back a margarita, you’ll be wondering why you’re bloated again. It’s just a given with extra salt and carbs in your diet and the change in your routine.

Personally I don’t think two weeks of starving and crazy workouts are worth it for one day of results and no long-term benefit. I wouldn’t do a two-week diet for the sole purpose of going on vacation.

If I happened to start a diet shortly before but unrelated to vacation, I would ease my way in and keep in mind that my results would be delayed because of my vacation.

When you return from vacation and notice bloating or a higher weight on the scale, don’t panic, don’t starve yourself, and don’t spend hours doing cardio. Your best bet is to drink a lot of water and get back to a healthy routine.

How do you prepare for vacation?

Stay fit,

Marisa

New training block/split: Time under tension

I started a new training block on Monday! Patience is not my strongest point, so I was really hoping it would be a strength block with lots of heavy lifting and some PRs. Instead, my programming involves time under tension. I was initially worried when I heard these words because I expected lots of paused reps. There are no paused reps, but every (EVERY!) movement in the program is performed at a tempo. I’ve done a little tempo work before but I wasn’t completely familiar with it. Basically it means the eccentric, or stretching, part of the movement is performed in a slow and controlled manner. My program includes a specific number of seconds it should take to perform each eccentric movement – 3-6 seconds depending on the movement.

The goal is to build a combination of strength and mass.

I also got a new training split that includes more lifting days. My last training block had 4 lifting days and 1 core day. This block has 5 lifting days, and I’m doing my own core exercises of choice on a cardio-only day. Here’s the split:

Monday: Chest/triceps/cardio of choice

Tuesday: Back/shoulders

Wednesday: Cardio of choice/core

Thursday: Legs (quad focused)

Friday: Shoulders/biceps

Saturday: Legs (hamstring focused)

Sunday: Active rest/light cardio

So far I’ve done the first two lifts (and the cardio). I have a circle of pain around my upper body, especially in my lats. But I love it. I didn’t think I would but the slower pace of the movements is soothing somehow.

What does your training look like right now? How do you feel about it?

Stay fit,

Marisa

5 things I’m doing to improve my squats

I’ve been squatting for more than three years but that doesn’t mean my squats don’t suck or that I don’t have the glute strength of a newborn horse. During my last strength block, I had some really ugly squats. I’ve been working to improve them during this endurance block. Although I haven’t been squatting very heavy lately, I’ve noticed my form has improved in my lighter, high-rep sets. Here’s what I think has helped.

  1. Glute bridge warmups. A few sets of 20 bodyweight glute bridges gets my glutes firing so I actually use them when I’m squatting.
  2. Hip mobility exercises. I’ve also been doing 90-90 hip mobility exercises during my warmups. It’s been easier for me to squat deeper in a better position (narrower stance where I don’t look like I’m pooping). In the past, it was harder for me to squat to depth in a narrower stance and painful to squat to depth in a wide stance.
  3. Lunges and split squats. These exercises (SO MANY of these exercises) have made my glutes stronger so that I’m able to keep my knees from collapsing when I’m coming out of the hole.
  4. Bodyweight squat holds. The focus of my squat holds has been keeping my knees out, which has also helped me keep my knees from collapsing during weighted squats. Squat holds have also helped with ankle mobility, which makes it easier to squat deeper.
  5. Squat-stance deadlifts. Not quite a sumo deadlift, pulling from squat stance has improved my speed out of the hole when I squat.

Do you have any other tips to help me improve my squats?

Stay fit,

Marisa

My body’s telling me no…

I’m calling it. I’m bowing out of the half marathon I’m registered for next weekend, April 15. In my last, post, I told you I had shin splints but was continuing to do my “runs” on the elliptical in hopes I would feel better and be able to race. Today was my drop-dead date. If I couldn’t do my 6-mile long run today, I decided I wasn’t going to attempt to race next Saturday.

My shins felt pretty good when I woke up today so I planned to run to the gym (3 miles), do 15 minutes of rowing and run home. I made it about three blocks before the shooting pains were too much.

Reluctantly, I decided I’m not going to try to race.

I have a lot of feelings about this, and most of them involve disappointment.

I’m disappointed in myself for not being able to finish what I started.

I’m disappointed in my body for failing me and for not being able to handle the training I had planned.

I’m disappointed that I posted a training plan on this blog and I got injured following it.

I’m disappointed that I won’t get a PR this race because I’m not running.

I’m disappointed that I paid for the race and now that money is wasted. (I’ll pick up my t-shirt but I don’t get the pretty medal for finishing.)

But I’m also proud of myself for recognizing my limits. In the past I probably would have raced anyway and injured myself more. I have other goals that are bigger than this race and getting injured won’t help me reach them. I’m registered for the Madison-Chicago Ragnar in the beginning of June. If I rest now and keep up my cardio endurance, I’ll be able to run with my team. I’d rather let myself down and skip this race than let down 11 Ragnar teammates.

I was thinking a lot about mental toughness and how most limitations when it comes to fitness (and life in general, I guess) are in your head. If you have the right mindset and block the self-imposed limitations, you can reach your goals. This is not one of those times. My limitation is physical. Having the right mindset means knowing that pushing through the pain and succeeding in the short term will hold me back from my other goals and impede my long-term success.

What’s next? I’m taking 4 more full weeks off from running and doing my cardio on the elliptical, stair climber or rower. I’m going to look into getting new pair of shoes. I’m going to continue with my lifting program and add some exercises to strengthen my shin muscles and calves.

With that, I bow out of the race.

Stay fit,

Marisa

Shin splints: Training through an injury

It’s probably safe to say that I have shin splints. My legs and calves are really strong, but my half-marathon training this time around included a lot of running on the treadmill because of the weather. I never feel like I hit a natural stride on the treadmill, which I think was part of the cause of my shin pain.

Shin splints mean I shouldn’t run but they don’t mean I shouldn’t train. I can still lift. I would like to run the race I have planned if my shins miraculously decide to heal (I’m not counting on it at all, but I don’t want to be unprepared if I feel good that day.) I have other races coming up and I need to keep up my cardio endurance for those.

So, to the elliptical I go. It’s boring and not very rewarding, but it’s the cardio workout I need.

How do you train through an injury?

Stay fit,

Marisa

Photo credit: Pixabay stock photo

4 things to look for in a personal trainer

I recently came across this question that I thought was worth answering in a blog post for anyone who might be looking for a personal trainer. How do you know who will be the right fit for you?

Here are four qualities I would want in a personal trainer:

  1. Listens to my (realistic) goals and is willing to tailor a program appropriately. I want a trainer who cares about what I want and is willing to work with me to reach those goals. I’ve said it before on the blog, but I’ve encountered trainers who assume my goal is weight loss. I’m not sure why. Because I’m a woman? Because I’m not lean enough to step on a bodybuilding stage tomorrow? I don’t want a trainer who gives me a cookie-cutter plan for weight loss without even listening to my goals. I do want a trainer who asks me what results I’m trying to get from training, what I think my strengths and weaknesses are, and how much effort I’m realistically willing to put into training.
  2. Has success in training athletes with similar goals. If my goals are to improve my strength for squat, bench and deadlift, I want to hear about your clients that trained for their first powerlifting meet or improved their squat from switching from high bar to low bar.
  3. Teaches me to succeed on my own. I won’t be doing every single workout with my trainer, and I think that’s true for most people. I want my trainer to give me the tools to train independently, whether that’s a daily plan or information to structure my own workouts.
  4. Makes time for me. It’s comforting when a trainer remembers me without having to consult a piece of paper from our last session. I want to be able to text questions to my trainer and receive a response. I want to feel like my trainer is invested in my training and I’m not just a piece of the paycheck who is forgotten the minute I leave the gym.

What qualities do you look for in a trainer?

Stay fit,

Marisa

How to support your partner’s fitness journey

Your partner just started their fitness journey. Alone. You’re not quite sure why, where you fit in or how to react. Here’s five things you can do to support your fit partner.

Ask them why they want to get fit.

I tried calling this bullet point a few different things, including, “Realize it’s not about you,” and “Don’t project motives,” but I didn’t want to be negative, and more importantly, those headings only represent part of the picture. Your partner probably isn’t getting fit to get the attention of someone new they want to hook up with or even so you think they’re hotter. They’re probably doing it to get healthier and feel better about themselves. But knowing that isn’t enough. It’s helpful to really understand the deeper “why” your partner wants to get in shape. Because 5 family members died of a heart attack before age 60, and at 40, your partner is starting to get nervous.  Because she was teased about being the “fat girl,” as a kid and always got picked last in gym, and even though she’s comfortable with her weight now, she’s still self-conscious that she can’t run a 5K.

Let them have alone time if that’s what they want.

We spend a lot of time thinking about what other people are doing for us and very little time thinking about what they’re doing for themselves. In my experience, spending a little time doing something just for you without having to think about someone else is a good way to get to know yourself and feel refreshed. Take a moment to think about that before you make your partner feel guilty about not heading home right after work or about later dinners. I’d even think twice before saying something like, “I miss you while you’re at the gym.” You may have good intentions and genuinely miss them, but try to survive that extra hour without making them feel like they should have stayed home instead.

Positive vibes only.

Say encouraging, positive things to your partner about their fitness journey. The obvious way to do this is to compliment how they look, but I challenge you to try some other forms of encouragement.

  • Tell them they seem more energetic or confident lately.
  • Congratulate them on a recent fitness victory or challenging workout they completed. (That means you have to ask about those things.)

Don’t be negative or a know it all. Avoid telling your wife she’s going to look manly if she trains chest and shoulders. Don’t tell him that dessert is going to ruin his progress. Don’t tell her she’s doing something all wrong or that you know the better way to get in shape, even if you’re pretty sure you’re right. Especially don’t do these things if your partner is newer to fitness. Part of the journey is navigating on your own and being proud you did it. The only exception I can think of is if you see your partner doing something in the name of health that’s actually dangerous.

Ask how you can get involved.

If you’re feeling left out because your partner started their fitness journey without you, ask if you can workout with them or get involved in some other way. Brace yourself. Your partner may not want to workout with you – see my second point. If that’s the case, talk about how you can start your own parallel fitness journey or be a supporter of theirs. Maybe your partner doesn’t want to run with you every day, but if you’re interested in running, you could sign up for the same 5K. She may not want to lift weights with you but she’s okay going to the gym at the same time. You have completely different exercise styles, but once or twice a week you can deviate from your normal routine and bike together. You can learn to prepare healthier meals, stand at the finish line of their race or make sure you’re home at a certain time so your partner doesn’t have to haul to children to the gym Kids’ Club.

Address your own insecurities.

Shall we address the big tomato in the room? (Any Parenthood fans?? Anyone?) Some people struggle to support their partner’s fitness journey because of their own insecurities. “He’ll realize he’s too good looking for me.” “She’ll like all the attention from other dudes.” “I don’t understand why my partner started this without me.” “My partner doesn’t like spending time with me anymore.” If this is you, please try to own it and admit it instead of being negative and unsupportive of your partner. Please don’t try to take something positive your partner is doing and make it something negative about you. I know this will be hard to do, but an honest conversation is the best way to address insecurities. You and your partner can work through insecurities together (everyone has them!) before they put a big strain on your relationship.

How do you support your partner through their fitness journey? How does your partner support you?

Stay fit,

Marisa

Photo credit: Pexels stock photo