Brain Training 101
I wanted to take a moment and dive a little deeper into how I used to train (incorrectly) and how that has made me the trainer I am today.
As I may have mentioned before, my first run after years of smoking, drinking, and Taco Bell lunches was about 1.5 miles and TERRIBLE. That first run sucked so bad, and hurt so much, that the first thing I did before brewing my coffee and getting ready for work was smoke another cigarette. Despite my years spent running track and cross country, in that moment I thought I had no business calling myself a runner ever again. Luckily, I had a little bit of coaching from my high school days that I could latch onto, to recognize that maybe I needed a slightly more structured approach to training. I knew that not exercising was not an option, nor was winging it. But what could I do to make it not suck?
the secret about sweat
There’s actually really no secret about sweat... but there is a lot of misinformation. One example of this is the idea that sweat can carry away the previous nights’ sins and help the body rid itself of impurities. People go to hot yoga because they swear they can feel their body detoxifying when it's actually the water they are chugging afterwards that is helping to flush out the liver. I've actually gotten scolded by a rider in one of my classes for having the fans on too high because he wasn't sweating enough and therefor was losing the benefit of the workout.
Hold The Phone!
In 2017 American adults spent an average of nearly three hours on their phone EVERY day. Still, the number one excuse I hear from new clients about why they have struggled to start or maintain a fitness routine is NOT ENOUGH TIME. Surely, in this digital age, I know we rely heavily on our handheld devices for any number of functions, and with a countless variety of workout apps and fitness trackers it seems like it ought to be easy to get on a routine, with all the alerts and reminders these technologies can give us to get up and get moving.
“I just... I just can’t. I just can’t focus. My brain can’t...” The words failed as my eyes welled up with tears. My husband and only pacer tripped just five miles into the 25 he was planning on running with me, and while avoiding a faceplant, he severely aggravated a persistent back injury. I felt bad for him and knew he didn’t want to tell me here, at mile 86-point-something, that he was afraid to run anymore. The problem was, without someone to push me (or clap their hands two inches from my face) and keep me awake, I was afraid to keep going, too.
My time goals were slipping away as the night stole confidence from my stride. My headlamp was fading along with my brain. My feet burned from blisters thanks to multiple water crossings and kicking a few rocks myself. Really, everything between my knees and my neck was fine... just the bottom and top were coming undone. And the top part - my mind, so desperate to curl up in the dirt and close my eyes - this was the beast I wasn’t expecting to battle.
Mysteries Of The Gym
Since I spent a decent chunk of time preparing this flyer for a fitness presentation, I thought I would share this with you here! When you call or email to take advantage of your free assessment and intro session, mention something new you learned from this post.
Not in Atlanta? No problem! I can offer a phone assessment and free virtual training trial. Having a few workouts that require minimal equipment at your fingertips is a sure-fire way to jump-start your new fitness routine.
And as always, if you have any fitness questions but don't want to commit to hiring a personal trainer just yet, I am here to help. Before studying health sciences and developing a passion for training and running, I used to worry all the time about what time of day I should eat what kinds of foods, or whether I needed to do weights or cardio first at the gym. Comment below with anything that has confused you on your own fitness journey!
Hard vs. Harmful
An important role as a personal trainer is to not only correct my clients' training mistakes, but to share the information I know about how the body moves and what the body is capable of.
Sometimes, a client keeps asking me to add more, and more, and more weight to an exercise before we have established proper form. Other times, a client is convinced once they feel the weight in their hands that I'm asking them to lift too much. It's my job to help clients identify the difference between what is hard and what is harmful.
The guy who's jerking heavy dumbbells up to his shoulders, arching his back and then swinging the weights back down by his side is not only exhibiting terrible form, but he's not adequately targeting the bicep muscles, and is at serious risk of injuring his back or shoulders. I coach this person to properly isolate the bicep muscle through controlled movement that focuses on the eccentric (unloading) phase of the bicep curl to create optimal muscle recruitment so that when he does his bicep curls, he's not relying on momentum generated elsewhere in his body to complete the exercise.
Conversely, when someone lifts the weight properly but quits after five repetitions because the muscles are starting to ache, they are missing out on challenging the muscles enough to see any notable improvement in strength or fitness. I must encourage this person that when the body works to repair itself after a challenging workout, the muscle fibers thicken and strengthen as the body heals. This is what creates more muscle mass, which will boost metabolism and help change body composition. But only when enough weight is lifted that the client feels challenged between 8-20 reps.
My goal for my clients is to make sure they leave every workout feeling capable and confident. Having a sound understanding of the mechanics of movement and a good eye for proper form are how I make sure my clients both feel and see improvements to their fitness!
When I implement a training plan for my clients, I do so with a sound understanding of their physiological needs and how certain exercises will help them. So when I find that there are additional benefits to my training methods, I am thrilled!
Recently I had the chance to sit down with Dr. Eldred Taylor, who along with his wife Dr. Ava Bell Taylor authored "The Stress Connection" and "Are Your Hormones Making You Sick?". Dr. Taylor practices functional medicine, which emphasizes maintaining wellness over just curing illness - something that I feel our current medical system often fails to address. The information he shared with me is available in an in-depth interview he did with the EliteHRV podcast, an informational podcast that focuses on the importance of understanding heart rate variability (HRV). I will link to that podcast at the end of this post.
In 2016 we have seen a number of food trends in the spotlight. There has been a big jump in veganism as more people become aware of the harm of industrial farming. And for those who can't part ways with their beloved steak, it is far easier than it was even a few years ago to find and order from organic, humane, sustainable farms. Clean eating continues to be a popular buzz phrase, and goes beyond eating organic as it eliminates all processed foods and refined sugars.
Pinhoti was my "A" race for the year, the culmination of nearly two years of physical and mental preparation. Following is my incredibly lengthy and boring race report, if you so wish to read it. To current and prospective clients, a couple takeaways I'd like you to consider:
What is or was your "A" training goal? What doubts have you overcome to get there, or what do you know you need to conquer to achieve it?
Do you have any tricks when your thinking takes a turn for the negative? How do you get out of that funk?
What physical feat might make you say "I have surpassed everything I thought I could ever do"?
Now - on to the story....
“WHAT?! We’re how far from the start?!”
This was the panicked cry I sent out into the dim early morning air as my husband informed me that we were 4.5 miles from the starting line of the Pinhoti 100 mile race.
That started at 7:00AM.
It was 6:50.
Ending The Great Calorie Debate
Grace wants to gain muscle but not gain weight. Gloria wants to trim down specifically in her midsection. George wants to bulk up but not change his diet. Gina wants to lose weight without sweating or getting sore.
From a customer service standpoint, I, as the hired professional, should deliver on my clients’ wishes. But what if their wishes are misguided? What if they heard they could achieve a result doing something that is actually counterproductive- or worse, completely unsafe?
When a client first comes to me, it’s not their current weight or state of physical health that creates the biggest challenge for me as a trainer- it’s the plethora of misinformation they have absorbed and held to be true before finally realizing that maybe they need a new approach or additional support. And I don’t blame them for soaking up everything the internet spews out! All it takes is one catchy headline to make us second guess the food we eat, the fabric softener we use, whether to get the flu shot this year, or if we’ve been breathing properly our whole lives.