Yesterday my family hiked to Spectra Point in Cedar Breaks National Park, located in breathtakingly beautiful Southern Utah. We are not veteran hikers, and most of our hiking has taken place in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania where we live. The sign at the trailhead warning us to keep hold of our children to prevent them from falling off the cliff edges was my first clue this hike might be a little different. For much of the hike we were just a few feet away from open cliff edges that dropped thousands of feet to the jagged canyon floor below. My heart was racing as we picked our way carefully up and down the winding, sometimes steep, and even slick trail.
At one point towards the end of the hike after a particularly nerve wracking section of the trail my daughter and I rounded a bend and were met by my son who cheerfully greeted us by saying "Guess what? We didn't die!" It was a much needed tension breaker for me and I burst out laughing. His words continued to rattle around in my head as we finished the hike and started the long car ride to our next destination.
You see, for most of my life I would have described myself as a fearful person. There was a time when I would have certainly turned back as soon as I saw the warning sign at the beginning of the trail, unable to push past my fear even with the promise of amazing, one of a kind views. The fact that I was able to complete this hike, even though I was most definitely afraid, is kind of a personal big deal for me. It's evidence of an internal change that began with getting my external self in shape.
This is such a great side effect of getting fit. Really when I started my fitness journey I wasn't interested in internal change. I just was tired of being fat. Plain and simple. But along the way not only did I drop pounds, I dropped a lot of mental baggage. Being paralyzed by fear is one of them. How did this happen? I had to push myself to lose the weight. I had to continuously face some of my fears: What if I look ridiculous? What if I don't know what I'm doing? What if it doesn't work? What if I can't do it? What if I backslide? What if I'm hungry all the time? What if I get injured? What if the people around me don't support me? I dealt with each of these fears more than once. Let me share with you two strategies I used to push past my fears.
The first one goes back to what my son said to me on the trail... "Guess what? We didn't die." When a fear would crop up I would ask myself "What is the worst thing that will happen if my fear is realized?" Unlike on the Cedar Breaks trail, death was never a possibility! What if I did look ridiculous? What's the worst thing that could happen? Maybe someone would laugh at me, or make a rude comment. What if I lost a bunch of weight and then backslid, what's the worst thing that could happen? I'd have to start over. I'd feel discouraged. I'd be embarrassed. The worst case scenario was inevitably something I knew I could deal with, even if it was not desirable. And, interestingly, it was almost always better than dealing with how I'd feel doing the alternative, which was giving in to fear and just not trying at all.
While we were towards the beginning of the the trail we could look way out in the distance to the rim on the other side of the canyon. We could see people out on that part of the trail, and I thought to myself, "There's no way we'll make it all the way over there." Less than an hour later we were on the other side looking back at the people just starting. It was a great moment (partly because the look out point was surrounded by a nice tall guard rail and we could enjoy the view without the threat of a long fall to our death).
The part of the trail directly before the look out point had a smallish drop on the left side and a drop of several thousand feet on the right hand side, creating a kind of short bridge. As we watched my husband and son cross in front of us I heard my 10 year old daughter psyching herself up to do the same. "Ok. We can do this. Just one step at a time. Let's just look at our feet." She kept up the pep talk as we crossed: "We're stepping. Another step. Ok. Just a few more steps. Let's just keep stepping" She and I were so relived to grasp hold of that railing when we got to our destination! Interestingly, that is just how I spoke to myself inside my head (and probably out loud on occasion) as I took on the fears that cropped up on my fitness journey. It was always about the very next step. The next step is really the only one that matters. I was laser focused on whatever that next step was. Looking too far off into the distance was usually overwhelming and involved things I couldn't do much to impact (other than worry- and as much as I've tried to impact situations by the amount of worry I aimed at them, as you're well aware, I'm sure -worry has no positive impact!)
The trick was the same every day. "What can I do today?" was the winning question. It was a series of small victories: Work out in the "man cave" at the gym alone for the first time- check. Figure out how to do a proper back squat- check. First time ordering just lean protein and veggies with no dessert or dinner roll while out with friends, surviving endless series of comments and questions about my "diet" - check. Regain a few pounds over the Christmas holiday and figure out how to get back on track- check. Just one step step at a time, no matter how small or tentative, is what got me where I wanted to go!
Though a fitness journey doesn't have a definite end with one particular spectacular moment as a reward, like Spectra Point on my hike, at least for me there were so many moments when the sense of accomplishment in achieving my goals filled me up to bursting! And guess what? I didn't die!
Summer vacation is here and whether you're heading to the beach, the lake, or on a long road trip- one thing is certain. You want to enjoy yourself and relax. I'm guessing that you also want to come home still fitting in your pants! Here are my top 5 tips on how to do just that:
1. Move, move, and then move some more! Reading a book by the pool for hours on end sounds like paradise to me, but before and after I read that book I make sure to get in plenty of exercise. Kayak on the lake, bike around town or even just take a nice long walk. If you've been strength training at home and find yourself without equipment or access to a gym on vacation, performing a body weight circuit every other day can be a great way to keep up your fitness routine. Push-ups, planks, dips, body weight squats, lunges and glute bridges can be surprisingly challenging.
2. Make some important decisions before you even leave home. Think about your vacation plans and the food that will be a part of those plans. What are you most looking forward to? What foods or drinks are more in the "take it or leave it" category? Choose ahead of time where you're going to indulge. For example, when I was cruising over spring break I was seriously looking forward to some chocolate treats for dessert (I'm having flashbacks of chocolate lava cake right now!!) and some pasta at dinner. I was totally fine skipping the pancakes and french toast at the breakfast buffet and the fruity drinks served poolside. If you're going to a family reunion maybe it's your grandmother's special dessert you can't wait to enjoy again. Perhaps you are looking forward to trying the regional cuisine that the area where you're visiting is known for. Great. Plan for it. Enjoy it! Pick a few meals or snacks to be times for indulging. And what about the rest of your meals? That brings me to tip number 3...
3. Eat lean protein and vegetables at as many of your meals as possible. Add in a few servings of smart, whole grain carbs and healthy fats each day as well.
4. Make eating out a no-brainer. How? Order lean protein and vegetables. Almost every restaurant, from fast-food to fine dining has lean protein and vegetables on the menu. Chicken, turkey, fish of all kinds, shellfish such as shrimp and scallops, and lean cuts of beef (such as sirloin): there are so many choices to pick from when it comes to lean protein. The same goes for vegetables; so many choices! One quick note, many salads that come with a protein actually contain precious little protein. Ask how many ounces are in the dish you're ordering and request a double sized portion of protein if it's not enough. I like to shoot for 4-5 oz of protein per meal.
5. How can you eat as outlined above and not feel deprived? The answer to that lies in changing our mindset. We can consciously choose to think of our choices as just that, choices we've made because we know that we'll be happier if we are eating in a way that supports our health and fitness goals. If we think of this way of eating as something that is being done to us, that we're forced to do, or as some kind of punishment for overindulging, we are much more likely to feel deprived instead of satisfied.
I'd like to suggest one specific mindset shift. When we're eating on our vacations instead of thinking to ourselves "but it's a special occasion I should treat myself," and then ordering whatever we feel is a treat, what if we chose to look at other things outside of the food itself as the "treat" during our special occasion? Dining in the company of beloved family and friends can be the treat. Dining in a beautiful location with a fabulous view can be the treat. Having someone else prepare, cook, serve and clean up the food can be the treat! And for all you fellow moms out there, having someone else prepare, cook, serve, and clean up after your entire crew is most definitely a treat! Does it make it any less special if I'm eating shrimp on a bed of spinach rather than a bowl of fettucine alfredo while I'm gazing at the ocean surrounded by those I love? I say it doesn't!
So there you have it ladies, 5 tips to help you enjoy your vacation and still keep on track with your health and fitness goals. Let me know how your fabulous vacations go! I'm leaving on a 2 1/2 week family reunion/visit old friends/college tour/ Western States extravaganza in less than a week and I can hardly wait! There's a slice of cake and some Mexican food with my name on it...
One of the keys to successful fat loss is planning ahead. When we make our food choices on the fly we tend to make choices that don't move us towards our goal. When we're in a rush, tired, stressed out, etc. making a healthy choice is much easier if we already have the healthy option prepared. Think of it this way- if we can make eating healthy, fat-loss-friendly food as quick and easy as pouring a bowl of cereal or grabbing something from the pre-made dinner section of the local grocery store then won't we be way more likely to choose the healthy, fat-loss friendly meal? I know I will be.
This is why every week I either grill a giant batch of chicken or whip up a big batch in the crock pot. Then all I have to do is add a veggie (which I also often prepare ahead of time as
well) and a little healthy fat (a 1/4 of an avocado or a Tablespoon of oil on my salad will do) and dinner is ready. If you feel the need to have a starch with dinner then you can also pre-make a pot of rice or quinoa for the week as well.
My recipe for Easy Crock Pot Chicken is super versatile. I eat it hot or cold, on top of brown rice, quinoa, or a sweet potato. I love it mixed with zoodles (spiral cut zucchini) and red pepper hummus. Of course it's fantastic in salads of all kinds! My current favorite way to eat it is on a bed of baby spinach with cherry tomatoes, avocado, and a huge handful of roughly chopped cilantro.Mmmm. Yumm! Give it a try a let me know what you think!
Easy Crock Pot Chicken
1lb Chicken Breasts
1 Cup Organic Chicken Stock
1/2 Cup Spicy Brown Mustard
1 1/2 Tablespoon Garlic paste
Salt and Pepper to taste
Place the chicken in the crock pot. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over the chicken. Cook on low 6-7 hours or until chicken is cooked thoroughly. Shred chicken with two forks and stir until chicken and sauce are well combined.
I'm a NASM certified personal trainer who is passionate about helping women transform their bodies through strength training and sustainable nutritional habit changes.