Check your Ego at the Door

Injuries suck. They’re exhausting and painful and demoralizing and frustrating.

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They are also a really great learning experience. I mean, all adversity is an opportunity to learn and grow if you choose to treat it as such…and why not? Otherwise it’s just suckage with no point to it. That’s no fun.

Anyway, injuries: everyone who works out or enjoys physical activity in any capacity is going to sustain an injury at some point in their lives that derails their training and knocks them down a peg or two. Or more than two. So, you get injured, you get it treated, you do the physio and the rehab exercises etc etc and you’re feeling better. Time to get back at it, right? You’ve waited weeks, maybe months to get back into the gym and feel like you’re doing something challenging and worthwhile. Pedal to the metal, baby!!

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Nope. Slow down there, Tex.

Because at the moment you feel 100%, that’s when you’re about 80% healed. And the time you spend between being 80% healed and 100% healed is the window of time where you are at the greatest risk of re-injury. It’s also the time when your ego, the little shit, is not your friend at all.

“Psst!” it’ll whisper at you. “You should be able to do that. You could six months ago. Give it a shot and see what happens! You can always stop if it hurts.”

Your ego doesn’t care that if you make it hurt too much then congratulations, you have successfully joined the ranks of people who find themselves back on the injury bench. It just wants to GO. It wants you to feel like you got something accomplished. It also wants you to be some kind of superhero who doesn’t have to obey the laws of physics like the rest of us. Well, guess what? You’re not a special snowflake – of course you are a special snowflake – but you’re still a broken snowflake and that means that for a little while, you need to find a way to leave your ego at home when you go to the gym.

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This is not an easy thing to do.

The gym is where people go to get their pump on, to sweat, to feel strong and badass and sexy as fuck. It’s where people flex in the mirror and take more selfies than just about any other place on earth, right? The gym is any inflated ego’s happy place!

So when you bring your still-broken-but-feeling-way-better self back in there, it’s important – really important – that you take it easier than you think you need to. Lift the lighter weights. Work on mobility, balance, control. Get your mind-muscle connection firing again.  At this point it’s also good to isolate that injured spot and insult it just a little bit so that your body knows to concentrate its repair work there. Eccentric, or negative contractions (where the muscle is lengthening under tension instead of contracting; this usually is the down-phase of the exercise) done slowly and under control are key to let your body know that it needs to lay down more, stronger tissue in that location. (Plug: a good trainer can help with this and will know just how much to challenge you, or not, on any given day.)

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Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. You may not get a good clip for Instagram showing all the cool stuff you can do. All of that can wait until you’re all the way better – and the way to get all the way better is to start slowly and build back up. S L O W L Y. It’s agonizing, I know! But better to do that, than end up with an injury that’s chronic. Your body doesn’t need that kind of mileage – that’s what you get when you slog through the suckage and don’t learn anything!! So check your ego at the door and gently explore what your body is capable of. You’ll gain perspective and it might even be fun.

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Bullshit Healthy Things

Let’s face it, sometimes you just need cake.

And sometimes, when you go to Costco, even though you have told yourself a hundred times that it’s not a good idea (you’ve learned this from experience), you end up taking home that 10lb bag of carrots because you need a few carrots and you don’t want to go to a separate grocery store just for fucking carrots.

Furthermore, some weeks when you’re working a lot and are not caught up with keeping consumable snacks in the house, your preteen children complain bitterly that there’s nothing to eat after school and hassle you to within an inch of your sanity.

Obviously the solution to all of these problems is carrot cake. But what to do if you don’t want all the sugar and junkiness of cake? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!

Carrot Apple Muffins

Bullshit Healthy Carrot Apple Muffins

Preheat oven to 425F, and line your muffin tins with parchment cups – this recipe makes 18 muffins so that’s how many cups you’ll need to have ready.

Dry stuff: mix the following in a big bowl – bigger than you think you need:

1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour

2 scoops vegan protein powder (unflavored, vanilla, or I used Epicure Optimum Vegan Protein Blend which has a mild coconut flavor)

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

½ tsp nutmeg

Wet stuff: mix the following in whatever bowl it fits in:

3 cups shredded carrots (this is a lot of carrots. If you don’t have a food processor with a shredder, you’re going to be grating for a looooong time. I am not above bribing my children to do this part of the job)

2 apples, diced

1 cup milk

½ cup maple syrup

⅓ cup coconut oil, melted

2 eggs

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and quickly stir to combine. Don’t be a perfectionist; some lumpiness is okay. Spoon the batter into your prepared muffin cups and bake for 13-15min.

These little mofo’s are delicious on their own, but if it’s cake with icing that you’re after feel free to pipe some cream cheese icing onto the top of each muffin (after they’ve cooled of course.)

Cream Cheese Icing

2 cups cream cheese

4 cups icing sugar

1 tsp. Vanilla

Whip all the ingredients together using an electric mixer and pipe over the muffins. You can use an icing bag with fancy nozzles for this step or just dump the whole mess into a freezer bag and cut a corner off – it’ll taste awesome either way!

Don’t call me Supermom

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Over the last couple of days I’ve heard that word used to describe a number of women with kids, in various contexts. If I’m honest I’ve heard it used to describe me too…and though it is flattering and always used in the most generous and affectionate and admiring context, it eats away at me a little every time I hear it.

Maybe I’m being overly politically correct or sensitive here, but hear me out on this one: my thought is that the vast majority of mother-figures (there are exceptions of course, as always) are just doing their damnedest to raise happy, healthy kids who feel loved, build fulfilling careers (if they so choose), and maybe, if there’s energy left over, look after their own spirits. Yes I know, we’ve all heard it a million times – we have to carve out time to look after ourselves and we can’t be good examples to our kids if we don’t – but when something else comes apart, that’s often the first thing to go. That’s what we signed up for when we became responsible for other humans. But I’m not trying to be a martyr here; that’s not what this is about.

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So what is this about?

It’s about competition. Because when someone is described as ‘supermom’, it implies that they are head and shoulders above us regular ol’ moms; someone to aspire to rather than someone who is down here in the trenches with the rest of us. And I get it – when a woman sticks out and does something amazing, she definitely deserves to be celebrated. OF COURSE she does. But does it make her a better mom? Not necessarily. And then if we pin the label ‘supermom’ on her, should the rest of us aspire to be more like her? What if we aren’t interested in achieving what she’s achieved?

Women don’t need to be in competition with each other. My thought is that there are too many of us who feel like we aren’t enough as it is. Let’s admire each other’s achievements without comparing parenting skills, mmmkay?

supermom

It’s about sexism. Let’s turn this around: how many male professionals, athletes, artists, leaders, etc. , who have children are referred to as ‘superdad’? Often you don’t hear that those guys have children at all; instead we admire their achievements for what they are. We don’t pull the parenthood card and call them superdad. We have no idea what kind of dad they are. The fruit of their loins doesn’t enter into the equation because…well, because it doesn’t.

Really the term ‘supermom’ is just a crusty old fossil from the late 70’s and early 80’s when women were taking on more traditionally masculine roles – you know, like having jobs and their own public social status. We don’t need it anymore.

I’ll tell you something about being a mom (which every parent reading this will already know, but here it is anyway): if we’re going to achieve anything noteworthy, something has to go. There has to be considerable sacrifice, or considerable external support from somewhere. I’ve been called supermom because I juggle two careers as well as two children, but I promise you, anyone who sees the unfortunate results of my housekeeping skills will revoke that supermom card in a hurry, because I can’t do it all. Maybe one day I will be in a position to hire someone to clean my house and then I can be called supermom again.

See how ridiculous that sounds?

Consider this: of all the moms I know (and I know lots of them), there are career-minded women who are going after their goals with singular determination. There are stay-at-home moms who have put careers on hold to be with their kids and look after their households. There are single moms who are juggling jobs and the demands of parenting solo. There are moms who are super fit, whose peace of mind depends on getting their workout in, and moms who have given in to the pull of obesity because the demands of all the kids’ activities means that they live in their minivans from 4-8pm. And ALL of them have well-adjusted kids who are happy and healthy. The point is that we all have different circumstances, different priorities, and different heaps of baggage and shit to deal with. None of us are supermom. Or rather, we are ALL supermom.

 

The 10-Minute Rule

This morning I squirted hand soap on my toothbrush.

toothbrush

Fortunately for me, I figured out something wasn’t quite right before I stuck it in my mouth. Maybe it was the smell. Either way, it was a piss-off and just added to the giant heap of suck that today was turning into. I’m fighting a cold, didn’t sleep well last night, and when I went to the basement to move the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer, climbing the 14 stairs back to the main floor left me gasping for air.

The last thing I wanted to do in the whole world was work out today.

I have a rule for days like today. Because we all have days when the thought of working out is about as appealing as brushing your teeth with hand soap. Yup, even trainers. (This one, anyway.) This rule has served me well over the years and helped me stay consistent with my workouts even when everything sucks – ESPECIALLY when everything sucks! The rule is this:

I WILL WORK OUT FOR TEN MINUTES.

Often just getting out of my head and into my body is enough to keep going. In fact, 99% of the time, at ten minutes in, I’m having fun and happy I forced myself over that hump. Most of the time I have an okay workout and at the very least, get to the end of the day happy that I embraced the suck and made it happen. Sometimes, beast mode appears on the days that I feel the worst and I end up surprising myself, kicking ass, and turning the suckage right around. And some days, after ten minutes, my muscles are aching and my energy level has taken up residence in the bottom of a construction-site port-a-john. And on those days, I am completely okay with just dragging my carcass to the couch because it is not a workout day. If you’ve tried to get going and are still feeling the HELL NO after ten minutes then likely your body is feeling stressed and the risk of working out outweighs the potential reward. Don’t do it.

So, with the 10-min rule in mind, off I went to the gym at lunchtime. My plan was to do a quick posterior-chain smash (still fighting with my moody left hamstring) and then some steady-state cardio to get my heart rate up a little bit so that I could get through the afternoon without falling asleep. The verdict? It was a low-energy kinda day. Nothing wrong with that, because…

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Breakfast?

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EVERY TIME YOU SKIP BREAKFAST A BABY SEAL GETS CLUBBED TO DEATH.

Seriously, who doesn’t love breakfast? Breakfast is awesome – it is without a doubt my favorite meal of the whole freaking day. I was chatting with a friend of mine about breakfast a while back, sharing our favorite breakfast foods and comparing notes about our typical macronutrient breakdowns and calorie counts for breakfast amidst a lot of drooling and high fives. See, both of us train hard, we lift heavy, and we wake up ravenous for our big-girl breakfasts. It isn’t uncommon for either of us to pack away 30% of our daily caloric requirements at breakfast time.

breakfast

On the other hand, my husband is just not a breakfast eater. He wakes up, pours a cup of coffee, and MAYBE has some breakfast a couple of hours later. And here’s the thing: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Show of hands, please: who has been gagged over and over with the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? My thought is that any statement that sounds THAT absolute and applies to everyone, is worthy of a raised eyebrow and further scrutiny. Nutrition science is too young and too individual for anyone – ANYONE – to be making blanket statements…unless they’re selling something. You know, like breakfast cereal.

Now there’s a can of worms. I am invoking the wrath of my entire family here, but I just can’t stop myself: most breakfast cereal, along with most other packaged ‘breakfast food’, is shit.

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Ok fine, maybe not total shit in that there are worse things you can put into your body…but there are also lots and lots of better options. Let’s move on, shall we?

So if breakfast in the morning really isn’t that big a deal, what IS a big deal as far as attaining optimal health is concerned? Studies have shown over and over again that eating three meals a day is the best way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Simple, right? Three meals that consist of plenty of plants, lean protein, and healthy fats – and nothing else. Now, before anyone accuses me of making the blanket statements that I was just slagging a paragraph ago, that kind of eating pattern is not going to work for everyone and you have to do some experimenting to find what works best for YOU. But really, whether your first meal of the day happens at 7am or noon or 3pm is up to you. For example, people who stay up late tend to not want to eat right when they wake up in the morning.  Does this mean that they are killing their metabolisms and messing with their insulin tolerance? Probably – but not because of not eating breakfast! Which leads me to my next point:

Often people who don’t want breakfast are eating too much at night.

Because who needs eggs in the morning when you had four slices of  pizza at 11pm?

Again, I have to qualify my statements here: imagine someone who works in a hospital until 11pm. They’re home at 11:30pm, tired and HANGRY because they haven’t eaten since 6:30pm and they just spent the evening running back and forth getting yelled at. They’re mentally and physically exhausted and the temptation to eat the entire contents of the fridge seems insurmountable. With this client I would work on having some quick, healthy options at the ready, because for this client it actually is time to eat.

Now, imagine someone who works from 8am to 430pm. They come home from work, eat a healthyish supper, then park in front of the tv/computer/book/whatever for the evening. An hour goes by and they have dessert. Then, after another hour, potato chips. Hot chocolate would be good too; it’s not that nice out and it’ll help with getting settled. By 9pm it’s getting close to bedtime and they’re a little peckish – time for a light snack. Cereal or a couple pieces of toast.

They go to sleep stuffed and are not hungry for breakfast in the morning. This is the client who, if they want to make a change to their body composition, really does need to start turning their calorie intake around and eat breakfast.

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“But coach, I’m not hungry in the morning – do you want me to force myself to eat?”

Nope – you shouldn’t have to force yourself to eat. Not ever (unless you are trying to gain weight). What may take a little bit of mental muscle, is NOT eating late in the day so that you don’t go to bed stuffed – THAT’s where a little bit of willpower will come in handy for the first week or so. Do that for a week and your stomach should start waking up when your peepers fly open in the morning. If it doesn’t, you may just not be a breakfast person and you’ve created a very effective calorie deficit – that may be all you need to do to achieve the physique you’re after!

You’re welcome.

In a nutshell, it doesn’t really matter when you eat what, as long as you’re eating lots of plants, lean protein, and healthy fats throughout the day.