Without balance, we fall or fail. With balance, we may wobble, but we regain our steadiness. Most critically, we stay standing. The knockout punch does not send us down. When we get dizzy, we find our eyes in the mirror. Examples of balance inspire us…examples such as the woman in front of me striking the perfect star pose…at 35 weeks pregnant.
I have a few members in my classes with June due dates. Of course, I admire what they are doing for themselves and for their babies, but I love what they are doing for all of us in class. Pregnancy defies traditional logic. It is not injury or disease, it is gestation…incubation…God-gifted evolution. Hormones surge, creating glow, fatigue…and often nausea. A shine from the inside out…(even if that entails one’s lunch from the inside out…)
At my first prenatal appointment, my doctor instructed me to lift no more than 15 lbs. When I pressed her for why, which body parts, and whether my existing muscle mass or past lifting experience factored into this precise number, she answered, “No, this is just the guideline for all pregnant women.” I looked her in the eye incredulously waiting for her to waiver, but she returned to her clipboard for the next item on her checklist. I wasn’t sure she had ever lifted a weight in her life, so I decided to let it go. I decided then that this pregnancy would be my own…when it came to fitness and nutrition. I would become the student of my pregnant body. I would trust it to tell me what I could do…and when I should stop. I would honor the baby growing inside to eat when (and what) she demanded (primarily, Subway, Chipotle, and Einstein’s…) To know the difference between intensity and harm…intelligence and stubbornness…self-kindness and insanity.
Nobody knows less about fitness and nutrition than your doctor.” ~Michael Battaglia
Balance is nothing unique to pregnancy; pregnancy simply heightens it…AND makes it easier. In any given endeavor, there is an ongoing balance we must find for ourselves…for our growth, our health, and our longevity…for our mind, body, and spirit. When there is a baby growing inside, it becomes easier to treat ourselves with kindness. Personal growth occurs when we do this while there is not.
Six-pack Abs…Coming Soon! her shirt read. I pointed and smiled as we were setting up for triceps. She nodded, “Key phrase, Coming Soon.” She laughed and then added, “But, Sarah, I’ve been saying this my whole life!” Hmm, I thought, maybe that’s the problem…
Are there things that you have been dangling in front of yourself as “Coming Soon” for months and months (or years and years)? Mentally, is there an element of “I will never have or reach this desired state” that is sabotaging your willPower? We need to find the right balance of intention and deliberate focus to realize our desires. We also need to sanity-check our desires…as we balance intensity and harm…intelligence and stubbornness…self-kindness and insanity.
Everyone has a six-pack…it is nothing you cultivate through abdominal exercise…it is revealed out of body fat. This is why it is so coveted; it is difficult to attain in one sex and unhealthy to attain in the other. It requires dropping body fat levels into the single digits. While most men can safely and naturally do this; most women cannot. Or, at least not without the use of drugs and/or posing health risks, such as amenorrhea, low bone density, hair loss, adrenal fatigue.
Fortunately, most of us do not actually want a visible six-pack. We want a lean torso with some muscular definition. We want to feel good in and out of our clothes. We want to take care of our health because we know excess abdominal fat is the most detrimental. We want to stand confidently in our willPower because the midsection is typically the first place we accumulate fat and the last place we lose it. Therefore, it serves as a symbol…a personal symbol of our ability to balance.
In terms of body fat, there is a balance we must understand to unshroud the mystery and debunk the gimmicks. The balance between catabolism and anabolism…destroying and building…generating and consuming energy. So, this week’s top ten are succinct tips…tips that work…if lowering body fat has been “Coming Soon” for way too long.
1. EAT right after awakening and right after lifting. Insulin (a critical anabolic hormone) drops overnight as glycogen is depleted. Working out also depletes glycogen (energy) stores. Our bodies are breaking down fat…and muscle because our bodies are in a catabolic state. To stop the breakdown of muscle, it is important to eat right away. Just eating carbs…especially high Glycemic Index carbs (e.g. juice, white bread, most cereals or pastries)…spike insulin and encourage fat storage…while muscle continues to break down. See next.
2. EAT protein in every single meal. No exceptions. Lean protein. Enough protein. 3-5 egg whites would be better than 1 egg. No skin on your chicken. Grab some scissors and trim the fat before cooking. Protein prevents catabolism of our most metabolically active tissue…muscle. See next.
3. NO crash diets. Preserve your basal metabolic rate. A severe drop in calories triggers your body to alter its metabolism so that less energy is burned, while at the same time storing any energy it can find. Where are crash diets most prevalent? The US and the UK. Where are obesity rates the highest in the word? The US. In Europe, the UK.
4. NO juice…or might as well add vodka. The most comparable thing to that glass of juice? Take a glass of water and dump a bunch of sugar into it. So, if you’re going to opt for juice, might as well make it more enjoyable with a splash of vodka. Or, if you are serious about revealing your abs, always pair your fruit (preferably in raw or blended form…) with protein.
5. ABSORB, satiate, and glow. When leaning out, our skin tone can suffer devoid of proper nutrition. Healthy fats such as avocado, extra virgin olive oil, and almonds are great for glowing skin, healthy nails and hair. An avocado not only contains an impressive list of vitamins and nutrients, it enhances the absorption of nutrients in other things you are eating…such as the nutrients in your salad. An avocado is a fruit hefty in fat, so it also satiates our tummies when we’re trying to reduce body fat. Just be cognizant of the 9 vs. 4 ratio. (Fat delivers 9 cals per gram; Carbs & proteins deliver 4). As a guideline, limit your intake to half an avocado or a tablespoon of olive oil or almond butter…in 1-2 meals per day.
6. LIFT legs. In the Male Physique division of Bodybuilding, the lower body isn’t even visible to the judges (thanks to board shorts), so it seems odd that these competitors would train legs…unless you understand the anabolic effect of lifting. Lifting the biggest muscle group in the body gets you more cut all over because you are lifting the anabolic hormones during the session, which stimulate protein synthesis and muscle growth.
7. GET TO FAILURE by 30. Biggest mistake, particularly among women, is not reaching for heavy enough weights. If your training sessions exceed 30-45 minutes, chances are you not training intensely (heavy) enough. To get the anabolic effect described in #6, intensity is key. Use other classes or agility training, such as willPower & grace, yoga, Pilates, etc. to strengthen your form so you are maintaining flexibility, and able to achieve full range of motion with proper alignment. Be meticulous with your form so that you can make intensity gains while avoiding injury.
8. NO cardio before lifting. Cardio zaps your strength before you’ve even started lifting. Most likely, you are just getting into a fat-burning zone when you stop cardio (around 30 minutes) and start lifting. So, you are falling short in both endeavors. If you want to combine lifting and cardio, always do your cardio at the end.
9. BEYOND 30 with aerobic…climb stairs on the StairMaster, sprint/jog intervals on the treadmill, cycle, dance, kick-box…or even BodyPump (due to the high rep nature, BodyPump has a high aerobic component). The 30 minute mark is generally where most of us start burning fat, so go for 45-60 minutes. Invest in a heart rate monitor (with chest strap) for more accuracy and accountability.
10. ENGAGE your abs…especially while lifting. Make every lift an abdominal exercise. Brace your abs as you squat or dead lift, and engage core muscles to keep your body still and stable doing bench flies. Abdominal exercises, and the proper execution of hovers, planks, and push-ups especially, teach us how to brace the midsection, reminding us to engage them more throughout the day. Postpartum, heightening this awareness is key to retraining the midsection.
Do you want to explore BALANCE further? Click here for quotes, mantras and our willPower dedicated weekly exercise!