Truth & My review of the Motiv fitness ring

So, over a month ago, I spotted the Motiv ring on Instagram. It marketed itself as an activity tracker – NOT a step counter – that’s more jewelry than giant black rubber band around your wrist. I was interested right away, but at $200 I wasn’t immediately sold.

A couple of years ago, I bought into the fitness tracker craze hard. I got a Jawbone for Christmas, and I was obsessed. I loved tracking my steps, my calories, my sleep, etc. What I didn’t like? Two things. 1. That it looked like a fitness tracker. (Why am I ruining my outfit to track the steps I’ll take to dinner tonight?) 2. That it was a barrage of information. It would send me app reminders constantly about what it was doing (or wasn’t doing), when to do this and that, when I should be going to bed, etc. Ugly and annoying? I’m done.

Fast forward a couple years, and I was ready to get back on the “tracker bandwagon.” Using my phone to track my steps wasn’t working, because I don’t carry it around all the time like many men do. I work from home a lot, doing plenty around the house, but meanwhile my phone was tracking zero activity. So, the Motiv seemed appealing. Sleek and not obvious, and the app touted itself as simple and straightforward.

I did some research, and after a week of not being able to stop thinking about it, I took the plunge. First, they send you a ring-sizer kit, you tell them what size you are, and your ring arrives a few days later. Simple enough so far.22E587B5-9408-4FF2-A9A6-AD9E88348117

My first impression: I loved the look and feel of it. At first I was worried it would be bulky for my finger, but it really isn’t. The “rose gold” is a little more “copper,” but I like it. I charge it up on one of the two convenient chargers (one comes on a keychain!), and in about an hour or so it’s ready to go. Right away, I love that in order to sync the ring, all you have to do (with Bluetooth on) is twist the ring around your finger while your finger is horizontal! Truthfully, this typically takes a few of tries, but it’s easy enough.

I bring up the app, it syncs, and there are my stats (well nothing at that point, because it was empty). It has my daily goals built in based off 150 recommended minutes of activity each week per the American Heart Association. It also has a place for sleep (which I hadn’t done yet). Of course, all I want to see immediately is my heart rate. This isn’t immediately apparent, which was a little frustrating (this is why I bought it, right?). In order to see your heart rate chart, you have to fake out the app and pretend to add activity, where you can see a little chart showing your heart rate pattern. Then you can just dismiss it if you haven’t been active. 

I’ve had the Motiv just over a month now, and here are my pros and cons:

Pros: It’s sleek, not bulky, pretty enough, and easy to sync and charge. I love that it uses your heart rate combined with your steps to determine if you’re “being active” or not. Initially, I wondered if it would regard anxiety/scary movies/elevated heart rate for any other reason as “active minutes,” but the combo of steps and elevated heart rate pretty much eliminates this.

The sleep function is scarily accurate. Unlike Jawbone, you don’t have to “tell” the device when you’re sleeping. Even when you’re sitting, idle, at your desk or on the couch for hours, it doesn’t count this as sleep. I really don’t know how it does it. More to come on the negatives of the sleep function, however.

The app is very straightforward (a positive for me). At first, I loved the Jawbone app features, but after the honeymoon phase, I got tired of entering my calories/foods, telling it when I was going to sleep, telling it when I woke up, etc. The Motiv definitely tracks the basics and that’s all you get from the app, which I think is better in the long run.

I love that it tracks your resting heart beat while you sleep. This is a simple tech thing, but it’s a strong indicator of your overall health, and it’s difficult to measure accurately while you’re awake.

It’s waterproof! I hardly ever take it off – seriously.

Cons: There is no way that the steps/calories/mileage measurements can be correct. Well, maybe the mileage, but the others vary to a crazy degree. Here’s an example: Sunday, I sat around most of the day and went to a movie. I took 2,164 steps, and it told me I burned 1,420 calories. The next day, Monday, I took 6,803 steps, and it told me I burned 1,565 calories. Meanwhile, on Monday, I lifted legs at the gym. If you need more proof, Tuesday was 6,454 steps/1,938 cals, and Wednesday was 14,347 steps/ 1,696 cals.

Image-1Another con is that if your Motiv doesn’t track any sleep (like, for instance, it died), there’s no way to manually add it back in. While this isn’t a huge deal, your Motiv averages your sleep for the week, so if you miss one night of sleep your whole average is thrown off big time.

One thing I’ll have to modify is the pre-loaded 150 minutes of prescribed active minutes. Despite asking you for your age and weight, it doesn’t tailor the goals to anything other than this goal. Maybe this works for the average American, but for someone who already strives to be active, I usually reach this “goal” within the first couple days of the week. That’s like two workouts and a walk to and from the grocery store. I’ll likely double this goal and see if it has me pushing myself.

IMG_4877Also, if you do a lot of exercise that’s stationary (hello, lifting), then your Motiv will be confused about when it began and stopped. I might lift weights for an hour, but because my heart rate goes up and down, it has a hard time figuring it out. It’s not the end of the world, but it means you need to manually edit your activity and then categorize it quite often.

The battery isn’t the best. Granted it’s a tiny device, so I can’t complain that much, but you have to remember to charge it when you know you’ll be idle (at the office, while watching TV) so it’s not dying when you’re asleep or at the gym. I will add that I love the chargers. They go right into a USB port, and they work magnetically with color lights letting you know when it’s charged.

Finally, your Motiv will get scratched up. Like I said, I’ve had this bad boy for about a month, and mine is pretty scratched, which I’m guessing is mostly from lifting. It’s not really noticeable, but I’m guessing it would be if you had a black one.

Overall: I like it for my needs. Outside of buying an Apple iWatch, I can’t see something being so easy to wear that you almost forget about it while helping you stay on top of activity and sleep goals. The heart-rate tracking keeps you accountable for the intensity of your workouts, and it’s cool to see just how hard your body is working to do different activities.

I’d recommend it for anyone with similar fitness interests who doesn’t want to wear a bracelet around that screams “fitness tracker.” Hopefully, Motiv will improve the app so you can add missed nights of sleep and see your heart rate at any given time. Other than that, I think it’s a good, sleek option.

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Truth & Living a full life

This blog entry has been a little bit of a long time coming – mostly because I didn’t want to come off as preachy or seemingly negative, but I think once you read it you’ll realize it’s a message for positivity; bear with me.

I know that a lot of these blog entries are about how to get fit, how to live a healthy life, what to cook, what to eat, what to lift, etc., but there’s a secondary – and equally important- message that drove me to create this blog. That message is about living a full life.

imageThe reason why the logo for Truth & Fitness is a barbell fashioned out of martini glasses is because my take on living a healthy lifestyle is to, yes, eat well, exercise often and find ways to be active and treat your body well. But it’s also very much a blog about doing that and also enjoying all the life has to offer. It’s about not feeling guilty for staying out “too late” on the weekend or taking a last-minute trip to Vegas. It’s about enjoying lazy Sundays and desserts and all of the very necessary things that bring balance to our lives.

I bring this up, because a couple of compelling things happened that brought my focus back to the importance of balance and not feeling guilty for living our lives to the max. The first thing was when a coworker to someone close to me went missing one day. He just didn’t show up for work. After much searching, he was discovered underneath his house boat, deceased.

A couple of weeks later the Las Vegas shooting tragedy occurred. As I read the stories about the people who had been killed that terrible night, I couldn’t help but think about how these young peoples’ lives were cut short – them never having expected that night would be their last.

I know this stuff is heavy, but it’s an important reminder to all of us that anything can happen to us at any time. While I will continue to tell you how important it is to be healthy, active and mindful of our bodies, it’s equally important that we don’t forget to seek out fun, adventure, new experiences, travel, time with friends and family and so much more that brings balance to our lives.

One of my favorite quotes is, “No one ever looks back on their life and remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep.” It’s so true. I’m a firm believer that our lives should be full of fun, silly, adventurous, meaningful memories. I’m also guessing that those memories will most likely not include kale salads, trips to the gym and all of the health-related stuff I often talk about. My point is that that’s okay.

Truth & Fitness is really about living a healthy lifestyle that’s not as complicated or difficult as it seems so that when you balance out your life with other things you feel good about them. It means you’re not self conscious on an impromptu trip away, you can tread water in the ocean for as long as you need when you swim far out, you can pick your healthy habits back up after a week of eating your Mom’s cheesecake every night (guilty), etc.

This shouldn’t mean that you use “living life” as an excuse to slack off or be lazy, it just means that when life’s fun opportunities come up, seize them. Don’t feel guilty about them the next day – just use them to get your butt to the gym and prepare for the next fun thing that comes along.

14413042174_f4a7b25727_zEvery day is a gift. Prepare for many days ahead by taking care of yourself, but definitely don’t forget to spoil your (in-shape, sexy) self with lots of fun, memorable experiences along the way.

Truth & Motivation

For some people, the entire reason they start working out is because of some big motivator hanging over them – their wedding, a reunion, a birthday party, or maybe even just Memorial Day/the start of summer. And all that is awesome. I commend anyone using any reason to get in better shape.32408932771_5f6a0e7137_z

The problem though is once that motivator passes –say the event – it’s hard to find the “umph” to keep pushing yourself. For weeks or months that person has held the reason in their minds – the way they want to look on the big day, and now that it’s over, why continue to work so hard? For what?

35199186230_9d19a1a5a2_zI know I preach about the “lifestyle” and not just working out for this purpose, but this has definitely happened to me. Sure, I go to the gym each week pretty much no matter what, but often I’ll find myself not pushing myself like I would if I had a “reason” or a “goal” outside of just maintenance. Yeah, I always want to be a little stronger and a little leaner, and my butt could always stand to get a little bigger, but these aren’t reasons to force out that last rep, struggle to do that final pullup or sprint my hardest during my cardio finisher.

Some of my best workouts have been the result of a “reason.” My 30th birthday recently passed, and for a few weeks leading up to it, I’d picture how I wanted to look – that I wanted to be able to look back on pictures and be proud of how I looked at 30 years old. And now that it’s over I’m back in the sort of “meh” zone.

Everyone who wants to get fitter can benefit from finding their “reason.” Even if it’s just for that one workout, finding motivation to get the absolute best workout in makes all the difference. I have used so many different “reasons” for getting in a crazy good workout.

train-like-your-stronger-fitter-evil-twin-is-plotting-to-kill-youI know that a lot of fitness folks on social media will say it should be “you vs. you” in the gym, meaning that you shouldn’t be competing with anyone but yourself. They say you should only aim to beat your last cardio time, last squat amount, last number of crunches, etc. And yes, I totally agree with that idea. One of the best things about the gym is that it’s the only place where you can’t fake things, and if you’re only competing with your own ability, then you can only improve. However…

I think any reason to push yourself is a good one. Any reason to go harder, lift heavier, go longer or stretch your limits is worth having. Want a butt like the one on the girl you follow on Instagram? Picture it next time you’re squatting. In a fight with your significant other? Think about how mad you are the next time you’re on the bike and sprint your butt off. Have a neighbor who looks better than you in a bikini at the pool? Keep that in your mind’s eye next time you’re tempted to eat all the donuts in the break room. Saw pictures of your ex’s new gf/bf online and they’re fitter than you? Use the sh*t out of that the next time you’re in the gym and do an extra five minutes on the rowing machine. There is no such thing as too petty when it’s the fuel getting you to a better workout.

4503223799_9f32c6b04d_zThere are an unlimited number of “reasons” you can find for pushing yourself harder and longer or lifting heavier. Whether they’re long term or just for that day, they’ll help you get more out of your workout. I won’t lie – sure, I’ve used trips/weddings/occasions/Memorial Day as motivation for the long term, but I’ve also used petty arguments with my boyfriend, body envy from Instagram, seeing friends who look fitter than I do online and so many more reasons as fuel for better workouts.

The gym is also great therapy, I will say. It’s a literal and figurative punching bag for life’s problems/annoyances. So, next time you’re “blah” about hitting the gym – try to find your “why.” Or get mad. About anything! And then use the heck out of it.

Truth & What I eat on a normal weekday

So, I’ve been meaning to write a blog about this for a while, but my good intentions of taking pictures of all the things I eat in a day die sometime around lunchtime. However, I finally did it! I’ve wanted to do this for a while, because I feel like a lot of people know they should “eat well” in order to “be in shape,” but they don’t really know what that means/looks like on a daily basis. I get the feeling that they think that means you’re “on a diet” all the time and can only eat chicken and vegetables or salad and suffer in silence. Or they think you starve yourself.

Alas! That’s not the case at all! So, I thought I’d show you that I walk the talk and share an average weekday’s worth of food.

IMG_39587:30 a.m. – Coffee #1. I home brew the first cup to put in my thermos for my metro commute and add stevia and almond milk. Almond milk is low in calories, and stevia is an all-natural, calorie-free sweetener. It’s not full of chemicals like creamer (which I adore, but try to limit), and it’s not calorie dense like cream.

IMG_39988:30 a.m. – Breakfast: 1 cup plain Greek yogurt topped with a sprinkling of Kashi cereal, honey and chopped strawberries. Topped with cinnamon. Greek yogurt = protein, Kashi is much lighter in calories than granola, honey is a natural sweetener, and cinnamon is great for you for tons of reasons. This literally takes five minutes to throw together and is portable, so I can eat it as soon as I get to the office.

IMG_395710 a.m. – Coffee #2. Starbucks iced coffee with sugar-free vanilla syrup and skim milk.

IMG_395911 a.m. – Morning snack: Handful of almonds. I’m usually starving by this time and rarely make it to 11 a.m.

12:30 p.m. – Lunch: Leftovers. This is generally anything leftover from what I cooked the night before. This particular one, Asian turkey meatballs with zoodles, is awesome as leftovers. This is one of the many benefits of cooking – that if you make enough, you have automatic healthy lunch for the next day.

I always crave something sweet after lunch, so I have a bag of these “Special Dark with toffee and almonds” bite-size chocolates in my office for this occasion.

IMG_3983At this point I went to workout in the fitness center in my office. I did chest and triceps along with a cardio finisher (rowing) and drank a bunch of water.

IMG_39823 p.m. – Post-gym snack: Cheese stick and cherries.


4:10 p.m.
 – Pre-commute snack: Half-a-handful of peanuts (salt & vinegar flavor is the bomb, FYI) and cherry tomatoes.

5:45 p.m. – Post-work snack: A handful of pita chips with hummus.

IMG_39947:45 p.m. – Dinner: Roasted Asian cod with snow peas and cauliflower mash.

IMG_39978:45 p.m. – Dessert: One glass red wine (not pictured) and a square of dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt.

As you can see, I eat a LOT, and I eat almost constantly. I need a “pre-commute snack” and a “post-work snack” because I’m starving to death if I don’t eat before I leave and then soon after I get home. They’re not big snacks at all, but they keep my metabolism going.

Sometimes I don’t have leftovers from the night before for lunch, and I’ll happily go out somewhere with healthy options. I’m lucky that I work by Union Station, so I have lots of options, but my go-to ones are usually Roti (bowl with little-to-no rice, chicken and lots of veggie sides) or Chipotle (bowl with little-to-no black beans, chicken, veggies and cheese). I usually eat half or two thirds of these.

I think the biggest thing when it comes to workdays is making sure you’re prepared. If you bring all you plan to eat, then you set yourself up for success. I also think that cooking is the biggest health “secret” there is. No one can live off salads. That’s not a lifestyle. I’ve learned so many cool, different recipes since getting into cooking, and it’s made eating healthy so much easier (and more enjoyable).

I’ll be happy to share what I eat on days I work from home, too, but generally I move a lot less (everything I need is within a one-block radius – literally) and consequently need to eat less.

So anyway, I hope that serves as a good snapshot of one of my weekdays. Like I said, let me know if you’d like a “work-from-home day” or “weekend day” set of examples, too!

Truth & Laziness as a cultural phenomenon 

In the last – maybe – six months, I’ve had two friends whom I hadn’t seen in a while say the same two things; “You look great!” followed shortly thereafter by “I haven’t been to a gym in years!” concluded by laughter as if this were somehow endearing and hilarious.

My question is this: Why is this funny?

Of course, I politely laughed along, but when it happened the second time I was seriously befuddled. Why would you openly admit that like it were a joke? After some consideration, I’m guessing that it’s a deflection or some form of self-deprecation, and it got me thinking.

I’ve found that it’s common in American culture to wear laziness as a badge of honor. I see it on Instagram and online all the time that people embrace not leaving the couch for hours or that the “only thing they’re lifting is a piece of pizza.”

To be fair, everyone deserves to take a load off and embrace the couch from time to time – I certainly do – but it’s almost a cultural phenomenon. According to the CDC, only 20 percent of Americans get the recommended amount of physical activity. I won’t lecture about why that’s terrible, but in short it’s leading us into a massively obese, disease-ridden statistical picture.

But returning to my original point, and a much less dramatic one, I find that the people who offer up their laziness actually do have an interest in looking and feeling more like those who aren’t lazy. So what’s standing in the way? I think a major factor is just getting started. It’s either just daunting in general or they don’t know how to begin. Or maybe they think that have to work out for hours a day to see changes.

That’s the great part about the human body – especially one that hasn’t seen exercise in a while. Making small changes can reap large rewards. I’m sure you’ve all heard about people who’ve just cut soda out of their diets and lost 20 pounds or so. And, I know a 30-minute workout may seem like a lot at first, but a 30-minute workout is literally two percent of your day. Two. Percent.  For those people who remark that others who exercise and live healthier lifestyles are “lucky” or that they could “never look like that,” you’re wrong. You so can. It just takes consistency and a little determination in the gym and the kitchen.

A small investment in yourself can make such a big difference, and it’s so worth it. Who knows, maybe after a couple months of making small changes your friends will be the ones telling you how much they wish they could “be that lucky!”

Truth & Metabolism (How yours might be broken and how to fix it)

A couple years back, I was thinking about that show the Biggest Loser and got to thinking about calories. It’s been a long-held “scientific understanding” that if you burn (or use) more calories than you consume, then you’ll lose weight and vice versa – if you burn fewer calories than you consume, then you’ll gain weight. If they’re equal, then you stay at your current weight. But the show got me thinking – these contestants are losing up to dozens of pounds of weight per week… how is it that someone who’s obese can lose all that weight but professional athletes don’t waste away? I know the contestants do upwards of eight hours of exercise a day and significantly slash their caloric intake, but there has to be some sort of X factor involved in terms of how your body adapts to exercise. Where a professional athlete can do a day’s worth of intense exercise and not lose a pound, but someone who’s obese can lose ten pounds, what’s missing here?

Well, it turns out there’s a lot missing. For one, the athlete’s body and brain are primed for exercise. They have passed the adaptation phase, and their bodies have become very metabolically efficient. This means that the same exercise that the obese person is doing burns more calories than when the athlete does it. It simply costs the athlete fewer calories to do the same amount of work, because their bodies have adapted to exercise.

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When you think about this in terms of our ancestors, this was a good thing. If we had to chase down the animal we were hunting fordinner, it didn’t cost us all of the calories in our systems to do so. Our body will do its best to defend its fat stores, because it’s what keeps us alive in survival situations.

Fast forward to modern times, however, and this isn’t the case. We have relatively comfortable lives requiring very little for survival, and exercise is generally for health or aesthetic reasons. Enter the modern-day metabolism problems and where the calorie myth comes in.

The calorie myth

The calorie-in/calorie-out ratio fails to incorporate many factors relating to metabolism. We’ve been told that the larger the caloric gap between intake and output, the more weight one will lose. There’s one big BUT, however. This is the fastest way to damage your metabolism. When you do lots of cardio and eat too little, your body will go into starvation mode. Essentially, it will horde as much body fat as possible in order to function properly. Your body will begin to resist weight loss at all costs despite a caloric deficit. This is how a lot of cardio bunnies often get themselves in trouble. They do more and more steady-state cardio, eat less and less and find their weight loss plateauing. Mathematically they should be losing tons of weight, but they aren’t. This is because they’ve damaged their metabolisms.

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So, what do you do if you’ve gotten yourself in this position? You need to reset your metabolism. You’ll either need to eat less and exercise less or eat more and exercise more. You need to lessen the stress placed on your metabolism so that it will stop fighting the process. Even if you want to do more/more, you’ll need to adapt your exercise to involve classic weight lifting instead of cardio to allow your body enough rest time and relieve stress from aerobic exercise. Leisure walking/yoga/tai chi are also good activities to incorporate to help even out your hormonal balance that’s likely out of whack as a result of your damaged metabolism. (As an aside, a damaged metabolism can cause a litany of issues including digestive issues, food intolerances, fatigue, insomnia and more).

9925529073_141093a298_zAnd what should you do to lose weight if you think your metabolism is healthy? Make sure you’re getting enough calories to feed your fatigued body and enough rest to repair your muscles. Some of the coolest success stories I’ve read involve people with broken metabolisms doubling what they eat and losing a bunch of weight relatively quickly. Your body needs enough energy to make a change. Otherwise, it’ll fight you every step of the way.

So, if fat loss is your goal, make sure you’re eating enough! Eating celery and carrots all day is not going to get you there in the long run. It’s just hurting your biggest weight-loss tool – your metabolism. You can’t keep a Corvette running without enough gasoline in the tank. All you’re going to do is make it stall out. Gas that baby up and let it rip.

Truth & Why good form isn’t enough (and what is MMC??)

A little while back, I wrote an entry on Crossfit that came out of seeing lots of bad form at the gym. The types and variations of bad form I see in the gym never cease to amaze me. Now, to be fair, I’m sure that some of these individuals have bad form and just don’t know it. Maybe someone never taught them how to do that exercise correctly or they never had anyone teach them at all. There is, however, a different category of bad form, and that’s what I like to call ego-based bad form.8014777771_c507f52163_z

This is the kind of form that comes out of either trying to lift more weight than you really can, doing more reps than you really can or doing more intense cardio than you really can. The first kind – lifting more than you really can is demonstrated by those gym goers who use momentum to do their reps. They use their bodyweight and/or gravity to help them complete each rep. Sometimes, if you’re unable to finish your LAST rep without momentum, then I get it. If you need it for rep number one? Step the weight down, friend.

Then you have those who do more reps than they should. They do half reps instead of a full range of motion in order to rack up the rep numbers. Imagine someone going bicep curls, but instead of them going all the way back down to starting position, they go to 90 degrees and count that as a rep. It’s definitely not a full one, buddy, and it’s not engaging your entire muscle.

Then you have the cardio folks who think they’re killing the stair master or elliptical by increasing the resistance way up high, but they hold onto the machine! They hold onto the monitor or sides of the machine, lifting themselves off of it and effectively making the exercise much easier. Sure, you might be “running stairs,” but if you’re clinging to the machine for dear life, then you’re not elevating your whole body with every step.

So, why do I bring this up other than to rant? Because form is really important. Hopefully you’re not one of the above offenders, but even if you’re implementing perfect form, there’s something you probably aren’t doing that’s really important. It’s called mind-muscle connection (or MMC for short). I know it sounds like some hippie theory or wizard concept, but it’s seriously real. It’s pretty much what it sounds like, and there’s a bunch of research to prove it. So, what is it?

MMC is the connection between the exercise you’re doing and how your brain is engaging the muscles it should be engaging while doing it. A simple version of this is when a trainer says “now concentrate on using your X muscle while you’re doing this exercise.” The general concept behind it is to use your neural pathways to engage and contract the muscle you’re intending on targeting.

So why is it important, and how does it factor into your lifting regimen? Our natural physical reaction to resistance is to recruit whatever power we have from our most able muscles to complete the task most easily. Every one of us has certain muscles that are stronger than other ones in our bodies. Imagine doing a squat. A squat is intended to engage all of the muscles in your legs. However, it’s likely that one of the muscle groups in your legs is stronger than the others. Let’s say your quads are the strongest muscle in your legs. Maybe it’s genetics, or maybe you’ve trained your quads the most, but for whatever reason, they’re the dominant muscle in your legs. When you do a squat and things begin to get difficult (toward the end of the set in particular), your quads will step in to carry the load. So, what happens? Your quads get all of the benefit of the exercise, and your glutes and hamstrings are relieved of the load – thereby not gaining the max benefit of the exercise. And the problem there is that you aren’t trying to make your strongest muscle stronger; you’re trying to make gains in all of the muscles in the muscle group.5254996395_e4ab3bf56d_z

That’s where MMC steps in. By actively focusing on what muscle you’re targeting, you can shift the load back to the intended muscle or muscle group. I have to do this all the time. I actually used MMC today when squatting, because I could feel my quads taking on the load, and I’m trying to build my glutes in particular. I used it when I did hip thrusters – reminding myself to squeeze my glutes and engage my hamstrings instead of letting my quads get recruited to carry the brunt of the load. A lot of people have to do this for bench press when their chest starts to get fatigued, because their triceps will try to lighten the load.

Whatever the exercise, make sure that not only your form is good, but that you’re focusing on what muscle should be contracting. It’s important to remember that our muscles don’t just magically grow because we were able to do a certain number of reps at a certain weight and can brag about it somewhere. Just moving the weight up and down doesn’t make our muscles grow. Maximum muscle contraction is what makes for the muscle gains.

fda2ee2cc03633acae2d9ff03d362ef0That might mean you have to drop the weight you’re using, do half as many reps as usual or lessen the resistance on the stair stepper, but I promise you – doing it right will pay off so much more in the long run. You can’t fake hard work.

Truth & What to do when you can’t work out

It’s been a while since my last post, and one of the reasons why is because I came down with some sort of mystery illness. Without going into nearly two weeks of detail, I’ll just say that I had a fever – on and off – ranging from 99 to 103.9 for 12 days. After one trip to urgent care and three doctor’s appointments, they still don’t know what was wrong with me. Hopefully my blood work will have some indication of what it was. BUT! I’m feeling much much better now, thank goodness.

Being sick for nearly two weeks straight was a little bit of a wake-up call for me, and I thought it might be a good topic for T&F. I’ve written before about when it’s okay not to work out – and that was mostly socially oriented,  but this is more about being physically unable.

Of course, the first half of my illness made it completely impossible for me to work out or even consider it. I had to call my Mom on night two to ask her to come walk my dog for me, because I couldn’t stop shivering for long enough. But toward the end of week one, I did start to feel better, mostly from the time I woke up to around early afternoon until the fever came back. In those windows of feeling better, I wanted to do all of the stuff normal me does. One of those main things, of course, is work out.

When I made it to the doctor early into week two, he forbade me from any exercise whatsoever (you know I asked him specifically). Two days later at a specialist, she agreed and even had to say, “I’m sure you’re losing muscle mass, but don’t worry, it’ll come back quickly.” Thanks a lot.

I don’t know if any of you have had some sort of illness that knocks you down for a while – maybe Mono or something like that – but I certainly hadn’t before. I can also imagine that having a broken bone somewhere would be equally frustrating, although in a different way. You want so badly to feel better – to be able to back to 100 percent and do what you’re used to doing, but you just can’t. As I started to feel better, I was dying to get some exercise and resume my normal regimen. I could feel myself losing weight, and not in a good way. I lost nearly five pounds in 13 days. Mind you, I didn’t move very much the entire time, so I’m guessing it’s pretty much all muscle. I am, however, caught up on a number of Netflix shows.

image1-2Today is day 13, and I feel so much better. I do feel at 100 percent, actually, and I didn’t have a fever at all yesterday. It’s taking quite the self restraint to not do even just a little workout to maintain the muscle I do still have, because I know it’ll be a trial getting it all back. It doesn’t help that the view from my apartment happens to encompass my gym. While I’m sitting on my couch Netflix bingeing, I swear my gym is taunting me.

However, I haven’t exercised, and I don’t plan to until Monday if I’m still feeling recovered then. It’s not worth inviting the fever back. Some people might scoff and say it’s a gift to be told by your doctor not to work out, but when you work hard every workout every week, two weeks off doesn’t feel like a gift. It almost feels like a punishment.

3526713693_7b692de907_zSo, what have I been doing? In a situation like this, or maybe with a broken bone or something else preventing you from exercise, all I think you can do is control the other aspects of your life that keep you healthy. I’ve been eating extremely healthy, making sure to get lots of protein so that my muscle loss stays to a minimum. I’ve been walking a little bit to try and keep my circulation flowing. I’ve also been making sure to get as much sleep as possible. And while I have certainly lost muscle mass (why is it always in my butt first??), I’ve held onto quite a bit, likely because of proper nutrition.

More than anything, this short stint feeling terrible for longer than I have before has reminded me just how awesome it is to feel healthy. Once my fever stayed away for a whole day, I could have cried I was so happy to have one day fever and pain free and to get a full night’s rest. It’s been a huge reminder not to take being healthy for granted. It’s so important to take time to support your health so you don’t end up later in life with sicknesses that could have been prevented.500f8e60207d45357dc24817f6f481ba

Getting some crazy virus can happen to anyone – even the healthiest of us. I’m guessing I got this on an airplane. Being in good shape and eating right to support a healthy immune system will help you through a nasty virus like I had. All I can say is thank goodness for muscle memory, and I can’t wait for Monday to come around so I can get back on the horse, as they say.

Truth & Gym pet peeves (What not to do at the gym)

For those of you who are gym rats like I am – you’ll recognize these annoying habits people have in the gym, so please read on and commiserate. For those of you who are newbies or possibly prospective weight-room goers, then these will help you navigate the Dont’s of the gym. Also, for any men readers out there, the last few could possibly serve as love advice.

  1. Not unracking your weights. This is a given to those of us who live in the weight room. It very much is not for people new to the gym. Or, I guess, lazy people who are too exhausted to put the weights away that they’ve just used. Sure, it’s not the end of the world, but if someone needs to get in and out of the gym, this is a time burner that easily could have been avoided. Even worse, sometimes the people who come after you aren’t as strong as you and actually can’t do it. I see people leave 45-pound plates on barbells all the time. What about that newbie chick who wants to use the bar alone? This happened to me at my old gym with 100-pound plates. I can’t lift that from chest height. And there were three on each side. I was too proud to ask for help, so I just did something else. Don’t be that guy/girl.7504979402_d4bd3302fd_z
  2. Hogging all the weights at the same time. I like to do a lot of supersets, so I know this is necessary sometimes, but being lazy and not putting them back before moving onto your next set is just not cool. Even with super sets, try to limit them to two exercises so you’re not that guy. This also applies to the guy in the gym who’s doing a CrossFit workout in a normal weight room. Sir, you’re not allowed to use an entire cable machine, pull-up bar, barbell, plates, dumbbells and jumprope all at the same time. Especially not at 6 p.m. when everyone else is crammed in there. This happened to me and I just started using the cable machine he was using while he was off doing deadlifts. Sorry not sorry. (The next few are mostly geared toward men, so apologies there, but women will definitely understand these)
  3. Hitting on someone/chatting them up while they’re in the middle of a set. I once had someone interrupt me mid crunch. MID CRUNCH. I wish I could tell you how many times this has happened to me. Less bad but annoying in a different way is doing this in between sets. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t make friends with people at your gym – by all means! But if you want to chat with someone, then try to respect their rest time. If I only want to rest for a minute, then I’m going to get annoyed when you ask me what I do for a living two minutes into “Hey, can I use that bench?” More to come on the “hitting on people” note at the end.ForAnnoyingPeople-952
  4. Giving advice to someone who didn’t ask for it. That’s what trainers are there for. If someone is going to actually hurt themselves doing something incorrectly, then trainers should be the ones to spot it and suggest a correction. Again, this is probably just a ploy by the person to hit on you, but in what world is a girl going to say “oh, thanks for criticizing me, let’s go out later?” There are a lot of insecure people in the gym. Even if you think you’d be incredibly helpful, this is a no no and will probably deflate his/her ego.
  5. Asking a woman how she got into weight lifting or asking her what she’s training for. If this is a ploy to hit on someone, then it’s better than the above method, but it’s pretty sexist. You wouldn’t ask your bro why he likes to lift weights or who “got him into it.” Because she likes to be badass, strong, healthy and look good naked. Just like you.

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In terms of hitting on women at the gym, I have to say I get it. It’s a good place to meet people who care about fitness and probably live/work around you. Just keep a couple of things in mind. First, no matter if she’s single or not, she’s going to be standoffish. She’s surrounded by grunting men staring at her. Keep in mind that most women there absolutely do not want to be approached. Approach with caution and prepare for the worst. Respect her rest time, don’t critique her form and don’t ask her how she got into weight lifting (as we’ve discussed). My advice? If you must approach, start with a simple “I see you here a lot, I’m ______.” This implies she’s awesome for hitting the gym often enough that people notice. Then proceed with caution and still prepare for the worst. Good luck, fellas.

Try to avoid these blunders and you’ll be golden. I don’t think anyone wants to be “that guy (or girl)” in the weight room.

Truth & Carbs (What they are and when you should and shouldn’t eat them)

For a long time now, I’ve been of the mind that if you want to get and stay lean that you should follow a low-carb, high protein diet with a good amount of fat (and of course fresh things) sprinkled in. Of course, I’ve read plenty of generic studies proving my confirmation bias to be correct, but my personal opinion about it was based, honestly, on how I felt and looked when I ate too many carbs. For me, the best I look and feel is when I don’t eat very many starches at all, and the fastest way I’ve lost fat is to cut them out entirely (other than veggies).

2330099711_5d159b092a_zSo, it’s been a long time coming that I’ve wanted to research and write a blog for those of you out there who might have toyed with the idea of a low-carb diet, because now I have the science behind it.

5949519379_a40e205058_bWithout writing a dissertation, here are the scientific basics in terms normal humans (like me) can understand… carbohydrates are your body’s favorite type of fuel. Imagine little tiny fuel cells in your body floating around, and when you eat carbs, your body fills them up. Now, the speed at which they’re filled up is very important. If they get blitzed, it’s bad, and if they get full slowly, it’s good.

When they’re “blitzed,” it’s by refined carbs. These are the food we know we shouldn’t eat: sugar, syrup, candy,
“fat” soda, etc. These fill up our fuel cells quickly, which sounds good, but it causes our bodies to release insulin. Insulin is the hormone that signals the body to stop burning fat and start storing it. It’s the fat-storing hormone. A large influx in insulin can also cause a crash. It makes us feel really tired and often really hungry (the opposite of what we want).

When the fuel cells are filled slowly, it’s by complex carbs. These are: oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, rye, barley (and many more). These fill our fuel cells slowly, which allows our blood sugar to stay even (not spike) and cause our bodies to release glucagon. Glucagon is a fat-burning hormone triggered when blood sugar is steady.

~ Another important aside is the glycemic index (GI). This is a scale we use to rate carbs, and it can help you figure out which carbs are the best choices (low GI) and which aren’t (high GI).~

So, should you eat carbs? And when? And how much? Spoiler alert – it depends.

6190089496_b18c4e27cc_oThe first thing it depends on is how active you are. If you’re very active, then your fuel cells will be empty. You did an intense interval workout yesterday and hardly ate any carbs, so your fuel cells are ready to receive. If you sat on the couch or in an office chair all day, then it’s likely you haven’t depleted your fuel cells any. In that case, whatever you have eaten today is likely sufficient. It also depends on the type of exercise, because lifting (among others) causes your body to continue to burn your energy stores after you’ve finished.

Everyone’s fuel cell size (the amount of glycogen you can store) is different. It also depends on your lifestyle, genetics, training regimens, etc. It can be tricky to figure out how big or small yours are, but it’s a good guideline to tie your carb intake to your activity level for a start.

The next thing is the when. If you’re going to eat carbs, then the best times of the day are before and after a workout.  Beforehand so that you have the energy reserves to last through a tough workout and after so that you have the energy system to deliver the protein you need to your muscles. Both instances should include protein to support the muscle breakdown you’re encountering during a workout.

Another controversial question is whether you should ever eat carbs before bed or if it’s a good idea right when you wake up. This also depends.

14083092466_377bf7e16a_zIf your main goal is fat loss, then you should abstain from carbs when you wake up. You’ve effectively done a night-long fast, and your body is burning fat by not having new calories to use instead. However, it’s also burning muscle to sustain itself, so that’s an issue for people trying to gain muscle.

If your only goal is to gain muscle, then you should eat a small snack before bed and a meal when you get up to make sure that you have the nutrients your body needs to gain mass and not burn existing mass.

If you’re somewhere in the middle, then join the club. My personal recommendation is to eat a protein-based snack before bed if you’re hungry to lessen any muscle loss overnight and then eat a protein-based breakfast with a small carb supplement in the morning to halt muscle breakdown.

6915430907_9e482fc2ce_zThe moral? If you’re looking to continuously burn fat, then you should be eating few carbs. The carbs you do eat should be complex and should be eaten strategically only to supplement workouts and to end night-long fasts. Do keep in mind that you’ll need to supplement calories with protein in order to maintain those hard-earned gains!

I know it’s disappointing, and it does take some getting used to, but when your abs are rippling this summer, you’ll be happy you replaced toast with eggs every morning.