No matter what your dream is, it always seems overwhelming when you look straight up to the top of that big mountain you need to climb. Many often fear the journey, convince themselves they’re not capable of doing this, and end up quitting before they even get started.Yes, there’s a LOT to take in. But you simply need to break it down and start SOMEWHERE.
Progress isn't linear.
The saying applies to fitness just as much as it applies to school. It applies to your career, your work place, your relationships, and quite literally anything that you’re trying to progress in.
The phrase resonates with me in a few different aspects, but recently it’s applied to my fitness regimen. Some of you may know, others may not, but for the majority of 2016 I took a break from my workout routine. At first, I made the decision to slow down on my workouts because I was exceptionally busy at the start of 2016. I went to school full time and was working on finishing my last semester of college. I worked at two different gyms as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, as well as working with clients online, all which equated to about 50+ hours of work per week. My personal health and workouts declined because of it.
As the first few weeks of 2016 went on, I quickly became exhausted, both physically and mentally. When I found free time, which was scarce, the last place I wanted to be was the gym. When I would workout, my workouts were struggling. I had no passion for the gym, I had no energy to workout, and ultimately it felt like I was defeated. Was fitness no longer going to be part of my life? What if I can never regain the motivation I once had to workout?
As the weeks rolled by, I decided to take a break from the gym. Part of the reason was due to mentally struggling with depression and anxiety. Another reason was due to injuries. When you lack sleep (which I certainly was at the time) and you’re stressed, you put yourself at a very high risk for getting injured. Alas, it caught up with me. My scoliosis was acting up and causing severe back pain and I ended up tearing my quad when showing a client how to squat. I was out of the gym and I was terrified.
In May, I graduated from college with a B.S. in Psychology and I moved to Colorado, a dream of mine that I had since I was 8 years old. Life was looking up! The struggle of the last 6 months was finally coming to an end, right?!
In Colorado, there were very few gyms available, and the ones that were, were completely out of my price range. I started working out in my garage with little equipment and made the best of it, however I was only lifting once or twice a week, when I ideally wanted to lift 5-6 days a week. This was a mental struggle for me because I felt lost and confused and didn’t really know where I fit into the “fitness world”.
I began doing activities outside and enjoying the scenery that was around me. I climbed mountains, went on hikes almost daily, dipped my toe into mountain biking and snow shoeing! I found joy in areas of fitness I never thought I would be fortunate enough to do. I focused on getting outside everyday, and used my lifting to supplement my hikes, rather than hikes to supplement my lifts. For the first time in my life, I was actually enjoying cardio (coming from someone who despises it).
By being outdoors, I found my passion for fitness again. I didn’t dread lifting in a garage gym, but rather looked forward to it. I didn’t dread taking my dog on a walk, but was excited about it because I could see the leaves changing colors and the feel of cool wind on my skin. I began approaching fitness with a positive mindset, something that wasn’t forced upon me, but something that I freely chose to do because it brought me joy.
Unfortunately, the struggle was not over. My boyfriend at the time and I broke up, which meant I moved back home to Saint Louis. Again, I was lost, confused and didn’t know how to get back into a fitness routine. There aren’t mountains to climb in the Midwest and the closest place to go on a hike is a 30 minutes drive (as opposed to being able to walk into my backyard and start a hike). I started up a gym membership again and I started lifting.
This was HARD. My body wasn’t as “fit” as it was this time last year. My muscle mass significantly decreased and my strength was simply not there. It was a real mental struggle trying to be kind to myself when I felt like I had failed. I wanted to add 100 pounds to my dead lift and 50 to my squat by the end of 2016, and here I was struggling to lift my warm up weight from the end of 2015. I felt like I had failed because I did not commit myself to fitness how I did in the past.
But progress isn’t linear. Did I regress in terms of strength? Absolutely. Did I lose a lot of the muscle I worked so hard for? Yes. Did I keep moving forward? Yes, I did. Though my progress in the gym had declined, I gained a ton of knowledge from my year “off”. My muscular endurance was better than it had ever been. My cardiovascular endurance, though still lacking compared to most, was the best it had ever been for me personally. I saw some of the most amazing views because my legs carried me up a mountain. I was able to get creative with workouts that required minimal equipment, making me a better coach to those who workout only at home.
Now, I’ve been back on a gym routine for almost three months! My mindset is completely different than it was this time last year. I am energized for my workouts. I look forward to them with excitement and approach them with focus and passion. Something that I’m not sure would have happened had I not stepped back and taken time off.
Progress isn’t linear. You will fall down a million times. You will inevitably fail. You are human! But failure does not define you. Progress is not linear, but it does require that you keep moving forward. Take it one step at a time, keep going.
Odds are if you’re reading this you’ve committed to a new fitness routine in 2017 – way to go! January is a great time to make a fresh start, no matter where you are in your fitness journey. Many people decide to do a different workout program, eat cleaner, follow a better nutrition plan or perhaps you’re giving this healthy living a try for the first time. No matter how long you’ve been working out we all find ourselves on some days having to muster up the motivation to get out of bed, off the couch, out of our warm cozy homes and get into the gym. I’ve been there before and I’ve been working out for what seems my entire life, but I’ve committed to strength training as my main form of fitness for the last six years. I too still have days and weeks where I just lose motivation and have to dig down deep to force myself to go train. I wanted to share a few of my tips for how to stay motivated after the new year.
Did you know that it takes 21 days to make a habit so right about now if you’ve been working out since January 1st you should be well on your way. By the third week into a new routine you should be feeling great and on a roll – but sometimes we slip up and that’s okay because that means you’re human! My first piece of advice to stay motivation is not to set goals that are not achievable. Don’t start working out and say you will do it seven days a week if you know you can’t commit to that every single week. We all need at least two rest days to recover and give our muscles a chance to rebuild, repair and recover. If you tell yourself you will work out seven days a week and miss a day or two, mentally you will think you failed. It would be better to say “I commit to at least getting in a workout four days a week” and if you make it in for six well then that’s fantastic! It’s better to set realistic goals so that you can stick to them and feel accomplished at the end of each week.
Some people like to work out solo and some people need a buddy to keep them accountable. Whatever works for you is what you should stick with and do. Me personally I like to work out alone and I enjoy putting on my headphones, listening to a great playlist of music and then zoning out. That’s what works best for me, therefore I wouldn’t plan to go workout with a friend because I know I wouldn’t get the best workout and I will likely not stick to my workout routine. If you need a friend to workout with to stay motivated, make sure that friend is committed and can assure you they will do the same amount of days each week. If your friend starts to bail on you it will start to make you skip days and lose motivation. Find what works best for you to stay committed.
This might seem silly, but I can’t tell you how much this has helped me over the years to stay motivated to get off my butt in the early morning and go to the gym; lay out your workout clothes the night before. Remember when your mom used to do this for you the night before the first day of school? That’s what I do and I’m in my 30s, lol. I like to make this part of my night time routine: take a shower, wash my face, lay out my gym clothes. Check, check, check. By putting my entire workout attire out on a dresser I not only have one less thing to worry about in the morning (have you ever tried to find a sports bra in the dark while your boyfriend or husband is sleeping, it’s not easy), but it also is a visually reminder before you go to bed that when you wake up you’re going to go work out, kick butt and take names. Plus if you’re a girly girl like me you like to match your gym clothes and it’s fun putting it all together from your sneakers to tights to baseball hat.
Even if you never post them or show them to anyone, take photos of yourself at the beginning of each week. Sometimes we don’t want to take images when we don’t feel our best, but you’ll be thankful you did later so you can look back at all the small strides you are making each week. I used to take images that I never shared and put them in a “fitness” folder on my iPhone and years later I’m so proud of how far I came. When you look in the mirror day in and day out at yourself you never see the true progress. It’s not until you look back months later and how your body has changed that you will say “damn, I’m proud of me!” That is one way I have always stayed motivated – knowing that every single workout was getting me closer to my goal. There’s a great saying I heard long ago, don’t know the author, but it went something like this, “You’ll never see the big picture if you’re still a part of the painting.” Write that down somewhere, it’s a goodie! Sometimes we need to step back and take a good look at ourselves and not nit pick everything.
My last piece of advice to stay motivated is join a gym where you feel comfortable. Work out where you never feel out of place, where you feel good when you walk in and the people there are motivating and encouraging. I have been a member of many gyms and some I just hated working out in; I didn’t feel like the people were as nice or it was too over crowded or people just were too busy watching everyone and making comments or interrupting. The gym I go to now has a lot of the same “crew” every morning and I feel like they are family. The ladies are so encouraging to one another and it’s a very no frills kind of place. I never felt like I didn’t belong and I always felt good working out in there. Some gyms have different crowds and I really find that when you feel good in your gym it keeps you motivated and excited to get back there every day. It’s nice when you walk in and know all the “regulars” and give a wave and smile.
Overall it isn’t easy sticking to a workout program. It takes time, dedication, sacrifice but in the end it’s helping you live a better, healthier more fulfilling life. Surround yourself with friends who will be there to support you, and even if your friends in real life don’t find people like the Crush Fit community who do. There’s no better motivation than seeing others on their journey too and feeling like your goals are reachable.
Now get out there and go lift things.
By Julia Horniacek
Breakfast is the most important deal of the day, right? So, why have it only once? I learned the term “zoats” from watching bikini competitors on YouTube make it and eat it in the morning or lunchtime during prep season. My initial reaction was probably similar to most: the idea of zucchini touching porridge was unappealing. In reality, however, this diet-friendly strategy adds volume to the meal without sacrificing its taste. I’ve played around with different recipes, but this is one of my favorite ways to (literally) spice it up.
1 serving of oatmeal
1 tbsp nut butter
- Wash zucchini and use a grater to shred the vegetable into strips. The key to zucchini oats is to a) chop the zucchini into tiny pieces after it has been shredded and b) blotting with a paper towel to extract a significant amount of moisture.
- Cut an apple in half, and chop slices into chunks, sprinkle with cinnamon.
Pour one serving of oats in a microwave-safe bowl and cook in water for ninety seconds. To add fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and a bunch of micronutrients to your breakfast, take oats out of the microwave at forty-five seconds to stir in a serving of chia seeds.
Arrange apple pieces on a microwave-safe plate and cook for thirty to forty-five seconds. While that’s heating up, add the zucchini into your cooked oats and mix in with a spoon. I pinky promise this does not alter the taste of oats. Adding zucchini almost doubles your meal’s volume, so you’ll cut down on carbs and stay full longer.
When apples are warmed to your preference, top your oats with their sweetness. Nothing goes better with apples than nut butter, right? Placing a dollop on top of the steaming fruit will melt your topping into a syrup. If you’re craving something sweet in the morning, I suggest giving the Wild Friends Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter a try.
Written by Mike Merkt
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! You finally stop that dreaded noise that is coming from whatever device you choose to help wake you up. In today’s day and age, many of us view sleep as rest and think that it doesn’t serve much purpose. Since we view sleep in this regard it does not seem like a very important aspect of our lives. It especially seems like a waste of time if we realize that we spend over 1/3 of our lives sleeping. That means if you are 90 years old, you have spent over 30 years of your life sleeping, which seems like time wasted, doesn’t it?
Sleep is absolutely NOT time wasted. It has been shown that sleep has dramatic effects on your overall health. Many people think that when we sleep that the body shuts down. Sure you aren’t eating, working, thinking, or exercising when you sleep. Parts of the brain shut down when you sleep but other parts increase their activity during sleep.
There are many reasons thought by scientists why we sleep, but there are really 2 main reasons, which are restoration, and brain function. There are certain parts of your brain that are specifically turned on only when you sleep that help with the restoration of your mind and body. One of the most important things that happens when you sleep is brain processing. This may sound complicated but when you sleep, information from the day is sorted and stored. This means that someone who is sleep deprived is not able to recall and come up with solutions to problems as quickly and as intuitively as someone who has proper rest along with an increase in creativity. It’s been estimated that a good nights sleep gives you triple the advantage to solving complex problems compared to those who are sleep deprived. This information alone makes it obvious that sleep isn’t something that just takes up time.
Research has shown that lack of sleep causes poor memory, increased impulsiveness, weight gain, increased stress, decreased immunity, and poor judgement.
How do you know if you aren’t getting enough quality sleep? If you need an alarm clock to get up, if it takes you a long time to get up, if you need lots of stimulants (coffee, caffeine), if you’re grumpy and irritable, or if you’re told that you look tired are all hints that you’re not getting enough sleep.
So now that we know that sleep is important, what are some ways that we can get a better night’s sleep? Here are 3 tips for a better night’s sleep!
Cool Down. I know that this probably sounds silly but it is important. The first thing is make your room slightly cool, around 65 degrees. Something worth noting is that you might fall asleep faster if you warm your body before bed. Going from a warm environment into a cooler environment can slow your body’s metabolism, which makes you a little drowsy allowing you to fall asleep quicker. I know that you might think this sounds funny since you are jumping under a warm blanket but researchers have also found that a cool head is more conducive to sleep.
Use Light to your Advantage. When going to sleep make your room as dark as possible, also be sure to be careful when you are brushing your teeth before bed. It is best to do this with dimly lit lights as it cues the brain to prepare for sleep. It is recommended that you dim your lights 30 minutes before you are going to go to sleep, this includes shutting off your phone and computer. When it is time to wake up expose yourself to bright light, either by looking out a window or turning on your bedroom or bathroom lights. This helps the brain wake up and also establishes a better sleep cycle for your body.
Use Technology to your Advantage. I know I know, in the above tip I told you to put away your phone and computer 30 minutes before you go to sleep. This doesn’t mean that we can’t use them to our advantage. Although you should get up without an alarm most people use an alarm to help them get out of bed. Something to incorporate with your alarm clock is the use of a sleep app. With a sleep app it will tell you how much you move around, if you snore, or what cycle of sleep you are in. Have you ever been sleeping then forced to wake up because of something but then you feel extra groggy? That is probably because you were woken up at the wrong time in your sleep cycle. Apps like SleepBot have a “smart alarm” that actually wakes you at the correct moment of your sleep cycle.