Fitness Magazine Makeover : Episode 1

This weekend I decided to revamp some of the workouts that I’ve seen in popular women’s fitness magazines. This week, I decided to use Fitness magazine, creator of the “Princess Push-up” as the basis for my first installment.

I went on their website and took a few exercises from different categories to build my own workout that I would actually do in the gym. I changed the exercises to ones that focus on the same muscle groups, in a more effective manner.

After warming up, perform three sets of eight of each of the following exercise:

Exercise # 1 : Face Pull (Formerly Fitness magazine’s Hitchhiker)

Muscles targeted : Rear Delts, Upper Traps

How to perform :

Set the cable stack to the highest point and choose a comfortable weight (I used 35 pounds).

Grip the rope with an overhand grip and assume a half kneeling position.

Pull the rope towards your face, with the metal middle coming between your eyes. Pull your shoulders together and hold either end of the rope by your eyes.

Return to start.

Why I think this exercise is better:

While the Hitchhiker is one of Fitness magazine’s less ridiculous exercises, it still doesn’t make total sense. This is more of a rehab exercise than one used to get in shape.

Exercise # 2 : Goblet squat (Formerly Fitness Magazine’s Heaven and Earth)

Muscles Targeted : Glutes, Quads

How to Perform :

Grab a dumbbell with your hands in a goblet style position, holding one end of the weight.

Stand shoulder width apart.

Push your butt back and sit into a squat.

Squeeze your glutes and push back into a standing position.

Why I think that this exercise is better :  First of all, the Heaven and Earth features a squat that involves rounding your back. This is a bad practice because you can hurt yourself if you add more weight. Sure it works with the beach towel that that model is using, but what’s your goal? If your goal is to “tone up”, you probably want to gain muscle and lose fat. You’re not going to accomplish that without adding weight to your squats, and a beach towel definitely isn’t going to get you there. If you want to get a nicer butt, add some weight and do some real squats.

Exercise # 3 : Standing Cable Row (Formerly Fitness Magazine’s Three Point Row)

Muscles Targeted : Midback, bicep

How to Perform :

Set the cable stack to a point near your ribs.

Assume an athletic position and pull the cable with one arm, keeping your arm close to your body.

Return to start.

Why I think this is a better exercise: There is no reason to do rows in all sorts of directions. A simple bent over row would suffice for the goals they show here. I like the cable row because it puts less strain on your back than a bent over row would, allowing you to add more weight than you would be able to do with a dumbbell.

Exercise # 4 : Glute Bridge (Formerly Fitness Magazine’s Toe Squat with Overhead Reach)

Muscles Targeted : Glutes, Hamstrings

How to perform :

Lay with your back, just under your shoulder blades, on the side of a bench, with your feet under your knees.

Keeping your abs tight, lower your butt to the floor and lift up.

Return to start.

Why I think this is a better exercise: There’s a lot going on in Fitness Magazine’s “Toe Squat with Overhead Reach”. You’re on your toes, your hands are above your head and you’re pulsing in a squat. Sure, it burns after a few reps, but not only do you look absolutely ridiculous doing it, it isn’t going to get you the results you want over time. The Glute Bridge is a really great beginner workout that will get you the glutes that you want.

Exercise # 5 : Pallof Press (Formerly Fitness Magazine’s Paper Doll)

Muscles Targeted : Midsection and Hips

How to Perform :

With the cable stack at the same height as the cable row, stand with your side to the machine.

Pull the cable in front of you, pressing forward and slowly lowering back to start, keeping your abs engaged.

Do 8 reps and switch sides and repeat.

Why I think this is a better exercise: First of all, what in the world is this supposed to accomplish? This is looks like a child throwing a hissy fit, not a woman trying to work out. If you’re trying to work your obliques, you’ll get much better results with a Pallof

Let me know how it goes!

KBF

Improved Magazine Workouts for Better Results

One thing that’s really been driving me crazy lately is how women’s fitness is portrayed in magazines. From Fitness, to Self, even to Muscle and Fitness Hers, everything shows a girl doing ridiculous workouts, often decked out in a pair of five pound ankle weights.

Everything claims “if you want to tone this part of your body, this is the best exercise to do that!” meanwhile, the exercises have bizarre names and even stranger “choreography” if you want to call it that.

The outrage started when I saw something called a Princess Pushup in an issue of Fitness Magazine. First of all, what is so wrong about doing a regular pushup? Lack of upper body strength is not an excuse as there are so many modifications that you can make until you’re able to do them.

Also, in this video, the demonstrator says “for all you ladies out there who aren’t a fan of the push-up”. Chances are, if I didn’t do everything that I wasn’t a fan of, I wouldn’t be doing very much at all.

It makes me absolutely insane that all of these “trainers” out there are teaching women that these are the exercises that they need to do to get the bodies they want. I’m even willing to bet that the girl in that video didn’t get her body from doing Princess Push-ups, or any other of the exercises that she demonstrates.

As a solution to this new pet peeve, I’ve decided to start modifying workouts in popular fitness magazines to make them actually beneficial for women to achieve their goals. I’m not a trainer, and I don’t claim to be. I live with my boyfriend who trains hundreds of athletes each week and who writes all of my programs. I read a lot to educate myself on exercise and nutrition. I’ve dropped 7% of my body fat in three months lifting heavy weights and eating good food.

So while these certified trainers may have a piece of paper showing that they passed a few tests, I’ve learned what works for me and several of my friends through trial and error, and with the help of the people around me.

My goal is to bring workouts that work to women who want them, all without the purchase of a pair of ankle weights.

KBF

The Argument Against Scales

Yesterday, when I was weighing myself at the gym, a woman was standing behind me. Usually this bugs me. If I’m weighing myself, I probably want some space and not for someone to be looking over my shoulder.

I got on the scale first and I saw that I weighed 142 pounds. The woman behind me looked at me and said “where do you keep that! I’m bigger than you and I only weigh 130″. At the time, this was not a flattering statement.

I don’t really like the fact that I weigh 142 pounds, three months after I stopped taking steroids. I’ve been working out and eating really well so I keep getting upset when I notice that the scale doesn’t even slightly budge.

I’ve noticed that I look like I’m making progress and I definitely fit in my clothes better, but I was still bothered by my weight staying the same.

Then, this morning I took my body fat percentage.

Three months ago I weighed 144 pounds and was 27% body fat. I was in the “acceptable” range, even if it didn’t feel like it. Today I am 142 pounds and 21% body fat, putting me in the “fitness/athletic” range.

Realizing that I put on about 6 pounds of muscle made me feel a lot better about the weight on the scale. While I’ve been trying not to weigh myself for the most part, sometimes my curiosity gets the better of me and I check anyway.

Taking my body fat percentage today made me realize that there really is no point in weighing yourself to determine your progress, especially if you’re lifting. From now on, I’ll be tracking my body fat percentage, with a goal of 18%.

So today I say goodbye to the scale once and for all. Wish me luck!

KBF

Healthy, Not Jacked

Every time I start to diet, I get into the same rut. I’ll restrict myself so much that I get sick of what I’m eating and I end up binging. That binge will result in me diving face first into a tub of ice cream, never to be seen again.

What I’m realizing lately is that there needs to be a balance between “I’m going to be so strict with my diet” and “eat all the carbs!”

The biggest problem that I’ve had so far with my “dieting” is that I force myself to eat things I don’t like. It turns out that I really hate eggs. I hate the smell, I hate the texture, and I hate the taste. There are very few things that I can put in eggs to make them taste good, and after forcing myself to eat them for about a year now, I just can’t eat them at all.

I ate eggs because I felt like they were the only breakfast food that was packed with protein. Now that I’ve pretty much sworn off eggs, I’ve been drinking protein shakes for breakfast with yogurt and peanut butter. I’m usually sort of nauseous in the morning, so drinking my breakfast is probably the best option anyway.

I also was eating a ton of plain grilled chicken and vegetables. I like grilled chicken, but it’s by no means my favorite food. Besides being bland, raw chicken freaks me out and slightly overcooked chicken is rubbery and gross. I’m not a bad cook, but I’m also not overly attentive when grilling.

My new solution has been to find alternative protein sources that don’t disgust me as much. Chicken sausage and chicken meatballs have been a pretty solid option, especially because you can buy them precooked from awesome brands like Applegate naturals.

Chicken also started to get kind of played out because I was ordering it in restaurants. Billy doesn’t eat seafood, so I never make it when we eat at home, but I’ve been ordering more fish and shrimp when I go out now to mix up the protein I eat.

The biggest thing that I’ve been trying to do is to not deprive myself, but to not just say “screw it, I’m eating this”. I used to not eat hummus because I felt that it was too high in carbs, and now I basically eat some every day. I also wasn’t eating fruit because it’s high in sugar, but I’ve been buying more lately to get extra fiber and nutrients.

I still eat dessert sometimes, and probably more often than I should, but that’s okay. I was so focused on losing the most weight I could, as fast as I could, as I wasn’t enjoying the process. Every workout was calculated and every meal was selected meticulously.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I won’t have a six pack in two months, or maybe not even ever if I don’t want to. I would rather eat food that tastes good and be in good shape, than eat boring, bland food and be shredded.

KBF

How a Change in Priorities Can Lead to Progress

When I first started to work out, my main goal was always “skinnier. get skinnier”. I mean, isn’t that what everyone’s goal is at first? 

I got down to 114 pounds from taking about 8 spin classes a week and being a vegetarian.  I thought I looked great, but I’ve heard that at that point I was too skinny and even looked unhealthy at some points.

Between taking steroids and not going to the gym frequently for a few months, I was pretty discouraged at what I looked like. Actually, at one point I was up to 148 pounds, a realization that made me cry in the gym.

As I keep working, I’ve come to a few realizations. The first is that my priorities have definitely changed. If I was trying to get down to 110 pounds again to be as skinny as possible, my method just wasn’t going to do that.

But I don’t want that again. 

I want to be strong and look strong. I want to be able to sprint and pick up heavy things and move like an athlete, even though I’m not one. How many athletes do you know (besides long distance runners) who are just skinny? I don’t know many.

My second realization is that I am not built to be skinny, truly skinny. There are girls out there who are long and lean and who can get away with being thin girls. I’m not one of them. I have bigger legs and an overall “thicker” frame, as much as I hate that word.

People can tell you all they want that everyone is built differently, but until you’ve seen your body at all stages, you’ll never actually believe it. You’ll continue wanting to look like whichever Victoria’s Secret model is currently dating Leonardo DiCaprio, even though you’ll never be 6 feet tall with a 26 inch waist.

It’s once you become realistic about how you’re built and what your goals are that you’re able to make the most progress.

I will never be 114 pounds again, and I’m damn proud of that.

KBF

Carb Cycling and Other Revelations

For a few weeks, I was attempting to eat 100g of carbs a day. This made me feel restricted and somewhat angry at times.

Then Billy told me that I could carb cycle so I could eat more carbs on days where I actually needed them. This led to the construction of a chart, based around workouts:

Monday: Lift (100g)
Tuesday: Conditioning (80g)
Wednesday: Lift (100g)
Thursday: Conditioning (80g)
Friday: Lift (100g)
Saturday: Off (60g)
Sunday: Lift (175g)

By having a couple of low days and medium days during my week, I can have one much larger day to reboot my metabolism and just have fun with what I eat. Yesterday we had an unexpected date day, so I ended up eating 175g on Friday instead of Sunday.

It worked out though because I had 60g on Thursday, positioning a low day before a high day as originally planned. 

The biggest thing yesterday was that I didn’t overdo it. Usually when I have a heavier carb day I feel like death for a few days after. I had a really big lunch of shrimp tacos and chicken nachos, with a margarita for good measure. Then we went to the movies and had popcorn and half of a bag of Reese’s pieces between the two of us.

Usually, when we would get dinner after, I would figure my whole day had gone to hell so why not just get a huge plate of pasta. I broke this mentality last night when we chose a Persian restaurant for dinner and I chose to substitute the rice for grilled vegetables. 

Everything about that meal felt good and enabled me to feel pretty good this morning too. I started my day off with eggs, spinach and feta and a slice of white bread, and I’m going to have a protein shake before going to see King Lear at BAM at noon.

Hopefully by loading up on protein this morning I’ll be able to make better choices in choosing a restaurant after sitting through a three hour play.

The concept of planning a higher carb day (but not recklessly high) breaks the idea of having a “cheat day”. Cheat days always end up as “cheat weeks” and even “cheat months” for me. It might work for some people, but I can’t just go crazy one day a week and expect to go back to normal the next day.

The cheat day mentality signals that you’re doing something wrong for your body, while increasing carbs to boost metabolism is actually benefitting it.

KBF

Eating Crap Will Make You Feel Like Crap

For the past few days, I’ve been a little more lenient with what I eat, and by lenient I mean I just ate whatever I felt like eating. I actually danced the entire way to Carvel last night for an ice cream cone. It was bad.

I somehow passed up the bag of bagels on my mom’s kitchen table this morning, only to go to brunch and have donuts for dessert. In my defense, they were homemade donuts. Then I went to my aunts house and ate EVERYTHING there as well.

As much as I regret eating poorly these past few days, I realize that it needed to happen. I needed to feel like absolute crap to realize just how important it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

I’m exhausted, bloated, extremely thirsty, and kind of a jerk. I also get hungry a lot more frequently. The sad part about this whole thing is that I realize that this is what I used to feel like all the time and it’s a very real every day for a lot of people.

The way I feel now shows exactly what it feels like to be undernourished and overfed. It’s not always about what you look like. Sometimes it’s about not wanting to feel like you’re food hungover and wanting to punch everyone in the face, because trust me, when you start to feel bad enough, the rage monster just comes out of no where.

Having a great body is awesome, but it’s hard to have one if you eat crap all the time. Eating junk food sometimes is great, especially in moderation but it’s when it starts to become a more consistent thing that it starts to effect you.

Food is supposed to give you energy so why consistently eat something that’s actually going to take your energy away? It doesn’t make sense and yet we continue to do it just because it tastes good or feels good in the moment. It’s after that moment passes that it starts to catch up and you start to feel the effects of a poor diet.

Looking in the mirror and not liking what you see sucks, but so does being tired all the time and not feeling full from the food you eat. Although these things aren’t fun, they have an easy solution: eat good food that makes you feel good and the rest will fall into place.

KBF

 

Quit Lying About Your Body

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot about body image and how every woman should love her body just as it is. I’m all for female empowerment and self-love, but the whole “just as it is” part doesn’t sit right with me.

Where is the desire for better in that sentence?

By saying “I love myself just as I am” we cut off an entire part of ourselves that seeks better. If we applied the “just as I am” to other parts of our lives, chances are we would be really disappointed.

Think about it. “I love my career, just as it is”. “I love my house, just as it is”. Chances are we can think of some improvement for both of those things but when it comes to our bodies we’re suddenly the female Mitt Romneys regressing women’s rights back to a pre-suffrage era, and who wants that?

To say that we’re satisfied with our bodies the way the are is basically saying “I am too lazy to fix what I don’t like” but saying it in a way that makes other women not only agree with us, but respect us. It makes gives the impression of “wow, she’s so brave. I wish I could do the same”. Well, why should you have to? Why shouldn’t you want more than you already have? If you wanted to make a certain salary a year or get to a certain level in your company, chances are you would work your ass off to get to it, instead of just saying “I love my life, just the way it is”.

But when it comes to our bodies, most of us are more than satisfied to lust after the bodies of Victoria’s Secret models while claiming “I love my body, just the way it is” and never doing anything about it, all in the name of feminism. Women spend hours every week putting on make-up and picking out clothes, but the second weight comes into the picture, you’re an asshole for suggesting improvement. I think this is the most ridiculous thing ever.

Spending time to improve ourselves, for ourselves, can be the most empowering thing a person can do. The last time I checked, just saying that I was comfortable with my body didn’t make it true, and being truly unhappy about it wasn’t a very empowering feeling.

But looking at the improvements I make in the gym every week is crazy empowering. I feel pride looking in the mirror at abs and muscle cuts and thinking “hey, look what I did!”. That’s what empowerment is. It’s deciding you want something and stopping at nothing to get it. It’s saying “I am going to be the best me I can be” and actually doing something about it.

It’s not slowly putting on weight while saying you’re happy with yourself as you are then getting upset when swimsuit season comes. 

Your body doesn’t have to be your identity, but it can definitely be a part of it. Your weight doesn’t have to define you and it shouldn’t define you. But by refusing to admit that your appearance matters to you, you eliminate the desire to be better and who really wants to stay the same?

KBF

Why Choosing a Gym is so Important

When I was in the best shape, I was going to a gym I loved. Once I stopped working there, I stopped working out almost completely.

I repeatedly said that I would go to the school gym or workout at home, but I hardly ever did. I gained weight every week and continued to tell myself I would start working out again the next day. I never did.

I eventually joined a new gym, which I hated, and stopped going to it after only a month. The decision to go back to my old gym has proven to be the best decision I could have made and made me realize one thing: you need to find an environment you love before you can get in shape.

That place can be a gym, a park, or your house, as long as it makes you comfortable and you enjoy going to it. My gym has turned into my happy place. I wake up in the morning and look forward to going to it instead of dreading the thought of checking in.

When you like being somewhere, you tend to go more often and spend more time there. At the other places I went to, I would try to get in and out as fast as possible, even if that meant sacrificing big parts of my workout.

Now, I’ll spend more than an hour in the gym without even realizing because the environment just makes me happy. I go at a time when the gym is basically empty and I like having a big area to myself to swing kettlebells and deadlift.

The decision to switch happened when I asked myself why I wasn’t going to the gym and I realized that the answer was “because it makes me sad”. A gym should never make you sad, it should do the opposite. You should leave energized and happy and in a better place than you were in before you entered.

If you’re not going to a gym that you’re paying for, ask yourself the question as to why you’re not going. If your answer is similar to mine, maybe it’s time to test out some new ones. You can almost always try them for free or really cheap for a few days.

Don’t let your environment be your excuse. Let it be your reason.

KBF

What My First Solo Spin Class Taught Me About Motivation

Today I really didn’t want to go to the gym. Like REALLY did not want to go.

Usually just the bright lights of the gym are enough to make me want to work out, but I’m not sure if it was the rainy weather or just an off day, but I still didn’t want to do anything once I got there.

Although I told myself that I only had to do 15 minutes and then I could leave, I actually thought “fine, but only if I can do it sitting down”. So, I decided to create my own spin class.

At first, my plan to go into the Spin room and do my work out was more an excuse to be lazy than an ambitious desire to come up with my own interval, cardio workout. I figured that if I was alone in the Spin room, I could safely sit on the bike and pedal as slowly as I photo-56wanted with as little resistance as possible.

The first five minutes were awful. I thought about getting off the bike and just going to lay down on a mat somewhere pretending to stretch. I’m really out of control sometimes.

After I got through those five minutes, a man came into the room. I was very annoyed at first because I had been happy with my lazy solitude. It turns out that I actually NEEDED this man to come in as his presence made me feel like there was someone in the room judging me and holding me accountable. 

Was he doing either of these things? No, not even kind of. He was actually very content to do a very difficult Spin session of his own. But sometimes, we need to feel like there’s a bit of embarrassment in quitting, even if there is none.

In the end, I made it through a 30 minute session of sprints, jumps on a hill, and a few steep climbs. I’m still not back to where I used to be in terms of resistance and speed, but the longer I was on the bike today, the easier it got.

That has to be a good sign, right?

Today was such an important lesson in why we need to push ourselves sometimes. I woke up feeling sore and lazy, but I went to the gym and had a great work out. If I let myself believe the story I was telling myself about why it was okay to stay home on the couch with photo-57Sheldon, I wouldn’t have gotten to have such a good time on the bike.

There are definitely times where you shouldn’t work out, like if you have the flu or if you’re hurt, but a lot of times we’ll tell ourselves that we shouldn’t when we really should. I did it for months, thinking “well, who would really know anyway?”. It turns out that although no one will know if you go to the gym or not, it’ll definitely become obvious when you start gain 20 pounds like I did.

While the weight gain definitely sucks, it honestly isn’t the worst part of putting off exercise. The worst part is being unable to do push ups anymore, or suffering through a spin class that used to be easy.

The knowledge that my body used to be able to do so much that it can’t now is my motivation to go to the gym on days like today. In a year from now I want to be looking at how far I’ve come, not how I’ve fallen.

How do you stay motivated?

KBF