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

Working Out Shouldn’t Suck

Everyone thinks that working out and losing weight should be a miserable activity. We should go to the gym, feel the burn, and leave soaked in sweat and slightly nauseated. 

Most people even classify a “tough workout” as one that leaves you unable to move for the next three days or one that results in throwing up or bleeding. I think the main reason for tumblr_m54orvFGpm1r566gro1_500that is shows like The Biggest Loser, where people are worked until they’re sick or in pain. It makes for better television, but it’s not healthy in the long term.

As someone who likes to be comfortable, I’ve never much liked this mentality, but for a while, I sort of believed it myself. I would run on the treadmill even though it was the most boring and painful thing that I could possible force myself to do, all for the sake of a “tough workout”.

Recently though, I’ve decided that working out should be something that’s enjoyable, if not just flat out fun. I made a list of things that I like to do, and have been switching

photo-62up my workouts to include those things.

By adding in things that you really like to do, you’ll be less likely to get stuck in the rut of going to the gym every day and doing the same thing. I’ve also found that trying new formsof exercise can be really fun.

As much as I hate running, I’ve decided that maybe I’ll sign up for a 5K for a cause that I like or a fun obstacle race. It’ll give me a reason to train, and if I still can’t stand it after a few weeks I’ll be fine knowing that running is just not for me.

To get out of the routine of going out to dinner and sitting around on the couch, Billy bought tennis racquets and we’ve been going to the nearby court to play on weekend nights. It’s fun and competitive, and it gets us both moving when we would normally be watching TV or eating.

photo-61

Losing weight and getting in shape is hard enough as it is, there is no reason to make it harder than it has to be. Pick something you like to do, and stop doing the things you hate. With so many options, there’s no excuse to be miserable while working out.

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