Top 3 Secrets To Success!

Today, let’s talk about the general concept of success. To me, success is all about what goes on inside my head.

Here are 3 secrets to success that I use no matter what my goal is.

Secret #1: Have “Cheerful Expectancy”

Many people who write about creating success in your life write about cheerful expectancy.

There’s a big difference between cheerful expectancy and hoping or wishing something is going to happen. When you have cheerful expectancy, you know it’s going to occur.

It comes from having knowledge. I believe that knowledge gives you the confidence to have that positive expectancy. And to a large degree, your expectations determine your results.

Secret #2: Do One Proactive Thing Every Day

You don’t need to do 100 things a day to be successful and reach your goals. Just do one proactive thing a day. By laying one little brick at a time, you will eventually build a big wall.

Don’t overwhelm yourself. Just relax. I think that overwhelm is a huge barrier to success because you end up confused and immobile. One day at a time and one thing at a time.

Make a commitment to do one proactive thing a day, no matter what. These actions will have an immense impact.

Secret #3: Make Quick Decisions

A lot of people have a decision. They don’t like to do it, because it cuts off their other options. Frankly, that’s the point. You want to cut off your other options so you’re forced to move forward. It can motivate you like nothing else. I’ve always believed that you make a decision, move forward, and then adjust as you receive feedback.

And something magical seems to happen when you make a decision. I don’t claim to understand it so I can’t explain it. But when you set your mind to do something, all of a sudden you meet people who can help you get to where you want to go. It’s as if once a decision has been made, your mind gets tuned into it and all kinds of coincidences start occurring.

Don’t be afraid of making the wrong decision, just make a decision. If you make a mistake, who cares? What you want to do is get all your mistakes out of the way, learn from them, and move on. Fail quickly. That will speed up the time it takes you to succeed.

So to recap:

  • Expect that your goal will eventually happen.
  • Do at least one thing every day to get closer to your goal.
  • Make decisions. If the results are favorable, keep going. If they aren’t, fail quickly and go on to another choice.

Do You Start Your Day With Stretching?

What you do in the first few minutes of your day sets the tone for the rest of it. That’s why it is important to begin your day with thoughts of happiness, success, great health, and prosperity.

One way to help set yourself on this course is to always have a daily goal, especially a daily fitness goal. And if you achieve that goal first thing in the morning, the rest of the day is going to be great.

A worthy daily fitness-related goal is to start your day with some stretching.

Have you ever seen Animal Planet?

Someone was telling me about watching one of their specials on wild cats. She saw every cat from lions to tigers to cheetahs to leopards to mountain lions and a lynx.

She watched how wild, as well as domesticated, cats stretch. They stretch backwards hundreds of times per day. And they do it as soon as they wake up.

I’ve noticed my dog does this as well.

I think we all should do likewise. Stretching can not only increase your strength and flexibility, it will ENERGIZE you for hours.

So move your body the way it wants to be moved. Stretch like a cat and you’ll know why cats stretch the way they do.

Are You An Apple or Pear?

Do you have an apple-shaped body? You know what I mean, some people are apple-shaped and some are pears and some are bananas.
I read a study recently that had some important news for apple-shaped people.

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, found that taking in plenty of non-starchy vegetables and more magnesium helped increase the production of adiponectin, a hormone found in fat cells. The researchers were careful to look for any other factors that could have affected the results, but found none.

Adiponectin increases the effectiveness of insulin. In other words, it helps your cells absorb glucose. If you have plenty of adiponectin, your insulin production is lower, your blood sugar is better controlled, and that adds up to a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes. But it may also mean you could have a much easier time controlling your weight.

Unfortunately, when we gain weight, especially in the belly, adiponectin production goes down. (This is one reason belly fat is so harmful for your health.) And, indeed, the researchers found that the higher the subject’s adiponectin level, the lower the subject’s weight. The lower the adiponectin, the higher the weight.

So the big news is that simply by increasing your intake of non-starchy vegetables and supplementing with magnesium, you can increase a hormone that will help you lose that belly fat and decrease your insulin resistance.

Reduce your intake of starchy carbs, especially refined flours and sugars. And eat eight to 10 servings of non-starchy vegetables every day. Non-starchy vegetables are very low in carb grams and calories. They are nutrient-dense foods loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and other beneficial phytochemicals in a very low-sugar, high fiber package.

A little extra magnesium helps too. The best food sources are nuts, seeds, and beans. If you show any signs of being low in magnesium (e.g., tense and tight muscles, constipation, or restless leg syndrome) you might consider a magnesium supplement. The best forms are magnesium malate or amino acid chelates like magnesium glycinate or magnesium taurate.

How’s Your Posture? Or Would You Rather Not Answer That Question?

Here’s another question I get quite often: “Why am I not seeing results in my posture/performance/whatever?” Does my training program really work?

The answer? IT DEPENDS!

In all honesty, without seeing your particular training program, it’s hard to say whether that’s the problem. With in-person clients it’s pretty easy to discover issues as we work with their programming, or nutrition or training. If they aren’t getting results, most of the time it’s due to things they are doing OUTSIDE of the gym or work-out time versus what they’re doing during their training time.

For instance, imagine the typical computer programmer who comes to see me. Their hips are constantly in flexion, and their upper back and shoulders are slouched over. Even if I gave this person the absolute most perfect program and they executed it to perfection, they may not get results.

Why?

In general it’s due to the law of repetitive motion. Particularly when it comes to posture. I’m a stickler for healthy posture. Sometimes when I see someone slouched over, I just want to walk over to them and put them in proper alignment. They can’t possibly be breathing deeply.

As a strength coach, yoga teacher, and running coach I’ll bring your attention to your posture when we’re together and we’ll review your programs making sure that your quad dominant and hip dominant movements are balanced, and that your horizontal pulls match your horizontal presses. HOWEVER, it’s what you do the other hours of the day that matter, and they matter A LOT.

We too often forget to account for what we do all day everyday! That’s where the idea of repetitive motion comes in.

This is one of the many reasons I’m such a huge advocate for more soft-tissue and flexibility/mobility work. No program can overcome poor postures that you assume throughout the day.

Think about it for a second, do you really expect 3 hours in the gym every week to counteract the fact that you sit at a desk or in your car for 40, 50 or even 60 hours every week?

No way!

According to the research, adaptive shortening of muscles can occur in as little as 20 minutes; that means if you’re sitting at a desk for 8 hours every day, your hips are adapting to that position by getting shorter! This epitomizes the saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

If you are really serious about getting yourself healthy, mobile and resilient, you absolutely must take into account the positions you’re in throughout the day and try to optimize them.

If you sit at a desk, get your hips in extension by performing lunge stretches. Or better yet, get a stand-up desk and cue yourself to tighten up your stomach and glutes while standing. Those of you who have been reading my articles for some time might recall that three years ago I gave up sitting at a desk while working!

If you drive all day long, set a timer on your phone to go off every 15 minutes that will cue you to sit-up straight and move around a bit. Fidgeting is not always a bad thing!

In essence, everything we do influences our posture and our performance. The question becomes is what you’re doing right now positively or negatively affecting it?

Make the conscious decision throughout the day to optimize your posture and alignment. Doing so will not only help you outside of the gym, but it will improve your performance in the gym as well.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Remember the song “Let The Sunshine In” from the musical Hair? Well, that’s what we’re talking about today. No NOT Hair…..SUNSHINE and its benefits.

When our eyes don’t take in enough sunlight, we can experience a serious mood change. Sometimes you’ll notice you start sleeping too much, or that you go through energy slumps. You might start to crave sweets and starchy foods.

Studies link those symptoms to low levels of brain chemicals like serotonin and melatonin. Not only do we need sunlight in our eyes to produce those neurotransmitters, we need sunlight on our skin to produce vitamin D.

We’ve long known that vitamin D is critical for building and maintaining strong bones. But a big surprise in recent years has been that vitamin D also plays a critical role in insulin regulation, making it important for the prevention of diabetes and heart disease. It’s also important for the regulation of your immune system, with studies linking low vitamin D levels to an increased risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers, as well as to multiple sclerosis, which is an autoimmune condition.

Depending on where you live, it’s hard to get enough sunlight during the winter months. And in summer, many people avoid exposure to direct sunlight because they’re concerned about skin cancer. In addition, drugs used to treat heartburn, acid indigestion, and ulcers can deplete the body’s stores of vitamin D.

What this means is that you have a good chance of developing a deficiency of this critical vitamin.

It’s easy to restore the vitamin D your body needs. You can get it by spending a few minutes in the sun each day. You can also get it from food sources, especially eggs, fatty fish, and fish liver oils. And if you don’t like fish, there are supplements.

I’ve long been a proponent of having your vitamin D levels checked the next time you get a blood test.

If you decide to take supplements, avoid the old form of vitamin D (ergocalciferol). Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the best form to use. Experts are now recommending that we get at least 1,000 IUs per day.

So enjoy letting the sunshine in and keep up your levels of vitamin D.

Are Looks A Marker Of Health?

The other day I was thinking about how looks can be deceiving. For instance, Lance Armstrong, and Jim Fixx (who wrote The Complete Book of Running), looked like two of the healthiest men on the planet. Armstrong beat testicular cancer, but came within an inch of his life. And Fixx died of a heart attack after taking a short jog.

So even if you look healthy and feel like a million bucks, you still need to know your levels of inflammatory markers. These you get from blood tests.

But in the meantime, it’s important you ALSO create a low-inflammatory lifestyle. Here’s how you do that.

A low inflammatory lifestyle would include a low-inflammatory nutrition and training plan, along with plenty of stress-free time.

Many of these blog posts help you with those first two. The third one, de-stressing, is mostly up to you. You may want to spend 30 minutes a day doing yoga, walking, meditating, praying, or whatever calms your mind and body.

Living a healthy life requires you to manage your insulin levels keeping them low, and using low-inflammatory nutrition and a smart exercise plan. So remember to use:

  1. Short workouts that are intense, effective, and enjoyable. Use both weights and cardio.
  2. Longer “soft” workouts (like brisk walking) that help de-stress the body and burn more body fat.
  3. A low-glycemic, high-protein diet packed with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Do You Read Food Labels?

I think it’s good to know where my food comes from. How about you?

Thanks to the new Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law, you can now see where many foods were grown or raised before you buy. This labeling comes in handy if, for example, you want to support local farmers or avoid products that come from a particular region or country.

Here are some of the foods that must now be labeled:

  • Meat and fish sold in supermarkets, but not in fish or meat markets (ham and bacon, because they are processed, are exempt)
  • Raw peanuts, almonds, pecans, and macadamia nuts
  • Fruits and vegetables (mixed fruit salad and mixed frozen vegetables, also considered to be processed, are exempt)
  • Bagged and unbagged lettuce, but not in grocery store salad bars.

For more information on COOL, go to the United States Department of Agriculture site here at ams.usda.gov/cool.

(Source: Consumer Reports)

Keep Your Workouts Safe: Follow These 10 Rules!

Today I’m going to give you the 10 best practices for a SAFE workout.

The first thing to remember about keeping your workouts safe is to avoid doing too much cardio. Particularly if you’re just starting out in a new routine or haven’t done much cardio lately. More is not necessarily better!

Same goes for strength training. More is not necessarily better. So here are the:

Top 10 Rules for Safe Workouts

  1. It is important to train conservatively and not overdo things. If you are doing resistance training (and everyone should), don’t do any exercise that you aren’t sure how to do. Always get personal instruction from a certified trainer.
  2. Don’t do anything that hurts or doesn’t feel right. There are plenty of alternate exercises for any exercise in any workout program. Just ask a qualified trainer for help.
  3. Whenever you start a new resistance-training program, use lighter weights than normal and perform only one set per exercise. This will minimize the muscle soreness that you can expect with any new program.
  4. If you need extra recovery time within the workout or between workouts, don’t hesitate to take it. Most beginners only think about how they can do more and more exercise to help them lose weight faster. But everyone (from beginners to pro athletes) needs some days of light exercise to allow the muscles to repair. And don’t worry. If you do the right type of exercise, you’ll still lose fat even when you are not working out at the gym.
  5. Check your ego at the gym door and start with the easier alternate exercises, even if you have exercised in the past. New movements, even those that look easy, will cause muscle soreness. This goes for yoga too. Many beginners overstretch and end up with the same kind of injuries often associated with weight training. So no matter what you do, be conservative.
  6. Do not do interval training or hard cardio more than four times per week. Even pro athletes don’t play hard every day. Doing too much cardio is the biggest reason beginners end up hurt, frustrated, and in the doctor’s office. Research shows that all you need to lose fat is three interval-training workouts per week. When you do cardio, you’re doing the same movement thousands and thousands of times in the same workout. If you have even the smallest injury, it will be magnified by this repetition.
  7. Never skip a warm-up. Instead of using the treadmill to warm up, do a general body weight circuit of easy squats, easy push-ups, and ab planks to prepare your body for resistance training.
  8. If you decide to use running as your form of interval training, make sure your shoes are in good shape, always do an extra-thorough warm-up, and pay attention to the running surface. If you use a treadmill, please operate it safely.
  9. If you have any type of injury at all, rehabilitate the injury before you start an exercise program. You are better off committing three weeks to rehab now, before the injury becomes serious, than to neglect your body and be forced to stop exercising for three months later on.
  10. All together now: “Safety first!” Check with your health care professional before starting any new exercise or diet program, if you have any doubts about your health. There is no need to get hurt, no matter how serious you are about getting into shape.

Don’t Let Your Workouts Be the Reason You Can’t Work Out

Those are the top 10 safety tips to keep in mind before you start working out. Don’t make the classic beginner mistake of doing too much exercise too soon.

And know that your diet will have a much greater impact on your weight loss results, so there’s no reason to over-exercise. Your program should include resistance training and interval training to help you burn fat, but you only need to exercise three times per week with total-body workouts.

Hope these guidelines help!

Have You Ever Eaten Candy To Relieve Stress?

I read an article recently that said that the economy is wreaking havoc on Americans’ health. And, according to the findings of a landmark Gallup poll, Americans’ stress levels soared in 2008 and continue to rise each year.

But one economically related health risk mentioned in the article really jumped out at me.

It said that more and more Americans are turning to a tried-and-true stress reliever for comfort: CANDY.

Auto manufacturers and insurance companies may be struggling. But candy companies are thriving. Cadbury’s profits rose 30 percent in 2008 and continue to increase. Nestle’s increased by nearly 11 percent. And Hershey’s profits surged by 8.5 percent in the last quarter of 2008 and its stock price has been soaring.

Sure, indulging in sugary foods may make you feel better temporarily. But in the long run, it’s going to ruin your health.

According to organic chemist and nutrition expert Shane Ellison, “If left unchecked, an addiction to sweets spikes blood sugar and the fat-storing hormone insulin, disrupts satiety (causing you to overeat), and gives rise to age-accelerating molecules known as AGEs (advanced glycation end products). AGEs are responsible for causing wrinkles and age-related blindness, as well as premature heart attacks and stroke.”

And interestingly enough, I was just reading about AGEs detrimental effect and its link to Alzheimers.

Eventually, too much sugar can result in SERIOUS health problems, including insulin resistance, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

If you’re turning to sweets to feel better, I recommend that you try confections made with “safe” sweeteners like erythritol, stevia, agave, xylitol and luo han guo. Or stick to dark chocolate, which is high in antioxidants and has a host of other health benefits.

Of course I always recommend that you monitor your TOTAL sugar intake because sugar is sugar is sugar, even if it’s the “healthy” kind. I also recognize that most folks are going to eat some form of candy or sweets, so it’s helpful to pass this information along to you so you make better sugar choices.

Eat Fat To Lose Body Fat!

Did you know you have to eat fat to lose body fat? For women, that may be the hardest idea to accept in their health-gaining, fat-losing efforts. When I say that, though, it leads to a ton of questions.

Last week a client told me this story. She said, “Shelli, I tried to tell one of my walking buddies that I use coconut oil for cooking and she couldn’t believe it. I suggested she try it too. I think she thought I was trying to kill her. She said her doctor told her to stop eating all saturated fat and that oils like coconut oil are fattening. How do I explain to her that it’s actually good for her?”

This is not uncommon because people have a really hard time believing that coconut oil is not “fattening” or “dangerous”. We have all been falsely led to believe that fat, especially saturated fat, is the cause of our weight gain and health problems. This is only half true. Some fats like hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils do contribute to heart disease and weight gain, but good fats like coconut oil, butter, and olive oil are actually great fats for our bodies. Think about how much healthier people were in the late 1800’s and very early 1900’s. Heart disease was almost unheard of back then.

So let’s tackle some of these MYTHS about coconut oil.

Myth #1 – Coconut oil contains a lot of fat so it must be fattening.

Truth – Not all fat makes you fat. Certain fats do cause weight gain, but other good fats will actually burn unwanted fat off your body and accelerate your metabolism. And most importantly, your body needs fat to survive and thrive!

Myth #2 – Coconut oil contains almost all saturated fat so it must be bad for you.

Truth – Saturated fat is not the cause of heart disease, weight gain, and high cholesterol. Saturated fat has been falsely accused and it is SUGAR that is the “enemy”.

Myth #3 – Coconut oil should be avoided by those who are at risk for heart disease.

Truth – The fat in coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils you can consume. It is rich in lauric acid, which is known for its antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties and contains no trans fat. The saturated fat in coconut oil is different from many other oils in that it is of the medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) variety. The body digests MCFAs more easily and sends these fats directly to the liver, where they are immediately converted into energy. So coconut fat is actually fat that is used to make energy instead of storing fat on our bodies.

I highly recommend everyone use unrefined, organic coconut oil. 1-2 teaspoons for most cooking is more than enough. You can even use it raw if you like. I think it tastes great! I usually consume about 2-3 total tablespoons per day, which is a good amount for a fat burning eating plan. While it’s really good for you, there’s no need to overeat it.

Enjoy your coconut oil!