Even if you don’t have kids, you’re bound to run into them at some point during the holidays. Watch how they move, and copy them. Why? All of that crawling, rolling, rocking, and deep squatting can dramatically boost your mobility, which is the key to unlocking greater strength, according to strength and conditioning coach Steve Maxwell. No toddler around? Do the following “toddler roll” exercise to instantly open up your chest and shoulders, and release tension throughout your body.
Toddler Roll: Lie on your stomach with your legs straight and your arms extended above your head. Look over your right shoulder, reach back across the midline of your body with your right arm, and roll onto your back (don’t push off with your legs). Continue looking in the same direction as you reach across your body with your left arm and use your core to roll onto your stomach. Roll back to where you started, and repeat in the other direction. Continue rolling from side to side for 3 minutes. Click here for a video demonstration of the exercise (and to see how quickly the mobility benefits kick in).
Skipping just one workout can initiate a downward spiral, increasing your odds of skipping another one by 61 percent, according to British researchers. The solution: Think smaller. Instead of trying to carve out time for one long workout, do two or three short ones. “In so doing, you’ll boost motivation, eliminate ‘too busy’ as an excuse, and accelerate both muscle building and fat loss,” says Chad Waterbury M.S., a Los Angeles-based exercise physiologist. Click here for mini-workouts you can do anywhere.
What do Americans look forward to most during the holidays? Spending time with friends and family, according to a recent Pew Research poll, which found that 69 percent of people put socializing at the top of their holiday wish list. Leverage those social opportunities to stay in shape: Not only does exercising with a buddy boost motivation and exercise adherence, but it can also help you exercise 24 percent longer — especially if your partner is slightly fitter than you are, according to a recent study at Michigan State University.
“The burpee is the quintessential total-body conditioning move,” says Andy Speer, C.S.C.S., owner of Soho Strength Lab in Manhattan. “You get an upper and lower body burn, eccentric and concentric muscle stimuli, mobility work, a core stability challenge, and a cardiovascular pump — it’s like packing an entire workout into a single exercise.” Science agrees: 30 seconds of burpees is just as effective as an all out sprint when it comes to boosting all aspects of fitness, according to a recent study at the University of Georgia. But don’t stop there. “See how many you can do in 5 minutes,” says Speer. In each minute, work for 40 seconds, and rest for 20 seconds (exercise instructions below). “Really attack 40 second work periods, and each time you do the challenge — I recommend every week — try to do more reps,” says Speer. “Not only is this an excellent test of total body fitness, but it’s an excellent mini workout in itself.” In short, it’s the perfect do-anywhere, anytime sweat session for when friends, families, feasts, and other holiday festivities conspire to keep you from working out.
Burpee: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Lower your body and place your hands on the floor. Kick your legs back into a push-up position, perform a push-up, and then quickly reverse the move, bringing your feet back to your hands. Jump up. Begin your next rep as soon as you land.
Go ahead and indulge your cravings. Take a break from working out. But return to your normal diet and exercise program the next morning. A review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that the longer it takes you to re-focus on fitness, the more your enthusiasm for it will dim, and the harder it will be for you to get back on track. In short, a day off won’t hurt you, but a week or two off can derail your progress toward your goals. It can also inflate your waist size, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology. The researchers found that just two weeks of inactivity can increase belly fat by seven percent.
You may have heard people talk about a runner’s high or being in the zone. Sport psychologists call it flow state, but it all means the same thing: it’s the moment in time when you both feel and perform your absolute best. On average, people can easily access about 65% of their absolute strength. When you get into a flow state, you have the opportunity to push your strength to its absolute threshold. In this state, you’ll jump higher, lift more, reach farther, and hold poses longer – all while loving every minute of it!
The state is the result of your brain releasing five brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters into the body. To easily explore the differences between them, let’s enlist the help of some old friends: The Muppets.
Dopamine most closely resembles Elmo. Enthusiastic, engaged, and always wanting to experience new things, Elmo continues to seek adventure and creativity. Even when he doesn’t have all the skills necessary to do what he wants, he focuses and gets physically energized to perform the best he can.
Norepinephrine can be compared to Animal. This wild drummer is full of intense energy and keeps himself locked on select targets (e.g. the drums) which keeps all other distractions at bay.
For endorphins, we can look to How to Get Into the Fitness Zone Bear, the group’s resident comedian who wants nothing more than to relieve everyone’s pain and produce pleasure with his jokes
Anandamide is Gonzo, that daredevil who takes pride in everything that he does. Gonzo doesn’t often let fear get in his way of experimenting with new acts. In fact, his positive state prepares his body for even the most painful and ill-advised performances.
Lastly, serotonin is the one and only Kermit the Frog, the Muppet everyone calls upon to help them cope with adversity. He’s also good at giving everyone warm and fuzzy feelings long after the show is over, despite being cold-blooded.
When you’re in a flow state, all five of these neurotransmitters act as powerful painkillers and allow you to physically and mentally reach new heights.
Here are three things you can do to help yourself achieve a flow state:
Clear Process Goals. Flow is not about having clear outcome goals such as finishing a workout or losing 10 pounds. It’s about using clear goals to help you stay in the present moment. Before you’re about to perform an exercise, set a clear goal. It could be one more rep, five more seconds, lifting two more pounds, etc. Clear process goals center your mind, narrow your focus, free you from distractions, and create self-confidence.
Get Feedback. The more you know how you’re doing and the faster you can course correct any issues, the greater your chances of finding flow. While performing each exercise, quickly assess your technique and effort. Ask yourself if there is anything you should correct or if you can give more effort. When you can quickly and immediately assess your performance, you can also quickly and immediately figure out if anything needs to be improved for the next set. With this tight feedback loop, you continue to stay in the present moment, feel in control and energized, and believe in your ability to push your limits.
Challenge Yourself. Understand that your attention will be most engaged when you choose an exercise that is just above your current ability level. Tasks that are too challenging elicit fear and self-doubt. Tasks that are too easy make room for distractions.
“One of the biggest mistakes people make is to ‘save up’ for a large holiday meal,” says Rebecca Rick, M.S., RDN, a sports dietitian at eNRG Performance in Littleton, Colorado, adding that the strategy inevitably backfires. Why? You end up over-compensating for the calories you didn’t consume earlier in the day. A better plan: “Eat normally, then have a small meal before you meet up with everyone,” says Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, author of Look Great Naked. Spanish researchers agree: In their study, people who ate a “merienda,” a small meal between lunch and dinner, were 36 percent less likely to be obese than those who didn’t consume an afternoon meal. Shoenfeld’s go-to merienda: Spinach salad with chicken. “It’s packed with nutrients, and the fiber and protein will help curb your hunger,” he says. Another option: Avocado toast with tomatoes.
Eggnog. Pumpkin pie. All-day movie marathons. The holidays have a way of making even the most resolute exercisers stumble. Some holiday traps are obvious, like marshmallow sweet potato casserole (just say no to seconds). Others are more insidious (using whole wheat bread does not make stuffing healthy). But by far the greatest obstacles to staying lean are our own misconceptions, says Rebecca Rick, M.S., RDN, a sports dietitian at eNRG Performance in Littleton, Colorado. Here are four of the most common ones, and four easy solutions to help you greet the New Year slimmer and stronger than ever.
Myth: Americans gain an average of 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and January 1st Fact: Most people don’t plump up during the holidays. The average weight gain is around 1.7 pounds, according to a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Your move: Don’t obsess about what you eat, but do be strategic about it, says study author Jamie Cooper, PhD, an associate professor of food and nutrition at the University of Georgia. If you overindulge during Thanksgiving dinner, don’t sweat it—but also don’t gorge on leftovers for days afterward. Freeze extra food to eat in small portions during the next month or two. “Be careful about how and what you eat at holiday parties as well,” suggests Cooper. “If you’re going to a potluck, bring a healthy dish, because then you’ll know you have at least one nutritious option.” (Our suggestion: Roasted fennel and farro salad.)
Myth: You’re too busy to work out Fact: “You’re not—especially during the holidays,” says Dale Wagner, PhD, an associate professor at Utah State University who studies holiday weight gain. Sure, high-calorie meals make you sluggish, and cold weather makes outdoor workouts unappealing. But if you’re cashing in extra PTO days in November and December, you probably have more hours than usual to sneak in a workout despite an increased demand to play Candy Land and watch The Grinch, says Wagner. Your move: Get creative about burning calories. “Look at additional free time as an opportunity to do things that you normally wouldn’t do,” says Wagner, who suggests cross-country skiing or snowshoeing with family or friends instead of, say, sitting around the fire or television. Performed at moderate intensity, cross-country skiing torches as many calories as cross-country running (643 calories per hour on average for a 150 pound individual), while snowshoeing is similar to hiking (379 calories per hour on average).
Myth: If you’re already fit, you’re less likely to plump up Fact: Being in shape doesn’t shield you from the effects of overindulgence and inactivity, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Yes, you have more “metabolically active tissue” (i.e., muscle) than most people. Yes, your metabolism operates in a higher gear if you work out regularly. No, those benefits don’t last long or protect you from a 3,000-calorie meal, like the average Thanksgiving dinner. “Generally, the benefits start to fade after a few days,” says study author Dale Schoeller, PhD, a professor emeritus of nutritional sciences at the University of Wisconsin. Stretch that out to two weeks, and your belly fat can rise by 7 percent, according to a meta-analysis in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Your move: Stay focused. You don’t have to do the workouts you normally do, but do something (like the activities mentioned above). “And if you can, increase your step count to offset the caloric cost of indulgences,” says Schoeller. A brisk 30 minute walk can burn approximately 154 calories. An even better goal is to increase your total daily step count. Shoot for at least 7,500 steps a day, and do at least 3,000 of them at a cadence of 100 steps per minute, suggest researchers at the Walking Behavior Laboratory at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Myth: Whatever weight you gain, you’ll lose in the New Year Fact: Odds are you won’t. Although most people only gain a pound or two during the holidays, the majority of them never lose it, according to scientists reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine. Not only do most people not follow through with their resolutions, but they also don’t curb their eating habits. Indeed, people tend to buy more calorie’s worth of food between January and March than during any other time in the year, according to a study by Cornell University. Why? Because while they buy more healthy foods, they don’t cut back on the unhealthy ones. “It’s called ‘cognitive bias’,” says study author David Just, PhD. “You pick up more veggies than you did last week, feel good about it, and reward yourself with a treat.” The result: A higher net caloric intake. Your move: Treat grocery shopping like vacation packing: Make a list, determine what’s essential, and leave half the remaining items on the shelf. That should give you enough indulgences to satisfy your cravings without inflating your bottom line (just so we’re clear, that’s a bad thing in the context of weight loss). Also, keep your grocery lists stored on your phone so you can figure out which high-calorie foods you indulge in too often, says Just.
You know what I find funny? You think that once you’re in shape that your body image issues go away. WRONG! What else I find funny, is that even fitness professionals like Shaun T have body issues. As he and I have become best friends, he’s taught me a lot about body image, but the most important thing he’s taught me (and he doesn’t even know it) is that by him having body image issues he’s shown me that we ALL deal with it. And it’s ok!
When I say Shaun has body image issues, I mean that he has those days where he’ll come up to me and ask me “Do I look fat?” When he first asked me that, I wanted to punch him in the face, but then I realized he was serious. To him there are days that he feels fat! To you and me, we would think “Are you serious?”, I’d give almost anything to look like you. Then I had to realize that yes, even fitness professionals have days where they feel fat.
I don’t know why this makes me feel better, except to say that it does and should with you, make you feel NORMAL. So I started talking to Shaun about this and one thing he said that rang so true with me is this:
“When we look in the mirror, our eyes always go to what we hate the most.”
And he’s right. When you look in the mirror, you always see what you don’t like about yourself, not the 10lbs you’ve lost, not the biceps or your calves from your years of running or playing sports … you see the flab (usually on your stomach) or the somewhat double chin or whatever you find to be your trouble area.
Your mind can play some serious tricks on you and you would be surprised at what’s there, that you’re not seeing. What I mean is this: people see us differently then we see ourselves. So many people pay me compliments on my arms, talk about how fit or muscular I am and you know what? I walk away from it not believing it. I will constantly go up to Alisha and say,
“I wish I saw myself the way others see me.”
She always tells me they’re right, but in my mind I still see and feel like the overweight 255lb guy that I was 7 or 8 years ago. It’s crazy…correction it’s STUPID. I share this because it’s really hard to shake this, Shaun and I both have talked about this and we both go through it … trust and believe.
Sometimes I go and watch our YouTube videos from years past and think “Man I was fit back then when I first did Asylum!” and then I realize that even then I didn’t appreciate or see myself the way I actually was … fit!
So my question for you is this: Why do we do it to ourselves?
We only have one life to live, why waste it making ourselves feel less than? There are plenty of people out there who will do that for us. Fortunately, we also have people who are there to lift us up, focus on that. Believe in the people and trust them when they say you look amazing.
Ciara is a perfect example, a good friend of ours who has lost a lot of weight since we met her in January and looks amazing!!! I told her the other night how great she looks and she said “Yeah but I still feel fat and don’t like this and don’t like that.” and I realized that she does it too. We all do.
My point to you is this, you’re going to have days where you feel amazing and days where you feel fat. You’re never as good as you think you are and you’re never as bad as you think you are either. Learn to live in a space where you can see yourself as you are, amazing and unique.
Celebrate your successes, every pound, every inch counts. It’s all about the journey and you should thrive and live in each day of it. You will hit potholes and you will have stormy days but the good will always outweigh the bad. Remember that you are amazing and never compare yourself to others.
The truth is, we all have different body types. I will never have abs like Shaun does, it’s just not in my genes. But I can be happy with a flat stomach and see it as an amazing accomplishment and live in that! If I beat myself up over something I can’t change, then I’m wasting my time.
Another thing to consider that Shaun taught me, you have to be able to live a lifestyle that you can maintain. Which means if you are super strict and workout really hard to get down to 5% body fat….great! Now ask yourself can you maintain it? You may be able to, but then another person may like to indulge in sweets or alcohol and may only be able to maintain 10-12% body fat and still look amazing. In their minds, they may feel bad because they can’t stay at 5% because of what they like to eat, but they still workout hard, still look amazing and fluctuate between 5% and 10% and get upset! Let me let you off the hook, stop.
Another piece of advice I got from Shaun, live in a space you can maintain. When I was at my leanest and had the best abs I’ve ever had I was super strict with my diet, but in all honesty I can can’t maintain it. So Shaun told me,
You have to live in a space and know that you still look amazing and you’re in a space that you can maintain.
Am I super ripped? No. Am I happy? Yes! That’s all that matters. Do you, accept you and realize that you’re amazing the way you are today, you can get better tomorrow if you want and you can also live in the space you’re in. Ignore the days where the mirror talks smack and just remember that we think you’re amazing the way you are today.
One of the biggest struggles we see people go through when they’re trying to lose weight or move past the last 10lbs, is their diet. Nutrition for me, was and still is sometimes, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. So Alisha and I decided to show you one of the easiest tools you can use to simplify what can often be a very overwhelming and challenging part of your fitness journey. Let’s face it, this is where MOST people go wrong and end up quitting!
Reach out to us today if you have any questions or need help! Look forward to connecting with you.
So I dug this out of the archives because I’ve fallen in love with these. I have Alisha make a bunch of these for me and we freeze them for lunches or fast meals. Much better than a frozen pizza from the store and much better for ya! You control the ingredients!