Category Archives: Pro Tips

Don’t Believe The Hype

If there’s one piece of advice I could get people to listen to when it comes to health and fitness, it would be this. Don’t believe the hype. It’ll save you time, money, injury and disappointment.

There is no quick fix, magic formula or miracle pill. After all my years in the industry I can tell you it doesn’t exist. Sorry. Nothing works for everyone. I could have a dozen competitors in one competition and they’d all be on different programs, yet with the same goal, to be symmetrical, conditioned and lean on stage.

You can’t surf the net without being bombarded by ads for food that fight fat, the ultimate diet or quick fix workout program. Don’t buy into it, literally. Save your money. Do some research and know that there isn’t a secret you need to pay for. You just need to put in the time and effort.

Beware the “new, revolutionary” diet or exercise program.

I’m a big fan of Pinterest, but I cringe every time I see a quick fix workout pasted on a picture of a super fit model. First, behind those quick fix workouts are links to sites either selling something or getting paid to advertise something. Second, those models in the Pinterest photos did NOT get their physiques by following the 10 minute workout that’s posted along with their photos. I’m not saying all the workouts aren’t valuable, any time you’re getting up and moving, it’s a good thing, but it’s also false advertising. What’s the harm in that? This is what happens. Someone with the best intention does the 10 minute workout diligently for a month, maybe more. They being to get discouraged because they’re not looking like the model in the picture they’ve been staring at every time they work out and inevitably they end up quitting.

A lot of the Pinterest programs have you overtraining, as though pushing you to more than your max is going to make you feel like you’re “really” doing something and you’re going to get in shape fast. What actually happens, however, is your body gets overtrained, which means you lose your appetite or desire to eat healthy, you lose your desire to work out, you get injured, you experience sleep loss or experience extreme fatigue.
Go ahead, browse those workouts, but be aware of what’s behind them. Those pictures link to websites that are trying to take your money. DO USE COMMON SENSE.

The health and fitness industry is big business with the goal of making money.

Writers need to be wary of agents who approach them and say if the author pays them x amount of dollars, the agent will get them published and make them famous. The same thing applies to anyone trying to take your money. I think because it’s the health and fitness industry, people believe what they see. How could anyone possibly steer someone wrong about their health? Sorry, but there are cutthroats in the fitness industry too.

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

But it’s not, and they’re not. If it were easy, broccoli would taste like ice cream. If it were easy, there wouldn’t be diet pill scams and no one would need help from a trainer or nutritionist. It is hard, acknowledge that and know that you can do it anyway.

There is no magic pill, there is no magic food, there is no magic workout. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Consumers beware, as they say. Remember the health and fitness industry is a business, like any other and their goal is to make money. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, people who are passionate about health and fitness and who want to help people. Helping people live healthy lifestyles are what they do for a living (says the personal trainer) but those people will tell it to you like it is. They won’t try and sell you a pill or a quick fix. They’ll tell you the same thing I am. It takes time. It takes dedication and even sacrifices to get true lasting results.

Save your money, go out and do a physical activity you enjoy and eat a sensible diet. Or, do some research and find someone who will give it to you straight up and won’t try to sell you a quick fix. Instead, they’ll give you an opportunity to make permanent changes toward a healthier lifestyle.

Adapted excerpt From: Sandra Wickham. “Health and Fitness for Creative People.”

healthandfitnessforcreativepeoplecover

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Filed under Diet, fitness, Health, Health Ally, Nutrition, Pro Tips

Still Looking for the Quick Fix?

I don’t think I’m posting a spoiler if I say that when it comes to health and fitness, there is no such thing as a quick fix. You’d think by now, this would be common knowledge, with plenty of fitness experts out there trying to get the message across.

Unfortunately, millions of dollars are being spent right now by people who are looking for the fastest results with the least amount of work. Diets, workout equipment, all the craziest things you can think of, if someone is selling it along with a promise of instant success, people will buy it. Sadly, they will be disappointed. The secret to success is small steps and small, permanent changes.

What the focus really needs to be on is a change of habits to healthy ones. It’s not going to happen overnight, but if you stick with it, you will reap the benefits. It’s so important to remember it’s all relative to where you start, what your goals are and what success means to you. Getting yourself to a level of health with which you feel comfortable, proud and satisfied is what it’s all about.

Set realistic goals. Don’t be in such a hurry to see results that if you don’t see any, you give up. Be patient with yourself. Do it because you deserve it and because you’re worth the time and effort.

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How to Scare People

It’s my turn over at the Inkpunks blog and I’m going to send you over there to check out my post. I wrote about what I learned from the workshop at VCon with Dan Wells on how to scare people. It’s great stuff, you should read it. I can say that without bragging because it’s really all just Dan’s great advice I’m repeating. Go! Now! Learn How to Scare People.

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Periodization Training

When planning your fitness program, it is a good idea to use the principle of periodization in order to make continuous forward improvement while avoiding burn out.

Periodization is a principle used in may sports. It involves planning your workout year into smaller segments to avoid overtraining while consistently making improvements.

Four to six weeks is about the right length of time for one program, but everyone is different and it really depends on the individual. My length of time is short, I can’t go more than four to five weeks of really intense training before I need a break. How did I learn that? By listening to my body over the years (and it took time!) and learning how much it could handle.

The length of time will also depend on how intense your workout weeks are. Easing into a program for a couple of weeks would allow you to go longer without needing a break. Don’t fall into the mindset that working out different body parts, or in different ways will give your body rest. When you workout, your entire neuromuscular system is affected every time, meaning it doesn’t matter if you’re training upper body one day and going for a bike ride the next, your entire body is affected and it needs breaks.

A week of active rest will gives your body time to recover, and helps you refresh mentally. Take it easy that week. If you’re lifting weights, lift at about 50% of what you normally do. If you’re swimming six days a week, back it off for two or three easy swims that week. Whatever your activity, you can apply the 50% per cent rule to give your body a rest, or take the entire week off.

After the rest week, ease back into your new program, steadily increasing the effort until you surpass the point you were at before you took the break. For a specific event, a running race, cycling race, physique competition, whatever it may be, work your way backwards from the date of the competition in blocks of weeks, figuring out where your rest weeks should fall so that you peak for the competition.

Using periodization will help avoid the stops and starts associated with overtraining and will have you progressing steadily to higher and higher levels of fitness.

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More is Not Always Better: How to Avoid Overtraining

The motto “More is not always better,” applies strongly to fitness training. Unfortunately, sometimes the more we push ourselves, the more we are at risk for overtraining.

There are several signs and symptoms of overtraining to be aware of. You may not experience all of these symptoms, but even a few is a good indication that it is time to take a rest day, review your workout plan and re-energize. You may experience any of the following: fatigue, frequent colds or sickness, injury, loss of appetite, insomnia or oversleeping, excessive muscle soreness, loss of interest in training, elevated resting heart rate.

The best cure is prevention, as they say, and there are many things that you can do to avoid overtraining. They are based on the fact that our bodies can only withstand so much training without getting some rest and recovery in return. If we want to be functioning in top form, we need to take some time and pay a little bit extra attention to our body’s recovery.

Ways to Avoid Overtraining

1)    Work at an Appropriate Level

If you’re new to working out or to a particular form of exercise, ease into it! The best intentions can lead to too much too soon and have you injured, tired and forced to quit because your body isn’t ready for it. Slow and steady wins the race.

2)   Get Adequate Rest

Your body recovers while it is resting, so it is vital that you get a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis. Set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it, getting your body used to falling asleep at an early time each night. If you need to, implement some techniques that will help you fall asleep. You can do relaxation exercises for your mind and body before going to bed, drink teas that help you sleep like chamomile, listen to relaxing music, or use some lavendar scented oils or candles. Don’t feel bad about taking naps, either! I use to get loss of productivity guilt when I took naps, but sometimes you need them!

3)   Keep a Journal

Writing down how you are feeling throughout your preparation will help you be aware of any symptoms that appear. If you are constantly writing in your journal that you feel tired or you feel as though a cold is coming on, you will recognize these things as signs you are overtrained. Many times we simply ignore the symptoms until they lead to devastating results such as a serious injury or negative changes in physique and performance. Be honest with yourself and be aware!

4)  Monitor your Resting Heart Rate

The best time to check your resting heart rate is first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. The first time you take it, the number is not that significant because we all have slightly different resting heart rates. It is the following heart rate checks that will let you know if something is wrong. If your resting heart rate rises significantly it is a sure sign that you are overtraining and need to ease up a little bit.

5)   Plan your Workouts Carefully

Trying to fit in cardiovascular training and strength training can overwhelm your body. Try to space out your sessions to give your body time to recover and always take at least one full day of rest a week!

6)   Take a 50% Week *

It is nearly impossible to work our bodies intensely for long periods of time without negative side effects. Taking a 50% week means cutting your weights down to 50% of what you would normally do, and taking it easy on the cardio and routine. This is better than taking a full rest week, but it will still give your body a bit of a rest. When you are excited and motivated for your fitness journey, the last thing that you want to do is stop training. On the other hand, if you end up overtraining, your body may force you to take time off or even keep you from workout out at all.

7)  Drink tons of water!

Not only a great way to burn fat, improve your skin, and keep energized, water is necessary for all of your bodies functions, including recovering from workouts. It is important to drink as much as possible, especially when you are training hard, sweating a great deal, or training in the hot weather. Set a goal and keep track of how much you drink in a day to make sure that you are getting enough.

8)  Take an anti-oxidant and other supportive supplements

Toxins are created in our bodies as a by-product from working out. Taking antioxidants such as vitamin c, alpah lipoic acid, grape seed, or grapefruit seed extract can help combat these unwanted toxins. Taking a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement will help your body stay healthy and functioning properly. Other supplements such as glutamine can be taken regularly after workouts and at night before bed to help the body recover from the stress of training.

9)  Recovery Aids

Anything that helps you relax and stimulates circulation will help your body recover. If you have access to a hot tub, steam room or sauna, use them at every opportunity. If you don’t have access to any of these facilities, simply soaking in a bath with Epsom salts or other rejuvenating oils, salts etc will be helpful. Another great recovery technique is the “hot/cold” shower. Although not always the most fun, it’s a great way to boost your circulation and you body’s recovery powers. After a few minutes of hot shower water, turn it to cold (as cold as you can stand) for a few minutes, return to hot and repeat. It is extremely invigorating! Another great treatment for hard working muscles is massage. While professional massages will provide you with the most effective results, even an amateur massage helps circulation and helps stimulate recovery.

You know your body better than anyone else, so watch for signs and symptoms of overtraining. If your body is telling you it’s time to ease up a little, you better listen or it will use harsher means of telling you in the form of sickness and injury. Be aware how your body is feeling throughout your training so that nothing holds you back from reaching your goals!

*I will be following up this post with one on Periodization, how to plan out your workouts to be the safest and most effective for your body

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Before and After Ads Have Always Pissed Me Off

Whenever I see those Before and After ads for the latest and greatest supplement, my eyes roll and I want to scream at people not to fall for it. I always think, sure, take a bodybuilder (or fitness/fitness/bikini competitor) when they’re off season, bloated, have them wear completely unflattering clothing under bad lighting,  then retake a picture when they’ve been dieting and training, wearing a flattering outfit with a tan, make up, hair done and of course they’re going to look better! I guarantee you it’s NOT from the supplement being advertised. It makes me Hulk angry, because no one but the Hulk transforms that fast!

Andrew Dixon took that a step further, and in a blog post he called “Seduced by the Illusion,” he decided to see if he could do instant before and after shots. From his blog, “I decided to take my own transformation photos to see what was possible with just a few easy tweaks. About 6 months ago I was around 185lbs and about 16% body fat. I was feeling particularly bloated on the day, so I asked my girlfriend to take a before shot. I then shaved my head, face and chest and prepared for the after shot, which was about an hour after I took the before shot. I did a few pushups and chin-ups, tweaked my bedroom lighting, sucked in , tightened my abs and BOOM! We got our after shot.”

Andrew says, “There is no doubt that we live in a world of manipulation, false promises and exaggerated claims. This is especially true in the fitness industry. I’ve been a personal trainer for over 11 years, and clients and friends are always telling me about the next amazing diet or exercise program.  Like Insanity or P90X hold the secrets to fat loss.” I could quote his whole blog, it’s fantastic, reflects my thoughts and anyone working on transforming their physique should definitely go and take a look at it here. 

But wait, you say, you have before and after pictures of your clients on your website! Yes, I do, but those are competitors. We show their stage after photos (not on the beach or in their own house) to show that they have done ALL the intense work required by a competitor (proper nutrition, cardio, strength training) over a long period of time (at least 16 -20 weeks, some an entire year!) to get to the point they’re at, including a fabulous stage suit, hair, make up and FAKE stage tan! They trained and dieted to extreme measures to be competitive. It wasn’t a quick fix, there was no miracle pill.  No illusions, just hard work.

National Level Fitness Competitor Antonia Before Competition Training and After On Stage

Which is the point of Andrew’s blog. Wisely he tells us, “Forget about the quick transformations and focus on a life of healthy eating, well managed stress levels, quality sleep and plenty of movement.”

I concur. It’s not a race. Don’t believe the hype.  Focus on making lifestyle changes that will help you reach your goals of living a healthier lifestyle.

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Satisfactory Sub-plots, Now With Pictures

This is a blog post to direct you to another blog post. I invited Howard Tayler to guest blog over at the Inkpunks and he did a fantastic post on sub-plots. You must check it out! If you’re not familiar with Howard, he’s best know as the writer and illustrator behind Schlock Mercenary, the Hugo-nominated science fiction comic strip. Howard is also featured on the Parsec award-winning “Writing Excuses” podcast, a weekly ‘cast for genre-fiction writers. 

Read Howard’s post here: Satisfactory Sub-plots, Now With Pictures » Inkpunks

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