Ditch New Year Resolutions!

Simple google search for “New Year Resolutions” brings up over 195 million results in less than a second. Seems like people all over the world get the itch to start something new at the beginning of a new year. Maybe it has something to do with the holiday spirit, maybe with the all the regrets that come to mind about things we haven’t achieved throughout the year. But let’s face it, “New Year – New Me” sounds as “magical” as “I’ll start on Monday”.

Here is why resolutions fail

  • You are not sure about your WHY

You are “promising” yourself to start exercising, stop smoking, read more, eat better, etc. but have you defined the WHY behind your actions? Is it simply because you think you should be making these changes or you actually found the real reason to do so? If you don’t identify your true reasoning, motivation will fade faster than you expect and before you know it, you are back to square one.

  • Your resolution is too lofty

It’s o.k. to be ambicious about your goals, in fact, I think it’s necessary. But at the same time, it’s important to remember that every big goal starts with small steps and a LOT of work. If you are aiming to achieve a goal of serious proportions, it could be useful to recognize that the year ahead is just a beginning and a first stepping stone to your goal, a journey that is filled with hard work and setbacks. In other words, GET REAL.

  • You don’t believe in yourself

It’s one thing to “wish you could do something” and it’s a completely different feeling to “believe you can do it”. The way you feel often dictates how you act. Believe in yourself, you can do it!

The real solution to your resolutions

  • “Time is a concept that humans created” – Yoko Ono

Change your mentality. Yes, holidays are special because we get to spend quality time with friends and family but other than that, there is nothing special about it. There is no magic in January 1…And if so, what’s the point of waiting “until after the holidays” to start something you really need to start working on? Start now.

  • Find your reason

Nothing works unless you do, and while we often feel enthusiastic and excited about achievement of a new goal, in order for that feeling to last we need to be clear about our reasons. Find your reason, find your WHY.

New year will always be different from a previous one, but wheather that change is intentional or not, largerly depends on us.

Recovery: Hot vs Cold

Growing up as an athlete in Russia I always knew that a hot bath or wet sauna are great for recovery. When I moved to the US, however, I quickly realized that this concept is quite foreign to athletes and fitness enthusiasts here. More often than not I see people applying ice packs to the sore or swollen muscles and when I suggest doing the opposite I am usually met with a puzzled look.

Let’s take a look at the science behind both options.

Cold Therapy for Recovery

A hard workout will create small trauma to the muscle and other tissues, which means inflammation. Cold therapy is aiming to reduce the inflammation as fast as possible and relieve the discomfort. But here is the thing, inflammation is NOT a problem in this setting, itis only dangerous if it becomes chronic. Inflammation is a necessary tool that acts as a signal for recovery. Taking ice bath, for example, does indeed reduce inflammation but it also slows down the recovery process.

On the other hand, cool rather than cold bath/shower may help the recovery. During the workout, blood rushes to the muscles and our vessels become wider. Taking a cool shower or bath helps with shrinking blood vessels just enough to reduce the inflammation without postponing the recovery.

Hot Tub or Heat

When my clients pull a muscle I usually recommend applying some cold for the first day and then sleep with the heating pad. Here is why. The body has a natural way of healing: inflammation, repair, remodel. Applying ice reduces inflammation, but too much of it will slow down repair and remodel. Heat on the other hand, helps keeping the vessels dilated and brings all necessary nutrients to the injury site.

I use this method on myself and my clients; I always note how much faster I heal when I apply heat vs cold, or not applying anything at all.

When it comes to post-workout recovery I now often use a combination of both: warm bath for 20min followed by a cool shower. This way I can reap the benefits of both worlds 🙂

Which option do you prefer? Have you tried other ways for a faster recovery?

Why do you gain weight

Besides the well-known reason – you eat more calories than you spend, there are quite a few reasons to why you may not be losing the weight.

1. Stress
During stressful times our bodies produce more of a stress hormone – cortisol. Chronically high levels of which lead to a lot of dis-balance. But even relatively short spikes of cortisol will affect water balance in the body. Higher cortisol levels = water retention.

2. Increase in carbs
Each gram of carbohydrate attracts up to 3g of water. So if one day you ate more carbs than usual, you sure will see it on the scale.

3. Water intake
Our bodies regulate water and sodium balance by different mechanisms. Diuretic hormone vasopressin and anti-diuretic hormone ADH are largely responsible for the water balance in your body. Every time you change your water intake your body needs time to adjust. Let’s say you drink 1 gallon of water a day on regular basis. If on one of the days you drink 2 or 3 gallons you will notice weight gain next morning because your body didn’t have time to catch up with the new water intake amount.

4. Salt intake
Similar to the water balance, the amount of salt in bodily fluids is also tightly regulated. Variation in salt intake causes cells to either shrink or swell by attracting more or less water.
Food in restaurants tends to have more flavor and salt than the one we eat at home. So often, even if you eating out meal was a good healthy option, you will see an increase in your body weight the next morning.

5. GI problems
Any kind of GI problems, like diarrhea or constipation, will cause weight fluctuations due to the constant salt and water balance change.

6. Weighing at different times/conditions
This one seems obvious, but yet… Weighing yourself first thing in the morning will always yell different results from the weight you see during the day or in the evening due to the food and fluid intake. To get the most accurate measurement, ensure you are weighing yourself in similar conditions every time.

There are a lot more reasons to why your weight can fluctuate on a day to day basis and that is exactly why weight should be used only as a tool. For the more accurate progress measurement include circumference of your waist, navel, and hips. Measuring once a week or every other week will give a good idea on whether you are moving in the right direction.

Stay fit,

GymKat 🙂

Postpartum Fitness – What Are We Missing?

Social media is saturated with images of fitness models that pride themselves on “getting their bodies back” (as if there is such thing), along with the fitness centers and boot camps that encourage you to try their “magic formula”. Being a Mom is hard. Lack of sleep, never-ending stress and responsibilities, and now, added pressure from the society that tells you “being a mom is not an excuse to be out of shape”. While it is true, it also creates a sense of urgency and a requirement for the moms to look a certain way and get that perfect body FAST.

So what SHOULD we do? Should we, women, be concerned with the “fast track to better body” or should we rather be concerned with the safe and proper way of getting a NEW, STRONGER and HEALTHIER one?

Let me start by stating one simple truth: during pregnancy, our bodies change dramatically. Once the baby is born our bodies never come back to what they used to be. POSTPARTUM IS FOREVER. It doesn’t matter if you had your baby 1 month ago or 15 years ago – you always be a postpartum athlete.

That doesn’t mean that you will never be able to get in a better shape than before the pregnancy, or that you cannot be stronger or leaner. No, not at all! Of course, YOU CAN achieve anything you put your mind to (there are plenty of examples of women that have done that). Rather, what it means is that we need to learn how to be patient with our bodies postpartum and ourselves, how to listen to the NEW body we have after the baby.

Let’s take a look at some symptoms that we should be on the lookout for AT ALL TIMES:

  • Incontinence during any type of activity or at rest

  • Diastasis Recti

  • Organ prolapse

  • Painful intercourse

  • Lack of stability during movements

This is just a short list of very COMMON but NOT normal symptoms that women experience during pregnancy or postpartum. I’ve met a lot of women that have these symptoms YEARS after having their kids and don’t do anything about it simply because they don’t know that IT IS an issue that needs to be taken care of.

I wish there was one size fits all type of workout or advice but unfortunately, there isn’t one. However, there are a few tips I would like to share that can help you become more aware of your body and determine the COURSE OF ACTIONS.

  1. Talk to a pelvic floor physical therapist

Even if you have any of these symptoms years after having your kids you can still see pelvic floor specialist that can help you understand what is going on and help you adjust your fitness routine. Even if your insurance doesn’t cover it, realize, one visit will give you a lot of valuable information.

  1. There is no rush

While it is tempting to get started with a strict workout regimen and diet in an attempt to get leaner and fitter as fast as possible, the INITIAL FOCUS should always be on RESTORING and REBUILDING. There is no right or wrong timeline, each person is different. Some of us will need just a few months to recover and rebuild, while others may require a couple of years. Either way, it all should happen on YOUR terms.

  1. Work with the specialist

Work with a personal trainer and/or physical therapist that have knowledge and expertise in this specific field. Working with people that know what they are doing, is a crucial part of the process. Note, that each professional works in his/her scope of practice. Your doctor is not there to prescribe you a corrective exercise program, a physical therapist is not there to build a workout routine for your or motivate you, and a personal trainer is not there to rehab you. The more eyes you have on you during this chapter of your life, the better and faster results you are going to see.

  1. It is SERIOUS but it’s NOT the end of the world

If you experience any symptoms postpartum please, don’t feel like it’s the end of the world. Pain and discomfort are NOT the enemies, they are SIGNALS telling us that something needs to change. There are only two mistakes you can make in this situation:

  • Ignore the signs and continue your normal routine through pain and discomfort; OR

  • Panic and get discouraged

Almost any issue that arises with pregnancy is fixable with the right approach. But in order for that to happen, you have to listen to what your body is telling you and take an action.

I hope this post brings attention to the importance of understanding the pregnancy and postpartum athleticism. If you feel like you need to get some help with getting started but don’t know where, let me know, and I’ll do my best

Stay strong and beautiful,

GymKat

Fitness is a Lifestyle

I think it is safe to say that problems are evolutionary drivers and crisis often proceeds a big change. It’s at the moment of the great discomfort we often find a new way that helps us grow.

     In 2012 when I hit the rock bottom with my emotional state, there was a moment when I felt that “enough is enough” and that it was the time to try something that I subconsciously knew could help. I needed to start creating a stronger body, because strong spirit can only reside in a strong house.

     I’ve been a professional athlete for over a decade back in Russia, but with the move, daily problems, new life, and new experiences occupied my mind and I stopped exercising on a regular basis.

     I started going to the gym next to my house. I was training religiously, trying different techniques and programs. I was training 4-6 hours on some days (that’s not a recommendation). Every single day I was showing up and training like my life depended on it, because in some sense of it, it did. When I felt like crying, I pushed myself harder, I ran faster and lifted heavier. Within several weeks I noticed my body starting to change, depression started to ease, problems were not that tragic and that future was actually more exciting than what I originally thought.

     Years of unhealthy habits allowed me to forget that overcoming difficulties in a physical state ALWAYS translates  into a stronger spirit and clearer mind. Fitness showed me my strengths and presented me with the opportunity to extend my hand to others, to prove them that they are stronger than they think they are.

     To be the “saving grace” fitness has to become a lifestyle. It has to be something that you crave. You can only crave it when you I’ve gotten the taste of what it can do for you. Give yourself a chance to feel the positive effects of healthy lifestyle and regular exercise. Give it a little time to show you how strong you are. Trust the process – nothing happens overnight! I assure you, the reward is well worth it! 🙂

Stay positive and keep grinding!

Pregnancy and Postpartum Fitness

Today, I would like to cover pregnancy and postpartum fitness. First of all, let me put you at ease by saying I’m NOT pregnant BUT there are a lot of women around me that are, so this topic just came to mind. The goal of this post is to simply bring awareness to the ongoing issue and hopefully encourage to look at this topic from a different point of view.

While pregnancy and postpartum create a new and completely different chapter of a woman’s life it is often taken lightly from a fitness point of view, and it really shouldn’t be. When we talk about postpartum fitness the first thing that comes to mind is weight loss and getting your body back. But what about the HEALING of the body that created a human-being? How does this get lost in the race for the good LOOKING body? We have this idea in the society that once the baby is out you can go back to doing what you have been doing before pregnancy as long as you “listen to your body”. But why?!

Pregnancy is a huge stress for the body, and the delivery itself creates a trauma. The muscles and connective tissues are overstretched, the hormones are all over the place… I mean, any mom will tell you that for at least one year postpartum she didn’t feel like her body belonged to her. So why do we treat it as if nothing happened?

There are so many nuances that usually accompany pregnancy and postpartum athleticism that are often overlooked or misunderstood.

Here are some examples:

  • Do you know what exercises you (or your client if you are a coach) should be and should not be doing if there is an issue of diastasis recti postpartum (besides generic “don’t do crunches”)?
  • Did you know that recommendation for pregnant women of not going above 140 heartbeats per minute during exercise is far long outdated and should not be promoted as a guideline?
  • Did you know that incontinence affects women who haven’t had babies (and sometimes men), and that 85% of women will develop this issue towards the end of the last trimester?
  • Did you know that overhead movements, jumping and running should not be implemented in MOST cases of pregnancy and postpartum?

And those are just a few of the most common issues. So simple but yet such important topics to look at and be able to screen for, but how many of us actually do that?

A big part of it is a lack of education in all branches of medicine and fitness (for ex. a Dr. who discharges a patient from the hospital with words “go back to your regular fitness activities as long as you feel fine”, along with the trainers and coaches that don’t account for all the changes that female body is going through and prescribe inappropriate exercise routine). Another part of it is social media. The feed is bursting through the seams with “get your body back” posts from new moms. And while the intention of those posts is good, the consequences are often not so much.

We also have female trainers and fitness enthusiasts that got themselves in a good physical shape soon after giving a birth. But how many are actually talking about all the behind the scenes issues that are having? And besides, nobody is claiming to be a doctor just because they are generally healthy, so why is it O.K. to give uneducated advice just based on a personal experience when it comes to postpartum fitness?

So what CAN we do?

AS COACHES

  • Educate ourselves on this particular population just like any other
  • Build a better connection with our clients so that they feel comfortable sharing important details that affect their health
  • Know when and to refer to pelvic floor specialists and physicians

AS ATHLETES

  • Work with a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist during pregnancy and postpartum (most insurance plans in the US will cover the visits, at least for some time).
  • Educate ourselves on what is normal and what signs of dysfunctions we should be on the lookout for. And by educate I don’t mean “google it”. I mean talk to qualified professionals in different areas of expertise..
  • Let every professional work in their scope of practice. You Dr is not there to prescribe you exercise program and your trainer is not there to diagnose and treat.

AS A SOCIETY 

We need to talk about pregnancy and postpartum fitness more. We need to be more aware and educated of this particular population as much as of any other (like kids, elderly patients and people with disabilities). Pregnancy and having a baby is such a huge chapter in any woman’s life and should not be overlooked and taken lightly.

With all that being said, here are some resources that helped me to be more educated on this topic:

1. Brianna Battles – “Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism” course

2. Julie Wiebe PT

3. Dr. C. Shante Cofield

I hope this post helps you look at pregnancy from a bit different angle. Using words of Brianna Battles ” Pregnancy is temporary but postpartum is forever” so it shouldn’t be treated lightly.

With Love,

GymKat