Anti-Resolution, Anti-F It Holiday Thoughts (AKA, Navigate the Middle)
It’s the beginning of the week after THANKSGIVING, you guys.
Granted, it’s Tuesday, not Monday (the universal day of starting over), but close enough.
Concerning our fitness/nutrition, one of two things is likely happening:
1. You’re thinking about how dope the holidays are, enjoying the fluff season and thinking, “what’s a barbell?”, and baking a boatload of cookies.
2. You’re thinking about how dope the holidays are, but how much you’ve overindulged so you better not touch a single cookie ever again and you better get your booty in the gym for cardio at 4am and then for another strength session in the evening.
And I feel you.
I used to struggle with binge eating, so the holiday season was basically an excuse for me to not do any internal work with that and eat everything in sight. And…eventually…feel like I should do hours of cardio as penance for my sins. And then I’d hate that (I mean, honestly, who actually *likes* cardio?), and eventually give up and the pendulum would swing back, moving from #1 to #2 about 230923 times throughout the year.
Fast forward 3y later. I got to enjoy the holidays, feeling the love intended by my boyfriend’s family’s delicious spread (thank you!!), without feeling the accompanying food-related guilt and shame. Not because I finally successfully followed some rigid set of rules and made myself like cardio, but because I learned how to have peace with both (okay, well, not the cardio. But with exercise that I actually enjoy). I didn’t get there overnight, and we’ve talked about some strategies to combat the rule-setting dogma that nutrition philosophy can become here, here, and here, so feel free to check that out and/or reply for more in-depth discussion!
But, short version, peace and strength and keeping in line with our goals – even during the holidays! – is not only possible, but probable if we throw out the pressure coming from “the rules.”
There is no such thing as a “good” or a “bad” food, outright. Nothing is universal when it comes to our metabolisms: what works for you may not work for the next person (which is what makes nutrition both so fun and so frustrating). Knowing this helps us to stop with the diets and the mindsets that don’t serve us, instead allowing the room to become the detective to find what actually works for us. Because, seriously, food is great. And the second something goes on the naughty list, it’s all I can think about. Plus, food is part of our culture and an expression of love. There’s no need to demonize it- #ItsJustFood. We simply need to find what works for us and what doesn’t.
ESPECIALLY throughout this season, where many people stress over food (from its preparation to accommodating diet preferences to feeling like we “shouldn’t” eat something), finding what works can seem overwhelming, but it’s simple: what keeps us full but not uncomfortably stuffed, what energizes us, what helps us meet our calorie needs, what keeps our cravings under control, what brings us joy…which, I’ve found, is almost never what someone else tells me should.
Also important to remember is that exercise is not punishment.
It’s tempting to want to “work off” an indulgent season, especially given all the #fitfam fotos of girls in their underwear doing “fasted cardio” at like, 3 in the morning (what are you training to be, Batman? Who works out at that time?). Not to shame them or anything, because if that’s what you want, then, by all means, go for it. This is the perfect opportunity, however, to recognize a few things flawed with fitness trends.
“Working off” an indulgent season is a rocky mindset and one that we will never catch up to, since it’s impossible to be perfect with nutrition and workouts all the time. In my experience, a better way to think about our fitness is by remembering that we (usually) don’t need to tell toddlers to run around and play; they just do it, because it’s fun to move around and wiggle and run with our friends. Finding a form of movement that brings us this joy and that allows us to get in touch with our bodies (and spirits!) will serve us far longer than whatever is trending.
While I’m on topic, “fasted cardio” – doing cardio in the morning before we eat anything – is a trend mostly popularized by bodybuilders. They claim that since we’ve fasted, there aren’t carbs (our bodies’ preferred source of fuel) to burn, so we burn more calories from fat. Which, granted, is true…sort of. So they walk at low intensity (both because they’re hungry and because the science says that at lower intensities of exercise, a greater percentage of calories burned are fat) on a treadmill before breakfast for an hour or so.
At lower intensities of exercise, we *do* burn a greater percentage of calories from fat than from carbs. However, at lower intensities of exercise, we burn fewer calories overall. So, doing an hour of fasted cardio does burn a greater *percentage* of calories from fat, but fewer calories *overall*. A better strategy would be to lift some heavy shit (my favorite pastime, besides Netflix): burns more calories (and, even though a lower percentage of them are fat, we’re burning more, so probably burning just as much fat, if not more), uses our muscles, provides a challenge and, therefore, a true sense of deep accomplishment.
Basically, what I just told you is, if you felt like adding early-AF starving cardio sessions in 2017, go back to bed and save yourself some time. Use a barbell for 30m whenever you feel like it.
Another thing trending in the fitness world in a positive way is a greater focus on prehab and mobility, which, if we’re new to exercise (or haven’t done anything for our flexibility and mobility besides touch our toes in years), is a great place to start. Adding in some mobility, flexibility, and stabilization work is a great place to build a base to create more muscle (yay for looking sculpted), burn more calories, have more fun, and prevent injuries (now and in the future).
I’ve attached a shareable graphic- it's actually two different lighter conditioning workouts I use on off days, or when I’m just not feeling something heavy.
If you’re feeling it, try them out and let me know how it goes!
There are 2 more graphics for warmups and dynamic flexibility- those on my email list got them this morning. Subscribe (button at the bottom of page!) for extra content like this.
Next week, we’ll be talking a little more deeply about the barbell and why I love it, including why weight-based workouts >>>>> everything.
Until then, #relaxxx and move from either camp #1 or #2 above and find a 3rd – it’s time to find a way of eating and exercising we can live with forever. Nothing but time!