Lift heavy. Run strong. Enjoy every minute.
Fitness goes far beyond making our bodies look good; it improves our health and well-being, quality of life, self esteem and self concept. I believe exercise should be fun and enjoyable, something to look forward to—something that leaves us feeling satisfied, strong and successful!
My relationship with fitness has changed tremendously since my college days, and I expect that it will continue to evolve. However, what will never change is my belief that everyone can find a form of fitness that they love. It’s not how long you workout, but how. It’s not what you do, but how you do it. Sweat and fun are not mutually exclusive!
My Fitness Past
Fitness has been a passion of mine since I laced up my first pair of soccer shoes at age four. Organized sports played an important role during my childhood and throughout high school; I loved the social component, and enjoyed the camaraderie of being part of a team. There was no reason to worry about staying in shape because my coaches worried about that for me. In college I traded teams for treadmills, and quickly became an avid runner. Before I knew it, I was spending hours every day pounding the pavement or sweating up a storm in the campus gym.
My obsession with extreme running continued after college, until I suffered a stress fracture in my pelvis, and was sidelined for several months. It was during this time of recovery that I began re-evaluating my priorities. I started reading healthy living blogs, and discovered a new world of fitness: strength training.
My Fitness Present
It took nearly two years for me to warm up to the weight room. I’d occasionally lift dumbbells, but always felt intimidated by the brawny bodybuilder men scowling in the mirrors. I finally faced my fears last year, when I took the plunge and committed myself fully to becoming strong. Excessive running had stripped my body of muscle, and I was determined to get it back–plus more.
The custom strength-training program that Tara designed for me is a total body split, which calls for five days of heavy lifting, one or two days of cardio (when I first started out I did no cardio), and at least one full rest day. This form of fitness—lifting heavy coupled with short and intense cardio sessions—has completely transformed my body. I’ve never been stronger or felt better in my life!
You can read about my journey here:
Even though I still enjoy a long run once a week, my priority is building and maintaining healthy muscle. If you’ve never strength-trained or would like to learn more about the benefits of building muscle, check out these links:
Site dedicated to body building. The website is broken down into several sections, including one focused on information about bodybuilding. Another area provides access to a BodyBlog, the ability to track your progress and see how others are doing. There is also an area to chat with other members. This article and this article specifically address how females should weight train.
If hiring a personal trainer isn’t within your budget, check out Jamie Eason’s Live Fit Trainer. Live Fit is a 3-phase program that combines exercise, nutrition and supplementation. It’s one of the best free resources available online.
This is my trainer (and friend), Tara’s blog. She offers lots of training and nutrition tips, as well as custom-designed fitness programs.
In order to make the best muscle gains, you must pay special attention to your nutrition before and after your workouts. Most people are aware that nutrient timing is as important as nutrient composition. In other words, it’s not just what you eat, but when you eat it that gives optimal results.
Exercise breaks down our muscle carbohydrates and muscle protein stores, making it essential to replenish our bodies after a workout. My favorite way to refuel is with a whey protein shake or whey protein “icing.” Whey protein “icing” is simply protein powder mixed with a small amount of water, which creates a frosting-like consistency. I always eat a complex carbohydrate as well, such as a piece of fruit, like a banana.
So what is whey protein?
When fast-digesting whey is consumed, it results in a rapid and large increase in plasma amino acids. This translates into a quick increase in protein synthesis, while protein breakdown is not affected. Whey also has higher levels of leucine, an amino acid that stimulates protein synthesis. Whey protein is the best protein for augmenting protein synthesis rapidly, making it a good pre and post-workout choice.
I usually refuel with one of the following brands of whey protein powder after a workout:
- Tera’s Whey (Organic)
In the evenings, I always eat casein protein, which has a far slower rate of digestion than whey. This results in a slow but steady release of amino acids into the body, making it an optimal choice before a 7-8 hour fast (sleep).
My two favorite ways to enjoy casein include:
- “Casein Fudge” (I scoop Optimum Nutrition Vanilla Casein mixed with a few tablespoons water to form a “fudge-like” consistency).
- Whipped cottage cheese (cottage cheese is about 80% casein protein).
I always eat my “casein fudge” or whipped cottage cheese with 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter (usually peanut butter).