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Month: November 2016

Mythbusting – Women, Weightlifting, and Getting “Bulky”

Mythbusting – Women, Weightlifting, and Getting “Bulky”

I could read her response before the words left her mouth.

No, I can’t read minds. But I’ve seen this script play out countless times.

I had just advised a female client that, in order to achieve her goals of losing fat and shrinking her waist line, she would benefit from getting stronger, and that lifting weights 1 – 3 days per week would accelerate her progress.

“UGH, nooooo! That will make me all bulky and gross. I don’t want to look like a man!”

So many women believe “lifting weights = bulky”. Why?

Many women are afraid to do any sort of strength training out of a fear of becoming “bulky”, “muscle-y”, or “looking gross”. This is a common – and harmful – misconception. Where does it come from?

1. Bodybuilder stereotypes

Mention weightlifting to almost any woman, and this is what immediately comes to mind:

via shutterstock.com

That’s not an exaggeration – the thought they’ll develop “man-like” huge biceps and chest muscles keeps many women from getting stronger.

This is silly. And is mainly due to..

2. Misunderstanding physiology

Testosterone is a muscle-building hormone produced naturally by both men and women.

However, women only produce a fraction of the amount of testosterone produced by men. Natural (as in those who do not use anabolic substances) female lifters cannot attain the bulky, muscular look achieved by male bodybuilders. It is physiologically impossible.

Dedicated females lift for years and years, getting stronger and stronger, and don’t come remotely close to attaining the muscle size competitive male bodybuilders do. And these are women who are stronger than many men! It’s silly to think that moderate strength training will make you look like a man!

“But what about those female bodybuilders? They’re huge!”

Yes, yes they are. They’ve also dedicated a large portion of their lives to working out – in fact, it may be a full-time job for some. Some are natural, some are “enhanced”. The point is, it takes superior genetics and years of targeted training to achieve the “female bodybuilder” look. These women train 5, 6, even 7 days a week. Strength training 1 – 3 days per week does not even come close to that level of dedication, and will NOT make you “too bulky”.

3. Word of mouth

Blame it on “old wives’ tales”, superstition, or just plain old misinformation. The “lifting = bulky” belief has taken root as factual knowledge that “everyone knows”. Like other closely held beliefs, this makes the misconception even harder to shatter.

The truth: strength training knows no gender.

Lifting weights and getting strong is NOT just for men. In fact, the lifting game works the same for women as it does for men.

Some men lift weights to get bigger – but not all. Some are solely after strength. Some want to maintain their current appearance. Some want to maintain a lean look.

It works the exact same for women!

Want to add muscle?

There’s a weightlifting routine for that.

Want to lose fat?

There’s a weightlifting routine for that.

Gain strength? Be lean? Add curves?

Check. Check. Check.

Not all strength training is created equal. There exists an endless variety of movements and routines that can be used depending on your goals. The commonality is, no matter your goal, YOU can benefit from getting stronger!

Wrapping Up

We’ve addressed reasons why many women hold misconceptions about lifting weights – and busted the myth that weightlifting makes all women bulky.

We’ve discussed that a weightlifting routine can be tailored to YOUR specific goals. So, whether you want to gain muscle, lose fat, or just stay lean and in shape, we can pick and choose exercises to customize your workouts to fit your personal goals.

Don’t let myths stop you from getting the body you deserve!

Let us know – do you have friends or family that think women shouldn’t lift weights? What are some benefits you’ve experienced from strength training?

Lifting for Fat Loss – Less is More

Lifting for Fat Loss – Less is More

Strength training is one of the best tools for shredding fat.

Strength training improves fat loss, improves glucose tolerance, increases metabolism, increases lean muscle mass, and improves body composition. It is one of the best tools we have for fat loss.

Yet when many people decide they want to shed fat, they tend to focus on cardio (vastly overrated – more on that later in a later post) and diet. Why do we neglect strength training?

“I don’t have time to go to the gym and lift weights six days a week!”

There are many misconceptions around strength training – especially lifting weights.

One of the most prominent – and harmful – is the idea that an “ideal” weightlifting routine requires five, six, or even seven days in the gym, every week.

Where does this idea come from? Why do so many of us believe it?

If you’ve ever walked by the magazine rack (yes, these still exist) at a grocery or department store, you’ve likely seen the covers for bodybuilding magazines promoting freakishly huge athletes, with headlines promoting routines “guaranteed” to get you HYOOGE in just six weeks! The articles promote 2+ hour bodybuilding routines, often requiring you to spend every day and every waking hour in the gym. No one has time for that! But, for many people, these magazines are the first introduction to weight lifting.

We also hear this concept from friends and family. Maybe it comes from “that Uncle”, the old football star who never tires of telling about his glory days, notorious for making rants about his seven-day, five-hour high school lifting routine whenever someone makes the mistake of discussing exercise at the Thanksgiving table.

Then there’s the “work one muscle group per day, every day” concept coming from your ripped buddy from college, who never accounts for the sharp decline in flexible free time after graduation (we can’t be too harsh – maybe he still hasn’t graduated).

A Harmful Misconception

The idea that resistance training requires 5 – 7 days per week is very harmful, for several reasons:

1. It leads to overtraining

Overtraining results when the body is pushed and worked too hard, and cannot properly recover from a work out.

When you overtrain, your energy levels decrease, fat loss halts, your mood goes down the toilet, and you lose motivation to workout.

The amount of training your body can handle depends on many factors – genetics, your current stress levels, and nutrition, to name a few. Unless ALL factors are perfectly controlled, there is a strong chance lifting weights seven days per week will quickly tire you out and lead to an overtrained state.

2. Burnout

Burnout and overtraining typically go hand-in-hand. Overtraining refers to the physical stress the body experiences from being pushed beyond its ability to recover. “Burnout” is the mental fatigue that comes along with it.

We experience burnout in many facets of life – burnout from work, burnout from school, burnout from being social. Working out is no different.

I LOVE lifting and being in the gym. Beyond the awesome benefits I derive from it, I really enjoy the experience of being there, pushing myself, trying to be better than my last session. I get sad when I can’t go. It is one of my favorite hobbies.

That being said, I know, from experience, that if I lift more than three or four days per week – four being the MAX – I will burn out. My progress will stall, and I’ll begin to loathe going to the gym. While I’ve gotten good physique results from lifting 6-7 days a week, it’s not worth the mental and physical drain. Remember – this is supposed to be fun!

Through experimenting, I’ve found 3-4 days each week to be my “sweet spot”. This is where we avoid burnout, and strength training continues to be an enjoyable experience.

3. It creates a mental “roadblock”.

Almost all of us know there are benefits to getting stronger. So why do we struggle to get started?

The mountain seems insurmountable, so we don’t get started. We see the “professionals” lifting every day, for hours and hours. It seems like a full-time job. And to them, it IS a full-time job.

We are not Ronnie Coleman, or Lebron James, or J.J. Watt. We are not athletic professionals. We get paid to care for patients, win cases for clients, develop new marketing campaigns, and educate students. We workout to better ourselves – but we have to find time to do so outside our full-time jobs.

You don’t need to spend seven days in the gym to look good, feel good, and perform at the top of your field. Unfortunately, this misconception keeps many from starting in the first place.

The Truth: 120 minutes to a better you

By now, the illusion of needing seven days in the gym per week to look and feel good should be shattered.

Strength training two or three days per week will lead to fat loss, a leaner body, and higher confidence.

Turns out that less can be more. Many of us will see better results lifting two or three days per week compared to six or seven, especially during times of high stress. Our body has finite resources to use for recovery. When we go through a period of high stress, such as an increased work load, or final exams, or having a new child, we have less resources available to recover from exercise.

Muscle growth and fat loss occur outside the gym. Our bodies MUST have adequate time and resources to recover. Otherwise, progress will grind to a halt.

Wrapping Up

You don’t need to work out every day. We can see amazing results from strength training two or three days per week. Strength training will increase your muscle:fat ratio. More muscle = higher metabolism. Higher metabolism = more fat loss. Want to shed fat? Lift weights. Get stronger. Recover hard.

Share with us – what is your experience with working out more vs. less? What works best for you?

Recovering From An Athletic Injury – Real Life Tips

Recovering From An Athletic Injury – Real Life Tips

Injuries are part of the training game.

No matter who you are, or how you train – at some point, you will get injured.

Unfortunately, it’s a matter of when, not if.

Injuries are going to happen – that is beyond our control. What we can control is how we recover from an injury.

Proper recovery is the difference between an injury knocking us out for 3 months versus 6+ months. The following will teach the important steps to follow to make sure your injury recovery goes as smoothly and quickly as possible.

#1 – Rest

This should be #1, #2, and #3. In fact, nothing else on this list matters if #1 is not followed properly.

You MUST rest an injury in order for it to heal.

Resting allows the body to recover. It allows the inflammatory process to play its course, and fix the damage done.

Rest prevents further worsening or aggravating of the injury.

When an injury occurs, one of our first reactions is to downplay the seriousness of it. We walk it off. We push through it. We convince ourselves that the pain is nothing abnormal – just a part of training.

This is a dangerous, damaging mindset. There’s a difference in being sore, and being in pain. You’ll know the pain of an injury when it happens. Listen to your body when it signals it is in pain – it’s time to stop doing whatever is causing pain.

Recovery cannot happen without rest.

#2 – Seek medical advice

Unless you’re a healthcare professional, you are not an expert in injuries. Stop trying to self-diagnose, and go see someone trained in determining what, if anything, is wrong.

Even if you ARE a healthcare professional, get another set of eyes on your injury.

Seeking the opinion of a medical professional helps us start the recovery process as soon as possible. We cannot recover until we know what is wrong.

Delaying this step will delay all aspects of your recovery. So don’t delay. With the growing number of urgent care centers, and extended-hour primary care offices, there’s no excuse.

#3 – Rehab

You’ve properly followed #2, and sought advice from a medical professional. You’ve been assigned rehabilitation work. The worst thing we can do at this point is to not do our assigned rehab work.

Do the fucking rehab work.

Proper rehabilitation is the difference in recovering in 8 weeks versus 16 weeks. Proper rehab makes the difference in coming back near full-strength versus coming back weak and out-of-shape.

Even if your injury is something simple that doesn’t require prescribed rehab work – such as a sprained finger or twisted ankle – it’s important to rehab. After getting cleared by your doctor, put the injury through the full range of motion throughout the day. This keeps blood flowing, prevents loss of flexibility, and prepares the body for training.

#4 – Eat a pro-recovery diet

What you eat affects your ability to recover from injury as quickly as possible. This is NOT the time to let your diet slack!

Good foods to eat include:

  • Omega-3 fats. Sources include fish (salmon, herring, anchovy), fish oils, flaxseed, and omega-3 supplements (any containing DHA, EPA, and/or ALA).
  • Green leafy vegetables: kale, spinach, collard greens.
  • Nuts, including almonds and walnuts.
  • Olive oil.

Foods to avoid include:

  • Omega-6 fats: vegetable oils are a huge culprit here.
  • Sugars and starches: candy, bagels, cakes, bread, the list goes on and on.

#5 – Stretch and hit the foam roller

Avoid this step if you are specifically instructed NOT to stretch by your doctor, or if it causes pain.

Assuming the above doesn’t apply to you, you’ll want to stretch and foam roll while you’re injured.

When we’re injured, there’s momentum to stop moving. When you don’t move, your body gets stiff. You lose flexibility. This leads to mobility issues when you try to start training.

To prevent this, it’s important to keep up with stretching and mobility work. In fact, you should strongly consider increasing the amount of mobility and recovery work you do. Stretch twice as long. Foam roll twice a day. Keep your body flexible, and you’ll find your recovery will go much smoother.

#6 – Sleep

Your body recovers while you’re asleep. Many recovery processes do not occur until we’re asleep – and if we don’t sleep enough, they don’t occur at all!

A lack of sleep is damaging enough when we’re healthy. When we’re injured, not getting enough sleep is like pouring gasoline on a fire. You’re doubling down on the damage.

#7 – Avoid aggravating the injury

You’d think something this simple wouldn’t need to be said. You’d be wrong.

As we discussed above, one of our first reactions to an injury is to downplay the seriousness of it. We walk it off. We push through it.

Aggravating an injury resets your recovery to day zero. You basically have to start all over.

It’s like typing a long essay assignment, not saving, and intentionally closing Word.

You wouldn’t intentionally erase an entire document you worked hard on. Don’t intentionally erase your recovery progress by continuing to do movements that caused your injury and aggravate it further.

#8 – Work back slowly

One of the worst mistakes we can make after a period off of training – in this case, because of injury – is to try and come back where we left off, as if nothing happened. We don’t like to hear it, but we need to coax our way back to full strength. Do not try and pick your training up where you left off.

Squatting 225 for reps? Start back at 135 and work up.

Running 4 miles? Start at one mile.

Don’t go through the recovery process just to re-injure yourself because your ego can’t handle starting back at a lower intensity.

Wrapping Up

Injuries suck. There’s no way around it. Exercise releases chemicals that make us feel good about ourselves. It’s no joke to say that we go through “withdrawal” when we’re injured and can’t exercise.

This article detailed important steps to take to ensure your recovery process is as smooth and quick as possible. It can be to dial things back while injured, but it’s essential to coming back at 100%. Ignore this advice at your own peril.

What helps you recover from injury? Share your tips and inside advice with us below!

Lessons Learned – Injury Recovery in 2016 vs 2012

Lessons Learned – Injury Recovery in 2016 vs 2012

I’m no stranger to surgery.

Whether you’re a competitive athlete or work out to stay in shape and prevent disease, injuries are a part of the game. Injury recovery is a skill which can be sharpened and improved, if you take the right approach.

I’ve had two major surgeries in the past four years, both of which had a huge impact on my life – including my training and nutrition.

This post details the different approaches I took, pre- and post-surgery, and the differences in my recovery, mental state of mind, and my body.

2012 – Shoulder Labrum Tear

Early in 2012, I tore the labrum in my left shoulder doing guillotine presses. This is a story of multiple injury recovery mistakes, which cumulatively led to me being out of the gym longer than necessary, gaining fat, and feeling my mood go down the toilet.

Mistake #1 – Not listening to my body.

I noticed a slight discomfort each time I did the lift, but chalked it up to the nuances of a new movement. This discomfort slowly turned to pain, and, one day in March, I felt a “pop” in the shoulder, felt a dull pain, and knew something was wrong.

There is a difference in feeling sore and feeling pain. The first time I felt discomfort, I should have stopped. Instead, I let my ego get the best of me. I kept adding weight until my shoulder broke under the pressure. Listen to your body.

Mistake #2 – Waiting too long to get care.

The discomfort started in January. The “pop” happened in March. I didn’t see a physician until May.

Why?

Part of it was denial. I knew I was hurt, but didn’t want to face reality. I knew I’d need surgery. I knew I’d be out of the gym for awhile. I knew I’d be in a cast during pool season. I avoided reality and lived in a fake world I created for myself, where my injury would magically heal itself.

When your body goes away from baseline, its time to take things out of your hands, and into those of a trained medical professional. Injury recovery is much easier when you trust it to a trained professional.

Mistake #3 – Letting nutrition go to shit post-surgery.

When we face a long period away from exercise, we have two options regarding nutrition. We can continue to eat food that is good for us – maybe even double down on good eating habits – or, we can say “fuck it”, throw inhibition to the wind, and unleash our inner glutton.

Unfortunately, I chose the latter.

I went out 3-4 nights a week (it was my last summer before pharmacy school – “why not enjoy your last go around?”, I told myself). I consistently hit up Tolly Ho and Qdoba at 4am. I ate Dairy Queen, by myself, for lunch on the reg.

This completely violated many of the nutrition principles I swear by. I couldn’t train, and I let my nutrition slide as well.

The End Result – Bad mood, bad attitude, bad body.

The cumulative effect of these key three mistakes was a negative impact on my body, and a negative impact on my mind.

My mood and attitude are easily affected by the image I hold of my physical self. My body is important to me, and it’s important to me that it looks good. The combination of 1) not working out and 2) eating like shit resulted in 3) me feeling like shit.

Let’s compare my 2012 experience with my most recent injury, and my improved approach to injury recovery.

2016 – Inguinal Hernia

Admittedly, this injury was much easier to notice – and much harder to ignore – than a labrum tear. A torn labrum hurts, but you can’t see it – an inguinal hernia stares you straight in the face. You see it every time you piss. You feel it every step you take.

Still, I had plenty of lessons to prove I had learned nothing.

#1 – I listened to my body.

This time, there were no denials. I knew something was up. I immediately ceased doing anything that aggravated my pain. I applied ice around the clock. I rested.

#2 – I did not delay seeking (and getting) care

An hour after noticing the lump in my groin, I was inside an urgent care facility. Two weeks later, I was in the surgeon’s office. 19 days after first noticing symptoms, I was going under the knife.

This didn’t just “happen”. You know the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”? Unfortunately, the American health care system tends to work the same way (trust me, I work in it).

I called two urgent treatment clinics. I filled out numerous forms requesting an appointment with a surgeon. I did not exaggerate my condition, but I made sure they were aware of the physical pain, as well as the negative mental and emotional drain this had on my life. When I saw the surgeon, I kept pushing for the soonest available appointment. I assertively made it known I needed this fixed fast. The original plan was surgery four weeks after the appointment, but, the surgeon was able to find an opening 7 days away. I was warned I may get “bumped” off if other surgeries went over time, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

#3 – I doubled down on nutrition after surgery.

Surgery causes pain. A LOT of physical pain, and the mental pain that comes from being bedridden, unable to do, well, basically anything.

The last thing I wanted to do was make this pain worse. I knew I had to avoid my previous mistake of eating like shit.

Instead of using surgery as an excuse to go lax on nutrition, I got more focused. I paid attention to my body.

I stuck almost exclusively to lean meat (lower calorie content versus fattier cuts of beef), eggs, and vegetables. Since I wasn’t exercising, my caloric and carbohydrate needs were drastically reduced compared to normal. This disciplined approach to eating paid off in a big way.

The end result: I lost 10 pounds in four weeks without exercising.

Wrapping Up

There’s no way around it: surgery sucks. Being unable to exercise sucks. It’s easy to fall into the “why me?” mentality, to feel sorry for yourself. It’s easy to throw your hands up in the air, scream “FORGET IT!”, and stop taking care of yourself, because you’re so frustrated with a setback.

Trust me, I know. I’ve been there. And I’m writing today in hopes that I can help you avoid the mistakes I made.

Listen to your body. Get care as soon as you notice something is off. In the unfortunate case that you’ll be sidelined for a bit, use the opportunity to be more disciplined with your nutrition. You’ll recover faster, look better, and feel happier.