So You Wanna Look Like A Superhero…

As some of you may know, I love a good comic book film. Recently I went to see the new Captain America movie. (Which was AWESOME, by the way.)  But I got to thinking: Nowadays, I often get clients who have goals centered around wanting to look like a certain movie star. I think it’s safe to say that most of us struggle to not compare ourselves to them, but it’s hard, right?! We see them everywhere we go!

cap america

But before you start using them as your standard, here are a couple things to keep in mind about actors:

1) They have serious motivation! Imagine yourself, scantily clad, up on a massive big screen, being seen by millions of people. Now that is some serious motivation.

2) They know months ahead of time when they are going to have to film even a 5 second shot in less clothing. So they have motivation and a specific timeline. They know exactly how long they have to get into tip top shape and they can be really strict because there is an end in sight. Notice all the articles titled: “How so-and-so slimmed down for the role of ____”?  This would imply that they don’t always look like that. And this problem is not limited to actresses anymore. When was the last time you saw a shirtless actor without a six pack?  The only difference is that most men will admit they don’t look like that all the time.

**Since we’re on the superhero theme, Henry Cavill said he did intense workouts and was on a super strict eating plan for 9 months – all for a 10-second shot without his shirt on. (Well, that and to pack on some muscle to be Superman.) When asked if he still looked like that, he laughed and said, “Of course not”.

3) It’s their job and they get paid well to do it. So they have both the resources and the access to trainers, nutritionists, chefs, nannies, and personal assistants if they so choose. ‘Ya know, all those things that make getting in shape that much easier.

4) They have a whole team of experts making them look their best. From clothing, hair, and makeup to  perfect lighting and photo & digital editing. In a recent interview, Chris Evans talked about how they shot him at certain angles to make him look bigger than he really is and how people are surprised by how small he is when they meet him in real life. When people started gushing over Eva Mendes post-baby body, she said: “We’re helped in those situations. I want women at home to know, you’re lit, you’re angled. So yes, it was a few months after the baby [was born], but with a lot of help.”

To further my point, take 20 seconds to read this article: Keepin’ It Real.

Now, I’m not trying to diminish the fact that these people still have to do the work. And many of them work to stay healthy whether or not they’re shooting a movie. But are these really the people we are comparing ourselves to?!

My point is not to cut all media out of our lives (that would be impossible… and kinda sad) or that it’s bad, but that we are responsible for the thoughts that go through our head. We need to start recognizing those creeping thoughts that sneak in while we’re watching that movie or looking through this magazine. We are inundated with these images of the perfect body everywhere we look. They look happy and fit and beautiful and often, without even realizing it, we start thinking that it’s the norm and the way we need to look in order to be beautiful and accepted and happy with our body.

So how do we fight it???

First, forget perfection. It’s just an illusion anyways. It’s estimated that 95-98% of women have cellulite and that 5% of women naturally possess the body type portrayed by the American media. So that perfect body, the one with no dimples and perfectly smooth skin with just the right amount of muscle tone and curves in all the right places, is simply not a reality for at least 95% of us. (You better believe that includes most actresses!) I think it’s time we wipe the slate clean and realize that health and beauty come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors.

funny

Shout out to all my “porcelain” friends out there! 😉

Keep perspective. That other 5% might not have to work as hard for their body, but they still got problems!! I know I’ve been guilty of this before. I get so focused on wanting to look a certain way, I start falling into the trap of thinking that a “perfect” body is THE end all be all. We start thinking we would be happier, more content, more beautiful, and that it would fix all of our self-esteem and relationship issues. Outer beauty does not equal happiness. If Hollywood isn’t the perfect example of this, then I don’t know what is.

Stop Comparing. Comparing yourself to others – whether it be it your friends, your coworker, or Jennifer Garner – is a battle you will never win. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, things that come very naturally to us and things that are constantly a struggle, things we love about our life, body, etc., and things we wish we could change.  But “comparison is the thief of joy,” as Theodore Roosevelt once said. It eats away at you. It never allows for contentment. And it can absolutely ruin one of the most treasured things we have in this world: relationships. Learn how to be happy for each others’ strengths and accept that they might not be yours.

I know all of this is easier said than done. One of my favorite things is a really good movie or TV show, so I still have to fight these thoughts too. But it starts with changing your mindset. Remember: your friends, your family, your spouse, they don’t love you because of your looks.

*At some point, good has to be good enough! Stop wasting time dwelling on the things you can’t change and start making a conscious effort to appreciate and be thankful for all the things you do have. Set aside a few minutes each day to think about or write down 3 things you’re thankful for. It’s actually been proven to make you a more thankful person.

It is not wrong to have goals. It is not wrong to want to change and improve yourself. (Otherwise, I’m really shooting my career in the foot right now. 😉 ) But how about we give ourselves a little grace. Rid yourself of the expectation of perfection. Start learning how to love yourself as you are right now and let’s show the world what real, fit women (and men!) look like!!

For more on this, check out:

Magic Mike stars talking about getting into shape

For more on how the stars DO get into kick butt shape, check out So You wanna look like a super hero (part 2)!

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Just in case you haven’t already seen it, here’s another example for you….

5 Exercises That (Don’t Seem Like Much But) Will Rock Your Core

I can’t remember the last time I had a client come in who didn’t mention wanting to tone up their midsection and having some low back issues. So I’m going to give you some great new exercises that will work the abs, obliques, AND low back. I even included a client favorite and some good plank variations. How’s that for some core awesomeness?!

Now I don’t actually have myself or my clients do a ton of ab work because they get a lot of it just from using free weights, especially kettlebells, and full body movements. So don’t overdo it. The planks can be done for time, while the others can be done for time or reps. I used a kettlebell, but a dumbbell will work just as well.

However, before I get into it I want to be clear. These exercises will strengthen and tone up the muscles of your core. They will help give you definition, but they will not burn off the fat that sits on top of them. That my friends comes from the way you eat.  🙂 I’m not trying to discourage you, but I want you to know what you can honestly expect from this stuff instead of leaving you frustrated and wondering what’s wrong with you.

But I won’t leave you hanging! You can expect more blogs about nutrition and mindset and all those goodies that will help you get where you want to be…but for now, it’s exercise time! Since these exercises are much easier to demonstrate than explain I put together a quick video for you. Below the video I give more details on the how-to’s and what to focus on!

So without further ado, 5 exercises that will strengthen and tone your core muscles and help with low back pain as well….it took everything in me not to include a dance break. 😉

Song: Pennybags by Tyler Ward (feat. Derek Ward)

Pullover Crunch

The crunch is really quite overrated and not all that great for you, so this is one of the only crunch variations I do. It just so happens to also be a client favorite, so I figured I had to include it! Lay on back with knees bent and a weight above your head. Simultaneously pull the weight over your head and bring your knees to your elbows. Lower slowly.

*Tuck your pelvis and keep the low back pushed against ground for the duration of the exercise. Training this will do wonders for your low back and pelvic floor!

Progression: Straighten your legs on the way down and don’t let them rest on the ground. (You should only do this if you can keep your low back on the ground the entire time!!)

The Body Saw

In a plank position: Keeping your body as straight as possible, rock back and forth on the balls of your feet.

*Focus on not dropping your hips!

Progression: Do this with your feet on sliders. Yowza.

Side to Side Plank

In pushup position, bring right hand over and touch left hand, return to pushup position. Then bring left hand to right hand and return. Alternate back and forth.

*Resist twisting your body as you move from side to side. Try to hold a firm plank position.

Progression: Instead of just side to side, create a half circle by keeping your feet in place and walking your hands to the left 4 or 5 times. Return, then continue walking your hands to the right 4 or 5 times. Return.

Farmer Walks

If you don’t have loaded carries in your workout you should add them right now because they’re a great core exercise! It’s pretty straightforward really. Pick up a heavy weight in one or both hands and walk. If you can’t figure that out, theeeeen I can’t help you. 😉

*Keep a nice long spine. (Think tall. he he.)

Progression: Waiter Walk – Walk with weight overhead. Your elbow should be locked out.

1/2 Turkish Get Up

-Lay on your back with left arm straight out, a weight overhead in your right hand, and right knee bent so that your right foot is planted out to the side.

-First you want to roll to your side and up onto your elbow by simultaneously punching the weight up towards the ceiling, driving your left elbow into the ground, and using your foot to drive your  hips onto the left side . IT IS NOT A SIT UP. This should bring you up to your side and onto your elbow. From there, press your hand into the ground and crunch up to a sitting position.

-With your left hand and right foot firmly planted, squeeze your butt and push hips up toward the ceiling as far as you can. Hold for a second.

-Return to sitting position, then use abs to lower down slowly, back to lying position.

*Start with a really light weight or no weight at all, just to get the movement down. Keep your eyes on the weight the whole time! (If you’re still not quite sure you’re getting it, grab a weight and follow along with the video.)

Now go give these puppies a try! Enjoy!

*Interested in fitness classes in Colorado Springs? Check out my in-home training studio, Springs Kettlebells!*

The one resolution every woman should make

strength blog

While this post really applies to both genders, women in particular seem to have a really hard time with this one. It’s called strength training… or resistance training, weight training, lifting… they all pretty much mean the same thing. Now for those of you who just cringe at the mere thought of adding strength training to your workout, I get it. I really do. Most of us couldn’t care less about how much we can squat or bench press and the last thing we want is to not fit into our clothes because we’ve gained muscle! We want to be fit, but still feminine. So how about we make a deal: I promise to not post any pictures of super ripped women with sayings like “Strong Is the New Skinny” written under them, and you’ll promise to keep reading… all the way… to the end. 😉

As I said in my last post, for a long time we thought longer, low-intensity cardio was the answer. Step classes, aerobics, hours on the treadmill in the “fat-burning zone” were all supposed to, well, BURN FAT. Come to find out the human body is a little too smart for that. When you are exclusively focused on simply burning a bunch of fat each day, fat will become a primary energy source that your body will try to store. Your body does this so that it will have all the fat it thinks it needs ready for tomorrow when you hop on the treadmill for another hour. I’m not saying cardio is all bad, but I am saying that if your primary goal is the lean and toned look, then you will not find a better option than strength training.

So without further ado, I give you the top 5 reasons why you should be strength training:

1) Lifting will not make you big and bulky, but it will make you firmer, leaner, and more fit. Afraid you’re going to look like a man? Compared to men, women have 10 to 30 times less of the hormones that cause muscle growth. Now go ask a couple of your guy friends how easy it is for them to gain muscle.  Most men have a hard time adding muscle without supplements. And the women that look like men are most definitely using something to enhance their hormonal makeup. What strength training will do for you, though, is increase your metabolism, burn fat, and hopefully replace it with a little muscle!! Trust me friends, muscle is your friend. That “toned” look you’re always talking about, the jiggle-free arms and thighs, the lifted booty, the definition in the shoulders or abs…. that’s all muscle.

2) It will make you stronger. Like I said above, I get that you might not care about how much you can squat. But if you think about the amount of energy and strength that is required of you on a typical day…hoisting kids, carrying loads of laundry up and down a couple flights of stairs, getting groceries in and out of the car, chasing after the dog, unloading the dishwasher (those stacks of plates get heavy), cleaning floors and windows, stairs at work, stairs at home,…..wouldn’t it be nice to know your body can handle it? To not feel winded running up the stairs? To not have to wait for your husband to get home to move that heavy box back upstairs? To not have to worry about constant low back pain? While running keeps you in one plane of motion the whole time, strength training will strengthen your body in all planes of motion. It will not just help with daily activities, but will also improve your athletic endeavors, your energy, your mood, AND decrease your risk of injuries. Looking great is nice and all, but feeling great is life changing.  

3) It never gets boring. Here are just a few possibilities that you can use while strength training: your own body weight, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, medicine balls, sand bags, suspension trainers, sliders… the list goes on and on, but you get the point. All of these techniques are each a little different, too, so when you do happen to get bored or find yourself no longer enjoying one, try another! Better yet, combine a couple of your favorites. Also, there are all kinds of ways to group exercises together in super sets, circuits, ladders, pyramids, and timed sets… just to name a few.  The possibilities are endless and it’s a great way to keep both your body guessing and your mind stimulated.


4) Lifting will decrease your risk of disease.
Strength training has been shown to increase bone density therefore decrease the risk of osteoporosis. I don’t know about you guys, but when I need to roundhouse kick a burglar out of my front door, I’d prefer all my bones to stay intact and inside my skin… just sayin’. Weight training can also improve cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure – which lowers the risk of heart disease. Cardiovascular, you say?! YES. Lifting has also been shown to improve the way the body processes sugar, which can decrease the risk of adult-onset diabetes. I have no clever remark for that one. Diabetes just sucks.

5) It will give you the highest payoff for your time and energy. Last but not least, one of the most important things with exercise and nutrition is finding something that is sustainable. Most of us don’t have 2-3 hours a day to spend working out (which, might I add, is how much most actors & actresses invest when prepping for a movie or bathing suit scene.)  The great thing about strength training is that it doesn’t take a lot. If you’re lifting heavy enough (5 pound dumbbells do not count), a maximum of 20 to 45 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week is all it should take to see and feel the changes.

Seriously, this little one likes to copy her mama during workouts. She weighs a whopping 33 pounds and even she uses a 4 pound kettlebell!

Seriously, this little one likes to copy her mama during workouts. She weighs a whopping 33 pounds and even she uses a 4 pound kettlebell!

So there you have it. Now I will add one caveat. If you are over the age of say, 25, you can do all the strength training (or cardio) in the world, but chances are you won’t see the results you want if you are not watching what you eat. Good nutrition is essential to any good fitness program. But that’s another post for another time. My hope for you readers is that you will understand more clearly why strength training is so beneficial & important for your body and why you don’t need to be afraid of it. The way I see it, with so many good reasons to strength train, why wouldn’t you???