Three Things I Learned at the Tough Mudder?

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I am happy to announce that I am in fact a TOUGH MUDDER as of November the 3rd.  On this date, I completed a ten-mile run combined with approximately twenty obstacles in around four hours.  These obstacles included jumping into ice water, climbing fifteen foot walls, crawling through pipes, and lots of mud.   While I have run many road races when I was much younger and a 1/2 marathon last December, I have never done any races with obstacles.  To make it even more challenging for me, I ran the race with a team of people of which I only knew one person until the night before the race.  Teamwork in this sort of challenge is crucial to getting through some of the obstacles.  I am a private, shy person, so participation in a group that I am not familiar with is way out of my comfort zone.  But more importantly than just completing it, I had a really great experience.  It was a great experience because I finished, I did not get hurt, and I met a great group of teammates that I can now call my friends.  Are you wondering if I was awesome at the actual race?  The answer is no.  My knees started to hurt at about mile 8, so I could not run as well as I wanted.  I also skipped a couple of the obstacles because I was so cold that I could not bear to take another swim in cold, muddy water.  But, the benefits of the experience far out weighted the scrapes and bruises and few disappointments I had.  I wanted to share this experience with you because I learned a few things about myself that may be beneficial to you.

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The first thing I already knew but had reinforced with the Tough Mudder is the IMPORTANCE AND BENEFIT OF GETTING OUT OF MY/YOUR COMFORT ZONE.  With this, I am meaning both your physical and mental comfort zone.  For me, I got out of my physical comfort zone with all of the obstacles and my mental comfort zone with the obstacles (and my fear of them) and the group dynamic.  The benefit of stepping out of your comfort zone is that this is where growth occurs both physically and mentally.  Physically, when you repeatedly step out of the comfort zone, you will become stronger and faster.  While one race did not make me stronger physically, I did feel soreness in muscles that I have not used in a while and was inspired to work at regaining some of this strength.  Mentally, stepping out also makes you stronger and more confident.  Personally, forcing myself to meet and work closely with my wonderful teammates resulted in a new group of friends, greater confidence in myself socially, and an increased comfort level for the next time I am in a similar situation.  To go along with this is the concept that the fear/nervousness you feel about something is usually worse than what will actually happen.  The bottom line and my advice to you is DO NOT LET YOUR FEAR AND APPREHENSION STOP YOU FROM STEPPING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.  I often tell my clients that if you keep doing things the same way you always have, you will keep getting the same results.

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The second thing I learned about is the IMPORTANCE OF SUPPORT AND TEAMWORK.  My nutrition and exercise clients are always telling me how important that the easy, quick email access they have to me and the support/encouragement I give them is.  Many of my clients continue with me on a monthly basis after their initial program for ongoing exercises but also for the support/accountability.  For me, I love being encouraging and supportive for my clients, but do not thing I have understood the significance before now.  I am a very independent person, I workout alone, and typically do not seek the mental/emotional help of others.  This is probably because I spend most of my time with my kids and do not want to burden them and because I guess I have a little bit of a fear of others thinking I am silly and/or weak.  But from the Tough Mudder, I learned that teamwork and support are important to me as well.  They gave me the physical help I needed to complete some of the obstacles that I was not strong enough for.  They also gave me the mental strength to both try the obstacles I was scared of and to finish out the race, even when I was in pain.  The bottom line is that I learned (although I probably already should have known it) that teamwork and support make you stronger both in the group and on your own and allow you to accomplish things you could not have done before.

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The final thing that was reinforced by the completion of the Tough Mudder is the IMPORTANCE OF TAKING TIME FOR MYSELF.  Taking time for myself, as I am sure it is for most moms, is very hard.  I homeschool my children Monday through Friday and work on Saturday and Sunday.  I also have never left my children with anyone but family.  To have a family member watch my children for anything but a necessary appointment or work, makes me feel guilty.  So, the idea of taking off work on a Sunday and leaving my kids did make me feel guilty and self-indulgent.  In this particular case, I probably would have cancelled if I had not been part of a team.  But I am thankful that I did take this time for myself.  It was one of the first times in a really long time that I have taken a whole day for me (without using for work) and focused on me and having fun.  So, taking this time for me had the following benefits: a mental break, physical workout, friendship, and lots of laughing and fun.  I woke up the following Monday a little sore but feeling invigorated, happy, and refreshed.  So for me, this translated into me signing up for a similar race next March and making time for me to return to the gym several times a week to work at my strength.  For you, my advice is to take time for yourself to do whatever renews and restores you.

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I write this article, not encouraging everyone to run a Tough Mudder, but to encourage all moms to go out and do something for themselves.  It all goes back to the concept that by taking care of yourself first, you can do a better job of taking care of everyone else.

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4 Reasons Why HATING Exercise is OK (And May Even Be a Good Thing)

Time to WorkoutYes, you read the title correctly!  It is OK to dislike, even hate exercise!  In fact, many of my clients do and are still successful in becoming and staying fit and healthy.  Before I get to the 4 reasons why this can actually be a good thing, I want to share with you my personal experience.  I enjoy exercise and always have.  So much so that my career choices (physical therapist, personal trainer, and nutritional consultant) were chosen out of this love.  In the past, I exercised seven days a week, performed over an hour of cardio a day, and lifted weights five days a week.  I have always used exercise stress relief. 

But in many ways, I would have been better off not liking exercise so much!  I suffered from several fertility issues that were probably directly related to the hormonal consequences of too much and the wrong kind of exercise.  I also ended up with adrenal fatigue, resulting in many issues including difficulty with sleep and digestion.  I also believe that my recent diagnosis of hypothyroidism can be indirectly linked to excessive exercise in my late teens and twenties.  While trying to get pregnant with my third child, I was introduced to Metabolic Effect and the science behind exercising for metabolic balance.  I used the information I gained to first transform and heal my body, then get pregnant naturally with my fourth child, and ultimately become a certified Metabolic Effect Fat Loss Coach, personal trainer, and nutritional counselor.  But enough about me, here are the 4 reasons why HATING exercise is OK.

  1. DIET IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EXERCISE WHEN IT COMES TO FAT-LOSS.  What I mean by this is that by eating the proper fat-loss foods, you can make great strides in fat and weight loss without a formal exercise plan.  But the opposite is much less likely to occur.  It is extremely hard to make lasting body change if you exercise but eat poorly.  Nutrition that includes high protein foods, high fiber foods, and limited amounts of starchy carbohydrates and fats causes a hormonal balance which results in your body turning on its fat-burning capabilities and balancing your hunger, energy, and cravings.  The fat burning effect of a great nutrition plan is directly related to the increased period of calorie usage (thermic effect) caused by eating protein and fiber.  The decreased hunger/cravings and increased energy is related to the following hormonal responses (decreased ghrelin, increased glucagon, balanced leptin, and improved mood hormone signaling).
  2. EXERCISING FOR LONG PERIODS (ESPECIALLY MODERATE INTENSITY CARDIO) IS DETRIMENTAL FOR FAT-LOSS LONG-TERM AND SHORT-TERM.  In the short-term, this type of exercise (especially when combined with a low-calorie diet) burns more muscle than fat.  In the long-term, the result is a slower metabolism which makes it harder and harder to maintain current body composition without eating less and continuing to increase exercise volume.  This type of exercise also causes excess release of stress hormones and one of the actions of these hormones is fat-storing and muscle burning.  In other words, YOU CAN OUT EXERCISE A GOOD DIET.
  3. LESS IS MORE WHEN IT COMES TO EXERCISE.  Results from exercise are related to how hard you workout, not how long you workout.  So, for those of you that hate working out, you only need to endure twenty minutes of high intensity exercise that combines resistance training and cardiovascular exercise.  This type of exercise is far superior to traditional aerobic exercise because it causes a hormonal response different that aerobic exercise.  To make a long story short, the hormonal response of combined resistance and cardio trainingstarts with stress hormones being released, then lactic acid builds up, and finally the fat-burning hormones (testosterone and human growth hormone) are released.  The combination of these hormones ensures that fat is being burned and this effect can last up to 48 hours.  The problems with traditional aerobic exercise for extended periods of time is that it is either not intense enough to cause a release of the key hormones (testosterone and human growth hormone) or it causes too great a release of stress hormones and too little a release of testosterone and human growth hormone.  The ultimate effect of this imbalance is a decrease in fat burning due the hormonal effect of cortisol (fat storing and muscle burning).
  4. WALKING IN COMBINATION WITH PROPER NUTRITION CAN BE POWERFUL FOR IMPROVED BODY COMPOSITION.  So, you hate exercise, but can’t you walk?  I am not talking about speed walking or walking that gets you out of breath.  I am talking about nice, leisurely walking that is slow enough that you can take in the scenery and carry on a lengthy conversation.  Most people that hate strenuous exercise like to walk at a slow pace.  Don’t like to walk or don’t have time to walk?  That is OK.  The walking does not have to be all at once.  You can get great benefits splitting up 30 minutes of walking throughout the day by walking your dog or parking at the back of a parking lot and combining this with a short, after dinner walk.  Walking is huge because of its hormonal effects.  First, it lowers stress hormones (which can be fat storing and muscle burning).  It also creates better insulin sensitivity and a steady release of proper metabolic messengers.  One of the reasons that walking is so important is that because of all the stresses in today’s society (especially for moms) it is possible to stress yourself into being fat.  Without proper stress regulation, you can have the best diet and exercise program and still have extra body fat. 

So, there you have it.  YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LOVE EXERCISE TO BE HEALTHY AND FIT.  The ideal combination is 3-5 days of 30 minute workouts, a fat-loss diet (high protein and veggies with limited starchy carbs and fats), and daily walking.  With that being said, you can also get great results with nutrition and walking alone.  My completely customized programs work with clients where they are at and with their preferences.  A program is not ideal if it does not work for you.  If you want to learn more about my nutrition and exercise programs, you can find out more HERE.

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