Monday, April 14, 2014

Sarah's Paleo Journey

This is a story with which the majority of you will be able to identify. I am so grateful for my dear friend Sarah and her willingness to share it.  I hope you find it as encouraging, challenging and inspiring as I did! 


"A while back, Hunter asked me to write a blog about my journey with food and exercise. God has certainly taught me much over the past several years, and I know I have a long way to go still, but here’s a not-so-brief story of my experience.

I have always been interested in nutrition and exercise, so I did my best to research what is believed to be the healthiest way to live and followed it like a pro.   I joined the cross country team in high school and developed a love for running--especially long distance running.  I ate a generally “healthy” diet usually consisting of low-fat, whole grains, but never had to pay much attention to calorie count while running cross country.  However, once I stopped running my junior year of high school I began struggling with my weight.  All the weight that so easily disappeared when I was running 10 miles a day slowly began to appear and thus began the years-long struggle with balancing eating and exercise while attempting to maintain a healthy weight.  I tried several different diets and counted calories religiously, which never seemed to work with quite the magic with which it is touted.  I spent most of my days calculating how many calories I had already eaten and/or burned off so I stayed within my “quota” for the day, failing miserably many days.   I also jumped back on the long-distance running wagon, thinking that I could beat my body into submission.  Yet even with a strict diet and exercise regimen, I would find myself craving certain foods and binging from time to time, developing a very unhealthy eating pattern—skipping meals or only eating salads and other low calorie foods,  so that I wouldn’t feel as bad about what I binged on the night before (mostly highly-processed, low-fat, sugary, gluten-laden “food”).  I also added more and more distance to my running regimen, which was therapeutic in some ways for me, I thought of it as a stress reliever for my type-A Pre-Med college-self, but also with the underlying goal of burning off more calories.  Little did I know that I was just adding more and more stress to my body.  And my weight fluctuated greatly, as did my mood, as I never quite reached my goals—mostly the goal of looking just like the women on the front of Runner’s World magazine. 

When I moved to Ft Hood in August 2012, Hunter asked me to train with her as she was developing her style of training.  I was frustrated with recent marriage-weight-gain, and the stress-relieving, but the seemingly-weight-loss futility of running 4 miles a day and eating whole grains, so I readily agreed.  To be honest, I was completely skeptical of weight-training as I did not want to add more bulk to the weight I had, but Hunter convinced me that women do not have the capacity to bulk the same way guys do.  So I learned what a Romanian deadlift, back squat, and shoulder press were.  I fully enjoyed the same hard workout feel that I had afterwards, without spending an hour of my day running around the track. Hunter also started telling me more about the Paleo diet, but mostly the importance of cutting gluten out of the diet… so I started looking more into that too.  I cut out gluten for 3 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas and was amazed at how good I felt, how constant my energy was, and how stable my moods were.  It was hard to find a rhythm again after returning from Christmas break, and I started a new job in April, which although I love it, certainly adds more stress to my life overall.  I kept running long distances, training for a half-marathon, and tried to watch my diet, but my weight kept climbing and I fell back into eating habits similar to what I had in college-attempting to restrict calories and then binging because my cravings felt too strong.  Finally in July, I was fed up with an   So I finally fully took the advice I’d been listening to in the balancedbites podcast-- that Hunter got me hooked on- and started following the Paleo diet.  I also finally realized that what they had been saying was true—your body doesn’t recognize between emotional or physical stress—it all raises cortisol levels which in turns causes your body to hold onto fat—definitely not the effect I was going for!  I also realized that getting up early to run was putting extra stress on my body as I denied it the restorative sleep it needed after long days at the office. 
arthritic knee and gaining weight despite logging over 20 miles most weeks.

Once I made the decision to make sleep a priority (at least 8 hours a night) and to strictly cut out grains and dairy from my diet, focusing on much more nutrient dense foods, I was again amazed at how much more steady my energy and focus levels were at work.  I still trained for my half-marathon because I wanted to finish that, but once it was over I gladly hung up my running shoes (except for sprints) and focused on lifting again, in which my workouts at much shorter than my runs were, and are much less stressful on my body.  I have truly enjoyed this shift and I can tell my body is much more in balance.  And by allowing myself to get the nutrients it needs from whole foods, a variety of fresh veggies, meats, and healthy fats, without worrying about calories, I no longer feel the need to binge, and even at meals it is much easier to eat to satiety rather than eating until I am uncomfortably full.   I was able to slowly introduce dairy back in, which I have found I can tolerate at low levels.  My weight has steadily decreased over the past several months—and I can’t remember the last time I counted calories.  I no longer fear fat—I love eating plenty of grass-fed butter and coconut oil!  Lifting weights has helped me to lean out, and the build of muscle mass means that even if I have to miss a several days at the gym my weight doesn’t fluctuate the same way it did when I missed a few days of running.  Also, the arthritis in my knee (for which I felt way too young!) has vanished.  My husband has even commented several times on how much more ‘at peace’ I seem these past several months (I don’t think he misses the emotional swings that would accompany the weight swings).  I do have to say that the Lord has answered a lot of prayers, from late high school on, as I often struggled with making food or weight loss a priority rather than Him, focusing most of my time and efforts on that.  And it’s still a growing process, I still struggle with many old habits or ways of thought creeping back into my head.  Yet, I am so grateful for God’s provision in transitioning me out of those terribly unhealthy, yet so-common, mindsets.   And although I wouldn’t mind looking like the women on the front of Runner’s World, I (usually) no longer feel the pressure to look “perfect.”  After a hard workout at the gym I am far more excited about how many pounds I squatted rather than how many calories I burned.  I am constantly amazed and grateful for how much my body can do—not as much where it fails to measure up. 

 It is certainly a journey, but it has been fun to grow in my understanding of the human body and why we need fats to work well, why grains cause us to hold onto body fat and increase inflammation in the body.  I’ve learned more about why our body really needs cholesterol, despite what we are often fed by the media.  We only get one body, and I want to be able to keep using mine to its best ability for the glory of God, so I want to fuel it and train it the best way I can, and I am excited to see where that leads me in the future!"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Guest Post: Finding Freedom with Free Weights

Did you know the name "Melissa" means "honeybee"? I didn't either, until I had the joy of befriending a honeybee almost three years ago. Melissa is one of my dearest friends. Her perspective helps me to better understand this life we're walking through together, as she sings of the steadfast love of the Lord & lives to proclaim His faithfulness to all generations. We started talking fitness during a program we participated in through Pine Cove called The Forge. About a year later, Mel began experimenting with lifting free weights and well, you'll just have to keep reading to get the rest of the story:
"This year I’ve been focusing most of my workouts around lifting weights. It has not only changed my perspective of working out, but has taught me lesson after lesson and it’s something I really enjoy! I was telling my dear friend, Hunter, that I’d never thought of myself as someone who could lift heavy things, mostly because I didn’t think I could ever be strong enough. There were times when I wanted to be strong, but didn’t do anything about it. Lifting weights has helped me see that I can be and that I actually am a strong woman. 
Here are the top four lessons from the time I’ve spent in the gym to date: 
Lesson #1
Lifting weights will never be easy.
I keep waiting for it to get easier, but it won’t become less difficult unless I stay in the same place. I have to keep adding weight to get stronger. I want to be good at everything in my life, but it’s a game changer when I know I’m never going to be stronger than the next level up. There is a lot of freedom in that thought for me. 

Lesson #2
The gym is not for girls.
A friend who has been helping me with technique through some of my workouts told me that the gym isn’t for girls. At first I was a little offended because, well, I’m a girl. When he told me that I was whining, complaining, and telling him that I didn’t think I could lift what he wanted me to lift. I was acting like a little girl. But when I thought about what he was really saying and what I was doing it all clicked. The gym is not for girls. It is for strong women though, and if I choose to be a strong woman and not a girl the gym can be my playground and not my prison yard. There is freedom in acting in the light of our identity, even in the gym. 
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Lesson #3
Lifting is better with community.
When I did the Forge back in 2010-2011 we would workout together every Tuesday-Friday morning from 6:45-7:30. I took that time for granted every morning. Once I was out of the Forge and had moved to Granbury then to Arlington for the two years following, if I wanted to workout I would be doing it alone. Simply put, that sucked. In regards to exercise, running is the one thing I thought that I liked doing alone. Then I went on a run with a friend back in May, and I was surprised by how much more fun it was! I loved having the automatic support system that came from a workout partner. Working out with people versus working out alone changes everything. Something that I’ve noticed about myself is that when I workout alone it is so hard with very little weight and I tell myself it’s okay to skip reps or entire sets. But when I have someone there with me it is still difficult, but by having encouragement and accountability from others I can push through and carry a heavier “burden”. There’s something about community that makes things “good and pleasant” when we dwell together as opposed to choosing the Lone Ranger lifestyle.
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Lesson #4
Failure is not an option it’s a guarantee.
I don’t like to fail. Like I said earlier, I love being good at things. Not only that but I like to look good doing it. That’s not the case in lifting weights though. The other day I added a semi-new move to my routine with a higher weight. I had been doing this move, but had been using dumbbells for it and this particular day I moved to the barbell. I was doing thrusters, so I cleaned the weight, squatted, and then when I went to overhead press it I hit myself in the jaw with the bar. It hurt a lot. I really could have cried if there weren’t so many people there and if my partner hadn’t said, “I think you’re going to be okay. Pick it back up and don’t forget to move your head.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but I ended up chipping my tooth and it sucked. It’s hardly noticeable for anyone else, but this goes to show that I will fail and mess up, but I can try again. I will fall, drop my weights, and chip my tooth, but I will choose to keep going because I know I can do this.

I’m so thankful for there is a bigger picture in something as seemingly menial as lifting weights. The lessons that are there for learning keep me motivated when I want to give up and make things easier on myself. I have found freedom in weight lifting. The gym that once felt like a prison cell has become my playground. There is freedom there, in being who I was made to be. And when I live in the light that freedom radiates, I can function out of the identity set before me."
What are lessons that you’re learning from your workouts that help you see the bigger picture?
Do you see your workouts as a freedom-filled playground, or as a prison yard that you would rather not step into? What are the things that need to change for you to be able to walk in freedom? 

Monday, January 27, 2014

She dresses herself with strength and she makes her arms strong.

Shelby contacted me & inquired about my long-distance training options a few months ago. I asked her to share her story with you, not because I'm trying to win you over in hopes that you'll inquire about my training packages (to be honest, I only have a limited number of slots available & I'm currently at capacity), but because I know that so many of you will resonate with where Shelby was at when she sent me that message. She had me cracking up as I read what she'd written, but by the end my eyes were filled with tears! Shelby, I am so proud of you for your vulnerability, your hard work & your resolve! The title of this post will forever remind me of you, "She dresses herself with strength and she makes her arms strong." [Proverbs 31] Thanks for letting me journey with you! I hope you're all as inspired by Shelby's story as I am! -Hunter

Hello All! 

My name is Shelby and I’m one of Hunter’s clients.  Hunter approached me not too long ago and asked if I would write a guest post on her blog about my experience with long-distance training. The first thing that ran through my mind was, ”Me? The girl who ate nothing but Fettuccini Alfredo and Chicken Strips?”  But I agreed anyways!  I started training with Hunter seven weeks ago and I could not be more excited as to where I’m headed.  But let’s back up for a minute and I will explain where I came from.

I have been out of high school for 4 years and within those 4 years I went to college, got married, and oh, gained 50lbs! My husband and I used to eat out a lot… and when I say a lot I mean A LOT!  Taco Bell was one of our favorites as well as Papa Johns Pizza. I tried numerous diets and exercise programs, but nothing was working!  I tried taking these magical pills that were supposed to blast stomach fat in 3 weeks or less!  If only it was that simple…I also tried some water that was supposed to give the same results and guess what!! That didn’t work either.  I would go to the gym and slave away on a cardio machine for an hour and then maybe go use some of the other machines for my arms, legs, abs, etc, and I saw little-to-no results within a few months…. I was also THAT girl who would read endless amounts of information on the Internet about what you “should” and “shouldn’t” do in the gym… and let me tell you it was all SUPER confusing.  One minute they would say cardio was super bad for you and all you should be doing is lifting weights and the next minute they would say weights are terrible for you, so now you just need to run 13 miles a day and you will achieve that body you always wanted…. That’s great and all, but I don’t think I will EVER be able to run that far!  If your like me and have tried all of the numerous workouts and dieting tips and tricks, then you would be super fed up and frustrated too!  I think at one point I just gave up all together and didn’t care anymore (which was super scary). My family on both sides comes from a long line of health issues from heart, to cancer, to obesity and I wanted NONE of that. 

So, around 7 weeks ago I contacted Hunter. I was so fed up with everything and needed some direction.  I decided to bite the bullet and hire a personal trainer.  I was so scared as to what I had just gotten myself into. Scared that:

  • ·      I was going to fail.
  • ·      That I wouldn’t like what she had to say.
  • ·      That it was going to be too hard.
  • ·      That the diet was going to SUCK (lets face it I love food and food loves me).
  • ·      Scared that I would be miserable the whole time.


Trust me there have been moments where I thought I wouldn’t make it, but I have! 
The road to where I am at now has been a rough one…. one with many “fat kid” tantrums.  One time Hunter told me I cold have no sugar…. no Sweet’ n’ Low in my coffee or tea, no creamer (unless I made it myself), and no Diet Dr. Pepper… I thought she was crazy! How could I LIVE without those things!  But let me tell you…. I CAN.  I started off weighing 195 pounds.  I am now 181.5 lbs.  This is the lowest I have been in probably 2-3 years.  I have gone from a size 14-16 pant to a size 12!  In shirts, I have gone from a size L-XL to a size Medium.  And get this: I have lost over 32 inches of fat on my entire body! I can now lift weights in the 15-30 lb ranges and squat 50 lbs!  This entire journey has made me see food and exercising in a completely different way:

  • ·      I now see myself as STRONG.
  • ·      I no longer have that voice in my head telling my I’m FAT, UGLY, GROSS.
  • ·      I have realized there is more to life than French fries, chicken strips, and pasta.
  • ·      I have achieved more weight loss than ever before.
  • ·      I can eat just about anything if prepared with whole-foods in a healthy manner.


This is going to sound very cliché but I’m here to tell you that IT IS POSSIBLE.  I never ever thought it would be possible to get back down to a certain size/weight but IT IS!  Losing weight has to be a personal issue.  YOU are the only one who can make yourself want to change.  I am still in the process of shedding that extra fat, but I cant wait to see where I end up!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Picnik Austin

Most of you know I'm food lover. A foodie, if you will. A connoisseur of good eats. There's no denying I'll go out of my way to find and consume fresh, quality food. That being said, a few months back I google-searched Paleo Restaurants in Austin & came across this article to find the one-and-only completely grain-free, gluten-free restaurant in city. Light shines down on the computer screen ahh! Naturally, I pinned the article & started brainstorming ways in which I could convince Mr. Beless we needed to make a trip south to try it out! 


A few weeks later my sweet friend & fellow food-enthuiast mentioned that she'd seen a restaurant in Paleo Magazine that she wanted to try. We discovered that it was indeed the same exact restaurant I'd pinned & dreamt of visiting. Thankfully, this month brings great cause for celebration, as it is Sarah's birthday month! I couldn't think of a more perfect venue in which to celebrate our friend!

My cutie friend & fellow foodie, Sarah, and her husband, Ryan.



As you can see by the menu, Picnik uses local produce and organic ingredients to create their delicious, nutrient-dense dishes. They also offer bulletproof coffees. Yum. 


Mr. Beless & I split the Chorizo Quiche. I indulged in a Dirty Chai while he tested out the Bulletproof Butter Coffee. Again, yum, & 100% Paleo!  


Picnik Austin, we so enjoyed our visit. Thanks for providing us with clean, celebratory sustenance as we celebrated our sweet Sarah & the friend she is to us! 


Do you know of any other good restaurants that cater to the Paleo diet in the Austin area? If so, please shoot them my way! I'd love to give them a try! 


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Friendship 201

Even though they live across the pond in the African bush, Mr. Beless & I continue to be discipled in the ways of friendship by these two


If you don't remember, Grant & Brooks were Young Guns together at Pine Cove, chopping brush & building things, including the beginnings of a deep friendship that would carry them through three years of living together in the 1804 Leona house in College Station. 


Five hundred miles north, Elizabeth & I connected through the dear old KKG house at the University of Arkansas where we roomed together for the next three years. 


The four of us met, completely independently of one another, hit it off to the point of choosing to spend the rest of our lives together (in married-couple fashion), and now we're best friends, married to best friends.



As you can imagine, Grant & Elizabeth hugely impact on the way Brooks & I go about doing life, as well as our marriage. [Check out Friendship 101 for more on that.] A little over a month ago the Seifrieds returned home for some work stateside & a chance to reconnect with those they love. The four of us had been dreaming of our reunion for months prior, hoping for a place to laugh, share stories, eat well, and catch up on life. Guess what? It happened! 


We realize the value of our friendship to one another & want to continue to create opportunities for continued growth, so we've planned to do a retreat of sorts at least once a year for the rest of forever. How fun is that?! I'm telling you, the thought to pray for such goodness never even crossed our minds!

The first evening of our little getaway the men asked the ladies to help brainstorm what we want these times together to look like. Pen in hand, Elizabeth scribed as we rattled off the following criteria:

-Good eats
-Guy/Girl catch up time
-Friendship & marriage review

As we continued talking, we came up with a few questions that we plan to ask each other each year during our friendship & marriage review:


-How have we loved you well as your friends?
-How can we love you better?

-What victories have you experienced in your marriage this year?
-What hardships have you undergone this year?
-In what areas have you seen or experienced growth in your marriage this year? 
-What areas need work?

The next evening we had our first annual Beless/Seifried friendship & marriage review over a delicious steak dinner (bonus!). Truly, there are no words to communicate what a sweet time that was for the four of us. I am continually amazed at how life-giving it is to both know & be known. I'm sharing all of this because I want to encourage you (both married & single friends) to engage in intentional, life-giving conversations with the friends that you do have in hopes of building into & cultivating greater depth within those relationships, even if they're not best friend status (yet). It is such a valuable & time-worthy endeavor!

How do you cultivate depth of friendship within your relationships?
What questions would you want to ask or be asked if you held a friendship/marriage review of your own?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hiding His Word in our Hearts

A few days ago a friend of mine asked for ideas + tips on memorizing scripture. I'm surprised she's still my friend after my lengthy response, ha! Here's my attempt at concision: I memorize scripture because it helps me remember who I am & what I'm doing here & remembering is essential to living that out. There are endless reasons as to why you should be practicing this discipline, but the point of this post isn't to convince you, it's simply to share how you can go about doing it. I also need to preface by shouting: I did not come up with any of this on my own. All credit goes to two incredible women, Kim Vollendorf & Joyce Lasse, who were kind enough to share their methods with me when I was in college. A thousand thank you's to them both for changing my life by encouraging me to hide God's word in my heart. I hope this encourages those of you reading to do so too.


What you'll need:
.Notecards.
.A hole punch.
.Your Bible.


First things first: choose a verse you want to memorize! This list of verses is a great place to start. Next, it's time to set up your card. 

Upper left: Reference (where you find the verse) 
Upper right: Category*
Body of the notecard: The verse, written word for word
Bottom left: Days
Bottom right: Weeks

*Note: I use categories to help me categorize the verses in my mind. That way, if I'm having a conversation on the topic of the Holy Spirit, hopefully 1 Corinthians 2:12 will come to mind. 



Back of card: Reference (again, where you can find the verse)* 
Bottom left: Months

*Note: I write the reference on the back of the card so I can quiz myself without seeing any part of the actual verse.



Now you're all set to memorize the verse you chose. Typically, I give myself a week to memorize one or two verses. For the first few days I'll carry the notecard around in my back pocket & try to read as often as possible. Once I have a good feel for it, I write the first letter of every word on my wrist to help me out. Sounds crazy, but it works! 

[1 Corinthians 2:12]

When you have the verse memorized you're ready to put it on your daily ring. You will have already committed all of the verses on your daily ring to memory, but it's important to review them to make sure you have them down-pat. Plus, reviewing + meditation help to transition the words from your head to your heart.


Review your daily ring verses 1x/day for 50 days. 
I use tally's to keep track of where I'm at in the process.



Remember to continue adding the new verses you memorize to the daily ring. 



Once you've reviewed the verses on your daily ring for 50 days, you're ready to transition them to a weekly ring.

You will review the verses on your weekly ring 1x/week for 50 weeks.
I've found it helpful to choose one day of the week to review the verses on your weekly ring
For me, that day is Sunday


At this point, you've probably guessed what comes next: a monthly ring
Review the verses on your  monthly ring 1x/month for 50 months. 
Again, it's helpful to be consistent and choose a date (like the 1st Sunday of the month) on which to review your monthly ring


Finally, after reviewing your monthly ring for 50 months you'll move your verses to a semester ring that you will review 1x each semester. I don't have a photo because I haven't actually made it to that point yet. ;) 

The Verses Project is an incredible resource that my friend Suzanne shared with me. A compilation of Christian artists recorded songs of straight scripture. It's word-for-word & it's all free, so start downloading that goodness immediately! 

Reviewing gets a bit more complex once you start memorizing chapters & books, but this is a great place to start! Have you ever memorized Scripture? If so, what helps you hide His Word in your heart? 



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Top 10 Fitness Misconceptions Debunked


I’ve noticed a trend in new clients: most come into personal training with the same misconceptions. Thankfully we're able to work through these misconceptions together, but it kills me to look around the gym & see the remaining 90% of women (whose goals are probably fat loss & toning) gliding on elliptical machines or doing 50+ triceps extensions with a 3lb dumbbell in hopes of building a lean & lovely physique. Why do I care? Because they’re wasting their time & I know how little of it they have to spare! Don’t worry; I’ll restrain myself from handing out cards with a link to this blog post, but I know these ladies continue doing what they’re doing simply because they don’t know any better. In my Toothpick Arms series on body image I encouraged you all to educate yourselves on proper training & nutrition in order to improve your overall health, both mentally & physically. As promised, I want to share with you a few of the things I wish I would have known back when I too was queen of the elliptical.

1. Measuring your weight on a scale is not a good indicator of health. 

We’ve been conditioned to step on the scale to track our progress or to maintain our weight. The problem is that scales do not reveal fat loss. Contrary to popular belief, muscle doesn’t actually weigh more than fat (a pound of muscle is still a pound, and the same goes for fat), however, muscle is more dense than fat. For example, I look a lot better weighing in at 135 than I did at 130 & I can say the same for a lot of women I’ve worked with in the gym. Check out this post by Nia Shanks if you want to see some great photo documentation to enhance my point. I encourage clients to come up with a new way of tracking their progress, like picking out a favorite pair of jeans they’d like to wear & trying them on every other week, or keeping track of their circumference measurements. Here is a list of other ways to weigh your progress.

2. Rest is an integral part of achieving your fitness goals.
Did you know that a lack of sleep can actually cause weight gain by affecting the way your body processes & stores carbohydrate? Or that sleep deprivation alters hormone levels that affect your appetite? It also adversely affects other important areas of our lives like learning, memory, energy levels & mood while contributing to increased inflammation! Yikes! Draw the blinds, dim the lights, turn off the electronics, & shoot for at least 8-10 hours of sleep every night. Here are some additional tips on how to increase the quantity & quality of sleep you're getting. 


3. Nutrition & how you fuel your body plays a more significant role in body composition than working out. 
 As important as it is to be active & workout, it’s even more important to fuel your body with high-quality, nutrient-dense foods that promote health. Think about it like this -- nutrition is comparable to the gas needed to fuel a vehicle. Without it, you won’t be getting very far. If the fuel you put into your vehicle is polluted or tainted in any way you might not see the effects at first, but over time it will affect the performance & lifespan of the vehicle itself. We want our proverbial “vehicles” running on premium-grade fuel to enhance our quality of life.

4. Focus on quality over quantity when it comes to food. 
Most of us have adopted a “calories-in, calories-out” approach to eating & we spend a great deal of energy trying to count those little guys in order to keep them under control. It’s kind of an unfair battle we’re fighting, as many of the foods promoted in a standard American diet are not high in nutrients, meaning we may be consuming what’s considered to be an adequate amount of calories, but never actually taking in the proper nutrition. We have a built-in mechanism to tell us when that’s taking place: hunger. So, when you’re not exposing your body to the nutrients it needs in order to function optimally, you’ll feel hungry, which leads you to eat more, & more, & well, you get the picture. Instead of counting calories, we need to focus on fueling our bodies with high-quality foods. Then our bodies will recognize when we have the proper nutrition in order to function & we will only eat when we’re hungry. 

Note: the meat was all in the fridge, but you better believe it's there! 

5. Long distance cardio isn’t the best way to go about building a lean body. 
Most women go to the gym with the goal of losing fat & toning. Unfortunately, they turn to loads of cardio in order to achieve that look. What most of them don’t know is that long-distance running & extensive aerobic exercise causes your body to produce more of the stress hormone: cortisol. This can be a recipe for disaster, as the body’s response to excess cortisol is storing fat, usually around the midsection. What’s the alternative to long aerobics classes or running long distances? Lifting heavy, sprinting, & walking. 


6. Lifting heavy weights will not make you big or bulky. 
Excess body fat makes you look big & bulky, not muscle. Additionally, women do not have the hormonal composition required to really “bulk-up" unless they ingest it on purpose. Strength training with heavy weights will enable you to build lean muscle, which will in turn increase your metabolism & actually help you to burn body fat. Sounds like a great recipe for achieving the lean look you’ve been striving towards! 

7. Machines aren’t your friends.
You see dozens of them in the gym + ladies flocking towards them after they finish gliding on the elliptical. Most machines force your body to move in patterns that do not promote intramuscular coordination & stabilization, like using free weights would do. Ditch the machines & grab some free weights to train your body in a way that utilizes & improves movement patterns to promote optimal & functional performance.
  

8. Working big, compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows, etc) offer more bang-for-your-buck than working isolated lifts (triceps extensions, biceps curls, crunches, etc). There’s a common misconception that working a specific muscle group will burn or use fat around that muscle. For example, if you have a flabby stomach & you do loads of crunches/sit-ups will help you eliminate belly fat. Wouldn’t it be strange to see a woman with really defined abs rocking excess amounts of body fat in her arms & legs? Lean, well-muscled, healthy bodies equate to an overall healthy package. You can target your “problem areas” by striving to achieve overall health instead of working isolated movements. 


9. More isn’t always better when it comes to working out. 
This is for the gym rats that are frequently pulling two-a-days, for the group fitness groupies & for those of you who are in the gym huffing & puffing 6 out of 7 days each week. Though you might be able to sustain it for a time, there are very few athletes who have the capacity to preform this kind of activity long-term. You will likely find yourself experiencing adrenal fatigue or an injury that could require years of recovery. Instead, try strength training 2-3 days a week, sprinting & taking long walks. 

10. Coaching and personal training isn’t just for newbies. 
Even the most highly recognized athletes & trainers have coaches. In fact, I have my mentor, Sasha Brainerd, to thank for exposing me to the majority of the information I’ve included in this post. As with most areas in our lives we need to ask someone (preferably an expert) to make sure we’re doing things well, especially when it comes to something as important as training the one-and-only body we’ve been entrusted in this life! If you’re trying to figure things out on your own, you will probably end up wasting time & put yourself at risk for injury. I understand that not everyone can afford to hire a personal trainer, but there are some really great (free) resources online! Here are a few of my favorites to get you started: The Girls Gone Strong, Charles Poliquin, Jason Seib, Jason Ferruggia & Mobility WOD. You can also message me at hunter.beless@gmail.com for more information about online coaching & programming if that’s something you’re interested in! 

My fitness mentor & me

What did I miss? What common mistakes have you made or seen others make when it comes to health & fitness?
 Have you fallen prey to any of these misconceptions in the past? If so, which one(s)? Choose 1-2 of the suggestions you want to incorporate as you move forward in your journey towards healthy living.