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Mindful Weight Loss (with a little help from my friends)

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Mindful Weight Loss.

Every diet out there will work. For about a week. Then our brains, our minds, our thoughts, and all the motivation, inspiration, and good intentions seem to disappear. “It’s too hard. I’m starving. It’s too much work. I stopped losing weight after a week – it’s not working. I can’t do this anymore.” I’ve heard it all. Yes, it’s incredibly hard. Not because there’s a lot of exhausting work, difficult recipes, large amounts of time or money necessarily involved. But, because it requires constant, mindful thinking and planning. Just like when you plan out a speech or how you’re going to tackle a project at home, weight loss requires the same amount of organization and planning. It seems many people don’t want to put in the time. It’s so much easier to sit on the couch, watch TV and eat a big container of ice cream. I get it. It’s true.

A year and a half ago, I started on my own journey. (click here to read about it). 10 years ago, it was easy for me. I was basically obsessed with eating clean, lifting weights, and competing in 5k and obstacle races. After almost 10 solid years my switch went OFF. Life became increasingly busy and exercise went on the back burner. Suddenly, everything that was habit and routine, was hard. I had to practically force myself to go to the gym and then later quit altogether. When I wrote and published several books, I had temporarily found a new obsession. But, it completely destroyed my healthy lifestyle. I became stressed, depressed, and lost hair. I finally stopped writing, and initially made lame attempts to get back in the game. It was easier to do nothing.

They say there’s a switch in all of us. One that goes on and off. If I knew the magic behind it, everyone would lose weight and keep it off. I think it might have to do with hitting rock bottom. Finally being sick of the way you look or the way you feel. Not loving yourself anymore. Who knows. But, the switch is real. When you find it, and switch it ON, your life will change.

Flash back to a year and a half ago. Memorial day weekend, I hit rock bottom. I was tired of the way I looked and felt. I started on my journey to get back in shape. It was a lot harder this time, though. I struggled to get my head back into it. I knew the results would come sooner if I gave it 100%, but it just wasn’t happening. But, I also knew that whatever I did do, was better than nothing. Yes, it would take longer, but it would eventually happen. So I plodded on. I HAD to. Quitting was not an option. I was getting older and it would only get harder. I would only feel worse as time went on. Was I prepared for a future of diseases? What about when menopause hit? Would the weight start piling on? I decided that no matter how long it took, I’d continue to fight.

My goal was to get back in shape before I turned 50. (Last month was my 50th birthday!) I had a year and a half to do it. With all the obstacles thrown at me this past year, would I be able to overcome them and forge on?

Yes!

  

It was a long year, with many pitfalls, but I came pretty close to where I wanted to be. I rejoined a gym and started going on my lunch hour again – which worked for me in the past. This year – not so much. I hated rushing there all the time. I hated rushing in general. In the past I’d go to the gym during huge snow storms, downpours, and freezing temps. Now, if there was a cloud in the sky I’d bail. Then, two co-workers resigned and we were short staffed for 3 months – leaving during lunch was impossible. We bought a puppy after the holidays and it was difficult to go on the weekends due to her schedule. Then, I hurt my back. Twice. It put me out of commission for several weeks each time. I had to first figure out what I was doing wrong, and then reteach myself how to workout, how to sit, how to stand. When I finally recovered I was afraid to give it 100%. Every time I tried to forge forward, something seemed to stand in my way. After the second back injury, I decided to just quit. Quit the gym and just be happy with what I had. Luckily, I had a great support system. They wouldn’t let me quit.

First was my friend Joe.

No matter how many times I wanted to quit, he refused to let me. EVERY morning he’d send me a cheery text to get me motivated, encourage me, and get me re-motivated. He’d even shoot me a funny afternoon text to let me know HE just did 200 push-ups on his lunch hour. It made me feel guilty. I don’t think I could’ve gotten this far without him. Not many friends would take the time out of their busy days to not only check on you, but to push you when you wanted to give up. He’d start every text with “Good Morning!!!! Today is going to be a great day!” Trust me. I wanted to give up. Take the easy road. I didn’t even tell him I hurt my back the first time because I didn’t want to sound like a complainer. But, he never gave up on me. I’d force myself to the gym and then have an amazing workout. I’d wake up early and work out in my home gym in the basement. I started taking my puppy (whom we found out is part Italian greyhound) for long jogs and runs. She loves running! I started to push myself harder and harder. Doing HIIT runs with the puppy. Lifting heavier and heavier weights at the gym. By the summer, I was back in beast-mode and finally seeing results.

I found a happy medium with my eating, too. I stuck to the healthy meals that worked for me in the past (click here for examples). I found ways to cut my portion sizes here and there. But, my main obstacle was chocolate! I tried countless times to give up desserts during my “40 Day Challenge” and various other times during the year, and finally realized my daily cookie or brownie was the only guilty pleasure I had. Instead of giving it up, I knew I just needed to exercise more to burn it off. It worked. I was able to have my treat or two, and it gave me an excuse to work out more or harder. Deal! 

Next was Melissa.

There aren’t that many amazing people like her in this world. Always a kind word. Always finding the positive in everything – even when her life was upside down. Always knowing how to make me laugh when I felt like crying. She has supported me through my Nutrition website, my Author website, and my journey to get in shape by the time I turned 50. (Not to mention all the work, home, and social-life dramas, too. She’s been there through it all. I can’t thank her enough.) She taught me a few things along the way, as well:

  1. Always dress up. Don’t worry about being the most dressed at a function – someone has to be. (I love this and love to dress up now. And, to be the most dressed up!)
  2. Don’t dress like you’re 50. Dress like you feel and what suits your body – no matter your age. (I started to buy frumpy clothes because I thought I was supposed to. I thought someone would yell: “Dress your age!” I realized I didn’t look my age and I had the body to wear pretty much whatever I wanted. It took a while to shake the old feeling, but soon I ‘got it’ and it all made sense.)
  3. Most important: sometimes, even with the best efforts, some things you can’t fix, but you can fight it every step of the way. (Because of Melissa, I embrace my wrinkles and areas of saggy skin. I’ve learned that some people don’t make it to 50. Some don’t have the privilege of ever having a wrinkle. I’m truly blessed, and although I don’t love ’em, I’m happy to have lived this long to have ’em.)

I love you both and can’t thank you enough! My 50th (surprise) birthday celebration was just that: a celebration. Of reaching my goals, of feeling good about myself again, of being healthy and embracing the next 50 years full of adventures! I’m happy and satisfied in all areas of my life. Finally. Work, home, the right friends, and my health are all in perfect harmony. And, it shows. I noticed the difference in my photos. Whenever I was at a low point in my life, no matter how much I glammed up, dressed up, and my hair and makeup came out perfect, pictures of me looked horrible. You can’t fake how you’re feeling on the inside in a photo. The camera knows! I spent the entire summer (every weekend) celebrating life with get-togethers, parties, BBQ’s, concerts, girls-nights & weekend getaways. And, my inner happiness shows. I feel like my old self again.

Yes, it was hard. Yes, there were times it downright sucked. Yes, I wanted to quit a million times. But, even small progresses added up to big changes in the end. It’s difficult to look forward. You only see the negatives. The obstacles. The failures. The long road ahead. Giving up is SO easy. But, don’t. Ever. Maybe I could have reached my goals within 6 months if I gave it 100% all the time. But, looking back now, does it matter if I reached them in 6 months, 1 year, or even 3 years? No. I plan to live another 50 years so what difference does it make if it takes a year or longer? As long as I get there.

(Thanks to my daughter for ‘forcing’ me to buy this dress!)

So, my final word is to have a plan. A good plan. One with short and long term goals. What to do if you have a setback. And, have friends or family around that you can count on for support. Plan out your meals for the day, the week. Schedule in exercise every way you can. Squeeze it all in and keep charging forward. Small changes over time equal big changes in the end. And, remember, I’m always here for you. What are your obstacles? What have you overcome this past year? What worked for you? Do you have someone to help you reach your goals?

I love hearing from you!

CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to SurviveEvery Five Years & The Bridges Before Us

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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Making Huge Gains with Weight Lifting

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Want to Make Huge Gains with Weight Lifting?

For those of you that follow me on my Facebook Page, or are friends with me on Facebook, you know I did a 40 day challenge to get us all ready for our summer bodies. One of my posts sparked a slew of comments and questions and I felt the information was so important that I’d write a blog post about it for everyone else to read. So here it goes:

Part 1

I know some might not like this – just MY opinion – but I noticed I’ve been taking all these gym classes and I do NOT feel sore at all afterward. Even the day I took 3 classes in a row – nothing. I was a little disappointed because I thought I’d at least feel a little sore. Somewhere. I mean, they’re different classes, something new for my body to experience, different routines, new exercises, faster, etc. But, nothing. I did a lot of thinking and one thing these classes all have in common (especially the weight lifting/power sculpt ones) they do too many reps, causing you to choose a much lighter weight than you might use out on the gym floor. You’re moving quickly to the beat of the music, to the instructor that’s flinging that weight around, and you CAN’T lift heavier. You have to choose a lighter weight otherwise you won’t be able to lift it for the 49th time. But that won’t build muscle. That builds endurance.
Someone said to me once: “But I sweat during my workouts. My muscles feel sore while I’m working out. I do multiple reps and sets and my arms/legs are killing me!” Feeling pain AS you’re lifting is not the same as building muscle. Let me explain.

If while you’re lifting weights, your arm starts to hurt, it gives out, it starts to burn — that’s just Lactic Acid building up. Your body has run out of the energy it needs to keep doing whatever it is you’re doing and you have to stop otherwise it sends out the lactic acid to “Burn you” to make you stop. That’s not the same as feeling soreness 24-48 hours later from your muscle being ripped apart, repairing themselves and rebuilding a bigger, stronger one. If you just wave your arm up and down really fast with no weight in your hand, eventually the ATP (energy) runs out, the lactic acid builds up, burns, and you can’t wave your arm around anymore. That’s not going to build muscle. It builds endurance. I was always taught that in order to BUILD muscle: You lift HEAVY. Slow reps. No more than 10 reps (if you can do more than 10-12 – it’s too light).
I normally do 25lb bicep curls, but in that class I was using 12lbs (the largest they had) and my arm quickly died because she made us do almost 30 reps fast. One class, the woman made us do 100 lunges with our right leg on a bosu ball without stopping. It was ridiculous. I really felt like I was going to hurt myself. The weirdest part was the next day – not sore. On Monday, I took 2 classes back to back and in both classes they did multiple shoulder exercises, some while you’re jumping around like a lunatic, I thought for sure something was going to rip as I whipped my arm all over the place. 2 days later – nothing. Not even sore. I initially took the classes mainly for the cardio, but since I have Leia, my puppy, to run with, I don’t need it. I can run with her for a half hour every day.

I also did it for fun, and to change up my routine. I took the Power Sculpt classes thinking I’d build SOME muscle. But, no pain, no gain. I can’t believe I felt nothing. I do a half hour of weightlifting in the weight room and I’m sore for days.
I decided to spend my gym time back to what I did years ago. What WORKED. Strictly lifting weights. Heavy weights. No cardio. Maybe a yoga class once in awhile to just to stretch and relax. I’m not building any muscle with the other classes, though. I can still burn a significant amount of calories lifting heavy weights and at least I’d build muscle while doing it. I don’t need endurance in my triceps! And, the cardio just makes me so damn hungry. When I only lift weights I’m not hungry at all. This week has been a constant struggle to not eat everything in sight.

Part 2

After my post last week about how I wasn’t ‘feeling it” with my gym classes and how I needed to go back to my old, old routine of lifting heavy, I got a lot of questions such as: What do you mean by heavy? How heavy is heavy? I can’t lift heavy – how am I supposed to lift heavy if I can’t lift the weight? How do I get to the next heaviest weight if I can’t lift it?
Let me explain what I meant. Let’s say, just for example, you are doing Bicep curls and you are using a 15lb weight but it’s getting too light: (you’re able to do 12+ reps or you never feel sore after working out your biceps or you’ve been lifting the SAME weight forever). Time to move up to the next weight. You try the 20lb weight but you can only do 5 reps. No problem. That’s okay. That’s normal. Think about it. You just did 5 reps of a heavier weight! Way to go! Here’s a few things you can do to make the 20lbs your “new” weight.

#1. You lift your 15lb weight for one set and then the 2nd set you lift the 20lb weight as many times as you can – 5 reps IS FINE! You do this every time until you can get up to 10 reps. It may take a few tries, a few sessions. Just keep trying. 5 reps one week. 6 the next, then 7, until you can get to 10. Once you do, no more 15lb weight. Stick with the 20lbs from now on. Woo hoo!

#2. You start with the 20lb weight FIRST. Your muscles aren’t fatigued yet and you are stronger. You try to lift as many as you can – maybe you can even do 6! and then you drop back to the 15lbs and do your usual 10+. Every session you start with the heavier weight, do as many as you can and then return to you lower weight to finish off your session.

#3. Drop sets. You start with 20lbs, do as many as you can (let’s say 6 reps), then immediately (no rest) grab the 15lbs and try to get to 10 reps (or as many as you can) then immediately grab a 10lb weight and do as many as you can, then grab a 7lb weight and do the same, then 5lbs. You are starting with the HEAVY weight when you are well rested – pushing yourself as far as you can, then putting less and less weight on it, but your muscles are fatigued so even though you are lifting lighter, your muscles are still fighting to lift when their fatigued. That builds the muscle.

#4. Start with the 15lb weight, do your set, then switch to 20lbs, do as many as you can, then grab a 25lb weight (don’t freak) and try to lift ONE measly rep (or as many as you can). I know a lot of you are saying “There’s no way” but here’s what you can do. Let’s say you can only do 1 rep of the 25lb weight – you can HELP yourself lift it. (Did you ever see a guy helping another guy do their last rep on a chest press? Same thing). Take 2 fingers and gently help your other arm lift the weight up by putting the 2 fingers under your other hand and lightly push up, then let go and SLOWLY let the weight return to the down position. Fight the gravity. (See picture above). I read that the down, negative, (against-gravity) part of the rep, is what really shapes that muscle. NO letting the weight DROP back down lazily. Slowly lower it. If you can barely do the 20lb weight, then stick with the 20lbs (don’t switch to 25lbs) and do this with the 20lb weight until you get up to the 10 full reps. Same deal.


There’s 4 ways you can help yourself get to the next heavier weight. Try one, try them all! Let me know how it works, or which one worked the best for you. You can do this with any body part, any free-weights, any machine.

I love hearing from you!

CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to SurviveEvery Five Years & The Bridges Before Us

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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Yes! You Can Do Obstacle Runs With Your Kids!

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Ridiculous Obstacle Course Races with your kids!  

I’ve participated in Mudd Runs, Spartan Races, and Obstacle Course runs, and last summer was the first time my youngest was old enough to participate – and she’s the athletic one in the family. When I saw this latest challenge I knew this would be a great way to include my daughters in the fun.

I strongly believe in doing activities with my children instead of spending money on objects they’ll be bored with in a few days, or will end up getting donated in the future. I love trying new things and I hope by showing my daughters what I do, or having them participate with me, they’ll in turn continue to be active when they’re adults. (And, maybe share these types of moments with their kids one day, too!)

I chose this ROC Race (looks cool, yes?) since my daughter was so young, but she proved to be braver than the two of us. Several times she said “I want to go first.” Or “I want to do that obstacle over. I want to try the harder route.” It really impressed me and made me proud. She ended kickin’ both our butts! I only hope I’m a good role model to them.

The best part was the fun we had. We laughed the whole time, pushed each other, and motivated each other through every obstacle. No fear! I kept saying: It’s not fear, it’s excitement, and it was! At the end, we wanted to do it again, and we’re sad that it was over.

I know a lot of people are afraid of these runs, but unless you’re competing for prizes or money, no one watches you or makes sure you’re doing the obstacles correctly or doing them at all. If you feel something is too hard or scary: you just skip it. No one is forcing you or pushing you. You can walk, You can stroll. You can run. You can help each other. It’s supposed to be fun for a reason. There were people of all different ages, physical fitness levels, old, young, overweight, men, women, kids, grandparents, etc.

I did a Mudd run with my girlfriends last year and we had nothing but fun. Some obstacles were hard, but we helped each other through all of them. We even helped strangers and they helped us back, cheering each other as we went!

My point being, have some fun this summer. Get a group of guys or gals, your kids, your spouse, and sign up for something. Enjoy the weather, do things you’ve never done before, push yourself out of your comfort zone, check it off your bucket list, and have a blast! Life is short. Memories last longer than ‘things’.

P.S. I started the ROC race hoping to inspire and motivate my kids. I wanted to push them out of their comfort zones and let them see their full potential. See how strong they really are. At the end of the day, they ended up doing it to me. There was a Marines challenge where you had to hold yourself in a chin-up pose for as long as you could hold it. Throughout the long day, many women tried. The woman that was able to hold it the longest, held it for 1 minute and 30 seconds! I watched as several of them tried and saw how difficult it was.

My daughters told me to do it. I initially told them no way. I hadn’t done a chin-up, or pull-up since my Cross-Fit days. I was lucky if I could hold it for 10 seconds let alone a MINUTE AND A HALF! To make matters worse, the Marines stood around as you did it and SCREAMED at you, called you names, tried to wear you down. I have to admit, I was afraid. Once I signed up, it was too late though.

I climbed up, held my arms in a chin-up pose, bent my knees, and closed my eyes, and tried to breathe. After the initial screaming at me that I wasn’t so special, as I hung there and they laughed at the girl in the pink shorts and pink polka-dot T-shirt, they started cheering me on. Everyone. The Marines. My daughters. The crowd that was forming. I had no idea how much time had passed, how long I was hanging there, but I felt strong. I could do this!

When I finally let go I had held on for 1 minute and 48 seconds!  I was the new champ. And, this was after 2 hours of running in the obstacle course!

Stepping out of your comfort zone is scary. But, when you do, it’s the most rewarding feeling ever. Just Do It!

Have you ever done any obstacle course, fun runs, Mudd runs? If so, I’d love to hear your stories! Which was your favorite? Which one would you sign up for this summer?

CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to SurviveEvery Five Years & The Bridges Before Us

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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