What Goes in My Grocery Cart?
Nutrition is obviously a hot topic these days, with everyone touting gluten free this and sugar free that. Basically if you read enough on the internet, everything is going to kill you. Here’s a bit of a hint – everything IS going to kill you eventually. Really what you want to focus on is staving off the effects for as long as you possibly can and not letting yourself develop a chronic degenerative disease that might make it happen sooner. My grandmother recently turned 100 years old, and still puts salt on things, eats butter and has two sugar cubes in her instant decaf coffee every day plus a hit of sherry once in a while. I also share a Coke with her once a year. She also lives an incredibly stress free lifestyle, which I think is one of the major contributors to degenerative disease today – but I digress.
While at the store this morning I thought I might post about exactly what I shop for and why, and hope that it might give you some insight into what a “fitness person” eats. So here’s what was in my grocery cart this morning, which is pretty typical of 90% of our food intake:
Apples Tomatoes Bananas Cheese
Grapes Cucumber Green Beans Whole Wheat Wraps
Broccoli Strawberries Kale Lactose Free Milk
Greek Yogurt Brussels Sprouts Oranges Brown Rice
Peppers Sweet Potatoes Peppermint Tea
Tofu (we feed this to our daughter for fat and protein – and she loves it – yes, I know about soy)
Cheerios (my daughter also loves these as a treat but I eat them too for breakfast sometimes)
Total Cost: $53 (at our local FreshCo) for enough to cover us for about four to five days. We typically spend about $80 per week on groceries.
We get our meat from a local butcher because it is better quality – I rarely buy meat from the grocery store unless they are having a big sale on something in bulk. Most of our meat is fish and chicken, but I also buy ground beef and sometimes a roast for convenience. Once a week we do a slow cooker meal which covers us for 3-4 meals so it is easy for my wife to simply reheat if I am working late.
You might notice that there’s nothing from a box or that’s frozen. This isn’t always the case – we buy frozen fish because it is cheaper and my butcher doesn’t carry it and we buy frozen peas because they are convenient and cheaper as well. We don’t drink pop, or any juice. I drink coffee that I sometimes make at home but I typically buy one from Tim Horton’s 5 days a week when I’m on my way to work. I put cream and sugar in it because it tastes better that way. If I want a snack I’ll eat fruit, yogurt or banana chips from Bulk Barn since I’m allergic to nuts and can’t eat those. My post long run recovery drink is chocolate milk and sometimes my wife puts it in her coffee at home.
Here’s another shocker – I don’t take supplements. No protein shakes, no BCAA’s, nothing beyond a simple Vitamin C to help reduce the risk of illness. I found through trial and error that protein powders don’t make my system happy and the added juice and sugar add up to a ton as well. Not that this is necessary, but I made a decision a while ago to basically cut back on anything artificial or that has chemicals in it, which any protein powder does. And you can tell me until you’re blue in the face how yours comes from 100% natural ingredients, but the truth is, your powder still got made in a factory with 20 others that are simply boxed and shipped to other companies and there are still fillers and additives in it. So basically I get 80% of my nutrition from real food, and the other 20% is the occasional 1-2 times a week I grab something when I’m out. About once every other week my wife and I order in Thai food like normal people. I follow the 80/20 rule – if you do the right thing 80% of the time it likely makes up for the 20% that you don’t.
I also have a ten month old at home – we feed her pretty much the same stuff that we eat at this point because she loves to feed herself and imitate Mom and Dad. She loves beans, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, tofu, brown rice pasta, and especially strawberries. For breakfast we often make her toast with almond butter and she loves it. She has been exposed to pretty much everything (all fish, nuts, major allergens except for honey) and has no food allergies. She doesn’t like too much animal protein because of the texture at this stage, but she will eat fish and chicken if we hide it or if she’s hungry enough.
So there you have it – the grocery and eating habits of a not perfect personal trainer and a regular human being. I know that nutrition is a personal choice for many people so if you want to comment, that’s fine – I just might not listen. I’ve spoken about nutrition before, and lots of people either over complicate it or simply don’t manage their time well. They hit the snooze button 3 times and skip breakfast. They don’t bother making lunch at home and spend hundreds a month eating out – which also leads to unhealthy choices. Instead of whipping something up that’s healthy and easy at home (which you can easily do in 15 minutes) they stop and pick up something packaged or fast food. Always remember – this is a choice. If you choose to do that, then fine, but don’t complain about it. It is really easy to make a simple change and manage your life and time better so you can live longer and feel better. If you’re going to make a change, don’t make it for 6 weeks or a “90 day challenge” – make it for the rest of your life and commit already.
I hope it helped – feel free to comment, subscribe and share!
4 Good Reasons to Fire Your Trainer
Due to the fact that my industry is unregulated and anyone can call themselves a trainer after taking a weekend course, it is generally filled with some pretty interesting characters. What still amazes me to this day is the fact that people will blindly walk into a fitness centre and sometimes invest thousands of dollars, simply under the promise that they are going to lose weight, get ripped or be able to perform like a high level athlete in no time – and not even interview the person properly! Some trainers prey on this like a lion devouring a carcass, and take advantage of people who are emotionally vulnerable as a part of their selling process. You can see examples of this all over YouTube if you just search for “personal trainer sales”.
Other trainers will use a personal relationship to take advantage of their clientele and drop their service level – sometimes to the point of completely neglecting them and what they were hired for in the first place. Because they now see the client as a friend, they allow themselves to forget the professional side of the equation. Trainers generally aren’t good business people, which is why they get into an easy entry profession in the first place, and chain gyms pretty much guarantee that even a totally incompetent idiot can get clients if they just stick around for long enough.
This bothers me. I tend to take my job as a trainer seriously, and what a lot of trainers (and clients) need to learn is that when you a trainer is affecting someone’s body in a positive or negative way they are impacting a lot more than just their physical well-being. Also, I don’t know many people who can afford to waste $60-100 an hour and not get value for it. I know I can’t. Our industry is also rampant with unprofessionalism. Trainers texting, eating, or ignoring clients to chat with other people during workouts. Trainers who talk more than they coach. Trainers who come in to work hung over and brag about it. Believe it or not, this is actually common – and it really shouldn’t be.
So in a nutshell, here are some very good reasons to fire your trainer. If you are a client reading this and can relate to one of these, fire your trainer. Today. If you are a trainer reading this and get fired (or have been in the past) well then odds are you should probably stop doing one of these.
1) They don’t show up for work.
Trainers who constantly cancel, take loads of time off and always make excuses or reschedule should be fired immediately. You are paying someone for a service and they are supposed to be focusing on you and your results. A trainer who no-shows for any reason in this day and age should likely be fired right away. With texting, email, easy ways to communicate there is no excuse beyond a legitimate emergency and this should happen once in a blue moon.
I personally know a trainer who took over 65 days away from work last year and constantly cancelled sessions last minute – but then would charge his clients if they did the same thing. That’s 13 working weeks away from his clients, and for some reason – he didn’t get fired by some of them. Good thing he got paid up front! As a client, don’t let your trainer use a personal relationship to abuse the fact that they are hired to do a job.
2) When they do show up, they act like you are hanging out with a buddy.
If you are talking more than you are working then the session probably isn’t doing you a lot of good. A skilled trainer can maintain a conversation (if you really need them to) while you are doing movements. Frankly, if you are resting too much because you are chatting, why are you paying that person? Most trainers cost over a dollar a minute – make sure you are getting value for your time. Personal training also isn’t a therapy session or a “nutrition consultation” where you pay the person to solve problems that are outside of their scope of practice. Doing ten sets of exercise in 45 minutes isn’t going to get you very far either. There should be a plan, and it should be executed properly. I know that often I don’t even have time to get everything in that I want to do in an hour long session, never mind chatting.
One big test – if your trainer is talking to you about their own personal issues a lot, get rid of them. The session should be about you and what you are accomplishing towards your fitness goals. Be serious about your physical fitness and health and find a trainer who is too.
Oh, and if they ever pull out a cell phone during a session except to use it as a timer or they have an emergency, you might want to think about how much they respect the time they have with you.
3) They don’t have a plan, long term or even during a session.
“What do you want to work on today?” was a normal thing I heard when I worked at some gyms. Um…it is your job to figure that out and tell me, that is what I’m paying you for. Can they modify or change a workout in the moment if it is needed because you ended up moving furniture the day before and your back is sore? If your trainer doesn’t have a plan for that workout and then moving forward odds are they really aren’t focused on getting you what you want – results. If you tell them that you don’t want to work a particular body part because it is already tired and they give you blank stare, run for the hills.
Part of the skill as a trainer is also being able to figure out what is appropriate for that person in the moment and constantly be assessing ability. This can change even movement to movement. If a client comes in and hasn’t slept, didn’t eat right or has another problem and the trainer just goes ahead with a hard core circuit workout (that they have likely done with every client that day) then they are putting you at risk of injury. Is someone who either doesn’t know better or doesn’t care worth investing in?
I actually heard of a guy who would put a daily workout on a wipe board and have every client do it that day – no matter their condition, age, size, etc. Ridiculous. And not worth your money.
4) They have no experience dealing with your specific issue.
I know you have a personal relationship with your trainer and would never want to leave them, but honestly sometimes if your goals change or something happens you may need to find a new one. An example would be a client who gets pregnant and their trainer has never worked with a pregnant woman before – is that really a good idea? If I suddenly decided to enter a powerlifting competition and my trainer was a marathon runner that might not be a great fit. If I seriously injure myself and my trainer has no background in that particular injury, is it really wise to hope that they learn with you as a guinea pig?
A trainer with integrity will refer out when situations like this come up, not simply wing it hoping for a good result. Don’t be afraid to suggest that maybe they could find you someone more suited to your needs. Likely the money you invest will get you a better result. Personally I’m never insulted if/when this happens and I have a good network of other professionals that I can refer to.
I know that sometimes I am negative on my industry, but realistically these things happen less often than you think. Just make sure that they aren’t happening to you! In order to improve your results, you need to make sure you are working with a top quality professional, and they are definitely out there. Sometimes you just have to weed through them a bit before finding a good one. Let me know if there is anything you would add to this list and feel free to comment and subscribe!
5 Tips for Beginner (and Experienced) Runners to Succeed.
Every spring brings with it clear roads, nice lush trails and always an explosion of new or reborn runners outside. The year seems bright and shiny and new goals get set, sometimes held over from the year previous. That ½ marathon that didn’t get done last year – this is the one! I’m going to finish my first 10k race in under an hour! I’m going to set a new personal best in May! After coaching endurance athletes for over a decade I’ve pretty much heard all of them before. This applies to those of you who ran regularly last year and haven’t consistently since November (when you finished your last race) too. So I thought I might list off some of the biggest mistakes that I see new or renewed runners make early in season and hopefully it will make sure that a lot of those injuries I end up fixing in the fall don’t happen – at least to you.
1) Start as easy as you need to.
Many beginners start out with a walk/run protocol until they can run continuously for 20 minutes – and you should too. One mistake many beginners make is thinking that they can instantly hop out of their door and run forever without walking. They get 1 kilometer down the road, are gasping for air and their muscles are screaming, limp home and never go out again. I wonder why? This applies to reborn runners as well – sometimes those first few runs are hard on the body and it needs time to adjust and get used to the movement again. Try walk 1 minute, then JOG (not run) 1 minute and repeat for about 10 cycles – this is 20 minutes total, 10 minutes of jogging. This is a good starting point. Start with 3 times a week on non-consecutive days. You will know you are improving when things get easier and then you can progress to 2/1, up to 10/1 and then try for a long continuous run.
Also, it has been proven that aerobic conditioning is incredibly important. The majority of running at the starting stages should be at aerobic pace (meaning at least conversational). This can be very difficult for beginners, so watch your perceived exertion levels!
2) Warm up and Cool Down properly
Just putting your shoes on and going full speed right away is something even experienced runners shouldn’t do. My athletes all start out with mobility movements and drills before starting, then slowly ramp up to their workouts. High level athletes sometimes warm up for over an hour before their main workout starts! This is important for blood flow, getting your brain into movement and making sure all is okay before you start pounding on your joints. At the end of a workout, take some time to walk, evaluate how you feel and don’t just plop yourself down and stop moving right away. Don’t necessarily just stretch, either – often your muscles are too taxed and you are potentially doing yourself more harm than good by stretching immediately afterwards anyway. Treat every workout seriously, because if you want to perform well over time this is an essential habit to have right away.
Historically my athletes all tell me that if they had a crappy run it was because they didn’t warm up or do any movement before they went into their workout. It also significantly increases injury risk.
3) Progress yourself slower than you think you need to.
I can’t stress enough that the majority of overuse injuries I see are caused by their name – overuse. Some days are going to be a lot better than others for running, so ramping up mileage needs to be done weekly with a deload week once in a while (meaning just drop your total mileage by about 20%). There are lots of good plans out there and if the plan calls for 3 miles, don’t suddenly do 5 just because you are feeling great that day. My marathon runners spend months increasing weekly mileage from 50km per week to 70 and many more to 100 – you have to give the body time to adapt to stress under load. I often explain it to people that if you walked into the gym after hardly bench pressing 100 pounds and suddenly tried for 150, likely it wouldn’t go very well and you could easily hurt yourself, right? Running (and any other form of muscular stress) is the same thing. Start with alternating days, then add in a day once you feel capable. 4 days a week is generally plenty for most runners unless you are trying for a very fast time, especially when you add in other components, like…
4) Strength train. Both with resistance and while running.
Huh? How can you strength train while running, you ask? Well, the funny thing is that the body adapts to stress under load. Especially for beginners, getting into the weight room and lifting weights (properly) has been proven to be better for your running efficiency, allow you to recover from workouts faster and severely reduce your risk of injury. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean bench presses – the strength movements should be tailored to the muscles that you need to be better at running. A good strength coach (and I happen to know an excellent one!) can be your guide here. Strength training while running can be done with things like hill workouts, hard track workouts and even simple drills you can do at the end of a good run. Again, like anything else care has to be taken to do things properly at the start. There are lots of good beginner strength programs out there for endurance athletes.
It also doesn’t require a gym membership. I can outfit a decent home gym for less than $100, so if you need any guidance there or even if you don’t have a lot of space it can definitely be done. In fact, you can get a lot of strength from bodyweight movements alone.
5) Be realistic.
If a person comes to me having never run consistently and tells me they want to run a marathon, I tell them it will take 2 years to do properly and injury free. They usually walk out at that point. So many of us want that big goal without giving our body the time to adapt and get stronger while doing it. If you want to do a ½ marathon (without walking) be prepared to be running up to 50-60km per week. For a 10k it should be at least 30-40 – which requires time, commitment and preparation. Don’t be afraid to downgrade your goal if you find you haven’t put in the training time, you are better off to do that then do the race you set and possibly set yourself back for the future as a result. There are races pretty much every weekend during the summer – they will always be there. Would you rather have a bad experience or a good one? The road is long and if you take your time and do things right the first time, you can enjoy running for years without any issues.
All of this being said, a good coach is invaluable and will give you some perspective. Just please make sure you don’t come to them with a list of goals – pick a top one and have a secondary one, but don’t expect that you will lose 30 pounds while also running a ½ marathon. They are separate things and should be treated as such. If you are interested in exploring either your first race or your twenty-first and are going for a personal best feel free to contact me. I have helped dozens of runners get to that target goal they have been waiting for, whether you are just getting off of the couch or heading towards the Boston Marathon. Feel free to comment, subscribe and follow me on Facebook!
The Biggest Loser? So What?
Since its’ inception The Biggest Loser has been a source of controversy, not only in the fitness world but across the internet and blogoverse for the extreme way that they approach weight loss and “health”. Most recently this all came to a head when at the finale the winner revealed a 60% loss of weight, losing 45 pounds in just over a month to win $250,000. The thing everyone freaked out about is that at the finale she looked incredibly skinny and was classified as “dangerously underweight”.
People, let’s have a reality check along with this “reality” show. If someone told me that I’d win $250,000 if I just got on a scale lighter than two other people I wouldn’t give a care as to what I looked like when it happened. I’m quite sure that immediately after that taped the contestant simply rehydrated, carbed back up and gained 15 pounds in a couple of weeks (if not days). In the fitness competition world it is quite common for men and women to drop 8-10 pounds of water in a day. Is it healthy? Of course not. Would I do it to win $250,000? You’re damned right I would. Professional fighters do it before almost every fight. For $250,000 you would be surprised what I would do.
On Season 7 Helen Philips lost 55% of her body weight and 30 pounds between the final episode and finale. She looked really, really unhealthy and her BMI was 18.9. Nobody freaked out. Did I mention that she was 47 years old? At least the contestant who did it this season was a former athlete and in her 20’s. She lost 45 pounds between the final episode and finale. The guy who came in 2nd in this controversial season dropped 57 pounds in the same time frame – nobody mentions that though, because he lost. These people are doing what it takes to win money. Period.
That all under the bridge, this show has never been anything to do with proper health and weight loss. Contestants regularly get injured doing workouts that they have no business doing. It gives a complete false impression of what healthy exercise and eating is (along with lots of product shout outs for marketing dollars). When one of your main sponsors is Subway, which has been proven over and over again to be almost as bad as many other fast food places for health then you really don’t have a leg to stand on. Showing people who are obese getting put through exercise that makes them pass out, throw up and hurt themselves is totally irresponsible, but it gets ratings, right? The “trainers” (and I put Jillian Michaels well into this category as a quotation mark “trainer”) spend barely any time with the contestants beyond shooting the puff pieces used for television. The contestants are contractually obligated to work out for several hours a day and eat mandated amounts of calories. This is about as far from “reality” as you can get, which is also why many of them gain weight back once they leave the show. Surprisingly enough, more often than not the ones who do well and get sponsorships and more promotional deals stay motivated to keep the weight off.
The show is about losing scale weight. For some reason, many people are obsessed with this concept. Athletes don’t generally give any consideration to their weight unless their sport involves weight classes like powerlifting or boxing. They care about what they can do with the body they have and how it performs. In an ideal world, we would all just accept our individual bodies, treat them with respect and focus on what they can do and what we want to do with them, not what a number on a machine says about you. For some sports, like cycling and running if you are lighter it does mean you will be faster, but smart people know that if it means your performance suffers then it isn’t worth it. Let’s focus more on what we can do, not what we look like.
Be healthy. Be strong. Be whatever you want to be without obsessing about a number because the media tells you you’re “too” anything, be it big, small, short or tall. Just get out there and stay active, do it responsibly and respect your body. And please, please don’t take this “reality” show as anything you should aspire to.