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Paula Brusky, PhD

Paula Brusky, PhD

Dr. Paula Brusky is the owner of Aerial Dance Pole Exercise, LLC in Appleton. With a PhD in injury prevention, a group fitness certification from the American Center on Exercise and numerous fitness, aerial and pole instruction certifications she is a leading aerial arts educator. For more information or to sign-up for your first Pole, Hammock, Hoop or Silks class, call 920-750-1441 or visit www.PoleAppleton.com.

Monday, 30 April 2018 18:21

Self-talk and fitness

As the owner of a fitness studio for adult women that specializes in the aerial arts of pole, hoop, hammock and silks for the past eight years, I’ve noticed an alarming trend: women are so mean to themselves. It starts before a woman walks in the door when she hears about the sports I love and immediately says, “I could never do that. I’m not strong enough” or “I’m too fat to do that.” It then continues when she starts to think about booking a class: “I’m really clumsy, are you sure I can do this?” or “I’ll take a class but I’ll never be good.” And it continues into her journey, no matter if it is her first class or she’s doing crazy tricks in the air four years in. Women are inherently self-critical in an un-motivating and unkind way.

For many years we’ve tried to bring attention to this issue in our classes by lovingly correcting negative comments when we hear them as instructors. Two years ago we started a “gold star” program where before a women leaves our facility she has to recall something she did well today so she focuses on the positive for a second before leaving. We started a book club to read books on topics about self-acceptance and self-compassion. And though all those things are helpful, it still wasn’t getting at the heart of the matter, which is: self-deprecation is so ingrained in our culture that many women don’t even realize they are doing it. So then we tried something different, and instituted “spring cleaning” at the studio where any time a student or instructor hears a student verbalize a negative self-comment, they have to fill out a positive affirmation on a piece of paper to fill its place. We created a station in the middle of the facility between our three studios so women could easily walk over and reframe a negative thought onto a positive one on a piece of paper.

At first it was a bit of a game. When a lady would say something negative, her instructor would say “Go spring clean that thought!” and she’d laugh and walk to the station to write. But what we noticed was that over time, all the students started supporting their classmates to have more positive self-talk. If one student said something negative about themselves another classmate would jump in to help them reframe it and then they’d say it together. This created a snowball effect and the general vibe of the classes shifted more and more positive as the month went on.

What was even more interesting to me was that the level of achievement at the studio directly paralleled the quality of self-talk. Women that had been struggling with a specific move and reinforced their struggles with comments like “I can’t do that” started to instead say “I’m working on that” and by the end of the month they got it! It has been fascinating to watch how what the mind believes the body achieves.

What do you want to achieve? Does your mind and self-talk support that it is possible? For a week, hold yourself accountable to what you are actually saying to yourself. Replace the negative restrictive comments with positive and see how far you can go!

 

Wednesday, 28 February 2018 15:53

Your “bikini body” is ready

It’s March and it seems like every Facebook fitness ad and gym wants to ask you ,“Is your bikini body ready?” These messages are always accompanied by a six-pack fitness model or Victoria’s Secret Angel image. And I get so angry!

Here’s the truth. Unless you are already well on your fitness and healthy eating journey you aren’t going to look like a fitness model by the start of summer without doing something extremely drastic (and likely extremely unhealthy!). That isn’t to say you shouldn’t try to get healthier before summer, you absolutely should! Taking a step toward a healthier version of us is always a great idea — no matter the time of year. But you need to set realistic goals for your “healthier you journey” because if your goal is to look like the next Gisele, you’ll probably get discouraged and quit. And that won’t get you anywhere. If your goal is instead to find a physical activity you enjoy, then you’ll look forward to going to classes every week! You’re worth taking the time to have a healthy diet and wonderful physical activity schedule! So focus on making healthy life choices and not about the end result of a specific size or look. If you think you need to look like the pictures shown in the ads before you can wear a bikini, most of us would never wear one. And then we’ll miss out on pool parties, days at the beach, making sandcastles with our kids, learning to water-ski and soaking the sun’s rays. I, for one, am unwilling to miss those things just because I also enjoy wine and cheese.

So where does that leave me? First I’m going to set a realistic workout schedule because I like to see what my body can do. For me that is swimming laps once a week, going for a hike in the woods once a week (yes, even in the cold) and doing pole and aerial tricks three times a week because I love getting stronger and defying gravity. Second, I’m going to set reasonable nutrition goals. For me that means eating more vegetable (boo) and less fried food (double boo). I’m not going to go for broke and quit fried food all together but if I normally eat something fried three times a week I’m going to try to cut it back to once. Why? Because this could actually be sustainable. And that is the goal. To create a lifestyle that I love and can keep doing. I don’t just want to look good for a few months in the summer, I want to feel good all the time.

Then I’m going to start working on the one thing that I can dramatically change between March and June — how I feel about myself. Have you ever listened to the thoughts in your head? If you’re like most of the women I know, they aren’t nice. They sure as heck aren’t things you’d say to a friend. Start paying attention to what you’re saying and then if it isn’t something you’d say to a friend, say, “Be nice to my friend.” And rephrase/completely change. Because you need to be your best friend.

I was recently in Ecuador and saw women walking around that were “bigger” strutting around in “tiny,” really tight-fitting outfits. And you know what I noticed? They were happy. They turned men’s heads. They were confident. And they looked beautiful. Because that’s the real thing that matters, how you feel in your own skin and how you project that to the world. If you walk out in a bikini and you’re constantly pulling at it to try to get it to cover more, to those looking you’re going to seem uncomfortable and that is how they will then view you. If you walk out with what ever hanging where ever, and you’re comfortable because that is you, the people around you will see you as confident and beautiful. How we project our opinions of ourselves is one of the bigger things people will pick up on.

So my goal is to accept my body and — gasp! — maybe even love it by summer. Wear the bikini. Do the activities you want. Enjoy your body because that will help you enjoy your life.

Friday, 29 December 2017 03:35

Exercise is not punishment

Everywhere I turn there is misinformation about health, fitness and nutrition. The only thing more frustrating is the photoshopped images and advertisements of how I’m supposed to look and the very clear message of how I should feel about myself if I don’t. It’s extremely hard to know what is true versus what is paid-for advice that has a motive attached. The constant expectation of beauty tied to skinny has given credibility to all the diets. Am I supposed to eat, avoid or cycle carbs this week? But no message is more frustrating to me than the “if you ate X, you need to go to the gym and do Y.” 

Let’s be frank. If you eat poorly, no amount of exercise is going to make up for it. The number of calories in one delicious fried cheese curd would require you spend hours on a treadmill to “burn it off.” Your weight is like 90 percent what you put in your mouth. This has been scientifically proven many times over but advertisers don’t like this message because it’s harder to sell lettuce than it is a new fancy piece of gym equipment you can use in your home that will totally make you look like a supermodel for just 20 minutes three times a week.

What is exercise? Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do! Exercise is your body moving to be healthy. I read something once that really stuck with me: “Your body is a vehicle, not an ornament!” Think about that for a second. Your body is a vehicle. It is meant to get you from A to B. It is your vehicle to play with your kids and get to your office and do all the things you do in a day. Therefore, exercise is taking your vehicle out on the autobahn and seeing what it can do. Exercise is moving the wheels to make sure they stay lubricated or the tires don’t get a flat spot from the pavement.

The problem with linking exercise to nutrition is that if someone isn’t willing to eat healthy they often will feel like exercise is also out of their reach. It isn’t. You can eat the pizza and exercise. I, for one, love pizza. I also love seeing what my body is capable of. I’m lucky because the sport I chose, the aerial arts, defy gravity and give me constant opportunities to do things I didn’t think I’d be able to do. And there are days I’m sore from training the day before or from lifting something heavy while moving or from sitting in the car for way too long on a road trip; do you know what always makes those days better? Moving! Our bodies were made to move! We just happen to have built a huge fitness industry around this concept that is spewing misinformation to drive sales. But if you take away the money incentive, moving is fundamental to the human experience. What use is a vehicle if it is always just sitting in one spot? 

Get moving however it appeals to you. There is no wrong answer to moving, go for a walk, join a sports league, sign up for a pole exercise class. The type doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that you move, call it exercise if you want but move! And remember that moving your vehicle is kinda the point of having one. 

Thursday, 30 November 2017 05:55

The importance of celebrating

Every December the students at my studio put on a huge show for family and friends. And every year leading up to the show I swear I’m not going to do it next year. It is a silly amount of work for me to put it on and a massive expense since it has grown into this monster of an event with a production company and all kinds of awesomeness. Leading up to the show I’m stressed out planning, organizing and worrying, and I swear this is the last year. But then show day happens. And I see my student’s faces. And I reserve the date for the next one.

Why? Because life doesn’t give adult women enough time to celebrate our accomplishments. Most of the adult women I know don’t take enough time for themselves to do simple everyday things like eating healthy, working out, sleeping, relaxing, etc., and they surely don’t give themselves the chance to be proud of their journey. It’s almost like we are taught not to celebrate for fear of being arrogant. Instead we say, “I’ll celebrate when (insert totally massive over the moon end goal here).” But life is hard. And if we don’t take a second to say, “Hey, I worked really hard on this, lookie!” We miss out on a really important opportunity to decrease stress and increase our self-worth.

Every journey has a bunch of little successes that you need to celebrate. Our culture encourages keeping your nose down until you are completely done with something. For example, “I’ll celebrate when I’m down 30 pounds” and then not making it to 30 and feeling like a failure. When in reality had you celebrated at 5 pounds, then 10 pounds and then 15 pounds you likely would have stuck with your weight loss goal because you took that moment to be proud of yourself and recognize your work on the journey. These moments of rest and reflection are critical to recharging your resilience so you can continue on the journey.

The size of the celebration should reflect the size of the goal/success. If your end goal is to be 30 pounds down, you may wait to take your around the world trip until that is reached rather than after your first 5 pounds. But you most definitely should celebrate. Maybe a day trip or a weekend trip if that is in line with your desires. For my students, that is the show every year. They work hard for months getting new bruises while learning new tricks. The show isn’t the Olympics or America’s Got Talent, but it is amazing to see them on stage and watch them grow from year to year on their journey. That is why the show is so important. I love that we have students who have been with us for as little as 6 weeks and also 6 years performing! It’s so exciting to bring the community together every year and to cherish all that we have accomplished. Life is a journey, not an end goal so taking the time to celebrate along the journey is critical.

Watching my students perform also reminds me of the importance of sharing our journey. The fact that their family and friends are in the audience cheering them on makes the show special. If we did the show at the studio and only had other students attend it wouldn’t be as meaningful. Humans are a social species and we need that interaction. As our culture turns more and more to social media for validation we become more starved for connections. What’s great about a celebration is if someone cares about you and they see your journey milestone being celebrated they will likely get excited about pursuing their own goals. Success is contagious. So not only are you helping yourself by celebrating, you are actually helping those you love by allowing them to be part of it.

A celebration doesn’t have to be a huge event that took months of preparation. A celebration can be taking 30 minutes to read a book just for fun, going to bed early, eating cake, going to your favorite restaurant, calling a friend and just talking, or anything else that makes you feel grounded and supported. Every day you have successes. How will you choose to celebrate them? 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017 02:42

Questioning your fitness professional

A video has been circulating the news of a cheer coach forcing the young girls he coaches into the splits; forcibly holding them down so they will increase flexibility. First off, this is the exact wrong way to gain flexibility and the end result for one of the girls is permanent damage (which is why this is on the news). But this story brings up an extremely important point for everyone in sports and fitness: question your coach!

In our current culture, everyone is an expert. Just ask them! There are constant ads on Facebook with fitness tips and never-ending articles on “this is the best stretch ever.” The problem is that most of these ads and articles are not peer reviewed, they are simply one person’s opinion and may or may not have any background in credible research. Why is that a problem? You as the consumer could be training with someone who is really good at marketing themselves (after all, they are an expert!) but doesn’t actually have the health knowledge to train you safely. Like the cheer coach who defended his stretching method as “that’s how I was taught” your trainer may be using out-of-date techniques or only have one set of techniques to choose from and the end result will be your injury.

Things to ask when selecting an exercise professional to help you reach your goals:

  • What degrees do they have and from where? This will give you an idea of their base knowledge. For example, my PhD is in injury prevention for musicians so before I started my fitness journey I already had a background in how the body works and an understanding of movement mechanics. This knowledge could then be applied to fitness when I switched industries.
  • What certifications do they have? I’ll let you in on a secret, fitness certifications are often a money grab for the person running the course. The governing accreditation bodies get paid to let a new certification course qualify, so they are making money by certifying a new instructor certification course. So what does that mean? Many of the instructor certification courses are not actually good. But you as the consumer want a fitness professional who has taken numerous certifications because it shows that the coach is trying to gain a wide knowledge base. For example, I’ve taken three “Aerial Yoga” instructor certification courses. One of them was outstanding, I learned a ton about the body under gravity and advanced spotting technique when using the hammock. One was a good list of the moves but didn’t really teach me how to teach or break anything down. And the last was plain bad where the practices being taught were simply unsafe. If I had only taken the last one, that would have been my only knowledge base but since I had taken multiple I could draw different pieces from each to create my own “best practice” aerial yoga program.
  • Do they continue to learn? The fitness industry is changing. Our knowledge base is changing as we learn more about the body. You want to work with a trainer who is constantly learning the newest techniques and reading the most current research. For example, 15 years ago we taught static stretching as the warmup but have since learned through EMG research that holding a stretch for a length of time without movement actually decreased the muscle function after for a period of time. For this reason we now do dynamic stretching and movement based warmups that encourage muscle function. You want to work with a fitness professional who is continually broadening their knowledge base with the most up-to-date research in the field.
  • How long have they practiced that sport or exercise? The longer someone has practiced, in theory, the more they know. For example, this year was my 10 year “pole-aversary”; I’ve been spinning for 10 years! This length of time has taught me an insane number of tricks and variations. It has also given me the opportunity to work with multiple different body shapes and types to figure out a ton of solutions for common problems. Because I’ve been in the sport so long, if you are struggling with something I likely have seen the problem or a variation of the problem before so I can address it quickly and with a lot of different options. The longer you practice a sport the more tips and tricks you learn. So studying with a teacher who has done the sport for years is going to benefit you.

Just because someone says they are an expert, don’t believe them. Ask about their qualifications! Ask them about what they are doing to keep learning. It isn’t disrespectful to ask if they are qualified. I personally love when someone asks me about my qualifications because I’ve worked really hard to be an authority in my field. I will happily show you the latest research I’m reading and talk to you about why I teach the way I do because I’ve put so much thought into it. It is your body. You have a right to know a lot about the background of the person who is going to help guide you in your fitness journey. 

 

Monday, 26 June 2017 21:26

Give yourself time

As an instructor in the aerial arts I notice a big reoccurring issue with women entering the sport. A woman will finally get up the courage to try pole or silks and after her first class she says, “I’m just not good at it.” And my head explodes.

Why is there an expectation that you should be good at something you are trying for the first time? The aerial arts are challenging. Flying in the air is a lot harder than running or doing an activity that makes some sense with what you already do on a day-to-day basis. Pole, hoop, hammock and silks are not things you do on a daily basis. They require strength and coordination in a different combination than anything else you do. So it always blows me away that women are disappointed that they aren’t immediately Cirque Du Soleil quality performers.

We need to treat ourselves the same way we treat the people we love when they are trying new things. We allow the people we love to experiment, try, practice and grow and even fail (gasp!) so why don’t we allow ourselves that? For example, if your child was trying to ride a bike for the very first time and they needed training wheels or you to help hold them up, would you tell them, “You’re just not good at this”? No! So why say that to yourself?

What makes me super sad is that women often will quit after that one try because they don’t feel good enough. After their comment of, “I’m just not good at it,” I always ask if they had fun and they often say, “I loved it, it was so much fun.” So if they loved it the reason they don’t come back is because they didn’t feel good enough. If your child didn’t ride around the block on their bike the first time they tried it would you want them to quit? No! If they had any joy in it you’d encourage them to try again until they were able to ride around the block. So why won’t you give yourself that same time and freedom to learn?

It is extremely sad to let not feeling good enough at the beginning of something stop you from pursuing it. Think of the activities you truly love — how many were you good at your first attempt? Did you sound like Liberace the first time you played piano? Were your first rows of crochet even and perfect? No! That is why you practiced!

Most of the activities that we enjoy in life are the things that didn’t come naturally to us. Think hard about what your favorite activities are and how you worked to get good at them. Now, think about when you started those activities. How many “new” loves have you found in the past year or two? How frequently are you giving yourself time to fail, learn and grow? For most of us, as we age, we are less willing to put in the work and be in the uncomfortable space of “not good” while we learn something new so we cease conquering new activities. We gravitate toward the activities that aren’t challenging and we can feel competent at quickly. Would you encourage your kid to only pursue activities that came easily to them?

Give yourself time. If you enjoy an activity but it is hard, work with an instructor and practice. Set yourself a small goal so you can see improvement and then celebrate that small goal as you set a bigger goal. Remember that you are worth taking time for. It’s OK to work on the same move for many months if it means you are exploring yourself and growing in the process. By working on things that don’t come easily you’re growing more than by taking the safe route. The best moments of your life will be when you allow yourself the time to be way outside your comfort zone for as long as it takes to make what was something you’re “not good” at something you are proud of. 

Wednesday, 31 May 2017 21:11

Fitting in fitness

Running a fitness center for women, I hear the same difficulties with life over and over. It seems like in our current society women are expected to have an amazing career, be a supportive wife who puts her husband’s needs before her own, have a huge circle of close friends that she sees frequently, be the perfect mom who throws amazing Pinterest-worthy parties, takes care of herself by drinking enough water every day, eating organic healthy meals she has prepared, sleeps 8 hours and works out for at least an hour daily. The expectations are unrealistic and the pressure is overwhelming. From what I see, women are trying to meet these ridiculous societal expectations at the expense of taking care of themselves. Over and over again I see women walk into my doors and they look exhausted. But they won the battle by walking in and are now taking the time they deserve to take care of themselves through fitness.

So how can your fitness center help you take care of yourself and not be just another thing you’re “supposed” to find time for? There are three important tips that will help you remember to put yourself on your to-do list. There are only 24 hours in every day and you deserve to be a priority in that 24 hours — yes, even if you have a family. They need you to be healthy, happy and engaged, which will be easier if you recharge yourself! Fitness is a great way to bring value to your life because it has numerous health and emotional benefits. But how do you fit it in?

Find an activity you truly enjoy! This is critical. If you have the mindset that your fitness activity is a drudgery that you have to endure, you won’t do it. You’ll make the excuse of “I don’t have time” when we all know you make time for anything you truly want to do. There are so many boutique fitness options available now, keep searching until you find one that you actually are excited to do.

One of the reasons the pole and aerial arts are multiplying across the country is because participating in it is like being a kid on the playground again. In our busy lives we need outlets that let us feel joy and accomplishment and the aerial arts are foundational in this. For me, I started pole as part of my PhD research into injury prevention and stayed after my first class because it was fun! After 6 months I was a size smaller though I hadn’t tried to lose weight, I was just playing! And the day, six or so months after starting, that I lifted my body over my head solidified that I could accomplish anything. Pole empowers me, and I truly enjoy it so I make time for it. It helps my body and my mind!

Schedule it! Write it down. In your planner. Put it into your phone calendar. Set a reminder if you have to. Your workout is as important as getting your kid to their soccer game on time. Both of these things have to happen and both need a space on your calendar and in your day. If you don’t write it down, you will likely get overwhelmed with all the little things that consume a day and fall into the “I don’t have time” trap. You do have time for you, see right there under today’s date it says: “Pole class - 6 p.m.” You have to go!

Create a support system! For most people, working out alone is not going to be successful long term. Most people need support and a tribe to help them stay focused. One of the top three answers women give as to why they return to Aerial Dance is because of the friendships they’ve made and the instructors’ encouragement. You need to find people who will help hold you accountable. If you miss a class, the people you attend with need to notice! They need to send you emails and text messages asking if you’re OK so you know you need to prioritize yourself the next time. Having a tribe that believes in you is critical for the days you don’t believe in yourself.

We are all busy women. We are all trying to figure out how to be “us” under truly ridiculous societal expectations. These three small things can make a big difference in your fitness journey. But always remember this: you deserve a spot on your own to-do list. You are valuable.

Friday, 30 December 2016 21:08

Why fly for fitness?

You may have noticed that the aerial arts are becoming culturally popular. What used to be restricted to the Big Top is now seen on awards shows, on stage in musicals and at concerts regularly. When I try to explain what I teach, usually I say “like Cirque Du Soleil” or “what Pink does” because the average person now understands those references. The aerial arts have become mainstream! And they are becoming a popular option for the average person to have a fun fitness workout.

The aerial arts include apparatus that you can leave the ground when using. Silks is one of the most recognized aerial arts with two strands of fabric hanging from one attachment point where the dancer wraps the fabric around them to create gorgeous shapes. Hammock is the same fabric as silks but is hung in a sling (two attachment points up top with a “loop” at the bottom) and can be used for a passive aerial yoga stretch or a strenuous in-air tricks sequence. The less known hoop is a steel metal circle that is extremely popular because gorgeous shapes can be created with less skill and as skills grow the level of trick also increases to drops and rolls. Pole is a vertical spinning dance pole where the dancer can defy gravity and perform gymnastic acrobatic feats.

So why are women flocking to aerial studios around the world instead of traditional gyms for their workouts? These apparatus have a few traits in common that make them an empowering fitness tool:

  • Thrill of a challenge. Yes, all of the apparatus have “beginner” level moves but if your idea of a fitness workout is running on a treadmill the aerial arts give you a much bigger learning curve and much more possibility for growth. You already are able to walk so running on a treadmill is a natural progression. However, when was the last time you had to control use of both arms and both legs with all four appendages doing different things? The aerial arts gives you a physical and mental challenge because they are inherently more complicated than most fitness workouts.
  • Joy of accomplishment. If you ran on a treadmill you may feel really good that you ran farther than yesterday. If you’ve been building strength for 3 months and today is the first time you lifted your bodyweight off the ground, it is exhilarating. We hear all the time, “I could never do that” in the first couple classes, then a few weeks later we get to point out that she is in fact doing “that” and she radiates with joy in her accomplishment.
  • Conquering fear. Doing something new is scary. Doing something that your friends don’t do routinely is scary. Learning to trust yourself is scary. Hanging upside down for the first time is scary. The aerial arts make you push past your fears. The aerial arts give you the opportunity to overcome your fears and the look on a woman’s face when she does her first silks drop is one of awe and adrenaline. It becomes addictive to feel mentally stronger and more resilient when you leave the studio.
  • Increases strength. If you are in a well-written aerial program you will increase your strength. Body exercises are all the rage and the aerial arts are the ultimate bodyweight exercise program. Even when you aren’t able — yet — to lift your entire bodyweight there are a ton of moves that will start to build the strength so that someday you can. The great thing about the aerial arts is it builds all the stabilizing muscles and functional use muscles while also building big muscle groups.
  • Builds confidence. Your body is beautiful. You are amazing. When you push through your fears and accomplish things you never thought possible you become more confident in yourself. The word aerial artists use to describe their craft most frequently is empowering. The aerial arts give you a positive interpretation of yourself and that newfound confidence will permeate all areas of your life.
  • Need for play. “Adult-ing” is hard. The aerial arts give you the chance to feel like a kid. I call my studio a playground for adult women because, yes we do fitness, but more importantly we have fun. We describe moves like a double knee hang on hoop as “like you did on the playground” because it is extremely similar. As adults we need to take advantage of the times that just bring FUN into our lives.

These are just a few of the reasons the aerial arts are so popular. Curious? Come fly yourself to see how much being in the air can improve your health and life! 

Monday, 31 October 2016 16:11

The “perfect” quick fix!

Like most women, I have spent many years of my life fighting with my body. I’ve always been curvy, and in recent years I’ve become heavier than I’d like to be. And I hate it. I hate that no matter what I do I can’t seem to look the way I think I should. Notice that I said “think I should” and not “want to” because honestly I’m not sure what I really want. No, that isn’t true, I want to be a size 6 with super lean muscles, perky boobs and a cute butt and be able to eat fried cheese curds daily! (Ha!) But why do I think size 6 is perfect? Why do I truly think 120 pounds is perfect when logically I know that for the muscle mass I hope to have I would be unhealthy at 120? I didn’t come up with this, it has been told to me all my life that that is what I “should” look like. And I’ve internalized it. When I think about what I should look like that is it. That isn’t reality and could never truly be achieved, so by thinking that is what I should look like I will always struggle with my body as it is.

Every morning my Facebook feed is inundated with “6 muffin top burning exercises” and “the smoothie that will melt away stubborn belly fat.” These quick fixes look so simple and will surely solve my body struggle! Then the next image is of an amazing aerial artist in an incredible pose that I desperately want to be able to do. So my self-esteem goes down because I’m not her and my dreams of finding the one perfect thing to help me get there goes up because it just looks so easy to make that smoothie every morning. But you know the reality? There is no perfect quick fix. With my multiple fitness certifications I logically know that you can’t target weight loss in a specific area with diet or specific exercises. And I also know that a TON of different body shapes can do crazy awesome aerial tricks. So I know that what I’m seeing on Facebook is not reality.

So what is reality? That billions of dollars are spent in advertising every month to make sure women feel bad about their bodies. Every commercial about a product to make you “look better” is telling you that something is wrong with how you look now. Do you know what would happen if women collectively woke up one day and said “I’m good just as I am”? The socioeconomic world as we know it would collapse because our buying into the body shaming we see constantly amounts to huge dollars. Entire industries exist solely to make us feel bad about our bodies so they can offer us a quick fix. Companies are investing in feeding the negative voices in our heads and fueling our own insecurity. That is reality. That is why I think 120 pounds is perfect.

What is the quick fix that can help me feel better about my body and move me toward a realistic goal of being healthy? The quick fix isn’t quick, it is to invest in yourself. Every single person reading this knows something they can do to be healthier. You don’t need a personal trainer, doctor, nutritionists or a Facebook ad to tell you something you can do to improve your health. You know. But you aren’t doing it because it takes time and effort. You’re waiting for the quick fix. But there isn’t a quick fix. So you’re waiting for something that doesn’t exist instead of taking a small step here and a small step there to improving you.

Improve you! You’re the only one who can. All the little things you know you should do but “can’t find the time” to are your quick fixes. Get enough sleep. Meditate. Go for a walk after work. Eat more vegetables. Read a book for pleasure. You know something you can do to get you closer to the healthy you you want to be, now you just need to invest in yourself and do it. Instead of chasing the newest fad, integrate the simple things you already know into your life. Every day you invest in you, even if it is for 5 minutes, will improve your quality of life and combat the constant media message of “purchase X to feel good.” Invest in you because you are worth it. The end result may be a size 6 or, more likely, a you that is healthy and happy and not focusing on perfect but instead enjoying living.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 04:12

Working out versus weight loss

As the owner of a fitness studio, one of the most common questions I’m asked by women thinking of starting is, “Will I lose weight?” I long to answer with, “How should I know?! Are you planning on eating a Twinkie after class every week?”

There is a HUGE misconception about the relationship between working out and weight loss. The constant “Burn that stubborn belly fat with these 6 exercises” and “Work off your muffin top” Facebook sponsored posts I see daily are obviously fueling the confusion. Weight loss in and of itself is a simple equation: calories burned > calories consumed = weight loss. Yes, you will burn calories through working out, but the true power in this equation is the calories consumed. Weight loss happens in the kitchen, not the gym.

That’s the cold hard truth. You can work out 8 hours a day. You can have great muscle tone, be fit and have good cardio health, but if you eat cheese curds with ranch and a hamburger for lunch, and an ice cream sundae with extra chocolate sauce as a snack your amazing six pack of perfect ab muscles will have a lovely fat cushion protecting them from outside viewing. All the working out in the world simply cannot make up for unhealthy food choices. Every single decadent thing you are dying to consume is going to take a marathon of exercise to “work off” so working out isn’t really the weight loss path.

Oh the despair! We all have been told that we “earn” our french fries by doing that second set of squats. But alas, no. You earn the french fries by deciding to eat them and enjoying them. You work out because you want to have a wonderfully functioning vehicle that may or may not be the ornament you dreamed of driving around.

Wait, don’t despair! There are some very important benefits to working out in relation to weight loss. Working out will change your body composition. That is where it fits into the weight loss equation. A pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh the same (because they are both a pound) but they take up a very different amount of space. Think of muscle like gold — you only need a small block of it to make up a pound where as fat is feathers and you need a big old pillow of them to reach the pound mark. That is where working out will aid in your weight loss goals because as your body becomes more gold and less feathers it will look different.

Working out can help change your metabolism, which may aid in the calorie burning process. And of course you do burn some calories when working out, so there is that. But the biggest benefit of working out in relation to weight loss is that you will be building a healthy lifestyle that makes you want to make healthy eating choices.

For example, my six pack abs will not be available for your viewing pleasure anytime soon as I really love cake, cheese and wine. Am I working on losing some of my extra weight? Yes, most days! But I’m also not willing to give up everything that makes me happy to have the perfect body so I try to find a happy middleground. When I don’t work out and I am sitting on the couch, my mind says super un-helpful things like “Well, today is an ‘off’ day so you can eat anything you want.” Or “You’ll be healthy tomorrow.” And then the bag of Doritos comes out and I proceed to eat the whole thing. However, when I get to the studio, get sweaty and I lift myself into some cool shape in the air, when I get home and collapse on the couch my mind says, “I feel good! Let’s keep it going with hummus and carrots.” And “it will be easier to do that trick if you eat quinoa tonight.” After a workout most of the time your body is trying to replenish the macronutrients and minerals burned so your food cravings will more likely be the healthy variety. But more importantly your best saboteur, your mind, will be on board with happy exercise endorphins pushing through it so your internal dialogue will be more healthy.

So in conclusion, yes, you should workout. You should make time (note I didn’t say “find time” — you will never find it, you must choose to put your physical health as a priority) and workout daily. Your body will thank you. But more importantly all the other healthy benefits of working out will kick in and your weight loss and maintenance goals will be more manageable when you have a healthy lifestyle supporting it. Work out because you love moving your body. Work out because you want to see what your body can accomplish next. Work out because you were made to move and our bodies are amazing. Build that six pack because your abs want to be strong and they will protect your spine when they are. And if you also dedicate yourself in the kitchen maybe someday we’ll see them. And maybe we won’t. Either way having them will make your life better.

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