Happy Labor Day everyone! I hope your weekend was joyous and well. Mine certainly was. I went to Boston to celebrate the wedding of one my dearest b-school classmates. Despite living in Boston for 2 years, I experienced a completely new side of Bean town = Southie. Usually, I try to stay away from Southie at all costs (read: Gone Baby Gone & The Town), but I was pleasantly surprised by history, “grittiness” and authenticity of the neighborhood. I enjoyed a nice 5 mile run around the South Harbor and had a killer vegetarian sausage breakfast burrito at Sophia’s.
After the wedding, I hopped a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard for a night. The island exhibited a wealth of racial and cultural diversity (I was expecting to only see Sperry’s and blondes). My friends and I kept up the physical activity with paddle boarding at the beach. SO FUN! Took me a while to get my groove. I definitely bit it like 3 times, but it was totally worth it. If you’ve never tried paddle boarding, you must. My core and booty are super sore today 😉
While the food was great and the scenery was unreal, the best part was the company. As I reflect on the weekend, I’m so grateful for my positive and loving friendships – something I TOO OFTEN taken for granted. Thank God for good friends.
So, here’s to Bean Town, Martha’s Vineyard, and all things Gritty and Nautical.
This week I had to take my annual IBM health assessment to get a rebate on my health insurance premiums. I figured it was worth my time to save $150 bucks. Usually, I breeze through these things because they seems like such a formality, but this time I was intrigued by the survey questions in my “Personal Vitality Assessment.”
I got to thinking…rather than always focusing on my fitness or nutrition, I should frequently take a step back and think about my overall vitality. Personal vitality measures overall health in 4 key areas:
Purpose – INTERESTING! (I very much believe that having a sense of individual life purpose is absolutely fundamental to personal happiness and contentment – read more)
Here’s a snap shot of (what I thought) were the most interesting parts of the Personal Vitality assessment. As you can see, some of my responses are included. I was going to hide them, but figured you guys would appreciate the honesty/transparency…
I think we could all benefit by asking ourselves these questions on a regular basis. Doing so may help us understand the areas in our life and in our health habits that need more attention.
Give yourself a Personal Vitality assessment and let me know how it goes – don’t forget an action plan!
I very much believe in the Law of Attraction. The energy we cultivate is the energy we attract, be it positive or negative. That said, I’m eager to jump into environments that exude positive energy. These are opportunities to fill myself with optimism, hope and encouragement. As a result, I’m able to attract positive people and life circumstances.
Last weekend I headed to the West Coast to visit one of my best friends from business school. We spent most of our time in Palo Alto and one evening San Fransisco. I had a great time just catching up, eating good food, enjoying a long run and walking around the Stanford University campus (my 1st time there). Few places inspire me more than university campuses – oh the possibilities! Especially, Stanford considering its academic excellence and athletic superiority. I’ve watched several Olympic athletes the past 2 weeks who are Stanford Alumni. Anyway, I felt very inspired while I was there so I wanted to share some pics from my “positive place.” Today I’m pumped up and eagerly anticipating a wonderful week 🙂
Where’s your positive place?
How are you going to surround yourself with positive energy this week?
How can you be a source of positive energy to others?
Below: Some fun shots of me representing’ for the GRIT GIRLZ and being a Stanford Soccer Groupie 😉
Despite vacations, minor set-backs and work commitments, Jenny has done an excellent job staying on track with her 4-week challenge! If you are trying the challenge for yourself, stay motivated by keeping up with her progress. Here’s her week 3 update:
“My girl’s weekend in Malaga was really great! I found a nice balance between relaxing, getting in some workouts, eating healthy, and eating whatever I wanted! 🙂 I took the first day off from any kind of activity except for walking around, eating tapas, and drinking wine. But the next two days my friend and I got two solid workouts in at a local gym, and ate mostly salads. We also did a ton of walking around! It wasn’t so hard for me to eat healthy, since I’m actually not a huge fan of Spanish cuisine. But that said, my friend and I didn’t hold back on the Sangria or wine (Hey, you gotta live a little!). I found that it is much easier to keep up with diet and exercise when on vacation when you are with someone who is also health conscious and likes a good workout!
And now that I am back at home, I feel great – I don’t think I lost any weight, but I don’t think I gained any either. I’ve just gotten back, and I’ve already hit the weights and a spinning session! I love that way I feel after a rest day – super strong and energetic! Now I’m pushing hard for the next three days (spinning every day to get all three classes in + Pilates + Brit’s workouts!) – And then going to a Wedding over the weekend (and plan on looking fabulous in a new dress I bought in Spain!).
So here it goes with the last week of the four-week challenge – wish me luck!”
Brit’s advice for Jenny:
Keep your eye on the Prize – I want Jenny to be extra disciplined this week. She should revisit the goals she set at the start of the challenge and have FULL CONFIDENCE that she can achieve them!
Focus on Food – After a vacation, it’s common to want to hit the gym hard, which is a good thing. However, Jenny should be extra mindful of what goes into her mouth. She must be careful not to wipe out all of her hard work in the gym by consuming too many calories.
Stretch, Stretch, Stretch – Since Jenny has been away for a few days, it may take a her body a little time to adjust to the hardcore workout regimen. T0 prevent soreness and injury (and ultimately missed workouts), I want her to stretch for at least 15 minutes per day.
Once again, NIKE has hit the nail on the head. As you guys know, I absolutely love the Summer Olympics. Thus, watching the games on TV this past week has been absolute inspirational paradise! The idea that someone trains for 4 whole years to master 1 moment is simply amazing. It’s like Eminem said, “You only get one shot.” Truth is that the experience of training, performing and being great isn’t only for Olympic athletes – it for ALL OF US! The raw endurance and perseverance that Olympic athletes exhibit very much parallels how we can handle challenges in our daily lives. Each day we have the opportunity to find our greatness. The opportunity to push ourselves. To shock ourselves and do something we never thought we were capable of doing. To set higher goals. To explore our true passions. To recognize and appreciate our talents and gifts. To perfect our skills. To strengthen our mental grit. And ultimately, to be GREAT.
I recently saw this NIKE commercial during Olympic games the that so perfectly conveys this message. Please take a minute, watch and ask yourself, “What is my greatness?” GET IT. GRIT. GREATNESS.
Image: Playin’ college basketball in 2006 – feeling FIT
This post was originally published as a guest feature on Greatist.com, the fastest growing site in health and lifestyle content, reaching more than 3 million visitors in just one year! Follow @jshakeshaft, the amazing fitness editor, who helped me with this post!
Long story short, I’m a fan of “plans.” It started in high school when I discovered Slim Fast and dropped 15 pounds. I gained that back in one summer. During college, I was captain of my women’s basketball team which kept the pounds under control. But when I entered the working world, I packed on plenty of extra “cushioning.” I tried Weight Watchers for about a month, but always skipped meetings and under counted my “points.” Then there was the Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, Lipodrene diet pills and the cayenne pepper/lemon juice cleanse (Beyoncé put me on to this one). I’d lose 5-10 pounds with each program only to gain it back in a few months. I had officially reached a point where I was failing at every weight loss system. I was a 5’8” 25-year-old who weighed 179 pounds and felt “less than stellar.” I had to get it together. I REFUSED to let another day of my 20’s go by without rockin’ short shorts, high heels and lots of swag! This is when I accepted my weight control Slip up #1:I tried to be perfect.
I have a super Type A (slightly neurotic) personality and get really pumped up about new a diet plan or workout regimen. But if I slip up even once, I beat myself up and eventually quit. Being mean to myself does not help me lose weight. So, I had to accept the reality that most “plans” aren’t doable for the long haul. This meant getting rid of my “all or nothing” weight loss mindset. Instead of feeling guilty for slipping up, I started keeping a mental note of what I ate and tried to match my food intake with equal calorie burn. For example, if I killed a burger and fries at lunch, that was cool. It just meant I’d have a small side salad for dinner followed by an extra 30 minutes of cardio. Simple, right? Not quite.
Despite having this revelation and starting to feel more balanced, I wasn’t losing as much weight as I wanted. What was the problem? After downing a bag of trail mix one afternoon, I realized Slip-up #2:I ate too much. Simply put, it goes like this:
Choosing a healthy snack = a good look 🙂
Eating five servings of a healthy snack = not a good look 🙁
The fact that I ate too much was the most difficult truth for me to accept because I actually ate healthy food! The problem was that I simply ate too much of it. So, it was really hard to burn more calories than I consumed, which is the only way to legitimately lose weight. You’ve heard it before, “eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re full.” Well, it’s true. I had to accept that portion control is just as, if not more, important than food choice.
On that same note, I discovered Slip-up #3: I overestimated my calorie burn. Since I work out regularly, Ialways figured I deserved a diet “buffer.” But, turns out our bodies don’t blast as many calories as we think. Calorie counters and heart rate monitors often over count calorie burn. This is because several factors like hydration, stress, diet, genetics and room temperature aren’t considered. The bottom line is this: The harder you work the more calories you burn. So, I started using the Talk Test to quickly and effectively measure my Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and indirectly measure my calorie burn. If I’m breathing really heavy (like “sucking air”) I know I’m torching calories because I’ve reached my anaerobic training zone. Now when I work out, I try reaching and staying in this calorie blasting zone to maximize the burn!
I’m not going to lie, after weeks of trying to eat less and move more, I was having some serious hunger pangs! Luckily, I found that simply drinking a glass of water did wonders for my cravings. Check this, most of the time we think we are “hungry” we are actually “thirsty” due to dehydration. Also dehydration makes us feel lethargic and we crave sugar and other simple carbs that make us fat. So there you have it, Slip-up #4: I didn’t drink enough water.
Now, I was on a roll! After a few months proactively addressing my weight control “slip-ups,” I was feeling good, slim, and energetic. So one day I decided to weigh myself. Up 6 pounds? WHAT?! How did that happen? Then I thought to myself, hmmmm… I had indulged in ice cream the night before and a little bacon at breakfast… and pizza on Friday night.
That’s when I clearly saw Slip up #5: I needed a reality check. After that random weigh-in, I started weighing myself every morning (yes EVERY day) and have done so for over 1 year now! This habit is controversial because body weight fluctuates for a variety of reasons (mostly due to hydration levels). However, the fact of the matter is that the numbers on the scale are your body weight at that time. THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE (or at least it did for me)! Being mindful of my weight on a daily basis makes me think more deeply about what I am consuming, my digestion patterns, hydration levels, sweat output and calorie intake/burn. While my daily weigh-ins help keep my weight in line, my “heavy days” can be very discouraging. I have to constantly remind myself to keep the big picture in mind – my fitness, health and happiness, not just the numbers on the scale.
My slip-ups have taught me that weight management isn’t about the latest and greatest diet or workout plan; it’s about continuing on a lifelong journey of developing and strengthening healthy habits. There will always be good days and bad days, but success comes from balance. Now, at 27 years old, my weight ranges from 150-155 pounds. I’ve maintained this weight range for over a year without the use of any expensive weight loss plans or diet pills. I feel strong. I feel healthy. I feel authentic. Most importantly, I ALWAYS rock my short shorts, high heels and lots of SWAG!
What are some of the “craziest” weight loss plans/cleanses that you’ve tried?
At my high school, in the lovely town of Mesquite, TX, you had to run a mile in 8 minutes or less to be on ANY sports team at ANY level (Freshman, JV or Varsity). No matter how talented or skilled of an athlete you were, no 8 minute mile = no spot on the team. So let me give you a little background as to why the 8 minute mile requirement, to this day, is the most stressful personal challenge I have ever confronted…
At the start of 7th grade I weighed about 165 pounds and wore a size 14 in women’s clothing (see pic below). BUT, I still LOVED sports! Luckily, I landed a spot on the 7th grade girls basketball B-team- YAY! On the first day of practice, I ate my usual ham and cheese Hot Pocket for breakfast. This was also the first time, in my life, that I ever ran (mostly walked) a full mile. HOWEVER, I did finish that mile in 11 minutes and 55 seconds. As soon as I crossed the finished line I puked that entire Hot Pocket right in front of all of the 8th graders. Long story short, my middle school years were definitely not my best.
After a year of puking, stressing about conditioning workouts and just trying to fit in, I actually saw progress. On the last of day practice that 7th grade season, our coach made us run the mile again. This time I finished in 9 minutes and 6 seconds – WOO HOO! BUT, my world was crushed when the high school coaches came to visit on the last day of middle school. During their high school preparation speech, they broke the news about the 8 minute mile requirement. At that very moment, my world fell apart. I mean, seriously, did they realize how much torture I had to endure just to get down to 9 minutes and 6 seconds? I was officially in panic mode.
All summer I ran and prayed and ran and prayed in hopes that I would be able to run the 8 minute mile on August 16th. My mom even put me on the prayer list at church; I think she was just as nervous as me. This was also the summer that my dad and I established a special bond which still holds today. He would run with me in the blazing Texas heat and always encourage me. “Hard work ALWAYS pays off,” he’d say. The week before the official high school timed mile test, he and I did a trial run. I was feeling good and ran my butt off! But the minute I crossed the finished line my dad shouted out, “8:15 – almost sweetheart, you’re just 15 seconds away.” At that point, I literally broke down and cried. What more could I do? I ran every day and pushed myself to the limit yet still had not reached my goal…
Finally, the big day came. I was so nervous I could hardly sleep the night before. I wanted be on the high school basketball and volleyball teams SO very badly and had actually become pretty good at both sports. The 8 minute mile was the only thing standing in my way. As we all walked up to the starting line, I said a prayer and took a deep breath. When coach yelled, “GO” I ran as fast as I possibly could. It was like something came over me. The only thing I could think was, “just don’t slow down, just don’t slow down.” Finally, I rounded the last curve and thought to myself “SPRINT!” That’s exactly what I did. When I crossed the finish line coach hollered out “7:56”! I broke down and cried, the same way I did during my trial run, only this time they were tears of joy! My teammates couldn’t understand why making the 8 minute mile meant so much to me, but it was the first time in my life that I truly understood my own strength. This accomplishment marked a new phase of self-confidence and personal pride that I still hold at 27 years old.
I went on to have a successful high school athletic career earning 1st team all district honors in both basketball and volleyball. I even went on to play basketball at the NCAA Division 1 college level for 4 years. I was co-captain of my college basketball team at Cornell University and made the Big Red Power Wall of Honor for 2 consecutive years. The wall of honor is for the top 2 athletes on each varsity team who ranked the highest in a variety of strength and conditioning tests. Who would have ever thought my name would be on that wall? Definitely not me!
So, from a size 14 , 11:55 mile running, 7th grade “B” team basketball player, I’m telling you, there is NO SUCH THING AS IMPOSSIBLE!
“What is impossible with men is possible with God.'”
Hey guys, I hope your week is going well! Jan is back on the scene with an update of her home stretch on the 4-week tone up challenge. Only 1 week left, so let’s root her on!
JAN’S TONE UP CHALLENGE WEEK 3 UPDATE: “Week three was a challenge but ended up pretty well. I was traveling at the end of the week so I had to push all of my workouts up to the front part of the week. As Brit says, ‘NO EXCUSES.’ I worked out pretty hard-core the first 4 days . I did spin class 4 days straight for my cardio. I also, took Brit’s advice from last week to ‘up the intensity’ so I added her leg workout after my 1st day of spin and Brit’s medicine ball workout after my 2nd day of spin. But that’s not all, I also did at least half of Brit’s ab workout all 4 days – yeah! I was feeling pretty good at end of the week and took the weekend to recover and rest. I think I am starting to want a little more variety in my workouts each week. So, Brit you’ve got some work to do 😉 ” – Jan
BRIT’S FEEDBACK FOR JAN
When workout boredom starts to set in, seek Variety NOT Excuses: Jan did a great job of keeping with her workouts despite them starting to feel redundant. Next week, I’m going to give her a few new workouts to change things up. In the meanwhile, she should check out my unique treadmill workouts or my top 5 tips to spice up your workouts.
Be flexible with your workout schedule: Mentally, it’s very easy to set rigid workout plans and eagerly want to abide by them. However, when we miss a workout or fall off course we get disappointed, beat ourselves up and lose motivation . Jan did a great job of being flexible with her workout schedule. Since she knew it would be tough to workout during her weekend travel, she planned ahead and pushed her workouts up to front of the week. Likewise, if something comes up and you miss a workout, don’t beat your self up! Just schedule some time later in the week to make up for it 🙂
Extra diet discipline during extended recovery periods: Since Jan compressed her workouts to the front of the week, this means she went 3-4 days with no exercise. During this extended down time Jan really needs to watch her calorie intake as she is not burning as many calories as she usually does on workout days. Also, studies show that it only takes 48 consecutive hours to start losing cardiovascular endurance, therefore Jan should try to be as active as possible on her off days (i.e. walk instead drive when possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator, etc.)
Stay strong to the finish: How bad do you want it? Jan has already made it through 75% of the tone up challenge, so now she has 2 options: 1) Bust her butt this final week to get the most out of the effort/investment she has already made 2) Coast/slack off this final week and risk falling short of her tone up goals. NEVER let all of your hard work go unrewarded!
Stay tuned, next week will be Jan’s final report and completion of the 4-week tone up challenge. You don’t wanna miss her awesome body transformation photo shoot, by the one and only Anna Jane!
“I’m going to shoot a workout video on May 12, 2012”
– Brit on 1/24/12
Guess what? I did! In less than 5 months, with help of the most amazing friends and family, yesterday we shot GRIT Ultimate Body Burn Vol.1 – WOW! Let me preface this by saying that I have ZERO video or audio production experience, I’m not a full-time fitness professional (I’m a management consultant by day) and I’ve only been a group fitness instructor for 1 year. However, a simple statement that I made to a friend on Jan 24, 2012 became a reality due to enthusiasm and the amazing power of the tongue!
Now let me keep it real, there were SEVERAL bumps in the road: getting legal clearance for music was a nightmare, writing choreography took many sleepless nights and my credit card is suffering from underestimating the cost of video equipment rentals. However, I feel more alive and energized than I have in years because I did something that most, including myself, considered impossible – and it all starting with SPEAKING out my goal. Even though we still have a lot of post production work to do, this is one of most challenging and inspiring experiences of my life so I wanted to share it with you. Now, I challenge YOU to BELIEVE in whatever it is that you want to achieve. You ARE what you SAY you are. So, NAME it, CLAIM it, and DO it – GRIT!
“Death and Life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21)
Last weekend I went to a fitness instructor workshop and one part of the training was on the “Iceberg” model of health. As you can see Spirituality/Meaning are at the base of the iceberg. This helped me understand that the lasting way to maintain good health is to have a strong spiritual foundation and life meaning/purpose. It goes a little something like this: Knowing our life’s purpose drives our motivations > our motivations drive our lifestyle/behaviors > our lifestyle determines our state of health. You’re probably thinking, “WHOA, Brit just got real deep on us!” Well no worries, I’m not trying to be your guru – I just don’t want all of my leg and ab workouts going to waste if you haven’t first laid the foundation 🙂
I’ve held tight to some valuable advice from my parents and mentors which can guide us as we evaluate the “base of our health icebergs.” Hopefully this advice helps you as much as it’s helped me – enjoy!
Brit’s 5 Step Guide for a Strong Spiritual Foundation:
Believe in God and that He put you here for a reason. YOU ARE NOT A MISTAKE – your life has meaning and a specific purpose. Life is about understanding our individual and collective human purposes and striving each day to live those out. If you choose not to believe in God or a higher power, it’s virtually impossible to have HOPE for a greater good, divine order or individual life purpose. And if your life is hopeless, why even live?
Understand your strengths and where you put your effort. By knowing what you’re good at and when you’re most willing to work hard, you can gain a good sense of your natural gifts and ultimately your purpose in life.
Understand and/or define your values. What do you stand for? Think about it and write it down. Also, choose friends that understand your values, support them and keep you accountable for living by them – yes, tough love! After all, “if you don’t stand for anything you’ll fall for everything.” – Peter Marshall, 1947
Surround yourself with positive people. Positive people are the ultimate sources of optimism and energy, find ‘em and keep ‘em. On the other hand, negative people are like viruses, they will literally suck the life out of you – GET AWAY FROM THEM ASAP. This doesn’t make you heartless or a bad friend. Instead, it makes YOUR OWN well-being your first priority. The fact of the matter is that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we are incapable of adequately loving and supporting others.
Pray Regularly. Now, I have a hard time with this one because I find it very challenging to quiet my mind and really acknowledge my deepest fears, issues, questions, etc. However, a daily devotion to prayer and/or meditation gives us an opportunity to express gratitude, explore our deepest spiritual questions, relax and continue progressing on our spiritual journeys.