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Friday, May 29, 2009

Do you REALLY know how much you're eating?

If you're trying to lose weight or get fit, I'm sure you've heard that sage advice to keep a food journal. And believe me, having to write down what you ate will help you when you're considering whether to finish that half a cookie someone left in the kitchenette at work. But is it really enough? Not always.

While journaling will help most people avoid poor food choices, it doesn't really tell you how much you're eating from a calorie perspective. And the one time-proven way to lose weight, whether you cut carbs, cut fat, or follow some other type of eating plan, is to eat at a calorie deficit. For most people, that means eating about 500 calories less than what is required to maintain their current body weight. Adult women shouldn't eat fewer than 1200 calories, and adult men shouldn't eat fewer than 1800 calories. Teens, particularly teenage boys, actually need even more than that. So if you haven't taken your food journal and calculated your calorie intake, I challenge you to do so for at least three days, although a full week is preferable.

Now you might be sitting there confidently, saying, "oh, I already count calories." Maybe you're logging your food at sites like Fitday, SparkPeople, or DailyBurn. Well, you still might not know how much you're eating, depending on how you measure your food. Maybe you "eyeball" your portions. As shown in the picture above, our standards today have set our expectations far above where they should be. Even if you measure them with a measuring cup or spoons, you might be underestimating your food.

Let's take one of my typical breakfast meals:
  • Half a mango, sliced (about one cup)
  • 6 blackberries (about 1/4 cup)
  • 3/4 C lowfat no salt added cottage cheese (1.5 servings)
  • 7 walnuts (half of a one-ounce serving of 14 nuts)
  • cinnamon
Using USDA values for the whole foods, and the package information for the cottage cheese, this meal should be 349 calories, with 24g of protein, 11g of fat, and 42g of carbs.

As it turns out, though, this meal was actually 449 calories. I found this out by weighing all my ingredients and adjusting the portion size accordingly, as detailed below:
  • Half a mango, sliced - I thought this was one serving of 165g, but it was actually a whopping 250g! I suppose a typical mango is much smaller than the ones I bought at the store.
  • 6 blackberries - These fit in a 1/4 cup, but by weight were 1/3 of a (one cup) serving
  • 3/4 C lowfat no salt added cottage cheese - 3/4 Cup should equal about 170g. However, depending on how I pack the measuring cup, I found I could put up to 200g in the measuring cup. That's another 25% of a serving.
  • 7 walnuts - My walnuts must be larger than normal, because it turns out I had half an ounce at only 6 walnuts
So, by using USDA reference statistics (such as 14 walnuts to a serving) and measuring cups, I ended up with a breakfast that was 100 calories (nearly 30%) higher than I thought - and that was with doing careful measuring and tracking of what I was eating! Once I weighed my food, I realized that the portion sizes I thought were accurate were actually far from it. Why did I try weighing my food to begin with? I did so after watching this video:

Can you imagine what would happen if you underestimated your calories by 30% at EVERY meal? Let's say you needed 2000 calories a day to maintain your current weight, and you thought you were eating 1500 calories per day - a deficit of 500 calories per day. However, if you underestimated your calories by 30%, you'd actually be eating 1950 calories per day. You could do this for weeks and you wouldn't lose any weight at all, getting more and more frustrated as each day went on.

I'm not suggesting you weigh every single item you eat. Most of us don't have the time or inclination to do that. But I do recommend you take some time to learn what about proper portion sizes. One way to do so is to to read up on some of the online resources available. One I've found is checkyourhealth.org, which has some great visual references you can use to determine proper portion sizes on the fly.

Even so, as the video above shows, it may behoove you to purchase a kitchen scale and keep it handy. As time goes on, occasionally measure and weight the items you eat most frequently, so you start to recognize what the correct portion size actually looks like on your plate. You may have to retrain your mind, and it will take time, but you'll have the benefit of having better control over your calorie intake, which should lead to weight loss success!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Beware of Acai berry scams!

Do you know this woman? Oh sure, she's that girl who lost all of that weight on the Acai berry diet, right? WRONG. According to Nutrition Action newsletter (see Nutrition Action's Press Release ), she is a beautiful young German model named Julia. This is the original picture that was digitally altered in order to create those amazing "after" pictures where she looks so thin.

Don't take my (or their) word for it. Her portfolio is available online here, and if you look through it, you'll find the original versions of all the pictures you may have seen on ads and even as the supposed author of over 70 fake blogs touting Acai berry products, each calling her by a different name and giving her a different history.

Well, wait a second, what about Oprah, and Dr. Oz, and Rachel Ray, and others? Didn't they recommend Acai berry products? Not at all! Dr. Oz mentioned Acai berry in a long list of healthy foods (such as tomatoes, blueberries, and broccoli) in an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show. Rachael Ray never discussed Acai at all. In fact, it was a guest on her show who mentioned an Acai berry drink. All three have made public statements condemning the unauthorized use of their images and names.

We had a discussion about Acai berry on Gyminee last month and one of the "Pro" members shared the following response:

I’ve had this fruit quite alot since a large part of my friends and extended family are brasilian (and i just came back from there earlier this year, hehehe). I’ve never heard them touting the weight loss benefits of it, mostly it’s eaten like a treat and said to have a sort of boost in energy effect.

Also, Brasilians don’t eat it in a processed juice or packaged. The most common and best way I’ve had it is “açai na tigela.” where they freeze the fruit and sprinkle banana slices and granola on top.

If you’re really interested in the fruit, I bet açai na tigela is probably less calories and healthier for you. At worst, they add a bit of chocolate syrup on top and serve it as a desert mmmmmmmmm!

Interesting perspective, for sure!

If you're still curious about Acai berry, I highly suggest you buy pills or juice (or frozen berries) from a reputable local store. (My sister decided to try it out and picked up some pills for a reasonable price at our local GNC.) But in my opinion, you should stop looking for your weight loss answer in a miracle pill or a single super food, because none of them will help you be healthier, happier, and more fit over the long-term. You'll be better off saving your money and sticking to a well-balanced diet of whole foods.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Last day to enter Turbulence Training contest!

Well, it's Tuesday morning. Perhaps you're now looking back over your Memorial Day holiday and regretting your excesses...fatty food, sweets, and alcohol. Instead of spending hours in the gym trying to undo the damage in one mega-workout (a fruitless pursuit), why not commit to a lifestyle change that will help you look and feel more slender, more muscular, and healthier?

Remember my post on motivation? Well, if accountability and a challenge are things that motivate you, don't miss your last opportunity to join the fifth Turbulence Training contest! Today is the last day to enter the contest and have the full twelve weeks to make your transformation.

As if the opportunity to transform your body wasn't motivation enough, there's a $1000 grand prize (plus a 3-year platinum subscription to Craig's site and workouts) for the top male AND top female transformation, plus smaller prizes for the second and third place finishers in each category. And, there's a special prize for the best transformation by a couple, AND a bonus for trainers whose clients win a transformation contest prize.

To help out his contestants, Craig is also making some of his most recent - and most popular - workouts available to all members for a limited time. This includes:

  • Turbulence Training 2K9 - The Ultimate Fat Burning Workout, featuring new bodyweight exercises, kettlebells intervals, and 31 days of fat burning tips.
  • TT for Buff Dudes & Hot Chicks - Featuring what's been called the "Hardest TT Workout Ever," a KILLER timed bodyweight interval workout, you'll find amazing muscle sculpting and fat loss will result from this workout.
  • TT March Madness Circuits - Short, fun, fat burning circuits using everything from bodyweight, dumbbells, and kettlebells. You'll really be able to change things up and keep your body guessing with the variety offered by these circuits.
  • TT AAA Abs - Filled with exercises designed to shed body fat while flattening your tummy and strengthening your abdominals, AAA Abs will get you doing challenging new exercises, having fun, and getting a fantastic workout.
  • TT Fat Loss for Reformed Meatheads - Think you can't get cut in just 3 days per week? Think again, with this old-school program that builds big guns and six pack abs...all without long, boring cardio.
Right now, when you purchase Turbulence Training, Craig will include three months free access to the site, which will be enough to allow you to get motivation from fellow contestants for your entire 12 weeks. But after Thursday, May 29, 2009, you'll only get one month free access, and all of the bonus workouts listed above will go back in the vault for Platinum Members only. So if you've been thinking about purchasing Turbulence Training and entering the contest, now is a great time to do so!

Click here to purchase Turbulence Training, and good luck with your transformation!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Training with Kettlebells. Is it for you?

I know I've mentioned before that I train with kettlebells. When I mention this to people, most people say, "kettle what?" So while kettlebells have been catching on lately, they are still unknown to many people. Let me tell you a little about kettlebells so that you can decide if you might benefit from training with them.

What are kettlebells?
According to Wikipedia, a kettlebell is a traditional Russian cast-iron weight looking somewhat like a cannonball with a handle. They've been around for decades, but are now gaining popularity in the U.S.

How do kettlebells work?
Most kettlebell exercises are based on the concept of functional movement. Functional training involves the entire body in the movement, engaging the core and giving you a total body workout. They build strength and stability, giving you a great workout in a short, efficient burst of activity. My trainer likes to call them a "portable gym."

Who can benefit from working with kettlebells?
Although kettlebells got their start as an exercise tool for muscle-bound Russian strongmen, they can provide a fantastic workout for a wide range of people at different levels of fitness, including:
  • Men
  • Women
  • People looking to lose fat
  • People looking to build muscle
  • Bodybuilders
  • Military/Firefighters/Police
So you can see that they can really do something for everyone, even people at the early stages of their fitness journey. You can use them for building strength, and also do fast circuits of the larger movements to replace traditional cardio. It's quick, fun, and fat-blasting!

What kind of results might you get from Kettlebells?
I can share a few things I've seen or experienced myself from my kettlebell workouts. First, I've seen and heard about women and men who start working out with kettlebells, and without even trying, they go down a size or lose weight. For instance, two women I know have been working with our trainer since February. Both of them went down a size within the first 6 weeks of starting their workouts.

Then there's the cardio benefits. I went for a 2.5 mile run in February. It took me 25:30 to finish. After doing my normal weight training workouts and using kettlebell circuits for my cardio for two months, I went for another run. I had not run over a mile since February. I ran at a pace that felt easy, and when I finished the 2.5 miles, it had taken me 24:30. I shaved a minute off my time, without sport-specific training or even pushing myself. With stronger legs and a body trained to use oxygen more efficiently during my killer kettlebell circuits, I was able to gain benefits in an entirely different form of exercise.

There are dozens of amazing kettlebell success stories on the Dragon Door site, here.

How can I get started?
If you think kettlebells might be something you want to try, then you'll want to know how to get started. The basic movement is the kettlebell swing, and it's what you'll want to learn first. While I did start with the kettlebell swing based on videos I watched, I have since found there is no replacement for in-person training with a professional. You certainly can start with DVDs or books, but even one session with a trainer could get you doing a proper swing in no time. I've also seen people work without a trainer and get too ambitious, trying advanced moves without being able to check their form. This can lead to injury, so please train safely!

If you do go with a trainer, choose one who is specifically certified to train kettlebells. Any trainer will not do. You might have seen Jillian Michaels demonstrate a kettlebell swing on The Biggest Loser this season. As much as I love Jillian, I'm sorry to say that even she was doing the moves incorrectly, simply because she didn't know any better. I work out in a small group with a certified Russian Kettlebell Instructor, or RKC for short. You can find out whether there is a RKC certified trainer in your area by checking here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Motivation: Figure out what works for you

I've been talking to a lot of my friends over the past few days, and more often than not, the conversation takes a turn to fitness. I wanted to do a brief post, just to talk about some of the motivational strategies that have worked for them (and for me). The point is that this is a menu. Know yourself, and choose from the menu the things that will work to help motivate you.

  • Get inspired! Whether its a picture of a fit celebrity (Jessica Biel, whose picture I posted earlier this week, is my inspiration), or maybe just a picture of yourself from years ago, a visual of your goal can help keep you on track. Hang it somewhere visible, like on your mirror, in the pantry, or on the fridge. Another idea is to have a personalized goal picture created for you at a site like weightview.
  • Challenge yourself. Remember my neighbor who helped get me started with my fitness plan? Well, C., as we'll call her, had her baby back in February, and as soon as she was "cleared" for workouts by her doctor, she started a very aggressive and challenging program called P90x. While some people might get demotivated by such an intense and challenging program, C. knows that a challenge will make her fight back to prove she can't be beat! Maybe a challenging program, or a contest-based challenge like a Biggest Loser contest or body transformation contest (like the Turbulence Training Contest I entered) will keep you engaged and motivated. I should share that C. is doing great - not quite at her goals yet, but already fitting back into her size 8 clothes! YOU GO GIRL!
  • Engage a pro. This isn't for everyone, but for some people who feel overwhelmed by all of the information or options available to them at the gym, working one-on-one or in a small group setting with a personal trainer or coach can be just what they needed. As they gain confidence, they may be able to branch out on their own more often.
  • Be accountable. Telling people your goals can make it harder to stop pursuing them. Another neighbor, (we'll call her "L."), just told her friends that she is joining the local gym. She knows that we'll ask her about it, and that accountability will help her follow through. So tell people about your goals and your plans, and encourage them to check in with you to find out how it's going. Even better is to have a specific friend commit to following the same program, so that you can support and keep each other accountable.
  • Focus on your goals. Think about what you want out of life, and how a slimmer, more fit body will help you get it. Then write down your top 5 benefits of success on an index card. Make copies, and put them everywhere you might need them: in your purse, on your mirror, or at your desk at work. Pull them out and read them when you are tempted to venture off-plan.
  • Focus on the negatives. Sometimes, the scare that comes from our poor health can be what kicks us in the butt and gets us moving again. Maybe, like my DH, one of your parents died at a relatively young age because of poor health. Maybe it's your own health -- you've had a heart attack or stroke scare. Either way, focusing on what you don't want to become can often be what it takes to turn it around for people. So again, write it down, and put it somewhere you will see it and be reminded what you're doing and why!
  • Reward success. Although it's important not to sabotage your success with unhealthy food-based rewards, rewards can be a great motivator! Perhaps you'll get a pedicure after you lose 10 lbs. Or it could be that you only get your weekly "cheat" of an ice cream cone if you made all your workouts and ate on-plan during the week. It could even be a trip to the beach where you can show off your new beach-ready body when you meet your final goals! The trick is to choose a variety of goals, both short- and long-term, and a variety of rewards that will keep you engaged.
I hope you found something on this "menu of motivation" that will help keep you on plan. Is there something that motivates you that I didn't mention? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Who's afraid of a little muscle?

Now that I've whittled myself down to a mere 110 pounds, I've decided that it's time to focus on increasing my muscle mass. This requires a whole different mindset from me, including increasing the amount of calories I eat (while still eating "clean"), increasing rest during my weightlifting sessions, and dropping most of my cardio from my workouts. It's an interesting experience, and I hope that it will be successful for me.

But talking about this with people brings up some of the comments I so often hear from women who are looking to get fit. I'm sure you know what I mean -- maybe some of you had the same reaction when you read the beginning of this post!

Things like:
  • I don't want to look bulky
  • I'm afraid of looking like a man
  • I really just want to "tone" my muscles, not build them up
Sounds familiar, right? Well, I have a newsflash for you. The BEST way to look thinner, leaner more feminine, and more "toned" is to build muscle. No, really!

Well, most of the bulky women you've seen pictures of have one thing in common: they are on special supplements and a training program designed SPECIFICALLY to give them big muscles. Some of them may even be taking steroids. Frankly, they have to trick their bodies and work their tails off to do it because women's bodies do not have the levels of testosterone required for building muscles the way that men's bodies do!

So now that we've accepted that weight training and building muscle won't make you look like a man, let's talk about what it WILL make you look like!

The first image is of Jessica Biel, after she worked out for her role in Blade: Trinity. The second image is of trainer Jillian Michaels, best known as "TV's Toughest Trainer" from the show, The Biggest Loser. I don't know many women that would turn down a chance to look like either of these ladies, and both of them lift weights as part of their exercise regimen!

So now let's talk about how to build muscle. There are a few key things to remember:
  • Resistance training. Whether you do bodyweight exercises or lift free weights, resistance training for at least 20-30 minutes, 3 times per week, will help you gain muscle. Do 6-12 repetitions of each exercise, at a weight that's challenging. I love Turbulence Training workouts for this, but any similar resistance training program will do.
  • Get enough to eat! Some women are so focused on losing weight that they starve themselves. Never eat less than 1200 calories (on average) per day, and if you hit a weight loss plateau, try adding MORE calories to see how your body reacts. Many times, more calories will cause a counterintuitive weight loss.
  • Get enough rest. Okay, so clearly I'm the pot calling the kettle black on this one, but getting rest is key to allowing your body to repair itself and build muscle. I've actually noticed my body telling me that it needs more rest since I started muscle-building, and I'm doing my best to listen!
So now, let's say you decide you are going to get with the program and build some muscle. Here are the benefits you'll gain:
  • Smaller physical appearance and measurements. While a pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh the same, the two take up extremely different amounts of space. Replace muscle with fat and although your weight may not change, you will appear smaller and leaner.
  • Higher metabolic rate. Increased lean body mass (the part of your body that doesn't contain fat) results in a higher metabolic rate. What does this mean? It means that the amount of calories your body burns without activity is greater. Your calorie needs will increase, and yes, that's right, you'll be able to eat more!
  • Lower risk of osteoporosis. As you increase your muscle mass, your bones will adjust, becoming more dense in order to support the muscles. You'll gain a stronger skeleton and lower your osteoporosis risk.
The good thing about muscle building is that it's fairly easy to cut back. So if you start to see something you don't like, you have time to adjust before you end up looking like the women at the beginning of the article. I hope those readers who stick purely to aerobics classes and cardio machines will consider adding a little resistance training this week!

I've just finished the first week of my 5-week muscle building regimen. I'll be sure to let you all know how it goes when I get to the end!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cutting salt to cut fat

I think most of us are aware that we should try to limit our sodium intake. Perhaps you refrain from salting your food, or try not to eat high salt foods like canned soups and frozen meals. You might even be checking food labels, looking to see if salt is one of the major ingredients.

But did you know that a high sodium intake can actually affect your weight loss success? It's true. Excess sodium intake actually causes your fat cells to grow larger, meaning that even with the same amount of fat, you will LOOK more flabby. Excess sodium can also increase fluid retention, keeping the scale from moving (while you feel frustrated) even as you exercise and reduce calories.

On a health note, although sodium may not be the primary factor, studies have shown that people with a high sodium intake are at higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. I believe that this has more to do with the fact that excessively rich foods are often extremely high in sodium, so people consuming a high sodium diet are often also eating excessively fatty foods.

A shocking fact I found in my research is that while the recommended intake for sodium in the U.S. is 1000mg or less for each 1000 calories you eat (that would be 2000mg for a typical 2000 calorie diet), most Americans are eating 4000-5000mg of sodium per day. ACK! And you should know that in the U.K., the recommended intake is even lower, at a maximum of 1600mg per day. So clearly, there's some reason to wonder whether the U.S. RDA is low enough. I personally try to keep to 1500mg per day or less. And it's not easy!

So how do you reduce your sodium intake? Is putting the salt shaker back in the cabinet enough? Sadly, no. The amount of salt people add to most of what they eat ends up contributing a very small percentage of their overall sodium intake. In fact, 75% of our sodium intake comes from processed and restaurant foods, with just 10% coming from salt added at the table or during cooking, and the remaining 15% occurring naturally in food.

To make matters worse, low sodium eating hasn't gotten as much attention from food manufacturers as things like eating low-fat or low-carb. So you may be hard-pressed to find low sodium items at your grocery. In fact, when I check labels at my own grocery, I find the low-fat items are often higher in sodium than their high-fat counterparts. Manufacturers add salt to their products to replace the flavor lost when fat is removed.

Here are some strategies to help you reduce your sodium intake:
  • Limit restaurant and fast foods. A typical meal at a restaurant can often contain three times the recommended daily intake of sodium - and that's just at one meal! If you are eating out, look for low sodium meals or recommendations on the restaurant's website. For instance, Outback Steakhouse gives customers specific ordering requests they can use to reduce sodium in their meals.
  • Eat sparingly from processed and prepackaged (often frozen) meals. Check the ingredients and you'll be shocked by how much sodium they contain. Add to that their tendency to overstate the number of servings, and you might end up getting 2000mg of sodium in a single meal!
  • Read labels on grocery foods. Look for less than 300mg per serving in sodium in most foods, and 150mg or less in bread. In the ingredients list, look out for sodium additives. I've included a list at the bottom of the article.
  • Reduce your reliance on soups as casserole ingredients, and make your own broth rather than using packaged broths or bullion cubes. Even low sodium broths often have more than 300mg per 1 cup. An exception -- Pacific Natural Foods has a great "no salt added" chicken broth, with just 70mg sodium per 1 cup serving.
  • Buy "no salt" varieties of foods that really don't need salt to taste good. I buy "no salt" peanut butter and cottage cheese to name a few.
I challenge you to spend the next week trying to cut your sodium intake. See if you can find any hidden sources of sodium and whether the reduced sodium intake helps you look better or weigh less. I'd love to hear how you do!

Remember, when you're checking those labels, you need to look for more than just salt. Common sodium-increasing food ingredients:
  • Baking soda and Baking powder
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Sodium nitrate and nitrite
  • Sodium alginate
  • Disodium inosinate
  • Disodium guanylate
And here are some specific types of foods that are often high in sodium:
  • Bottled sauces like salad dressings, ketchup, and BBQ sauce
  • Canned soup
  • Canned vegetables and beans
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cured meats like lunch meat and hot dogs
  • Fermented foods like pickles and green olives
  • Items containing baking powder, like Bisquick, pizza dough, and biscuits
  • Salted snack foods like chips, crackers, pretzels, and nuts
  • Soy sauce (even light soy sauce) and items made with them (Chinese food, for example)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dealing with a setback

I've spent the last few days getting over a cold, and it reminded me how easy it can be to get off track. Maybe, like me, it's a cold that sidelines you from your workouts, or maybe it's a disruption to your schedule. Maybe it's even a setback on the scale, or a few days of eating off plan.

A few days can stretch to a week, and then two weeks. Suddenly you find yourself looking in the mirror and feeling pudgy and unmotivated. So now what?

Well, sometimes, it's not as hard as it seems to find your way back. You don't have to dive all the way back into your normal routine to do it. Just small steps can be enough to build momentum in the right direction, and get you back into your routine.

So let's talk about some strategies to get you out of that funk.

  1. Get moving. Maybe you can't make it to the gym or don't have time for a full workout. Drop to the floor and bang out a few sets of 10-20 push-ups, do some jumping jacks, 10-20 bodyweight squats, and a 30 second plank. It's quick, so if you feel good, rest a minute and repeat. Just getting moving, even doing a little mini-workout like this, will raise your endorphins and get you out of feeling lazy, making you more likely to return to your regular workouts the next day.
  2. Take a break from the scale. Weighing yourself multiple times a day or even every single day can be demoralizing. Most of the rise and fall in your weight over short periods of time is based on hydration. Take at least one week's break from the scale and focus instead on how you feel and how your clothes fit.
  3. Eat healthy for a day. Just one day of going without the snacks, fatty foods, and treats that led to a downward spiral can help you start a positive cycle. One day can stretch into two, then three...you get the idea.
  4. Do something fun. Sometimes you can lose your motivation because you've been TOO intense, working too hard without ever getting a break. Take a day and do something fun. Maybe it's a fun activity, like going for a bike ride with your family. Maybe it's something like getting a new haircut, or a pedicure. Taking a day to relax and have a little fun may leave you recharged and ready to jump back into your exercise routine.
As for me, I missed my normal gym workout on Monday to stay home and rest, since I wasn't feeling well. To make matters worse, I didn't feel like cooking something healthy. I was tempted to order out, but then ended up eating some butternut squash soup I had in the cabinet. I rested on the couch for a while, and then decided to get up and just do a set of push-ups. After 20 push-ups, I had a bit more energy and did some sumo squats. Then it was side planks and regular planks. By this point, I actually felt pretty good, so I grabbed my kettlebell and did some weighted lunges and cleans. All in all, I spent about 12-15 minutes being active, instead of my normal 60 minute workout, but I went to bed feeling much better emotionally about what I had done.

On Tuesday night, I was still feeling a bit off, but after my mini-workout the night before, I managed to build up the momentum to make it to the gym. After my workout was complete, I felt really great - not tired or sick at all.

So the next time you've fallen out of your routine because you're sick, or maybe a bit depressed, try some of my suggestions and see if they can get you back on track. Do you have any additional strategies? If so, please post them in the comments!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New Transformation Contest beginning!

As you know, I've entered two of Craig Ballantyne's 12-week Turbulence Training Transformation Contests, and they helped me change my body AND my health for the better. Have you been inspired by my accomplishments? Well now it's YOUR turn to transform!

Craig is starting a new transformation contest (TC5 for short)! The first day to enter is Monday, May 4, 2009. Your transformation runs for 84 days from the day you start, and must end by August 18, 2009.

Why do a transformation contest?
Well, sure, there's great prizes, including cash and platinum subscriptions to Craig's site with all of his workouts and videos. However, the real reason you should do a transformation contest is that the accountability of a contest actually helps you succeed! A contest helps create a timetable, gives you tools for your success, and ensures that you document your progress.

How do you enter the transformation contest?
Pick your starting date. On that day, purchase a current newspaper, and take "before" pictures from the front, side, and rear including your head/face and the newspaper in each photo. Wear form-fitting clothing that shows your body. Then follow Turbulence Training workouts for 12 weeks. You can start with Craig's free bodyweight workouts I send to subscribers to my blog. When you've completed the 12 weeks, you take "after" pictures, again with a current paper, and write an essay (300 word minimum) to tell Craig about your transformation. You can submit it to him via email, or post it on the ttmembers.com site.

What advice would you give me?
I have a few things that helped me succeed during my transformations:
  • Regular communication with others in the contest. Posting my workouts and nutrition on ttmembers.com was a huge help for me. Not only did I get support from other contestants, but they also gave me advice, recommendations, and a kick in the rear when I needed it!
  • Logging my nutrition. I kept track of what I ate, the calories, and the macronutrient (fat, carb, protein) breakdown by logging my food at Gyminee.com and Sparkpeople.com. I could analyze what I was eating over a week's time, and help recognize why I made, or didn't make progress over a particular week.
  • Sticking to a workout schedule. Craig's workouts are great, but it's up to you to fit them in. Plan out your three Turbulence Training workouts for the week, your day "off" and your light day activity for the remaining days. These are important appointments for you. Keep true to them like you would any other appointment. Miss a lot of workouts, and you may end up giving up entirely. Staying on track, even when circumstances conspire against you, and you will accomplish much!
  • Make it fun! You can reward yourself for mini-accomplishments, find a fun activity for your off days, and find a friend to transform with. But whatever you do, understand that this is not a diet, it's a life change. So make it a fun one. If you do, your transformation will last long beyond the end of your 12 weeks.
If you don't already have Craig's Turbulence Training workouts, you can start the contest for free, using the bodyweight workouts I'll send you when you sign up for my newsletter (on the right). If you like them, I encourage you to purchase the full program for $39.95, which will give you the Original Turbulence Training workout manual, many additional resources and manuals, and access to Craig's ttmembers.com site for three months (along with the new workout of the month for each of those three months).

Right now, Craig has the awesome February 2009 "Buff Dudes and Hot Chicks" workout available to all members, but it's only through Thursday, May 7th. I used this workout during the 4th Turbulence Training contest (TC4), and it was absolutely killer! The female winner of TC4, Robyn, who set a fat-loss record, losing 35 pounds and 9.5" from her waist alone, also used this workout during the final phase of her transformation. (Read more about Robyn here.)

So if you've been contemplating a purchase of Turbulence Training, now is a great time to do it! Craig even has a 21-day trial offer that you can purchase for an initial payment of just $4.95, with the remaining $35 billed at the end of 4 weeks. Click here for that deal!

If you already have some Turbulence Training workouts, and are ready to get started with the contest, make sure you read the full rules and submit your email address to register on this page.

I hope to see and hear about your contest entry soon!