Category Archives: Inspiration

Today is Going to be a Good Day

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Soaking up the Tahoe Sun. 🌲🌞Today is going to be a good day.
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If you want something, you have to go out and get it. You have to work hard for it, be persistent, and don’t give up because the going gets tough. The moments that we overcome challenges are the moments that will define us.
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There is something about pushing ourselves physically through a tough workout – pushing our bodies to their limits that carries over into the rest of our lives. Overcoming the difficulty of a hard workout is a small daily victory that gives us confidence and strength to let life’s little challenges roll off our back.
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Be bold or be ordinary. Its your choice. Make the choice to be the best version of you. Every. Damn. Day.
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πŸ˜€πŸ’ͺ❀

The Healthy Brain: 5 Ways Your Brain Function Improves With Exercise

Over the course of my journey to being fit, I have realized something amazing. My physical transformation has been astounding, but what has happened internally is something much greater. I have become happier, more productive and organized, stopped procrastinating, purged negativity, and noticed a complete 180 in my mood. Once a change begins to happen with your mindset, the physical change will follow.

Most people view exercise as a tool to help them lose fat, gain muscle, and become more toned. However, it’s not just the physical transformation that occurs when we stay active. Our brain chemistry actually changes significantly with regular exercise. Just as a strong body helps protect us from injury, a strong healthy brain protects us from depression, anxiety, memory loss, and negativity. Here are 5 reasons working out will improve your brain functions and support a productive, happy lifestyle:

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  1. Strength: Exercise releases neurotransmitters known as endorphins – endorphins are responsible for inhibiting the brain’s response to stress signals, pain, and anxiety. Not only do endorphins help us relate exercise with something more fun and enjoyable, they help guard us from stress and emotional pain in the future, making every day challenges easier to process, evaluate and solve.
  2. Happiness: When we exercise, the brain is able to regulate important mood stabilizing chemicals such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. This regulation is directly related to treating symptoms of depression, and can also aid in controlling our appetite and sleep patterns. Sleep, appetite and mental clarity are all crucial to a healthy physical body. Exercise also burns adrenaline, contributing to a significant decline in anxiety.
  3. Youth: As we get older, our brains begin to purge neurons. Physical exercise has been proven to produce new neurons, helping our brain to perform at a “younger” rate, improving cognitive function and memory. Bonus!
  4. Intelligence: The mild stress that exercise imposes on the physical body signals the brain to make moves to make repairs. This results in a significant production of neurons and a huge stimulation of the hippocampus – which is responsible for memory forming, organizing, and storing – like a filing cabinet!
  5. Motivation: The reason most people feel too tired to work out is because they are not working out! Literally. When we exercise and begin to improve all the above named brain functions, we are actually creating the energy needed to sustain regular physical activity. It is much like a snowball effect: the more you do it, the more you will want to do it, and vice-versa. The less physical activity we get, the more likely we are to feel lethargic and be less productive. Exercising regularly will skyrocket your energy levels and brain function – so what are you waiting for?!

HAPPY

5 Tips To Reach Long Term Success Faster!

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I firmly believe that every person alive struggles with motivation, fear, and the feeling of defeat when it comes to our goals – whether they are fitness, job, family or work related. I think the main culprit of these feelings lies in the desire for a “Quick Fix,” which has somehow become a major illusion that our society seems to continue to poison our heads with. Trying to get to the finish line before you’ve even learned to walk is not gonna work, folks!!!

I’ve come to crossroads in my life and fitness journey that have left me feeling a little worse for the wear, beaten down, and simply TIRED! I have wrestled with feelings of total defeat, the desire to give up, and the idea that I will never reach my goals. I’m only human, after all. These feelings are GOING to come about, and are totally natural. This is all part of mine and many others’ struggle to find a healthy balance, and stay motivated to continue on the path to righteous healthiness!

The good news is that there are steps we can take to help ease, and rise above the weight of life’s seemingly relentless demands. We have to learn to take a step back, and start with the things we can immediately control. Set healthy habits by breaking your goals up into smaller, more manageable time frames, and the long term success will absolutely just fall right into place.

1. Set smaller goals: Setting a long term goal is great, and I wholeheartedly support them. However, sometimes we make deadlines for ourselves, and set goals that are too vague, setting ourselves up for failure. Start small. Set a weekly goal, and follow through on it. Hold yourself accountable for your goal each day of the week, and don’t fold. Making a schedule for yourself for the entire week can be an incredibly valuable tool to keep you accountable, on track, and can relieve the stress of thinking about your next move on the fly.

2. Get Specific: When looking at your weekly goals, think about what you are trying to achieve in the long term. Are you trying to lose weight? Build muscle? Become faster? Gain endurance? Clean up your diet? Ask yourself what it is that you really want, and apply that to your smaller, more immediate routine. Let’s say your goal is to overall lose some fat, gain a little muscle, and clean up your diet. This week, start by planning a few meals out for the week, along with a few healthy snacks. Grocery shop accordingly and prep your fridge and cabinets to support your diet. Write yourself an exercise schedule that includes some weight training, some intense cardio, and a rest day or two. Post your schedule where it is easily seen and acknowledged, and be prepared to follow through on your meals and workouts.

3. Make Effective Changes: As you are planning your schedule for the week, really look at what you have been doing, and make adjustments accordingly. Ask yourself if you are challenging yourself enough. Are you increasing your weights when lifting? Are you trying to run further or faster than you did last week? Are you incorporating different kinds of workouts? What about HIIT? How about sprints? Are you trying different exercises or doing the same ones every time? Are you trying to push yourself for that extra round of reps? How about incorporating a BONUS workout after your normal routine? These are all changes that will help you get the push you need to progress with each day. The same applies for your diet. Ask yourself what you are currently eating that is not helping your goals. Give up or substitute on of these items starting this week, and stick to it.

4. Keep It Real: Life is busy, demanding, and downright chaotic sometimes. We all have different schedules and responsibilities which require our attention for a good portion of each day. Take these things into account when you are making your schedule. Don’t make unreasonable requirements for yourself, or you set yourself up for failure. Think about your schedule, and plan your workouts accordingly. You can do it! Don’t let yourself fall to the age old rotten statement of “I just don’t have TIME to workout!” This is bologne and we all know it! It can be really simple and easy to follow with a little planning and scheduling. Do it, I dare you.

5. Stay Positive: The power of positivity is REAL and POWERFUL in every way. Life is too short to stress about the small stuff! Change the way you think about your daily routine, and congratulate yourself on every single small success you have. Do not give into lazy or negative thoughts. Stop yourself immediately from putting yourself down in any way, and instead think about how great it is to be taking care of your needs every day, nurturing your body and mind, and remember that you are worth every single second of it. Mind over matter is a very tangible practice, and is extremely effective in not only supporting your goals, but giving you the fresh, happy, strong, and bulletproof mindset that you will carry with you throughout all of life’s endeavors. Smile and press on – you’re a WARRIOR, dammit!!!

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Cultivating Willpower, Promoting Growth

Green smoothie instead of frozen garbage? Yes, please!
Green smoothie instead of frozen garbage? Yes, please!

Let’s talk about growth. I do not believe that stagnation is a healthy practice in life – nor is it conducive whatsoever to a solid health and fitness plan. It is absolutely true that we will not change if we are not changing what we do! “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” Sound familiar? We simply cannot make room for growth until we set aside our old bad habits, and step into the uncomfortable unknown. Failing to have the self control to make necessary changes to our body and mind will ultimately destroy us! Willpower is a very powerful issue, and something so many of us struggle with, whether it be with daily chores, work motivation, or diet and exercise. Your choices each day are what shape you into the person you want to be, and eventually help you reach your goals in life. Fitness is no different. When faced with difficult choices it is not always easy to say no, and many times, this lack of willpower will halt your progress.

This concept of self control is something that is talked about time and time again when it comes to making healthy food choices. It is no secret that nutrition is the bigger piece of the fitness puzzle. No matter how hard you train, you simply cannot out train a bad diet. Period. We spend so much energy and hard work training ourselves to be physically strong, so why not apply some of this discipline to your mental health and well being by training your self control? Statistically, people with higher willpower have better lives, careers, marriages, success, and make better leaders. If you could easily say no to the crappy foods that are holding you back from reaching your dream self, would that make you happy? Would you like to get better at not putting off your training, and better at planning for healthy meals every day? I can show you how.

In Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Willpower Instinct, she covers topics discussed in a Stanford class about identifying and training your willpower. She offers many great training exercises to help you identify the issues that are causing you to give in to your lack of willpower, and train yourself to have stronger self control. The best way to have better self control is to first recognize and understand why you are losing control.

Here is an exercise that will help you connect with the forces that are causing you to lose control, and furthermore ease your mind out of troublesome and difficult decisions involving willpower.

  • Task 1: Track Willpower Choices

Track every single one of your WP choices for a day. Be sure to look for the subtle ones as well! This tracking will prevent you from becoming distracted. Make a note of those decisions which helped or undermined your goals. This is important because the first step is to track what are causing the impulses that undermine your goals. Learn the cues and where they come from!

The brain physically changes based on experiences, and the best way to train your willpower is meditation.

  • Task 2: Meditate

Breath focus is a simple and powerful meditation technique. Here is how to do it in a nutshell:

  1. Sit still and stay put

    1. Sit in a chair with your feet on the ground or with crossed legs on a cushion. Don’t fidget, don’t scratch itches, don’t move! Staying still is a huge part of why it helps WP, as you learn not to follow every impulse your brain throws out.

  2. Turn your attention to your breath

    1. Close your eyes or focus on a single spot (like a blank wall). Begin to notice your breath. Silently in your mind say β€œinhale” as you breathe in and β€œexhale” as you breathe out. When your mind wanders (and it will) just bring it calmly back to the breadth. Coming back to the breath again and again is what really stimulates the prefrontal cortex.

  3. Notice how it feels to breathe, and notice how the mind wanders

    1. After a few minutes, drop the inhale/exhale thoughts. Try just to focus on the sensation of breathing. You may sense the breath flowing in your mouth, maybe the rhythmic inflation/deflation of your chest, whatever. Your mind will still wander, just always calmly bring it back to the breath. If you need help refocusing, bring the inhale/exhale thoughts back.

Start with 5 minutes a day, and once that is a habit bump it up to 15 a day. If that feels like a burden, drop it back to 5. A short practice every day is much better than a long practice every once in awhile.

I suggest practicing this short 5 minute meditation each time you are faced with the urge to break your willpower. Practice this for 1 week , and track your progress. Keep writing down all of your triggers and your WP choices, and the next challenges will involve some other exercised to further strengthen and train your self control. If this is something you are struggling with, please stay tuned for my follow up entries on this topic. πŸ™‚

Enjoy your day, and here’s to the stronger inner you!

-Crystal

Black Book Body Transformation Challenge

66 Workouts That Will Completely Transform Your Body
66 Workouts That Will Completely Transform Your Body

The new year is right around the corner! For most, this is a great time to commit to change. Some of my personal goals for 2014 involve a strong commitment to my health and fitness. If your New Year’s resolution promotes becoming healthier, stronger, to lose weight, work on your endurance, or just to exercise more, I have theΒ perfect challenge for you.

Since I seriously began doing home workouts, I have been keeping a journal of the routines which I really enjoyed, and felt were worth repeating. Some of which I have adapted from their original versions, some I have left exactly the same, and some I wrote myself. There are currently 66 workouts in my black book, and I intend to do each one in the book from start to finish!

In addition to the exercise challenge, I will be incorporating weekly nutrition challenges to promote clean eating. I will also be allowing myself one weekly “cheat meal.” (Not an entire cheat DAY, mind you!) For the duration of the Black Book Challenge, I will be abstaining from alcohol and sweets, with the exception of my weekly “cheat meal.” I will also be logging my meals daily on Loseit.com.

I hope you will Β join along with me, and begin a committed, results-driven game plan to change your life, and transform your body.

See you on January 1st! πŸ™‚

For a complete list of workouts from the Black Book Body Transformation Challenge, clickΒ HERE.

-Crystal

 

 

Finding Motivation

Hi Everyone!

should i work out

Whether you are a marathon runner, a Pilates instructor, or just someone who enjoys fitness, you are bound to experience the occasional lack of motivation. I know I struggle with this on a regular basis. Sometimes I feel so sluggish and “tired” that the negative bits of advice in my head start chattering. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating the idea that you should not listen to your body when it is telling you to rest. I am simply encouraging you to truly become tuned in to what your body really needs.

More often then not, our mind is trying to justify a way out of doing what is necessary by making excuses. For me, the biggest hurdle is motivating myself to exercise on busy days when I work. Cultivating the will power to overcome these counter-productive thoughts is something that we constantly have to struggle with. I can tell you from personal experience, that about 95% of the time, exercise actually makes me feel more energized than before I started! It is amazing how even just 10 quick minutes of activity can change my whole day around. Nobody has a schedule too busy for exercise. We have to make the time to take care of ourselves! In fact, it should be a priority.

Some things that help me get motivated when I feel sluggish:

  • Change into your favorite exercise outfit: Looking the part sometimes gets me motivated instantly!
  • Go for a fast paced walk: Getting my heart rate up a bit is sometimes exactly what I need to ease me into a good workout.
  • Do 10 minutes of yoga or stretching: This can and almost always does inspire your mind to make a quick switch into beast mode!
  • Do a 3 minute circuit of exercises as fast as you can: Let’s say 10 push ups, 10 jump lunges, and 20 mountain climbers, as many rounds as you can inside 3 minutes – You will be shocked at how this will almost certainly put you in the mood for a full workout – and it’s only 3 minutes!!! Everyone has time for that.
  • Make a list of reasons why you should exercise: Daily motivation and positive affirmations are sometimes exactly what the brain needs to hear to follow through with getting active.
  • Listen to your favorite music: Music almost always lifts my mood and changes my energy level πŸ™‚
  • Clean the house, or go outside for a little yard work: Incredibly, taking care of daily chores is almost always enough to A: get the blood circulating, and B: inspire you to take your productivity into a workout. I find that doing laundry makes a perfect window to get in a good workout between loads. πŸ™‚

More than anything, you really have to be the change for yourself. So many times we are weak, and allow little things to get in the way of our goals. Let’s be realistic though: YOU are the only thing either standing in your way, or helping you get what you want. So stop being the reason behind your failures, and start being the reason for your success. Nobody else is going to do the work for you. Also, take a minute to acknowledge the way you feel after your workout. This euphoria – the flood of endorphins and sense of accomplishment is so important to our well being! Take a minute to reward yourself by accepting the great feeling that a little bit of exercise gives you. You deserve to feel healthy, strong and HAPPY.

Now – Have a great day, and don’t forget to make time for you. You won’t regret it. πŸ™‚

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-Crystal

30 Day “Fit For The Holidays” Challenge

Hi guys,

The holidays are right around the corner, and so are the holiday treats! It is time to work hard so we can enjoy the reward! With that in mind, tomorrow is a special day for me! I am embarking on a 30 day challenge that will test my self control, willpower, and motivation. I am really hoping to see extreme results through this – physically and mentally. My goal is to lose 5 pounds, and to see a noticeable change in my muscle definition by burning as much fat as I can. My challenge will include a few parameters:

  • No Sweets: I will be cutting out all extra sugar from my diet for the duration of these 30 days. The only sugars I will be ingesting will include fruit, and sugars that naturally occur in vegetables, whole grains, nuts, etc. Time to beat the sweet tooth.
  • No alcohol: I am a bartender, and am constantly around alcohol. Alcoholic beverages have a ton of calories in them, not to mention they are loaded with sugar, and cause unhealthy cravings, lack of sleep, dehydration, and fatigue. I will have to work very hard to resist this temptation, but I know I can do it. Instead, I will be increasing the amount of water I drink on a daily basis.
  • Food log: I will not only be cutting my daily caloric intake by approximately 400 calories/day, but I will be logging everything I eat on a daily basis. I will be using Loseit.comΒ (username: crastymcnasty) to help me track all of my meals and workouts. I will also be making an ongoing post that will include all of my meals throughout the challenge.
  • No snacks after dinner: I seem to have a huge desire to snack meaninglessly after I have eaten dinner at night – not because I am hungry, but simply out of habit! This always turns into extra calories that I don’t even need. This rule is also going to include no meaningless snacking in between my other main meals during the day. I am going to break this habit once and for all.
  • Incorporate 1 new challenge in my workouts every week:Β I am going to focus on keeping a well rounded exercise regimen, with workouts 5-6 times per week, 1-2 rest days, and ample amounts of stretching. In addition to this schedule, I will be adding an activity that will really push me outside my comfort zone, such as sprint work during my runs, adding pull ups to my daily routine, or riding my bike instead of running. This will really help keep my body guessing, and boost my metabolism.

My ultimate hope for the outcome of this challenge is to teach myself the value of self control, and to learn more about reading my body’s signals. I am hoping to re-set my taste buds to appreciate the natural sweet/salty flavors of fruits, grains, and vegetables. I am hoping to lose excess fat, and slim down a bit, while sculpting and shaping my muscles simultaneously. I am hoping to experience an increase in my energy level, stamina, and strength. Mostly, I am just hoping to prove to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to, regardless of outside influence. At no point during this challenge will I ever starve myself, and I will not be taking any drastic weight loss measures. I am merely trying to adjust my diet and exercise routine, so my body will work more efficiently to burn fat and maintain muscle.

I want to invite any of my readers to join me for the next 30 days. If this is something you would like to do, than just do it! Pick a goal that is challenging, yet realistic, and really stick to it. I mean, REALLY stick to it. Here are some suggestions: Β **I would recommend picking any 2 items**

  • Eat a vegetable at every meal.
  • Eat a salad for lunch.
  • No sweets.
  • No processed foods.
  • Increase your weekly exercise by 1 hour/decrease you calories by 200-400 per day. (This does NOT mean starve yourself. You will simply need to adjust the foods you are eating.)
  • Log all of your food, and eat at least 4 small meals each day.
  • No mindless snacking. Meals only!
  • Drink an extra 4 cups of water every day.
  • Do 20 push ups every morning and every night.

We all struggle with different obstacles every day – so I am encouraging you to pick a goal that you think will help you overcome an obstacle that has been plaguing you. We are only talking about 1 month…imagine how encouraged and motivated you will be by the feeling of success that following through with your plan brings you. I will be posting all of my workouts for the next 30 days, some healthy recipes along the way, and words of inspiration as the month progresses. Please join me in the ongoing quest to get fit!

Tonight I took a photo and some measurements of myself, to use for comparison when the challenge is over. Game on!

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-C