30 DAY FITNESS CHALLENGES, THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY

30daychallengesI’ve seen ’em, you’ve seen ’em, everybody with an internet connection and a facebook account has seen one of these little guys floating around the internet.

They usually make their rounds through facebook, particularly in the new year and then once a month after that. The type of challenge varies but the format stays the same. 30 days to a new ass, flat tummy, or beach body.

I have mixed feelings about these challenges, which I’ll go over in this article- in particular I have one major bone to pick followed by an epiphany- but we’ll get to that. SO…Let us begin with

The Good

I’m going to honey-pot you, reader, with all of the things I love about these 30 day challenges.

  • They’re simple: Most of these challenges contain movements that most people are familiar with. The same grueling torture our physical ed teachers used to subject us to in high school. And there’s a reason for this- they work. Despite what televised fitness professionals will have you believe- that they’ve created the next, best new thing- most exercises are simply variations and combinations of the god father grand daddies of exercise. The Squat, The Lunge, The Push Up, The Crunch/Sit Up,  Jumping Jacks and The Plank. People see these exercises and they recognize them, they’re not intimidating, they’re doable.
  • They’re Convenient: With most (not all) of these little nifty 30 days challenges the only thing you need is your own body and gravity. Some of them will include some weights, or maybe one or two pieces of equipment, but reverting back to simplicity there is usually a regressed version of the exercise that does not need the equipment. Better yet, for those who are too intimidated to step into the gym just yet, these exercises can be done from the comfort of your own home.
  • They’re Quick: That’s the number one issue/complaint/feedback that I hear from people. “I don’t have enough time to exercise.” I think the longest amount of time I’ve seen on one of these 30 day challenge sheets totaled out to around 15 minutes- because it was Tabata style. For most people, once they do the challenge once, they realize that it’s not that big of a time commitment.
  • They plant the seed to develop a habit: For most, fitness is something that people have a tendency to start with relentless vigor and excitement…that quickly fizzles out after about a week. Due to the previous reasons, people are more likely to stick with the program, and get people excited about exercise.
  • Accountability & Peer Support: Most of the challenges are shared publicly on facebook, instagram, or whatever social media outlet chosen. Friends see it, they get excited about it, they decide to do it together. It becomes a “thing.” People remember, they ask the poster how they’re doing on the squat challenge. If other people are doing it (and doing it correctly, you’re supposed to share the challenge every day and post a hashtag) then your peer accountability factor rises.
  • Bragging Rights: On some of these badboys I see as many as 300 squats, or 100 push ups, or what not. Numbers like that are a big accomplishment for most. People want to be able to say “Yeah I can do 300 squats and I got there in 30 days.”

So, I went over some things that I liked about these challenges, now I’m going to go over what I dislike- but err on the line of being personal preference.

  • Overtraining just to force DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness): While most of these challenges have rest days, I see this mostly with the squat challenges. Because they’re a thirty day challenge, I think these creators make these challenges with the intention of making people hurt- for no other reason than to have people say “man that squat challenge is kicking my ass.” There was one I saw with 500 squats one day and 550 the next. I’m sorry, but there’s no world where 500 squats- even body weight, is even practical. I feel like when the challenge numbers are too high, even slipping into the realm of unrealistic it will cause someone to drop out of the challenge because they’re just too sore to do it the next day. Being sore is fine, being so sore you can barely move is not fine.
  • Not so clear instructions: Some things may seem like common sense to people who are familiar with the fitness world (like breaking up some of those high reps into sets if going to failure is too difficult. So 75 squats would be 3 sets of 25.) But the average person will try to the do those 75+ squats. The only time I’ve seen these challenges done well, is when it’s run by an actual fitness challenge site or page that provides instruction on how to do them and not just a simplified picture.
  • Creating imbalances: While it’s true, you’re not going to pack on a massive amount of muscle from doing a single exercise over and over again for 30 whole days, it still encourages muscle imbalances. You’re developing strength, endurance and if it is something such as the squat and it’s not being varied to activate different muscles, I feel like it could do more harm than good. Most of the time demonstrations are not given for the challenges- and a lot of people have a tendency to be quad focused when they squat (they don’t break parallel, they don’t activate their glutes coming up and they don’t have proper foot placement.) Or peopleThis is just encouraging bad habits unless people take the time to learn to do the movement properly.

Finally, there’s one last issue I want to go over in which I find is the biggest grievance I have with 30 day challenges.

The Ugly

  • Unrealistic Expectations: The challenges are meant to hook people, presumably to get shares and gain traffic to a site or page in ADDITION to hopefully inspiring people to get into better shape. It’s an unfortunate reality that our minds are drawn to a standard of beauty that we think we need to achieve. So these photos are usually depicting a perfectly round bum, a chiseled mid section or toned arms all placed on a half naked, tanned girl in a bitching bikini or pair of yoga pants.
  • Also, there’s the concept of 30 days.  Do you ever notice you tend to click on “Ten photos that will change how you think about dogs” or “5 steps to get him to propose” I don’t know why, but we’re hard wired to respond better to numbers. Again, while it may seem like common sense to people in the fitness world who know these challenges are for fun, rather than dramatic results- to the average person who does not have the background knowledge- people think they’ll do a ton of crunches for a month and have abs at the end of 30 days. Or they’ll do a ton of squats and their bums will have that perfectly round sculpted look. That’s just not reality. Most people also, don’t change their other habits while they take on these challenges. They stay eating the same, they generally do not supplement the challenges with any other forms of fitness and they reach the end of 30 days and realize that their butt and stomach doesn’t look like the picture. I feel like this leads to getting discouraged and thinking the challenges are bogus.

My final thoughts: I don’t love 30 day challenges, but I don’t hate them. I think they’re something neat, different and fun to do for the already fit. I also think they’re a good introduction to fitness for those who are new to it. As long as people don’t start them with the mindset that they’ll have these amazing results after 30 days, I think they’re beneficial. The challenge attached is one of the favorites that I’ve found, I think I may do it as something supplemental to my workouts. If you’re interested, feel free to send me a message, I’ll hold you accountable ;]

Have a great day,

Tai Rae.

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Words

bekindToday I really wanted to blog about some things that have been bothering me. Fitness and helping people reach their goals is my passion. I don’t care where someone is in their journey, I’m always the first to say “right on” and ready to be someone’s biggest cheerleader. A big part of that is because I know how it feels.

Something I notice that is prevalent, particularly in fitness oriented social media is judgment. Personal trainer Cassey Ho released a video recently that really resonated with me. View the video https://youtu.be/PsL7W-GHhJA

People are so harsh towards one another when it comes to fitness. My message today is geared towards women, but it is just as apparent in the male population as well. In Cassey’s video there is a comment I’m going to paraphrase that is one of my deepest fears, “You’re a personal trainer? Really? Where are your abs?”

My body is always a work in progress. It has taken me a long time to get to where I’m at currently and I will spend years tweaking, changing, sculpting, developing strength and aesthetics. However, one of my biggest fears is that someone looks at me with the same incredulous look in their eye that I’m a personal trainer and that I’m supposed to have a certain body type to reflect that. I stay fit, I lift six days a week, I eat clean. However, my body is not perfect. I am constantly trying to improve and have come a long way from where I was.

progressphotoHere is an image from September of 2013, when I had broke my plateau and dropped from 180-160. I didn’t have much muscle definition as I was still a beginner. When I had a body space on bodybuilding.com, I wandered into the misc section and was immediately called fake because I refused to post a picture of myself holding a spoon. The cries of fake, then turned into lashing out against me, even after I had proven my validity to moderators. The comments left on my page were horrendous. They ranged from “Lose some weight you fat bitch” to “Your body is garbage.” As much as I’d like to say it didn’t bother me. It did. I was so proud because I had finally reached a weight I hadn’t been since I was 15 years old, and although I knew I wasn’t someone’s standard of perfect, I knew where my starting line was, where I came from, how I started at 280 pounds and had gotten down to 160.

Anyone who takes the steps to better themselves deserves positivity and an uplifting. And for the most part, that’s exactly what they get. From others who understand, from others who been there, and others who are inspired. Then you have those people. Where nothing is ever good enough to fit their ideal standard of beauty.

michelle-lewin-4-hPost a picture of a girl with abs and muscle and she’s “manly” and “gross” Post a girl who is around 23% body fat and she’s “too fat, and not toned enough.” Post a girl who fits into some societal standard of overweight and obese and …I don’t even want to repeat some of the cruel and heartless things I’ve read. Post a girl who is skinny and watch the “you need to eat a burger” comments fly.

Michelle Lewin (pictured right) is one of the most stunning women I’ve ever seen (and admittedly an idol), and I constantly see people ripping her apart.

We’re left with a feeling of never being good enough. I have lost 120 pounds, and I still don’t feel good enough for society, but I feel happy with myself. That’s a hell of an accomplishment, and not just the 120. Every 5lbs I lost was a reason to celebrate. Every time my body fat fell another percent. Every time I measured and saw growth and shrinkage in areas I wanted. When I noticed my glutes starting to round out and said so long to the pancake. Every accomplishment was mine to own, and should be yours as well.

I was happy at 22% body fat for the longest time (about 8 months). I felt confident, and I still lifted and noticed subtle changes in my body that I loved. My biggest struggle was not to push myself because of what I thought other people wanted me to look like, but to push for that dedication to my body when it is something that I was ready for. Now I’ve reached a point where I’m ready to shoot for a lower body fat percentage. Your fitness should challenge you, it should change you, but it shouldn’t make you unhappy.

BAA

Unfortunately, people can be cruel with their words. Behind a computer screen, you can say something that can hurt someone and log off without a second thought, but it will stay with that person forever. If you’ve ever been the subject of this cruelty, on behalf of the human race, I’m sorry. I can say don’t listen to them, ignore them, don’t let it bother you- but I know that’s easier said than done. The ultimate point I’m trying to make is, no matter where you get to- whether you’re happy at 30%, 25%, 15%, 12%- whatever, there is ALWAYS going to be someone with something cruel and heartless to say. Make anyone who ever doubted, regret they ever did, and anyone that hates on you or your progress- let them, from the sidelines, where they belong.

Stay positive, and stay lovely.

-Tai

Favorite Things: Smoothie Recipes!

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I have had several requests for some of my favorite pre and post workout smoothies, and some things in between! So today I decided to share some of my most popular ones, their purpose and how darn good they taste.

My preferred supplements are:

In the interest of transparency, if there are promo codes or links I will explain the commissions/etc and affiliations I have with any of the products.

  • True Nutrition custom blend 50% Soy, 35% Pea, 15% Rice in flavors Toasted Coconut or Vanilla Cake Batter (You are going to get the most bang for your buck if you buy in bulk. True Nutrition is one of the best companies I’ve seen for protein powders that are custom to your needs- the only downside is that if you’re not well versed in nutrition and rely heavily on protein powders for your protein you won’t create a sufficient micronutrient blend, but if you follow these recipes you’ll get a good dose of optimal health. My friend Cory has a brand rep code that I use for 5% off, VEGNUT100, he does not get paid for the use of his code but he does get additional discounts when it is used.
  • Vega Preworkout (I rarely take preworkouts, but when I do this is my go-to. I love Vega as a company, I have known the founder for many years. Many of their products are good! I am not affiliated with Vega in any way.)
  • Hempforce (Delicious, amazing, I use them primarily for their BCAAs. This stuff is crack. I spend way too much money on supplements, haha. I am not affiliated with ONNIT.)

Pre Workout Smoothies:

My pre work out smoothies and blends center around three simple rules 1. Lower on the calorie spectrum, 2. Simple to make (no difficult to find ingredients) and the most important, 3. Taste. You want to select blends or foods that are easy to digest, that provide quick bursts of energy.

Lemon Lime Sublime (Preworkout Supp):

  • 1 scoop Vega Sport Pre Workout Lemon Lime
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • Ice & Blend

Green Smoothie (Natural/No Preworkout Supp)

For those days I run out of preworkout or don’t feel like feeling jittery. This smoothie is absolutely delicious and fills me with tons of energy, the trade off is that it is higher in calories and sugars than my Lemon Lime Sublime. I save this for intense cardio days.

  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cups almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 large apple, cored, any variety
  • 1 banana
  • ⅓ cup rolled oats (Optional, if not soaked the smoothie can be grainy in texture)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Post Workout Smoothies

The Snoopy

  • 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter
  • Truenutrition Toasted Coconut (low carb day) protein powder
  • 1 cup vanilla Soymilk (Or almond milk of your choice)
  • Water & Ice

The Jacked Snoopy (Extra Protein)

  • 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter
  • Protein Powder of choice
  • 1 cup Soymilk (Or almond milk of your choice)
  • ¼ block of silken tofu
  • Banana
  • ½ cup Berry Cherry blend
  • Water & Ice

Cinderella

  • Protein Powder
  • ¼ cup rolled oats (pre soaked, I usually throw it in some water before I go to the gym)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 Cup Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1 tsp Agave (Or Honey)
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon (fresh is best!)

This will kick your sweet tooth right in the &$#!

Fruit Bat

  • ½ Cup mangoes
  • LS Vibe Vanilla
  • ½ Cup Blueberries
  • 1 scoop Vanilla or Chocolate Protein
  • 1 tsp Chia Seeds
  • 1 cup Vanilla Almond Milk

Recovery Smoothie

Chocolate Bliss

  • One scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 tbsp BCAAs
  • 1 Cup Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1 tsbp Cacao Nibs (optional)
  • ½ Banana
  • 1 Tbsp Peanut Butter or PB2 (get the chocolate…just do it. Powdered peanut butter to taste, it is lower in calories than regular peanut butter)

Ice & Blend

Product Review: Fit Four

FitfourI would like to start off by saying, I am in no way being paid by fit four for this review, nor am I receiving any kind of discount. I just happened to find a product I LOVED and wanted to share.

I’ve been through a lot of lifting gloves. I’ve paid anywhere from $10-$50 dollars for a pair and most of the time, the cheaper gloves lasted me longer than the boasted about “state of the art, backed by science and top fitness researcher” types. (haha)

Being plant based, I wont wear leather, which can be somewhat problematic for me when it comes to finding a good pair of gloves. I end up with either cloth, or a cheap unidentifiable material that may or may not be rubber based that ends up disintegrating during my lifts.

For Christmas this year, my swolemate bought me a pair of Fit Fours, and boy did I fall in love. The model she purchased was the The Gripper. When I first opened them I thought they were going to be horrible because of their design. They gloves actually form to fit your hands and because of their design they don’t tug in between your fingers, they surprisingly don’t slip, and they provide a callous guard without making your hands hotter than Mount Doom in Mordor on a sunny day. I regrettably lost one of my fit fours, and had to order another pair, but these by far are my favorite lifting glove I’ve ever come across and they’re reasonably cheap.

Better yet, no animal was harmed in their making 🙂

Food Prepping!

Foodprep

I wanted to blog about a huge factor that determines your success in the gym.

Nutrition: How you eat can account for up to 70% of your results. If you work your tail off in the gym, then go home and eat processed, sugary, salt-filled junk and wash it down with soda you’re going to negate the hard work you put in that day.

One simple, effective way to stay on track is to meal prep.

The concept behind meal prepping is that you cook your meals for the entire week (or a couple days if you’re like me and prefer your food a bit fresher) and either store them in the fridge or freeze them.

The benefits of meal preparation are countless.

1. Accountability: You are in absolute control of everything that goes into your body. This assists in keeping you accountable,. You will know if you are eating too much or too little because all of your meals have been predetermined for the week,

2. Control: The concept of controlling what goes into your body is empowering. You measure all of your meals so you know exactly how many calories and what the macros are in each meal. No surprises.

3. Convenient: You’ll never find yourself in a situation where your hunger dictates your food choices. Everything has be prepared, all you have to do is grab, reheat and go!

You can cook massive amounts for the week or you can cook about 3 days worth (that’s how I prep). Whichever is most convenient for you!

5 WAYS TO JUMP-START YOUR MOTIVATION!

5310If you’re anything like me…and a good portion of humanity, Motivation is a hard thing to master. There are some things in life that I’m highly motivated to do, others not so much. So for those hard to do things in life, I’ve come up with five strategies to jump-start your motivation for fitness.

 

Step One: Have a plan

Winging it almost never works. What type of person you are determines your approach for this step but it’s safe to say that a vast majority of people can’t visualize something unless they see it written down or typed out. First identify what some things are you can do today that lead to a healthier lifestyle.

An example would be opting for water in place of sodas or juices.

Developing a plan has a couple different steps. Firstly, you want to identify your Long term Goal. We’ll use the example of “I want to have abs.” Now you must implement REALISTIC (this is important) short term goals to get to that long term goal. A good rule of thumb is to have S.M.A.R.T goals.

P E C I F I C

E A S U R A B L E

T T A I N A B L E

E A L I S T I C

I M E L Y

It may look something like this

 

Long Term Goal: I want to have abs (Not very specific)

How do I reach this goal: (We’ve specified and now have made it measurable, it is attainable and realistic) I need to get my body fat percentage down to 14% or lose 27lbs

Short Term Goal 1: Research Nutrition and exercise programs

Short Term Goal 2: (We have made the goal timely) Lose 2.25 pounds each week for

Long Term Goal: 12 weeks.

 

For my particular goals, I don’t need extreme detail but if you’d like a longer list and that helps you visualize better then by all means do so! Just don’t let your list become overwhelming. Now the key to the success of the plan is to have it posted somewhere you see it every day. I like to tape mine to my mirror or save it as a phone background.

The important thing here is to set specific dates, mark these dates on your calendar, make a big deal out of them.

Step Two: Develop a reward system.

Your rewards are going to be different from everyone else’s. Let’s say in order to reach your goal you have given up your daily trip for coffee. As an alternative, you can place that money in a jar and at the end of each week, buy yourself something. Whenever I reach a short term goal, (let’s say I lose 3lbs in my first week) I will treat myself to a new pair of workout leggings or a pair of gloves. Your reward system can be in the form of a cheat meal, however I urge caution when it comes to this tactic, too many indulgences can be counterproductive. But if you have accomplished something amazing, feel free to treat yourself as long as it doesn’t hinder your goals!

 

Step Three: Track your progress

I mentioned in step one it was important to set dates. This is an effective way of tracking your progress. If you’re not hitting your short term goals you need to go over your regimen and be HONEST with yourself on where you are going wrong.

If you’re unsure, perhaps speak with a trainer. Most trainers are willing to sit down and talk with someone and offer them a little bit of advice. Or if you have a trainer and you’re not seeing results, you need to be honest with them about what you’re doing outside of training so they can help you.

Pictures are a good way to track progress. I say good (and not great) because a transformation can be very impactful but our bodies go through different looks at different times of the day. In the mornings my stomach tends to be flat and my abs show, by 5pm I’m fuller and depending on what I ate, either retaining water or slightly bloated from the food.

Measurements are great because you can see where you’re growing and shrinking and have something measurable to record for your progress!

 

Step Four: Holding yourself accountable.

Before you get started, write down any potential excuse you may have for not working out or not eating healthy. Make a giant list and come up with anything you can think of. Here are some top ten excuses, some of them I have used myself.

 

  1. I don’t have time today
  2. I’ll workout extra hard tomorrow
  3. It’s okay to take a day off
  4. I don’t feel like going
  5. (Women) I’m on my period
  6. I can’t find a babysitter
  7. One cookie won’t hurt
  8. I’ll only eat this today to make up for the extra calories or I’ll eat healthy the rest of the day
  9. Everyone else is eating [Insert food item here] at work today
  10. I’ll start again on Monday

 

For the next step, your job is to come up with your realistic answer as to why that excuse is just that…an excuse. Answer them in first person so that way when you find yourself thinking of that excuse you can shut your bargaining brain down with some tough love.

  • I don’t have time today. Everyone has 24 hours in a day, I’m no different. I will give up my hour of tv tonight in order to make time for my workout. Next time I know I’m going to have a busy day I will rearrange my workout schedule accordingly or wake up earlier in order to get my workout done.
  • I’ll work extra hard tomorrow. This is just a bargaining tactic. I should be giving my full effort for every workout I do. I am going to go and do my workout today because an extra hard workout never comes into fruition.
  • It’s okay to take a day off. It’s absolutely okay to take a rest day, but today is not my rest day. Why do I want to take this day off? Is it because I genuinely need to recover or just because I don’t feel like going?
  • I don’t feel like going. I may not feel like going, but I know I’m going to feel worse if I do not go. If I fall off of my program before I develop a habit, I am more likely to fall off of my program entirely. I feel great after I workout and have never regretted going to the gym
  • Women: I’m on my period. I’m going to hop out of first person for a moment with this one: For women how have a heavy cycle it is fine to take that first day off, but do not let your cycle be an excuse to take off the whole week (there are of course, exceptions to this for those with medical conditions). For the rest of us, let’s suck it up, find our blackest pair of pants, wear a panty liner and a tampon, throw a sweater around our waist while we irrationally fear a leak that probably won’t happen.
  • I can’t find a baby sitter. I am more than capable of working out at home with my kids. I have a back up at home workout (everyone should at least have 1-2 in their arsenal for those days everything just goes wrong, they happen) and I will take the time to do it. I will set my kids up with an activity while I do my workout, or wait until I put them down to bed. No matter what I’m going to sweat today.
  • One cookie wont hurt. Do I have the self control to just eat one? No? Then I’m not going to. I spent 45 minutes of my life today working out at the jump for the body and health that I want, I don’t want to unravel it all for the sake of a cookie. Also, if I eat this, my meal later will suffer as a result.
  • I’ll only eat this today to make up for the extra calories or I’ll eat healthy the rest of the day.How honest am I being with myself right now? High fat or unhealthy foods tend not to be very satisfying. Am I still going to overeat today? Is that healthy for me to binge at one meal? No.
  • Everyone else is eating [Insert food item here] at work today. I do not have to eat food to fit in. My friends, family and coworkers love me and enjoy my company regardless. I want to accomplish my goals and one day of not eating pizza isn’t going to kill me. There will be time for pizza on my cheat day.
  • I’ll start again on Monday. I saved this excuse for last because this has been the detriment to many-a-gym goer who is trying to change his or her life. I’m also slipping out of first person to explain to you why this mindset is a horrible one to have. Monday does not exist. This magical world of monday is nothing more than a bargaining tool to be used as an excuse after you’ve missed a day or two…or three and this gives you the green light to just say “fuck it” and give up for the rest of the week. Stop breaking up your workouts by specific days of the week and break them up by your specific workouts. Here is how I break up my workouts: A, B, Cardio, Rest Day, A, C, Cardio, Rest Day

 

3 days on, 1 day off. If I have something coming up, I start to shift my workouts around to accommodate and I never have to worry about a monday again. If I do happen to miss two days in a row, no big deal I just pick up where I left off. Do yourself a favor and never fall into the monday trap. There’s nothing magical or special about Monday. Start today.

 

Step Five: 12 Weeks

12weeks

I’ve read research that claims it takes 21 days to create a habit, 32 days to create a habit, and what have you. While various research may either validate or negate those claims, I do know one thing for certain.

12 weeks is where the magic happens. This image is more accurate than most think. During 12 weeks you are developing new, healthier habits. Most people get discouraged when they look in the mirror and search aimlessly for changes day to day that we may not even notice. But after 12 weeks of staying consistent you will notice the difference.

The most important thing about staying motivated is to always remember why you started and where you’d like to be. Nobody can do the work for you. There’s no magic pill you can take, it takes hard work and dedication and you have to prepare yourself for that. Don’t rush in blind, find what works for you and do it.

 

Good Luck (: