Archive for June, 2013

Dealing With Injury

Posted: June 25, 2013 in Fitness
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I have been a competitive athlete pretty much all my life.  Since my childhood, I’ve dabbled in just about everything:  gymnastics, ice skating, softball, field hockey, lacrosse, ice hockey, and now bodybuilding.  With sports and hard training, pain/injury is inevitable.  I’ve suffered my fair share during my athletic career but I never let an injury stop me.  Don’t get me wrong…it is imperative that you take care of injuries in the proper way, but that doesn’t mean that you need to stop training altogether.  I certainly understand that it can be frustrating not to be able to train in the manner that you are accustomed to, but don’t give up!  Don’t throw in the towel, ditch your nutrition, and sit on the couch wallowing in self-pity.  Take a day off, take 2, or even a week if you need it, but there are plenty of things that you can do to maintain your fitness while recovering (as long as you don’t have any restrictions from your doctor!)


  • Keep your nutrition in check.  This is going to be super important especially if your training level is lower.  Match your intake to your activity level.  If you have a minor injury and only have to avoid certain exercises, your nutrition may not have to change at all.  If you have something more serious, it is important to eat well so that you can heal, but don’t overeat if your activity is significantly less.
  • Rest.  “If something hurts, don’t do it!”  This seems simple and a bit silly, but there is a lot of truth to it.  Our bodies are amazing; they are very good at telling us when something is wrong.  Never push through bad pain because I guarantee that you’re only going to make things worse.  Rest the area, ice if needed, and don’t take loads of painkillers just to be able to train.  It’s better to take 2 weeks off than to be forced to take 6 months off.
  • Train accordingly.  This is something that is near and dear to me as we speak.  I have been dealing with an elbow issue that comes and goes.  Sometimes I can train as usual, sometimes a little lighter, and sometimes I need to avoid upper body completely.  Do what you can but don’t overdo it.
  • Train around the injury.  Shoulder hurts?  Do legs or abs.  Knee surgery?  Do upper body machines in the sitting position (avoid standing or other movements that will place stress on the knee).  Can’t do weights at all?  Hop on some cardio equipment or go for a walk.  There is almost always SOMETHING that you can do.
  • See your doc.  If your pain persists despite all your attempts at rest and home remedies, don’t be afraid to check in with your doctor.  It’s much better to take care of something in the early stages.
  • Check your form.  Make sure that your pain/injury is not a result of improper form or using too heavy a weight.  Form first, weight second.  Check your ego at the door when lifting.  It’s ok to try to continue to increase your weights as you get stronger, but make sure that you do it in a safe manner with a spotter if needed.  Have a trusted friend or personal trainer check your form if you think your injury was a result of lifting technique.
  • Vary your exercises.  Overuse can be a huge problem in sports and weightlifting.  Performing the same movements over and over again can place a significant amount of stress on muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons.  Remember to vary your exercises if you can to avoid placing too much strain on one area.  Bench press addict?  Try incline, decline, dumbbells, or a machine from time to time to hit the area a bit differently.
  • Warm-up properly and stretch.  We’re all strapped for time and I admit to being guilty of inadequate warm-ups and stretching, but it is very important to take that extra 5 minutes especially if you’ve had a prior injury in a particular area of it is an area of weakness for you.
  • Remember to get enough rest.  This is one of the most overlooked aspects of any sport or training.  REST!  Your mind may say differently, but your body needs it.  Muscles don’t grow in the gym, they grow at rest.  Make sure you take at least one day off per week to give your body a chance to recover and avoid training the same muscle groups 2 days in a row.

If pain or injury strikes, don’t give up!  Get mad, get frustrated, or whatever it is that helps you, and then get over it!  Take a short break and then find some way to work around it until you recover.

I was cleaning out my gym bag the other day (for fear of what might be growing inside) only to discover the “kitchen sink” of fitness items and other goodies that I keep in there.  As I pulled each item out, I was trying to think if it was something that I really needed.  I’m a bit of a gadget girl and when it comes to fitness gadgets, I’m a self-proclaimed junkie!  So, what did I find in my gym bag and what the heck is it’s “I can’t live without this item’s” use?


  • Towel:  Ok, so this is a no-brainer.  Everyone should have a towel to a) cover the piece of equipment they’re using and b) wipe the sweat off (cuz let’s be honest, if you’re not sweating, you’re not working!)  Here’s a tip to remember!  Use a towel with some sort of logo or even write on it if you have to…trust me, you don’t want to wipe your face with the side that was on the equipment.
  • Gloves:  Another must-have to help protect your hands from both germs and those lovely calluses.  Just remember to wash them once in awhile.
  • Versa Gripps:  These are not ordinary gloves or straps.  For me, they are a huge asset to every back workout or any deadlifting routine.  I was able to lift MUCH heavier with good form using these and they didn’t hurt my wrists like regular straps used to.  I do believe grip/forearm strength is important but I also know that my grip will fail WAY before my back or legs.
  • Good Quality Belt:  This item has helped me improve in so many lifts including deads, squats, bent-over barbell rows, etc.  It helps protect my back when I’m working at the upper limit of the weights I use.  I suggest trying to avoid wearing it during your entire workout though (unless of course you must for a back problem).  Over-reliance on a weight belt can cause you to avoid the use of your core muscles during various exercises.  (And yes, my belt is pink, don’t judge! :-))
  • Headbands/Ponytail Holders:  A definite necessity for me!  I keep a bunch in my bag wrapped neatly around a metal ring (for easy access and so they don’t get tangled).  I can’t understand how some people workout with their hair down – that would just drive me nuts!
  • Timer:  This is a great little device that you can use to use for interval training or to time your rest periods.  I have the Gymboss and it’s really easy to personalize for Hiit, Tabata, etc.
  • Orbitape/Tape Measure:  Always good to keep track of your progress without being a slave to the scale!
  • Phone/Music Player and at least 2 sets of Headphones/Earbuds:  My ipod battery has been known to die at the most unfortunate times; I always manage to lose the rubber tips off of my earbuds which renders them completely useless.  So now I have 2 backups (phone for music and extra headphones)
  • Heart Rate Monitor:  I like to use this during all of my workouts to make sure that I keep my intensity high, track the length of time, and calories of each workout.  I have always used Polar and rarely have a problem with them.
  • Training Journal:  I think everyone should keep track of their workouts.  A training journal is a great tool to write down your plan for the gym so you know exactly what you’re going to do.  You can also keep track of weights/sets and how you felt during and after the workout.  When I notice that a particular workout really hit the targeted muscle group, I make sure to note it so I can repeat the workout.  It can be as simple as a blank notebook.
  • Various Wraps & Braces:  I’ve been involved in sports and weight training for quite some time now.  An unfortunate side effect of pushing the limits can be overuse or injury.  So, I keep a few wraps & braces handy if I need them on a particular day.
  • Toiletries:  Cleansing cloths/make-up remover, hairbrush, deodorant, Febreze Sport (great for those sneaks!), etc.  You never know when you’re going to need to do a quick clean-up.
  • My Favorite Top Secret Nutrition Supplements:  Some of my favorites that are a staples in my gym bag are my Cardio Igniter, Astravar 2.0, Creavar, and BCAA Hyperblend Energy.
  • Padlock:  Gotta keep all my goodies safe and sound while I’m on the gym floor!

So there you have it!  I’m amazed at all the stuff I can fit into my bag.  But, just as a reminder, if your gym bag is stocked and ready to go at all times, you don’t have any excuses…just grab and go to work!

Family obligations, job responsibilities, workouts, food shopping, meal prep, and even show prep if you compete can take up a lot of your time. It has been said that bodybuilding can be one of the most selfish sports…if you let it. It has taken me several years to figure out how to balance everything and I sometimes still get it wrong. I have learned that having a plan is key to being successful, but what happens when that plan gets changed? You have a sick child, the gym is closed, you forgot to pack all your meals, etc. There are so many things that can happen in the course of a day to mess up your plan, but don’t let that derail your entire day! Yes, fitness is definitely a lifestyle, but it shouldn’t be your whole life! We all have families, jobs, and other responsibilities that are just as important as our fitness. I’m going to give you a few tips on how to find a good balance between all of these things without going crazy!


  • Have a plan, but also have a back-up plan!  I used to get so upset if my scheduled workout got messed up.  Now, instead of getting upset, I just try to reschedule it somewhere else in my day.  Even if I can’t get to the gym to do the workout I had planned, I have several key pieces of equipment at home that I can use.  I prefer to either get up before my kids to workout or do it after they have gone to bed.  This avoids all the possible interruptions that are sure to come…”I’m hungry, thirsty, bored, she’s looking at me!, give that back!, etc…you name it, and they’ll drive you crazy with it ;-)”  Some great items to have on hand that won’t break the bank are several strengths of resistance bands and a jump rope.  You can get both a cardiovascular as well as strength workout.  If you have extra funds; adjustable dumbbells, a suspension training system, and even some exercise DVDs can be great.
  • Change your attitude!  As I said in the last tip, I used to get frustrated when my schedule got turned upside down.  Now, I look at it as an opportunity to do a workout that I wouldn’t normally do.  Sometimes doing a little Yoga at home can be a refresing change to your routine as well as a great stress reliever!
  • Always, always, always have something with you to eat when going out.  Sometimes you’ll forget a meal or you might be running late.  I carry a shaker bottle with a scoop of Top Secret Nutrition’s 100% Whey with me.  If I need a snack in a hurry, all I need to do is add water.  You can also carry a meal replacement bar, a bag of almonds, etc.
  • Be flexible with eating out.  Don’t avoid social situations or always be the one to pick the restaurant when going out.  Most places will have something reasonably healthy for you to eat.  Don’t be afraid to ask for dressings on the side, no butter/oil etc.  Try to choose a lean meat and salad or vegetable.  If that’s impossible, pay attention to portion size.  One small plate of pasta is not going to completely ruin your physique if you’re diet is in check the rest of the time.  It’s ok to have a treat/cheat meal from time to time!
  • It’s also ok to have an unplanned rest day!  So you didn’t get to the gym or get in a workout at home – oh no, that’s it!  Just forget about it now…you might as well just open the freezer and grab that pint of Ben & Jerry’s and go to town right?  Nah, just go to the gym tomorrow, you’ll be ok, I promise!
  • This one’s for all you parents out there.  Don’t feel guilty for making time for yourself!  Making healthy choices everyday is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your kids.  Kids mimic everything they see.  If you’re eating healthy and staying active, they are more likely to do the same.  And I also promise that they won’t die without you if you go to the gym for an hour.  Not only that, if exercise helps reduce your stress and make you feel better overall, you will be a MUCH better parent as a result!
  • Play with your kids!  You don’t need special equipment to go outside and chase after your kids.  Ride bikes together, play tag, etc.  Take them to the park or playground.  Make a workout for yourself while you’re there.  I’ve been known to do a few pull-ups on the monkey bars!
  • Don’t stress if you don’t always get it right!  “To find balance, we must fall a few times…”  Just let it go and start a new day tomorrow.

Well, I hope that helps a little bit.  Summer’s here, the kids are home, there will be BBQs/vacations, and many other things to think about.  My advice, do the best you can to stick with your fitness goals but allow yourself some time to have fun with family and friends!

Why is losing fat so darn hard?  The concept seems easy enough…to lose fat we must consume less calories than we are expending, right?  Well, yes and no.  Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy.  I know some people who would argue that it is, but we must consider many things when trying to attain our best physique.  Will we lose weight on a steady diet of donuts as long as our calories are low enough.  I guess we would but our bodies would be poorly nourished wouldn’t they?  And could we lose weight without exercise…sure, but what would we look like?  My point here is that there needs to be a balance between nutrition, exercise, and rest.  There’s not too much we can do about our genetics, but we can certainly control the other three factors.  I’m going to list a few important things to consider when embarking on a weight-loss journey:

  • If you have a great deal of weight to lose and are relatively untrained, it IS possible to gain lean mass and lose fat at the same time.  If you have a good amount of weight training under your belt, it’s not going to be the same.  Here is where I suggest picking a primary goal.  Too many people bounce back and forth between “bulking” and “cutting” to make any real changes in their physique.  If your goal is fat loss, structure your training and nutrition accordingly.  What I mean is, you are going to need to be in a caloric deficit to lose fat and your training should be geared towards maintaining the lean mass you already have.  And when thinking about lengths of cutting/bulking cycles, think months, not weeks.
  • Please, please, please…don’t overdo the cardio!  Cardio should be used as a supplement to a sound nutrition and resistance training plan.  I’m not saying ‘don’t do cardio’, I’m just saying don’t do 2 hours of cardio a day!  Enough said.
  • Another common mistake is dropping calories too low.  Less is NOT more especially if you are training intensely.  You need enough calories to support your metabolism and training.  Not only that, it can set you up for binge-eating.
  • Don’t quit if you’re not seeing the scale move.  Too many people put too much emphasis on the numbers of the scale.  If the numbers aren’t going down (or God forbid they go up!), they get frustrated or depressed and give up.  Throw out your scale if you must!  Many factors can change your weight over the course of a week or even the course of a day!  Water weight from an increase in carb or sodium intake, hormonal changes, and yes, even your bathroom habits can alter that number!  My advice? Look in the mirror, take progress pictures, and take measurements.  We can all usually tell when our clothes are fitting better.  These are MUCH more important than a silly number.
  • Be patient!  Healthy and long-lasting weight/fat loss is going to take time!  Don’t fall for any ridiculous plans that promise a 10 pound loss in 2 weeks (unless of course you’re truly obese).  It IS possible to drop weight too fast:  it can be unhealthy and you can lose your hard-earned lean mass. Rapid fat-loss plans are impossible to sustain and once you stop the plan, you can actually become fatter (if you did lose lean mass and then gain more weight back).  An average person should aim to lose no more than 1-2 pounds per week.  A person who is already fairly lean, 1/2 to 1 pound per week.
  • Modify your training/nutrition AS NEEDED.  Don’t make changes to your program if it’s still working!  Plateaus are inevitable…nutrition and/or training will need to be modified at some point.  Don’t change just for the sake of change and don’t make too many adjustments at once.
  • Use refeeds for your body and your mind if you are following a low-carb program!  Dieting is tough.  We may feel deprived, tired, cranky or all of the above.  Refeeds (or increasing your calories and carbohydrates but maintaining lower fat) can help replenish muscle glycogen (and performance), may help restore leptin levels (a hormone that helps control hunger), and can certainly have a positive effect on our mood!  Refeeds are more important as your bodyfat levels become lower (think:  losing those last 5-10 pounds).
  • Write it down:  studies show that keeping a food journal can greatly increase your chance of success.  It keeps you accountable and can be a real eye-opener if you’ve never tracked your food intake before.  This also goes for watching portion size!  Too much healthy food is still too much!

I could probably babble on, but I’ll sum it up really quickly!  Be patient, train hard, eat right, sleep well, and you’ll be sure to lose…um, win.  I mean… you’re gonna look great!