Posts Tagged ‘Strength training’

Sometimes I need a swift kick in the ass to get back into this blog so what better way than a glutes workout?

Nothing can replace heavy squats, hip thrusts, deadlifts and the like but sometimes switching it up can bring amazing results.

Decided to stay at home for today’s workout so here is what I did:

-Superset – 5 rounds of:

  • Seated Band Hip Abduction x 20
  • BW Hip Thrust with Band around thighs x 20

-10 sets of 10 KB Deadlift (90#) with 30 seconds rest between sets

-Tri-Set – 4 rounds of:

  • Single Leg Romanian Deadlift with Heavy Thick Band x 15 each
  • Goblet Squat (35# KB) x 15
  • Barbell Good Mornings (35#) x 15

-Tri-Set with Medium Band around ankles- 3 rounds of:

  • Lateral Steps x 20
  • Monster Walks Fwd/Bwd x 10
  • Standing Hip Extension x 15 each

-Finisher:  50 reps Donkey Kicks each side with medium Band

-Cardio:  Tabata KB Swings with 35# KB (20 seconds on/10 seconds rest x 8 rounds)

Give it a try and let my know what you think in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

Competition season is winding down for most organizations (who the heck wants to diet through the holidays anyway?!) so I thought I would write my next post about “bulking” and heavy weight training during the fall and winter months.  This time of year, a lot of people go into a bulking (aka – screw the diet 😉 – just kidding!) phase to try to gain some lean mass, set some new PRs, and get even stronger in the gym.  Yes, this includes me!

After each competition season comes to an end, I like to re-evaluate my physique and see what needs improving.  I also like to try to get better at some of the bigger lifts; improving my squat, deadlift, military press, bench, and so on.  But before I dive in and start piling on the weight plates, I’m taking a step back to remember my form.  FORM is KING.  Just like you won’t get the physique you want without quality nutrition, you will not get the results you want without quality training.  Poor technique also puts you at a greater risk for injury.

There are a few key points to remember when performing your lifts;  you need to select the correct weight to enable you to:

  • Perform the lift through a full range of motion (no quarter squats here!)
  • Be able to adequately control the weight through that range of motion
  • Perform the target number of reps without losing your form (it’s ok to struggle a bit on the last rep or two!)
  • Use the mind-muscle connection – if the weight is so heavy that you cannot even focus on the muscle group you’re trying to target, you won’t get the full benefit
  • Avoid having other muscle groups take over the movement (like those barbell curls that are working the lower back)
  • Avoid using momentum to assist the lift

I know that none of this is really new information, but sometimes we get so caught up in progressing in the gym that we forget some of the basics.  So, I am going to work on re-evaluating my own technique for the next couple of weeks.  This includes lightening the load and making sure that my form is perfect before I start aiming for those PRs.

What a week!  So I  finally had my contest this past weekend and it was a blast!  I ended with a 2nd place finish in the Pro FitBody division.  Of course I would have loved to take 1st, but I am very happy with my placement and I’m now onto the next phases of recovery and building.

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It’s pretty amazing the things you go through the final week of preparing for a contest.  There are the last minute workouts, keeping close tabs on water intake, small tweaks in the diet, hair appointments, tanning appointments, meetings, final suit adjustments, posing practice, and the list goes on.

What I was NOT prepared for this time around, was catching a nasty cold!  About a week and a half out, my youngest daughter came home from school sick.  Well, since mommy usually becomes the cuddle blanket and the “human tissue”  (and my immune system was clearly a bit compromised from the heavy training and diet)…voila!  I got really sick just about 1 week out.  I rested for a day or 2 and felt a bit better, but when my training resumed, things went downhill AND fast!  I had no energy, had trouble breathing and started coughing anytime I tried to do cardio, and felt like I had no strength whatsoever.  BUT, I did the best I could, rested when I could, and just powered through the last few days.

Things definitely didn’t go as planned that final week but thankfully, I was stage-ready early and just had to hang on to my conditioning.

Now what?

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Well, I am definitely enjoying some (I think well-deserved :-)) treats this week and doing a few low-intensity recovery workouts.  I will also be taking my Top Secret Nutrition Cleanse & Detox supplement this week to help push the “reset” button before starting my building phase next week.  I have the judges’ feedback fresh in hand and my new plan for the remainder of the fall and winter.  So, I will continue to post some of my workouts here on the blog so look for some fun, new, and super-intense training plans coming your way!

It’s about that time again…I don’t have one specific topic that I’m going to talk about in this blog, but rather some random thoughts/answers to questions that I get quite often.  There is so much information available out there, it’s hard to sort through it all.  There are many factors that go into the biggest question of all – How do I obtain the best possible physique?  Diet, training, cardio, carbs, rest, supplements, and the list goes on…

First off, and this is no surprise, everyone is different and you MUST find what works for you.  But, how the heck do you do that and where do you even start?  If you’ve been training for awhile and have done some homework, you may already know the answer to some of these questions.  Here are my thoughts on some of the biggies (especially if you are just starting out):

  • Stay away from the “Extremes” – If there is a “No” or a “Super Low/High” in front of it, I’ll move on.  I’ve probably tried every diet and training scheme there is and I always find my way back to balance.  I can’t do low carb/no carb for any length of time, forget intermittent fasting, and if the rep range on any exercise is over 25 I’ll pass on that too.  I’m not saying I never do any of these things, I just don’t base any long-term nutrition or training program on them.  Again, these things may work for some, but I wouldn’t recommend them if you’re just starting out.  And unless you have an allergy or intolerance, don’t eliminate food groups (fruit, dairy, etc.).
  • Carbs are NOT the enemy – Carbs are anabolic, carbs provide energy/fiber/valuable nutrients, and a whole host of other benefits.  And frankly, they can taste pretty darn good.  Keeping fruits, vegetables, and whole/unprocessed carbohydrates in your diet is a good thing.  Heck, even the occasional “bad” carbohydrate, if timed correctly, can add some benefit.  Oh, and by the way, eating carbs at night won’t kill you either!  An easy rule of thumb I follow is this:  I generally consume slower digesting carbohydrates about an hour or two before my workout (and will have these at other mealtimes too depending on whether I’m cutting or building), and faster digesting/other carbs post-workout – these have even included cold cereal, pretzels, low-fat/baked chips, and even candy.  I keep carbs in my diet all the way up to contest time – I just vary the type and amount depending on my progress.  Keeps my body happy and my mind sane!
  • Cardio – I know I’ve touched on this topic before, but I find that too many mistakes are made when it comes to cardio.  Think of cardio as a “supplement” to proper diet (# 1) and proper resistance training (# 2).  Just because you CAN do more, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.  Less is generally more, and HIIT is definitely the way to go:  sprints, intervals on the bike, elliptical, or anything else.  HIIT should definitely not be done everyday as it is very taxing and 20-30 minutes at a time is all you’ll need.  What about fasted cardio?  My thoughts; go ahead and do it if you like, but it is not necessary (especially if you are doing HIIT).
  • Rest – One of those dreaded 4 letter words, right?  Yes and no.  I may be a little crazy, but I LOVE to train.  Rest days are tough for some but completely necessary.  Without proper rest, no gains will be made and injuries can happen.  This also includes the proper amount of sleep at night (without it you have reduced growth hormone activity and a decline in performance).  Just getting an extra hour of sleep can make a huge difference.  I have personal experience with this one:  at certain points in the year, the only time I have to get to the gym is 5 a.m.  This puts me at a loss of about 1.5 hours of sleep if I continue to go to bed at the same time.  I am much weaker, have less endurance, my recovery slows down, and I tend to get nagging aches/pains.
  • Eat enough but not too much!  Calories in vs. calories out – yes, it matters!  If you want to lose fat, you must be in a deficit.  If you want to gain muscle, you must be in a surplus.  Unless you are extremely genetically gifted or pharmaceutically enhanced, you will fare much better if you focus on one goal.  There are other important factors that I believe make a difference like timing of nutrients (carbs/protein pre- and post-workout, fats at other times) and supplements, but get the foundation right first!  Don’t forget if you eat too much of a surplus, you will get fat!  Eat in too much of a deficit, and you’ll lose your precious muscle.
  • Long-term fitness/motivation – Do what you enjoy and do it for you!  Although I feel that at least some resistance training is necessary, if you absolutely hate it, find something that you will enjoy:  yoga, cycling, team sports, races, the options are endless.  But I’ll bet the ranch – if you stick with weight-training long enough to see and feel the benefits, I think you’ll love it as much as I do!

In next week’s blog, I’ll return to some more of my training-specific information so stay tuned!

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about using intensity techniques to boost your workout.  In this blog, I’m going to share with you a leg workout that I did this week incorporating a couple of these techniques.  This is just one example of how I design my workouts.  I am a huge fan of changing things up:  not only does this keep me motivated, but it definitely keeps me from getting bored.  I like to train legs twice per week focusing on Quads/Calves on one day and then Glutes/Hamstrings the other.  This way I feel that I can hit each part with enough intensity.  Ok, so here is a page straight from my workout journal (Quads/Calves) from yesterday morning:

journal

  • Leg Extension warm-ups:  2-3 sets of 15 reps with a light to moderate weight to get the blood flowing
  • Front Squats (FULL range of motion):  2 x 12 reps (warm-up); 2 x 10; 1 x 8 (all done as straight sets) – then on my last “set” I did a drop-set immediately followed by 2 rest-pause periods of 10 secs:  so…1 x 8 (drop), 1 x 10 (rest), 1 x 10 (rest) 1 x 10
  • SUPERSET:  Leg Press and Calf Press (1 x 20, then 5 x 10 of each exercise):  I also concentrated on the negative/eccentric phase with the leg press, I made sure to “explode” the weight up under control and then slowly lower until my knees hit my chest
  • SUPERSET:  Hack Squat (close stance) and Standing Calf Raise (toes forward, in, out, forward) 4 x 15 of each exercise
  • Split Squat:  Straight sets:  4 x 15 each leg holding a weight plate
  • Leg Extension finisher:  (FST-7 style):  7 sets of 10 with only a 20 sec rest between sets

So, during just this workout I used straight sets, drop-sets, rest-pause, supersets, negatives, and FST-7.  The combinations are endless so use your imagination when planning workouts.  This took me about 60 minutes to complete.  To give me the boost and recovery I need for a workout like this, I am using Top Secret Nutrition’s new Pump Igniter pre-workout, either the BCAA Hyperblend or Hyperblend Energy intra-workout, and a shot of Creavar after.

I am definitely feeling the effects already…can’t wait to see how these legs feel tomorrow!  Now, where did I put that foam roller?

Hey all!  Just wanted to write a few quick thoughts about where I am in my contest prep.  I have been “officially” dieting for about 3 1/2 weeks now and have made some great progress.  I’ve seen some changes on the scale, in my body-fat measurements, how my clothes are fitting, but most of all…what I’m seeing in the mirror and in progress photos.  The last 2 are by far the most important measures for me.  I also do measurements with the tape measure but only a few times during my prep.  Thus far, my diet has included plenty of carbs, dairy, and even fruit (just about daily).  I have not been overly hungry or fatigued up to this point.  So, here’s a quick run-down of my current program regarding nutrition, training, and supplementation:

Nutrition:  My carbs/protein/fat ratio is a little bit variable, but on most days it looks like this: 35C/40P/25F.  I try to plan most of my carbs around workout time.  I’ll have a slower digesting carb an hour to two hours before my workout (unless I’m training super early in the morning) and a post-workout meal containing protein and carbs (I’ll usually have some fruit with this meal).  I will occasionally have my carbs in the evening…it just depends on how my macros are working out for that particular day.  This is what works for me…I have found that if I drop my carbs too low, I have no energy for my workouts and I’m much hungrier throughout the day.

Training:  Right now I weight-train 6 days a week.  Here is my current split:

  • Sunday:  Shoulders & Traps; 20-30 minutes light cardio with a few minutes of abs after cardio
  • Monday:  Quads & Calves; 20 minutes of HIIT cardio
  • Tuesday:  Back & Biceps; 20-30 minutes light cardio & abs
  • Wednesday:  Chest & Triceps; 20 minutes of HIIT cardio
  • Thursday:  Weak Point Training, weighted abs, and 20-30 minutes light cardio
  • Friday:  Glutes and Hamstrings; 20 minutes of HIIT cardio
  • Saturday:  Complete Rest or Yoga

So, with this schedule, I’m currently doing cardio 6 days a week but no more than 30 minutes (some days I do skip it).  For me, cardio is an adjunct to proper nutrition and resistance training.  As my prep continues, I will adjust it (up or even down) as necessary.  I will say this though…you will not find me doing hours on end.  I usually top out at 30, maybe 45 minutes.

Supplements:  I am a proud member of Team Top Secret Nutrition and I use a lot of their supplements everyday.  Here is my current stack:

  • Twice per day (usually morning and afternoon):  TSN Digestive Enzymes, Fish Oil & CLA, Advanced Joint Support, Concentrated Red Palm Oil, ActiveXtreme Mulit (a.m. only), and InterDerm (p.m. only)
  • Before each meal:  TSN Garcinia Cambogia Extract (to support weight loss, appetite control, and it affects caloric absorption)
  • Before Cardio:  If I’m doing morning cardio:  TSN Cardio Igniter;  If I’m doing my cardio in the evening:  I will take either TSN’s Extreme Jitter Free Fat Burner or the new L-Carnitine Plus Raspberry Ketones Liquid
  • Pre-Workout:  Right now I take a combination of TSN Cardio Igniter, Creavar, and Astravar 2.0 BUT I will be starting the brand-new Pump Igniter Pre-workout as soon as my shipment arrives!  Stay tuned for updates and reviews!

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  • Intra-Workout:  TSN BCAA Hyperblend Energy
  • Post-Workout:  If I don’t have a whole-foods meal, I will drink a protein shake (TSN 100% Whey)

For more information on Top Secret Nutrition products, you can check out the following links:

While it’s good to be consistent with your training, it’s also necessary to shake things up from time to time to continue to progress.  Some of the ways you can do this are by adding a few minor changes to the way you train.  To progress, you need to be challenged.  In order to challenge yourself, you can add some intensity techniques to your workout:

1.  Use Supersets, Compound Sets, Tri-sets or Giant sets:  Performing two or more exercises back to back with no rest.  You can either do opposing muscle groups (i.e. biceps/triceps) or the same muscle group (i.e. exercises for just the biceps).  Not only can this shorten your workout, but it can increase your calorie burn because your heart-rate remains elevated for a longer period of time.

2.  High Intensity Training:  This is where you will perform just one working set to failure.  Always complete 1-2 warm-up sets before employing this technique.  You can use this technique if you’re really short on time or you can pick one or 2 exercises toward the end of your workout and really get that “burn”.

3.  Drop Sets:  This one is a personal favorite of mine.  Complete an exercise using your normal weight (you can either do a specified number of reps or go until failure), lower the amount of weight you’re using and then continue with the set without rest.  You can do a single drop, double drop, triple drop, etc.  This is a great one to do on the last set of any exercise.

4.  Reverse Sets:  It’s common to perform, say, 4 sets of 8 reps; but instead, switch it up, go much heavier and perform 8 sets of 4 reps.  This works great when you’re trying to increase the amount of weight you’re lifting for a particular exercise.

5.  Don’t Count Your Reps, Time Them!  A typical set will last maybe 10-20 seconds with a common rep scheme.  Utilizing the principle of time under tension (TUT), time your set instead.  Pick a slightly lighter weight (one you think you can do for around 25-30 reps) but continue the exercise for 45-90 seconds.

6.  Tabata:  Best performed with larger compound movements like squats, deadlifts, etc.  You will be performing the set for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat for a total of 8 sets or 4 minutes.

7.  Negatives:  This is where you will be focusing on slowing down the lowering phase of the exercise.  Make sure the negative portion lasts for at least a count of 6.

8.  Forced Reps or Partial Reps:  This will require the help of a spotter; notice I said “help” – your spotter should only have to get you past the sticking point during the last few reps, not lifting the weight for you.  This will allow you to complete a few more reps than you would have been able to do on your own.  If you don’t have a spotter available, do partial reps:  complete as many full reps as you can and then when you are too fatigued to complete any more reps with good form, do a few reps in as much range of motion as you can at the end.

9.  FST-7:  Created by Hany Rambod, Fascia Stretch Training is done on the last exercise for the target bodypart.  7 sets will be completed for this last exercise with a rest time of 30-45 seconds.  This will really get the blood flowing!  If you don’t get a good “pump” from this, you did something wrong!

10.  21’s:  During this technique, you will be doing a total of 21 reps in the set:  7 reps in the lower half of the exercise, 7 reps in the upper half of the exercise, and then 7 reps performing the full range of motion of the exercise.  Again, here you will most likely need to lower the amount of weight you would typically use for a regular set.

Use these techniques to add some variety to your workouts or push you through a plateau.  Just don’t forget to make sure that you have the proper fuel and recovery (nutrition, sleep, and supplements).  I can’t wait to try adding the new pre-workout from Top Secret Nutrition (Pump Igniter)!  You can check it out here: http://www.topsecretnutrition.com/sports-nutrition-15/top-secret-pump-igniter-30-serve.html

Remember that you can make your workout your own by adding one or more of these techniques or even adding them together (i.e. doing supersets with a drop set on the last set of each exercise).  Also remember that they should make your workout quite intense, so don’t abuse them either!

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!

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  • 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!