I don’t know about you, but I keep seeing Eat The Bear, a physique, fitness, and crossfit lifestyle supplement company, everywhere on the internet. Even though crossfit/Olympic lifting isn’t in my current workout repertoire thanks to years and years of countless squats and cleans, my fitness/health/wellness loving self must be right in their target audience. (Side note: has anyone tried their products? I’m very curious…)
Seeing articles from ETB on different workouts, smoothie recipes, and proper nutrition got me thinking about my own workout routines and the questions I’m asked most frequently as a former DI Track & Field athlete with a family full of high performing athletes (golf, tennis, football, ballet, etc). Namely, how do I fuel myself and how do I stay motivated, both in the long-term (working out regularly) and in the short-term (during a workout)?
1. Fuel Your Body: Pre- & Post-Workout Nutrition
The answer to how I eat before and after a workout changes based on what my goals are. In college when I was training for performance, about an hour to half-hour before my workout I would always have a complex carbohydrate with a little bit of protein, for example a banana with 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter, a Larabar, or a small bowl of oatmeal with slivered almonds. Post-workout I would always have a healthy does of protein to make sure my muscles were getting the nutrients they needed to grow and repair. Most often this would be a protein shake (check out some of my faves here), but I’ve also been known to keep a couple jars of my secret protein weapon around – the little turkey sticks that my family call “baby meats.” Since these suckers don’t need to be refrigerated, my mom would always have some on hand for a quick protein hit for me and my sister – but we would make her tear the labels off for competitions! I’m not in the camp that you need MASSIVE amounts of protein to see gains – I’ve always felt the .5g per pound of body weight per day to be enough personally – but I do think that if you’re looking to specifically improve strength and see muscle growth, re-fueling after a workout with some amount of protein is necessary.
However, since I’m not training for any sort of athletic performance and am instead looking to simply build a healthy, lean physique, my nutrition currently looks a little different. Right now, pre-workout is about the same if I feel like I need extra energy to get me through, say, a tough boxing session. But, if I’m looking to really slim down (like for my wedding), I’m actually a fan of fasted cardio sessions first thing in the morning followed by a green smoothie filled with a little protein and a lot of produce (just a scoop of ETB’s Non-GMO Naturally Whey Protein Powder that’s sweetened with stevia would be perfect). In fact, even in college for DI athletes, a 20-30min run before breakfast was the standard recommendation from our coaches to athletes who needed to drop a few pounds to get to their ideal competition weight. While the research on this is relatively mixed, some studies have shown up to a 20% increase in body fat burn and I personally feel like this is the best way to see results fast.
My post-workout routine is, well, not much of a routine. These days I’m typically not interested in seeing much muscle growth and am even kind of trying to avoid gains so that my clothes continue to fit (if you’ve ever been an athlete, especially one who puts on muscle easily like me, you know the pain of trying to find jeans that fit both your thighs and your waist). Since I’m looking to just maintain my muscle mass, I actually don’t eat right after a workout unless I feel like my body needs it, and in that case I’ll maybe have a handful of nuts or some veggies with hummus to tide me over until the next meal. Usually I’m working out before breakfast or after work before dinner, so it makes sense with my schedule. Eating this way, I’ve found I’ve been able to maintain the muscles I’ve worked hard for while remaining longer and leaner than I was when I was running track.
2. Long-Term Motivation: Getting into a Workout Groove
I am a HUGE fan of ClassPass (which you should know if you have glanced through ABL). Being able to visit a million different studios through out the city for less than $80 is so helpful for staying motivated. And so fun! Just this morning I woke up and knew I wanted a good mix of cardio, strengthening, and stretching (since I, ahem, actually haven’t worked out all week…), so I signed up for a jump pilates class at Club Pilates from my iPhone before even getting out of bed. However, even the class thing can become tedious. Plus I really love being in a gym and designing programs for myself, so I sometimes put ClassPass on hold (only $20 per month, and you can still go to one class) and just jump rope or hike or do a good old fashioned elliptical + Bosu ball + stretch on the floor routine. My track coach would call these “housewife workouts” but I love them!
Even if you’ve never been an athlete and have no idea what you’re doing, there are so many resources online and at the library – yes! real books! – to help you achieve any goal you might have. One of my favorite things to do is to browse the health/fitness section and scan through books for ideas if I’m feeling like I need a little push. If I find something I really like, I will sometimes download it through the Apple Store so that I have it on my phone and can easily refer to any workout when at the gym. The last book I did this with was Victoria’s Secret model trainer Michael Olajide’s Sleekify! It’s full of workouts you can do anywhere, plus interesting information on his nutrition and motivation philosophies.
The biggest key I’ve found for anyone simply looking for ways to stay active is to never force yourself into workouts you don’t like. Despite running track for years at a high level, I really, really hate running. But back then I HAD to do it for performance. If I wanted to be a better sprinter, I had to build some endurance with the occasional 45min jog. Now, however, there is no reason for me to run, so guess what? I don’t do it! There are so many ways to exercise now, making yourself miserable doing something you heard works for someone else isn’t helping anyone. Instead of running, try Zumba! If you want to build muscle but hate lifting, head to a fast paced circuit class! Unless you have a specific, performance-based goal like finishing a triathlon or squatting 200 pounds, there is no reason to do things you dread. Now I’m not saying that you should never do a hard workout – there are certainly times halfway through a spinning class that I’m regretting my decision to hop on a bike – but in the end, somewhere deep down, even when my legs are on fire and I can’t breathe, I still kind of like it.
3. Short-Term Motivation: Getting Through Workouts
MUSIC! This is the number one way I get myself through a workout when I’m not exactly itching to go to the gym. Anything with big bass and a driving beat! Or pop. I love me some Ariana Grande Pandora when doing treadmill intervals. I have also found that when doing cardio, matching the BPMs (beats per minute) of a song to my pace works wonders. I think that’s why SoulCycle has been so successful – pedaling to the beat is kind of their thing. Spotify also has a really cool tool to help you do this now while running!
Plus, I always think about an article I read about Taylor Swift’s workout routine a while ago when I’m talking about music and workout motivation. She once said that she will download a bunch of new music onto her iPod and then will only let herself listen to it when she goes on her daily hour-long run. A new album comes out, listen to it during a workout! I do this all the time, and actually I think the last time I did it with a whole album was when 1989 came out. Taylor, I think this means we should be besties (hunties?), let’s workout together when you’re in Denver. I’ll even *gulp* go for a run with you.
If you’re looking for a new playlist, the one above is pretty standard fare for me right now. Plus checkout another one here. Then get your booty in gear and get active!
** Remember, always check with your doctor before starting a new workout/health routine! What works for one person may not be what’s right for you.**