Feeling More Confident In The Gym

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For many people the idea of going to the gym is terrifying. We’re unhappy with our bodies, we know our fitness levels aren’t what they should be, and we worry about what other people might think. And it’s just discouraging to run or lift next to a super fit gym bunny, who makes us feel worse than we already do and so we just don’t go.

Of course, there are other ways to work out, (Check it here Workout For Those Who Hate Working Out! ) and you certainly don’t have to go to the gym. But, it is an effective way to get fit and lose weight. At the gym, there are trainers and experts to help and offer advice. There are cardio machines and weights to target every area of your body, and classes to help you get the most out of your sessions. It’s the perfect place for a full body workout and the perfect atmosphere to stay motivated. So, if you would love to hit the gym feeling confident and ready to sweat, here are some tips to help you.

Go Shopping

What you wear to the gym is down to you, there’s certainly no uniform. Some people prefer to work out in leggings and a baggy t-shirt. Others like to go all out with the professional activewear. Something from Nike, UnderArmour, etc. could give you a brilliant confidence boost and help you to make the gym more fun. Think about what makes you comfortable and treat yourself to some new items.

Although it won’t affect your performance directly, like any other day, dressing up for an occasion does give you a certain level of confidence which can go a long way. Like it is said “Don’t dress for the occasion. Dress to be the man you want to be”.

Pick Your Time

Some gyms offer beginner sessions or specific quiet times for more nervous users. If yours doesn’t, just ask when it’s quieter. Start by going in when it’s quiet and then branch out when you become more comfortable.

Early mornings or evening is when your gym may be most crowded, causing you to wait (which I hate more than anything) and break rhythm. Which is why I personally prefer going at slightly more off timings.

Take a Look Around

Start going in more and you’ll soon notice that there isn’t a “gym person.” You’ll see older people, younger people, large and small; there’ll be people from all walks of life exercising next to each other. Some will be very fit and healthy whereas others will be taking a stroll on the treadmill. Take a good look at everyone around you, and you’ll soon start to feel more confident.

Find the physique that you want for yourself, and track the respective persons workout patterns and preferences. Looking at others can be just as good a teacher as getting a trainer.

Ask for a Trainer

Most gyms offer a personal trainer service, sometimes this is even included in your membership price, and it’s definitely a brilliant idea for beginners. Even if it’s just one session, it’ll mean that there is someone to show you around and teach you how to use everything. They’ll also give you some advice about what you can do and how to push yourself. This will help you to feel like you know what you are doing and give you some focus moving forward.

If a trainer isn’t an option at least make sure, you have a thorough induction and ask any questions that you might have.

Keep Going

The best way to feel more confident and comfortable with anything is experience. Stick to a regular gym schedule, try classes and use as many of the machines as you can, and you’ll soon feel more at home. Slowly, you can phase out to non-machine workouts to gain raw strength, and that’s just awesome!

Regards,

The Travellothoner.

Note – Featured Image Courtesy : https://gedgetsworld.in/best-treadmill-in-india/

Benefits of a body-weight workout

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Bodyweight training is as simple as it gets and requires no equipment in order to perform it.

1. It’s a super-efficient workout.

Research suggests high-output, bodyweight-based exercises like plyometrics yield awesome fitness gains in short durations. Since there’s no equipment involved, bodyweight workouts make it easy to transition from one move to the next with little rest. And you’ve probably already heard that those short-but-intense HIIT workouts can yield major results.

2. It can combine cardio and strength training

Performing quick cardio sessions (such as 60 seconds of burpees or high-knees) between strength movements (such as a set of push-ups or lunges) will keep the heart pumping while still encouraging muscle and strength development.

3. You can burn fat—fast.

Just a few minutes of a bodyweight circuit training can have a major impact on the body’s metabolism. If you’ve ever heard of the afterburn effect, you know that even when your workout is over, your body can still be revved for hours to come.

4. At any fitness level, it’s challenging.

Bodyweight exercises are great because they’re easily modified to challenge anyone. Adding extra reps, performing the exercises faster or super slowly, taking shorter breaks, or adding a ballistic movement (like a clap at the top of each push-up) are just a few ways to make the simplest workout tougher. And with each added modification, your progress is obvious.

5. You’ll gain core strength.

Your core is more than just six-pack abs. In fact, at least twenty-nine muscles make up the trunk of the body, and many simple bodyweight movements can be used to engage all of them. Such exercises won’t just give you tighter abs, you’ll also gain better posture, relieve lower back stress, and improve overall performance.

6. It can increase your flexibility.

Not everyone who does regular resistance training has to end up with tight muscles and inflexible joints. Bodyweight training can go hand-in-hand with building strength and flexibility. Completing bodyweight exercises through a full range of motion ensures your joints are moving freely. Plus, it can lead to improved posture and might reduce the chance of exercise-related injury.  Yoga, the fave no-equipment workout for many, is another great way to to improve flexibility while also significantly improving strength.

7. There’s never an excuse to not workout.

Ask someone why they don’t exercise, and chances are they have “no time” or it’s “inconvenient.” Luckily bodyweight exercises eliminate those common obstacles. When you only need a little space, it’s easy to squeeze in workouts wherever you are. Exercising without equipment can also be used as a stress reliever whether you’re working at home or on the road.

8. You’ll achieve better balance.

When it comes to this type of training, sometimes increasing resistance means increasing balance, too. For example, a normal squat can be ramped up by swapping in a single-leg squat (a.k.a. a pistol squat). Functional movements like that one can improve balance through increased body awareness and control.

9. You’ll never get bored.

It can be easy to get stuck in a workout rut of treadmills, bicep curls, lat pull-downs, and bench presses. That’s why bodyweight training can be so refreshing: There are countless exercise variations that can spice up any workout routine. Working with a variety of exercises not only relieves boredom, it can also help break plateaus and spark further progress.

10. Mixing up your workout is easy.

11. It’s free.

Gym memberships and boutique classes can quickly add up—but bodyweight training is free. Experts cite the low cost of bodyweight training as key to its rise in popularity.

12. It can help with injury prevention.

Injury is one of the main reasons people stop working out, so preventing those aches and pains should be a big priority. Bodyweight exercises are generally safe for any exerciser regardless of experience, age, or fitness level. Many simple bodyweight movements can actually be an effective option for rehabilitation, even for those with significant impairments.

13. You’ll see results.

Bodyweight exercises get results partly because they involve compound movements—meaning numerous joints and muscles are engaged in each move. Compound exercises such as push-ups and lunges have been shown to be extremely effective for strength gains and performance improvements. And research shows improved core strength (see No. 5 above) translates to improved strength gains throughout the entire body.

My road to 26.2 Miles – Weeks 5 and 6

This is a string of posts that I have been doing over the last 6 weeks to document my way through training for a full marathon.

You can follow them here :

  1. My road to 26.2 miles – Week 1
  2. My Road to 26.2 Miles – Week 2
  3. My road to 26.2 Miles – Weeks 3 and 4

My goal through these 6 weeks has been to intensify my training regime and improve my diet, so as to get leaner and tighter while maintaining my muscle mass. So far, it hasn’t been the most successful road. Although I have managed to lose a few kilos, I’m still far away from my goal. In the meantime, I also planned to increase my weekly running mileage which hasn’t been going as well as planned either.

However, on the bright side, I have managed to improve my training regime to include almost 2 hours of workout or active time in a day, which includes a session of running and a session of weight training. Over the last 2 weeks, I have managed to clock about 35kms a week, which includes more inclines. And during my weight training sessions, I have started increasing my number of reps per set while maintaining the same level of weights.

My prime focus still has been on getting an adequate amount of sleep and focusing on recovery, while making sure I consume foods with ample vitamins, nutrients and most importantly protein.

My goal over week 7 is to clock atleast 45-50 kms which includes a long run of atleast 2 hours or 20kms. Over the next few weeks until the marathon, I have also decided to reduce my weight training to give my body more time for recovery. All in all, Core-Training is an area that I am going to emphasize a lot more on.

Do feel free to add tips or share your expertise in the comments below, especially if you feel I am not on the right path.

Until next time,

The Travellothoner.

From 300lbs to 30 Muscle-Ups for time

As you guys are aware, writing on a topic involves having great knowledge on the subject which comes from regular reading and updation on the topics; and one of my favourite and regular pages to do this is The Crossfit Journal and their instagram page. And today I came across their ig post on Jared Enderton, A Crossfit Games Rookie, who basically was like any of us, and now competes for the title of “Fittest On Earth”.

I shall post the article below, and attach a link too. I own no rights to the article, and have no contributions in its construction. I am merely sharing it here for everyone to read.

Link : https://games.crossfit.com/article/300-pounds-30-muscle-ups-time

The night before the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games began, Jared Enderton posted to Instagram.

“If I can do it, so can you.”

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Above were side-by-side photos of the 29-year-old Games rookie. One featured a grinning, flexing Games athlete in uniform; the other, an impassive young man with a belly.

“Ten years ago I weighed 300 lb., and tomorrow I’ll be one of 40 men competing for the title of Fittest on Earth at the CrossFit Games,” he wrote.

Football, baseball, golf, track—Enderton had always been an athlete. In high school, he was an All-American wrestler and Iowa’s 2007 undefeated state wrestling champion at a body weight of 189 lb. Then he took up strongman.

“The more weight you gain, the stronger you’re gonna get,” he thought.

So he ate.

At first, it was all in the name of sport—a lot of protein, a lot of carbs, a lot of gains.

“And then at a certain point, it really wasn’t even about that,” he said. “It was just like, I’m just eating everything I can to eat everything I can.”

Cake, pasta, cookies—nothing was off-limits. It wasn’t unusual for Enderton to devour a half a gallon of ice cream—cookies and cream was his favorite—in one sitting. By the start of his freshman year of college in 2010, he’d gained more than 100 lb. and lost his sense of self.

“I’ve always viewed myself as being a little bit athletic, but once you’re that heavy, you lose some of your identity, too; you kind of lose that belief in yourself,” he said. “I didn’t feel like the same athlete, and I wasn’t happy.”

Though he could certainly lift heavy shit—he was a nationally ranked strongman competitor—he could do little else. No more track, no more pick-up football games.

“Even thinking about those things I’m out of breath,” he said of his 300-lb. self.

He had trouble finding clothes that fit and lacked confidence speaking to women. Every glance at the mirror poked holes in his self-esteem, and the anxiety was a wake-up call.

“I’m like, ‘Whoa. … You need to do something to feel better about yourself.”

So, he cut the ice cream and ditched strongman for weightlifting. By 2014, he was a nationally ranked weightlifter competing at a body weight of around 185 lb.

In 2015, Enderton started CrossFit and further cleaned up his diet, adding more vegetables and tracking volume and macronutrients. He went on to take 22nd and 12th at the 2016 and 2017 South Regionals before qualifying for the Games this year with a fifth-place Regional finish.

The rewards of a healthy lifestyle aren’t limited to the leaderboard.

Enderton

“When I eat a healthy meal and it’s got protein and some carbs and a little bit of fat, I feel good, and a lot of times, after I’d eat all those binge meals I would feel horrible; I’d feel bad about myself.”

On Wednesday, Enderton—who currently weighs 195 lb. at 5 foot 6—made his CrossFit Games debut with an 22nd-place finish in Crit, 10 laps of a 1,200-m cycling course. Not long after, he opened 30 Muscle-ups with an unbroken set of 13 reps before racking up 1,230 lb. in CrossFit Total for a tie for fifth in that event.

That doesn’t mean the struggle is over.

“I still have some body-image issues,” he said. “It’s not like I made the Games and everything’s gone. … And I’m OK with that. It’s never a finished journey.”

Still, it’s a hell of a lot easier to pick out clothes now, he said.

“They mixed up my shorts with somebody else’s at the check-in,” Enderton said, noting that instead of the medium and large shorts he requested, he was given smalls.

“And the pair of shorts that are smalls actually fit great,” he said, grinning. “Who would’ve thought? From triple X to small—it’s kind of crazy.”

I hope you find the article as motivating as I do, for I was this guy, and aim at having a journey similar to him. Do tell me how you feel about the article in the comments below.

Regards,

The Travellothoner.

Who says you can’t? You do!

Whether you’re a bodybuilder, a professional athlete , or an everyday man or woman- there are a handful of general fitness standards. For example, you should be able to deadlift and back squat at least your body weight, run 3k in 20 mins or do 15 complete pushups. I personally keep pushing my limits and levels based on these standards.

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During summers I focus more towards my strength and mobility and running takes a backseat until the weather improves and I am fresh and motivated to pick it up again (You can call it my pre-season training and preparations). Hence, for a while now I have been obsessed with hitting more than my body weight.  With 90 kgs (198 lbs) on the bar, I could fire off 4 clean reps. So a normal thought would be that I could pull off at least a single rep of 100 kgs (220 lbs) easily.

But it wasn’t. If I loaded 100 on the bar, I could barely budge it. I just thought 100 was too much for me for the time being, and I needed to train more to get there. However, this continued for about a couple of weeks. I would look strong working up to my goal, but the 100-kg bar would cause me to flatline. That’s when it became abundantly clear to me that it wasn’t my strength that was holding me back, but my mind. I believed that pulling 100 kgs was going to be one of the hardest things he’d ever do, and so it was.

Fitness Starts In Your Mind

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I started researching about this. Reading articles on bodybuilding.com and talking to other professional lifters. That is when I came across an article that talked about how you set psychological blocks for yourself and how it is that mental aspect that limits your physical potential.

My fix for was easy: One day, I asked my trainer to get me through the deadlift. We were using bumper plates, and throughout the lifting session I asked my trainer to keep mixing and matching and adding and removing plates each set. Eventually, I lost track of how much weight was on the bar.

Without knowing it, I casually pulled 105kgs from the ground with perfect form, but I did not believe it when my trainer told me I’d easily blown through my goal. I made him recount the weight twice.

I told you that to tell you this: Fitness starts in your mind.

If you say something is going to be hard, it will be hard. If you say you can’t do something, you won’t do it.

During my first full marathon, it took me 6:35 hours to get done. It was filled with cramps and blisters. What got me through was the fact that I was not going to give up! Even during my Ladakh Marathon, what kept me going more than anything was the fact that I had decided mentally, that I would finish it.

Since then I’ve seen these kinds of self-limiting beliefs hold back the strength of everyone from average guys to the professional athletes that i come across. These beliefs even held me back. I run marathons, and it wasn’t until I got rid of my self-limiting beliefs that I started hitting PBs (Personal Best Timings).

Unfortunately, the solution isn’t as easy as simply trying to think more positively. One should read the book “Who says you can’t? You Do” byDaniel Chidiac. Although its about one’s psychological and emotional journey, it has a lot of lessons and is certain to unlock our truest potential. Here are my two favourite mental hardening techniques, that I’ve drawn for myself.

Think YES Thoughts

When it comes to performance, we have two types of thoughts: “Yes” thoughts and “No” thoughts.

“No” thoughts are inherently negative thoughts. They set you up to fail. For example, “This will be hard,” “I’m not strong enough,” “I’ll probably fail.” These are the thoughts I had before I got tricked into pulling my deadlift max, and the ones I had before the marathons that I underperformed in.

“Yes” thoughts, on the other hand, are positive thoughts, which breed success. They sound like this: “I’m going to crush this,” “I belong here,” “I am capable of this,” and “Nobody works harder than I do.”

The more NO thoughts you think, the more likely you are to develop a negative self-image—and the more likely you are to fail. The more YES thoughts you think, the more likely you are to succeed.

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Everyone has a balance of the two. No one is immune to self-doubt, but you need to learn to shift your thinking to tip the balance in favour of Yes thoughts.

This is a technique I read online that will help you breed yes thoughts. Here’s how: Place little green stickers over things you see on a daily basis, like your car’s steering wheel, the bathroom mirror, the inside of your fridge, or simply on the weight rack. Every time you see a green dot, tell yourself one reason you’re going to succeed and reach your goal.

This constant repetition of positive thoughts shifts your thinking, reinforces your confidence, and improves your output, essentially overriding your brain’s performance-crushing negativity.

Visualize Successstealandsharefeb14

Visualization was used heavily by Soviet sports scientists in the 1970s, and it’s something a large number of professional athletes and businessmen at the top of their game use today. There is a reason we call every inventor, revolutionary or path-breaker “A Visionary”.

The main principle of visualization is simple: You take time each day to psychologically rehearse what you want to accomplish, like you’re an actor in a movie playing in your mind.

Let’s say your goal is to deadlift two times your body weight. Mentally picture and rehearse exactly what you need to do to accomplish that. See yourself loading the plates, chalking up, spotting up to the bar, and then taking in air as you hinge back and grab the cold steel barbell.

Imagine how all of your muscles feel as you rip the weight from the ground and lock out.

The more details you incorporate, the more effective visualization is.

Scientists believe visualization works by altering processes in your brain like motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory, while also enhancing your motivation and confidence so that, when it comes time to perform, your brain is “trained” for the actual performance and success.

For visualization to work, however, you need to take it seriously and be fully committed. Every day, you should sit somewhere quiet and close your eyes. Free yourself of all other extraneous thoughts. Take deep breaths and simply think about exactly what you’ll need to do to reach your goal—visualize your surroundings and engage all of your senses as you see the performance play out.

If you think this sounds weird, ask yourself a question: Could it hurt?

Legendary athletes Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, and Kobe Bryant have all used this technique with great success, and science confirms that visualization has tangible performance enhancing benefits.

The best part is, this practice applies in all walks of life; for EVERY aspect of your life.

It’s the little things that make the difference between winners and losers. And the little things start in your mind, and lead to success.

Until Next Time,

The Travellothoner.

What To Eat And Drink Before A Run

What you eat before, during, and after you run can make or break your training. Eat too little and you’ll bonk—that is, run out of energy to finish your run. Eat too much and you’ll find yourself running to the bathroom. Mid-run fuel—sports drinks, gels, gummy bears, etc.—helps you sustain energy to finish the effort.

BEFORE YOU RUN:

For energy, you need to eat something before any run lasting more than 60 minutes. Ideally, you should have a high-carb, low-fiber meal three to four hours before you plan to run. That period gives your body a chance to fully digest, and it reduces risk of mid-run stomach issues. However, if you’re running in the morning, it’s not always possible to leave that much time between your meal and your run. If you have at least an hour before your workout, eat about 50 grams of carbs (that’s equal to one Banana, 4/5 dates with 4/6 Almonds ).

For Long RUN, consider adding in a little protein, which will help sustain your energy levels.

(Pea-Nuts and Jaggery or 2 eggs is good option)

DURING YOUR RUN:

Taking in fuel—in the form of mostly carbohydrates—during training runs that exceed 60 minutes will help keep your blood sugar even and your energy levels high. Runners should consume about 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour of exercise, and it’s best to spread that out over time intervals that work for you, such as every 20 minutes. You can get the right amount of carbs from a sports drinks (16 ounces Energy drinks or Dates, for example),

Real foods, like a quarter cup of raisins or two tablespoons of honey, also provide the right amount of easily digested carbs that will energize your run. Everyone’s tolerance for fuel is different, however, so the key is to find out what works for you during your training so you know what to take in on race day.

AFTER YOUR RUN:

Eating a mix of carbs and protein within 30 to 60 minutes post-run is crucial because it helps speed your body’s recovery. Carbs help restock spent glycogen (or energy) stores, while protein helps repair microscopic damage to muscle tissue. If you ran easy for less than 60 minutes, plan to have a small snack (like Idli/Upma/Poha) or whatever your next meal is, such as eating a breakfast of oatmeal with raisins, nuts, and a splash of milk after a morning run. If you ran hard or for longer than 60 minutes, you need something more substantial.

WHAT TO DRINK:

You need to drink enough before, during, and after your run to perform your best. Indeed, just 2 percent dehydration can slow you down. It’s especially important to stay on top of hydration during warm summer months, when you sweat more. While some experts recommend you stay hydrated by simply drinking when thirsty, others suggest you develop a customized plan by performing a sweat test—that is.

weighing yourself before and after exercise:

Any weight loss corresponds with fluid loss, so try to drink enough to replenish that weight. Before you run, you should have six to eight ounces of water, sports drink, or even coffee. While you are running, you should aim to take in three to six ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. Water is usually fine for runs in the 30- to 60-minute range. After runs longer than that, and you should consider a sports drink with carbs and electrolytes to replenish sodium.

Why Playing Childhood Games Is Better Than It May Seem

Whether it’s hitting the gym, joining a zumba class, or going jogging, we all know the importance of staying active. However, a lot of traditional ways to keep fit can seem a bit of a chore and just a bit boring – especially if you’re always doing them on your own.

But there’s a growing number of people realising this needn’t be the case. I’ve previously written a post based on taking up sports, instead of boring gym-time, as a great, fun and effective alternative to get to your goals. If not read before, you can read it here : Workout For Those Who Hate Working Out!. This is just an update on a recent trend, and taking it a step further.

In a bid to change the way we exercise, more and more adults have been exercising by going back to their childhood. Playground-inspired activities such as relay or races, games like badminton, volleyball, etc. are becoming popular options for adults hoping to achieve their fitness goals – and have fun doing so.

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How many times have you seen cricketers playing football or how many times have you heard pundits say dancing is a good thing for athletes as it helps them with their footwork, not to mention, its just a great activity. Because this is how it is : Players get fit whilst having fun (And also cause that’s how they earn their living, but thats not the point).

The trend goes beyond fitness, too. It has infiltrated the social scene; with escape rooms and ball-pit cocktail bars, Trampoline Parks opening up all around the city, Artificial turfs for football or box cricket, etc.

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This ‘throwback’ trend is at the very core of a lot of fitness startups these days, who majorly cater to corporates as team building activities, and to improve and inculcate values on employee health and work-life balance. An event where grown-ups get fit by playing games they might know from childhood or young adult films.

There are hundreds of games you can find online, or that a fitness startup can cater which include playground classics like British Bulldog, Capture the Flag and Dodgeball, alongside more unusual games like Quid-pitch, Tribes and Superheroes. This later evolves into you playing more competitive games from Relay, Relay X’s and O’s, Dodgeball, etc. From public grounds to dedicatedly booked retreats or local turfs, they’re conducted everywhere.

imagesBecause HIIT (high interval intensity training) exercises are hidden within the rules, participants burn up to 1,000 calories, and cover up to 8k in a game without realising. The games cover different fitness skills, including speed, co-ordination, and endurance.

In Mumbai and all across India, these activities have become a strong fallback for the HR Department to promote team-work, motivate employees and start getting them to invest on their health. Some take it a step further by making it a weekly activity, and not just a training program every quarter.

Various football/cricket tournaments, inter-branch competitions, and what not. It starts with you joining a circle of adults in coloured bibs for a warm-up ball game which helps everyone get to know each other and relax.

A super fun activity I’d like to point out is called ‘Hunger Games’. Working in teams, everyone has to protect a base whilst also ‘stealing’ cones from other bases. Each game is exactly how you’d remember it in school; the coloured team bibs or uniforms, the cones, and the footballs – but with a few additional exercises built-in. During volleyball, for example, you have to do star jumps each time you hit the ball.

These types of exercises appear in every game – whether it is star jumps, press-ups or V-sits – meaning no one is ever left standing still. The best part is, all the rules are bendable upon the Leaders and participants, and one can simplify or complicate it as much as they like.

If you’ve come across anything like this, or want to share your experiences, do leave a comment.

Regards,

The Travellothoner.

How to Keep Nutrition Top of Mind

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I came across this article on The Crossfit Journal, and it is definitely worth a read!The original link for the article is here : https://journal.crossfit.com/article/nutrition-culture-achauer-2

Disclaimer : I do not own this article, nor do I have any contribution in this writing, or have anything to do with the writers or publishers of this post. I simply think everyone should read it. So here goes :

Courtney Shepherd noticed that the same thing happened every January.

After eating and drinking to excess over the holidays, members of CrossFit Verve in Denver, Colorado, would approach Shepherd, the owner, and say, “Hey, I really need to lose some weight. When are we going to do the next challenge?”

“It got disheartening in the sense that we (were) not making a long-term impact,” Shepherd said.

A coach since 2011 and an owner since 2014, Shepherd knew the cycle would repeat itself after the challenge: binge, nutrition challenge, repeat.

Most CrossFit athletes understand they can’t get in shape by working out for six weeks and then staying home for the rest of the year, but many take this approach to nutrition. It’s often difficult to get members to develop lifelong habits instead of looking for quick fixes.

Some CrossFit affiliate owners have discovered the best way to improve the nutrition habits of their members is to develop a culture in which nutrition education is part of each class—coaches teach the importance of eating vegetables along with the clean and jerk.

ALT TEXTA diet challenge can be a start, but sustainable lifestyle changes will bring long-term health. (Dave Re/CrossFit Journal)

Build Good Habits

Shepherd started CrossFit in 2007 while training to be a firefighter at the South Metro Fire Academy. She became a member of CrossFit Verve in 2009, a part-time coach in 2011 and a full-time trainer in 2013. She bought the affiliate from Matt Chan in 2014 and works for CrossFit as a Level 1 and Level 2 Seminar Staff member.

Shepherd said CrossFit Verve used to program nutrition education as part of its on-ramp program but stopped because it made the foundations program too long, which was frustrating to new members who wanted to start attending regular classes.

Since then, the affiliate has run countless nutrition challenges, focusing on everything from the Paleo Diet to the Zone Diet to eliminating grains, dairy and legumes for 30 days. Shepherd participated in many of those challenges herself as a member, and she said she continues to implement many of the things she learned. She also observed people miserably following the diet to the letter for six weeks only to finish and say, “Thank God I can eat normally again.”

Last year, Shepherd made a change to Verve’s approach to nutrition. Instead of a six- or eight-week nutrition challenge, CrossFit Verve now hosts eight-week habit-based challenges.

“(In) the very first (habit-based challenge) that we did, we said you need to have three habits you want to change—and it can be anything, it doesn’t have to be nutrition,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd chose to remove her phone from her bed after 8 p.m. every night. Some participants committed to working out four days a week, and others decided to avoid snacking at night.

Participants were also placed on teams so they’d have an accountability buddy.

“If you accomplished that habit for the day, then you got a point. And if you didn’t, you didn’t get a point. It’s a great way to stay accountable for things like stretching or going to the gym four times a week,” Shepherd said.

After observing that people continued these habits after the challenge was over, Shepherd applied the concept of a habit-focused challenge to nutrition.

“It didn’t matter if you wanted Zone or flexible dieting. You just need to state what you wanted to change,” she said.

Leading up to the challenge, Verve hosted talks that detailed different approaches to nutrition.

ALT TEXTAt CrossFit Verve, Courtney Shepherd focuses on helping members change habits. (Gaby Gallou)

Shepherd scheduled the talks for the evenings. The sessions were free to members and their guests, and they covered basic nutrition, including food quality and quantity. She also hosted more in-depth nutrition classes that covered eating for competitions, the Zone Diet and flexible dieting.

Shepherd said this approach was helpful even for people who were already following the Zone Diet or who knew a lot about nutrition but had a few things they needed to tweak.

“For the people who’ve been following Zone for a long time but still have a post-workout shake, what if we say the entire challenge is based on real, whole food now?” she said. “Now you don’t get to supplement with your Belgian chocolate (protein shake). Or what if you are weighing and measuring doughnuts as part of your diet? What if we took those out?”

Shepherd said she doesn’t like telling people they should completely change what they’re doing for six weeks. She said it causes stress, people are often miserable, and when the challenge is over the good habits they developed go out the window completely.

It’s more realistic and sustainable, she said, to change just one habit at a time.

“The goal of the six weeks is to recognize that whatever you are doing, it’s not that hard or that big of a change,” Shepherd said. After, people can build on this new habit and make more small changes.

The challenge of this approach for affiliate owners and coaches is that it yields results more gradually, which could cause some people to lose interest and motivation.

Shepherd said she deals with this problem in two ways.

First, she makes an effort to remind clients that anything worth having takes time.

“We can give you what you want in six weeks, but at what cost?” she asks her members.

She also scheduled a BodPod—a mobile device that measures body composition—to visit CrossFit Verve every quarter. Taking regular measurements helps members see their progress and keeps them on track.

“The entire point of (the BodPod) is, (wherever) you start now, I want you to see that you are making continual progress over the years,” Shepherd said. The members pay for the scans but pay less for each retest, and the company doing the testing keeps the information on file for easy comparison over time.

Shepherd knows challenges help motivate people but don’t always lead to lifelong good habits. Her goal is to find a balance. Familiar with the bingeing that typically happens before and after challenges, she tries to set a different mindset from the beginning.

“I bring it up before the challenge starts, on the whiteboard, reminding them the purpose is to create lifelong habits,” Shepherd said.

ALT TEXTBy keeping nutrition top of mind, members learn that a good diet is the foundation of CrossFit, and they’ll regularly make better decisions. (Milisa Smith/CrossFit Journal)

Flip the Script

Sam Karoll has owned Shadow CrossFit in Quincy, Illinois, for five years. Working with a few other affiliate owners and coaches, he recently launched an online nutrition coaching program, Xplore Nutrition, which offers a free affiliate service for gym owners who want to outsource nutrition education and coaching.

“If (affiliate owners) don’t know how to manage nutrition and they don’t want to deal with it, we (can be) an extension of their gym and create that culture for them, so a CrossFit coach can focus on CrossFit while we focus on a different side,” Karoll said.

Karoll has advice for affiliate owners who want to create a stronger nutrition culture on their own: He recommends flipping the script and turning the challenge around to the owner.

Instead of—or in addition to—instituting a six-week nutrition challenge, Karoll recommends affiliate owners challenge themselves to discuss nutrition every day for six weeks. This discussion could take the form of an article on the affiliate’s website, a post on social media or a comment at the beginning or end of class.

Karoll said this would get people thinking, “‘Hey, why is my affiliate starting to talk all the time about nutrition? Maybe I should ask my coach about this.’ And then hopefully that turns into something a little more organic, and you can actually start growing that as another service and another addition to your clientele,” he said.

ALT TEXTSam Karoll works to help his clients understand how they can enjoy food and accomplish their goals. (Courtesy of Sam Karoll)

Karoll’s goal as an owner of a CrossFit gym and a nutrition coaching program is to teach people how to eat the foods they love—within reason—to accomplish their goals.

“If we restrict everything that people are able to eat and we make it difficult for them to go out and go to social events, … they start feeling nervous and uncomfortable, or they feel like they have to give up what they love. We see people start to fall off quicker because they are not able to maintain their lifestyle,” Karoll said.

Encouraging members to eat well benefits more than the health of your athletes, Karoll said. It also helps with retention.

An athlete who works hard in the gym but whose nutrition is trash won’t see desirable results. This could result in thoughts of “‘hey, I don’t think your programming is that great’ or ‘I’m not doing well,'” Karoll said.

Once nutrition enters the conversation, that’s when real change happens, with both performance and aesthetics.

“Then people really start to talk about (the change),” Karoll said, “and they can actually show those results, and they start sharing on social media before and after pictures, so it’s absolutely a retention booster.”

Coaches only see their athletes for an hour each day, Karoll pointed out, while the decisions that have the most significant effect on health are made during the other 23 hours.

“So getting that nutrition component (fixed) is what can help them wake up and have more energy or sleep better or play with their kids in the backyard, and it adds up and continues to stack on top of what CrossFit already is,” Karoll said.

ALT TEXTOwners can use simple things like blogs and social-media posts to help members start thinking about food. (Dave Re/CrossFit Journal)

Customized Approach

Rachel Carr owns CrossFit Laramie in Laramie, Wyoming. She’s been doing CrossFit since 2006 and has owned the affiliate for five years.

With new members, Carr starts with movement, leaving nutrition aside until they have a well-established fitness routine. Still, CrossFit Laramie has a website page devoted to nutrition, and Carr provides nutrition coaching for members and nonmembers for an additional fee.

Her approach is habit based—she tells people not what to eat but how to eat.

Carr accomplishes this by addressing manageable habits, such as telling a member to try eating until 80 percent full instead of eating until he is completely stuffed. Once that habit is established for two weeks, she’ll add in another habit, like eating more fruits and vegetables.

ALT TEXTRachel Carr using a bit of humor to get people thinking about the best fuel for exercise. (Courtesy of Rachel Carr)

“I don’t really operate on a fast-fix type thing,” Carr said. “With the 30-day challenges you get a great kick-start, but it’s not a lifestyle and wellness change.”

Carr has posters around the gym and hands out flyers about her nutrition services to encourage conversations and give a little extra push for that person who is ready to make a change. She also posts articles and tips on social media to address problems that could be solved by a change in nutrition.

When people approach her with a problem, Carr tells them to keep a food log for three days, “and (then we) look at what they are doing and make little tweaks. Most people who want to venture into that nutrition world are somewhat motivated, but they are scared,” she said.

Carr likes to focus on habits and a foundation of good nutrition, no matter what style of eating the client ends up following.

“We’ve had one person who’s lost, I think, 120 pounds. We’ve had other people who have eliminated most of the soda in their diets and lost a fair amount of weight,” Carr said.

She lets the conversation about nutrition develop with a lot of dialogue about what is and isn’t working for the client.

If something’s working, she motivates the client to keep doing it. If things aren’t working, she’ll suggest another approach.

“It’s not a planned conversation, but it’s something that you kind of end up talking about just as part of your overall lifestyle,” Carr said.

Right now the gym is doing the Whole Life Challenge, which she says has gotten people looking at recipes and sharing tips, successes and failures with each other.

When it’s done, Carr plans to have a party and a conversation, asking members what they can take beyond the challenge and maintain for the long term.

Year-round Conversation

Six-week challenges get people excited about big changes and quick results, but real change happens in the other 46 weeks of the year. Once the challenge is over, does nutrition discussion end, or do your coaches talk about meal preparation along with strength and mobility?

“As an affiliate owner, I think it’s really important to start thinking on the end date (of the challenge). How do we get people to keep these habits past six weeks? What service can we offer, what information we can offer?” Karoll said.

As Karoll pointed out, nutrition is not like an AMRAP: work for 20 minutes and it’s over, back to normal life.

Nutrition is an every-day, every-month, every-year challenge.

“We want them to keep going,” he said. 

I hope you find this article as informative as I did.

Regards,

The Travellothoner.