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Function and Fitness Blog
Function and Fitness Blog
Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Should I "Sweat it out?" #fluseason

We’re entering flu season and that means one thing. Well, actually it means a lot of things. But the thing I’m talking about is the question of “Should I exercise when I’m sick?” For personal reasons (and for the sake of your fellow gym-members) I’m going to say “NO!” Ideally, we don’t want any germs spreading around the gym. If that doesn’t have you convinced, get ready for some convincing.

“Sweating it out” is something that has crossed all of our minds. And it makes sense. And truth be told, it can actually boost your immunity. In this instance, it’s important to define a difference between “working out” and “getting physical activity”.

Work Out
When you “work out” you’re breathing heavily, sweating, and experiencing a slight level of discomfort. This hard work awakens a stress response. Healthy bodies then adapt to this stress. This is what makes us stronger (and helps us fit in our jeans a little better). Add sickness to this “work out” stress and it might be more than your immune system can handle.

Getting Physical Activity
So now for “getting physical activity”. Let’s clarify the activity that would fall under this category. This list includes low intensity activities like walking, riding a bike, or gardening.

This type of activity has been shown to boost immunity and can help you recover faster because there isn’t an intense stress on your immune system.

It’s important to add this caveat – if walking feels like a heavy work out to you, 1. We need to talk ASAP, but 2. think about how your body would perceive the activity stress-wise.

Let your symptoms be your guide and just remember this: the gym will ALWAYS be there when you get back to feeling 100% again!

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Why Does Exercise Sometimes Taste Like Blood?

I was recently asked why exercising can sometimes cause a metallic or blood-like taste in your mouth. Seeing as I’d never experienced this myself (and since the question asker is NOT a vampire) I thought I’d get to the bottom of the question.

I’m not the only one to get the question. As Ryan Dirks, a physician assistant and director of team medicine at South Sound sports medicine clinic in Auburn, Washington explains, “There’s not always a simple answer – truthfully, we don’t always know why it happens.”

Luckily, there are some theories that might explain it. It could be because you are sucking in cold or dry air that causes inflammation and tiny cracks in the lining of the nose and throat. It could also be because of the increased pressure on the lungs the red blood cells in a person’s lungs can leak into air sacs and cause that taste. Luckily, this isn’t something to worry about, according to Gerald Zavorsky, PhD and associate professor of heath and sport sciences at the University of Louisville. Zavorsky’s research also suggests another reason: mild pulmonary edema caused when fluid leaks between the space between air sacs and capillaries.

While the exact cause isn’t known, based on what these experts have studied, it’s not something to worry about. But if you’ve coughed up blood or are having issues breathing you might want to see a doctor to rule out any major health issues.

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

“… but I have kids.”

Okay, I just became a new mom, so I’m not going to act like I know everything. In fact, I’m giving you full allowance to turn to me 10 years from now and utter those dreaded words: “I told you so.”

That being said, I’m going to address a statement (ahem, excuse) I hear pretty often: “but I have kids.” For some reason, we’ve allowed our children to take our healthy eating goals hostage. Sure, you would LOVE to get rid of all the unhealthy things in your kitchen but then what would the kids eat?

Could it be that they might actually eat something that’s nutritionally beneficial to them?

I grew up in a household that favored unhealthy foods. Most nights, before I headed to my gymnastics practice I would have McDonald's. Sometimes, that’s McDonald’s Happy Meal would be substituted with Carl’s Jr. or a microwaveable Kid Cuisine Meal. Snacks were cereal, slices of Kraft American Cheese, and Laura Scudder’s Peanut Butter sandwiches. All delicious, but nutritionally void. I don’t fault my parents for these choices. They simply didn’t know or just didn’t realize how unhealthy these items were. And even if they did know, I’m sure they were just trying to make sure I was fed.

That being said, I’m hoping to do better for my kid.

I can hear it now, the “oh, just you wait.” Yes, my son is far from being able to complain about the food he’s getting now. And no, I haven’t yet had to bribe him with food to get him to behave but I’m hoping that in addition to working through those things (with healthy options) I’ll also be able to encourage the following habits:
  • Knowing what healthy food is.
  • Choosing healthy options.
  • Teaching kids about where their food comes from.
  • Teaching kids about how their food gets to them.
  • Encouraging eating until full (and not just to finish a plate).
  • Understanding TRUE portion size.
  • Getting them involved in meal prep.
  • Finding different ways to get “5 servings of fruit and vegetables” every day.
  • Being a role model myself (perhaps the hardest one on the list)
Perhaps the hardest thing in enforcing these habits is/will be consistency, but I’m finding that’s basically a lynchpin of parenthood… and for healthy eating in general. 

So feel free to bookmark this blog and ask me about it 10 years from now. Fingers crossed I've held true to these words and "...but I have kids" hasn't interrupted my kitchen. 

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Glutes! Activate!

We talk about it a lot. In fact, you’ve probably heard us cue it a lot. “Let’s activate those glutes!” But like much of cues, if you don’t know how to actually activate your glutes, then the cue doesn’t really matter. So, let’s talk about what we’re talking about.

Butt Why?

As we spend more and more time sitting on our butts, it’s causing them to become super inactive. This is a problem because your glutes are the control center for a lot of the movements our lower body does. When your glutes are “shut off” that means other muscles are taking on the extra load. So many times you’ll do a ton of squats, etc… to just wake up the next day with sore quads and hamstrings, when really your butt should be the sore one. This can cause posture issues, muscle pain, and can also increase your chance of injury.

So what can we do abutt (sorry, last one) it?

We can activate those glutes with glute activation exercises! Complicated, eh? Actually, not really. Truth be told, we always build in a few glute activation exercises into our RAMPs (warm-up exercises). For example, glute bridges are something we always throw in. You can also do clamshells, as well as resistance band lateral walks. All of these exercises warm up the glutes so that when you’re moving onto deadlifts and squats, the glutes are like “Hey, I’m here! And I’m working!”

We also have to make sure that “mind-body” connection is working so you’ll need to actively think about where you should be feeling the movement. Ding! Ding! You guess it, you should be feeling it in your butt.  Sometimes even just thinking, “my butt should be doing the work” can help those glutes turn on and start working. You should feel an active tightening in your booty area.

Once we get your glutes firing working, your glute muscles should be handling a lot of the movement and load. This can help save your quads, hamstrings, and lower back – something we’re all looking to keep out of the equation. So just think “Glutes! Activate!”

As always, we’re here to help! So if you ever hear a cue or something that just doesn’t make sense or leaves you wondering, “Okay, so how exactly does that translate to my body?” never hesitate to ask. We’re here to help you make that mind-booty (okay, seriously, last one) connection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Strategies for Eating with Friends and Family

One of the things I hear the most is how hard it is to “stay good” when out with friends and family. How are you supposed to reach for carrots when everyone else is reaching for chips and salsa? What ends of happening to me is I go with the carrots at first and then end up reaching for the chips in the end anyway… thus resulting in me being wayyyyy fuller than I should be.

Knowing how hard it is, I thought it might be helpful to do a blog about strategies you can tap into when you know you’re going to be a social butterfly.

Order first. Studies have proven that a group of people will base their food choices off of what the first person orders. Consider it a form of peer pressure. If you’re out at a restaurant try to be the first one to order so that 1, you set the tone for everyone around you, and 2, so that you’re not swayed by the person that orders the extra cheese family portion sized lasagna.

Here’s my caveat to the point above: you’re going to get pressure from people. They’re going to say, “What? You’re ordering a salad?” You know what your goals are. Stay firm with them. Yeah, you did order a salad! And Yeah, you’re going to enjoy that salad and not feeling over-stuffed two hours later.

Be a part of the conversation. It’s a running joke in my family that we always know food has arrived because we all get so quiet. The food gets to the table and we all shut up because we’re stuffing our faces. Chances are when you’re out with friends or family, it’s because you’re visiting with them. So visit. That means listening instead of chomping down on your food.

Try to be the slowest one.

Put your fork down in between bites.

Order salad first so you stock up on a little bit of healthy.

Have a snack before you leave the house. Be careful with this one, because, for me, it always seems to backfire.

Split your meal with a friend.

Choose your dish beforehand by scoping out the menu online.

Dessert OR Drinks. Not both.

Ask for butter/dressing/etc… on the side. That way you can monitor how much you’re adding to your food.

Choose a healthy dining spot.

Plan an outing that DOESN’T involve food. Like a hike. Or shopping trip, which often means splurging in a different way, but we won’t go down that alley.


The truth is, you’re going to feel like a party-pooper. It’s inevitable. For some reason, going out to eat has become code word for “free-for-all” but it doesn’t have to be that way. Remember what your goals are. And know that if you’re friends and family are really rooting for your success, they’ll eventually give you a pass for being “the healthy one” at the table.

 

 

 

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Let's Listen

True story: I set up to write this blog and immediately fell back into bed and took a nap. And afterward, I was proud I did. I'm trying this new thing out it's called, "listening to my body". I think it's something we often forget to do.

For example, you might be familiar with these instances:

"My shoulder really hurts but I'm going to go to my workout anyway and see if I can work through the pain."

"Wow, I haven't eaten in like 8 hours."


Now, it's a given that a nap is not always an option. In my case, I was lucky enough that the baby had also passed out and the husband was working on something in the shed. So I took advantage of the time I had.

In many ways, having a baby has taught me to listen. During pregnancy, I napped when I could. I'm doing the same thing now, but mostly because I'm in survival mode. But in typing that I realize we do most things because we are in survival mode. We forget to eat because we're rushing around doing everything or because we got stuck in back-to-back meetings at work. We grab Burger King because we need food quickly. We work through pain because how else are we going to burn off that Burger King?

Pregnancy/ labor/ post-partum has put me on a forced time out to listen to my body. I actually can't NOT take a nap during the day because I won't be able to do the midnight feeding... or the 4 am feeding... or the crying in between. Before I might have pushed through the nap or worked through it, but there's no option for me now.

I actually can't walk the 15,000 steps I used to. Right now I'm averaging about 3-4,000... and that's on a good day. Because the rest of the day, my body is telling me "rest."

Obviously, this is a very special and different time for me than for most people's daily lives, but I encourage you to try and listen - maybe even set aside a minute where you close your eyes and really, truly check-in with yourself. Is your body saying "I need to rest" or "I need to eat" or "wow, I need some water"?

See what it says, and then, if you can, shut off the computer and take that nap.

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Yes, There’s an App for Mindful Eating!

Our lives are filled with running - and usually not the kind you do on a treadmill. Most people ping-pong from here to there, picking up kids, dropping off kids, heading to the gym, grocery shopping, and then, of course, we have to schedule in time to eat a socialize. It’s a lot. And somewhere along the way, we forgot what it means to sit down and really enjoy our food. What that’s led to is a lot of “what can I grab and eat quickly?” rather than slowing down and eating our food mindfully.

Luckily, there’s an app to remind us to slow down - well, at least slow down when we eat.

As the “Eat Slowly” app boasts: 

“Slow Down, Slim Down. Eat Slowly for the iPhone was created for those of us that eat too quickly. Scientific studies state it can take 20 minutes for our brains to acknowledge the food we eat to give us that full feeling. Eating too quickly can result in overeating. Eat Slowly has been created as a training tool to help you slow down, enjoy the taste of your food, and support a healthy lifestyle.”


Slowing down is just one part of eating mindfully…

There’s also that whole “mindful part.” Mindful eating means that you also try to give your food full attention. What that means is:

  • Noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes
  • Feeling for physical hunger cues, distinguishing between actual hunger and non-hunger triggers and eating only until you're full
  • Eating to maintain overall health and well-being
  • Noticing the effects food has on your emotions
  • Appreciating your food
Eating mindfully, when practiced often leads to control of your eating habits which in turn can lead to weight loss, ditching the binge eating pattern, and feeling better. Now that's a concept (and an app) I can get behind!

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

To Supplement or Not to Supplement?

It’s a question I get a lot: “what supplements should I be taking?”

Like any health related questions I get, there’s never an easy answer. So, naturally, I’m about to give you a not easy answer to this.

I like to remember “supplements” for exactly what they are – a way to supplement your diet. Ideally, you’re getting everything you need from the food you’re eating. Nature (when you’re eating whole and unprocessed foods) has this magic way of prepackaging nutrients in a way that they can and should be digested. For example, an almond has Vitamin E – and also the fat content needed to help your body actually digest that Vitamin E. (Vitamin E is a “fat-soluble” vitamin).

That being said, I would say limit your supplements and eat whole and unprocessed foods.

But what if you’re not eating whole and unprocessed foods? Supplement, right?

Well, maybe not. The first thing I would recommend is trying to figure out what supplement you might be deficient in. For this, I would have you reach out to your primary doctor to get tested.

Once we have answers we can go from there.

There are some other things I’d want you to consider as well if you’re going down the supplement route:
  1. Have you looked at your nutritional intake/ made changes to your diet that would allow for you to get the deficient element from a natural source?
  2. How’s the quality of the supplement you’re taking? Are there a ton of fillers that aren’t so good and potentially negate all the good of taking that supplement? (The FDA does not regulate the production of supplements)
  3. Are there any interactions?
  4. What do I need to eat with the supplement to make sure my body absorbs it?
  5. What am I trying to achieve by taking this supplement?
Some good places to research the specific supplement and brand you’re considering are as follows:

  • ConsumerLabs.com
  • Examine.com
  • www.precisionnutrition.com/supplements

As with anything, you’re going to need to tailor your supplements to your specific needs. In other words, be smart about supplementing. Do your research on you and your specific needs. As always, if you need advice, reach out to us! We’re here to help!

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

A Handier Meal

As some of you know, the (literally, it felt like) 400th time I decided to get serious about weight loss I did it all with tracking my calories in MyFitnessPal and also tracking my workouts with a heart-rate monitor. Despite my crazy aversion to math and numbers, I lived by what the numbers told me. And it worked. I lost 30 pounds and I felt awesome. Seriously, life changing, I-don’t-need-to-hide-my-arms-in-sweaters-anymore kind of awesome.

When it comes to MyFitnessPal, it comes down to portion size. You better believe that I weighed things out. Break out the measuring cups, spoons, meat scale, etc… If you’ve played the game you know how it feels measuring out every little thing. Meal prep goes from a two-minute thing to a ten-minute thing. Sure, eventually you learn what a cup of frozen yogurt or cherries roughly looks like, but it can be tiring.

When I return from baby I plan on ditching the measuring spoons and going a much easier – handier – way. Literally. I plan on using hand measurements. As in, a serving of protein = my palm, a serving of vegetables = my clenched fist, a serving of carbs = my cupped hand, and a serving of fat = my thumb.

The awesome thing about using your hand as a measuring device is that it’s scalable and portable! No more excuses for over-eating because you “didn’t know what the portion size was.”

While you’ll need to base how much of each thing you’ll get to eat on you/your activity level/your goals, a good place to start is:

For Men:

4 Meals a Day

Each meal:

2 palms of protein

2 fists of vegetables

2 cupped handfuls of carbs

2 thumbs of fat

 

For Women:

4 Meals a Day

Each meal:

1 palm of protein

1 fist of vegetables

1 cupped handful of carbs

1 thumb of fat


Again, this is just a starting point – you will definitely need to adjust for you. The size of your hand has already been adjusted specifically for you, but if you’re working out for an hour a day, you’ll probably need some more protein and carbs. Luckily, we can help you make those determinations!

So ditch the measuring cups and give hand measuring two thumbs up!

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

The Dreaded Plateau and How to Own It

It’s a spot we all hit at a certain point in our weight loss (or life) journey – the dreaded plateau.

Though they are 100% completely normal and expected, when we hit plateaus they feel unfair, annoying, sometimes everlasting, and always discouraging. Why is it that everything was going so well and then stopped?

Plateaus happen for a number of reasons – you may need to reduce calorie intake a little more or switch up your workouts (ahem, venture into strength training). But rather than focus on why they happen, I want to focus on what you need to do to get through it – like, mentally get through it.

We often make this equation in our minds: plateau = failure. But if you can consider changing up your mindset (and I’m hoping you will), consider weight loss like moving up a mountain. As you ascend, you’re going to hit check points far before you hit the peak. And just like climbing a mountain, at each check point you re-asses what else you’ll need to get to the top. Maybe it’s more water, maybe it’s adding more steps per day, maybe it’s cutting out that nightly glass of wine… no judgment…

Sure, assessment is key but let’s also, most importantly mention that at each check point on that mountain climb you CELEBRATE reaching that check-point. You look down at all you’ve accomplished and you stretch out those triceps by patting yourself on the back. And rightfully so! If you stop thinking of plateaus as failures and see them as giant accomplishments instead you’ll be far more encouraged to keep on keeping on. Boom! I hit this check-point! What might I need to do now to get to the next one? Rather than throw in the towel and binge eat everything in your hiking pack, let’s re-evaluate what’s in that hiking pack. We could just need a slight re-calibration of sorts to get you closer to the peak.

One Last Consideration

Now here’s the thing I want you to consider – what happens when you reach the peak? Will you know you’ve reached the peak? And even a further thought – if your goal is weight loss – won’t the peak be one giant plateau?

Eventually, you will hit that point where there’s no more fat to be lost. What does that mean to you? I hope that you’ll continue climbing – but maybe up a different mountain. Maybe one named the “I want to work on doing one (or 20) amazing pull-ups” mountain or the “I want to take a TRX training course” mountain. Whatever your mountain is named, whether it be “lose 20 pounds so I can fit into my wedding dress,” or “I just want to be able to keep up with my grandkids,” we’re here to be your Sherpas!

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