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

When All or None Means None

We’re having a “good day” – a healthy breakfast, great morning snack, really beautifully planned lunch, and then someone brings in cake to celebrate an office birthday. We have the tiniest, tiniest bite. But then, since we had the tiniest bite, we might as well have a little more. And then F*** it! Might as well have an actual sized slice. And since we did that, pizza for dinner, and might as well have dessert and a glass of wine because I already ruined the day with that cake!

This is often how dieting goes. It’s an all-or-nothing mindset where if you take a small little stumble off the wagon in even the slightest way, you might as well have just jumped off!

Let’s pull back the reigns a little bit. In fact, let’s step off the wagon. Let’s maybe not even consider getting “on the wagon” again. Whaaaa?! What could she be saying?

I’m saying it’s time to end this eternal starting and stopping thing because it’s not working.

"Slightly Better"

It’s time to consider what you’re actually doing and how to improve it. Real change comes when you change a habit. Okay, so you have a breakfast burrito every day for breakfast. How ‘bout having half of that burrito and a bowl of fruit? You still get the burrito, but you get something “slightly better” with cutting it in half and having some fruit on the side.

Let’s go back to the cake incident we started with. What would have been “slightly better” in this instance? And no, it’s not “never having the first bite.” We know you’re going to have that bite. But “slightly better” might have been having that bite with a large glass of water to fill you up. Or have a bowl of cherries with that bite of cake. Maybe a handful of almonds. Something that makes you feel satiated without having to eat a whole cake.

So okay, maybe the proposed decision still led you to the pizza for dinner. But “slightly better” might have been starting that dinner off with some vegetables or a salad. Maybe choosing dessert OR wine, instead of both.

While “slightly better” isn’t “BEST,” won’t it get you closer to that weight loss goal? I’m going to say it right now – you aren’t perfect. You may have perfect days. You may have perfect weeks. But if you’re living by an “all-or-nothing” rule, then you’re setting yourself up for a helping of “nothing.”

So next time you’re confronted with the cake/pizza/wine dilemma, ask yourself:

What would “slightly better” be?

What would “slightly worse” be?

Which choice is the one I can make right now?

I’m hoping that “slightly better” leads you to continue making “slightly better” choices that will empower you and get you closer to your goal. I’m also hoping it will help you from going down the path of free-for-all! As fun as that might be…

As always, if you need help determining you’re slightly better, never hesitate to ask any of us! 


Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Why We Don't Do Sit-Ups

For years the standard exercise routines looked like this: push-ups, squats, pull-ups and, OF COURSE, sit-ups. So whenever we mention that we don't do sit-ups in our gym, there’s no wonder that we get a lot of puzzled faces.

Here’s why we don’t do them:

Crunches are actually terrible for your back.

As Dr. Richard Guyer, president of the Texas Back Institute explains, crunches place an unhealthy strain on your back at your back’s weakest point.

“There are only so many bends or a ‘fatigue life’,” in your spinal disks,” says Stuart M. McGill, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo. As McGill explains, there's a mucus-like nucleus inside each disk of your spine, and “if you keep flexing your spine and bending the disk over and over again, that nucleus slowly breaches the layers and causes a disk bulge, or a disk herniation.” Yikes!

So how do you get those sculpted abs without the old-fashioned sit-up?

I’m always going to answer this one with the age-old adage: “abs are made in the kitchen.” We might laugh, but it’s true! We all know that you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet. And you’re going to need a lower body fat percentage to actually see those cut abs.

But how do you get those “cut, strong, ripped” abs? And even better yet, how are you going to train your body to feel it’s best? By training your abs in a way that strengthens their function and what they are actually supposed to do: keeping your spine straight and secure while also providing power for your movements. As McGill explains, “the abdominals are braces.” When you’re doing any form of movement - in the gym or out of the gym —“the spine is in a neutral posture, not flexed, and the abdominal muscles are contracted to brace the spine.”

And how do you train in a way that best serves your ab’s purpose? With all those awesome core exercises we do! For example:
anti-rotation cable press out
push-ups (it’s a moving plank)
USB press-outs
basically every move we do in the gym, because YES! Your core should be engaged!
So if you’re wondering why we don’t do sit-ups, think of it this way: we’re just trying to “have your back!” As in, literally, we’re trying to save your back. And besides, you always hated sit-ups anyway.

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Reading Food Labels: Sugar

You’re trying hard to “clean” up your eating game, but when it comes to those labels, where do you start? This week we’re starting a series on how to read food labels. Today I’m going to sweet talk you - with the 411 on Sugar.

It’s no wonder that food-makers create confusing labels - if our customers are confused they’ll just give up and buy our product. But there are ways we can outsmart these witty marketers - you just have to know the tricks they use.

Why is Sugar so Bad?

Let’s talk about why you need to be on the lookout. Sugar has been linked to diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and breast, endometrial, and colon cancers. And that’s just to name a few things. If you want to read a little more on exactly HOW sugar is processed by your body, take a look at this article from Women’s Health

As Robert Lustig, M.D., professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at the University of California – San Francisco, explains, "You could make dog poop taste good with enough sugar, and the food industry does.” The truth is food-makers add a ton of sugar to things - even when we don’t need them to! That translates to you getting way more sugar than your body actually needs.

How Much is Too Much?

According to the World Health Organization, sugar should be 5% of your diet - that equates to 6 teaspoons per day. Yup! That isn’t a lot!

All the Different Names for Sugar

Before we eliminate all the unnecessary sugar in our diets, we’re going to need to know what to look for. Here are just a few of sugar’s “alter egos” you’ll want to look for when you’re perusing those labels:
Agave Nectar
Buttered Syrup
Blackstrap Molasses
Diastatic Malt
Invert Sugar
Rice Syrup
Sorghum Syrup
Now that you know what you’re looking for you can tackle the sugar part of reading your labels!

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Reading Food Labels: The Ingredients List

You’re trying hard to “clean” up your eating game, but when it comes to those labels, where do you start? This week we’re continuing our series on how to read food labels. Today I’m whittling down ingredients - as in - the ingredients list.

When it comes to food labels, marketers know how to complicate things, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret - a kind “go to” when it comes to deciding what you throw in your cart.

Number One Rule: If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it. That means if you’re seeing a lot of sucroslaxatosiniumblahblahblah it’s probably not something you should be eating.

Highest to Lowest

Product ingredients are listed from highest to lowest amount. That means the “most used” ingredient is listed first. For example, if you are buying peanut butter, ideally peanuts are the first (and only) ingredient. Take a look at the first three ingredients - those are probably the largest parts of what you are eating - then refer back to the number one rule: can you pronounce them?

How Many Ingredients?

Another way to make sure you’re not eating a lot of junk is to look at how long the list of ingredients is. Longer than 2 to 3 lines? Chances are it’s highly processed junk.

Do Your Research

If you run across something you’ve never seen before - such as acacia gum or xanthan gum or even what “refined” versus “unrefined” is - I suggest you pull out your phone and look it up. Knowing exactly what ingredients actually are can help you decide what you want to put in your body. When it comes to the list of ingredients, knowledge really is power.

So here’s a quick checklist when you’re standing in that grocery aisle:
What are the first three ingredients?
Can I pronounce them?
Are there any odd things I should look up?
Is the list 2-3 lines or 23 lines?

Hope that helps you whittle down while you’re trying to “whittle” down your maybe not-so-clean eating habits.

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

What Are You Doing Outside of the Gym?

One of the hardest things to hear as a coach is “this just isn’t working.” Believe me when I say that we hear the frustration in your voice and we truly want you to be successful in achieving your fitness goals.

That being said, I’m about to drop some “real talk” on you. Getting fit is 95% what you're doing outside of the gym. Yup, I said it. I’m even potentially diminishing just what we can do for you, but the bottom line is if you’re giving 100% in the gym and then giving 1% to what you’re eating and how you’re moving the rest of the day, then all that work can be for naught.

On average we see a client for 3-5 hours every week. While we can monitor how well you are moving for those 3-5 hours, we can't be with you for the remaining 165-163 hours in the week. If we could, you’d most likely hear us - all day, every day - saying things like, “don’t eat that” or “you should get up and stretch,” or “it’s time for you to drink some more water.” The truth is, we can’t be there all the time - though we can try to support you as much as possible!

So how can you ensure you’re working just as hard outside of the gym? Here are some tips:

Set a reminder to drink water. You should be drinking half your body weight in ounces of water every day. What does that mean? If you’re 100 lbs, you should be drinking 50 oz of water every day. Yes, every day

Invest in a fitness tracker. Tracking your steps can help inform you on how active you are outside of the gym. 10,000 is a good goal, but if you’re usually super active, you’ll want to set a higher goal.

Get up and stretch. We all know that our current lifestyles have landed most of us behind a desk. So what can you do to be proactive in the fight against tight hips and sore backs? Get up and stretch. If this seems awkward, close the door to your office, do a couple stretches in the bathroom stall, or step outside for a quick walking/stretching break.

Watch what you’re putting in your mouth. I don’t need to go into detail on this one - you know what you should and shouldn't be eating. And if you don’t ask us for advice!

We’re all here to help you - in the gym - and out of the gym.

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Do You Need to Workout Every Single Day?

Someone recently asked me if they needed to workout every day to see results.

Honestly, it’s a hard question to answer, and here’s why:
You need days off - especially if you are weight training. You actually don’t build muscle while you are lifting - you build it when you are recovering. As The American Council on Exercise explains, “The workout is the stimulus, while recovery and improvement is the physical response.” Basically, you work the body and your muscles hard during your training, and the body rebuilds and responds to that work during your rest.

But does that mean you shouldn’t do anything (a.k.a. be a complete couch potato) on your “rest days”? Again, I’ll throw it to The American Council on Exercise: “A rest day is really any non-training day—a day where you remove the challenge of hard exercise.” “Hard” being the key word here. A rest day does not mean you get to just be a lazy-sweat-pant-wearing-couch-laying-sloth (sorry!) Sure, you shouldn’t be going all out on your rest day, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move. Use your rest day (and the hour not spent in the gym) to go on a walk, golf, play hide and seek with the kids, or even engage in a lighter type of workout, like a light yoga class or light stretching - essentially anything where you aren’t lifting weights or going to your all out max. All of these things will help you feel less sore, and also keep your body moving - which is something you should always do.

So do you need to workout every day? No, but you should definitely get off those old bones and move every day!

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Can A Cheat Meal Ruin It All?

You’ve been eating clean and balanced all week - protein, fat, carbs at every meal - their correct proportions - and without dipping into the pantry for a late night snack. Then the weekend arrives and it’s three pieces of pizza, some wine, but just a small, okay maybe not really small at all, dessert. So the question is - can a cheat meal ruin all that good work you’ve put in?

Sadly, the answer is “yes.”

And it’s “yes” for a lot of reasons.

Number one: If that “cheat” means eating a day’s worth of calories in one sitting, guess what? You’ve just turned your 7 days of eating into 8 days of eating. And no, there are NOT 8 days in a week.

Number two: That one “cheat” often turns into two cheats, three cheats, four cheats, blown week. If that cheat meal is going to turn you to the dark side for the rest of the weekend and/or week, then it’s for sure going to ruin that past week of good work.

Number two point five: Just a caveat to the above note - turning on all the “bad cravings” can only trigger more. For example, a lot of people will say that once they stop eating sugar they don’t crave it, but even just one Cadbury Caramel Egg can turn on those cravings. While some lucky people out there are able to have one doughnut and then call it quits, the majority of us are apt to dive into the whole box - so just don’t start in the first place.

Number three: You’re most likely to “cheat” because you’re out with friends at a restaurant. The problem there? All the hidden things that are being put in your food. When you cook at home you know what ingredients you’re using. And if you’re a label checker, you know what’s really in those ingredients. At a restaurant, unless you’re besties with the chef, you can never be 100% of what’s going in your food or how it’s being prepared. What that translates to is a lot of hidden junk that you weren’t even calculating into your cheat meal dreams.

Now I’m not saying never cheat - that’s almost 1 million percent impossible! But if you’re going to cheat, try to be mindful about it. Is there a reason you feel compelled to have a cheat meal? Maybe a long week at work or you want to fit in with the rest of the people sitting around the table. Know the WHY behind that piece of pizza. Then put a limit on that cheat. A realistic limit. You can also make it a “not-so-cheat” meal - add a salad before that slice or two of pizza. Or have a glass of fizzy flavored water for every glass of wine. And lastly, finish off the “cheat” with a healthy treat as a way of resetting your mind and reminding it to return to the good stuff. An apple or a handful of vegetables after the pizza/pasta/deliciousness can often be a good way to “re-trigger” the clean eater in you.

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Putting the “YOU” in Positive Self-Talk

It might sound silly, but during that next workout try “YOU can do it” instead of “I can do it.”

According to a study that was published online in the European Journal of Social Psychology in 2014, talking to yourself in the second person when you are giving yourself encouragement in the gym may actually boost your performance more than using the first-person.

As the study’s co-author Dr. Sanda Dolcos, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, explained, “People are used to receiving and giving advice in the second-person, and they seem to prefer using the second-person pronoun to psych themselves up before engaging in action.”

How the study’s authors arrive at this conclusion? They asked 143 undergraduate students at the University of Illinois to write down advice for themselves before working through a series of anagram puzzles. Half of the 143 students were asked to use first-person while the other half wrote in second-person.

The students who wrote in second-person completed more anagrams and appeared to have a more positive attitude when working through the anagrams. “We were not surprised and had previous research showing people spontaneously use ‘You’ in situations that require high levels of self-control and action,” said Dolcos, “as well as situations following a negative event.”

So next time you need a little more encouragement try “You” instead of “I” - and also trust that all of your coaches will be encouraging “YOU” too!

PSST! Here's your chance for 5 extra tickets in our monthly drawing: mention the catch phrase "Positive Self-Talk" to any of the coaches!

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

What’s With These Single Leg Exercises?

As I’ve noticed in our gym, a lot of us dread doing anything on a single leg - our balance is thrown off - we fall - and generally, we just kind of feel silly or that we look stupid.

So if everyone hates single leg exercises, then why do we put them in all of the programming we do? Because, they’re super good for you, of course!

Single-leg training is awesome for developing balance, coordination, and even optimal for developing strength.

Here are some examples of the single-leg training we do in the gym:
Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts
Rear-Foot-Elevated (either on a bench or in TRX straps) Squats
Single Leg Cable Woodchops

Mike Boyle (one of our fave gurus in the gym because a lot of what he says just, bottom line, makes sense) believes, "You do almost everything in sports in a split stance, or by pushing off one leg from a parallel stance, so it just makes sense to train your body that way."

Training on a single-leg allows you to sprint, change direction, and produce force equally from both sides of your body while also developing stabilizers and small muscle groups that are critical for injury prevention. We love injury prevention!

Additionally, Boyle believes that "[Single-leg exercises] promote great muscle growth and great muscle strength because they work more muscles." For example, you engage three more muscles in a Single-Leg Squat than in a traditional two-legged Squat. Boyle notes that if you train one leg at a time, and then try a traditional Squat, you’ll most likely hit a new personal squat record.

So, while we know that you hate the idea of standing on one leg (especially when that other leg is in the TRX straps) it’s going to help your balance - and also make you stronger! And that’s something we can all stand behind.

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Playing the Accountability Game

It’s always a hard question to answer when people ask me about how I lost my own thirty pounds of “fluff.” For so many of us, we’re looking for that one size fits all “solve” - the “oh, I just ate grapefruit,” or “I started taking this awesome supplement.” I always wish I had “the magic pill” to just hand out, but the honest to goodness truth is I just committed.

And honestly, I know how annoying that sounds.

Weight loss is hard until it’s not hard. And I say that because truthfully, deep down inside we can all admit that we know what it takes to lose weight. Barring any health issues (like thyroid issues, etc…), weight loss comes down to what you are feeding yourself and how much you are moving.  If you put the good stuff in, in the right amounts, and you move often, your body is going to lose weight.

For years I yo-yo’ed between a size 6 and a size 14. I’d have three weeks of “good” and then weekends that devolved into weeks of bad.  Any progress I made was literally eaten away. And I did that - for years - until I finally (and fully and completely) decided I’m not going to do that anymore. Sure, I had said that countless times before, but I was just soooo over feeling and looking the way I did.

In the past, I had done Weight Watchers and been successful, so I knew writing stuff down would be important. There’s just something about having to “fess up” about what you’re eating that keeps you in check. Knowing that I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app. While the app will give you a calorie number to aim for (based off of your height and weight), I suggest you get an InBody Assessment that can give you an accurate number based on your body composition. You can do it at the gym! It’s easy! You just stand on something for like 3 minutes. Once you have that calorie goal number, make sure you track everything. The app makes it so easy - you can even scan the barcodes!!

Track Your Workouts

In addition to food, I suggest tracking the calories you burn during your workouts with a heart-rate monitor. The great thing about heart-rate monitors is that most of them can show you what level you are working in during your workouts. It’s a great way to check in with how hard you might be working. And actually - a lot of the time (or rather, most of the time) I see that I work the hardest when I’m lifting weights. Woohoo #girlswholift!

You might also want to consider wearing a pedometer - or something that tracks your daily steps. I actually burst through some of my plateaus by just making sure that I was getting in my 10,000 steps. It’s a great way to remind you to get moving!

For me, I found that keeping myself accountable was the only way I was going to be able to keep myself honest. As coaches, we can make sure you’re doing the work in the gym, but we can’t be there when you’re sitting in the drive-through line at McDonald's or standing in that freezer aisle at Trader Joe’s (that’s my downfall). In so many ways you have to be your own coach or ref when you’re out in the grocery/restaurant/real-life field. Finding a way to make yourself and keep yourself accountable (over the months and maybe years it takes to lose the weight) is the first step in winning the weight loss game!

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