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3 Significant Benefits of Taking Dance Classes

Dance is a universal art form that brings about many benefits to those who partake in its wonders. I personally have danced both recreationally and competitively for nearly 17 years and hope to continue to do so until I can’t walk anymore… and then I’ll still hope to be able to do a little diddly with my walker. Through dance you can build community, confidence, artistry, fitness, and more. This article will share several of the benefits of participating in dance classes and hopefully will inspire you to take a dance class in the near future!

Physical Benefits – Strength, Endurance, Etc.
Dancing is a very physically demanding activity. No matter what style of dance you prefer, there is bound to be some sort of physical challenge present while participating. Dancing in general can help you develop strength, flexibility, agility, and cardiovascular endurance. A dance class that is progressive and encompassing will also help you develop rhythm and coordination as well as skill acquisition from the technicality of learning complex dance movement. With more practice and class attendance, your skills will progress and develop into a mastery that is impressive, mesmerizing, and has the potential to promote confidence, self-efficacy, and overall competence. Dancing is a very unique physical activity where its benefits go far beyond the physical body, leading into areas such as the mind, soul, and community around you.

Relational Benefits – Community Building
Dance classes have a foundation based in community. It is hard to run a successful dance class without the community being a part of it. An example of this is in our current health crisis with dance establishments being forced to transition to online learning. Many dance studios have seen significant drops in enrollment due to their classes not feeling the same as they had felt previously, in-person. With in-person instruction, you reap the benefits of making friendships with fellow students, teachers, leaders, and parents and also receive hands on instruction, less personal distractions, and more intimate connections with those around you. It is common in dance classes for students to have to work together in groups with things like improvisation and choreography development that involves sensations like touching, hearing, seeing, and smelling those around you. As silly as it may seem, taking away partial or total access to these senses can completely destroy the experience for most participants.

Dance helps you connect with the people in your community in a way that ultimately makes you a more empathetic person. Dance breaks down barriers by putting all parties involved in a vulnerable position. Sharing a lack of skill, knowledge, rhythm, talent, etc. and building upon them together can create an extraordinary bond that builds communities one class at a time.

Artistic Benefits – Creative Expression
Dance can also be used as an avenue to express yourself creatively. Despite the technical aspects of traditional dance classes like Ballet, Jazz, and Hip Hop, dance has no boundaries. In my experience with traditional modern dance classes in college, I learned that dance can be expressed however you choose for it to be in whichever way you desire. A shake, shimmy, or even a simple walk across the stage can be your form of artistic expression. I’ve performed in numerous dance pieces that simply required me to run across the stage for 2-3 minutes with my best friends. This goes to show that it is not what you’re doing in a dance that matters, but how you’re communicating what you want to say through your movement.

Intention is the key ingredient of dance expression. It is with intent that you can turn a simple walk across a stage into a meander through a field of daisies or a dangerous walk along a tightrope 300 feet above ground level. Dance can be a medium to express your innermost frustrations, wants, worries, thoughts, etc. Dance can tell stories about the past, predict the future, or even ground you to the present moment. Dance is an opportunity to creatively express yourself in ways beyond your feral and visceral imagination.

If you’d like to take online dance classes while honoring the current shelter in place order here are two great resources for quality dance education and classes:

Steezy Studioshttps://www.steezy.co/
CLI Studioshttps://www.clistudios.com/

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3 Reasons to Increase Your Protein Intake

When venturing on a quest to either lose weight, gain weight (in the form of muscle mass), and/or maintain weight, monitoring your protein intake is a dietary habit that will help you achieve any one of these goals successfully. Protein is an awfully overlooked yet powerful tool in influencing energy balance and ultimately influencing body weight. Increasing your protein intake will help you build and maintain muscle mass, feel more satiated, and acutely increase your metabolism due to its thermic effect. This article will help you understand why having a relatively high protein intake is favorable to achieve these outcomes and will give you science-based estimations for the daily amount of protein to consume. 

#1) Retain/Build Muscle Mass

Increasing your protein intake while also engaging in a regular resistance training program has been shown to increase muscle mass and strength. Increasing your muscle mass is critical to optimal daily function and metabolic health. Muscle mass is the main contributing factor to your resting metabolic rate which determines how many calories you expend at rest. This number makes up approximately 60% of your total daily energy expenditure making it a value that is crucial in determining energy balance and weight regulation. 

Increasing your protein intake coupled with resistance training will also help you maintain muscle while being in a negative energy balance. Being in a negative energy balance, or energy deficit, leads to weight loss which can be derived from fat tissue, muscle tissue, water, and other sources within the body. Approximately 25% of weight lost while in an energy deficit is lean body mass with a significant amount of that lean body mass coming from muscle tissue. As mentioned previously, muscle mass is a critical factor in determining your resting metabolic rate making it a body tissue that is not ideal to lose during weight loss. Increasing your protein intake can help mitigate the risk of losing muscle mass during an energy deficit. 

A study by Areta et. al. showed that engaging in resistance training and consuming a relatively-high protein intake helped preserve lean body mass while losing body weight. In this study, participants who consumed 1.2 g/kg of protein per day (0.55g/lb/day) in conjunction with strength training 6 times per week retained their lean body mass over a 4 week period. Even more interesting, however, is another group who consumed 2.4 g/kg (1.09g/lb) of protein per day (3x the recommended daily allowance) in conjunction with strength training 6 times per week increased their lean body mass over the 4 week period. This study shows that increasing your protein intake well above the daily recommended amount may be beneficial to retaining muscle mass and preserving metabolic rate and health. 

#2) Feel Satiated

One of the main downsides of being in an energy deficit is the lack of feeling satiated post-feeding. This sensation is often due to the fact that your body’s energetic demands are not being met under these restrictive conditions. One of many options to combat this feeling is eating a diet higher in protein. 

Satiety is regulated by a multitude of systems within the body including the endocrine system, the cognitive and neural system, and the gastrointestinal system. According to a National Center for Biotechnology Information article titled, “A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats” a high protein diet can affect these systems that regulate our appetite. This article listed a study that used a standard tool to assess subjective appetite and satiety called a visual analogue scale. This scale showed that satiety was greatly increased after a meal containing 60% calories from protein as opposed to a meal only containing 19% calories from protein. Another study by Crovetti et al. confirmed these findings by showing that a meal containing 68% calories from protein was far more satiating than a meal containing only 10% calories from protein. These studies show that increasing protein intake per meal can lead to increased feelings of satiety and help maintain a reduced caloric intake overtime. 

#3) Increase Your Metabolism (Acutely) 

Metabolism is a multi-faceted mechanism that ultimately determines your body weight. There are four main parts of metabolism that affect the amount of calories you expend daily. These parts include: resting energy expenditure (~60%), non-exercise activity thermogenesis (~20%), exercise activity thermogenesis (~10%), and the thermic effect of food (~10). These factors combine to determine how many calories you expend daily and influence your body weight. 

Consuming a high protein diet can positively affect the last and seemingly least important part of the equation – the thermic effect of food. The thermic effect of food is the increased metabolic demand post food ingestion.  An NCBI article titled “Diet induced thermogenesis” states that “although DIT [thermic effect of food] is the smallest component, it could play a role in the development and/or maintenance of obesity.” This means that the thermic effect of food, although not incredibly significant, still plays an important role in managing body weight. 

The thermic effect of food differs between different macronutrients. According to the NCBI DIT article mentioned above, TEF values for protein are 20-30% meaning 20-30% of protein calories are used during metabolism for nutrient breakdown. Compared to other macronutrients such as fat (0-3%), carbohydrates (5-10%), and even alcohol (10-30%), protein has the highest TEF value inducing the greatest metabolic rate increase. This higher thermic effect of food has implications for the effect of nutrients on weight regulation. Although this point is not incredibly significant, it is still worth considering when trying to lose and/or maintain body weight. 

Summary 

There are many reasons to increase protein intake, especially under conditions of energy restriction, maintenance, and even energy surplus. Consuming a diet higher in protein can help you build/maintain muscle mass, feel more satiated, and even acutely increase your metabolism, all of which help in the regulation of body weight.  For more information on the sources cited in this article, visit these links listed below: 

SOURCES:

  1. Dietary Protein & Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application & Health Benefit

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566799/

  1. Dietary Protein, Weight Loss, & Weight Maintenance

https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev-nutr-080508-141056

  1. Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy w/ Resistance Exercise Training

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852756/

  1. A High-Protein Diet for Reducing Body Fat: Mechanisms & Possible Caveats

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4258944/

  1. Diet-Induced Thermogenesis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC524030/

  1. Revised Reference Values for the Intake of Protein

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6492513/

  1. Dietary Protein for Athletes: From Requirements to Optimum Adaptation

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22150425/

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So after all of this time, we are still here.

This post is not informative, nor will it give you any workout ideas or eating tricks to stay slim during the “Quarantine 15” or “Quarantine Productivity” contest. We’re experiencing an unprecedented pandemic and I understand how this may devastatingly affect some people more than others. Now that at least a full month has passed, however, I believe it is time to truly evaluate how we want to exit this quarantine season. An emphasis is put upon the word ‘season’ because this time is certainly only a season regardless of whether or not it is a long and arduous season, or a brief, passing moment in our lives.

We all have this time now to face our greatest insecurities, faults, idiosyncrasies, and so on. We also have this time now to reflect on our greatest accomplishments, triumphs, and desires. The nefarious beauty is in the fact that we get to choose for ourselves what to focus on during this time. You may think that you are not “choosing” anything, but inaction is action in its own right. It’s the choice to ignore everything that pulls you in the direction of growth, change, and transformation, which ultimately leads to destruction. 

This post is not to give any advice on what to do during quarantine, nor is it about what to do following quarantine. This is simply a thought-provoking prompt to encourage you to figure out what you want to have gained from this quarantine after it is over.

The fact of the matter is you already know what you need to do. There are no examples to be made of as everyone is unconstrained in their ability to work on their own personal narrative of success. I strongly encourage you to use what’s left of this time to re-associate with your true self. This time is a theoretical reset, a rebirth, so to speak, that can re-familiarize ourselves with what is paramount in life — and this paramount is different for everyone. So again, I strongly encourage you to use this dwindling time wisely so you can look back in confidence at what you’ve gained from it. Treat this time as a theoretical rebirth and come out of it more refreshed, rejuvenated, and refocused than before.

You are your greatest asset!

Coach T

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Accomplishing Through Habit Stacking

I truly believe that habits are the structural foundations of our lives.

Having an offset balance of “bad” or “good” habits can either set you up for guaranteed success or guaranteed failure, especially if you have a specific goal or aspiration in mind. A concept I’ve come across from researchers, public speakers, and teachers like BJ Fogg and James Clear is the concept of habit stacking. Habit stacking is as simple as stacking one habit on top of another to eventually establish a fixed routine. Habit stacking is a great way to incorporate solid routines into your life to lead you in the direction of guaranteed success. 

Habit stacking has to initiate from an already-established habit in order for it to become a part of a fixed routine. Believe it or not, most people have hundreds, if not, thousands of already-established habits in place that can be used to build an even-greater fixed routine via habit stacking. Think about the habits you already have established currently. At first it may seem challenging to come up with even 5 already-established habits, but it’s actually quite easy upon further examination. 

One way to start is to think about what habits you already have established in your morning routine. Standing out of bed, checking your phone, using the bathroom, (hopefully) brushing your teeth, taking a shower, and eating breakfast are all already-established habits. Take one of these already-established habits and tack on a new habit to immediately follow it. For example, if one of your aspirations is to become more intelligent, then reading may be a habit you would like to establish. Suppose after putting away your breakfast dishes you read 5 pages out of a book on a topic you’d like to learn more about. This establishes a habit of reading that is not too daunting to complete regularly. This also sets you in the direct path of your aspiration of becoming more intelligent, regardless of how much reading you actually do initially. 

One problem with goal setting and creating aspirations most people face is starting too big, too soon. If you try to read an entire book after breakfast, not only will it be incredibly time-consuming, but just the thought of having to complete this task will deter you from even starting it to begin with. This obviously leaves you in a worse position than if you’d have just read 1-5 pages initially post-breakfast. 

My biggest tip with habit stacking and eventually accomplishing your aspirations is to start very small. Starting small allows you to complete the desired behavior continuously over time which will not only build strong, fixed habits that lead you in the direction of success, but will also build the motivation needed to continue doing these habits and forming new habits that lead you towards success. Strong habits and fixed routines are the key to achieving anything you’d like to achieve in life. Just remember that all it takes is one small step in the right direction to set you up for long-term success.

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How to Stay Sane While Quarantined

Looking back at this past week, all I can conjure up is a giant question mark. What just happened?! It seemed as though talk about the corona virus went from taking vague and subtle precautions like washing your hands to a full-blown quarantine and social distancing in very little time. This quarantine can be a great source of stress for everyone, however, we can use this time to become laser-focused on our priorities; especially our physical, emotional, and psychological health. In this article, I’ll be sharing some methods I’ve been using during this quarantine to remain safe and sane throughout it. 

Tip #1: Take Daily Walks 

In my previous article titled “3 Major Benefits of Daily Walking,” I mentioned how daily walking can improve 3 major areas of our life including: weight loss and/or long-term weight loss maintenance, improved cardiovascular health, and improved mental health. In addition to these benefits, daily walking can reconnect you to the outside world whilst being forced to disconnect from it. During this quarantine it is recommended to stay away from large crowds so it is not recommended to walk in places that would involve that, however, a neighborhood walk typically would suffice. You may on occasion see the friendly, neighborhood lady walking her dog, but as long as your contact with her is limited and distanced, it should be safe to interact and go on about your day. Walking has helped me engage in self-reflection, listen to podcasts to learn new topics, circulate blood flow throughout my body, and listen to music/videos/other media I love so much! Walking is a great tool to keep those three previously mentioned health and well-being faucets in check (mental, physical, and emotional well-being). 

Tip #2: Exercise

There is no doubt in scientific literature that exercise in general can improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This makes exercise one of the most imperative habits to maintain during this quarantine. Both cardiovascular and strength training exercises should and can be done while in quarantine. For cardiovascular training, there are a multitude of workout modalities to try including but not limited to: walking, jogging/running, biking, HIIT (high intensity interval training), boxing, kickboxing, dancing, jumping rope, and/or running/walking up stairs. Within these workouts, there is room to tamper with training techniques including tempo, reps, sets, and duration to increase or decrease the intensity of the workout itself. Try slowly adding in one of these modalities to your workout routine to reap the benefits of cardiovascular training during this quarantine. 

Strength training is another very important exercise training method that is important to partake in while in quarantine. Of course with limited equipment, it can seem to be difficult to maintain an indoor strength training routine, however, it is very possible to maintain and (for some) even build muscle with bodyweight and limited-equipment, in-home workouts. My recommendations for the very beginning-newly intermediate crowd is to focus on compound bodyweight workouts with the goal of mastering the art of moving your own bodyweight through space. The amount of technique and strength required to efficiently do bodyweight workouts is often overlooked in the strength training community. Mastering compound bodyweight movements like push ups, chin/pull ups, squats, lunges, pike pushups, and planks will make doing these with weight in the gym incredibly easier and SAFER. In order to get the required muscle stimulus to reap the benefits of bodyweight training, it is recommended to train close to failure with these workouts. Training to failure simply means completing a certain number of reps until you find it physically impossible to complete more reps in that given set. Training close to this number means not completely reaching failure, but still reaching a point to induce a stimulus great enough to promote neuromuscular adaptations. This number varies drastically from person to person so it is best to do these exercises and determine that number on your own. 

Tip #3: Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods

Eating nutrient-dense foods has been recommended by all healthcare professionals as an imperative tool in preventive medicine. Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D. family physician, founder and director of The UltraWellness Center and columnist for The Huffington Post very blatantly acknowledges that “poor quality food = poor health.” Following Dr. Hyman’s educational Instagram and Twitter feeds, he recommends the consumption of colorful vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, and low-glycemic fruits because of their role in reducing inflammation, feeding our good gut bacteria, and balancing blood sugar. All of these factors greatly influence the body’s ability to ward off infectious diseases, like COVID-19, and can help improve immune system function in general. In this educational instagram post, Dr. Mark Hyman suggests these tips in using food to support your immune system function (click on the link above for the direct instagram post and more details on these recommendations): 

  • Cut out sugar/refined starches 
  • Get adequate protein intake (~1g/kg body weight/day)
  • Add spices to your soups/veggie dishes (turmeric, rosemary, oregano, garlic, onions, ginger, etc.) 
  • Eat lots of colorful fruits/vegetables 

 Tip #4: Meditate

This tip may seem to be the least important on this list, but may deceptively actually be one of the most important points featured. Meditation can greatly influence the body’s stress levels and can even lengthen telomere lengths. In relation to being quarantined due to COVID-19, reductions in stress can greatly affect the body’s ability to ward off infectious diseases. According to a National Institute of Health article titled, “Meditation: Process and effects,” meditation greatly reduces stress levels, while chronic stress levels can greatly shorten the length of telomeres. Telomeres are the “protective caps at the end of chromosomes that promote chromosomal stability. Shorter telomeres are associated with accelerated aging and related diseases.”

Dr. Mark Hyman is also an advocate of mediation’s stress reducing qualities citing a study that showed stress levels and their relation to susceptibility to viral diseases. In this study, volunteers were injected with a virus into their nasal passages. Volunteers who scored lower on the stress assessment questionnaire did not succumb to the virus injection while volunteers who scored higher on the stress assessment questionnaire did. Meditation has been a proven way to greatly reduce stress levels which is a critical component of preventive medicine and disease control. 

Tip #5: Work on Aspirations Through Habit-Forming

Everyone has at least one aspiration they would like to accomplish in their lifetime. This unanticipated time off can be a great opportunity to build momentum to eventually achieve this aspiration/aspirations. If you are someone who has not yet started on building these aspirations, take this opportunity as well to form habits that will eventually lead you towards achieving them.

Dr. BJ Fogg is an American social scientist at Stanford University who specializes in behavior modification and developing what he’s termed as “Tiny Habits.” After reading his book, “TINY HABITS,” I started to employ the techniques he recommends and have experienced tremendous momentum towards achieving my own aspirations. Summarizing the two major takeaways from Dr. Fogg’s book, “Tiny Habits,” he strongly suggests starting VERY small and celebrating every accomplishment along the way. Using a brief example with health and fitness, you may have the general aspiration of wanting to increase your strength. To start very small with this goal, for example, you could create a habit of doing 2 push ups after every bathroom break throughout the day. This may seem incredibly silly or monotonous, but the momentum gained from this achievement may (and almost guaranteed will) create a shift in actions that lead toward the habits necessary to accomplish the aspiration of gaining strength. But most importantly, Dr. Fogg recommends that you celebrate every time you complete the habit of doing those 2 push ups. These celebrations are not massive and can be as simple as doing a little dance or smiling at yourself in the mirror. Essentially, this action followed immediately after completing your habit will ignite the reward system in your brain and encourage you to continue doing this action.

To quote Dr. Fogg directly he states, “Remember that you change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad.” So incorporate positive reinforcement whenever you can to build habits that will lead you towards eventually accomplishing your aspirations. 

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MAKE NUTRITIOUS EATING EASY AGAIN

Finding nutritious food sources doesn’t have to be a hassle when a planned approach is taken constructively. The US federal government provides a comprehensive food guide called My Plate that is a great source of information to start on the journey towards healthier, more nutritious eating. An additional source of nutritional guidance can be found through an organization called ETR whose mission is to “improve health and increase opportunities for youth, families and communities. (https://www.etr.org/about-us/)”

ETR offers ‘My Plate on a Budget’ which is a pamphlet that features “creative, practical, and positive ways to eat well for less [money]” and offers tips on things like grocery shopping, meal planning, and portion control. This article will briefly discuss some of these recommendations to help you transition towards more nutrient-dense meals and snacks and provide clarity among some of the conflicting and often debilitating information that is circling the health and fitness space today. 

My Plate, In a Nutshell:

  • Eat more fruits and veggies.

Eating more fruits and veggies will ensure that your diet is filled with plenty of low-calorie, micronutrient-dense foods that will help you feel satiated over a longer period of time than the highly-processed, high-sugar/salt alternatives. In order to take advantage of the numerous micronutrient combinations in different fruits and veggies, eat a wide variety of these types of foods, especially dark, leafy greens, colorful veggies, and berries. 

  • Include grains at every meal.

Including whole grains, especially, will ensure that your diet is packed with more vitamins and nutrients including: protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and trace minerals (iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium). Examples of these kinds of foods include whole grain rice, pasta, and even lightly-salted/buttered popcorn. 

  • Include protein at every meal. 

Protein is the most satiating macronutrient of the three main macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats). Include lean (low fat) protein to keep calories from these foods to a minimum. Different foods with higher amounts of protein include: cheeses, meats, poultry, eggs, and seafood. The recommended daily intake for protein is 0.8g per kilogram of body weight (0.36g of protein per pound of body weight). 

  • Determine your personal daily caloric intake.

Some may want to lose body fat while others may want to gain muscle mass and/or body fat. Your daily caloric intake will be determined by your health and fitness goals. Choosemyplate.gov has a calorie calculator that determines what your daily caloric intake should be to reach your health and fitness goals. For the more athletic-seeking audience, I personally recommend using this calorie calculator that allows you to insert other variables into the equation to reach a more accurate daily caloric intake (https://www.niddk.nih.gov/bwp). 

My Plate on a Budget:

Listed below is the ETR My Plate on a Budget pamphlet that features great recommendations on nutritious eating on a budget. If you would like to order a physical copy of this pamphlet, follow this link to the ETR My Plate on a Budget website: https://www.etr.org/store/product/myplate-on-a-budget/

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Action, Motivation, & Habits

Utilizing these concepts to achieve gargantuan goals

Many people struggle with finding the will to take action when it comes to health and fitness. Some people seem to believe that a lightning strike of motivation will one day come along, striking you across the face, leaving you with the forever urge to take action once and for all… But clearly motivation does not work like that. Speaking from personal experience, motivation seems to occur in a cycle. The cycle must first begin with an action. This action doesn’t need to be a giant leap, but a first step. The first step taken will then lead to a greater sense of self-efficacy (belief in your own ability to execute behaviors) bringing about motivation and even then, a sudden urge to take more action. After a given amount of time in this stage, results will start to show leading to even more motivation and action. This cycle compounded over time is how gargantuan goals can be accomplished. Below is a visual representation of the action, motivation, and results cycle that occurs when accomplishing a gargantuan goal. 

Putting this into the perspective of health and fitness, one may have a gargantuan goal of losing 50 pounds. Looking at the goal by itself may seem intimidating and impossible to achieve, but breaking it down into the mobilizing action will direct you towards the path to achieving it. A mobilizing action is a habit. A habit is a task that can be completed with more or less no active thought behind it (Clear, James). A mobilizing action (habit) as mentioned above, does not have to be momentous or even take conscious effort. Realistically speaking, this mobilizing action could be as simple as putting on your running shoes and walking out the door. Eventually, this habit will form, solidify, and guide you towards taking actions like going for a 10 minute walk or going for a 5-10 minute run. Without the initial mobilizing action of putting on your running shoes and walking out the door, the following action of walking or running regularly cannot occur. 

This concept of developing mobilizing actions (or habits) can apply to any part of your life that you want to improve. This can apply to finances, health, fitness, relationships, and so much more. The fascinating truth about developing mobilizing actions is that once one is established, it tends to affect other interrelated aspects of our lives. For example, once you’ve established the mobilizing action mentioned above of putting on your running shoes, walking out the door, and going for a walk or run, you may notice that your eating habits will start to change to align with the action you’ve taken to partake in regular exercise. You may also have less time to partake in other less productive, sedentary habits like watching TV or mindlessly snacking on less nutritious foods. This may not (and most-likely will not) occur overnight, but it can create a snowball effect of positive changes that follow the cycle of action, results, motivation, and more action. It is important to remember, however, that this snowball effect had to be initiated by the very small mobilizing action (habit) of putting on running shoes and walking out the door. 


The biggest takeaway one can receive from this article is that no goal is too big to accomplish when approached from the right angle. Start with one small, mobilizing action that will eventually become a habit (emphasis on small as most people tend to start too big and become burned out at the thought of continuing a habit that cannot be made automatic). Continue that small, mobilizing habit enough to let it lead you to bigger actions that align with your gargantuan goal. Eventually, this pattern will compound over time to lead you towards realizing your gargantuan goal. A very important thing to remember is to trust the process. Logically, we know that gargantuan goals cannot be accomplished in a day, week, or even a month, but we’ll let emotions get in the way leaving us discouraged and disappointed at even just the beginning of the process. Any gargantuan goal worth achieving takes time, dedication, and a mobilizing action. Stick to the day-to-day process and trust in the sustained effort needed to see it through and you are guaranteed to accomplish your gargantuan goal.

Sources: 

Habits – James Clear https://jamesclear.com/habits

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3 Major Benefits of Daily Walking:

Why I love walking:

Walking is my personal favorite form of low-intensity cardiovascular training. Walking is one of the most easily accessible forms of cardiovascular training almost anyone can take on. At most, it requires shoes and space (or a treadmill), which most people have access to on a daily basis. Walking can be used to engage in daily meditation, exercise, education, and so much more. I personally walk while listening to podcasts or YouTube videos regarding fitness and health education. Sometimes, I’ll walk in silence just to observe the scene around me and/or partake in meditation and self-reflection. Walking brings about many different potential health benefits including but not limited to: weight management, improved cardiovascular health, and improved mental health. This article will discuss what I believe are the three main health benefits of daily walking.  

Weight Management

Walking is one of the most conveniently beneficial exercises for long-term weight management. As mentioned above, walking mostly only requires shoes and space (or a treadmill) to engage in as a regular activity making it fairly convenient for most people to do. This activity can be practiced daily with relatively no post-exercise soreness (depending on your walking duration, frequency, and intensity) making it less likely to interfere with other training activities and/or other daily activities. Daily walking can help maintain weight loss, even of substantial amounts. 

A study published in the Obesity Society: Obesity Journal compared physical activity energy expenditure and total daily energy expenditure in successful weight loss maintainers with two control groups: normal weight and overweight/obesity controls. The weight loss group maintained a 26.2 kg (~58 lb) weight loss for 9 years. The results of this study found that the physical activity expenditure of the  weight loss maintainers was significantly higher than that of the control groups (normal weight and overweight/obese groups). This study was not specific to walking, however, it did include the daily average step counts of each group. The weight loss maintainers averaged a step count of 12,256 steps daily while the normal control group averaged 9,047 steps daily. The overweight/obese group averaged step counts of 7,072 steps daily during this study. This study suggests that a higher amount of daily expenditure is necessary in order to successfully maintain weight loss. Aiming for step counts of 10-12,000 per day is advised to reach these optimal levels of daily expenditure.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Walking brings about many cardiovascular health benefits. According to a report mentioned in the Harvard Health Publishing article entitled “Walking: Your Steps to Health,” walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31% in both men and women, even at a relatively slow pace and short distance (2 mi/hr, 5.5 miles per week). Walking was also found to improve cardiac risk factors such as “cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness/inflammation, and mental stress.” Despite those cardiovascular health benefits, walking was also found to be helpful in the prevention of “dementia, peripheral artery disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, colon cancer, and even erectile dysfunction.” Walking for longer distances and/or at faster paces are known to bring about even greater health benefits. 

Improved Mental Health

Walking also brings about many psychological health benefits. According to research findings mentioned in the C3 Collaborating for Health Walking Report, walking was found to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression “resulting in [improved] quality of life and reductions in the medical costs associated with treating these disorders.” Walking was also found to improve cognitive performance. Cognitive performance measures mental processes such as “thinking, understanding and remembering.” Mentioned in the C3 Collaborating for Health Walking Report are many more mental health walking benefits including: 

  • reduced physical symptoms of anxiety associated w/ minor stress  
  • increased self‐reported energy levels when older adults set their own pace
  • improved quality of sleep  
  • better cognitive performance at school
  •  improved cognitive performance/reduced cognitive decline among older adults
  • increased size of the hippocampus & prefrontal cortex (directly affecting memory) 

(List provided directly from https://www.c3health.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/C3-report-on-walking-v-1-20120911.pdf)

As mentioned in the list above, regular walking provides many potential mental health benefits to everyone who participates. If you are struggling with mental health disorders (i.e. depression, anxiety, eating disorders) and/or show signs and symptoms of said disorders, seek help from a medical professional for treatment. The ideas, suggestions and comments made in this article are not to be prescribed  as a method of treatment for any type of mental health disorder.  

Article’s MVPs – Most Valuable Points:

  • Walking can increase daily energy expenditure leading to successful weight loss maintenance, even of substantial amounts. 
  • Walking can improve a multitude of cardiovascular health variables including but not limited to: cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. 
  • Walking can improve many mental health variables including but not limited to: cognitive performance, depression/anxiety symptoms, sleep quality, and stress. 

It’s a beautiful day to go for a walk! 

T

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Weight Loss v. Fat Loss & Caloric Deficits

Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss

Before digging into the topic of weight loss vs. fat loss, we first have to make a differentiation between the two concepts that are often mistakenly interchanged. Weight is a measure of your body’s gravitational pull to the earth, AKA mass. This measures the total mass of a multitude of body composition variables including your body water and muscle mass. Both body water and muscle mass are things that can drastically affect your weight. Fat loss, however, is the reduction of body fat which is what most populations aim for while claiming to want to “lose weight.” Preferably, weight loss should be achieved via fat loss while maintaining as much muscle mass as possible. 

So how do you lose fat? 

Fat loss is achieved only through being in a caloric deficit. All food contains calories and calories are units of energy. Being in a caloric deficit means that you are burning more calories than you consume typically through exercising more (burning calories) and/or eating less (consuming < calories). This process can be simplified by using tracking apps and/or reputable online calculators to determine how much energy your body needs daily and creating a deficit based on those calculations.  It is recommended to start with a shallow-moderate caloric deficit to reduce intense feelings of hunger that can lead to food overconsumption (binge episodes) and, ultimately, weight gain. Shallow-moderate caloric deficits will result in less rapid fat loss but are far more realistic when adherence overtime is considered. It is far more difficult to adhere to a program that includes a dramatic caloric deficit because intense feelings of hunger are likely to occur in this state and motivation/willpower, being temporary sources, will eventually cease. Consistent adherence to a shallow-moderate caloric deficit will ensure that fat loss is achieved and maintained overtime. 

So how do you know how many calories to consume?

A great online calculator to use to determine how many calories to consume daily is TDEE calculator (tdeecalculator.net). This calculator uses variables such as: gender, age, height, weight, and activity level to estimate how many calories you burn daily. Based on this estimation, you would subtract a given amount of calories daily to total the number of calories you need to burn to lose a given amount of weight per week. These daily caloric deficit amounts do not have to be equal as these amounts can be cycled up and down throughout the week (i.e. 500-calorie deficit on Monday’s and 200-calorie deficit on Thursday’s, etc.) as long as the caloric deficit equals the amount of calories needed to lose (X) amount of body fat by the end of the week. One pound of body fat is approximately 3,500 calories so to lose 1 pound of body fat per week, you would need to create a deficit of ~500 calories per day. Remember, this deficit can be created via both less food consumption and more physical activity. It is, however, recommended to lose no more than 1-2% of your body weight per week to create a maintainable caloric deficit. 

Remember:

Adherence to these principles will be the number one determinant for long-term fat loss success. Being very reasonable, patient, and consistent with your fat loss goals will help you achieve them without unnecessary added stress and anxiety. Keep these goals in mind throughout the process and be flexible enough to adjust them as needed throughout. Fat loss does not have to be complicated when approached with a scientific scope in mind. Calories in < Calories out. 

Article’s MVPs – Most Valuable Points:

  • Fat loss is only achieved through a caloric deficit. 
  • Determine your needed daily/weekly caloric deficit via an online calculator.
  • 1 lb of body fat is approximately 3,500 calories.
  • Fat loss should be no more than approximately 1-2% of your body weight per week for a more manageable/sustainable lifestyle. 
  • Use physical activity to complement your efforts towards losing body fat. 

Be REASONABLE, PATIENT, & CONSISTENT!

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My Fitness Journey:

Fitness and health were things that weren’t always on the forefront of my mind or priorities, especially at a young age. I grew up a competitive dancer and was naturally a very lean girl. It wasn’t until puberty hit around the age of 13 that I started to notice myself growing in ways I was not comfortable with at all. I went from an estimated 125-135 lbs in middle school to finishing high school at 165-170 lbs (on the low end). The funny thing was that, mentally, I still pictured myself as how I was in middle school, super lean. I think this was my mind’s way of denying that I needed to change my daily habits. In my defense, I was dancing 3-4 times a week so I thought that had to be enough to keep me active and healthy at that age. Strength training and nutrition weren’t even considered at this time in my life. 

Fast forward to the introduction of college and the start of major rejection and negative and/or lack of self-reflection. I auditioned for CSUF’s dance team and didn’t make it. This was the first time in my life I had felt a serious rejection while doing something that I knew I was naturally good at. I chalked it up to college dance programs only wanting to accept the stereotypical, femininely “pretty girls” (which was the exact opposite of what I was at the time) and not giving a fair shot to the rest of us. This could have been true, but I wasn’t even willing to self-reflect and consider that my technique needed cleaning and/or that my appearance didn’t reflect the type of dancer I should’ve projected myself to be for that particular audition. 

Through this first bout of college I ended up withdrawing from CSUF and continuing my education at FCC in their dance department. This was the first time I was constantly moving and rehearsing so of course my body composition drastically changed. I started dropping weight so rapidly and everyone around me noticed. The constant feedback of my peers temporarily motivated me to continue going. But then I stopped. I started working numerous random jobs and even stumbled upon partnering on a business deal to open a local dance studio, but none of this was satisfying enough (not to mention still left me very much broke and borderline depressed). 

I decided I wanted to go back to school and do it the right way for the first time in my life. I started casually weightlifting around the age of 22 after meeting my boyfriend and loved how empowered I felt lifting heavy weights. I even got certified as a personal trainer just to be able to join a company and start training people for side income but that of course fell through even before starting the dance studio. At this point in my life I was left to decide what route I wanted to take if I were to take my degree seriously; with the intent to start a career afterward. I had to pick between dance (my lifelong passion) or fitness (my recent hobby). I can’t lie and say that my decision wasn’t mostly determined by the job market for both of these careers. Logically, it made more sense to pick a major that had the potential to lead to numerous career paths and not limited ones so I picked Kinesiology. 

At the start of my first semester in the Kinesiology program, I was dead broke, mentally exhausted and physically out of shape from not being in the gym due to a back injury sustained demonstrating a silly, trivial dance move (lol). I had to help run the dance business which included near-daily social media posts, daily practices, performances, choreography, and an upcoming grand opening while trying to balance school, getting a very limited salary from the dance studio, relationships (family/friends/boyfriend), and getting back into the gym. As you can imagine, this schedule included nightly binges, crying sessions, and thoughts of “What the hell am I doing and why the hell am I doing it?!” Meanwhile, my boyfriend is telling me what I knew I had to do all along. QUIT. But not quit school (obviously). Quit the place that I literally dreaded going to during this season. It was too much for me to handle with my new priorities. The studio became my worst nightmare at that time. I very abruptly decided to quit and didn’t go back. 

Coincidentally, I saw a job opportunity for a kickboxing gym called 9Round and was so reluctant to apply. I hadn’t trained anyone in so long and I knew nothing about kickboxing to qualify me for this position. I felt like an imposter applying for it but something in my gut told me to do it anyway. I got the job and gained so much more than I could imagine after doing so. I gained a team of super helpful, qualified fitness mentors that have literally molded me into a completely different person in 4 months time. I started taking fitness seriously for the first time in my life minding things like nutrition, protein, calorie expenditure, etc. Things that the “old me” honestly didn’t even know about until school brought it to my attention. This gym just embodied everything I was learning about in school and complemented my life so well at the time. 

Now, I am still working at the same gym and have 2-3 more semesters left before graduating with my bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. I’ve lost 12 pounds and have made massive strength gains in the gym since joining the 9Round team. I partake in daily meditation to recenter myself to my purpose in life and take daily walks in the morning while listening to fitness-related podcasts. I’ve become that person that’s kinda annoying on Instagram but you really enjoy watching them (lowkey) because you’re amazed by their persistence. I’ve become a confident person who looks for opportunities to socialize and open myself up to the world instead of hermit crabbing it all day, everyday like before. I love my life in the season I’m in and cannot imagine what I would do if I hadn’t gone back to school. That was the game changer for me and the catalyst to this great life I now live. I am forever grateful for education! Stay in school, kids. 😉