Lifestyle

Why Too Much HIIT Is Killing Your Progress

...And How You Can Incorporate Intense Training For Maximum Results

HIIT workouts are EVERYWHERE. From Barry’s on the east coast to Orange Theory on the West Coast. Think those combo treadmill/dumbbell workouts are it though? Soul Cycle and Flywheel are the HIIT of cycling. In most cases, your neighborhood hot yoga class is probably an HIIT workout more than it is an ancient mobility practice. The magazines and the Instagram fit-pros pretty much deal in nothing else. And oh yes, Crossfit is an HIIT workout too. 

There are multiple reasons to explain why  HIIT training has become the new go-to workout. But, they aren't what you might think.

HIIT training is (on first glance) accessible. It’s what we call in the industry low-barrier-of-entry. Don't be fooled, though. That does not mean that the workouts are easy. Decidedly the opposite is true. What it means to boutique fitness is that instructors can pack a class in a relatively small space with dozens of bodies and minimal equipment. And similarly for the IG stars and fitness editors, they can provide a workout that followers can perform in their living rooms without registering for a class. 

HIIT also fits our deeply engrained ideas of what an effective workout is. We believe that training should be ALWAYS be hard. It should leave you feeling spent, sweaty, and sore, right? This assumption is not true. But HIIT checks all those boxes we’re tempted to tick. 

But wait! Isn’t HIIT so popular because it’s good for fat-loss???

Well, yes. Of course it can be. But any new and novel training style will result in initially favorable fat-loss. And HIIT certainly has it’s place as PART of a well rounded fitness regimen. But as most things go, too much of anything is too much. 

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And that too much - that high level of intense acute stress can turn into chronic stress that threatens your health and sabotages your success.

Now anecdotally, you may have already come to this conclusion on your own without knowing exactly why. You want to lose fat but no matter how much you increase your effort, you seem to have plateaued. And you’re supposed to be getting strong, but in fact you’re realizing more aches and pains than when you started.

So why does progress seem to reverse when you’re working out hard? And how can you incorporate HIIT into your program with favorable results? Those successful studies on the multitude of benefits must have some merit, yes?

Well, I went to my friend Justin to get some clarity on this very complicated and potentially frustrating issue. Justin Janoska is a clinical nutritionist and coach who helps women facing autoimmune disorders turn their lives around. He is an expert when it comes to hormones. And that’s what we spent much of our time chatting about.

It All Depends On Stress And Hormones

You see, different types of workouts elicit different hormonal responses. And workouts that are super stressful, just like life situations that are super stressful, temporarily cause a spike in cortisol. This acute elevation isn’t bad as you might have heard. Chronically elevated cortisol is a problem though.  It’s persistent and prolonged bouts of stress that result in excess cortisol and subsequent belly fat buildup.

“Hormones dictate your ability to lose weight before calories can even be spoken about,” says Justin. “If abnormal cortisol and thyroid hormones levels are present, no amount of caloric restriction or deficit will push the needle.”

This is why consistent under-eating and frequent hard workouts may have little or no effect on your ability to make physique progress. 

What’s even more startling is that this particular kind of hormone dyregulation can result in digestive havoc and induce cognitive changes in your brain - i.e. giving you problems like IBS, depression, and a multitude of autoimmune disorders that seem unrelated.

“It literally puts the kabosh on any chance of weight loss because the body is too preoccupied with overcoming the challenges. Bionergetically, its shifting towards immune function and inflammation, which is costly in energy requirement.” says Justin. Think of it like going into fight or flight-mode. Basic body functions gets under prioritized as your body struggles to adapt.

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Too little cortisol is not good either. Your training program should provide the RIGHT amount of stress, an appropriate challenge that your body can adapt to. But without any stimulus, there can be no prompted change either.

How To Incorporate HIIT Correctly

You can totally avoid the negative health effects of chronically elevated stress hormones, and find your own RIGHT amount of HIIT for the positive results you’ve read about, if you follow these simple but important guidelines.

1. Realize that HIIT is one course of the meal that is your personal fitness plan.

 And if you want to get really specific with your metaphors, consider it dessert. It’s the “use sparingly”, indulgent treat of the fitness pyramid and should be treated as such. Your training plan should be grounded in mobility and highlighted by focused strength and rhythmic cardiovascular sessions. But that doesn’t mean that Barry’s class you love to take with all your friends and your favorite instructor doesn’t belong. Fitness should be fun. Simply try scaling back to just 1 or 2 times per week.

Monitor your body’s response.

It can be difficult to know if you're pushing too hard. But you can ask yourself these guided questions: Do you feel at least 80% recovered at the beginning of each new interval? Is your heart rate back to normal by the time you get to the subway or your car? Do you sleep well that night and wake up feeling rested? Just these simple questions can start a really good inner dialogue, which Justin says is key for figuring out what works for you.

Stay conservative.

This can be tough if the prescribed parameters from the instructor are extreme to begin with. And that added pressure of class competition and having your results displayed on a huge screen can also tempt you to screw it and go beast mode. But, don’t be afraid to be that girl doing something different(this is bigger if advice too). I always recommend my lovelies begin at a 1:2 work:rest ratio. So if you have 30 second bouts of burpees, break 60 seconds. This will also allow you to crush the pace and keep the intensity high. When you can no longer recover in 60 seconds, take a longer break, switch things up, or call it.

Monitor the intensity of other stressors.

Like your emotions, job, relationships, finances, etc. Stress is stress. If the intensity in these other areas of your life is high, you may not need to add additional fuel to the fire by ending the workout in a puddle of your own sweat and starting the next day too  gassed and stiff to be productive. What’s the cost? What’s the benefit? If the benefit isn’t higher, find a less intense outlet to move your body and blow off steam. Resume when conditions improve. 

And most importantly, remember that fat-loss and fitness are about working WITH your body, not against it. 

Ready to try something new? For just

What Would a *blank* Person Do?

January is historically always about optimism.

But February? Well, more often than not, this month is really all about guilt.

We approach our resolutions bright eyed and hopeful. We make a list. We check it off. We pat ourselves on the back for every single small triumph.

Until we slip up.

And then suddenly all of our accomplishments disappear from our memory. We begin to replace them with a new list.

We now have a record of our failures. And they seem to have added up so much faster than the good things we previously tallied.

They shifted our mindset. And our brains silently drew a conclusion from all the data: That we, as people, are just as bad as the decisions we got hung up on.

You might not have even realized this subtle shift. But you've probably operated on it as some point in your life.

Don't worry. You're not alone. It's in our DNA. Our brains are just hard wired to focus on the silly stuff. 

The problem is, when we label ourselves as "bad," we tend to make decisions that are accordingly bad.

And this derails all of our intentions to cultivate real change.

Stop the train before you crash in a fire of anxiety and self-deprication, with a full bag of Tostitos. 

When you find yourself keeping score and you need a little fresh perspective, come back to the present with this simple question: Ask yourself,

"What would a *blank* person do?"

And you can insert any adjective that fits your intention or describes the kind of human you want to be.

Good, smart, mindful, graceful, wise, responsible, enlightened, whatever suits you.

Me? When I don't know what to do next -- when I can't seem to figure out what the right thing is and I've been sweating the small stuff real hard...

How would a real ass, boss bitch, sophisticated lady handle her shit?

And then everything is quite clear.

#sophisticatedladyshit #bossy #sophisticatedstrength

So You Are Totally Body Positive, But You Still Totally Want To Be Lean?

Not so fast! Before we get into this story… Am I calling out the Body Positive Movement? The one that is sponsored by mega companies like Dove and American Eagle? The one that is being pushed by some very smart and influential fitness professionals?

Yes. Yes, I am.

I have some beef. But, I’m not here to attack the idea that women shouldn’t love their bodies, accept themselves, and be intuitive about self-care. I actually believe these skills are imperative to any kind of body composition journey and I am so incredibly happy that they are seeing the spotlight. I consider myself on board.

I’m simply sharing my story of prepping for figure competitions,  maintaining a svelte body on the daily, and the small shift that can divide stressful weight loss from self-loving and intuitive leanness. OK?

I've got love for everyone. But when it's implied that all lean individuals must be some measure of crazy and MY clients start coming in ashamed of or intimidated by their goals...

Let’s get into it.

A New Hope

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (or maybe just New Jersey), there was a little lost girl named Ashleigh. Maybe not so little. She had definitely just put on about five pounds of muscle and had competed in figure division. But I digress.. 

Anyway, Ashleigh was 13% body fat (which is a pretty lean body composition reading on the scale). And she was not happy.

I want you to keep reading here. Stay with me, because unlike all the rest of the typical body positive posts, this one doesn’t really end up the way you’ve come to expect. At the conclusion of our tale, little Ashleigh is all grown up (ok, or maybe just a few years older and wiser), and she is 13% body fat and lives happily ever after…

…I'm sorry, What?

That’s not how the story is supposed to go, right? Where are the before-and-after photos that look like a reverse transformation?

 I mean, I definitely put on close to 10 pounds of muscle since then. i weighed about 128 lbs. in 2013. Right now it varies from 136-138 lbs.

I mean, I definitely put on close to 10 pounds of muscle since then. i weighed about 128 lbs. in 2013. Right now it varies from 136-138 lbs.

Isn’t she supposed to put on like 10-20 pounds and four inches on the waist in order to finally feel at peace with her feminine body?

People.

Come on.

While I may be referencing Star Wars, this is not a fucking fairy tale.

I am a 28 yr-old perpetually single girl running my own life and business on my own in the very real hustle that is New York City. I ain’t got no time for fairy tales. 

Been there. Done that. He was a complete disaster. ANYWAY… back to the 13% body fat.

First, I am a PERSONAL TRAINER. THIS IS WHAT I DO FOR A LIVING OMG. I have a responsibility to myself and to my clients to maintain an athletic body that can perform at a high level and also rock a fitness photo shoot when asked. I need to be a role model and set a high standard for my clients.

But more importantly than that, I don’t personally have the mental toughness required to live in a body that doesn’t feel right to me. And when I am 13% body fat, my body can feel so damn good. And when it does, it’s because I am being so damn good to my body. 

I give it the nutrition it needs. I challenge it with training, but I respect it’s capabilities.

I give it yoga and meditation. I challenge it with work, but I offer it rest.

 

Same Bod, Different Mindset

Ok, ok. I know what you’re thinking. This story doesn’t make any sense. How could I go from being unhappy to happy at the same 13%? 

And this sounds like sunshine and rainbows, not dark clouds and tough times. 

Where is the typical horror story that all these fit pros narrate? Where does the external transformation come in? Where is the crashed metabolism and the low self-esteem?

Again, this is not a fantastic piece. And it certainly isn’t any kind of nightmare.

But… there was a time that Ashleigh woke up in a cold sweat. And this is where the story really begins.

She was about 24. She had completed a figure competition with ease. And I mean EASE. She used Dan John’s Easy Strength program to get there. "What are macros?" she wondered. She had never felt better or looked better.

 First figure comp, feeling so damn good!   

First figure comp, feeling so damn good!

 

But somewhere between that first prep for May and the following show in September, little Ashleigh lost her goddamn mind(wouldn’t be the last time lolz).

Her family and personal life spiraled out of control. Those tales are not part of this story so we’ll skip the details. But suffice it to say, our little Ashleigh found escape from it all by preparing for the next competition.

And that is when she took it too far. Way too far.

She measured her progress far too often. She ate almost no carbs. She trained at least two hours a day. She experienced a heinous injury. And she really did not like herself at all.

Ashleigh knew something had to change. She was caught in a vicious cycle. As the days passed, it seemed as though it became increasingly difficult to maintain her ideal body composition.

More restriction was required. More working out was necessary.

But she still wanted to to be lean. And she was not willing to give that up so easily. Purchasing a new padawan wardrobe was not going to fit her budget.

Our reluctant heroine had come to an impasse. She had to choose a new ending.

 

Reacting Vs. Responding

Now in life, when we are faced with a problem — We don’t like the way things are and we need a change — It was originally thought that we have one of two options. 

There really are no unexpected plot twists in real life.

We either react

Or we respond.

That’s it.

Reaction, meaning that we act too quickly and impulsively, and let emotions rule the decision. Response means that we take time to reflect and let logic and intuition direct our move.

 Found this gem on Pinterest.

Found this gem on Pinterest.

But somewhere along the line, the Body Positive Movement created this new third option.

Do nothing.

Do nothing. Forget the goal, and convince yourself that you are content exactly where you are now.

WHATTTT????

I’m sorry. This option might legitimately be the right choice for some people. And I have to believe that these reverse transformation posts are directed at that specific audience.

We’re talking specifically about physique goals here. Perhaps a person wants to achieve something too extreme or it’s an unhealthy pursuit for their current head state.

But in most cases (even beyond training goals), I believe the following to be true:

You can try to play lots of Jedi mind tricks with your brain to pretend like you’re not being called to some kind of higher goal or purpose.

But even Luke Skywalker had to go on the Hero’s journey just like everyone else. 

It would have been a really boring movie if Luke had stayed on Tatooine and pretended he didn’t want to go on an adventure and learn what he needed to know about himself.

Let's apply this to fitness. You can react, respond, or do nothing. 

And this is a really, really important note: If you want defined abs and body positive culture (or your trainer, or some "expert") is telling you that’s not a sufficiently righteous enough purpose, as seems to be the current trend, consider me the omnipotent presence that shows up to reassure you. 

You can even call me Obi Wan if you like.

 But like, Obi Wan if he was a woman and wore lots of platforms. BTW this is me, any given day.

But like, Obi Wan if he was a woman and wore lots of platforms. BTW this is me, any given day.

Your desires are real and valid. They are a call to action. And aesthetic goals are ABSOLUTELY a legitimate purpose as they correlate directly with adopting healthier life habits and building strength and good movement patterns(See I’m with you on prioritizing strength and movement, body positive people!)

You can either react by dieting erratically and over-exercising, you can do nothing by attempting to love yourself just the way you are (and ignoring the call), or you can…

Respond.

Aesthetic physique goals, even seemingly “elite” ones, are absolutely attainable in a safe and sustainable way.

Let’s go back to our reluctant heroine’s story…

Well, baby Ashleigh reacted, fueled by the negative things happening in her life, to the task of staying lean for her second competition. She had experienced a certain amount of luck in her first prep. She tested out her theories on how to prepare and they worked. And she did it all on her own. 

But despite her success, she didn’t trust herself. And she crashed on the second round. She felt terrible about herself. Even though she looked pretty great. 

You see, body image is directly related to our overall health. This is where the whole self esteem thing comes in. She was unhappy at 13% because she wasn’t healthy.

She had restricted her body to the point where it was in a constant state of stress. And because this state was so threatening, she had no idea what was going on inside that body and kept comparing it to ever other body. She didn't even think she looked good half the time.

Now this last part of the self-esteem problem might be tough for you non-fit pros to understand. But it's an important note. She questioned her competence as a trainer in this shaken state. 

And so as painful as it was, this crash prompted Ashleigh to make a change. To respond.

#WhatWouldCampbellDo?

She knew she had to get a squad if she was gonna go on a tough journey. Some Han Solo types if you will. People who could be objective. So she found support.

She went out and learned. She had to find the Yodas. Real experts and research to discover why things worked the first time and what was so wrong abut the second.

And she had to find the force again. To realize that she was going to need to go deep and trust her soul voice. 

She tested out her own theories, but with newfound confidence. She learned to trust her intuition, while relying on others.

Of course, there were Siths who tried to throw her off course. People who said it couldn’t be done. But she learned the ways of the force, to drown out these voices and only hear her own heart.

She didn’t let fear guide her. She resisted the dark side.

 

How You TOO, Can Defeat The Dark Side

Of course your big goals are always going to be somewhat scary. You’re signing yourself up for struggle and discomfort and work! 

But there are certain truths you need to remember when you feel like you want to hesitate.

There Is Always Someone Who Can Help You Find Your Way

We all need a coach, someone who can guide us through the process and prevent us from veering off course. Find yourself a Yoda, someone more experienced and wiser, with the practical expertise you desire, who can act as your spiritual guide. Put trust in someone else.

You Can Learn To Master Your Fear

When we get discouraged by our failures or frustrated by someone else’s success during this very personal journey, that’s just our ego getting pushed around a bit. 

We have to be able to hear that fear without acting(or not acting) on it. That’s the difference between the dark side and the force. Choose the force. Choose strength.

I failed on my odyssey several times. I look forward to falling down again. Failures are part of life. Keep smiling and keep fighting.

Change is Inherently Uncomfortable For Everyone

Realize the process is going to push you out of your comfort zone. But the second we get started on something that seems too big and daunting, the anxiety begins to diminish immediately.

Take the first step. and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

You Need a Squad

You need caring listeners who will hear your struggles and let you talk out your fears. You need objective judges to tell you when you’re making progress. And you need your girlfriends to warn you when you start sounding straight crazy.

You Hold The Power

The Obi-Wans, the god-like characters that appear in stories to light the fire --  the ones who show up at just the right moment in the middle of the battle when all seems lost? They’re not real in the sense that they are human or separate from the main character. They are an extension of the Hero — A projection of your own divinity to remind you that you alone hold the almighty spirit required to get where you want to go. All of the power lies within you.

And finally...

Chart Your Own Course

This is your story!

Luke had to answer the call. He had to look to within. He couldn’t have done it without R-2 and the rest of the crew. And he couldn’t have done it if he stayed on the farm.

Ashleigh had to get real uncomfortable. She had to silence her fear, learn more about herself, trust others, and work smarter.

 Me, on Thursday. Any Thursday, really. But it was last Thursday.

Me, on Thursday. Any Thursday, really. But it was last Thursday.

These are the things you never hear from these one-man show reverse transformations. And there are certainly great lessons in their stories.

But the experts who tell you your goals are unhealthy or not worthy evade the power of response -- the self-discipline, wisdom, time, effort, and accountability that goes into crafting truly elite or transformative fitness goals.

You don’t hear about how they change things and try again. Or how they bring in other experts to guide them through. Because they thought they knew everything. I get that. As I explained, I've been there too.

I don't want to assume too much, but I would venture to conclude that these pros attached their self-worth not only to their physiques, but to their ability to coach themselves successfully as well. 

That's their story. 

But that doesn’t have to be your story.

and speaking of squads… I'd love to be part of yours! E-mail me any time ashleigh@sophisticatedstrength.com

#bodybuilderpositive #followtheforce #sophisticatedstrength

The Ultimate Photo Shoot Prep Protocol

I Was Wrong

As a seasoned lifestyle coach and fitness model(I'ma use that second title loosely), I used to handle planned cuts as a "Do as I say, not as I do," sort of thing. I'd carry around my gallon jug of Poland Spring and answer the inquiries of my clients all day long, but still warn them NOT to try this at home. 

I can be really stalwart sometimes, almost to a fault. My heart is always in the right place. I simply don’t want people to think that a shredding protocol is a normal, every-day-appropriate kind of thing. That’s just not the kind of platform I want to find myself shouting from. And I so dearly love to shout.

I mean — cuts are only for momentous, life-changing events, like baring butt cheeks on Instagram or strutting the bodybuilding stage in stripper heels, covered in nine layers of tanning gunk. The real deal, body-on-display kinda shit, right?

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But, after the past few years, I’ve experienced a revelation. I have radically changed my philosophy, realizing now that my inflexibility was actually misplaced righteousness and a blemish on my credibility.  All because I've gotten the chance to work with clients who became my best girlfriends. 

The Brides Changed Everything

I train a lot of brides. I've built a respected name on the bridal boot camp circuit in NYC. And I've prided myself on getting my gorgeous girls sustainably skinny, something they can maintain well past the big day.

But no matter how many inches we eliminate from their waistlines (five in six months on my last beauty, Meghan, pictured below), they always ask about that little something extra they can do the week before; quite obviously hinting at my #1weekout progress checks on social media. 

 The gorgeous, Meghan.

The gorgeous, Meghan.

Now, as I said, when it comes to my brides, we usually end up transcending the traditional trainer-client relationship. We might only be #sweatingforthewedding six months in advance, but we go through a major stage of life together.

It's an honor, really, all the trust they place in me. We talk about exes and go to dress fittings and gossip about in-laws… everything I'll do with my best friends when they get married.

That particular personal perspective really changed everything for me -- thinking of my girls as friends rather than clients. Really shifted the authoritative do-as-I-say mantra. 

I realized I had only one question to consider. If my girl, Lauren, asked me over drinks what she should do to get her body looking it’s absolute best on her big day, how would I answer?

Let's be real. I would grab a cocktail napkin and start jotting down the protocol immediately.

And here's why...

The first and least important fact is that if I don't give these ladies or my friends the answers they're looking for, they will find an answer. Because the internet. And who knows what kind of wild and crazy advice they'll end up following after that search. I googled the subject myself, and anything that appears on the first results page is woefully misinformed or simply incomplete. 

The second, and more important truth is this:  the altar, chuppah, beach or whatever holy ground they stand upon to exchange those vows is way more significant than any auditorium stage I will ever strut across in a fitness competition. 

You better believe that should I ever choose to make that matrimonial commitment(and I have no designs on any kind of big expensive event even), I'll look better on my wedding day than I have in my whole life. I am not even a little bit ashamed of my vanity or femininity in wanting to look and feel beautiful for myself or whomever stands next to me at the courthouse(should I be so lucky to want to). 

I'd help my best friend cut for literally any important event. I do it myself. I refuse to be a hypocrite.

And if you've got a major life event or photo shoot that you want to look absolutely on point for? Well, you have absolutely every right to. So while I generally promote sustainable change, for the sake of my integrity, I am not going to be the girl to tell you no. In fact, I plan to give you all of my time-tested, trial-and-error secrets in a three-week plan below.  

You Can Get Lucky But...

The third and most important reason has more to do with confidence. But we need to talk a little science, here.

Pictured Left: 1 day out from the shoot picture Right: looking significantly leaner and meaner

Some days you just get lucky. You wake up and look shredded. Your muscles are defined. Your tummy is tight and flat. Everything you hope to look in the mirror and see, is before your eyes. So you praise yourself for your hard work and good choices. You proceed to avoid carbs all day and hit some extra cardio because you are on a roll here! Its's working. You are the most motivated! And the next day BAM, you look kinda bloated and your muscles seem to have disappeared. 

What the fuck, right?

This is because the of the chemical bonding properties of glucose. We could get really into it, but the short story is, your carb molecules bond really easily with water. So the more carbs you eat, the more water you tend to hold onto.

And we all know salt can help our bodies retain water well, too.

All of these things don't really matter from day to day. It's just a little bit of chemistry -- getting the perfect balance of water, salt, and carbs. If you're really lean, you'll look it no matter what. I promise you. Just stay the course and follow your regular training plan. 

But, if you do happen to have a special occasion, and there is real possibility to get it just right... Why leave it to chance? 

Now, I’m not going to try and sell you on the shred. That is again, not my soap box. But there is this truth:

My typical bride is standing between Stella McCartney and an over-zealous mother-in-law(WHY are they ALWAYS like this?) while a pretty major life event looms ahead.

If I can ensure they don’t wake up and text me “I feel bloated” on top of everything else they’re dealing with? 

You bet your bottom I'm going to do everything possible to help. To know they can (and will!) look their absolute bests is one more worry off their(and mine!) minds. 

And when it comes down to it. the real thing we’re talking about here is the confidence that comes with knowing you are prepared and feeling you look your best. It’s really the psychological shift that occurs.

I mean, if you care enough to have come across this article in your research, I know you’ve done the work and you’ll look gorgeous anyway. I can't stress that enough. 

But, like I said, I wouldn’t leave it to chance either. I’m a 28-year-old single girl in New York City. Damn straight I'm gonna make sure I rock that dress, slay the stage, nail the audition, or totally shove it in an ex’s face(I’m a righteous BRAT sometimes, too), if that’s what the occasion calls for.

This is a four week program but we're going to break it into parts. Four weeks out, five days out, and one day out from your intended date.

Note: My brides DO NOT do the full water cut at the end of this article. I have an abridged version for special occasions. Shoot me an e-mail if you have interest in that. I also post about quick cutting on snapchat.
 I learned what I know from a couple years on the figure circuit and further years building a portfolio and going to auditions.

I learned what I know from a couple years on the figure circuit and further years building a portfolio and going to auditions.

6 Months Out

You thought this was a four week plan? It is. But, it must be stated that to look any level of shredded on the other side, you need to be doing a dedicated strength training program in the first place. And you also need to be eating healthy to begin with. 

This protocol is somewhat of a magic trick, but even magic has limitations. There has to be muscle to strip water and fat off of, to get that defined look. Hypertrophy does not happen overnight. 

My client Kim followed a very solid program, lifting three days per week to get arms that were the envy of all of her wedding guests. My jaw literally dropped when the texts started coming in the day after. 

Kim trained with the very complimentary intentions of building strength and improving mobility in mind. So, look for a program that is progressive and contains the big, traditional lifts. Deadlift. Squat. Bench. Pull-up. 

I happen to be an expert on this subject. BUT, I also think you can find some awesome programs or coaching by Nia Shanks, Jordan Syatt, or Dan John, to name a few. These are a few people I respect. And I've personally used a few different Dan John programs like Easy Strength to get to a show.

It’s also a perfect time to start a solid creatine regimen if you’re into that sort of thing. Creatine is naturally occurring in the body and has a load of benefits listed here by Poliquin Group that will result in superior strength and physique gains.

4 Weeks Out

Food

Take three weeks to carb cycle. And that’s nothing more than eating more carbs one day, and relatively less the next day. On high carb days, get your rice and potatoes, your starchier carbs. On your low carb days, focus on looking for healthy fats: coconut oil, salmon, avocado, egg yolks, cashews, even butter if it’s grass-fed good stuff. Fill in with fruits where you need them to feel fresh and energetic.

On all days, primary to your fat and carb considerations, prioritize protein. Josh Hillis, Co-author of Fat Loss Happens on Monday, says that you need at least .75g protein per pound of body weight to lose fat. I completely agree. I think for this particular three weeks you should even strive for 1.0g. In fact, I advise my clients who are trying to get EXTREMELY lean,  competition-ready, to hit 1.2.

Know where you fall on this spectrum. Consider things like how much you are consuming now and what your end aesthetic goal looks like when choosing your sweet spot. For instance, if you are currently at .7g, hitting .85 or .9 every day is life-changing. You don't need to force anything more.

Prioritizing protein also intrinsically controls the amounts of fat and carbohydrate you consume. For this very reason, it’s not terribly important to have exact numbers in those categories as you increase protein. You’ll just be less hungry and naturally cut those things by listening to your body. 

Some other miscellaneous things

  • Kiersten Weber-Schunke (Nutritionist and Elite Trainer at ONE Human Performance) taught me to eat as many leafy greens as possible. All that extra spinach ensures you can better metabolize all the extra protein you’ve added. If you have some stomach issues and greens are tough to digest, try cooking them, blending them down or utilizing a green supplement like Onnit Earth Grown Nutrients
  • Branched-chain amino acids during and post-workout are another great add-in. Consider that your muscles are the back-bone of the fat-loss machine you are building. They get beat up when you exercise. A BCAA supplement will stop them from breaking down and preserve your fat-blasting tools.
  • Keep your feeding window under 12 hours. So if you eat dinner at 7pm, don’t break the fast until 7am. I’ve found that, if possible, shortening to 8 or 9 hours is ideal. Note: You still need to eat the same amount of food you would have in this smaller time frame.

Training

Less is more. Seriously. This is not the time to forget your head and break all the rules to #sweateveryday. Especially since, from a fat-loss standpoint, it’s much more optimal to split your strength and cardio into two different sessions. You could easily alternate lifting one day, and sprinting or rowing the next for the two weeks, taking a day off if your body tells you it needs a break — waking up tired, having trouble falling asleep, significant drop in power output or strength… just feeling BLAH is also valid here. Like I said, stress loss is synonymous with fat loss. Don't allow the devil on your shoulder, the impending date, to take control here.

On your lifting days, focus on some heavy volume. Lift relatively heavy weight for more reps than you’ve been doing.  But do not, I repeat, DO NOT go to failure. Lots of shredding protocols recommend failure sets. I think this is silly. You’ve got to focus on getting strong, so leave some reps in the tank. Note: this is also a great day to be low carb.

On your cardio days, focus on high intensity intervals with more than enough rest (like 1:3 or 1:2) and amp your rounds to 8-12 intervals. And get creative here: 45 sec runs with 90 sec breaks; 30 sec sprints with 2 min breaks. Stop when you know you could do one more, but you’d be slower. Don't make me tell you again about failure.... Note: This is a great day to be high carb. Situate some carb servings before and after the cardio workout.

Sleep

Get at least 8 hours every night. When I’m in photo-shoot prep mode, I shoot for 10 hours on the weekends. And if I wasn’t on the weekday grind I’d be at ten all week. Your body needs time to repair. Workouts are sophisticated breakdowns, with the hope that the body responds by building itself to be even better than it was before. But most of this happens while you catch some z’s. So getting a bare minimum of eight hours is ideal.

It’s also good to pay attention to your nightly routine. Inability to fall asleep quickly can be an indicator of significant deficits like dehydration or insufficient carb intake. Or it could be as simple as what I call tech scramble. Stay away from screens and artificial lights as these things can mess with your brain and circadian rhythm. Use natural dim light from candles and turn off your cell phone prior to bedtime.

Miscellaneous

Recovery is the name of the game. During this time, I like to ensure I don't miss yoga, I get some extra cryotherapy sessions in, and I just generally focus on body care and regeneration. Schedule your float tank sessions, your facials, or your massages in this three week period.

 One of my faves, taken the day before a figure competition

One of my faves, taken the day before a figure competition

 5 Days Out

 Food

Cut yourself down to almost zero carbs. Ok people, I know that literally everything has some amount of carbs! But stick to mostly lean meats and veggies for the next four days. A handful of berries here and there is fine to get your energy going. Also, to preserve your lean muscle and stay fresh, get at least two servings of BCAA before and after your workouts.

Note: This “no carb diet” is NOT sustainable. You go past 10-14 days and you will absolutely hurt your body and hit a wall in progress. This particular part of the cut was the reason I initially hesitated to let my clients try it. It’s easy to get caught up in the satisfaction of the daily transformation you’ll see and try to stretch it out longer or try it too often. Let me be clear. IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT. You’ll lose fat first. And then very shortly after, you’ll lose your mind.

#eatcarbs

Water

Your muscles are made of water and there is also lots of water sitting on top of them, just below the skin. The trick is to get rid of that subcutaneous water and hope that the muscles can retain some to create that magical shredded effect exactly when you want it. It's really not that much hocus-pocus. It's fairly simple if you follow this protocol.

We kick off the process by getting your body to start flushing water. And how do you achieve that? By drinking wayyy too much. So much, that your body just starts throwing it out as fast as it comes in.

Your goal is to get at least 2.5 gallons of water per day, 3 if you have the constitution. So prepare yourself for all of the meathead jokes: the easiest way to track is to get a gallon jug and fill it and empty it 3 times per day. Do this until 10-12 hours out from the event. Then you'll have new instructions.

 This is how you get super dry/cut abs pictured above. 

This is how you get super dry/cut abs pictured above. 

Training

Keep up the density on your lifting days. But you may want to ditch the cardio here. If it eases your mind or helps you handle stress of last minute changes to your charger plates (another nod to my brides), I’ll give you the go-ahead for a little easy steady state, like walking up a hill. But your kidneys are already under stress. Extra sweat and adrenaline action is pushing your luck. Plus, you're also pushing your luck with inflammation. Don't need it.

Note: You definitely don’t want to work out at all the day before the event. But, two days is often better. This allows natural post workout inflammation to completely dissipate.

1 Day Out

Food

Bring back the carbs! You actually get a small serving at each meal here. Bonus, if you look flat at the end of the day — That undefined, deflated, WHERE DID MY MUSCLES GO? look, eat dessert. Full permission to indulge in anything you want. I typically reach for a brownie with ice cream on top or pizza and ice cream(ok, not together). But that's just me. I respond well to ice cream. I actually believe my body looks better on dairy (for real). If you know something upsets your stomach, like gluten can be another one, avoid it. Back to that inflammation fear again.

If there’s time for another normal meal the next day or later in the day(depending on what time your event is), treat it normally. Eat a regular old meal. Protein, carb, fat, green. 

Water

Stop drinking water at your intended time (10-12 hours out). If you really want your muscles to look extra round, and not everyone is out to look jacked, I get that, go to Whole Foods and grab a bottle of vegetable glycerin (in the body care section). Two tablespoons at night and two in the a.m on the morning of. The glycerin helps suck any leftover subcutaneous water back into the muscle, giving you that extra pumped-up fitness-y specific look.

This is also the time you want to use any natural diuretics you may have in mind. My go-to? A little bit of cooked asparagus. I won’t judge any choice you make in this department. But PLEASE, keep it simple and natural. Lots of bodybuilders swear by dandelion root. 

Salt

Keep your sodium intake up throughout the day. I don't address this one at all specifically. It's a HUGE deal, yes. However, if you just ensure that you get adequate salt, you're going to hit it just fine. I've tried manipulating it. Going from no salt to increased intake. It was really just annoying and made little difference. 

1 Hour Out

Call me superstitious, but an hour before a power-lifting meet, I ALWAYS chug a can of cola. It's an old tradition my coach, Mark Leibowitz, had me adopt to get me revved up. But I also found it did wonders for my physique. I'd start a little under–watered, not drinking a thing before a meet (even skipping my coffee and breakfast) before weigh-in. Then, I’d step off the scale, carb up, and-BAM- that magic moment of shredded perfection. And don't be messing with that diet crap. You need at least half of a Coke heavy here. Wash it down with another teaspoon of glycerin if you choose.

***CAUTION You cannot just go chug a bottle of water after this

You have stressed your kidneys in the process. I typically finish out my figure competitions with a beer. It slows me down and ensures I begin to rehydrate slowly. BUT PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE realize that this process is stressful on the body and should be treated as such.

And now your only instructions left are to go forth and kill it. 

I’ve stepped off my hypothetical pedestal from the auditorium stage of “do as I say not as I do,” and shared my tested protocol so you really can “do as I do.” That said, if you’re committing to looking your ABSOLUTE best (and you have 100% of my support for this), I need you to commit to respecting your body. I can justify sharing these secrets ONLY with your tacit promise that you know this is NOT a viable long-term plan. This is your three-week prep to a major event that you are getting #onfleek for.

So enjoy reviewing the photographic evidence of this big day. Flip through the album. Post all over Facebook.—but remember you earned that extra flight of tequila or side of fries at the afterparty celebration…and throw out that meat-head asshole gallon jug of water, please. #leaning season #sophisticatedstrength

For contest prep or any other training needs, e-mail me at ashleigh@sophistocatedstrength.com

The Four Agreements Of Nutrition: The Third Agreement

Don’t Make Assumptions

For the last two weeks, I’ve been exploring how Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements could be applied to nutrition. The first agreement, “Be impeccable with your word,” relates to self-honesty as well as self-love. “Don’t take anything personally,” the second agreement, teaches us to not internalize the projections of others, which Ruiz calls a “dream.”

This week, we’re going to take a look at the third agreement: “Don’t make assumptions.”

Because duh, that makes you an ass. We all know this.

But in the realm of fitness, it also means you miss the results you work so hard for.

There is perhaps no field of information that has more conflicting information, misinformation, and assumed information than nutrition. It's the wild west out there. These days even previously respected fitness info establishments are lowering their content standards.

So, how do we tangle apart what’s true and what’s not, when we’ve been barraged with other people’s beliefs and social mores about food since we were kids?

The solution, according to Ruiz, is simple. Don’t make assumptions.

The opposite of making an assumption is having the courage to ask questions and having the open-mindedness to accept new information.

Courage

We may think we know how our body works and what it needs. And we very well may have. But sometimes a shift in lifestyle occurs, and we realize that we don’t have all the information. Having a baby, getting a new job, moving, getting injured, or developing an illness can all be incredibly challenging milestones for people.

Shifts can be less dramatic, as well – you may wake up one day, see a picture of yourself, and think, how the fuck did this happen?

Either way, these are times when fitness assumptions are shattered and you know in your heart that your old solutions and band-aids don’t work anymore.

These are the moments when it’s very important to ask questions and get the support that you need.

And that does not mean asking Google.

Think of it this way. If you don't know what the answer to a question looks like, do you think you'll be able to spot it in a pile of different answers that's a mile high?

This is doubtful.

Instead,  it's a real life fitness professional that can give you solid answers to your new questions, and help guide you to a lifestyle that works for you.

To do this, you need courage. It takes bravery to say, “What I’m doing isn’t working anymore. Please help.”

Much like a new relationship, you have to step off the ledge and make a brand new meaningful commitment. And that can be terrifying. To be really vulnerable. It's so much easier to hide behind the keyboard and our preconceived notions.

Especially when you've spent time trolling through all these cheap and unsuccessful meal plan solutions on your late night quests for nutritional enlightenment. They're everywhere. And they require very little real investment.

But much like your Tinder hook-up, the nominally priced cookie-cutter meal plans allow us to hold on to our ambivalence. The entry price is low both financially and emotionally. And because they often don't work very well in the long run, they only further fuel our fear of commitment.

You need real courage to connect with a Fitness Professional and commit to learning the truth. It's money and time, and effort that you put on the table. Those are all big deals.

Open-Mindedness

And so on top of that courage, you will need the flexibility and teach-ability to accept good information when it's truly in front of you.

It's increasingly common for new training and nutrition clients to come into my studio (or into my inbox), saying, “I need help,” only to reject the solution that I give them, because it doesn’t fit their pre-existing assumptions.

My question back to them is always the same. If that advice worked so well for you, what the hell are you doing here? I say it with a lot more love, of course. But that's basically the gist of it.

Don’t make assumptions. Stay open to new ideas. Be ready for transformation.

If you think you are ready to ditch your old assumptions about food, nutrition, and health, you may be ready to start the transformation. Along with training, my one-on-one coaching program will literally teach you how to eat. It will give you an opportunity for three months to build your nutritional house from the ground up, developing new habits that will allow you to easily and naturally eat for your best body.

Be impeccable with your word.

 

Don’t take anything personally.

 

Don’t make assumptions.

 

Get ready for next week’s fourth and last agreement! 

What's In Ashleigh's Gym Bag?

Product Reviews For Summer 2016

There are few things that bring me more joy than lifting at the gym. But one of them, is playing with hair and makeup products at Sephora. 

So I am giddy with excitement that you lovelies have been asking me about some of the brands I mention. I've really been waiting for this moment.

We get to talk girl stuff.

How to hit the street looking fresh post workout

And this post is all about my current faves for getting out of the gym and back to the street after a sweaty session.

It's a rare occasion that I get to shower after a lift. I'm typically booked pretty solid with clients and constantly hustling to the next appointment. I'm chronically and perpetually short on time. But I don't want to necessarily look like I am.

Plus, rushing or not, skipping out of the locker room without wiping off the sweat is never a great idea. It's like sleeping with your makeup on. DON'T DO THAT.

So, I've pretty much spent the last ten years mastering the art of cleaning up quickly. And a year working on Broadway in Soho, coupled with a plunge into the NYC dating pool has only pushed me to up my game. In the words of Lily Allen, It's hard out here for a bitch. 

I know you are busy too. And you shouldn't have to cut your workout short to get to that next meeting or meet up looking fresh. These products will have you on your way in about five minutes or less.

BONUS: Most of these products come in travel sizes for gym bag convenience.

1) Pacifica Beauty Deodorant Wipes

I am completely skeptical of "natural" deodorants. They just don't work for me. I am constantly running from workouts to clients to the subway and well -- let's just say Dove Clinical was my go-to. I tried Tom's and Lush and all the different alternatives and none of these options seemed to completely cover the stink.

But I kept walking past these deodorant wipes I found at Target with curiosity. I want so badly to eliminate all the crappy chemicals I can. I am the kind of person who fears regular dyed toilet paper and buys only simple cleaning products.  And I'm also very drawn to pretty packaging and all things coconut scented. So, I threw em' in my basket.

Pulled back the sticker on the pouch and the smell mesmerized me. I figured, if they did't work, I'd get my eight bucks worth in fragrance application at the very least.

Used one swipe under both arm pits after my workout on Day 1. Waited the next 36 hours for the stink that never came. I was and still am amazed.

And yes, I didn't shower for like 48 hours. There was a lot going on.

ANYWAY... I have officially broken up with my Dove dry spray. Sorry, boo. It's not you. I just found someone better.

Pacifica Deodorant Wipes $8.09 @ Target 

2) Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes

If you cannot shower directly after a sweat session, you still need to get that sweat off your body. Doing so is an easy safeguard to preventing unnecessary blemishes.

I actually stole my first pack of these wipes from Drive495. I was in a rush, as usual.

And because we are so selective at Drive -- we have a holistic expert who approves every product we offer -- you know these Simple cleansing wipes are actually made from the most simple and effective ingredients. Great on even the most sensitive of skin types.

Wiping yourself down with these guys is pretty much the sophisticated way to shower without showering. 

Hit all the spots where sweat can pool and typical breakout spots like butt, shoulders, and face.

Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes $4.49 @Target

3) dr. brandt poresnomore poresolution

To sweat every day is truly great for the skin. Sweating opens up our pores and helps push out toxins. 

However, when we work out a lot, we are subsequently more susceptible to bacterial irritations of our pores i.e. pimples and blackheads and other blemishes.

And most of this susceptibility is more environmental. Dirt and grime and oil sitting on top of the skin that makes it's way into these pores, causing blockages. 

A toner is a great solution to the problem. And one that contains lactic acid, is gold. And I mean, really rare. They're very difficult to come by and often very expensive accordingly. But your aesthetician will tell you it's worth the rush. 

Recently pulled from Sephora and Ulta -- I'm convinced this is because the people don't know the secret -- dr. brandt poresno more poresolution is my go to. Made from lactic and salycilic acids, it exfoliates and tightens pores without drying out the skin.

I use it after washing my face every day. And I have zero breakouts when I use it, but for the rare hormonal blemish. Changed my life.

Squirt some onto a cotton pad and apply to face from inside to outside.

dr. brand porenomore poresolution $35 on drbrandtskincare.com

Clinique Moisture Surge: Extended Thirst Relief

After I disinfect my face with toner, I go right for my favorite moisturizer. I originally received this product as a sample with the regular yellow Clinique pump. And while that friend will always be a standard on my shelf at home, the pink one is perfect for my gym bag.

It's super light and super silky, cools the skin, and is available in a "very dry skin" formula for extra care.

I will sometimes even use it for a dewy look over makeup at night. It just leaves my skin feeling fresh and glowy, which is exactly how I feel on the inside after a good sweat session.

Dab the gel on and your skin with fingertips and your face will reflect your radiance as you hit the street. Moisture Surge will also improve the surface of your skin over time. Like big time.

Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief $39 @ Ulta Beauty

Bumble and Bumble Pret-a-Powder

I wash my hair once a week. I have that fine, mostly straight white girl hair that most women find they need to wash at least three times a week to avoid oil slicks. But I wanted to grow my hair past a certain point and multiple washes a week with colored hair would never support my desired length.

So, I scoured the shelves. I have tried every highly recommended dry shampoo and powder I could get my hands on in the tri-state area. Which is pretty much everything out there. 

This one slays them all. Like, there's not even a comparison. 

This powder mops up the grease and sweat and gives my roots that lioness lift you all keep asking me about. I'm giving you my biggest hair secret with this one. Trust me. It's worth the price and you can stretch the regular size bottle for months and months. 

It's amazing. Truly a life saver when you need to get to a date right after your workout.

Apply to roots and work down the strands for serious volume. BONUS: If you've got an extra 60 seconds, blast your hair with the blow dryer real quick!

Bumble&bumble Pret-a-Powder $31 @ Sephora

Urban Decay Naked Skin One & Done Hybrid Complexion Perfector

This product is a brand new release by Urban Decay, this summer. I am a certifiable Urban Decay junkie. I have every Naked eye shadow palette. And Big Fatty is my go-to mascara. So, of course I placed my order right away.

Color correcting creams(CC creams), Beauty balms(BB creams), and barely-there foundations are gaining real popularity. And for good reason. Skin should look like skin. Especially when you're leaving the gym. 

I love my Clinique CC paired with Urban Decay's skin perfecting makeup for going out. But, the possibility of hitting all the marks with one tube sparked my curiosity.

And this one and done hybrid does exactly what it's name implies. With less coverage than their lightest makeup, this single cream simply PERFECTS your skin. I've got a list of compliments to prove it.

Use a foundation brush to apply evenly. Also mixes well with a deeper CC cream if you're wondering. Great for mixing a slightly darker tone as you spend more time in the sun. 

I chose Light Medium.

Urban Decay Naked Skin One&Done Hybrid Complexion Perfector $34 @ Sephora

Five products and you are ready to hit the street. Test em' out and let me know how these bad boys work for you!

The Four Agreements of Nutrition: The Second Agreement

Don't Take Anything Personally

For the next few days, I’m taking a look at how Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements relate to making real life changes, specifically nutrition. Last week, I talked about the principles of LOVE and TRUTH from the first agreement (“Be impeccable with your word”), but this week I’m going to take a look at the second agreement: “Don’t take anything personally,” and how it relates to the often destructively dogmatic world of nutrition.

Watch the clip HERE

If anyone caught last fall’s Hulu original Casual, you know that there is a spot-on scene in which a CrossFitter religiously promotes her Paleo diet. If you haven't seen it, I'm sure it's not a scenario too difficult to imagine. Even when her date says, “I’m happy to move forward without an argument,” (like ok, girl… I got it.) she dives into what is clearly (and hilariously) anecdotal “scientific” support for her lifestyle.

Chick would totally need to work on her Functional Dating Screen score. But anyway...

Food and Virtue

We’ve all met those people – whether it’s low-carb-high-fat, Whole30, gluten-free, vegan, 20 million day fix(or whatever), or simply “clean,” the diet becomes the person. You literally can’t talk to this person without the conversation steering back to the superiority of their way of eating. 

Before you roll your eyes just thinking about this person, let's examine this behavior with some love, shall we?

Last week, I pointed out that most diets work well as long as you are consistent. But it’s easy to slip into fanaticism, especially if your diet is complicated, restrictive, or difficult to maintain. For some people, they need to think that their way is the only way to be healthy, in order to justify the increased level of attention that their lifestyle demands. 

They renounce others in righteous support of themselves. Classic defense mechanism.

How does this relate to Don Miguel Ruiz?

You Are Not Your Diet

His second agreement, “Don’t take anything personally,” means that you don’t accept others’ projections onto yourself. He uses amazing language about others’ entire realities being a “dream,” and he points out that we can be more free and happy if we don’t allow others perspectives to define us.

While this could apply to relationships, career, or money, there is an obvious application here for nutrition.

Each way of eating (or exercising) carries with it a certain identity, whether or not the stereotype is actually true for the individual. For example, it could be argued that Paleo is extremely associated with CrossFit (as Casual jokes), while veganism is a hallmark of a yogic lifestyle. Making certain food choices could make you feel a certain way about your value and identity, whether the identity that you want is more tough, more enlightened, or more self-disciplined.

 cc:  The Tig

The difficulty of internalizing our identity around our food choices, however, is that sometimes our choices aren’t perfect. Even though I advocate for consistency in the first agreement, the reality of life is that there are ups and downs even in a big picture of consistency. It’s never a straight line, even if you’re moving in the right direction.

Sure, you feel amazing when you’re eating “clean.” You may feel superior, in control, and self-disciplined.

But what if you binge on your favorite nachos when it’s not your “cheat day”? Are you then a failure, or lazy? We’re back at the first Agreement here -- You must uphold love and the truth.

Because the other consideration is that just as everyone’s dream of the world is different, so too are everyone’s nutritional needs.

A paleo persuasion is actually a pretty dangerous diet for someone who puts in the kind of intense effort that a Crossfitter does. Cutting carbs cuts your gains.

A vegan diet can seem super clean and healthy. But it can actually wreak havoc on the health of any individual with a less than extraordinarily excellent digestive tract.

And the fact that you cannot hang on to these habits should not cause you harm. Whether that harm is incurred by trying to repeatedly force the beliefs of someone else onto your body. Or by failing at that diet and feeling bad about yourself for it. 

We need to be free to be objective with our nutrition. To separate ourselves from our food choices. 

The TRUTH, is that all diets won't work for every individual in the long term, and you need to LOVE yourself enough to honor this realization without judgement. 

Taking Food Personally

Like Ruiz advocates, we can’t let diet culture dictate how we feel about ourselves, because that would be allowing others’ projections to define who we are.

That is why I recently released “Sophisticate Your Nutrition,” a three-month course that gives you the education, guidelines, and principles to create an eating lifestyle that gives you the results you want, without adhering to a specific “diet.”

You don’t have to be Paleo to be tough. You don’t have to be vegan to be enlightened. You can be whatever the hell you want to be, achieve your goals, and live a free, happy, healthy lifestyle.

The FOUR Agreements Of Nutrition: The First Agreement

Don Miguel Ruiz and… Diets?

In 1997, Don Miguel Ruiz published a tiny, best-selling book called The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Wisdom. In the space of 138 pages, Ruiz distills what he calls “ancient Toltec wisdom” into four concise principles for life. His simple, insightful writing stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for seven years and secured Ruiz a spot as a “National Heirloom” of Mexico.   

But what the hell does Don Miguel Ruiz have to do with fitness coaching or nutrition?

WELL... His Four Agreements are simply ways of living that help people achieve freedom and happiness in life, whether the struggle is with love, purpose, or success. 

But, I can’t help but wonder — when it comes to our relationship with food, couldn’t we all use a little more freedom and happiness?

If you are approaching the lunch counter or your closet with imminent fear on the regular, I know for a fact there is better. If you are commiserating with friends over brunch on this or that area of stubborn fat and marveling at those insta fit chicks who seem to have it all together, I can tell you there is another side.

So, how do we get to that other side? Where does badass confidence, with regard to nutrition and self image, come from? 

Behold. Over the next four posts, I’m going to drop some practical but revolutionary wisdom. 

Let’s take a look at how the Four Agreements can be interpreted as four pretty much renegade principles for achieving a happier and healthier relationship with food:

 

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable With Your Word

In yoga, we begin class with an intention. It helps us ground to our practice and stand strong in our focus as we ask our bodies to change. Just as you approach flowing movements with implacable grace, you must also set a similar intention for your nutritional changes. And that mantra is impeccability.

Impeccable. What does the word actually mean? While it brings to mind images of faultless perfection, Don Miguel Ruiz chooses to zero in on the sense of integrity introduced by the definition.

When you are impeccable with your word, you speak with an intention to be perfectly real -- to  uphold love and truth.

You step up to the challenge at hand, whatever that may be, with these two motives as your guide.

 

You Should Go and Love Yourself

If you truly seek to change your relationship with food, you’ve got to change your relationship with your self image. And this begins with how we speak about ourselves. You need to talk about yourself with love.

To cultivate love in your speech and your self-talk(we’re not necessarily limiting this dialogue to what you say out loud, as words and thoughts can often conflict), you will agree not to verbally put yourself down, using body image negativity to harm. 

If we are really honest, we know that calling ourselves “fat” or “lazy” does not inspire or motivate us. Self deprecation is definitely not the mantra of choice as you embark on a journey of long-lasting transformation.   

If asked to coach your best friend in the acquisition of any skill you could imagine, you would NEVER speak to her with a derogatory demeanor. You would address her with loving kindness.

This is the way you must also greet yourself every day. Like you’re a white hot goddess with glowing wisdom who's already pretty excellent.

 cc: www.thetig.com

cc: www.thetig.com

If you don't believe you are worthy of your own approval now, fake it to make it girl. I wore a necklace strung with 108 beads(that's 108 mantras a day) around my arm for the better part of a year to remind me how worthy I am. And you know the funny thing is... I started to believe it.

As you learn to repeatedly address yourself with respect, you'll find your regard for yourself increases exponentially.

But how do we balance that here and now spiritual swagger, with a genuine need or desire to change? The two intentions seem conflicting.

It’s arguable that the recent rise of body positive culture is a projection of a deeper fear of change, or even dishonoring your self-love by wanting more.

And lovelies, I have to tell you from my behind the filter, real life experience, that these suppositions aren’t completely invalid.

Having goals to eat better, get leaner, and achieve elite fitness goals can be intimidating. Change can incite fear, the opposite of love. And we also cannot ignore that by nature, our bodies are wired to want to stay the same. 

So how do we set out to accomplish these nutritional mileposts while thinking and speaking with the intent to love, rather than hate on ourselves?

 

let's just be fucking real: FoCUS ON THE TRUTH

The other side of the love coin is speaking truth, and when it comes to nutrition, truth also means self-honesty and consistency. A little bit of reflective objectivity(We'll get into the power of not taking things personally next post). Practicality is the truer definition of perfection here.

Being “impeccable with your word” means writing down everything you eat in your food log, and taking a real look at the state of your diet right now. You must know the truth of where you are now to be excited about where you’re going.

The not knowing part is what really instills fear and blocks us from love.  

We need love AND the truth for success.

And so being “impeccable with your word” also means making a real commitment. You must seek the expertise of a coach with real nutrition knowledge. To erase your anxiety of failure.

And being “impeccable with your word” means sticking with it. To eradicate the possibility of missing the mark.

The best-kept secret of the tumultuous and controversial dieting world – in which every diet guru claims that their way is the only way that works – is that most diets do work in the short term… if you stick to them.

Are there best practices? Are some philosophies better than others for your long-term health and happiness? Absolutely. But if you follow any plan with consistency, honesty, and positivity, if you are truly “impeccable with your word,” you will indeed find some kind of success. 

It all comes back to love and the truth. The realness. Be comfortable with where you're at. But know where you're going. 

 

Coaching and Impeccability

I want you to find the most success. This is why I released my new program, “Sophisticate Your Nutrition,” this week. As a personal trainer, I also have to be impeccable with my word, and in my case, that means using my expertise to give my clients the best possible tools to succeed in achieving their fitness goals. It also means being honest about what doesn’t work.

As I wrote in my blog post last week, moderation doesn’t work for most people, because most people don’t have the skills or habits to get moderation to work for them. 

Cookie-cutter plans don’t work for everyone because we are are all inherently too different, from biology to lifestyle. 

Meal plans don’t work in the long term because they are restrictive and lacking in intuitive instruction. 

And you absolutely should not need to play Jedi mind tricks with your brain for the rest of your life, trying to convince yourself that you're super content with where you're at. You are not ever obligated to accept relative mediocrity.

Your love for your body should be inherent and easy, not instructed. 

My new program, “Sophisticate Your Nutrition,” will literally teach you how to eat, so that you can incorporate the principles of impeccability that you need for success, freedom, and happiness… into your eating lifestyle. To be the truly confident body positive badass you can be.

Want to Sophisticate Your Nutrition? Learn how you can work with Ashleigh for less than the cost of two training sessions, PLUS a bonus** 3-month strength and conditioning program.