Your Beach Body

Now that the warmer weather is upon us, it has been brought to my attention that some of you want to look your physical best at the beach this summer. For that you should be commended. Unfortunately for many of us we will have to set aside both truth and reality to have this conversation.

Identity Yields Performance

What are you doing with your life, for crying out loud?!  Your mental, physical and emotional state has everything to do with how you spend your time.  We all wear multiple hats when interacting with our coworkers, friends and family.  It takes continuous effort to balance all of the roles we play, however we manage to make it through each day.  Sadly, on most days the role of the physically fit person does not make the list.  

You may have been physically active in the past but now you have more time consuming responsibilities so you don’t see activity as an essential part of your lifestyle.  We make excuses for being out of shape, the most common excuse: “I just don’t have the time anymore.”  However, there’s one reason why people don't get fit and stay in shape for life: 

 

they don't identify with being in top physical condition.

 

Yup, that's it.  Most people believe sports, training and fitness are something disconnected from who they are or could be.  So when they do exercise they think of it as a temporary inconvenience; something they are willing do to lose five or ten pounds.  Then they revert back to their old habits.  Enter the fad crash diets, frenetic workouts, weight loss pills and juice cleanses.  

How much effort does it take to assume a new or different identity?  For example, putting on a suit doesn't make you a CEO, just as putting on running shoes and athletic gear doesn't make you physically fit. To become a CEO, you have to put in a lot of time and effort. You not only have to have formal education, you'll have to don that suit for many years to get the experience necessary to handle the responsibility of the official job title.

You want to be physically fit?  Then connect with an expert teacher, study what works and put in the time.  Don't just go to the gym and expect to get it through osmosis.  That's the same as saying you could become a CEO by buying a suit and sitting in an office.  Look, it’s great if you can make it to the gym with your new sneakers and fitbit, for that you get a gold star.  However, if you want to achieve the lasting fitness needed to navigate life’s hurdles, you’ll need to start to identify yourself with being a physically fit person

Problems with Chi?

How did you solve Qi problems that occurred during daily Qi/Chi Gong and internal martial arts practice? (Originally answered on Quora)

Unless you are quite ill you shouldn’t technically have any Qi/Chi problems. At the beginning the new student has trouble knowing what to look for. We search and try to latch onto some sort of special feeling. Because Chi is life’s energy as long as you are alive you can not separate yourself from it. The disconnect occurs when we over think things and try to look for something that may or may not be there.

My suggestion would to be relax and work on following the breath. Keep the body still and free from tension. Whether you are sitting or standing remain upright with a neutral spine. Under these conditions you will have created the ideal circumstances for experiencing your Qi/Chi. Write down what you experience in a notebook. The next day go for a brisk walk or light jog (if you are medically cleared to do so) prior to your Qi/Chi Gong practice. Again note what you experience. The following day fast, the following day stuff yourself. Sooner or later you will find a preferred rhythm and harmony that your body prefers.

After a few weeks you will begin to develop a better sense of what you need and prefer. Your experience is your own and you will develop your own true understanding. Continue to work with your local teachers and masters. Study the ancient as well as contemporary texts on the relevant subject matter. Continually go deeper into your study and eventually it’s my hope you will come to see that there truly are no problems.

7 Tips to Help You Lose Weight for Your Wedding

1. Go to bed! 

Sleep is the closest thing you are going to find to the fountain of youth. You need to get plenty of restful sleep in life in general let alone leading up to the marathon day of joy and stress that will be your wedding. If you usually get six hours of sleep aim for seven plus. If you are closer to seven on average try to bump it up to a healthy more ideal eight. If you get less than six hours on a regular basis this is your number one area to focus on that will give you the biggest results. Sleep burns fat and restores all of the cells in the body. Don’t sleep on sleep! It’s your best weapon to look and feel your best!

2. Drink more water now! 

Like sleep, water is essential to your body’s most basic functions. If you are dehydrated everything becomes more work for your body. Don’t hold back. Take your body weight and divide it by two. That’s how many ounces of water you need to drink per day. So if you weigh 120 pounds you should drink about 60 ounces of water per day. Water aids in digestion, metabolism and detoxification. With an abundance of H2O in your system your body can flush out the bad and build up the good. It might be good for you to find out what your ideal weight is for your height.

3. Eat lots and lots and lots of green vegetables!

 It’s easy advice to give and harder to put into practice. Nevertheless you have to up the vegetable content in your diet. Start with a salad everyday for lunch. Once you have that down pick your favorite green and steam a big pot of it every other night. 

4. Exercise hard and often! 

First get the consent of your doctor then get out there and burn it up. You know this, everyone knows this! Yet if you apply the above points in order you’ll begin to see compounding effects. Most soon to be wed couples run off to the gym to try to make up for the lack of the above three points. However when exercise is applied with plenty of sleep, hydration and quality nutrients the effect can be extremely significant. The point we need to make here is that exercise won’t make up for lack of sleep, water and greens.

5. Don’t drink your calories! 

This means don’t drink alcohol, smoothies or juices. Alcohol is basically empty sugar calories that slow down your metabolism. If you want all of your work to be for nothing then drink it up because alcohol destroys progress. With regards to smoothies and juices, this tip is a caveat to No. 3 eat lots and lots of green vegetables. The operative word is eat. When you turn to juices and smoothies you are consuming the nutrients of more vegetables than you could possibly chew. As a result the rate of absorption goes up just like you are drinking a Coke. I hear you. You’re saying there isn’t enough sugar in spinach or kale to affect your insulin. That may be true but I don’t know of any pressed juice that doesn’t add fruit for taste. I’m sure you can find it but for the purpose of weight loss and simplicity don’t drink your calories! 

6. Cut out the white stuff!

Phase one: cut out any foods that are white. No milk or cheese, no potatoes, no white rice or white bread or pasta. If it is white don’t eat it. Phase two: cut out anything that could be white. This means if in phase one you cut out white bread but continued to eat whole wheat or multigrain, then in phase two you cut out bread entirely. Same thing goes for sweet potatoes, brown rice or any other food that could be white. If you have any doubts, don’t eat it. Pro tip; rather than focusing on what you can’t eat focus on what you can. Vegetables, meats and other whole foods will come alive once you start to pay them more attention. 

7. Cheat!

By all means give yourself a cheat day or a the very least a cheat meal once a week. You are under a lot of pressure to make everything work out by the big day. Let yourself off of the hook once a week and remember what it’s like to be normal and not in the middle of the vortex that is the engagement period of wedding planning. It will be so worth it to come out the other side and enjoy all of your hard work paying off. Know that if you don’t let off the gas a little bit each week you will burn out and risk falling off the wagon. It’s better to pause, relax and indulge a moment rather than derailing your whole program. Besides after your moment of relaxation and deliciousness you’ll come back to your goals with more vigor and renewed commitment. 

At the end of the day, have fun! This could be number eight but please let’s not make fun a checklist item. Infuse everything you do with a sense of play and enjoy the ride. Attitudes are infectious and a little bit of levity goes a long way. Remember you aren’t the only one stressing. All of the professionals you hired want their piece of the puzzle to fit in seamlessly. It’s how the whole thing works in concert that makes sure the guests have a fun and memorable experience. No need to get cranky just because you are trying to lose a few pounds.
 

Fit Bride's Guide: Be the best YOU for your wedding day

You Have Everything you Need

You already have everything you need to have the perfect wedding. Keep in mind, the wedding is really all about you, your fiance, friends and family. Everyone is coming together to celebrate your love and union. Right now in this moment take a deep breath and feel how great it will be to be married to someone you love deeply while in the company of the people you hold most dear. From this perspective fitness is more a state of mind rather than a fad diet or crazy late night runs on the treadmill.

 

Don’t Miss the Connections

On some level your wedding will be a reflection of who you are as a person. Do your best to leave everyone with a good impression. As the stars of the show, your big day becomes a whirlwind for you and your fiance. Even if you only have 30 seconds to talk with someone, look them right in the eye and say, “Thank you for being here. It means so much to share this moment with you.” Doesn’t matter if it’s the caterer, the guy driving the shuttle bus, your fiance’s awkward cousin or someone who crashed the after party. It’s better to be viewed as benevolent rather than bitchy. Trust me, if you starve yourself you’ll be anything but benevolent.

 

You’ll Relax When You Empower Others

I don’t care how extravagant or modest your wedding budget, the only way to get everything to go the way you want is to empower those who will be providing your services. Don’t leave everything up to the wedding planner. Everyone has their limitations. You have to be the glue that holds it all together. As you get closer to the big day you should double check a few of the mission critical items to make sure everything is on track. Speak with the florist, caterer, venue, band’s agent, etcetera and let them know that you trust their judgement. Create a policy that on the day of the ceremony if anything comes up that is a problem you trust them to fix it. Of course make sure they each have each other's contact info (where necessary) so they have a back up if they can’t get through to your planner.

 

Visualize

Visualization is a powerful tool for both athletes and performers. A wedding is just that, a marathon play in which you must perform and be on all day. So visualize the success of the entire production from beginning to end. Few things go exactly according to plan especially an event as complex as a wedding. Visualize the set up with the venue, flowers, food and drink all flowing effortlessly into place. Picture your guests arriving and how happy you will be to see each of their faces. You’ll have the rehearsal dinner for practice with the blocking and actual movement and positioning but don’t let it be just a formality. Project yourself into the moment that will occur in the same place a few short hours later.  

Responsibilities of the ATF Client

Here are the updated responsibilities of the ATF Client. As trainers we are expected to walk our talk. To have success in training you have to hold up your end of the bargain. 

  1. Rest, eat and hydrate well
  2. Avoid sugar and processed foods
  3. Exercise multiple days per week (that means more than two).
  4. Make 1 to 4 of your exercise days Elements or ATF training sessions.
  5. Arrive 15 minutes early to all scheduled appointments (both in and out of the gym).
  6. Wash or sanitize hands before and after each session. What else can we say, we want you to get and remain healthy. 
  7. Review ATOMIC on both Yelp! and Google+. It’s OK to use the same review on both platforms.
  8. Bring your friends and family to Friends and Family Night on Wednesdays 6PM to 8PM.

We love you guys and want you to succeed. Keep in mind this is a team effort and we are only as strong as our weakest link!

Thank You

There’s a big difference between saying the words thank you and the state of being thankful. Thank you in many situations has become obligatory and meaningless. We slap thank you on the end of an email or mumble it under our breath as the barista hands us our coffee. Thank you. It’s what we say when someone holds the door open or we receive a gift on our birthday. Saying thank you means nothing without feeling behind it. Life could be better if we allow ourselves to truly feel thankful more often.

Saying thank you is easy, but feeling thankful takes practice. With all of the distractions and demands on our time, feeling truly thankful can be as difficult as getting into shape. Make no mistake, the ability to be thankful, appreciative, and gracious can actually be strengthened just like our physical muscles. In order to get the benefit, be prepared to put in some practice time.

Here’s a simple method to achieve feeling more thankful each day: Every time you say or hear someone say, thank you, think of something to be thankful for. Let the words thank you be a cue to remind you how lucky you are at this moment. Consider your health, your friends, family or home. Appreciate the air you breathe or the weather outside. Become grateful for what’s good in your life as well as what’s not. A bad day can be averted by taking these brief moments to experience gratitude. Even if the present moment contains pain and suffering, feeling gratitude may be a first step toward defusing the problem.

Engaging in a gratitude practice plays both the short and the long game. In the short term, you engender good will by emitting genuine good feelings. In the long run, gratitude creates a state of mind that can help you through the toughest of times. In fact, we don’t give thanks often enough, and one time a year at Thanksgiving is just not enough.

We as adult professionals expect a lot from ourselves, our work, and our relationships. As a result, we run the risk of becoming dissatisfied or complaining when things don’t go our way. Important appointments get canceled, trains run late, the media reports bad news, and everyday we get older. In the face of disappointment, why not appreciate what we have rather than going down the road of doom and gloom? We have the power to find something, anything, to be thankful for in this present moment. We can then build on that feeling. How would life be different if we actually expressed how thankful we are that as a living, breathing person, we can get up, put on clean clothes, walk into a coffee shop, and afford a $5 handmade coffee? From this perspective the words thank you can and will mean much more. And that’s something you can be thankful for.

How to Exercise the Lower Abs

There’s nothing but confusion out there when it comes to body part specific training. This confusion invariably arises from thinking about the body as individual muscles or segments and ignoring the fact that our body is designed to function as one integrated whole. The biceps never performed a curl without being attached to the arm or the rest of the body. The same is true for the lower abs. 

That said, step one in learning to exercise the lower abdominal muscles is to stop thinking of them as separate from the upper abs or rest of the body. Next, consider the role of the abdominal muscles: abdominal muscles counteract extension, flex the spine and help to stabilize the lumbar spine. 

 *Hollow Hold: focus on stabilization

Therefore to work the lower abs we must take a two pronged approach: 1.) exercises that prioritize stabilization of the spine and 2.) movements that place the lumbar spine into flexion. To those who love and advocate tons of twisting exercises, please contact me. I have the number for a great physical therapist. In reality, the abdominal strengthening from good twisting exercises primarily comes from spinal stabilization rather than the turning of the body.  

 *Hanging Knee Raise: focus on movement into spinal flexion

Spinal stabilization exercises always get the abdominals firing while simultaneously strengthening the lower back. That’s what’s great about correct movements, you can’t improve one part of the body without improving the rest. Second, when we move the lumbar spine into flexion we are using the abdominal muscles in concert to perform the movement. This is why isolation crunches are lame and conversely why people love Pilates for flattening the abs. Much of the abdominal work in the Pilates system involves placing the lumbar spine into flexion.

Look at it this way, the spine likes to flex, extend and be protected from load bearing forces. Exercises that flex or stabilize the spine will hit all of the abdominal muscles and give you the tight strong stomach you desire. If after investigation into how to strengthen the lower abs you are disappointed you can’t see your six pack, then you have a dietary problem and not a strength or conditioning issue. 

*Two examples of how to work the lower abdominal muscles. Notice in both photos the abs are engaged by connecting the feet to the hands. By involving the whole body maximum force is delivered to the center of the body. 

Fit Bride Success Story

Ashley G. tells all about how she got into amazing shape for her wedding. She credits training here at ATOMIC, eating right and getting adequate sleep. She also should be commended for going hard everyday and making the commitment to make the most of her big day. It definitely paid off.

Alternative Training

There's nothing special about the standard, boring, run of the mill gym. No wonder no one sticks with their new year's resolutions. In nearly every chain gym across the country we find rows of machines, cardio equipment and dumbbells. With the popularity of Crossfit, Soul Cycle and yoga; barbell lifting, spin classes and generic yoga are being rammed down the uneducated consumers throat as well. If you have never worked out before the standard gym is as good a place to start as any. On the other hand you could just as easily skip it.

How to Start Barefoot Running

To the uninitiated barefoot running comes across as a fringe sport reserved for the rare combination of ultra athlete and super hippie. Still there are benefits to be gained for even the casual participant. Barefoot running or running in minimalist footwear can promote improvements in biomechanics and in some cases relieve running related injuries.

Elements of the Deadlift

Deadlifting should be intuitive and simple. Remember, in the most basic sense, you are doing nothing more than picking something up off the ground. If you keep your back stable and the weight close to your body there's little room for error. Problems arise when one lets ego take over and attempts to lift more weight than they are able. Work the form, practice higher reps at lower weight and in no time you'll be deadlifting with increased confidence and strength. 

Elements of the Squat

Rules by nature are rigid. Pursuing the ideal of total fitness means breaking rules and embarking on a lifetime quest for truth and excellence. Continually we attempt to separate fact from fiction, look for what’s tried and true, then employ the distilled elements to our benefit. With so much information out there, it's easy to become confused. Thankfully common ground can be found in basic, fundamental, principles. 

Pursuing the Ideal of Total Fitness

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Total Fitness should represent the ideal lifestyle for you. It’s an ever evolving goal - something you shoot for today, tomorrow and ten years from now. Try to think of continually trending in a healthy direction rather than taking an abrupt u-turn. Alas radical redirection rarely helps us, as lasting change happens slowly, and new positive habits need time to take root. You don’t have to (nor can you) fix everything all at once. Just move the needle, be honest with yourself and celebrate every small win. Keep setting new small goals which push you to perform better. In this way you can continually renew your motivation and eventually strive for excellence (aka Total Fitness). 

To stay motivated on this path we have to avoid thinking in absolutes regarding diet, exercise and health. The key is to begin to recognize the difference between what really works for you as an individual and what is extra, unneeded or damaging. Many of us tend to think that in order to get into shape we need to sign up to run a marathon and simultaneously go on a juice fast, all while maintaining the usual demands of life. Those expectations are not only unhealthy, they’re impossible, and you will most certainly fail. To stay motivated, we must come to understand that the easy and simple solutions always trump the strict, rigorous and extreme. 

It's not new news. The results we produce in life come from our own decisions and actions. We are the ones who cause change and make things happen. Therefore fitness or lack thereof does not occur by accident. To achieve anything we must plan, focus and follow through. Time is our most valuable resource so don’t waste it doing anything that does not rapidly and safely propel you toward your goals. At minimum, to approach the state of Total Fitness you've got to schedule time to exercise, prepare your own meals, study the craft and leave time to recover/sleep. Get this down, then consider what comes next.

Power

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In popular fitness nomenclature Power is often defined as the ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.

At ATOMIC we define Power as the ability to produce an effect. We then break down and define all the words in this definition. First we have Ability, the state of being able, means having competence, skill, natural aptitude or acquired proficiency.  Next To Produce means to make, create or cause something to happen or come into existenceAn Effect consists of any change resulting from a cause. Therefore we can define Power as having the competence, skill, natural aptitude or acquired proficiency required to make, create or cause a change or result.

Power is the ability to make something happen fast. This can be an inborn trait or a skill you learn over time. In weight training the faster we can get a weight off of the ground and over our head the more powerful we are. Moving more weight in the same amount of time would define an increase in power. Similarly moving the same initial amount of weight in less time would also indicate higher power output. 

Analogies can be drawn between physical and mental power. He or she who steps up to a weight and fearlessly moves it through the range of motion of a given exercise may not be considered powerful at first. However if this practice is kept up year in and year out eventually the performance becomes impressive. The person who stays focused and committed to their goal of developing high level fitness most likely stays committed to developing the rest of their life to a high level.

When you decide to do something make it happen quickly. Don't doddle but put ideas into effect right away. Don't spend two weeks thinking it over and getting up the courage to get started. Just as in strength training you pick up the weight, do the work of moving it for a few reps, then set it down. You don't stand there holding it for ten minutes before you move. Train with an emphasis on leaning power and you should find ways to apply the same lessons to all ares of life. Rather than sitting at your desk web surfing you will get things done. Instead of daydreaming you'll make your dreams a reality. 

Signs of a Bad Trainer

Nobody’s perfect, but when it comes to your personal trainer you deserve the best of the best. It is easy for trainers to fall into patterns with bad habits, big or small, that detract from the quality of the session you are given, and therefore from your workout. Not only should your trainer walk their talk, but also they should strive for excellence in programming, time management, personal connection, and consistency.

Time management is a key factor in any aspect of life, be it professional or personal. Whether your sessions are a half hour or hour long, each session should start and end on time. A good trainer will always be there, prepared and ready for your workout before your arrival. In addition to being timely, you don’t want to work with a trainer who reschedules frequently, especially last minute, as it keeps you from being able to maintain the consistency in your workout routine.

Part of personal training is the personal aspect, but a personal trainer’s personal life is least important. Most important is the workout you as the client are getting. A bit of sharing can be caring but the training and your goals must remain the focus of the session.

A bad trainer is unable to adapt a workout or understand that everybody’s body is different and what program works for one person may not be the best route for another. Your trainer should be able to design a program just for you. In addition, factors like sleep, diet, weather, and more may impact your needs in a particular session compared to on a different day.

Finally, a trainer should never be on their phone during the hour you are in front of them. No matter who is calling or texting, period. When it comes to working with a trainer you are the focus and the star of that session.

- Written by Layla Meyer with input from Team ATOMIC