Friday, September 30, 2011

On Perspective

by Kris Pitcher

A number of conversations recently have me reflecting on perspective. The funny thing about it is you only have your own, unless you look for someone else's perspective.

The first was a conversation with someone who is dealing with a parent in declining health. She was worried the parent might feel resentful of the financial and medical decisions she is having to make on their behalf. There was a "Dear Abby" sort of letter in the paper which happened to describe her exact situation.

I looked for the perspective of the parent in declining health. And I relayed that her parent is mourning the loss of the life she used to have. She knows she'll never have the autonomy, the independence, or ability to make the difficult financial and medical decisions needed in her life. Imagine that kind of change. Imagine giving up your most intimate personal care tasks and allowing someone else to help you. She's feeling a sense of loss. My message was to honor that and allow her to make choices where appropriate.

The next conversation was more in line with what I am used to. Competing. I was reminded by a fellow competitor that we need to think about other people's perspectives. It's easy to get caught up in what we do. Our world becomes VERY focused. But there is an entire world out there of people who don't begin their day weighing out fish.

Change is difficult for the people around you. As you take on a healthier lifestyle it's not uncommon for people to have a difficult time understanding and supporting your choices. For all of us who have managed weight over the years, we know it can be difficult for family and coworkers to understand our goals, choices and changes .

Think about the change from the perspective of others, not just your own. Look from the outside for considerations. Are you difficult to be around? Do you limit where you can go, and what you can do because of your pursuits? Do you constantly talk about your program, plan, diet, exercise etc? Are you putting up barriers for the people around you? Just things to consider as you work to make change yet remain "normal" in your life.

I guess it's about balance. Nobody likes someone who's too far one way on any issue or "thing"'s a little crazy. This is where I thank all my friends and family for letting me bow out of regular enjoyable things to pursue my training. It's safe to say my focus has made a difference for my goals. And that's what it takes. Thanks for allowing me a "rain check". I honestly appreciate your perspective.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Walk A Day In My Two's

by Kris Pitcher

My closet contains pants from a size 10 to one pair which is a size 2. Six weeks ago, I went to the "skinny" pile to see what might fit. The smaller of the pile stayed in the closet...I laughed out loud.

Still donning my sixes I kept at my contest prep like a solid soldier. Four weeks out, I tried the pile again and another pair fit. The twos remained lone wolves in the pile. "Sorry, you may never fit." I told them. My figure is different this year. My quads are bigger, my glutes are bigger. I am not a two.

Two weeks out, guess what? I was back at the pile. My sixes were falling off and my one pair of 4's rotated through my work week pretty fast. Still no two's. Not gonna happen, I thought to myself. Not this year. And I was OK with that because my goal was to be bigger, better than last year.

Contest week. Depletion week. Some might say...hell week. Tuesday when I stepped on the scale and saw the number I thought..."Today's the day!" I already had my outfit layed out, but it had rained so why not make a change in plans. I stood in front of the pile. I looked at the pair of 2's in the closet.

Taking a deep breath, I put them on - not even snug. Today would be the day. The ONE day. It had taken 21.5 weeks of dieting, and half of depletion week to walk a day in my two's. And Tuesday it was. I wore them. And that would be the only day of the year that would happen.

Last year I had more days when I wore them. Next year I will likely have none. I plan to exchange them at an upcoming clothing exchange party, because frankly walking in my two's was anticlimactic. There wasn't a parade. No one knew except me. I didn't arrive to work to find a banner across my door reading, "Congratulations on wearing your two's!" It was hardly an accomplishment.

My point is, don't lose perspective over the numbers in your closet. You just are the size you are. Wishing yourself to be a size for just one day is silly. I know, because I walked a day in my two's.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's Show Time! Is Your Head in the Game?

by Kris Pitcher

It's your big day! It's show time! You've trained hard, long and smart. Now it's time to put it all together for the big day. Whether it's a tournament, triathlon, or you're hitting the physique stage (like me!) all your training comes down to...right now.

Athletes with similar skills are often separated by mental preparedness. Getting your head in the game is part of training for your big day. An athlete who is consumed with anxiety, tension, fear and worry is going to have a difficult time.

If you are worried about what others might think about your performance, or if you don't feel fully confident it's going to mess with your head. Being able to put a hush to the mental chatter going a mile a minute, and to the fear of failure will make or break you on your big day.

Being mentally prepared means letting the pressure go. When we are focused on a certain outcome we miss out on the actual "doing" of whatever the event is. The reality is you have to do well in your event to have a solid outcome. Focus on your objective, short term to get you where you need to be. This may mean breaking it down into small sequences for success.

The work is done. Feel confident in what you have done to get you to game day. In my case, getting to the stage - the work is done and the final week is about fine tuning and tweaking. It's about rest, macro nutrient manipulation and hydration. It's about getting my head straight. I feel fully confident in the work I've done to get me here. My journey has been spot on.

Trust your skills and accomplishments. Again, feel confident in your ability to "do" your event. You are ready to execute, trust that. And finally, embrace your nerves. This is great energy to harness!

When you feel confident, this energy turns into a powerful positive force for you to use toward your objective and thereby getting you to the outcome you want. Remember to include your mental preparation into your plan as you get ready for your big day. It will help you enjoy the  main event.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Grow Your Glutes to Hit the Slopes!

by Kris Pitcher

Fall is in the air. At least it's right around the corner. if prediction has it we'll have a snowy year in the Inland NW. That means it's time to tune up the skis, or snowboard and think about training for the slopes.

Sure there's plenty of time, but many of you could be on the hills by Thanksgiving. And what do you need? You need some staying power in those legs. The power house muscles of your legs are your quadriceps, hamstrings, and the mack-mamas your glutes.

I have to brag that I actually grew my backside this year. Now, most ladies might not have that goal, but I worked hard to grow my glutes. And one of my favorite moves is the reverse hack squat.

I wouldn't recommend doing them barefoot (that's just gross and dangerous), and I would also work for better foot placement - close together. This machine doesn't really allow him to do that but otherwise this photo gives you a good idea of how to execute the exercise. The important thing is to stick your rear out - way out!

By adding this power move to your routine you'll be able to sit back and enjoy those long slopes with no sweat.

Try one to three sets with a weight you can press for 10-12 repetitions. Oh, and you will feel those glutes!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Verbal Vomit War

by Kris Pitcher

I recently witnessed what can only be described as a verbal vomit war. This competition took place between two delightfully beautiful young women. Both of these ladies are very fit, physique competitors.

Their exchange made me wonder a couple of things. As they began their debate about who's butt was worse I wondered where does this bile come from. I also wondered as it ramped can I stop this.

In my carb depleted haze I was thankful and grateful for our friend and fellow competitor who let them spill for a minute and then put the kibosh on it. "Enough!" she said. "You're done with the verbal vomit!"

These are girls who, technically, could be my daughters. I wondered about my own body image when I was 20, 21 years old. I was as it happened, in the worst shape of my life.

The vomit came so fast it was like an autonomic response to being in their posing suits. Was this a self-protection mechanism? Did they believe the things they said? Sitting there looking at wonderful bodies, I didn't see how they possibly could.

Having worked so hard, training and dieting I believe they must be confident and proud of what they will display on contest day. The war must have been a fluke, a girl-trigger, a tick.
Yep, that's me in the middle!

This photo is of me, in the middle, at 20-21 years old. My beautiful mother is on the right, and my big sister is on the left (sorry, let's just embrace the '90s).

I had eaten myself out of dating, of relationships, of feelings, and of failures. I wasn't self aware enough to have a verbal vomit war about my body with anyone, I was padded from the world, numb. Fat.

If I had half the awareness, the confidence, the connection to exercise that these young ladies do at their age...who knows where I'd be. I had to laugh thinking to myself - wait until you see your butt when it's 41! But who might just be the best butt ever.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pumkin Cookies!

by Kris Pitcher

Nothing says fall like cooking with pumpkin! Each morning I drive by the farmer's pumkin patch and as the vines have shrivled away the orange pumpkins are revealing themselves. Soon enough they'll be carved and waiting for trick-or-treaters, or scooped out with seeds roasting in the oven. But for today, I thought I'd share a recipe I love. This makes a great cookie. I skip the glaze frosting - but it's there for you if you want it.

Pumpkin Cookies!

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies, then drizzle glaze with fork.
To Make Glaze: Combine confectioners' sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.

Nutritional Information
Amount Per Serving  Calories: 122 | Total Fat: 3.2g | Cholesterol: 14mg

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Best Ever - Coming to a Stage Near You

by Kris Pitcher

If you've ever had that dream where your mouth feels like it's filled with silly putty and you can't scream...that's what my head feels like. It's thick, slow, and I can't seem to clear it. (I'm not the only one who's had that dream, right?) I am not thinking clearly.

One week from today I will be on stage in all my glory. But this week didn't necessarily feel glorious. Fatigue has set in like a squatter you can't evict. I drug myself to work, to the gym, to the a zombie. All the while I was thinking, "Last week - make it count."

Let's look at where I've come. On May 1st I was 138 pounds and 20.48% body fat. A mere 21 weeks later, I am 125.75 pounds of smokin' hot 10.5% body fat. (smokin' hot is a technical term) Essentially, I've had a net loss of 15 pounds of body fat, and a net gain of 3 pounds of lean body mass. That 3 pounds will make a difference on stage this year.

On Wednesday during the prime time line up, Jacques turned to me on the couch and said, "This is your best haircut ever." He is obviously thinking very clearly with all his faculties.  Random conversation.

I have done 9,030 minutes of cardio and have until Wednesday to rack up a few more. That's 150.5 hours of cardio or 6.27 consecutive days. That's a lot of cardio. I have friends doing 3 hours a day which squashes my numbers...I am so glad to only have averaged an hour and a half per day. Thank you lean off-season.

This coming week, things will change. Workouts will change, diet will change - contest week is upon us. How exactly? Not sure. It's a know as you go process. This is where you are glad to have a coach (and in my case coaches) you trust. A lot of competitors get all worked up about it, but I don't need to know until it's time. So, I'm not worried about what I'll eat on Wednesday...until then.

My suit tops are tacked in place so I don't have a Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction on stage. I've tried both suits on, they fit and look good. My hair appointment is booked for Friday, tanning is the only thing left to schedule. I do my own nails and make-up. I still need to clean out my competition bag and get all the right things in there. Later in the week I'll have to prep whatever food we'll take with us to the contest. Pancakes? We'll see.

Twenty-one weeks of preparation all comes down to this. I'm excited. I'm nervous. I have no idea who else will show up, how I'll place etc. I do know that I look substantially better than last season competing. I do know that I had a very productive off-season. I do know I'll be bringing my best ever to the stage. And I'm not just talking about my haircut (smile*)!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Too Fruity?

by Kris Pitcher

I heard an interesting term recently that I had to laugh at. Are you over fruiting? First of all is fruiting a word? We'll assume it is. This was of interest to me first because with the exception of a recent (epic) cheat meal...I couldn't tell you the last time I even ate a piece of fruit. But I'm a dieting bodybuilder - let's not forget I'm abnormal.

Secondly, it was of interest to me because I see a lot of "over fruiting" people. Programs and plans which advise you to "eat as much fruit as you like". Well, wait a minute sister! At a modest 100 calories (for a small piece) per eat 5 fruits a day and you've likely noshed 600 calories in glorious fructose.

Sure, you're getting vitamins and minerals, and even some much needed fiber. If weight management is your game, you might want to think twice about being too fruity.

A piece may work into your macro nutrient profile each day. But if you're working with 1600-1800 calories a day I'd be hard pressed to see more than one piece in your future.

These "dieters" eating 8-10 fruits per day are living on fast sugar, and lots of it. Fructose makes our brain feel great, but it doesn't do much else for us in terms of fueling smart. Take your one piece and combine it with your tablespoon of natural peanut butter, or your plain yogurt and we might have a deal.

During my recent, epic, cheat meal I enjoyed (along with my husband) a mango, an apple, and 2 bites of a banana. These were delicious. But by the time we cracked open that banana peel...I was over fruited! He gladly finished off the banana on his own. (I'll save the rest of the menu for another story.)

How much fruit are you eating? Have you added up the calories? Does it fit into your plan and your goals? Just something to check in on to see if you are over fruiting.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Great Fake Out - Protein Shakes and Bars

by Kris Pitcher

Sure, there's a time and place for replacement foods, but just how much fake food are you eating? There are a few categories here, but I'm most interested in bars and shakes. Let's start there.

Mmm! "Protein" Candy!!!
There are reasons to use replacement foods. Especially if you are training hard, and dieting - or let's just say eating healthfully. Managing your macro nutrients means deliberation when it comes to nutrient timing. Replacement should be all about nutrient timing.

Just before you tuck in for the night you want a long lasting, slow digesting protein to get you through. A casein mix is a nice blend and will do the job. First thing in the morning, after you've slept for eight blissful hours, you need quick fuel. A whey isolate is a nice fast absorbing replacement to get your system going.

We can see the application for replacement in these situations. But what about bars? There are few bars on the market that aren't just candy bars in health food clothing. Put your candy bars away if you're working toward any kind of weight loss or management goal. It's candy. Unless you are stuck on the tarmac and it's the last and final resort...forget it.

Now, I know people who have shakes and bars all day long. They have literally replaced all their whole, real food with the great fake out. It's a fallacy that it's easier to manage, that they can count their calories, or that it's some kind of "plan". What it is is a multi-billion dollar industry they are feeding into.

Take a look at your macro nutrient plan. How much are you supplementing with replacement drinks and bars? Are you using them at times where it makes sense for nutrient timing, or because it's just easier than carrying your cooler?

I'm a fan of real food. You could probably tell that. I use replacement shakes a couple of times during the day when it makes sense. It makes sense first thing in the morning, and following my weight workout. The rest of the time, it's real food for me. You won't find me buying into the great fake out!

Want to get lean, lose fat, gain muscle and look great - eat your food!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Active Recovery

by Kris Pitcher

Active recovery following an event or competition is an important component for an athlete. Whether you're a weekend warrior, a triathlete or a physique athlete recovery following your event is essential.

Active recovery in the days following your event means low intensity exercise during the rest period - a week - after your event. One of the major benefits is improving relaxation by having a positive effect psychologically. The activity is for our head, not our body.

The stresses we put our bodies under leading up to and then during a competition require rest and recovery. The body needs to heal from the trauma and damage caused by the intensity of activity and often over training we've undergone to get us to competition day.

Mentally it's difficult to take the break our body needs. Active recovery seems to benefit us by providing minimal physiological activity and a great deal of psychological comfort.

Low intensity doesn't mean entering a half marathon the weekend after you've run your marathon. It means mild walking, low mileage, short time and distance. Active recovery. Sleeping, refueling and rest from activity will get you the recovery you need to begin training for your next big competition.

Take a break with active recovery. Stay out of the gym for the days following your event. Eat, sleep and enjoy your success while you let your body heal from the demands and depletion of competition. Learning to rest will make you a stronger athlete, through active recovery.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Fitness Fairies

by Kris Pitcher

It became abundantly clear to me as I stood at my bathroom counter that the bathroom cleaning fairies were not going to find their way into my house. I had waited long enough. The standoff was over.

Armed with cleaning supplies, paper towels, and a sponge...I cleared the counter and put things away. I scrubbed and scoured. In no time at all the bathroom sparkled as well as it can. It was clean. I did it!

Why do we procrastinate the things we know only we can do? I know full well there are no bathroom cleaning fairies. Yet I waited for them for a good two weeks. I really thought they'd show up.

They didn't. And when I got sick of my own dirt...I had to clean it up. The same goes for our fitness. Yet we find ourselves in a standoff with it. We hope someone else will do it for us. We hope it will magically happen on it's own. And then one day we stand in the mirror to realize...we have to do it ourselves.

The standoff is over. No more waiting for the fairies to take care of it. We have to do it ourselves. This goes for taking care of ourselves, and as I recently found - for cleaning the bathroom. Get yourself in gear. Get back on track. Get to the gym. The fitness fairies aren't coming.

Monday, September 19, 2011

On Quitting

by Kris Pitcher

Dear Quitter,

Quitters never win, and winners never quit. That being said, people quit all the time. Winners quit, quitters quit. People quit. I would prefer you didn't quit. I know you could keep going. But let's break this down.

If you want to quit and you need a reason, don't look any further than the end of your nose. The people around you are on to you. I'm on to you. We can hear your excuses. We're not biting!

You're on your own if you want out. Just say the word. Quitting is up to you. Stop looking at your watch, your wallet, and most of all stop looking around at the rest of us.

We're not going to let you off the hook. There is no hook. There's just you. You. You who's come so far. There's just you who has done so much work and made so many successful changes. There's just you who has made progress in ways that cannot be measured.

There's just you who feels better than ever. There is just you who has made remarkable steps toward a healthier lifestyle. There is just you who is not a quitter.

It's all up to you. And I know there's a lot resting on your shoulders in this decision...on quitting. The rest is up to you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Empty Handed

by Kris Pitcher

A childhood lesson has me thinking about applicability to our exercise pursuits. As you might imagine I relate most everything to health and part of my life, it's one of the lenses I see the world through.

As I approach the final stages of contest preparation this lesson comes to mind. Don't go empty handed. This life lesson has to do with maximizing your effort. If you are making a trip from the kitchen to the bedroom and there is something that needs to be put away (like shoes) - take it with you. Simple.

As a child this lesson had a lot to do with carrying wood. If you've ever had a wood stove, you know there's always wood to be brought in...always. So, don't go empty handed.

What it means in terms of contest prep, or every day exercise and health for that matter, is don't leave anything on the table. If you can do 5 more minutes of cardio, do it. If you can follow your eating plan, do it. Don't get to your "destination" and wonder - could I have carried something more?

Be certain you have done everything possible to be your best. Be positive you have carried everything you could to get you to the point of maximum effort, efficiency etc.

Thank you Dad for this and many life lessons - I know that on contest day you'll be cheering me on. I know I will have done everything possible to be my best on that day, and I won't have come empty handed.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jelly Beans In My Dreams

by Kris Pitcher

I woke up on the floor of my office dreaming of jelly beans. I don't know which is worse, waking up on the floor of my office - or dreaming of jelly beans. I don't think about jelly beans. Jelly beans wouldn't be my first choice of candy...if I could have a piece of candy.

Sleeping on the floor? Oh, that's normal. I actually have a yoga mat, a rolled up blanket that I use as a bolster under my knees and a fleece vest I fold for a pillow. I made a special laminated sign that I put up on my door that says, "Quiet please, lunch in session." See, my office is keyed the same as several of my coworkers...and I actually had someone walk in while I was "meditating" one day.

Now, I don't usually fall asleep. But resting is wonderful. There are days though when I'm jolted to consciousness by the sound of someone snoring in my office. Hmm, couldn't have been me?!

As I get closer to contest date, sleep poorly, wake up at 3:00 AM and fatigue sets in...I rest when I can. But I rarely dream during these cat naps. So, as jelly beans swirled in my head I thought - what the heck?  I just filed that with the other random thoughts brought on by dieting.

This week a lot of people have been asking me what I'm going to eat after the contest. At two weeks list is beginning to grow a little. I want sweet potato fries, an apple, pumpkin ice cream, and pulled pork. Add that to the waffles with peanut butter, the pizza, a banana, I saw a brownie I could get can see how this could get off the rails real quick.

So, as the show approaches I'll be formulating my plan for "after". It will look much like "off season". Eating clean and focused with one cheat meal per week. I'll reintroduce some of my fats, increase a few things and get busy building more muscle. But right now, I need to focus on the next two weeks. The list of what I want to eat goes to the back burner - out of my head. OUT! Including jelly beans.

I've got essentially one week to make progress, then it's contest week where EVERYTHING changes. But that's another story. Until then, sweet dreams and another great week of contest prep! (smile)

Friday, September 16, 2011

You Wouldn't Dare

by Kris Pitcher

You wouldn't dare tell someone they weren't worth the effort. You wouldn't dare say, "What's the point in you even trying?" The words you could never do that...wouldn't cross your lips to an other's ears.

I dare you to say the things you think to yourself in your darkest moments out loud. Say them so someone else might hear. No? Why not? Calling your bluff?

Negative self talk is just a bad habit. It's a habit you can break. You wouldn't say those things, because at some level you know it's a load of baloney. You know it's just a fleeting self-loathing moment, a moment that will pass.

The moment will pass, and you can help it along. Breaking habits requires replacing them with new habits. So, I dare you to say positive things about yourself every morning for a week. Say them out loud to yourself. Sure, you can close the bathroom door. You can say them while the shower is running so no one will hear you.

Just say them. I am a strong and beautiful person. I am capable of controlling my feelings. I make good choices about my health. I exercise because it makes me feel good. I am successful at what I do. I take care of myself because I am important. I deserve taking time for my own wellness. I believe in myself. I know I have the strength to keep going. I am able to manage my stress. I am surrounded by people who love me.

How's that for starters? Write your own. Replace the negative statements, the fragmented, disconnected statements that play in your head with new statements. Change the message, change the habit. People who are good at this work on it every day. It's like playing the piano. It doesn't practice itself. You are worth the effort, and I dare you.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You Snack Like a Chick!

by Kris Pitcher

Sometimes I just get excited about things. Like chickpeas! Who doesn't love a legume?! If you're going to snack, and I hope you should snack smart. And chickpeas are a smart snack.

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are associated with lowering our risk for coronary heart disease. How smart would that be? They are full of soluble fiber which helps lower cholesterol. Chickpeas are also chick-full of potassium and omega 3 fatty acids.

Soluble fiber is soluble in water just like it sounds. It actually absorbs water in our gastrointestinal track making a gummy, sticky substance. Stick with me here (I couldn't help that one! Ha!) This sticky fiber binds with lipids in the digestive system to help eliminate it with our waste.

See why I'm so excited? A can of chickpeas will run you under .89. Once you open it rinse the beans. This helps to reduce sodium, and washes away whatever that liquid is they're packed in. OK, they're packed in water, but it gets a little gummy. Wash that off.

You can eat them just like that, or throw them in your food processor with some lemon juice and parsley. You can get fancy and make your own hummus too. Just throw in some tahini (peanut butter if you can't find tahini), some sesame oil, I throw in olive oil for good measure and you are snacking away. It's so easy!

Add them to a salad, a stir fry, or virtually any dish. Spice them up for a side dish to replace your boring old rice. You get the idea. You've got a fiber and protein packed snack to take on the road, to work, or where ever you are going. Snack like a chick!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

All Things Being Equal - The Gym

by Kris Pitcher

I have always thought the gym to be a very unique place. Unless you stand out in the parking lot, it's kind of hard to tell who's who and even then the car you drive can be deceiving.

The gym is the great equalizer. It brings people from all walks of life together in one place. All ages, races, religions...people from different backgrounds and with different points of view. And once you're inside those doors, nothing else matters.

People don't really know exactly what you do for a living, or where you live, and they may or may not really care. But they care about you. That's the funny thing about the great equalizer, the people there care about you - not your stuff. Sure some of our friends at the gym know what we do, ask about our jobs etc. but that's the minority.

It's the thing that brings everyone together, the working out, the thing in common that makes it such a unique place. All the other components of our lives are left outside. This makes for a very simple and fun place to be.

If you think about it as a place of all things being equal everyone should feel comfortable at the gym. Everyone should feel like they belong, like they are part of something. Maybe our gym is just a special place, but I bet you know what I'm talking about. I've seen this in every gym I've been at.

Look left and then right the next time you're on the treadmill. Who's there with you? It's such an interesting mix, because it's the great equalizer!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fast Food Cleanse

by Kris Pitcher

Over the weekend I found myself at the super mega vitamin mart. Now, I don't usually shop at these places because online shopping is easy, and cheaper. But we found ourselves running out of some essentials, so a trip was in order.

As we looked at the rows and rows of very expensive supplements I couldn't help but overhear the sales person talking to a woman nearby. They were talking about b vitamins. She was telling him how she just felt overwhelmed, couldn't focus, and just hated it when she couldn't think straight.

This gal was your typical 30 something young woman with a lot on her plate. Her life, no doubt probably is overwhelming. So, the sales person tells her what she really needs to do is a cleanse. As you can imagine my ears perked right up.

He showed her a box of something that was about to change her life and then the kicker. I hope I didn't laugh out loud audibly. He said, "You might want to cut down on the fast food and alcohol during the cleanse."

Cut down? Really?! If I understood his instructions, some fast food and alcohol during the cleanse is alright...but just cut down. It's amazing what people will buy, what they'll buy into and what they'll believe.

The supplement industry is about a $400 billion (with a B) industry annually. Yet people don't seem to want to pay for a personal trainer, a nutritional coach, or at the very least do the work they need to do to feel decent. Decent. If they can just take a pill, drink a potion, or do a cleanse to rid their body of toxins they'll magically be all better. Only it doesn't work that way.

Eating to fuel our body with healthy choices most of the time works. It works. Period. Those of you who do it know. There are plenty of supplements that can assist us physiologically, boost our progress and ensure we get the proper nutrients we need. But we have to do the basic work.

I hope this customer is able to think more clearly after she cuts down on her fast food and alcohol during her cleanse. I hope it makes her feel better too. And I'm sure she'll be a good customer to the mega supplement place until she's ready to start doing some work herself.

We got what we needed and got out of there. It made me feel a little sleazy to tell you the truth. I wondered if the sales person actually believed what he was telling her, or if he knew he was full of crap. Either way, we must make sound choices to set the foundation for our bodies. There isn't a magic pill, potion...or cleanse. Sorry. Could someone help me down from my soapbox now?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Zumba Never Gets Old

by Kris Pitcher

If Zumba had come around in the '90s I would have loved it. But some fitness trends just miss your boat. Or do they? Saturday I was waiting outside the group exercise room as the Zumba class was assembling.

The instructor was unmistakable. Her hair in pigtails, neon pink shirt, black pants with pockets everywhere (what are those pockets for?), and around her ample waist was a studded belt. She had flair.

Zumba pants take me right back to 9th grade when parachute pants were the thing to wear to the Def Leopard concert. Zippered pockets, satin fabric, they were everything important in a girls life. Maybe that's why I couldn't take my eyes off the Zumba was calling me from my past.

As the ladies arrived, they all had pink or purple shirts on. It was an unwritten "uniform". They took their places in their black pants. But one participant stood out from all the rest. She arrived early. This gal took her place in the very front. I know the type...she had HER spot. Her pants were no knock offs. They said "Zumba" right on them. The pockets clad with tassels and all. Her boots were black, her shirt purple. Her flair impressive.

The class filled, the music started, the beat dropped and the hips started doing things I know mine couldn't. I was mesmerized and worried all at the same time. The pocket flair spun in the air flicking back and forth. These were no parachute pants, these were Zumba pants!

And this gal in the front, I'll call her Grandma Zumba because she had to be in her 70s shook her business along with all the rest. See, Zumba never gets old! And maybe, one day all the onlookers will actually get in there and see how it feels to shake those pants around. What have you been waiting for?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Exercise Your Mind

by Kris Pitcher

There is not a more pleasing exercise of the mind than gratitude.  It is accompanied with such an inward satisfaction that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance.  ~Joseph Addison

Exercising our mind with gratitude would serve us all well today. As we remember those who lost their lives on 9/11, and honor all the men and women who without hesitation give of themselves for our safety - we are humbled with gratitude. 

Take this opportunity to remind yourself for that which you are grateful. Make yourself aware of the people in your life who you love and who love you - show gratitude. Take stock of your health, your well being and your strength. There is much in life to be grateful for. 

Put aside your wants, your desires, your feelings of life not being is for exercising your mind with gratitude. You will be rewarded by the performance. May you find satisfaction. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Week In the Life - Contest Prep Update

by Kris Pitcher

A week in the life of contest prep. Twenty five one days and counting...we're all counting down the days to contest day! I thought I'd write a little each day up to your weekly update. We'll see how that goes. I registered for the contest this week. I'm in!

I'm tired of doing my cardio. The 45 minutes in the morning is easy. It seems like it's over before I'm awake. Probably because it's over before I'm awake. But the session at night is like 3 minutes for every one. I feel like I'm in a time warp. Around the 35 minute mark I get light headed, cold-sweaty, and have to play tricks on myself to get it done.

I'm cold most of the time. With my body fat approaching 10% my insulation is gone. My fingers are like icicles at work and I wear my ugly work sweater (the one I leave on the back of my work chair) most of the day. It's 90 degrees outside.

Every one's complaining about eating only fish. But I like it. Stop hating me. I eat it for five meals a day beginning with my 8:00 AM "breakfast" meal. I know it's breakfast because I put cinnamon on it. My final meal before bed is egg whites. I put cinnamon on that's like the cinnamon circle of life. I like cinnamon.

My feet hurt. I have to pee every 5 minutes. The better we look, the worse we feel. In another two weeks I will literally be spending my spare time like a cat, falling asleep everywhere...anywhere - anyhow. Conserving energy where ever I can.

This week my husband said, "I've never been this strict." Meaning he's never dieted this strictly. It's a whole new game. I'm so proud of him.

Then he sat down next to me, took my hand in his and said something like, "Tell me about the pizza we'll have after the contest." I looked into his eyes, and tried to focus. "It will have cheese, fresh mozzarella and goat cheese. Some kind of meat," I crooned. "And kalamata olives. Canadian bacon is fine," he said. This is the kind of deep conversation we have at this point.

I think about what I want to eat on Sunday the 2nd of October. I want waffles with peanut butter and syrup. And the pizza. That's about as far as I can think. Oh, and a diet soda. And a piece of the natural fruit leather I hid in the pantry. And a banana. These are not unreasonable "wants".  Even still, it's early to be thinking about this. Too early.

I am grateful for all of our friends at the gym. They are so supportive, they understand, they cheer, they say just the right thing at the right time. Being around other competitors is a great thing. Thanks guys!

My suit fits, and I'm not even afraid the crystals are going to pop off and take some one's eye out under the pressure of my flesh. I'm excited that I blinged it out this year, I'll be all sparkly up there! I'll wear a different suit for prejudging, which also fits. Life is good. In May, I looked at my tiny suit bottom and thought I might just be crazy to think I'd ever get that on my body - maybe around my arm, but my butt?

I'm tracking to be at the top of the lightweight category which is 125. I don't know where I'll end up in 3 weeks time, but my goal is to be at the top end 122-123 ish. We'll see. I have no idea what I'm going to look like this year. No idea. But I think it's gonna be awesome. And with that, I'm off to hunker down for another week of hard work, dedication, energy conservation and contest prep (and fish). Here we go!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Starting Today!

by Kris Pitcher

When I heard someone say, "I'm starting today..." I just wanted to yawn and I thought - yeah right! Whoa negative Nelly! After giving myself a self-check, actually I emptied my bladder which always seems to be full, I had a whole new attitude.

We all start some day. I picked a day and started my secret diet, May 1st to be exact. Sure, I was planning before that, but I picked a day. And I started.

The more times we start something the more likely we are to complete it. So, in retrospect (of my bad attitude) this person was doing herself a great favor.

It's "starting tomorrow" which seems to get us in trouble. Tomorrow is always a day away. Always. It's never today. So starting today is a great mantra. Doing the things you need to do to start right now can be easy too. It doesn't have to be overwhelming. Just pick a few things. Make it to the gym. Cut out some refined carbs, and skip the dessert.

Changing everything all at once doesn't have to be your goal. You can make gradual changes. Pick a few things to focus on, and as you become good at those you'll want to do a few more. It's a self-feeding process. We do well, we feel well, we do well etc. See? It's a cycle.

So what will you start today? I wish her, and you success in your goals big and small - because we all start somewhere. We pick a day, and we start. Why not starting today?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Science Helps Us Stay Slim

by Kris Pitcher

A new four-year study was recently published in the June 23rd New England Journal of Medicine from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard Schools of Medicine and Public Health. This longitudinal study has identified some specific foods and food types that are more responsible for the excess weight we gain over time.

Over the four years of the study, participants put on an average of about 0.8 pounds per year, or 3.2 pounds over the entire study. This might not seem like much of a problem, but over 20 years' time, that would pack 16 pounds on you.

What they found in terms of the foods and activities (habits) that made participants gain weight weren't super awe inspiring. Potato chips made them gain weight, drinking as little as one alcoholic beverage a day added 0.41 pounds in four years, additional hours in front of the TV etc. But certain foods did confirm good behaviors win in the end.

Eating a serving of yogurt each day, consuming whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables all were found to be linked to weight loss during the study. Sometimes science tells us what we already know. Eat a healthy variety of whole foods in moderation and maintain an active lifestyle. Seems simple.

These small steps toward healthy living can help us over time to keep the creeping pounds from...creeping up. It doesn't just happen by accident that ten years from now we are either in great shape, or we are ten pounds heavier. We make choices - and science continues to help us make the right decisions.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Fitness Fad - Textercising!

by Kris Pitcher

I try to stay up on all the fitness fads and trends. And when I started noticing this one I wondered just what improvements I might be able to make if I really applied myself.

I see it every where! In the gym, on the's textercise! You might have seen the commercial campaign about how you can't do things and text at the same time. They show a lady strolling her baby into danger, and a guy riding his lawn mower over the bushes all to demonstrate that texting while driving is dangerous.

Well, texting while driving is dangerous. But textercise is different! I see textercisers on the steppers a lot. Their form is impeccable, they are able to lean with their entire forearms on the machine, their body at a 90 degree - hands outstretched and thumbs working that keypad texting like crazy! It's amazing!

I also see textercisers on the treadmill. They too have this new fad down really well. Some can walk up a pretty steep incline while they do I've yet to see a runner - maybe they just can't focus.

The beauty really is in the mind body connection with textercising. The concentration, the focus...very impressive. Geeze - I don't mean to date myself here, but do you remember when cell phones weren't allowed in the gym? OMG! Can you imagine, how silly. Now we're textercising! That just goes to show you how things can change.

When something important comes along, like texting, we can work it in to our workout to increase our benefit. I love it! Textercising, you should try it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Keep Racing!

by Kris Pitcher

"Perseverance is not a long race; 
it is many short races one after another." Walter Elliott 

This couldn't be more true. It certainly suits the journey toward health and fitness. And it most definitely suits the journey for the competitor. I'll warn you as I get closer, I have days of inspiration, ideas and creative thought...and other days. 

On the "other" days, I engage in many short races. I know you have days like this too. As I get things checked off my list I'm happy to have completed them. But I could just as easily skip them...except for the fact that I will actually be on stage in less than four weeks. There's no skipping.

Have you been skipping because your goal fell off your radar? Summer can tend to do that. As the nights cool and the leaves threaten to turn colors and fall - it might be a good time to focus your many short races. Structure is on it's way back into our lives as we turn the calendar, why not get back to focusing on your health and fitness.

We give up on our short races and feel like we've let ourselves down. But if we put all those little things together, that's what builds success. Perseverance. Morning cardio, check it off the list - short race. Pack meals, check - short race. Make it to the gym with socks and sports bra, success - short race. You get the idea. It's everything working together that makes us successful in the end. 

Perseverance is doing the things we need to do even when we don't want to, we're too tired to, or no one is looking. It's what we do to keep going - it's not a long race. It's all the short races that make up your day. Keep racing. Keep going. Persevere! 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wipe That Smile On Your Face!

by Kris Pitcher

Like it or lump it, you get a weekly contest prep update from me. And I have to say...things are going well. But it's HARD. Each prep cycle is different, and once it's over you forget how hard it was - maybe like childbirth.

I've had insomnia, as you know. This is new and not in an exciting way. Just new. The numbers are slowly inching where I want them to be. The body fat is coming off, and the lean body mass is staying. My diet is pretty easy - I'm not starving or ready to eat my arm off. We did however give up our weekly cheat meal I don't know how many weeks ago...and I miss it.

A friend at the gym excitedly told me he tried my pizza recipe. He and his wife LOVED it. I think I drooled on the carpet as he told me. But I know I have to live vicariously right now in their delight. Four more weeks, Floyd and I'll have my own pizza!

It's down to the wire and we start to think about having only a few more workouts for each body part. When you think of it like that, the time will fly by. I posed in my suit this past weekend with Jacques and his trainer Todd- the suit fits, I look good. And as I shared on face book, it didn't even feel like I was about to run naked down the freeway (a horrible feeling).

The house is a filthy mess, please don't come over. We only have time for cardio, cooking fish, and getting the laundry from the washer to the dryer and to the coffee table for folding. And sleeping. The reality is we can only handle so much. Some things just have to give.

I'm looking for safety pins to keep my pants up. My bras are baggy, and we won't even talk about my underwear. Between my disheveled clothes and all the bags I carry day to day (computer/gym/cooler) I feel like a bag lady in training. Now if I could only find some cans to recycle.

I'd like to have a treat, and I thought of something I could soda. I know, sounds fancy. The bubbles would be so refreshing, tingling all the way down my throat. I'm going to put that on the grocery list so I don't forget. Then I could belch like a sailor too!

Most of all I find I have to wipe that smile on my face. I get in "serious" mode, it's mostly comatose mode. But I have to remind myself I'm not in a bubble...there's a world of people not dieting for a contest out there who would like to see my smile. It also helps me choose my attitude. As I've said before, we do this by choice.

So, as we close in on the final four weeks it's time to register for the contest, get the hair cut and colored, take care of all the beauty rituals in the final weeks, pick up the thread in my suit color so I can tack the top in place, practice posing...and the list goes on and on.

I'm grateful for Bliss, it helps quiet my mind - and just knowing you're out there helps me keep that smile on! Thanks for being there, I'll need your support in these final weeks!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Zucchini Cakes!

by Kris Pitcher

If you've got a garden, or a neighbor with a garden, you've got zucchini every where. Zucchini is a great vegetable. It's very versatile, you can even sneak it into baked goods - hello, zucchini bread! But did you ever think of baking it into brownies? You can hide it anywhere!

This recipe is an adaptation (which means I took most of the yummy, gooey stuff out). Try this summer sensation served over a bed of wild greens. I would of course accompany it with a big old my dieting dreams. Sigh...

Zucchini Cakes:
2 C grated zucchini
3 egg whites
1/4 C chopped onion
1/4 C flour
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients together to fully incorporate and moisten. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto a nonstick (sprayed) pan on medium to medium high heat. Cook on each side until golden. Makes 4 cakes | 84 calories each.

If you wanted to you could substitute corn meal for the flour and make these gluten free. You'd want to let the mixture sit a few minutes to absorb the moisture and soften the corn meal if you do. Enjoy your cakes!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Who's the Fairest of Them All?

by Kris Pitcher

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I'd say I have been lucky to have spent most of my life surrounded by beholders. We each have our unique style of beauty...mine through history has tended to be short, stout, and curly.

There were times I'd describe it as painful. I didn't make good choices in hair, make-up, and certainly had my own style of dress. Thankfully, hair products have come a LONG way, and I've found what works for me. I still argue it takes a strong person to love someone who wakes up looking like they've walked through a hurricane.

All that aside, when it comes down to it you are who you think you are. Thus I am thankful for my life of beholders. They are the ones who told me I was the prettiest in the room, in the class, at the party etc. They are the ones who have always loved me regardless of whether my hair looks like cotton candy when I wake up. They are my beholders, the ones who see me as beautiful.

Who are your beholders? Who are the people you can be your authentic self with? Who helped shape your sense of beauty in this world? Most of us don't fit the airbrushed societal definition of "beautiful". We just don't. Yet, there is beauty in each of us worth celebrating.

It's worth taking a moment to think about who shaped your ideas about beauty, and to give some thought to what makes you unique. We've all had our stages of experimenting with looks and fashion that didn't work for us. And they didn't work because they weren't us. Find what's you. After all, you are the fairest of them all!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lower Your Expectations

by Kris Pitcher

After a frustrating night trying to sleep and not being very successful I decided to just get up at an ungodly hour. Sometimes disappointment just isn't worth it. Have you ever been frustrated because you just can't please someone? And how often is that someone, you?

You know the type, no matter what you do - it just isn't good enough. Success - great, but you could have done better. Progress - that's nice, but you should have done more. True we do have external pressures to perform. But what I'm suggesting might just be refreshing.

What if we lowered our expectations? In the case of my sleeping habits if I expect to get eight hours of glorious, uninterrupted, sleep each night I'm going to be disappointed. I'm going to be frustrated. The alternative is I can change my expectation. What's the point really of being mad about it?

Getting all worked up about it would only increase my stress hormones. My options are to lay there, relax, do some meditation, visualization and breathing exercises. And then once I've exhausted those options...just get up and get started with my day. I got 5 or 6 good hours. Why be mad? Just lower the expectation.

We ask a lot of ourselves. Perfect homes, perfect families, perfect jobs...oh and we want to have healthy bodies and minds too. We want friendships that are easy, relationships requiring no work, and healthy parents who live forever. Except we don't live in Barbie's townhouse in 1978.

So just maybe we should consider all that is good in our lives, everything we are doing right, doing well and celebrate that. Look at it as permission to lower your expectations. I see it as still requiring the same things from ourselves, we're just doing it with a different perspective. The pressures are different. Allowing your expectations to be adjustable gives you a break. You deserve a little break.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fantastic Cakes and Cardio!

by Kris Pitcher

An article caught my eye in the complimentary, color, copy of the USA Today at my hotel the other day. The obesity rate is climbing at an alarming rate. By 2030 nearly 50% of the US population will be 30 pounds or more above a healthy weight, making them "obese".

One of the challenges as described by the little column is the constant bombarding we get from messaging about food, fast food. Basically, we're being circled by it like sharks (my words). Being desensitized to the world around us has become the problem. And I realized this for myself on the treadmill this week.

I used to know a gal who would watch the food network for hours while she did her cardio. She was a teacher at the time. I called it, "food porn". Again, my words. She eventually quit teaching and became a pastry chef. And I bet she still does hours of cardio.

At the time I wondered how anyone could torture themselves like that. Watching all that amazing food being prepared? Then I flipped to TLC's Fantastic Cakes! I looked left, then one but me in the place. I watched three chefs create works of art, in a time crunch, for three different special events.

I don't know if I'm sick or just completely desensitized!? I think it's the latter. The cakes didn't seem real to me. They were inanimate. Now, I don't watch food shows while I do my cardio as a rule. But I can see how you could be desensitized either way. The cakes...they were dead to me! (Ok that was a little dramatic.)

It was the artistry that was fascinating to me. I also recognized in that moment, our world is full of "food content". Even our entertainment is about food. All different kinds of programming about it - competitions, how to's, even shows about building amazing cakes. It is everywhere and we are bombarded by it.

Staying focused in this world is a challenge. I intended to do 30 minutes on the treadmill. But I got all wrapped up in these cakes and I needed to see each one delivered. After 45 minutes each was safely being eaten by a party of onlookers.

Then Miami Ink came on, and I figured I better quit before I walked another couple of hours...Keep yourself focused, it isn't easy. We've got a lot of work to do to keep from turning into that statistic. Sometimes it just takes a little encouragement from someone. Pass it on!