Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Trouble With Fitness Trackers

by Kris Pitcher

I'll preface this blog by saying there are a lot of different ways to get to the same place. Finding a way that works for you is key. What sparks my thoughts on this subject is hearing frustration and confusion from competitors trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Fitness trackers have their place both within the general population, and maybe within the competitive population. But only with the right expectations about what it's going to do for you.

  • Provide motivation to move. Great
  • Track information about your sleep. Excellent.
  • Track your heart rate. Questionable as to accuracy.
  • Track your caloric intake and expenditure. Not in the ballpark.

Let's back up before we move on. Calories are units of energy. Everything we do requires energy. Whether we are sleeping, digesting, breathing, moving our bowels...or exercising. Every magical thing our body does requires energy.

We take in calories from the foods we eat. Protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Each has it's own "estimated" value. We expend calories...well, always. We expend calories in active and passive ways all the time.

How much energy, or calories, we need is very individual. Many factors play into the equation. What is our body composition, our hormone profile, our activity level, our "metabolism" - all factors which contribute to how many calories we need. But this isn't about that.

This is about using a tracker to rely on how much you've expended, so you can determine how much you need to take in. There are a couple of reasons why this doesn't work, particularly for the competitive athlete.

First, trackers are inaccurate. One study determined trackers overestimated expenditure in ambulatory activities by 16-40%, while underestimating passive daily activities by up to 34%. That's a pretty wide range.

Second, composition change isn't as linear as calories in < calories out = loss. So to rely on the tracker to determine this for you is chaos. What works better?

Math. Math works better. The greatest frustration comes from competitors trying to ensure they get all of their "macros" in by using the tracker. Truth be told, it's also not accurately tracking nutritional information.

For general population learning the trials and tribulations of making good choices, fitting in what they need, and finding accountability in the tracker, great! But that's all a bit loosey-goosey for someone in a physique sport.

Simplicity works. I'm a flexible-clean eater. What does that mean? I know exactly which nutrients I need in each meal, it's planned out. I can select from my list of each category of nutrients for variation. Simple.

There's never a day when I didn't get all my carbohydrates, protein, or fat in. It's in the plan, and I eat the plan. When does the plan change? The plan evolves when we need to elicit change. We have a number of variables we can choose from to make said change. Easy.

How many calories, EXACTLY, is my plan? I'm not entirely sure. It doesn't matter. The calories are an estimation of the energy. As I move from off season to prep, my plan will begin to evolve. We monitor my progress, and make changes as necessary. BIG PICTURE.

Now, when I started competing nine years ago...I tracked everything. Everything! I tracked my cardio, my lifting, my meals, my weight, my periods...all of it. I needed that connection to the process. I needed the minutia. And, I thought that data would be helpful in the future.

It's not. My body is different. I'm eating differently. My composition is different. It's an evolution. And it can't be tracked using algorithms that don't understand my composition, hormonal make up, or metabolism. It just can't.

My advice? Use your tracker to give you data about your sleep and your daily movement. Put it on as a reminder that you are an athlete. Wear it in solidarity with others around you who are trying to be more active. And stop being frustrated in it's inadequacies.

It's another tool you don't need to be successful in this sport. Stop tracking what you've done and start focusing on what you are doing. If you are counting on the tracker creating a daily plan after the fact...you're moving in the wrong direction.

Plan your day, then do it. Track that.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Amy's Sweet Potato & Apple Whipped Casserole

by Kris Pitcher

'Tis the season to publish my favorite Thanksgiving dish! This is sure to please this season. I recommend it be the topic of conversation around the table. The only, topic.

Amy's Sweet Potato & Apple Whipped Casserole
  • 4 sweet potatoes (equivalent 4 cups, cubed)
  • 3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and quartered
  • 1 egg
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 c freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp freshly grated orange rind
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh is best, if you have it)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Roast sweet potatoes whole at 450 degrees until tender, about 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven and size of the potatoes. (Make sure you poke holes in them with a fork, first!)
  2. Bake apple pieces on a pan sprayed with non-stick for the last 20 minutes or so, until soft.
  3. Whip the egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Keep in the frig until ready to use
  4. Let sweet potatoes cool enough to scrape the pulp out of the skins, add to mixer with softened apples. Using the paddle attachment, blend until as smooth as possible, adding the single egg, OJ, orange rind, spices, and vanilla.
  5. When thoroughly mixed, slowly fold in the whipped egg whites to the sweet potatoes and apples, gently mixing by hand until a uniform, lighter color. (Nor egg white streaks)
  6. Spray 9x13 inch baking pan with non-stick, carefully pour mixture into the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Serve hot.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Serving Up Anger, A Chemical Warfare

by Kris Pitcher

My educational background is rooted in psychology with a sprinkling of anthropology and sociology. To say the last few days has been interesting to watch, is an understatement. What I'm most drawn to is the sense of loss and devastation, the bullying, the rise in unkind acts and the increase in anger.

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • sleeplessness
  • high blood pressure
  • skin problems like increased acne
  • digestive irregularities
These things are all caused by the chemical warfare of - anger. People are angry. What does being angry do to your body? Anger begins a domino effect of chemicals in our bodies. The adrenal glands push out adrenaline and cortisol.

These "fight or flight" stress hormones create a burst of energy so we can fight off a bear, or lift a car off a trapped child. They also cause a rise in blood pressure, body temperature, increase our pain threshold, and raise our respiration rate. 

These chemicals are fatty acids, and the continual release of and long term effect of them is build up in the arteries leading to an increased risk of coronary disease. Anger makes you sick. 

Stress, or anger, doesn't happen TO us, it happens within us based on our response to a situation. We choose to be angry. We are choosing to be depressed, anxious, and sleepless. We are choosing to have digestive problems and high blood pressure. Anger only affects us internally.

Each of us is entirely welcome to our feelings. I would never diminish how you feel about anything. That is a personal issue. What each of us has the power to control is our RESPONSE to our feelings. We own our response.

I am a proponent of controlling what I can control. There are a lot of things outside my control. There are also many things within my control. I focus on those things. I am also solution oriented.

What could I do differently? What could I work on? What do I have the power to change? What solutions do I bring to any situation? What can I learn? What can I contribute?

There is a lot happening "out there", things I may not have personal impact on. There is also a lot of  anger over "what if" situations that are not real. We can all settle the dust by controlling the things within our control.

Impact your circle, your community, your family. Make a difference. Being caught up in anger is only serving you, and not in a positive way. Choose your reactions, your feelings, and your emotions. Be aware of the chemical warfare you are engaging in. Ask yourself who that is serving.  

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Voting Sex and Macros

by Kris Pitcher

I voted. I've seen a lot of passion around what might be the most embarrassing, disappointing...fill in your adjective...election of all time. There just are not words.

People get worked up over lots of things and this is no exception. Whatever you subscribe to, you own it. Whether it's your politics, what kind of sex you have, or how you want to eat - your values, your choices.

Judgments, and passions, come over much less. I've never quite understood why people get so worked up over which "camp" they eat in. I am not in an eating cult. I can build an eating plan using any method of eating.

If you are passionate about HIIT cardio, or trail running, by all means be my guest. I'm not judging you. Why are people so mad about these issues?

People want to be right. Period. And as my mother used to say, "End of discussion." And that was the end of it, she had the LAST word.

But really? Are we paying attention to the right things? Have our passions for certain things outweighed their worth? Cant' we still be friends if you eat Keto, and I eat carbs?

I'm thinking these are not the values of importance - to other people. We can live in harmony and true to our values even if they are slightly different. And as I cast my vote, I hope this is the case for much more important issues.


Monday, October 31, 2016

What Makes You So Special?

by Kris Pitcher

I recently read a response on a thread where it seemed EVERYONE had a certain issue. Then it dawned on me...in a group of 5,000 it was not even one percent who had responded, yet it seemed like it was "everyone".

In the early morning hours when sleep escapes me and I'm solving the problems of the world, I wonder - what's my one percent?

One percent of 5,000 is 50. Fifty people. One percent might earn their way into the IFBB to call herself a Pro. 50. Of 5,000 one percent might be IG sensations. One percent might serve in the military, be surgeons, or lawyers.

We join groups where we all appear the "same", but within that we're one percent. Social media makes the world both big, and small. It's a place where everyone is really just 50 people. If that's the case, I'm challenging the question - what's your one percent?

It's easy to be nothing, zero percent. It's easy to appear to be something when you really are just a carefully marketed profile picture of yourself. It's easy to become a filtered, photo shopped version of yourself.

What is your one percent? What makes you rise to the top of the heap? What sets you apart or above? Is it your sport, your career, your family, your spirit...

We'd be happier if we did more of our one percent. If we did more of what makes us special and less marketing of our filtered self to groups of the same, we'd be true to our one percent.

If you've lost sight of, or never figured out, your one percent it's time to find out what makes you so special. In a sea of 5,000 you are one percent!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Injuries, Sickness and Setbacks in Your Fitness Plan

by Kris Pitcher

Once we decide to move forward on our path to health and fitness we don't envision anything getting in our way. Our determination is strong, we have a plan of action, and we've aligned ourselves with success.

Whether we are a competitive athlete, or we're taking back control of our health metrics, we will all at some point face bumps in the road. These may come in the form of  an unexpected illness. From the common cold to cancer and everything under the sun...illness happens.

Injuries are even more common. We might face overuse injuries, an old injury may resurface as our activity increases, or the worst yet - the acute injury.

Setbacks come in all forms. Work may need to become a priority. You may be facing family issues which require your attention. Or something in your plan just may not work. Some component or dynamic may just simply not mesh.

How we deal with these inevitable occurrences determines whether we move forward, or hang up the towel. There are times when more important life issues take priority. Let's face it, competing is a hobby. Running marathons is not going to move your career ahead. Prioritizing what's truly important becomes key.

Those events will be waiting when things settle down. Dealing with injury or sickness is a little bit different. Working through overuse injuries is possible, and requires a mental shift. We need to change the way we move, our range of motion, and the exercises we're doing. We might need to commit to some rehabilitative movements, some rest, or even time off.

When we're sick, we need to allow our immune system to do it's job. Undo stress (exercise) will likely put us further back than just resting and allowing the body to deal with what's ailing you. Rest is difficult for most, and a healthy immune system requires rest when it's being taxed.

Sometimes our systems just don't cooperate. We might be experiencing hormonal shifts, systematic irregularities, or other anomalies interrupting our progress. These are often issues we need some medical advice, assistance, and correction with. Your contest or event can wait. Your health comes first.

Putting aside the notion that "more is better" is the first place to start in getting your head around dealing with any of these setbacks. You might have your heart set on a specific event, date, or milestone when you are faced with your setback.

Knowing you can manage through it, control what you can control, and maintain perspective on what truly requires your attention in the moment is not only helpful, it's critical. You only have to do weight management as long as you want it to work...which is forever.

If an injury or requirement of your attention comes forward, you have to assess priority. We have time. Do the things you can do, control the things you can. Engage in the amount and type of activity you are able to do, when you are able to do it.

Most of all, give yourself a break. You are the one putting the pressure on yourself, no one else is. The pressure to perform isn't "out there", it's internal...and you control that. Reset your expectations, your timeline, your mindset.

You can successfully overcome obstacles with attitude. I recently heard a CEO say, "It's not the crisis which defines us. It's how we respond in the crisis which defines us." This is so true.

Setbacks are going to happen, you will find yourself in "crisis" at some point along your path. How will you respond?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What it Takes to Lose

by Kris Pitcher

Competing at the national level takes a lot. It takes lots of support from people around you. It takes a trusted coach, trusted advisers, and trust in yourself. It takes clarity in your goals, requires humility, and readiness to lose.

Stay with me here. We all want to win. We train to win. I train to win. I visualize myself being called into the first call out, being moved to center, and wining. Of the thousand who will show up at the highest level, only five will place in your class, and only one will win. One.

My goals going into a competition are twofold. First, to come in better than I did previously. This is - to beat my best every time. This is the only thing I control. Can I come in tighter? Can I create a better back? Can I lift my glutes? Can I improve upon my physique? This is my primary goal.

Secondary is the goal for a placing. I have zero control over this. At the highest level, everyone is great. Everyone is in shape. Everyone has amazing structure (most better than mine). You never know who will show up, who you'll stand next to, what the judges will be attracted to, or how you'll place.

When you compete at the highest level, you have to be willing to lose. Part of this is being willing and open to criticism. Are you willing to take feedback? Are you open to hearing where you went wrong? Are you able to be criticized, objectified, and picked apart when you ask for feedback without having your feelings hurt?

Are you able to share your placing in a positive way when you get home? Or will you bad-mouth the judging? Will you say it wasn't fair? Or will you rise to your imperfections, your shortcomings, and your structural flaws?

Being willing to lose means walking on that stage with humility. It means respecting the sport, your federation, the judging process, and your fellow competitors. Competing at the highest level means continuing to show up. And waiting your turn.

Very few of us can step on the national stage and get that pro card the first time out. It does happen, but most of us don't fall in that percentage. So then what?

Whether it's your very first local show, or your sixth time on the national stage, you should be considering "what's next" before you step foot in the lights. You should have a plan for how you'll train, and eat in the weeks to follow.

You should be ready to absorb the valuable feedback you receive and make adjustments based on it. So, what's my plan?

I know I need to work on my posing, on my presentation, and most of all on getting bigger in key areas. I have received some very valuable feedback, which I'm absorbing. I'm anticipating some additional feedback as well.

Now it's time to get to work. It's time to eat like an athlete, to train like an athlete, and to strategically decide what I'll do next year.

Did the season turn out like I had hoped it would. No, it didn't. I was among some amazing women who earned their way to the IFBB. Some of my friends, made their way, and I am so proud to have witnessed their time in the spotlight. And while this year wasn't my year...I still have what it takes to lose.

And that just might get me a win.


Friday, February 5, 2016

How to Finally Succeed at Your Diet

by Kris Pitcher

I can remember standing in line in grade school waiting to take a vision test. Why this happened in a "mass" situation in a portable classroom in public school is beyond me. As I stood there anxiety filled, I tried to figure out how I would cheat on the test. Cheat. On a vision test.

Sounds ridiculous, right? I've always wanted to do well...at everything. The problem is, I'm visually challenged. I didn't want to wear my glasses. I guess I thought there must be another way. I would lean in and try to listen to the letters and numbers being recited by the student in front of me.

There is no other way. I have to wear my glasses in order to have my vision corrected. There is no other way to make your diet work either. You just have to follow it. You can't cheat and look for another way.

Creating success is the key to being able to follow your plan. Controlling your environment is paramount. Planning and having what you need, when you need it, with you, is the only way to make things work. You have to put your glasses on to be able to see.

It's up to you to design your environment. Fill your home with the things on your plan, the foods that will make you successful, and the things that you "can" have. You can't dive nutter butters elbow deep into a tub of peanut butter if those things aren't in the house. Control your environment.

Be prepared. You've heard this before. Planning is key - in everything. Shop, prepare, and pack your food. Always. Going on errands? Pack what you need, and take an extra meal in case things take longer than you expected. Out for the entire day? Get your cooler out and take all 6 of your meals. If you don't have it, you can't eat it and you will fail. This is easy once you get into a rhythm of preparation.

One of the most important keys to success is your mindset. Cheating isn't an option. It's just not. One of the reasons people cheat is they are thinking of, and placing energy, on the things they cannot have. Shift your focus, your energy, and pay attention to what you can have. Energy spent on what you can have and can do propels you forward.

You can't help but succeed when you are controlling your environment, planning and preparing for it, and putting your mental focus on your goals. You can't help but see your success when you finally put your glasses on and realize, there is no other way.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Finding Inspiration, IG, Facebook? Where Do Competitors Find It?

by Kris Pitcher

A comment on one of my IG posts inviting me to visit someone's profile for inspiration...well, sparked inspiration. Where exactly does inspiration come from? Where do I get it? How have I kept it? Good questions. (No, I did not visit her profile.)

Inspiration is a personal and internal "thing". It doesn't come from somewhere outside. It comes from within. It's deep down, intrinsic, and part of you. Inspiration is part of a system of values. No matter what you are inspired to do, when you find that sweet spot...it's internal.

In observing other competitors, those who are driven by other people's success, by the IG goddesses, the social media mavens, or by wanting to be exactly like someone they idolize - don't make it. They fade away. They find they can't and don't stack up.

I'm not suggesting you should not look to mentors, to people of greater success and accomplishment to model your actions after. What I am saying is the motivation, the inspiration, to make those actions happen on a daily, hourly, minute by minute basis comes from inside you.

The obsession to find external inspiration is wasted energy. It's lack of connectedness to your goals and desires. It's wanting something someone else has. You need to want what you have, and work from there. This is where you find true inspiration.

Trust me, no one will want something for you. Not really. Not enough to do what is necessary to make it happen. And if you need external inspiration to get you to do any of what is required to make it as a competitor...you won't make it.

Dig deep. Determine why you want something for yourself. Regardless of what that thing is, why do you want it. And why is that important to you? There is your inspiration. Renew it often, and again. It's inside you. Find it, and stay connected to it. It's inspiration!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Fair Comparison, Are Her Shoulders Bigger Than Mine?

by Kris Pitcher

My prep starts now. I have big plans this year and lots of work to do. My hope is, I've made some progress. You won't hear me talk a lot about the process personally...because July is a long time from now. And frankly, you'll get sick of hearing about it.

One of the first things I do is look for my "colleagues". Who else is getting ready for similar shows? Part of that is to find a peer group for support. Part of that is seeing how I stack up. Are her shoulders bigger than mine?

But there's one thing I know for sure. I'm competing against me and no one else. My single goal is to come in better than last year. Regardless of who else is there. The truth is, I can ONLY control me.

Worrying about who else will be there is lost energy. They might not even show up. Any number of things can come up in life and keep someone from making it to the stage. So comparing yourself to others along the way is playing the "what if" game.

Did you know 95% of what we worry about will never happen? It's true. If I were to spend my time and energy following other competitors and putting myself side-by-side against them in terms of my progress vs. their progress...well that's just silly. We are each working our own plan.

With continual and constant access to information and people on social media we get bombarded with what everyone else is doing, and how they look. There's a balance with "support" and sabotaging our own progress by worrying about what other people are doing, what they look like, and what their body fat is.

I watch women on forums spin in information seeking the opinions of thousands of others, when they have a coach...and their coach has laid out a plan for them. Just listen to your coach.

I also watch competitors compare themselves to unrealistic expectations. I see beginners compare themselves to pros. I see bikini competitors compare their body parts to women's physique. None of that makes any sense to me. Comparing yourself to anyone else is wasted energy. And why would you give your competition that advantage?

It's normal for self-doubt to creep in. It happens to competitors at every level. What sets high level athletes apart is their ability to keep their head straight. The ability to remain focused and keep your priorities in front of you will set you ahead of the competitor crumbling under the pressure of comparison.

The workouts are easy, the food becomes habit, but keeping your head in the game takes daily work. Visualize your success. SEE yourself confidently presenting on stage. Remain connected to your goals, your focus, your efforts, and your progress.

For some of us, and for me personally, this means closing my circle as I move through my prep. There comes a time when I have very little tolerance for social media. I don't want to see everyone's daily selfies, check ins, and workouts.

Put your clothes on. Stop posting progress pics every week. And consider focusing on you, not everyone else. It's my personal philosophy to compete quietly. I do my work. I'm not posting it all over IG and fb. I want to just quietly show up and let my physique do the talking. That's me.

It's what I need to do to maintain confidence along the way. It's the approach I need to take to be the athlete with her head in the game. It keeps me calm and focused. It's allowed me to compete at a high level.

And if I really, really want to compare myself to someone...I pull pictures of myself. It's the only fair comparison.