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How to Enhance Your Progress Photos

Progress pictures, progress pictures, progress pictures. Probably one of my clients most dreaded things to do, but one of the best tools for showing them how far they have come!

At first, progress photos can be discouraging. I remember when I took my first “before” picture. I was mortified. I couldn’t believe how I looked. It was not the image I had of myself. That is the beauty, and the beast, of taking that very first picture. It was beastly because I was embarrassed, but I found the beauty in it when I realized it could only get better from that moment! As the weeks went by, with each progress picture I took I began viewing myself differently. As each image changed I grew more encouraged, more determined and more disciplined. The process was powerful.

The process can only be powerful if the progress pictures are taken correctly. I have noticed, with each new client that joins the Arise Fitness team, progress pictures are a struggle. After all, how are we supposed to take progress pictures if we don’t really understand the purpose and/or understand HOW they need to be taken. Here are 5 tips to ensure a great, powerful progress picture journey.

Choose a place with great lighting.

Lighting matters. Dark photos do not show results. They may hide what you don’t want your coach or anyone else to see, but they do you no justice in showcasing your hard work. To see results you need to take your picture in a place with great lighting. The best light for snapping these shots is natural light! So, pick a room in your home, or your gym, where there are windows. Turn all the lights on, open the curtains and make sure there are no shadows being cast on your physique before you take the picture.

 Once you have found that spot with great lighting, stay there for every single progress photo.

Your coach needs uniformity in lighting and background when reviewing your photos. It is important for photos to be taken in the same place with the same lighting every single time. Since progress pictures are used to analyze progress it needs to be easy for us to notice the differences. If the lighting varies from image to image it makes it very difficult for us to see changes.

Choose your clothing wisely.

The best progress photos happen when the client is not trying to hide anything. How can your coach help you if they don’t know what you look like/where you struggle the most? The point I am making here is don’t wear clothing that hides your most hated part of your body. We need to be able to see the entire picture here, not just what you want to show us. The best thing to wear for progress pictures is a sports bra and spandex shorts or a bathing suit for you gals, boxers/briefs or shorts for you guys. Keep in mind your coach may want to use your pictures to show others one day (with your permission of course). If you don’t want to be seen in your actual bra and panties (or underwear for those men out there) choose a different outfit.

Stand in the same positions for each picture.

Your coach will need a picture of the front, side and rear of your body. The pose you will be in will be determined by your goals. If you are planning to compete your coach will need you in the respective poses. If your goal is to improve your physique without competing you will need to stand in the same pose for every picture. This preferred pose may be different from coach to coach so be sure to ask what they prefer if they do not tell you. One thing to note here is the side image. If you are just taking one image of one side of your body be sure it is the same side of your body! If you take an image of the left side of your body one week be sure the next week you take the image of your left side again, not your right.

Your photographer needs to take the picture from the same place each time.

One week I will get photos of the entire body and the next week I will get a picture from the knees up. This is not good. Again, your coach needs uniformity with progress photos. Pictures taken from different places, zoomed in and zoomed out, are not helpful in tracking progress. Be sure the photographer is standing in the same place each time as they take the picture. If you are your own photographer the same thing goes for you. Place your phone in the same place each time and stand the same distance away from the camera.

If you make sure these 5 things are done each time you will make your coaches life a lot easier AND you will be able to see all your hard work! Now, go take some awesome pictures.

If you have any other tips for great progress pictures let us know! We would love to hear!

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The Role Positive Self-Talk Plays In Reaching Your Fitness Goals

How many times have you criticized your body today? How many times have you thought about the parts of your body you hate today? Really think about it. What have you told yourself that created a downward spiral of emotions? What words have you spoken over yourself that made you feel like a failure or made you feel unworthy? Write each of those things down.

Have them written down? Good. Now, cross out the negative words in red and write in a positive word. Instead of the word ‘hate’ write the word ‘love’. Instead of the phrase ‘I really wish I looked like…’ replace it with ‘I am thankful I look like…’ Continue doing this until you have recreated every negative thought into positive self-talk that inspires confidence, value and self-worth.

Okay, so, what’s the point? The point is when we constantly speak critically of ourselves we begin to believe every lie that is spoken and it becomes a part of our identity. When we think of ourselves in this negative light nothing ever changes and nothing ever seems to change. We are like hamsters on a wheel – working so hard but getting nowhere.

I did this to myself for years. Every time I looked in the mirror I managed to find something I wanted to change about myself. And guess what? It never changed. The more critical I was of myself the uglier I became. Sound familiar? I thought so.

For years, I defeated myself because of my own thoughts. I became comfortable in my thinking and believed that I was who I thought I was. Then, there came a day, when I was fed up. I threw up my hands and cried for help. It was at that moment I understood I had a choice. I could choose to wallow in my negativity, or I could be brave, and begin to love myself for the woman God created me to be! With each day that passed change began to occur. Here are 4 ways positive self-talk could help you in reaching your fitness goals.

  1. Strength and Endurance increase as the “I can’t” mentality decreases.
    • You will notice an increase in strength and endurance with every workout. With each training session, you become stronger, more powerful and more excited to train.
  2. Confidence supervenes.
    • Suddenly, as if out-of-nowhere, you will look in the mirror and say “go on girl!” Confidence rises when you tell Negative Nancy she is not welcome anymore.
  3. Change begins to occur.
    • And, then, something amazing happens. Your body starts to respond. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the mind and healing to the body.” How true is that scripture!
  4. Freedom
    • Through this process, you learn the mind is a powerful, powerful tool that can hinder you from reaching your goals or help you in reaching your goals. The moment you realize you have a choice to choose one thought over another you are no longer a slave to your thoughts. You, my friend, are FREE!

I encourage you to discipline your mind in 2017. Choose thoughts that are healing to your body – thoughts that make you feel loved, appreciated, beautiful, valuable and worthy. Because, after all, you ARE all those things!

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Why Post-Workout Nutrition is a Must!

Are you eating anything post-workout? You should be! Here is why post-workout nutrition is so important!

So, you have decided to start investing your money in a gym membership and your time in actually going to the gym this year. You have decided on the best gym for you for the value and the best time of day for you to go. You are a very busy person so this investment of time is a stretch in your schedule. However, being healthier in 2017 is your number one priority. Maybe you want to be healthier because you have kids and you want to be around for a while. Maybe your goal is to look good in that swimsuit this summer, or, maybe your goal is to get stronger and improve your WOD times in Crossfit. Whatever your goal I can assure you post-workout nutrition should be included.

Many acquaintances/friends, and even clients, I talk to are not consuming anything post-workout. When I ask them why I hear several different responses. Some say they don’t because, well, they just don’t. Others say they don’t because it feels counterproductive to everything they just did in the gym. And then, there are those who say they don’t because they just don’t know what to eat. If you fall into one of these categories, you aren’t alone. Let’s talk about why post-workout nutrition is so important.

Why is a post-workout meal necessary?

Since you are investing all this time in the gym, or you plan to start, I want to make sure you are maximizing that time and yielding the greatest return on investment. Post-workout nutrition, among other things which I will write about later, will help you capitalize on your investment of those precious hours in the gym.

Building muscle, increasing strength and decreasing fat are usually what people want to do in the gym. When people say, “I just want to tone up”, that in fact means build muscle (contrary to popular belief), increase strength and decrease fat. If this is what we desire we must start exercising, right? Right! Well, exercise by nature is a significant physiological stressor. Whether the form of exercise is running or lifting weights in the gym we are probably going to feel symptoms of this stressor. These symptoms include muscle soreness, an increased appetite and the need for extra sleep. When we feel these symptoms, it is our body letting us know that we have caused some minor damage (which is a good thing if only for a short period), depleted the fuel resources in our muscles (also a good thing), and need restock and restoration. These symptoms we experience are telling us our muscles need replenishment to adapt. After all, the goal of exercise (cardio or strength training) is to tear down the old, less adapted muscle fibers and replace it with new, more functional ones for increased performance. Just like a car can’t continue to run without oil or on an empty tank of gas, our muscles can’t function correctly without proper nutrition.

What Happens to Our Muscles During and After Exercise?

During exercise your body is choosing carbohydrates as its fuel. Once finished, assuming you train hard, your carbohydrate storages are depleted, leaving your muscles empty of glycogen storages. If these storages are not replaced you will experience increased muscle soreness and fatigue. You could choose to leave your muscles in this state, however, I assure you, over time your body will become tired, sore, unable to perform at maximum effort, and, if that wasn’t enough, your body will refuse to change.

In addition to the depletion of carbohydrate storages, your muscle protein is degraded during exercise and after exercise the rate of protein synthesis decreases while the rate of protein breakdown increases. Obviously, this is counterproductive to building muscle, increasing strength and decreasing body fat.

Okay, Okay, I get it. But What Should I Eat Exactly?

Simply put, carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates will promote an insulin response that helps shuttle those carbs and amino acids into the muscle to promote carbohydrate synthesis and a positive protein balance. This leads to rapid repair of the muscle tissue. Consuming protein post-workout will increase protein synthesis (instead of decreasing it) and decrease protein breakdown. Carbohydrates combined with protein is the perfect recipe for optimal recovery.

What about fat?

While I am a huge fan of healthy fats in people’s diets, I am not a fan of fat consumption post-workout. Fat slows the absorption of nutrients through the stomach and into the body. We do not want slow absorption post-workout. We need rapid absorption of our post-workout macronutrients.

When do I eat this?

Once you have finished your workout there is a period-of-time we like to call the “window of opportunity.” During this time your muscles need serious replenishment and are primed to absorb those necessary nutrients. The farther away from your workout you consume your post-workout meal the less effective that meal becomes and the more you diminish your opportunity for complete recovery. My suggestion is eat within 30 minutes of your workout. No exceptions.

Follow these guidelines and I assure you your investment of time and money will go further! Can’t wait to hear about your results!

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Kat’s Story

As I write this blog my heart is to share with you why I am so passionate about fitness. In my fitness journey there were many dark moments. I was motivated by how I felt I looked. I was motivated by my insecurities. I was motivated by the lies I told myself every day. There were days I hated my body and because of that, there were days I hated who I was. I was defined by how I felt I looked. I would worry about eating out and eating off my normal plan for the day. I would worry about when I could get to the gym every day because of my busy schedule. I became stressed, anxious and way too skinny. My obsession with “health and fitness” was extremely unhealthy and not a picture of “health and fitness” I would want to share with anyone. But that was then. Now my fitness journey is fueled by the love I have for my body. It is full of energy and motivated by my sheer joy of training hard. It is filled with a healthier relationship with food, fueling my body correctly and personal bests in the gym. It has been a long journey but I would not take any of it back. Now, because of my experience, I am more qualified to help those who are struggling in their fitness journey. Here is a small part of my story.

If you would have asked me two years ago about competing in the sport of bodybuilding here is what I would have told you, “There is no way I could compete in that sport and follow the Lord.” That’s right. I said it. Looking back it was one of those “open mouth, insert foot” moments, but at that time it was what I truthfully thought. And truthfully, I was completely wrong. I was wrong because I was not ready. He had not made me ready. Ever since I gave my life to the Lord I always had a desire to compete, but He always stopped me. After surviving my first season of competition prep I now know why….

My senior year of high school was when I fell in love with weight training. I fell in love with everything about it. The way it made me feel, the improvement in my strength and the improvement in my physique. I began eating healthier and man did the weight fall off. As my workouts became more intense and my eating became stricter I became obsessed. I was obsessed with the high of training, the compliments and attention I received. It was all or nothing. I was absolutely defined by my physique. I was never satisfied. I was never happy. I always felt I could work harder and look better. It was a vicious cycle and it was only going to get worse.

My first year of college I became even leaner. I was lifting, doing cardio, taking a PE class and playing Club Volleyball at the University of Georgia. Not to mention I walked to every class. Riding the bus meant I was lazy. I ate “healthy” but I didn’t eat enough. I guess you could say I developed a “disordered eating” habit. As my energy expenditure increased and my input remained the same I fell into binge eating. My body was starving! Late weekend nights and entire boxes of cereal and spoonfuls of peanut butter later my body began to shut down. My metabolism began to tank and my body began to hold onto everything I ingested. Depression. Anxiety. Stress. All of these followed the cloud of insecurity that hung over me. I had lost everything I thought defined me. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

In the middle of this mess was when the Lord mightily saved my life! (I will go into this later, but it IS important to this post to know that He is the reason I have been delivered from all this.) When He found me some desires he took away immediately, but my insecurity about who I was and what I looked like was not one of those “immediate deliverance” things. No. This was going to be a process. He began to chip away, brick by brick and piece by piece. There were days I laid on my face and begged Him to take everything from me because I couldn’t go another day feeling so insecure. But He didn’t. He took things from me slowly as He showed me who He was and who I was in Him and to Him! What an AWESOME Father. He showed me that I was HIS and that my identity was in Him alone. He showed me that nothing else mattered and that I was beautiful. I realized, just as we should speak and declare life over ourselves we MUST declare life over our physical bodies. My constant criticism of my body was only hurting me. I was literally killing my physical body. Every time I looked in the mirror and chose to hate some other feature on my physique I was killing myself. And to a dying physical body NOTHING can be changed. So nothing did. But God! When he showed me how to love and appreciate every aspect of who He had made me to be I began to notice changes.

This may sound silly, but I began thanking the Lord for all of my features that I hated so badly. And soon enough, I actually began finding good in those features. I began to actually feel FREE. I actually found that I wasn’t comfortable in my insecurity and wanted security in Him more than anything. And then, I WAS free! One day I realized that I actually loved who I was, I loved what I looked like and best of all, I had peace. That was when He released me to compete.

Now my desire is to glorify Him in doing what He created me to love! I am free to do what He created me to do! This is my ministry. This is my passion. So, Arise Fitness was born.