Today a very special letter was posted up by Australia’s PT of the Year. It is a dedication to all women on loving their bodies and to cut that #%(*@#$ out with all the body shaming and self-loathing.

Please have a read and I hope that you are able to take it on board. To read, just click HERE

I have had an article of mine featured on Ultimate You Magazine. Here I cover all of the boxes that you should be ticking to ensure that you are keeping yourself safe while maximising results if you are training heavy. To read the article click HERE

I am very happy to have another guest post up today – this time on Nardia Norman’s website. My post is on goal setting and on checking that your goals are aligned with your true self. You can read the post by clicking HERE.

Another great read that went up today which goes hand in hand with this is a piece written by Nardia herself on what values are, which can be found HERE.

Enjoy!

S

When was the last time that you challenged yourself?

A challenge can be taken on in any area of your life including an area that is not a part of your usual routine. It can be trying something new for the first time, or pushing to the next level in something that you already do. I believe that challenges are not only healthy, but an absolute necessity for anybody to lead a fulfilling life.

We all have a routine – some weeks might have a unique social event or be busier at work or have other minor fluctuations, but generally, we have a pretty good idea of what every week is going to be like. If you never push beyond this then that is what will always continue to happen. We may slowly increase our skills in the things that we do all of the time, such as our jobs, but this is a gradual and predictable process. This means that without a challenge, you can pretty much predict what your life is going to be like 6 months from now, even 12 months and further down the track.

While a certain level of stability is desirable in order to be able to know that we will have roofs over our heads, and enough money to survive and prosper, complete predictability and monotony can lead to boredom and in some cases even depression. We are creatures that seek meaning in our lives, and this is something that we are responsible for the creation of. Novelty is exciting, and mastery is incredibly rewarding, but it is not an easy process.

 

Challenge Rule 1: It should feel like crap.

The name “challenge” implies that it should be a struggle. If it is not a stretch for you to achieve it, then it is not a challenge, it’s just an activity. For example, rock climbing is an activity, but for me it is a challenge every time because I am TERRIFIED of heights. I get more out of it than somebody who is not afraid of heights because AS WELL AS obtaining the training benefits of carrying out the activity as well as the social element of rock climbing and the fun of figuring out and completing climbs, I am constantly battling with my mind to overcome a fear and to be able to function in that fearful state every time my feet leave the ground.

So why is that uncomfortable state the end goal? Well if we only ever did what we are comfortable with, we would never get very far. Once upon a time when you were a child it was a challenge to learn to read. Had you never overcome that challenge, well you definitely wouldn’t be where you are. Obtaining the ability to walk, literacy, cooking, driving and other common activities that so many of us make use of constantly were originally challenges. Completing challenges broadens our skill set and improves upon the skills that we already have. This leads to new hobbies, new jobs, new friendships, and new possibility. But the struggle must come first.

 

Challenge Rule 2: You may need to put some other things you want on hold.

No one can do everything all at once, and if you are thinking of taking on a challenge that is going to push you beyond your usual limits then it is an unrealistic expectation to think that you will still be able to make all of the other commitments that you usually do. You may have less time, and you will definitely have less energy. Challenges drain you mentally and emotionally. Again, if they’re not a struggle then you will not grow. If you take something on and then still want to keep up all of your other extracurricular and social commitments then chances are that you will burn out, especially if you are attempting a challenge that takes a few weeks to complete.

So here I’m going to share with you what I have been working on, and why. I am a few hours away from completing the T Nation 10000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge. I have two reasons for this – one, is that I will be running a seminar at my gym in a few weeks’ time on challenging yourself and personal growth (which will extend on what is covered here) so I wanted to push myself to be in the right headspace for talking about this. Secondly, it had been a while since I had pushed and done something that I believed I might not be capable of completing. I still haven’t done it, but in a few hours from now it will be done. I’ll definitely be announcing it to the whole world on HERE the moment it’s done and can honestly say it has been a rough ride.

 

Challenge Rule 3: Even physical challenges are mostly mental training.

So my challenge is a physical one, but only on the surface. Yes it happens in the gym and yes I am completing a certain amount of repetitions of an exercise, but I am also battling my mind every day for the duration. The first week was DOMS week – that’s delayed onset muscle soreness for anybody who might not be familiar with the acronym. I was sore CONSTANTLY for nine days, and I had to train through that entire time. After that it eased off as my body became more accustomed to the high repetitions in the workouts (500 repetitions per workout, 5 workouts a week, 4 weeks). Then there was a week where it actually did not feel too bad, so I was merrily plodding along, ticking off a few thousand more repetitions, but knowing what was coming.

Eventually the enormity of the task caught up with my body and everything started to fall apart a bit. First my grip started to go in workouts. Then I started to get anxious in the lead-up to workouts, and then the tears started. Every workout has been incredibly difficult, don’t get me wrong. I sweat like crazy, my heart races and getting through the repetitions aches like crazy, but I have a lot of experience with difficult and high intensity training. The real problem started when the psychological fatigue started to kick in.

Eventually the daily onslaught became harder to cope with and I would suddenly find that I was in tears mid workout. Nothing is wrong emotionally in my life, I’m not injured or in more pain than I was a few weeks before – in fact I’m probably in less because my body has adapted. I am just exhausted and really ready for the end of this. So why have I pushed on? Because of the mental training that has been necessary to get me through.

Whenever we challenge ourselves and it is something truly difficult we do think about giving up, and this is normal. Resilience and having the ability to not give up is just a skill though, and therefore improves with practice; the more that you become used to not giving up when you want to, then the better that you will become at just pushing on. I didn’t need to complete this challenge, but I have now become more prepared for when I am next met with a challenge in my life.

 

At this point I would like to invite you to get connected up with my social media (look to the right) to stay up to date with the information on my upcoming seminar. If you are Sydney based then please organise to attend the seminar, which is scheduled for Monday June 23rd at 6pm. This will be free for all Fitness First members, and will be free after entry to all non-members.

This week I have been posted up as a guest blogger on Sydney based health and well-being blog Move Eat Heal. I have written a short article on the negative effects of extreme dieting, and why they ultimately are bad for you and do not provide long-lasting results.

To read the blog post click HERE

I would like to share this both as a site to sign yourself up for, but specifically this blog post too. Vulnerability is so important – it is only when you are feeling vulnerable in some way that you know that you are allowing yourself to grow as a person. The familiar is comfortable, but the familiar is just more of the same – the novel requires expanding horizons and this comes with uncertainty, fear, vulnerability, but also opportunity and wonder.

This Post goes into the feelings around vulnerability, but also shares one of my all-time favourite TED talks on the power of vulnerability. Definitely worth every moment so make the time to have a listen – it’s hilarious as well as incredibly mind opening.

Nardia Normal is somebody I believe everybody should follow. She is an excellent personal trainer, having recently been awarded with Personal Trainer of the year, but also has a wonderful approach to life, prioritising all aspects of health, and giving so much back to everyone around her. She has also recently published her book “Fat Attack”, which just arrived in the mail for me, and I’m very much looking forward to having a read of, where she debunks many fat myths and has a close look at the deceptive views on fat loss that we are being fed (pun very much intended).

In case you skipped over the hyperlink above, just click HERE

The other day I had a great lunch catch up with a friend who I also consider to be a personal mentor (and mentorship… there’s another important post to put up!) and he pointed out something fascinating to me, and that is the idea that while we are all striving for success, not many of us are actually striving for our own success. Upon thinking about it I realised that this applied to me massively, and a lot of the changes that I have made recently in my life are my shift from running the success of others to starting to run my own.

Like many children of migrants, my parents struggled massively to get to Australia and to be able to survive once established here. We were not well off when I was a little girl, and I remember that it was pretty tough sometimes to make ends meet. Things got better over the years, but I’m very grateful to have those memories, as they really helped me to understand the true cost and value of things. When life is too comfortable then too much can end up being taken for granted, but I digress…

My parents worked like crazy so that I might have the opportunities that they were not given. Parents, family in general, friends and partners want what is best for an individual – the problem is that everyone has a picture in their head of what this “best” involves, and this may not necessarily be congruent with what that individual actually wants or needs out of life. This can be especially difficult to manage as all of this advice and imposition comes from a good place – from the desire for an individual to be their best. However this can lead to confusion for somebody who has not yet figured out what they want to do or be.

To add a bit more complication, societal norms already provide us with a standard path that is viewed as success, which many choose to follow when unsure of what else to do – get educated, get a job, partner, kids etc. Now I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with this at all. I know many people who have done this and are enormously happy. I myself had a whirl at it and jumped off the path about halfway when I realised that it was making me incredibly unhappy, and that is the point that I’m trying to get across.

I am not promoting rebellion, or trying to be different. I think that the only thing that should matter the most is to strive to be your true self, and that can be as conservative or out there as you wish, but it has to come from within rather than being reliant on external validation. There is a very difficult choice when this arises, as striving for your own definition of success is rarely a smooth journey. Often this means dealing with the emotions of disappointing others, but ultimately fulfilment comes from being in congruence with who you truly are, whatever that may be.

“Do one thing today that frightens you” – there is a lot to this saying. While many of us might be getting a little tired of the constant overuse of inspirational quotes, THIS IS A GOOD ONE! We all have the capacity for personal growth when we are stretched and forced to work through a struggling situation. If you do not do anything new to challenge yourself then you cannot expect to grow as a person.

A common cause of unhappiness in the lives of many people is derived from an inability to find meaning in life. The truth is that meaning and sense of purpose is not some mysterious little bubble floating around waiting to crash into you – it is your responsibility to create your meaning and purpose for living, otherwise you are just existing. Mere existence results in stagnation and boredom, and it is in your hands to prevent this from occurring.

You may have experienced a moment when you achieve something that you had previously believed to be impossible and completely out of your grasp. This opens a door of endless opportunity, and this is why I like to incorporate challenges into my own and my clients’ training from time to time. You see, it’s not about the training itself, but rather about experiencing the sense of achievement and the empowerment that is unlocked through the completion of the challenge.

When something you believe to be impossible becomes reality then this brings other “impossibilities” in your life under the microscope – might they also be within your grasp? You may begin to question what else is not truly out of your reach. You may be more motivated to begin another project or challenge that you might not have otherwise attempted.

I wanted to communicate this right now because I have just embarked on a pretty intense physical challenge – the T Nation 10000 Kettle-bell Swing challenge. You can keep up to date with how I’m doing with this across any of my social media (links all to the right). I don’t remember the last time when I tried to talk myself out of going to the gym, but I was in that space on Tuesday. Monday’s workout had tears from the burn. I’m finally getting into the groove of it, but I’m only 1500 swings in. I will hit that next wall at any moment, and want to share my thoughts and learned lessons through the experience.

I am also very excited to announce that I just yesterday pitched an idea and have received the thumbs up for running a seminar here at Bondi Fitness First on growth through challenging yourself. I am aiming to run this around mid to late June, and will be running it together with a challenge immediately to follow. Both will be free, and the challenge will not be mandatory to everyone attending the seminar, but you will get the most out of this if you do participate. Make sure that you keep an eye out in the coming weeks and please flag with me in the meantime if you would be interested in attending, as we are going to start looking at locking in a date based on initial interest very soon.

I love the recipes and the attitude to food that is at the core of newly launched nutrition business and website Nued Food. I was featured as an athlete on their blog the other week here. Now I am flipping the roles and would love to introduce you all to Lysi – my friend, and the genius behind Nued Food.

 

Thanks so much for sharing your time and thoughts with us Lysi. Firstly, what made you decide to be a nutritionist?

I have definitely not always been the picture of health; growing up my diet was pretty poor. It wasn’t until the end of high school I took an interest in what I thought was health (I would now classify it as extreme dieting), and managed to lose about 15 kilos. My dieting approach back then was very different to what it is now; I ate almost no carbs, was obsessed with artificial sweeteners and didn’t understand that there is a big difference between being skinny and being healthy. Even though my body looked the best it ever had, I was low on energy, my skin was dull and I knew deep down that my dieting habits were not good for me.

A year after finishing school I had gone down a few different avenues, from graphic design to real estate but was still left feeling unfulfilled in everything I was doing. My interest in health kept growing, and my dieting habits were slowly improving; I was starting to not only look good, but I was feeling good too. Fascinated by the profound effect food has on your bodies, I enrolled to study Nutritional Medicine, which was by far one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am now able to do what I love everyday and educate people so they don’t have to make the same mistakes I once did.

 

I love your take on how to feed the body. Can you please share your philosophy on food and eating?

Our bodies have an innate ability to stay healthy: every one yearns for health, however so many decisions we face day-to-day can compromise this state of wellbeing. I don’t believe that food itself is the only part of the health equation either; our thoughts surrounding food and the way we eat can sometimes be the most damaging.

I eat a wholefood diet, knowing the foods I am consuming are nourishing my body. I do not count calories, although I do know approximately how much I am consuming so I will never really be in surplus. Food is such a social thing for me – I love nothing more than going out for a nice meal with friends and family. Even if I do indulge in something I would not classify as ‘healthy,’ I don’t beat myself up about it because I know that most of the time my diet is squeaky clean. It’s all about balance.

 

You seem to have a very natural approach. What are your thoughts on wholefoods and organics?

I get asked this question a lot, and could honestly speak about this forever! Now, while I’m all for minimising chemicals in our diets, I also think it is just as important to know where our food is coming from. Just because it has the big green organic tick, does not necessarily mean it is better for us. Take, for instance, the organic labels you see flashing around in Coles and Woolies, it may look like the better choice, but is it really? The short answer to that is no.

Half of the time, the organic veggies you find in Woolies have been imported all the way from other countries. The amount of travel time as well as the energy expended to ship them to Australia clearly surpasses the notion that organic foods are always the best option. In this instance I would no doubt buy the local, conventional variety. Not only does buying these imported products not support our local farmers, but it has used a ridiculous amount of energy to ship them here and has lost a tonne of nutrients in the travel time.

To certify produce as ‘organic’ is damn expensive. Unfortunately this means that small-scale local farmers may be doing everything necessary to become certified, however they simply can’t afford to. It is extremely important for us to do a little more investigating into exactly where our foods are coming from. Now I would like to point out that I do eat mainly organic. However, I try to get to the farmers markets on weekends, shop at co-op organic grocery stores and steal as much produce from my Mums veggie patch as possible.

One last issue I have about the whole ‘organic’ revolution. Snack foods labelled ‘organic, wholefood, natural etc.’ 99% of the time are just as bad as the conventional variety. Adding organic cane sugar does not mean it’s magically not going to spike your insulin levels and cause blood sugar irregularities. Read the label when choosing anything packaged, even if it does have a flashy organic label!

As for wholefoods, I follow a ‘paleo-ish’ approach to my diet. I try and eat only real foods, organic where possible and do NOT eat anything artificial. I eat the way our bodies are designed to eat. I do not calorie restrict; however through my years of studies I have learnt to be pretty good with estimating calorie intake. So although I don’t calorie count per se, there is definitely an element of macronutrient balance to my diet, which fortunately comes naturally to me.

 

I can’t get enough of your blog and all of your delicious recipes. How do you get inspiration for a new recipe?

Why thankyou! I am a bit of a food nerd and love to experiment with new ingredients. Quite often, if I eat out and I like the flavours of the dish I will go home and try to recreate it. I’m not much of a recipe follower, and am more so an intuitive cook- this makes it really hard for me to develop recipes. Hah! I subscribe to a tonne of cooking magazines on my iPad, and am constantly scrolling through food pictures on Pinterest and looking for new food blogs to follow. Most of the time, I don’t follow healthy food blogs/chefs specifically; I just look at what ingredients are being used and try to substitute with healthy alternatives wherever I can think of one. This, might I add, has led to quite a few failures!

 

Can you please tell readers about your products?

I created Nued Food as a way of sharing information and products that are not only good for our bodies, but also good for the environment. I have worked in the sports supplement industry for the past few years, and have been exposed to some of the best and worst products on offer. Nued Food is a way of showcasing some of the amazing, innovative products that Australia has on offer. All products I have on offer have been trialled and tested by myself, and have impressed me enough to stock them.

Another element of my business is also offering wholefood catering, particularly for cafes, restaurants and shops. This is a great way of showing people first-hand that healthy eating does not have to be bland or boring.

 

Finally, do you have any advice for athletes reading?

First and foremost, make sure you’re eating a balanced diet. Include loads of veggies – the more colours the better! If you’re not getting the recommended 5 servings a day, be sure to take a greens powder: this will make up for the lost nutrients. Post-workout it is essential you are having protein and carbs, as this will help to repair your muscles and replenish your glycogen stores (stored energy).

Drink up – too often I see clients going through gruelling workouts without drinking enough water. Every cell in your body needs to be adequately hydrated if you want to perform your best. Water or coconut water is my top choice.

Supplement-wise I would be looking at a good quality multivitamin, a fish oil and a whey protein isolate to start off with. If you want to take your training up a notch, branched chain amino acids are great intra-workout to prevent muscle breakdown & speed up your recovery time. Glutamine is another awesome addition to any supplement stack, it’s great to take post-workout to help repair your muscles, but has an added bonus of strengthening the gut lining which in turn will boost your immunity.

Sleep!!! Make sure you are getting at least 8 hours a night, if not more. It is essential to ensure you’re getting the maximum possible amount of recovery time.

Check out my article on the Truth about Pre and Post Workout Nutrition if you want a more detailed explanation.

 

Make sure you go to the Nued Food Shop and check out the wonderful products offered. My blog readership gets an amazing 10% discount on all products – just use the discount code SUSY

Welcome to the most epic long weekend! Regardless of whether you celebrate Easter in a religious sense or not, chances are that you are being bombarded with chocolate from all directions. Depending upon where you are at with your personal goals, you may want to consider a few different strategies to not fall completely off the wagon with your health goals in this time.

Something that I think is actually really mean is that many people are just a couple of weeks off hitting the stage. If this is you, then I extend many hugs – this was me last year. The truth though is that all you need to do is focus on your goal. Let’s be honest here – no one is holding a gun to your head saying you have to get on stage and show off your ripped bodies while everyone else feels inadequate for eating the world this weekend. This is your choice and your goal – honour it and be happy for it. If you keep what you wan to achieve at the forefront of your mind this weekend then you should still be able to enjoy time with loved ones and not feel miserable.

Now for everybody else. Please don’t feel the need to deprive yourself of a bit of festive eating this long weekend unless you particularly want to. The whole point of being health oriented and taking care of yourself consistently is so that on the occasional festivity you can indulge with family and friends rather than have to sit in the corner rejecting everything that is offered to you. THAT BEING SAID, there are some pitfalls that are worth bearing in mind, as breaks in the habits that we form are where the true danger lies.

Having a blowout for the long weekend is not really going to do much to you. It’s the after-effect of this that is much more likely to catch you. It is very important to remind yourself when you are feasting that this is only for the celebrations of the long weekend and that this is not going to continue as soon as Tuesday comes along. Put strategies in place to prevent trailing on – I have asked to not be given any chocolate for Easter, so that I will only have what is there at meals but won’t have any sitting around at home. Goodness knows there has already been enough of it to go around even with this rule in place! If you are hosting a lunch for family and you have a lot of leftovers, then send off small portions with all of your guests – then everyone can have a delicious Monday meal and then back to normal on Tuesday rather than a week’s worth of crazy eating after for the host.

It is much smarter to acknowledge what behaviours you are good at modifying and which ones you are not so good at and working around those, rather than trying to make changes that you struggle with on the spot. For example, I know that if I have junk in the house then the junk will be eaten. Rather than have junk in the house and tell myself I’ll just leave it there and be able to ignore it, I simply don’t have any in the house and go out if I ever feel like having some junk. Work around the parameters of what you know you are more likely to stay in control of. If you know that faced with a feast you are going to go all out, then accept this and plan rather than tell yourself you’ll be controlled this time. Have a healthy snack beforehand, so that you are not ravenous. You are going to go to the limits anyway, so you might as well fill up part-way with something that is not going to contribute towards the blowout. It is important to note here – this snack should not be nuts or any other calorie-dense food as that kind of defeats the purpose of trying to fill some of that bottomless pit harmlessly.

Try your best to be good the rest of the time. If you already have a few meals with family and friends, then be controlled with your breakfasts and other meals that are not festive over the long weekend. Keep those lower in calories and as clean as possible. Finally, have a plan for how you are going to eat next week. You can actually make this blowout work to your benefit if you then hit your body with a week of very clean eating in a slight deficit. That doesn’t mean starve yourself after, but aim to avoid all junk for the following week or two, and you may find that you actually look even better after Easter.

Have a lovely long weekend with all the loved ones!

S