Diet Confusion: Keto, Paleo, and Whole 30. What’s the difference?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding Keto, Paleo, and Whole 30 diet plans. Each plan is low in carbohydrates. However, there are some distinct differences. Let’s take a look at each one.

Paleo is simple in the fact that it doesn’t require that calories be counted or that you consume frequent portions of fat. It’s based on the premise that our bodies have been adversely affected by the environment and by the current food supply of processed junk which has only been around about 50 years. Paleo encourages you to return to how our ancestors ate- meats and vegetables, nothing processed, and no refined sugar.

Many people have experienced successful weight loss on paleo. However, after the initial weight loss, it is common to hit a plateau. Thus, adjustments in calories or carb intake is required to maintain continued results. Lower calories eventually results in cravings and hunger. Also, if a low calorie diet is maintained for too long, the body can reach a point where it will no longer respond.

The ketogenic diet is based in the biology of human metabolism. They believe that paleo followers eat too many carbohydrates and not enough fat. Keto followers claim that consuming fat reduces hunger and increases fullness. Some versions of Keto encourage getting fats from dairy products such as milk and cheese. However, the form I have followed avoids dairy and uses avocados, nuts, whole eggs, and fatty proteins (such as salmon or steak) as healthy fat sources.

Another main difference between paleo and Keto is consumption of sugars. Paleo avoids sugar and sugar substitutes but allows for natural sweeteners such as honey. Keto discourages all carb filled sweeteners and encourages sugar substitutes, such as stevia.

Keto involves getting into a state of ketosis, so your body is burning fat for fuel instead of sugar. Followers try to remain in this state for as long as possible. With Paleo, Ketosis is only achieved for very brief periods of time.

The Whole 30 diet is a stricter version of Paleo. It was designed to be more of a nutrition clean up or reset rather than a weight loss plan. Whole 30 eliminates all legumes, sugar, grains, dairy, alcohol, natural and artificial sweeteners, baked goods, and processed foods. The focus is on whole fresh foods like fruits and vegetables. Unlike Keto, even the starchy vegetables are permitted. Whole 30 allows absolutely no sweeteners, natural or unnatural. In contrast Paleo will permit natural sweeteners like honey. After 30 days you begin to slowly reintroduce foods and ingredients in order to find the cause of any bloating, digestive issues, or skin problems.

With Whole 30 there are no guidelines for macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats) as there is with Keto. It simply states which foods you can eat. Because Whole 30 eliminates legumes and whole grains, it is naturally low carb. However, it is not as low carb as Keto.

Because so many foods are restricted on Whole 30, weight loss is common. However, people often gain the weight back when they reintroduce foods back into their meal plan.

What do we do with all this information? There are a few things to take into consideration.

  1. Each one of us is very different. What works for me may not get the best results for you.
  2. Regardless of which plan you choose, cutting back on sugar and refined carbohydrates is beneficial and will most likely result in weight loss.
  3. Consider using a more strategic result, where you choose a plan based on goals. For example, when I’m trying to gain weight, control body fat, and build muscle I will choose a high carb plan in which the carbs are primarily from clean sources. When I’m leaning down for a photo shoot or competition I may carb cycle between low and high. At times I have used Keto to shed excess water and body fat after a vacation. Although all the programs I follow are comprised of whole foods, the carb and fat ratios vary significantly.
  4. Ask yourself if the plan is sustainable. No diet or meal plan will work unless it can be sustained. For this reason, I often use a medium carb plan with my clients that includes a variety of protein sources, healthy carbs, and good fats.

It’s important to know that the best meal plans might not adhere to one philosophy but rather include fundamentals from many different approaches. Sometimes when we become locked into one fad or one way of thinking, we can lose sight of the bigger picture. As I mentioned before, I prefer a more strategic approach where different plans are used and even combined to achieve desired results. However, the most important thing to remember is lifestyle and sustainability. Ultimately we don’t want to diet for the rest of our lives. We want to maintain healthy eating as a lifestyle.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALONE

As a bodybuilder I primarily workout alone. My coach provides me with a plan, a roadmap to achieving my goals. My workouts are structured and move in a set order, where I repeat the same sequence weekly. This doesn’t allow much room for a workout partner, because the plan is tailored specifically for me and would not fit their goals.

Although I am training alone, I am by no means on a solo path. I have learned over the years working with clients and in my own personal experiences that success is best obtained when we surround ourselves with a strong support system of like minded individuals.

This support system can take various forms. It could be small and just include a couple of friends or family members. It could simply be a coach or trainer that guides us. Even social media if handled correctly can bring some encouraging people into our lives.

For me, support and a positive impact has come in various forms. My family has been my rock both mentally and physically. My husband and oldest daughter have both traveled with me to shows, helping me to stay calm and focused. When we were at Masters Nationals my husband would heat up my meals. That may sound like a small gesture but believe me it’s a big deal. I was anxious, eating eight times a day, and the only hotel microwaves were several floors down with long lines of competitors doing the exact same thing. During both my on and off season my husband helps me meal prep and even follows a meal plan similar to mine.

I also have support from my coaches, Matt Allen and Wendy Fortino. They not only prepare my program but also help me with posing and are at the show two days in advance to help the team prepare. They have carried me through some pretty intense times of self doubt and discouragement over the past four years.

Another positive source in my life are the clients I coach. They cheer me on and get just as excited as I do about the competition.

And finally, I have the support of friends. Honestly, the most encouraging have been fellow gym goers, competitors on my team or whom I’ve met at shows, and some wonderful people on social media. Yes, a good portion of social media can be negative. However, I’ve also interacted with some amazing men and women who send kind messages, share their own fitness journey with me, or drop a line of encouragement on one of my posts.

Without all these people, it would be far more difficult to live this lifestyle. I’ve seen this many times in coaching. Someone will come to me wanting to make a transformation, change their lifestyle, or compete. If they have the support of friends and family coupled with my guidance, they typically are more likely to accomplish their goals. Yes the motivation must come from inside themselves rather than from outside circumstances. However, having that support makes it more likely they will follow through on their goals.

So what do you do if you have decided to make fitness a lifestyle and you don’t have that encouragement in your life? I have found five strategies that have helped me and my clients.

First of all it can help to communicate your concerns with loved ones. If they don’t share your enthusiasm for fitness, you can ask them to respect your desire to live a healthier lifestyle. I remember telling my husband I couldn’t go to the movies when on prep because of the smell of popcorn. He respected how I felt, and we focused on other activities.

Secondly, you may need to make some reasonable compromises with family and friends. I began competing when my kids were still young. We would always eat a healthy meal together as a family. However, my husband and I would provide some food choices on the side such as pasta, cheese, or salad dressing. I had to learn to do my thing without resenting the fact that they were having foods that weren’t on my plan. When we ate out, we compromised by going to restaurants I knew would accommodate requests such as no butter or sauces. My family still had the foods they wanted, and I was able to stay on track with my goal. The important thing was that we were enjoying the meal as a family. It didn’t really matter who was eating what.

Third, you may need to set boundaries for both yourself and those around you. This is particularly true when friends are the issue. They may want you to go out drinking or to a restaurant that has no meal options for you. Are you able to still be with your friends and avoid certain pitfalls? Sometimes we base our pleasure around things such as food or alcohol rather than simply enjoying someone’s company. However, the answer could also be to say no and ask friends to join you for different activities such as movies or coffee. If you are like me, there will be certain friends that left when my lifestyle changed. This can be painful, but ultimately I was saved by their rejection. It was something that needed to happen in order for me to move forward.

Fourth, is to seek some type of group support. It could be in the form of an exercise class, hiking club, or even a Facebook group of like minded people. When I first decided to seriously pursue fitness, I began attending group fitness classes and later I introduced yoga into my lifestyle. I found a collective energy and group spirit that encouraged me to move forward with my goals. These were people who were just as excited as myself to be attending the class. Fitness became something that was fun. Eventually I began teaching those very same classes and was naturally led into the career of coaching.

Fifth, coaches and trainers can be a great support. They will give you accountability and guidance needed to reach your goals. If this is something that isn’t in your budget, there are usually community resources to help. There are local biking, walking, running, and hiking groups that welcome new members. I currently train a hiking group that meets up twice weekly and travels together as well.

Support won’t always come knocking. It may require reaching out, compromising, or changing perspective. Sometimes we are all guilty of sitting back and automatically expecting people to understand and encourage us. I learned this one the hard way and was genuinely surprised. Those I thought would be the most supportive were the first to leave, while people I barely knew or never expected to understand were the ones to step forward and cheer me on.

The important thing is to realize that yes motivation must come from within. Yet, we were never designed to do life alone. Find those people who will encourage and challenge you to grow.

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Break Through Workout Barriers

There is no fitness program or workout plan that will achieve results if we are unable to follow through consistently. It has to be something we can implement in our daily lives. When working with clients I have seen several barriers that can derail our best fitness efforts. I always like to focus on the positive. However, sometimes we just need to identify the obstacle, so that we can create and personally own realistic solutions.  Here are 5 of the main barriers I have come across in my own life and in the experiences I have had working with clients over the years.

  1. Time: I hear this quite a bit. People are so busy with work, school, and family. They are torn in several different directions at once. I have days where I feel like I am literally living in my car…moving from one appointment or obligation to another. I have found a few things that are critical for success. I plan the exact time of day when I will do my workouts and treat that time like I would an important appointment. I enter the gym with a specific but adaptable plan on the types of exercises I will do. I know exactly how many sets, reps, and how much time I will devote to cardio. On days that are extremely busy I streamline the plan if necessary. So I may still work chest, shoulders, and triceps but I use dumbbells instead of machines and set it up like a circuit where I move through 3 solid sets without resting. This saves time because you are not wandering around the gym trying to get on a specific piece of equipment.
  2. Exhaustion. I can really identify with this one. I have autoimmune disease and have found that mornings and evenings are the absolute hardest. If I am having a flare up, it is common for me to awake fatigued as if I have the flu. My joints are stiffer and more swollen in the early hours as well.  Just getting started is a battle. If I am having a flare up the evenings can be hard, because I have been challenging swollen joints all day and am physically drained. However, I have found that movement helps me feel better and raises my energy level. Your exhaustion may not be physical but is more emotional. You have had to deal with problems all day and have no energy to work out in the early hours or at night after a hard day of work. But, consider that exercise literally creates more energy in your body. I am going to get scientific for just a moment. It all happens on the cellular level, where natural energy production begins with tiny organs called mitochondria. They are located in our cells and act like tiny power plants to produce energy. The number of mitochondria you have is affected by daily activity. The body produces more of these power plants to respond to your energy demands.
  3. Boredom. This is a big one! Many people are bored with the type of exercise they have selected or their workout routines become mundane and stale. It has happened to me! This is a perfect time to determine what makes you tick. What motivates you? Is it group classes, circuit training, or having a specific goal to work toward. This is also a good time to introduce different training techniques to spice up the same old exercises. Let’s face it…at some point, a lat pull down is a lat pull down! A bicep curl is a bicep curl! Right? It’s just not very exciting. But what if you change the intensity in some small way with supersets, drop sets, or circuit training. The old can become very new again.
  4. Plateaus. These occur when someone has been training for awhile. Initially they saw great results and were motivated by the changes in their body. However, over time the body becomes accustomed to doing the same things over and over. It adapts and fails to respond in a significant way. This is a point where they are seeing little to no results from their time at the gym. Again, this is something I have experienced myself and try to help my clients overcome. Changing the order of the exercises, the intensity, and how muscle groups are combined can break right through those plateaus.
  5. Failing to start at all because of lack of motivation. I have talked a lot about this subject in prior blogs, newsletters, and my social media posts. In order to experience motivation, we must begin to act. This doesn’t mean we try to do everything at once, get discouraged, and give up. It is a process of taking small daily steps toward being fit and active.

When it comes to exercise, food, motivation, and mindset, we all face barriers or obstacles of one type or another. Identifying the challenges is only a first step. However, if we state the problem as fact and never search for a viable answer, we leave ourselves powerless. On the other hand, finding and owning the solutions to our problems is very powerful and allows us to create the type of fitness plan that is sustainable for life.

5 Surefire Ways to Resist Food Cravings

 

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I receive so many questions about food cravings. It is a topic that always comes up with my clients, people I chat with at the gym, or through the emails I receive. How do I manage them? WARNING! This is not your typical article where someone suggests you drink more water. PLEASE! That one always irritates me. When I was dealing with cravings, drinking more water left me bloated, and I still wanted dessert!

First of all I want to give a little history on my eating habits. When I was a teen and in my early twenties I had a problem with constant weight fluctuations. I would eat a whole lot of junk food, gain weight, and then crash diet until I took it back off. It was a pretty miserable form of weight control to say the least. In my mid-twenties I made a decision to leave the extremes behind me. I began to exercise and adopt healthier eating habits. I took up endurance sports like back packing, hiking, cross country skiing, competitive running, and cycling. When I was running marathons and doing century bike rides, I could consume a crazy amount of calories, mostly carbohydrates. The result was a low body weight but also very low muscle mass and surprisingly higher body fat. There was definitely still room for improvement with my eating habits.

After I took up weight lifting and competing in figure (a division of bodybuilding), I quickly learned that I needed to change my eating patterns to put on muscle. This included increasing protein, changing the type of carbs and fats I consumed, and giving up refined sugar. It took a long time, lots of research, and the advise of some seasoned bodybuilding coaches to figure out how and what to eat.

Finding the right type of nutrition plan was one thing but implementing it on a regular basis 365 days a year was quite another. After the first couple of shows I made the typical rookie mistakes and tried returning to my former eating habits. Food I had been denied through months of competition prep was everywhere, and I wanted it all. I knew this pattern was not sustainable and certainly not the lifestyle I wanted. So I started to really pay attention to my food triggers, habits, and how I was responding.  I came up with some concrete methods that have helped me control food cravings and stay consistent.

  1. I stopped adapting a damsel in distress mentality. If I state that I have no control over my actions, then I alleviate myself of all personal responsibility. Negative statements also send a strong signal to my brain which accepts those statements as valid. “I have to eat cookies with my lunch.” “There is no way I can eat a few chips. I want the whole bag.” “I must have bread when I go out to eat.””I have no self control.” All those negative statements had to be eliminated from my thinking. If I ate a cookie, it was because I wanted the cookie. If I had too many chips at a Mexican restaurant, so be it. Move on. Leave it behind and get right back on track.
  2. I accepted that there are no short cuts to building healthy habits. In order to transform my thinking and my body, I had to make changes and adapt consistent daily habits. I also needed to accept the fact that change was not easy and there was no quick fix. It took a lot of practice and time. There are no short cuts to success. We have to put in the effort.
  3. I adopted the mindset of a champion. Be an ordinary person who takes extraordinary action. So many people have told me, “I wish I had your self control.” It’s like they think I took some magic pill or was born with a special gene. I struggle like everyone else. I have off days, bad moods, aches, pains, struggles, and times where I would rather feel sorry for myself. It helps me to adapt the mindset of a champion. A champion is committed. They never give up. They persevere even when it’s difficult. It doesn’t matter if you are competitive or not. You can think and live like a champion. 
  4. I became very selective with how and when I enjoyed the foods I was craving. I accepted and acknowledged the cravings and then planned a meal or time where I could enjoy the foods I wanted. This is never an all out binge. Rather, it is a meal where I choose to have something I have been craving. I don’t judge the choice, fat content, or calories. For me, this is always a night out with my husband, where I am completely focused on the good conversation, nice wine, and the flavors of the food.
  5. I replaced a perception of deprivation with a feeling of power. It actually starts to feel good to say “no thank you” to a tempting food. I know that sounds ludicrous, and yes it is difficult in the beginning. But if you continue to make a habit of declining, a feeling of power replaces the perception of deprivation. You can also say yes to having a single portion of a food you are craving, and then call it quits when the meal is done. You do not have to live in a deprivation state of mind. You are in control of what you eat, when you eat, and how you feel about those food choices.

I hope you are not disappointed. I didn’t offer herbal tea, lemon water, or appetite suppressing supplements. There are a place for those things. Drinking water can help, if your thinking is aligned with your goals. However, if we don’t bring our mind along for the ride, no amount of herbal tea or cocoa powder will do the trick.

 

 

 

ACT: Take Control of Your Fitness

 

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A little over a year ago I was featured in an article in the Albuquerque Journal. I had been training for the NPC Muscle Evolution Championships in San Jose, and I was asked how I kept myself motivated with exercise and nutrition. At the time I had been suffering with severe foot pain that I believed to be nerve damage from injuries I sustained as a competitive runner. I made a Facebook post about staying motivated despite setbacks that led to the interview in the local paper. Little did I know at the time, but my pain had nothing to do with nerve damage. Months later I was diagnosed with RA, an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack it’s own joints.

So much has happened in the 14 months since that interview. I had actually forgotten some of my original responses. So I wanted to go back, reread the article, and see if my perspective about motivation had changed. What I found is that my beliefs are roughly the same, but I would express them much differently now then I did a year ago. I think this is a product of having faced health problems and seeing fitness and life in general through an entirely  different lens.

In the interview I described motivation as being an intentional choice and how the mind tends to accept positive thoughts as reality. I still believe those things to be true. However, I wanted to describe intentional choice just a little more clearly. I think we often see  motivation as the precursor. In other words, we feel like we must be motivated to be able to take action. However, this view can set us up for failure in a sense. What if I don’t feel like going to the gym or am a little down and don’t want to take that walk. How about food? Perhaps I really don’t want to eat healthier foods or smaller portion sizes? Then I find myself firmly on a path to either abandon my goals midstream or maybe not even bother to pursue them. I am constantly waiting for that feeling of motivation to save the day, much the same way we often wait for a blanket of happiness to cover us at some point in life. It’s just not realistic.

It’s funny because people always think I am naturally motivated all the time. Nothing could be further from the truth. I struggle like everyone else. However, I have learned that taking some type of action always helps. When I had back problems last fall and couldn’t get out of bed, I made it a point to take action with my mind through books and webinars. Oddly enough that is when I decided to start my fitness business. As I recovered I took small actions to become more physically active. And believe me they were very small. I did not have the strength to do much more. But, each little movement forward made me feel better about the future.

There is something I do when I coach clients called ACT: Accountability, Consistency, and Time. This fitness model is based on taking some type of consistent, intentional daily action. In turn, these actions build small habits. The more we practice these new habits, the more confident we become in our ability to stay fit. From this confidence flows the motivation. We like how we look or feel and are encouraged to continue. The point is consistent action leads to change and change brings motivation to achieve further progress. However, the process takes time.

So what can we do to build a sustainable fitness lifestyle over time? Here are the 3 pillars I use for myself and with my clients:

  1. Accountability: Find someone or something to be accountable to. This could be a workout buddy, personal trainer, or fitness coach. You may want to develop your own accountability system with a written food and exercise journal or use one of the many online sources, such as fitness apps or private Facebook groups. If you choose a coach or trainer, be sure that person is the best fit for your goals. I use both business and fitness coaches who have experience in a specific niche that is best for helping me achieve the things I need in order to be successful in both journeys.
  2. Consistency: Get consistent where you can. Choose at least one area where you can be consistent in both nutrition and exercise. Keep it simple, realistic, and honest. Make sure it is something that you can actually do. Try to avoid “an all or nothing” approach. Rather, just stay focused on some small changes that you can implement. For example, maybe you pack lunch each day or eat a healthy breakfast or lunch to avoid afternoon cravings. Perhaps you take a 10 to 20 minute walk each day. But again, make it something that is attainable.
  3. Time: Plan it! Set aside a realistic amount of time to exercise, and schedule it into your day like you would an appointment. In the beginning try to avoid long exercise bouts. Just stay within a certain time limit until your body becomes accustomed to the change. The beautiful thing with this concept is that you are in control of where, when, and how long. Also spend some time planning your nutrition. You don’t necessarily need to spend hours meal prepping. However, do map out some ways to be successful that could include using a meal service, having healthy alternatives available in your fridge, or packing a few items in your gym bag such as protein powder, tuna packets, or fruit so you are never caught hungry while on the go. If you eat out, take the time to choose restaurants that provide healthier options on their menus.

The point of all these steps is simply to take ACTION. I have had so many experiences where clients describe to me situations where they are held hostage by a lack of motivation to exercise or by constant food temptations. So, they take no action at all towards fitness, or they go all out and are quickly discouraged by setbacks. Consistent action encourages us to take control rather than feeling as if circumstances rule or lives.

 

 

 

 

 

THE PATH TO A HAPPY, FIT LIFESTYLE

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We are coming into our third week of 2017, and January is already flying by. I thought this would be a good time to talk about the fitness lifestyle, self acceptance, and breaking the guilt and shame cycle.

I know what this time of year can be like. We start the new year excited with plans to eat better and workout regularly. Life gets hectic and we start to slip a little on our nutrition goals or miss a few workouts. This is often where the guilt creeps into our thoughts and leads to an “all or nothing attitude.” Rather than guilt spurring us to be more consistent, it erodes our motivation by telling us we are not strong enough. This leads to more skipped workouts, less consistency with our eating habits, and even giving up entirely.

I had a client once tell me “Carol, I just need to be stronger and stop making excuses! I tell myself that I am going to do better but am just not motivated and I can’t seem to get my act together. But I need to do it!” As she was saying those words, I could see a look of shame and distress cross her face. The look was saying, “I am not good enough or confident enough to make changes.”

Fitness is a lifestyle, and one you are good enough to achieve! Fitness is not a single 8, 10, or 12 week program. It is not the diet in the latest best selling book. It is not just one transformation program. All of those things have a place, and I use those methods to help women learn lasting nutrition and workout habits. But, fitness really begins with our attitude and how we feel about ourselves. We have to break the cycle of shame and the “all or nothing” mindset. Shame will never create the type of body you desire. Guilt will never create confidence. It simply breeds more guilt. Working out is a process where we learn our bodies, become increasingly comfortable with who we are, and build confidence. We don’t need to achieve a total transformation to begin this process. We can start today changing how we see ourselves.

Here are my three ways to begin a fitness lifestyle that is joyful and shame free.

Practice being judgement free – If you skip a day of working out, don’t judge yourself. If you had less than a perfect meal or day with your eating plan, don’t dwell on it. You can always get back on track tomorrow.

Focus on one simple nutrition or workout habit at a time rather than trying to tackle all the changes at once -Try choosing just one action you can consistently do, such as having a healthy breakfast or working out 3 days per week for 20 to 30 minutes. Then stay consistent with that one thing. Keep it as simple as possible in the beginning. You can always build on the positive routine you have set.

Journal for fitness – I recently wrote a newsletter on this subject that I encourage you to read. It is a practice I started last year and am finding to be beneficial for me with my fitness, business, and personal goals. When you write down your thoughts without judgement, it helps you to be fully present in the moment rather than stressing out about what needs to be done next. It also give you insight into deeper feelings that may be interfering with your fitness path. I like to start with a prompt such as “today I feel…” or “today I have a big idea…” I always include a section for gratitude, because living in gratitude helps me be joyful and content. I then write my schedule for the day using the insights I gained from journaling.

This year let’s focus on a different type of transformation – one that occurs from the inside out. 

WHAT TO DO WHEN AN INJURY DERAILS YOUR TRAINING: 5 STEPS

Last July I was three weeks out from my first national figure competition. Diet was on point. Workouts were intense. My body and muscle conditioning was at its best. It was about that time that I began to experience a profound fatigue unlike anything I had ever felt during contest prep. It was like having the flu times ten. My doctor ordered blood tests and discovered markers in my blood for inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis. I was referred to a rheumatologist who confirmed the diagnosis through x-rays and more extensive blood tests. RA is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its own healthy joint tissue. It can cause ligaments and tendons to weaken to such a degree that they can no longer hold joints in shape and can result in joints being totally destroyed.

I managed to make it to the stage and to place top 3 nationally despite being in the middle of a major rheumatoid flare up. Everything hurt and the fatigue left me feeling like I had been hit by a train. When I returned home I began treatment for the symptoms and continued to hit the weights hard in the hopes of returning to the stage for nationals in 2017.

All this came to a screeching halt in early September. I had just completed an upper body workout and felt great. My husband and I took a 30 minute sauna and I headed for the shower. Suddenly I had an excruciating pain radiating from my lower back down my left leg. I knew something was terribly wrong. The pain continued to grow worse over the next few days and by the fourth day I was unable to walk without collapsing in pain. That night I was in the hospital.

The next 10 days were a living nightmare spent in bed with nerve pain that did not respond to pain killers. The MRI showed stenosis and a bulging disc. I had an epidural and began numerous physical therapy sessions. However, I attribute the progress I have made thus far to the nerve decompression treatments I have had with Gabe at 3H Fitness. It was really the only therapy that was helping me with the pain.

Two months later I am on the road to recovery. Although I am so much better, I am not able to endure intense training sessions or lifting heavy weights. “Beast mode” is on hold. My body needs time to fully heal. At this point I am uncertain what my training or goals will be like going forward into the future. I can tell you that I am determined to be the healthiest I can be at each stage of life.

So, what can you do when an injury derails your training? Here are 5 things that have helped me:

1. Focus on what you *CAN* do. If you begin each day thinking about all the things you cannot do, you will find yourself feeling defeated. This was and still is the most difficult step for me. I have had days where I can’t walk the dog. On other days I find myself staring at someone at the gym who is doing all the activities I used to do. When I fall into that trap, negativity sets in, and I feel lost. So I start creating a list in my mind of every activity I was able to accomplish that day-wash the dishes, walk to the mailbox, drive the car, ride the recumbent bike, take a yoga class, go to church.

2. Seek alternative exercises. Find the exercises you are able to do without pain. For me, I have found that some very light dumbbell exercises or certain machines are safe for me to do. Something that helped me was to journal my activities and note which ones were causing me back pain either in the moment or hours later. As a result, I am far more precise and creative with my workouts than before.

3. Create a support network. Talk to friends and family. If you have a chronic illness such as RA, do research and search for resources and groups in your community. Seek out other people who have encountered the same problems and have overcome them. It helps to learn that you are not alone in your challenges.

4. Plan to the best of your ability. It’s important to still set goals, even small ones. This week you ride the recumbent bike for 10 minutes and next week aim for 15. You were able to do 3 sets of 10 reps with 4 lb weights and next week you try for 12 reps or 4 sets. Slow progress is still progress, and perfection is overrated.

5. Remember to be kind to yourself. Set goals as best you can, but be flexible and forgiving. When you are recovering from an injury or dealing with a chronic condition, you will have days that are difficult. You may need to rest or lighten your activity. When you have been an active person, it is hard to take days off. I have found myself actually feeling guilty for not going to the gym even though I was experiencing pain. Look at the rest time as an opportunity to be stronger the next day and in the coming weeks.