EM2WL: Like so many of us, you bought into the eat less move more propaganda. You talked about being at your ideal scale weight but your body still not looking the way that you wanted. What was the turning point for you and what steps did you take to make a change?
Christie: It's true, I ran more and ate less thinking being smaller (on the scale) would get me closer to my ideal “look.” My moment of change came when a trainer at my gym noticed my athletic drive, asked if I'd consider a figure competition (had no clue what it was, did my research and saw the look I wanted). I dived in and quickly learned I needed to eat more, run less, and train smarter to change my body. I stopped cardio almost completely, lifted 4-5 days a week hitting each body part, and made sure I was eating enough to support my goals.
E: You used to be a runner, right? Where do runs fit in your regimen now?
C: I do love what a run can do for the spirit, and will do so when I feel the need, but I do sprints mostly now, for 10-12 minutes, and that’s the extent of my running. 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off.
Here is a blog I wrote specifically to running vs. lifting and my body/mindset.
E: What advice do you have for women who are pregnant and worried about ‘ruining' their body, or postpartum and scared that they'll never get their pre-baby body back?
C: You aren't ruined, changed, yes, ruined, no!! I love that I can share my postpartum journey, pregnancy takes over my body, regardless of my efforts, I gain a lot, and lose all muscle tone…basically, if I chose to accept the mentality that I was ruined, I most certainly would look that way. My advice, know what you want, do your part each day, give yourself the GRACE you would a friend to get there, and your body will take form like you never thought possible. You're a mom now also, training is about more than a look at this point, it’s a break, a spiritual release, and being strong means more than a look…you'll find the journey to inner strength will take you farther than any “body after baby” goal ever will.
E: Switching gears to your figure competition diet and prep…People often hear of a competitor doing a 9,12, 20 week, etc competition prep and feel that their own journey should be “finished” within similar lengths of time. How long would you say the time was between giving birth and the “official” beginning of prep for your recent return to the stage? (In other words, how much “pre-prep” prep?)
C: Great question!! I knew I wanted to compete at least once more after baby #3 so I trained with that in mind. I just recently picked a show in April and started my actual prep in January, knowing I did my part the past year to facilitate a healthy and balanced approach to the stage. So 17 months or so of training and proper nutrition, and 4 months of actual prep.
E: There seems to be a divided camp these days. Do you feel that it’s possible for women to practice both body acceptance AND seek improvements at the same time?
C: I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes I wonder where I fit…and my answer is YES!!!
My self-love, acceptance, and perspective doesn’t come from how I look, it comes from God!! But God also put a fire in me to do more, be more, strive for more…for now that takes on the form of competing in the sport of Figure. While it is extremely subjective, I know that I am giving it my all and will hit the stage with that attitude. The idea of seeing what I've worked for on stage, taking time to assess my progress and continue to strive for more excites and pushed me!
However, competition or not, the gym is where I look to be judged, am I getting stronger, am I doing a little of what scares me, am I lifting more and moving better…being fit and striving for more has so much more to do with how you feel than how you look!!!
E: Has any of your body composition changes affected the way that you dress, clothing size/style?
C: Actually…no…I weigh the most I ever have and wear the same size pants. I naturally have a wide frame around my lats, so now I've embraced that and know to grab a medium top first and go from there. Doesn't mean I'm fat, need to lose weight, or should restrict things from my diet, just means I'm better at those pull-ups I'm always trying to perfect.
E: Moms often feel the pull between fitness, career goals, and spending enough time with their family. With 3 kids of your own, a personal training/nutrition coaching business and preparing for return to the stage, how do you keep everything in balance?
C: The best part of being a fit mom, is working with other fit moms…they understand. So I have set hours for work and the rest is family time. I look at my mom duties, schedule, errand routine, and plan my fitness business around that. As for my training, its an appointment with myself also. I block off time to do that as well.
As for competition prep on top of all that…I took the past 15 months as a part-time working mom of three to fine tune the habits I'd need to do a Figure show, learning how to balance the family, training, work and meal planning. And I have to admit I'm a big fan of a meal replacement shake for on the go!!
E: Where would you suggest a new mom start with getting back in shape?
C: I love this quote, “start where you are, use what you have.” And that’s the secret, you just have to start. If you love to run, make a plan and go run, if you want to lift weights, hire a trainer and learn your way around the gym, join a cross fit box, there are so many people out there waiting to help you, invest into yourself and go for it!! Start small and build from there!!
E: How can our readers hear more from you?
C: Would love the company of any of your followers on my social media sites,
Youtube: Christie Nix
If you're stuck in a relationship with your scale — using it as the primary tool of measuring the success of your diet and workout program — then it’s time to break up! Using the scale to gauge your success may tell you if you are losing weight or not, but it will not tell you about the QUALITY of the weight that you are losing. You have no way of knowing if those losses that you may be seeing are fat, water, or even worse, muscle!
The diet industry has done very little to change this perception. Advertisements continually pound consumers with promises for quick and permanent weight loss, often through decreased caloric intake and increased exercise (“eat less, move more”). Although this may result in a significant (scale) weight loss, initially, what is not taken into account is that much of what these consumers will be losing is muscle, rather than fat. This muscle loss is a primary reason that weight gain will likely occur when they are no longer able to maintain this low calorie/high exercise regimen. Every dieter has experienced this “fall off the wagon” weight gain upon returning to their previous eating habits. Plain and simple: if your weight loss plan results in muscle loss rather than fat loss, your metabolism will soon be in trouble!
The Importance of Muscle
Muscle is so important because it is essential for maintaining one’s BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). Your BMR is responsible for approximately 2/3 of your daily caloric burn or TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). Without muscle mass and fuel (food), your metabolism will soon likely slow to a crawl. Indiscriminately dieting and exercising without the end goal being muscle gain (or at least maintenance) is a sure recipe for disaster: muscle LOSS.
Losing all of that valuable, metabolically active muscle mass, is setting yourself up for a rebound weight gain. You can’t maintain a very low caloric intake combined with excessive cardio workouts, so you'll inevitably return to your old eating habits — or perhaps continue to restrict — but now with occasional all-out binges thrown in. With your muscle-deficient metabolism creeping along at an all-time low, this increased intake will inevitably result in weight (fat) gain. Following a low calorie diet combined with (often excessive) aerobic exercise will most likely result in an initial scale weight loss, but if the loss is muscle rather than fat, this scenario is setting you up to become a smaller, flabbier version of your current self (the dreaded “skinny fat”).
If weight loss is your goal, then you want to make sure that what you are losing is truly fat, and not metabolism-fueling muscle mass. The body naturally burns more calories each and every day to support a pound of muscle than it does to support a pound of fat (which is metabolically inactive), so the end goal should be to have as much muscle as possible in an effort to keep the metabolism running at a high rate.
What does this have to do with the scale?
Muscle is dense and, by volume (the amount of space it occupies on your body), weighs much more than the flabbier fat. The end result: if you build some *heavier* muscle, your body will appear smaller and tighter due to the dense nature of muscle, but the scale may not show much movement downwards. Hence the reason to not put a lot of emphasis on the number that you may see on the scale.
Other than the scale, there are many ways to monitor progress, from the most basic, right up to the most technologically advanced methods (BodPod testing, Bio-electrical Impedance, skin-fold caliper testing, measurements and simply taking progress photos all can be very useful). If nothing else, everyone should start with a set of progress photos and update them on a monthly basis. Once you begin strength training, you will be glad you did!
So what can you do to ensure long-term success? Invest some time in some strength training. Build some metabolically active muscle in an effort to keep your metabolism running at optimal levels. Just doing plain old cardio or aerobic exercise will do little if nothing to build muscle, and in fact, doing too much will actually begin to break down that hard-earned muscle tissue. The best thing you can do for yourself and your metabolism is to build some muscle tissue. Not only will you be physically stronger, but you will be less susceptible to injury, and your body composition will begin to change and improve over time. Soon you will notice that you can fit into clothes which were previously too tight, even though the scale is not really moving. Being strong is also empowering!
When considering a nutrition and exercise program, muscle growth and maintenance should be “front and center.” Seek out a good, periodized strength training program and start to challenge yourself. Confused as to where to start? Check out EM2WL’s Beginner Strength Training Manual for answers to the most frequently asked questions, as well as a complete 12-week workout plan, access to a *bonus* private area with video demonstrations of each exercise, & a place for any other questions you have along your journey. Combine strength training with fueling your body properly by eating at or slightly below your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and you will be on the road to success!
In the world of women’s sports, we’ve moved far beyond the days of basketball, softball, and tennis. Weight lifting sports have not only expanded to include women, but we now have a variety of iron-based sports to choose from. Because the concept of lifting is such new territory for some, it's easy to want to mesh every sport that uses a barbell into the same category. But just as with football and futbol, figure skating and ice hockey, long distance running and sprinting – one sport may have commonalities with another (equipment/environment), yet be entirely different (execution/goal).
Let’s take a general overview at the difference between four popular women's lifting sports:
Crossfit– This Reebok Sponsored event has catapulted in popularity over the last decade. The goal of Crossfit (CF) athletes is to be prepared for anything: “the unknown, and the unknowable.” It combines a variety of strength and conditioning exercises such as deadlifts, pistol squats, kipping pull ups, overhead squats and hand stand pushups with bouts of cardio (rowing, running, swimming, etc). WOD’s, or workouts of the day, are the “bible” of Crossfit and give athletes their game plan for their daily workout. Official WODs are done in a CF “box,” led by a CF accredited coach. Most workouts are done for time — not reps, like most typical strength training — though the occasional 1×1, 3×5, or 5×5-type WOD will make an appearance to enhance strength gains. This sport can be very fast-paced, requiring both speed and precision in execution/form of basic strength and Olympic lifts. Because of this, a strength base is typically well-established before entering Crossfit (top CF athletes often cross over from being a top athlete in another sport). CF athletes strive for a high anaerobic capacity, and train their bodies to hit their lactate threshold (you know…that pukey HIIT feeling? LOL) at any given time. Winners of the increasingly popular “Crossfit Games” are crowned with the title of “The fittest (woman) on earth.”
Strongwoman– If you’re familiar with the sport of Strongman, then you’re mostly familiar with Strongwoman (SW) – though you may not realize it. Since Crossfit seems to have put women's lifting “on the map” – it can be easy to assume that the average Strongwoman is a CF woman. Though a SW can (and many do) perform a WOD with little difficulty, the competition training for this event and the equipment used varies from that of CF – mainly in it's specializations. This sport also involves strength, muscle endurance and distance events. However, women compete with each other doing exercises such as sled (or truck ;)) push/drags, bag carries, tire deadlifts, atlas stones, farmer’s walks, log pressing, etc. These exercises all require excellent cardio condition and ability to handle large amounts of weight in often unbalanced situations. This sport is medium-paced, depending on the event taking place, and winners are deemed the “strongest” (woman) in the state/nation, etc.
Powerlifting– Most forms of lifting borrow from the three main compound lifts that come together in the sport of Powerlifting (PL) – bench press, squat and deadlift. Though PL women will often dip in to all rep ranges and may participate in a variety of physical activities/lifts, the sole focus of this sports' competitions is strength in the main lifts. So as comp season nears, the conditioning and endurance levels built in other phases are put to the test as they train for record breaking strength feats. PL ladies compete by weight class and get three attempts at each lift, ideally increasing the weight with each lift. Proper form is essential, and a competitor must get two white lights (signaling good form/a good lift) out of three lights total (red lights occur when form is improper or commands aren’t adhered to). This sport is definitely on the slower side, as you need adequate rest between each heavy attempt.
Bodybuilding– While CF may be getting all of the recent media coverage, women’s bodybuilding (BB) has been around for decades, and is often the term that comes to mind when someone first hears of a woman wanting to “lift weights.” Unfortunately, the image that usually pops into mind with this term is often negative, and based on only one division of this sport (bodybuilding). Women's BB actually consists of four different divisions: bodybuilding, physique, figure and bikini — each having a separate set of aesthetic requirements for competition (which I will address in the next part of this series). BB athletes can and do participate in all types of lifting activities in their off-season, though most training utilizes some form of periodization that leads the desired look for their event. These women train with traditional forms of weight lifting — using both compound and isolation movements — to aesthetically enhance every muscle in the body. Preparing for this sport involves manipulating various training variables (food/rep ranges/types of cardio) to first maximize muscle mass gains, and ultimately to achieve abnormally lean results for a brief period of time (as per specific division requirement). These competitions are purely based off of appearance and stage presence, sort of like a beauty-pageant style event for women who lift. Though properly trained BBers are plenty strong, actual strength is irrelevant to the competition, as you are judged solely off things such as musculature, symmetry, tan, hair, makeup, suit, etc.
Society still presents some degree of hesitation when it comes to ladies being more than the stereotypical “weaker sex,” and many ladies still hesitate to join the movement. Nevertheless, with the popularity of programs like P90x, more sculpted bodies gracing women's magazine covers, and the recent explosion of Crossfit, ladies are making a breakthrough in the lifting scene. Many women now take pride in developing higher levels of strength, and increasing levels of confidence to take on the competition scene. Though the various sports are often lumped into one category, the lifting revolution shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
In part 2 of this series, we'll break down the different divisions of bodybuilding. Til then, go out and lift
a barbell, dumbbell, your body, a truck…something heavy! ;)
All too often in our fitness endeavors we set our sights on building strength in our lower body, idolizing exercises like squats and deadlifts over all others. While men seem to give adequate (if not disproportionately more) attention to upper body strength, it just doesn't seem to be the case when it comes to women. Building lower body strength is a great goal for everyone and one that should be apart of every program, however, for the ladies, we need to bring some balance to our pursuit of fitness and see the value in developing strength in our upper body as well as our lower body.
Sufficient upper body strength improves every day movements like reaching, pulling, pushing and carrying. Lower body exercises like the deadlift will certainly assist with being able to pick things up from the floor like a child or suitcase. But, how empowering would it be if you could not only lift that suitcase off the floor, but then also be able to stow it in the overhead storage without assistance?
Developing upper body strength has a ripple effect which can enhance all your lifts, improving posture, stability, alignment and strength. From a physique point-of-view, women who are pear shaped can bring more balance to their appearance by building out their upper body, giving the illusion of a smaller waste. Hourglass figure…I'll take it!
Medicine ball push up
In this first challenge of 2015, we are showing our upper body some well-deserved attention! Each week we hope to introduce you to a new move that will challenge your normal way of doing things and move you just a bit beyond your comfort zone. Typically do military or front presses? Get ready to be introduced to the landmine press and more!
Each week will also feature a complete upper body workout that will stimulate muscle growth and have your muscle fibers twitching! Each workout will use only one type of equipment (i.e. medicine ball, kettlebell, etc.) or just your body for resistance. If you don't have the equipment prescribed, sub with another implement or repeat a challenge from a different week.
If you have your eye on being able to do your first unassisted pull up, we have dedicated a day to helping you get there. Practice these moves each week and beyond, working them into your normal workout regimen once the challenge is over. If push ups have your attention, we've got you covered there as well!
As with all EM2WL challenges, take time to relax and recover. Treat yourself like the queen that you are and relish the self care! Likewise, we have included important nutrition tidbits that are great reminders to keep your eating on track.
Check in with us! We would love to see you working hard and hear how this challenge is impacting you! Happy lifting!
Click image to enlarge!
Which rep range is best for fat loss? Muscle building? General strength?
Weight lifting isn't just about simply picking any workout on the internet, any DVD off the shelf, or any random dumbbell and doing any amount of reps you prefer. Every rep range performs a purpose, and it's beneficial to hit them all at some point. The 3-part video series below breaks down the basics of the main three rep ranges of lifting: Strength, Hypertrophy, and Endurance.
Understanding the differences between them all can help you when putting together your own lifting program.
Video 1 discusses the Strength phase.
Strength is typically categorized as lifting as heavy as possible, for anywhere from 1-7 repetitions. Rest periods can be as short as 60 seconds if working opposing muscle groups (chest/back), or as long as 3-5 minutes. The lower the amount of reps, the longer the rest is required to replenish the muscles with the energy needed to hit it hard again at the same intensity level. Rest periods and all out effort are essential during this phase. Shortening the rest periods during true “strength” training phases typically is a sign of not pushing hard enough during the set, which essentially turns the workout into either a hypertrophic or endurance based one (phases discussed in next video).
Video 2 discusses the Hypertrophy and Endurance phases.
Hypertrophy is the phase used for adding size to the muscle. During this phase you are lifting as heavy as possible (meaning you can't eek out any extra reps), for around 8-12 repetitions. Rest periods are usually 30-60 seconds, depending on if you are supersetting with opposing muscle groups (chest/back). Lower rest times are needed during supersets because one muscle is resting while the other is working.
Endurance is the phase that increases endurance of the smaller muscles, allowing the larger muscles to work at full capacity (without the smaller muscles failing) in the other phases. This phase is very cardiovascular in nature, with rest periods of 30 seconds or less. The higher the amount of reps, the less rest is required, so most circuit and DVD type workouts will fit into this phase category.
Video 3 discusses how the rep ranges come together for each individuals needs (periodization). When focusing on a particular goal, you will likely spend the majority of your time in the rep range that most directly corresponds to the end goal. However, you can still dip into other rep ranges as necessary in order to enhance the benefits of the other phases when you return to them. Try not to view any rep range as completely useless. When it comes to goals like fat loss and muscle building, periodization can be a key attribute in preventing plateaus by essentially sending your body through a faux “newbie gain” phase every time you return to your main rep range. Win, win!
I hope you enjoy this series, fam! Of course, all this info and more is included in our Beginner Strength Training Manual.
Let me know if this helps you…or if I just made it more confusing. LOL. If you have any other questions, or need more clarification (from this or any other vid/blog), drop me a line below!
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How long have you been on this journey?
I discovered EM2WL in May 2012. It’s been a long journey with both ups and downs, but there is no turning back for me. It took me a while to trust the process and I’m so happy that I stuck in there. Luckily for me, I have a lot of patience, which is key with this lifestyle. Yes, lifestyle. It is not a quick fix or a diet. It’s a way of life. If you like food, like most people do, then you will like EM2WL.
When did you first learn that you needed to eat more to reach your goals?
Well my story is a bit of a lengthy one, but I think it’s one that most people can relate to. I did Weight Watchers to lose weight after both of my pregnancies. After my first pregnancy it worked great. I had lost all the weight and then some. I was also doing a lot of cardio. I was running 5 days a week and doing some light weight lifting.
After my second pregnancy, however, the weight did not come off nearly as fast with Weight Watchers. I also was not able to do my usual 5 days of running because I was diagnosed with pelvic girdle pain. It is something that I deal with to this day. I came within 8 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight but my clothes just didn't fit the same. I was fatter! My body composition was completely different. All of that cardio and low calorie eating came back to bite me.
A few months later I stumbled across MyfitnessPal and the EM2WL group. I watched Kiki’s and Lucia’s videos about TDEE. I was intrigued to say the least and I decided to jump right in by doing a 3 month reset. I figured if the low calorie/cardio way wasn't working, then eating more certainly couldn't hurt.
What was your original response?
My initial response to EM2WL was disbelief. I was shocked. How could I not have known about this? How could someone eat so much food and lose fat? I just could not wrap my head around it.
How did others around you react about your decision to discard the usual low calorie methods for weight loss?
I think there was some hesitation from family members, except my brother. He is a personal trainer and knew exactly what I was doing. Most people didn’t understand, but I knew it was the right thing for me and that’s what matters.
How did your body react to the initial increase in cals?
Well, I gained! I ended up doing 2 resets and gained 25 pounds in a period of about one year. Yes, I know it sounds scary but I came to the realization that I had to gain before I could lose. Most people think they lose weight because they are eating LESS, but we need to realize that you’re losing weight because at one point you ate MORE. I now tell people that I actually gained weight on purpose.
I also noticed that my nails were stronger, my hair wouldn't fall out as much, and I wasn't cold all the time. I also saw that even though the number on the scale was either staying the same or going up, that my inches were going down.
Did your family notice or comment on any changes once you upped your calories for a period of time?
I think it sparked some curiosity in my family members. I am definitely more muscular now than I have ever been my entire life. My husband felt my arms earlier today and was impressed with my progress.
Can you describe your typical workout schedule prior to EM2WL and today?
Prior to EM2WL I was doing an insane amount of cardio. I would run 5 days a week and do light weight lifting. By that I mean lifting no more than 5-10 pound dumbbells. And to be honest, I don’t think I could lift more than that anyway because I wasn’t eating enough.
Today I do cardio maybe once a week. Again, I suffer from pelvic girdle pain and cardio tends to aggravate that, which is actually a good thing because that means that strength training is my primary form of exercise. It helps with my pelvis. So it’s a win-win!
I lift weights 3 days a week and lift heavy. I’m midway through The New Rules of Lifting for Women and have experienced great results thus far. I am also a huge Cathe fan. I’ve done 1.5 rounds of STS before spraining my wrist this summer.
I really look forward to my workouts because I love seeing my progress. I’m at the point now where I enjoy focusing more on what my body can do versus how much weight I have lost. That stupid number on the scale doesn’t mean anything to me anymore.
In conclusion, I’d like to thank Kiki, Lucia and the entire EM2WL family for the constant support. I’m so thankful that I have adopted this lifestyle. Not only for myself, but for my daughters too. They know when they see me exercising that I’m doing it so I can be strong, not so I can be skinny.