What I Ate During the Super Bowl

Hello from another snowy morning in Boston! I’m thankful for the snow day and ability to work from home today because my body definitely needed the extra sleep.

Today I want to talk about the Super Bowl. No, I’m not going to talk about anything related to football or the game itself, but instead I want to chat about my experience with navigating the food. I shared on my Facebook page last night that I originally was planning to stay home for the Super Bowl, but I ended up making a super last-minute decision to go out with Tim and his family. Tim’s dad recently started bartending at a local American Legion for some extra money, and since they were having an event, we decided to go support him.

Since my change of plans happened about an hour before we were supposed to leave the house, it means I didn’t have the chance to make anything to bring along ahead of time. You guys know that normally I like to make something protein packed and on the healthier side when I head into social situations where I know there will be a lot of munchies.

Going into the night, I had no idea what the food situation was going to be like. Since the party wasn’t held at someone’s house, I wasn’t expecting a massive spread of food. Also, since we weren’t going to be at a regular bar, I wasn’t expecting your average bar food either. Like I said, I had no idea what to expect except for that Tim’s dad was really excited about his homemade deviled eggs.

could have let this situation stress me out.

could have freaked out and demanded we stop to pick up a veggie tray on the way to watch the game.

I could have arrived at the party and refused to eat any of the food that was there because it wasn’t the kind of food I’m “supposed” to eat to “stay on track.”

could have said eff it when I got there and stuffed my face because today is Monday, and don’t Mondays mean we get to start over and just erase everything we ate over the weekend?

For the record, I didn’t do any of those things. But a past version of me would have! And that’s why I’m telling you guys this story. I’m sure many of you might be rolling your eyes, asking yourself what the big deal is, or thinking that I need to chill out because “it’s just food.”

I’m telling you this because to many people, food is not just food. 

Food paralysis is very real and an enormous cause of stress to so many people, especially when there is a sense of having no control over the food you will be around. But that’s just the thing. There’s always control, and the very best kind of control is to trust yourself, regardless of the environment you are in or the foods you are exposed to. It just takes practice to mindfully navigate all different kinds of food situations and the understanding that the practice doesn’t happen overnight.

For the record, I work on this mindset almost every day, and it’s still an evolving process for me. 

Here’s how this practice looked for me last night during the Super Bowl, if you missed the live play by play on Snapchat:

–Once I made the last-minute decision to head out for the game, I told myself I would do my very best to navigate whatever food situation was in front of me. Doing our very best is all we can really ask of ourselves, isn’t it? Sometimes just repeating a mantra like “I will do my very best” can change the whole tone of a situation you are feeling stressed about. <—that applies to anything by the way, not just food stress.

–Before I left the house, I ate some leftover farro and chickpea soup so that I wouldn’t be famished upon arriving at the event.

–On the drive down, I drank a lot of water to hydrate.

Hydrating

–When we arrived at the American Legion, I did a quick scan of the room. The snack spread included cheese and crackers, pepperoni slices, Fritos, Tostitos, Wavy Lays, store-bought ranch and French onion dips, and hummus. Tim’s dad’s deviled eggs were also out. I got a bottle of water to start, and of course I had to try one of the infamous deviled eggs (made with bacon and mayo). I also put some cheese, crackers, and pepperoni on my plate. I ate two of each, and then gave Tim my third piece of pepperoni because it wasn’t tasting as good as the first piece did. <—First bite rule for the win.

Super Bowl Snacks

–After I finished my bottle of water, I ordered a beer. We were laughing because they had all types of Sam Adams beer except for the winter. While I enjoyed my Octoberfest, I decided the snacks didn’t seem that interesting enough for me to take any more. I don’t feel like I deprived myself of anything because I was in tune with what I really wanted to eat. I definitely took a Frito off of Tim’s plate (yes, just one), but I also reminded myself that everything that was on the table in front of me was something I can literally go buy ANY TIME I WANT. It wasn’t like last night was the last night I could ever eat Fritos ever again. <—Novelty factor gone.

–At halftime, the food buffet was put out. The options were dinner rolls, Caesar salad, corn on the cob, steak with peppers and onions, and chicken with broccoli and ziti. Nothing that was really my jam, but here’s where you just have to do the best you can regardless of the situation. I filled half of my plate with the salad, took a piece of corn on the cob, and filled the rest of my plate with the steak and peppers and onions. The steak was delicious, and I enjoyed the salad, but the corn on the cob was way too buttery for my liking, so I didn’t eat it and instead went back up for more Caesar. <–Here’s where you have to just trust that whatever you eat that may be a little off from your norm, whether it’s Caesar salad or ziti or whatever, is not going to throw off your entire physique or how worthy you are or all that nonsense.

Super Bowl Meal

–After dinner, I was really full and drank a few more bottles of water throughout the night until we left. I just didn’t feel like having any more beers (I had a couple out on Saturday night).

And that’s that! Not anything super exciting or earth shattering. Again, you might think “oh, what’s the big deal to eat more than one Frito,” and to that my answer is that it’s NOT a big deal if you truly want Fritos! As long as you eat them mindfully (are you loving every bite?) and aren’t going to beat yourself up about them in the morning (do you feel guilty? are you depriving yourself of calories? are you overdoing it on exercise to “make up for it?”), then go ahead and eat all the Fritos in the world. I just know that all too often, binge eating and feeling like you just have to eat everything in sight because it’s there or because you already “messed up” earlier in the day can actually fuel MORE deprivation later in the week. That’s when the deprivation/binge becomes a never-ending cycle that effs with your head and feelings of self-worth and causes you to be unkind to yourself… and that’s never worth it to me.

Be Kind

I hope this helps give you a little insight as to how I try my best to mindfully navigate food settings that I have no control over. Last night is just one example, and please understand that there are MANY times when I’m not as “good” at the practice as I was yesterday. In fact, every day is different, and there’s really no hard or fast rules about good versus bad when it comes to food decisions: it’s just more about how you FEEL after the food choices you make. And today, I woke up feeling good. No feelings of deprivation. No feelings of guilt. No stomachache. I’m just proud of myself for not going balls to the wall on those cheese and crackers (definitely the snack I tend to go overboard the most with!), and I’m happy I didn’t let the fear of food cause me to miss out on a fun night with my husband and in-laws.

Let’s chat! Did you do anything for the Super Bowl last night? How did you navigate the food? Are you someone who struggles with situations where you aren’t in control of the food?

P.S. Did anyone else notice the horrible kettlebell swing form in the Fitbit Blaze commercial? My friend Ashley and I were texting about how atrocious it was!

Spicy Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Jalapenos

I’m here today with a new recipe for you!

If you follow me on Snapchat (@fitnessandfeta), you got a sneak peek the other night into some recipe creating that Tim and I were doing for the Super Bowl on Sunday. Let’s be honest, I always care more about Super Bowl food than I do the Super Bowl itself. Who else is with me here? We actually aren’t even sure what our plans will be for watching the game this year, but either way I wanted to come up with a fun game time recipe for those of you who do have plans and are looking for something fun to make.

My goal was to create an F&F version of a party favorite, and we decided we wanted to recreate the traditional jalapeno popper! Here’s the recipe:

Spicy Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Jalapenos

Spicy Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Jalapenos

Makes one dozen stuffed jalapenos

Ingredients

  • 6 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 hot chicken sausage
  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and ground pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. To cook the quinoa, combine 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
  3. Remove the chicken sausage out of its casing. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat, then place the sausage in the pan and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Once the quinoa and sausage are prepared, mix them in a large bowl with the plain Greek yogurt, paprika, shredded cheddar cheese, and salt and pepper.
  5. Prepare the jalapeno peppers by slicing them in half lengthwise, tearing out the rips, and removing the seeds.
  6. Stuff the peppers with the quinoa and sausage filling, and top with additional cheese if desired.
  7. Cook for twenty minutes, and enjoy!

Spicy Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Jalapenos

In this recipe, you can use any kind of sausage you want. We used a hot chicken sausage from Whole Foods to add some heat to the recipe, but choose based on your own spice tolerance. You could also sub the sausage out with any type of ground meat or even black beans for a vegetarian version. If you do, I’d recommend adding more spices like garlic and onion powder or crushed red pepper for extra flavor. We didn’t for the hot chicken sausage version because it had enough flavor as is!
Spicy Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Jalapenos
Spicy Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Jalapenos
Traditional jalapeno poppers are made with fried cream cheese, so this is definitely a more nutritious version. The sausage and the quinoa also both provide an extra protein punch, and I always like to have a protein option available during events I know will have a lot of munchies around. Filling up on the protein filled snacks first helps me feel fuller and navigate the food more mindfully.
Spicy Sausage and Quinoa Peppers
This makes 12 stuffed peppers, so if you are serving a crowd I would definitely double the recipe. For a time-saving tip, I recommend making extra quinoa than this recipe calls for. This way you can make a big batch at once and have extra on hand for other meals throughout your week. One of the many ways I make food prep easier on myself is to re-purpose ingredients for multiple meals.

If you end up making these, remember to post on social media and tag me @fitnessandfeta so I can see how they came out. Have a great weekend!

Let’s chat! Any plans for the Super Bowl on Sunday? What are your favorite Super Bowl snacks? 

For additional Super Bowl food ideas, check out this Super Bowl menu from a party we hosted a couple of years ago. You might also like some of these recipes:

Finding Your Fitness Tribe

I recently did some outreach via my blog Facebook page and this survey, and I asked you guys to share what some of your biggest challenges are right now as they pertain to the areas of fitness, nutrition, and mindset. A few of you told me that you are just starting your health and wellness journeys (yeah!), and I noticed a common theme in one of the things you noted as being difficult for you right now: feeling a little isolated or lonely along the way because the people you live, work, and/or hang out with just aren’t on the same page as you.

I’m excited to chat about this today, as I think many of us have either been in a similar situation or can relate. Think about whether you’ve ever been in any of the following scenarios:

  • Being out in a social setting, doing your best to order mindfully off the menu, and having a friend say, “oh come on, these nachos won’t kill you” or “live a little and eat this cookie.”
  • Wanting your significant other to work on eating more nutritiously with you, but he or she never wants to join you in the kitchen and they continue to bring home unhealthy items from the grocery store.
  • Feeling like you’ve been sitting too long at work, asking your co-workers if anyone wants to go for an afternoon walk break, and getting a bunch of blank stares in return.
  • Excitedly telling a relative about a new healthy food discovery, only for them to immediately say, “oh, I would never eat that,” and not even give it a chance.
  • Wanting to go for an evening run before meeting up with the girls, and being teased about it via a group text before you see everyone and in person after you arrive.

It’s really challenging when we want our friends, families, and co-workers to be in the same place as we are, but they just aren’t. The truth is, people are always going to be in varying stages of readiness for wanting to make a behavior change. And as much as we might want to nag our husbands to get to the gym or preach to our co-workers about the things they could be eating instead of that gross entrée from the work cafeteria, we aren’t going to be able to force anyone to change. In fact, in order for someone to make a change, they have to be ready for it themselves. I could write a whole separate post on how to gently coach your loved ones into becoming ready to tackle new health behaviors themselves, but for now I want to simply drive home the key point that you can’t force your new health journey on anyone else. 

Sorry if that’s not what you wanted to hear!

“But… how am I supposed to do this alone?”

“Even if I can get started, how are any big changes that I’m able to make supposed to last without the right support system?”

I get you. I really, really do. There have been countless studies done to prove that people have higher success rates with meeting health goals when they have a supportive and encouraging network to back them up. Even when I think about my personal networks, I’d say that most of the healthy people I know prefer to share their food choices, fitness accomplishments, and other positive choices with their friends, both online and off. I know I do! For me, it makes the whole process more fun, more doable, and more sustainable for the long-term when I feel like a part of something bigger and get a sense of community around the goals I’m working on. For me, social > solo helps me so much. Of course there’s nothing wrong with preferring a more private or quieter journey, but if something you are struggling with right now is not being able to find like-minded people who share similar goals, want to embrace similar behaviors, and have shared values or ways of doing things, I have the solution for you so that your journey doesn’t seem like such an individual effort:

You need to find a fitness tribe.

And if you can’t find a fitness tribe, you need to create a fitness tribe yourself.

Fitness Tribe

Before we dig a little deeper into this concept, we need to define what a fitness tribe is. I actually Googled the phrase fitness tribe when writing this post, and here’s what the interwebs had to say:

“A fitness tribe is simply two or more people who team up in any way, shape, or form to engage in healthy behavior, build healthy habits, or achieve a healthy goal together.” 

Since there were a few different sites I saw defining fitness tribe in this way, props to whoever came up with this definition first because it’s freaking awesome. One thing I love about this definition is the number thrown out there right at the beginning of the sentence. Two. Get that? Your fitness tribe only needs to be two or more people. Right away, it makes finding a fitness tribe seem doable, because if you are part of your own tribe (duh), then you only have to find one other person to root you on in your journey. Just one! Finding that one person or a few key people to give you the power of support as you start is so important, and then you can grow your tribe from there. For a real example of this, read one of my last Journey to Fit posts where guest contributor Steve told us about the three different types of people he enlisted for a support system when he first set out on his weight loss journey and his wife and daughter weren’t ready to join him yet.

Gym friends in the morning

I want you guys to think about who your personal fitness tribe can consist of. If you cannot think of anyone in your life who you already know that may be on board, then you might just have to put yourself out there and meet somebody new. I know, I know. That can seem really scary! But I promise sometimes it just boils down to simply saying hello to someone. That’s it. Just start a conversation.

Years ago, one of the girls who regularly attended my Thursday morning 6am class approached me after class. She simply introduced herself to me and told me she started reading my blog (I had just started F&F at the time). I don’t remember much else about this conversation, but after that day we’d say hi to each other and make small talk before and after class. It seemed like each week we would talk a little bit more, and after a while, I invited her to a gathering I was hosting at my apartment with some of the other girls I was friendly with from the gym. I had no idea how close I would become with this class member who just went out on a limb one day to say hello, but now my friendship with this gal is one of my most cherished. I also had no idea how much my little invite meant to her at the time, but she’s said she’s so happy she just decided to say hi because it helped her not only find a solid group of friends in the Boston area, but her fitness tribe at the same time. For the record, Ashley wrote this all in my wedding card, and I cried all over it.

Wedding: Me and Ashley
Classy bride holding a beer. Oy! 

People often comment on how lucky I am to have a big group of girlfriends from the gym, but keep in mind that someone had to initiate it. Why not you? What’s the worst that can happen? Think about starting a friendly conversation with someone who stands next to you in class or someone you see all the time in the weight room or locker room. Because honestly, sometimes that’s all it takes. If you aren’t sure what to say, here are some ideas for conversation starters at the gym:

  • Give compliments. Tell someone you really like their sneakers or outfit, and ask where they got them. Continue the conversation by sharing your favorite places to shop for workout gear or something recent you just purchased.
  • Comment on a previous week’s class or workout. Talk about how hard the class was, mention a certain exercise or combination that was new to you, or chat about what your favorite song was from last week’s class playlist.
  • Remark on someone’s dedication or progress. Note when you’ve seen someone in class or the weight room for a few weeks, ask if they are following a certain program, or comment about how it looks like they are really dedicated to their _____ (chin ups, planks, squats).
  • Chit chat in the locker room. If you shower and change for work at the gym, chances are there are a few familiar faces in the locker room with you every day at the same time. Ask someone if they work or live in the area. If yes, ask them what they do for work or if they’ve lived in the area a long time. People love to talk about themselves and will likely go into more detail!
  • Find people on social media. After you’ve chatted with someone a few times in person, ask them if they are on social media. You can make it less creepy by saying, “hey, are you on Instagram? I posted a recipe the other night that I think you would like!”

If you don’t belong to a gym, or you are looking for a different type of support, remember that a fitness tribe also doesn’t need to be created at the gym. You also can have different tribes for different areas of health that you are working on. I definitely turn to certain people when it comes to checking out new exercise classes together versus the people I discuss my strength training journey with. I have a tribe that keeps me accountable with healthy cooking, and there are different people who I count on for gudiance with my mindset, blogging, or business goals. Of course there can be overlap too!

Boston Blogger Dinner at the SocialBoston bloggers at dinner a couple of weeks ago!

Here are some other ideas you might want to consider for branching out to find different types of supportive and like-minded crews to help you:

  • Take a class that isn’t fitness related. There are so many places in the Boston area that offer different types of classes now, and wellness related events are seriously on the rise. I’m sure you guys can find something wherever you live, whether it be a healthy cooking class, attending a free educational health seminar at Whole Foods, or going to a wine and cheese pairing lesson. These are great examples of places to meet people who have shared interests as you!
  • Join a local group. This could be a running group, a book club, anything! I have a friend who recently moved to a new area and had a baby a few months later. She joined a local yoga group for moms without knowing anyone, and she is so happy she did because now she’s made a connection and found community with other mothers in her neighborhood trying to stay fit post partum.
  • Look for opportunities at work. Suggest walking meetings with your team or ask a co-worker if they will join you for an afternoon stretch every day. One of my friends at work started a monthly potluck and recipe exchange group for plant-based eating because that’s her particular area of interest. I know another guy at work who started a board games group that meets the first Tuesday of every month after work and someone else who organized a cycling group for after work bike rides. Base your group or club on your personal interests for sure! If you want to get more easy crock pot recipes, start a crock pot cooking club. If you simply want to take more stair breaks during the day, approach someone you know already does the stairs every day, and ask if you can join them.
  • Join a group online. Have a wearable device or use a phone app? There are many companies out there such as Fitbit or MyFitnessPal whose online platforms allow people to create groups for digital accountability. Do you follow any local bloggers? If so, join in on their conversations on social media and participate in any events or challenges they host. You may end up connecting with others also participating and the result is feeling a sense of community. I know I saw this community bigtime when I hosted my Holiday Hustle challenge last year. People opened up to share their accomplishments, triumphs, tips, struggles, challenges, and more. It was amazing!

Whether you are the one creating your tribe, or whether you find a tribe to already join, one key point to drive home is to make sure you surround yourself with people who will legitimately be happy for you throughout your journey. The last thing you need when you are making an investment in yourself and taking positive steps for your health are people who will talk you out of making healthy choices or sabotage your process. They shouldn’t become snarky when you talk about even the smallest of fitness wins, and if they do… that’s more about an insecurity on their end than it is about you and your journey. Negative Nancys and judgers? Get out.

To help remind you guys of the key characteristics you want to look for in the people you will count on to help you along your journey, I’ve developed a little acronym for the word tribe:

fitness tribe

Again, the people in your tribe should:

Team up with you for accountability and support 

Respect the choices you make without judgment or bullying 

Inspire you to get out of your comfort zone and try new things

Be there for you and cheer for you along the way

Encourage you to be the best version of yourself 

Basically, you want to harness the power of those around you who are already making healthy choices and can fulfill the above characteristics instead of trying to force your health journey on to those who aren’t ready to join you. Healthy habits are contagious, and you are more likely to make positive choices and stick with them for the long-term if other people are making them too. And then maybe those significant others, parents, kids, friends, etc. who aren’t ready yet will feel inspired to start on their own.

Gym Friends at the Club

I hope this helped some of you who are struggling with not knowing where to go for support in your health and fitness journeys. Just remember, that your vibe attracts your tribe. It really does, so channel that positive energy and put yourself out there. I promise it just make change your life. I know it did for me. <3

Let’s chat! Do you have a fitness tribe? How did it start? If you don’t, what’s one way you can work on creating one? Do you prefer to be a part of a community when working on your fitness goals? 

Want to take the first step toward being a part of a group of like-minded women today?! It’s the last day to join my Galentine Buddy Exchange. I’m extending the original sign up deadline to 6pm EST tonight. Get all the details hereand then sign up to join the fun!

Join the Galentine Buddy Exchange!

Galentine Day

February is right around the corner, which means Valentine’s Day is too. I’ve had many enjoyable Valentine’s Days with Tim over the years, but some of my best Valentine’s Day memories are from times I’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day with the girls. … Continue reading

Don’t Fear the Weight Room: Considerations for Program Design (Part 2)

This is the last post in my Don’t Fear the Weight Room series.It’s been so fun chatting about this topic this month with you guys! To recap, here’s what we’ve covered so far:

Looking beyond group exercise and cardio
In my intro post, we talked about why a group exercise or cardio setting might not be helping you get stronger (if strength is your goal).

Breaking the bulky myth
In this post, I gave you some of the science behind why it’s really hard to bulk up as a woman. We chatted about how you and only you get to determine what your physique goals should be, and I gave you some examples of the changes that my body went through after I started my strength training journey.

Let’s go on tour
In this post, I provided an overview of the typical strength training equipment you might find in the weight room. We discussed what some of the different equipment is typically used for the pros and cons of each (ie machines versus free weights), and I also provided some sample exercises to perform with the different equipment.

Considerations for program design (part 1)
Last week, we reviewed how to start putting some of the pieces together. I went over the key components for a good warm up, and I taught you how to choose exercises for your workouts based on the movement patterns that will get you the most bang for your buck.

Today we are going to wrap up with some additional considerations for program design beyond the types of movement we talked about last week. It’s one thing to have an understanding of what types of exercises you should be doing as part of a well-rounded strength training program, but there are some other considerations you’ll want to keep in mind for program design as well.

Don't Fear the Weight Room: Considerations for Program Design

Variations and Balance
Last week, I recommended that beginner strength trainers put a full body workout together by selecting one exercise that covers the push, pull, squat, and hinge movement patterns. This will give you a four exercise workout to start out with. Once comfortable with the main four, I also recommended adding in more exercises to cover the unilateral, rotary, and core components for a workout consisting of 5-8 total exercises. As you continue to advance, you might consider focusing your workouts around just one or two of the main movement patterns instead of trying to hit them all at once. For example, if focusing on hinge/lower body and pull movement patterns on Mondays, your workout might look like this:

  • Superset #1: Barbell deadlifts/chinups
  • Superset #2: Reverse lunges/inverted rows
  • Superset #3: Single leg glute bridges/single arm bent over rows

This will give you more variations of the same movement patterns to play with for a stronger focus in those areas on any given day. Then in your next workout, you can focus on the others (ie Wednesday might be a squat and push focused workout). Just remember that one of the most important thing to keep in mind when choosing exercises for your program is balance. If you are creating a push/pull focused workout and include a horizontal push exercise like a pushup, you should also include a horizontal pull exercise like a row in either the same workout or during the next one. If you have a vertical push exercise like an overhead press, you should include a vertical pull exercise like a lateral pulldown. Make sure your lower body work includes moves that have both an anterior(front) and posterior(back) focus. Doing this is so important to prevent overuse injuries. Make sense?

Chin Ups

Volume
At the onset of this series, you guys told me that while you want to start a strength training program, you simply aren’t sure about how many reps or sets of an exercise you should do. For those not familiar with the terminology, reps refer to the number of repetitions of an exercise to be performed before resting or moving on to another exercise, and your sets refer to the number of times you’ll perform the prescribed number of reps. I recommend that beginners begin somewhere in the middle of the road. Doing 3 sets of 8-12 reps is a great place to simply establish a starting point and a good foundation for your training. You can always adapt from there. Remember that different rep ranges and sets are prescribed for different fitness goals, so that is going to depend on what your personal fitness goals are. For example, if you’ve been lifting in the 8-12 range for a while and are looking to get a little stronger, try decreasing to 6-8 reps instead with a heavier weight selection.

Front Squats

Load
Another common question I’m asked is how much weight to use, or what the appropriate load is. I recommend choosing a load that allows you to feel challenged while performing the exercises, but doesn’t have you breaking down the quality of execution! At the beginning of any program, you will need to do a little testing to figure out if the weights you are using are heavy enough. For example, if your program calls for 8-12 repetitions of a barbell squat, I recommend you choose weight that you think you can manage all 12 reps with and then attempt to perform all 12 reps while keeping quality form. If you manage all 12 reps and think you could have easily performed at least 3-5 more, then you increase your weight slightly on your next set to try again. If you could only reach 8 reps with good form, then stick with that weight until you can consistently reach the higher number in your rep range (12) for the required number of sets. Finally, if you could only manage less than 8 reps in good form, you should lower your weight on your next set. Be honest with yourself here! It’s an iterative process, and it’s better to choose something too light at first and adjust by going up instead of getting too extreme right out of the gate.

Order and Flow
I recommend placing your biggest or most technical lifts first: things like your squats, deadlifts, bench presses, chin ups/pull-ups. This is to make sure your body can perform these lifts to its optimal capacity while fresh out of the gate at the beginning of your workout. For flow, there are many options out there for what format to use, but some of the more common ways to format a workout include:

  • Straight sets: Complete all reps for a certain exercise, rest, then complete all reps for your second set of the same exercise, etc.
  • Supersets: Choose two exercises and alternative one set of exercise A with another set of exercise B.
  • Circuit: A series of exercises, performed one after the other, with little to no rest in between.

Trap Bar

Progressions
Finally, another question I’m frequently asked is how to know when to change things up. After programming 2-3 workouts for yourself to complete over the course of one week, I recommend that you remain consistent with these same workouts for a 4-6 week block. Of course you can change up the reps and load slightly from week to week as mentioned above, but you want the exercises themselves to be the same. Many people think that variety is key and that you need to do something different every single week to keep your muscles guessing, but this is true only to an extent. You can’t become stronger in your bench press if you do 3 sets of 8 bench presses this week and then not do them again for two months. Your variety will come at the end of the 4-6 weeks when you regroup to swap out some of the original selection of exercises or you gauge where you can progress existing ones. Progressions/variety can come in the form of:

  • Equipment: What tools you are using, ie progressing squats from bodyweight to dumbbell or kettlebell goblet to barbell
  • Volume: Increased or decreased reps/sets
  • Load: Not only increasing or decreasing weight, but varying where the weight is placed, ie a front squat versus a back squat
  • Variations: Bilateral or unilateral exercises, incline or decline, underhand or overhand grip, etc.
  • Rest: Increased or decreased rest between sets
  • Tempo: How slow or quickly you perform the move, ie slowing down the concentric or working part of the exercise, or adding pauses. Consider holding at the bottom of your squats or the top of your glute bridges.
  • Range of motion: Squat or pushup depth, for example

Finally, don’t forget to track your progress! It’s fun to go out and buy a cute notebook to journal your progress and see yourself improve in any of the above areas. :)

Phew! I really hope this series helped clean up some confusion surrounding strength training and gave you at least a few tangible takeaways for getting started. Please know that once you simply begin, there are SO many places you can take your program and progress it so that you can continue to evolve your fitness levels. To anyone who might have any follow-up questions about anything in this series, I am happy to chat with you further at any time! Definitely leave me a comment below or shoot me an email. Good luck in your strength training journeys! <3

Let’s chat! Where are you in your strength training journey right now? Whether you’ve never picked up a weight in your life or you’ve been lifting for years, I would love to hear about your current fitness routine. How do you program the considerations mentioned in this post into your plan? How do you switch things up for variety while still making progress? 

Later today, I will be offering my Don’t Fear the Weight Room newsletter subscribers a sneak peek at something I’m launching online in the next month pertaining to strength training and everything we’ve been talking about so far in this series. Hint: there will be a pretty sweet insider discount! If you want in on the details and savings, make sure to sign up here.