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This week, I circle back to my partner and fitness guru Tracy Anderson as myself and various cohorts have some questions about diet and maximizing time spent in the gym. Some of these said cohorts have been training for marathons and spinning regularly with odd results and wanted some answers. Another has just a few last holiday pounds to shed. Tracy has very kindly provided us with her insights and a 15-minute workout to use as an add-on to your regular workout or to get you started. Either way, she's freaking awesome. And this week, just in time for Valentine's Day (or if you want to get a jump on Mother's Day), is our exclusive collaboration with one of my fave jewelry designers, Jen Meyer. Give (yourself) the mum necklace. You deserve it.;)
This week’s goop collaboration
Tracy's 15-Minute Workout
So, we’ve all seen Tracy in action and heard about her Method. Today, she gives goop readers a 15-minute add-on to any workout routine. So no matter what you follow (or even if you only have 15 minutes to spare), you can enjoy Tracy-caliber results.
P.S. For one-stop shopping, all the equipment you see in the video can be found on Tracy’s site.
Q&A with (the One and Only) Tracy Anderson
We’ve asked Tracy to answer some of those nagging fitness/nutrition questions we can never seem to get a straight answer to.
Q:We heard that to burn fat, it’s good to do cardio on an empty stomach so that your body immediately targets fat cells when you start exercising. Is there any truth to this?
A:Those who aren't high-energy exercise performers and can't make it through at least 45 minutes of intense cardio aren’t going to make it to the point where their bodies would begin to burn fat effectively on an empty stomach. What normally happens is that they feel weak, and the workout ends up being a waste of time. That said, you should still be smart about what you put into your body before training. If you eat a bagel or spaghetti before working out, you will not burn as much fat. Substitute something like 2 scoops of protein powder with half water and half coconut water for that bagel, and you’ve got a win-win: Fat is broken down faster, and you can still go the distance to create real and lasting results.
"While running and cycling may burn calories, they do not design feminine muscles..."
Q:We’ve heard friends who train for marathons, (which includes short runs during the week and long ones on the weekend), say they feel like they're actually gaining weight. What’s going on?
A:This is one of those frustrating situations where many elements are at play. Performing repetitive movements in fitness (such as running) creates a distinctive imbalance in the muscular structure and causes the large muscles in the legs to charge up. While running and cycling may burn calories, they do not design feminine muscles or get rid of an imbalance that may masquerade as a “problem area”—even on women who are genetically thin.
I’ve spent the past 14 years dedicated to the creation and testing of my fitness method specifically because of this problem. The whole concept of “calories in and calories out” is true and fair—but how you choose to burn those calories has a direct effect on how your muscles change. Running a marathon is a real and measurable accomplishment, but if you’re looking to lean out and lose weight, training to complete 26.2 miles isn’t going to give you the physical results you crave. After you cross that finish line, choose a program that reflects your goals.
Q: So, if you're saying that repetition can lead to imbalance, is it a good idea to vary our workouts? How often should we be switching up our routine and why?
A:Yes, it's good to change your workout—but not your overall program.
I learned very early in my career that to combat real problem areas, there needs to be enough content (routines and movements) to keep genetic weaknesses and imbalances awake, alert, and engaged. In my method, the routines change every 10 days, and are customized to different body types and shapes. Not only does this require your brain to stay connected to your body, but it demands the participation of more of the small muscles, rather than just relying on—and charging up—the larger muscles, which can add bulk.
"While bulkier muscle looks OK on women in their 20's and 30's, it doesn't age well."
Q:It seems that some people are all about kettle bells while others are diametrically opposed to heavy weight lifting. What’s your stance?
A:I am NOT a fan of kettle bells. Without a truly keen mind/body connection and ability to control swinging weights, you can easily injure yourself: The way that the momentum forces the muscles is a very difficult process to master. And overuse, which comes from constantly swinging in the same rotation, can lead to lasting damage. Kettle balls are also unnecessary, since you can easily get the benefits of incorporating weight and motion in a way that doesn’t add bulk or put your body at risk of injury.
I have occasionally designed programs for men that incorporate kettle bells, but I would never recommend them to women, even for women who are fans of bulkier muscle lines. While bulkier muscle looks OK on women in their 20s and 30s, it doesn’t age well. The sooner you build a long, lean, and feminine arm, the more sustainable the results will be—and with no sacrifice in strength.
Q:What (besides your famous exercise program) are your top tips for getting rid of baby fat after pregnancy?
A:As many of us know too well, it’s impossible to control your body’s response to pregnancy. Beyond eating well and exercising—which are key to both your baby’s health, and your stamina on the delivery table—there’s not much you can do to manipulate your body into doing what you want.
After the baby's born, there are a number of things that can help you reconnect with your body, such as nursing, and of course, exercise, as soon as your doctor releases you to do so. I kid you not, the goal of my post-pregnancy program is to not only get women’s bodies back to their pre-pregnancy state, but to make them look the best they’ve ever looked in their lives. It’s kind of like a blank slate.
It has a complete amino acid profile and comes from an all-vegan protein source. I mix two scoops with grass-fed, hormone-free whole milk, fresh coconut water, and a little dark chocolate agave mix. It’s my power milkshake and gets me through my morning, my workout, and my shower. I then eat a light lunch with loads of fresh greens and an early dinner of whatever I want. I am very consistent and that routine has been a key player in my results.
Powders are a great way to add protein to your diet without all the potentially harmful effects of some protein sources. Keep in mind, protein shakes in general should be treated as a meal replacement, not a snack. If you combine two scoops of the shake with water and ice in lieu of breakfast or lunch, you will lose weight and feel great, as it provides clean energy to burn throughout the day. If you add coconut water, fruit, almond milk, et al, you’re packing calories into the drink that can quickly add up and ultimately cause weight gain.
Q:How many avocadoes is too many avocadoes a week? Or, more simply put, how much good fat is too much fat?
A:‘Good fats’ absolutely merit the title, but it’s important to remember that a little goes a long way. Good doesn’t equal all-you-can-eat. That said, a few slices of avocado, along with other powerful superfoods like fresh, lycopene-rich tomato sauce, can help your body absorb antioxidants. Besides being delicious, avocados have anti-inflammatory properties, are great for eye health, help regulate homocysteine levels associated with heart disease, and lower cholesterol. Because of their calorie count, I make a meal of them! I will sprinkle an avocado with sea salt and dig right in, or if she’s in the vicinity, I’ll opt for one of Gwyneth’s avocado sandwiches. They’re so good, you won’t miss a burger! If you only eat half, enlist the rest as a face masque: Nutrient-rich avocados are loaded with essential fatty acids that are a natural and fresh wrinkle reducer.
Shoes: Nike Shox - the hands-down, best sneaker for dancing.
Tracy on: Tackling New Year’s Resolutions
(It’s a Mind Game)
"Whether you voiced it at midnight or not, chances are pretty high that you embraced 2013 with a healthy and body-conscious resolution lurking in the back of your mind. And chances are, you said hello to 2012, and 2011, and 2010 with a similar agenda. It can get pretty boring (and dare I say depressing) to feel like you never manage to move getting in shape from an action item on your to-do list, to something that is a joyful and central part of your everyday life."
"So why exactly is getting fit and healthy—and staying fit and healthy—such a Sisyphean task?"
"Quite frankly, keeping these sorts of resolutions has very little to do with an actual treadmill, and everything to do with shifting your mindset: Because the biggest hurdle between you and your goal isn’t sore muscles or shin splints—it’s your brain.
If you haven’t been spending the past few months really exercising (walking the dog doesn’t count!), drinking lots of milk, sitting in the sun, or getting daily massages, chances are that you’re handicapped by low serotonin levels. And unfortunately, it is very challenging to summon physical motivation when this level dips—it’s why you’re losing the tug-of-war between the gym and your reality TV-laden DVR. What’s worse is that carbs can trigger a momentary uptick in serotonin, which is why it can be so hard to kick a bagel-for-breakfast-every-morning habit: We can become addicted to carb-induced highs, which only contribute to the problem. It’s a truly vicious cycle.
But all is not lost, because just as depressed serotonin levels can trip you up when you’re trying to get started, once you begin the process of elevating and regulating those levels through exercise, they’ll be your biggest ally and cheerleader on the road to fitness.
Exercise creates an increase in brain levels of L-tryptophan, which is the amino acid building block for serotonin. And our friend serotonin is a neurotransmitter that shuttles impulses between nerve cells. It plays an integral role in almost everything, from our ability to learn to how we feel—it’s responsible for regulating appetite, mood, aggression, sex drive and sleep. And perhaps most importantly, it’s essential to our digestive health and the functioning of the GI tract muscles. In fact, over 95% of the body’s serotonin is found in our guts, underlining the intense connection between our brains and bellies!"
"...it’s all too easy to fixate on inches lost or miles logged—but results don’t happen overnight..."
"When you’re kicking off your exercise program, it’s all too easy to fixate on inches lost or miles logged—but results don’t happen overnight, and it can be disheartening to feel like you’re not making concrete progress immediately. So instead, spend the first few weeks of your new regimen focusing solely on elevating your serotonin levels through 40 minutes of daily activity, which will be enough to not only replace your daily pasta habit, but will allow your brain’s other habit-forming functions to regulate and harmonize as well.
While it takes consistency and commitment to a substantial program to be able to completely control the physical results of your efforts (they’ll come with consistency, whether you obsess about them or not), you can begin to control your mind—just through understanding a bit more about how it works.
Our DLS (Deep Limbic System) is the central area of the brain. It may be smaller than a golf ball, but it stores our strongest emotional experiences. Our Prefrontal Cortex is the control center for these emotional reflexes, including empathy, judgment, impulses, and the ability to plan and focus. Meanwhile, our AGC (Anterior Cingulate Gyrus) is our brain’s gear shifter, which lets us control all of our options and make decisions. When our AGC gets out of whack, it can lead to eating disorders, addictive disorders, and even things that may seem trivial, like feelings of anxiety."
"...by focusing on what’s happening in your mind—rather than your tape measure—you’ll set yourself up for long-term results."
"The ultimate goal is to manage your emotional health through a balanced routine that helps you create harmony within your system. It may seem like a complex dance, but it starts with the first step—as fitness and health become central to your daily routine, your brain will do its part to support your momentum and help you keep your fitness goals. And in turn, by focusing on what’s happening in your mind—rather than your tape measure—you’ll set yourself up for long-term results. Suddenly, it’ll be hard to imagine a day without exercise because your body and mind will crave the serotonin release. This is one of the reasons why there are so many purposed movements in my fitness Method. The advantages to a truly in tune mind body connection gives endless results past getting the butt you have always wanted."
Tracy on: Making Exercise a Family Thing
"Just like we teach our kids to brush their teeth and wash their hands, we must teach our children to move their bodies. There are far-reaching consequences to letting our kids grow up sedentary: Not only can it harm their health, but it can damage self-esteem as well. I’m not suggesting that you put your 8-year-old on a treadmill, either. Instead, the best thing we can all do as parents is lead by example and make physical activity a central part of the way we spend time together. Build activities into your weekly routine, whether it’s through a pick-up game of football, or a weekend bike ride, hike, or day at the beach swimming in the ocean.
And don’t worry if you haven’t been working out: Leading by example can be a great way to reach your goals, since there’s nothing quite as motivating as doing what we think is best for our children. I know many parents who have kicked their smoking habit simply because they couldn’t explain it to their kids! Same holds if you find yourself bowing out of the weekend hike. As you work toward your fitness goals, you’ll feel great getting to show your little ones that because you take care of your body, you’re fit enough to enjoy a family game of football in the backyard. (Yes! Moms, too!!) In the same vein, encouraging your kids to put down the iPads and go outside is harder to justify if your face is constantly buried in a screen—so use your kids as motivation to get up and move, too."
Tracy on Starting Young: Teen Eating Tips
"Taste is one of our five senses and enjoying food is one of life's simple and visceral pleasures—and it should be learned young. It makes me sad that so many young people see food as enemy number one, and something to be avoided in lieu of “Quick Fix Diets,” diet pills, and other weight loss products that not only rob them of essential nutrients, but can pose serious health risks, too.
My advice to teens is simple: Find joy and delight in clean, healthy food and develop a palette that underlines the nutritional habits you’ll rely on for the rest of your life. Taking the time to make good choices as young adults is both physically and mentally important: When we are growing, we need nutrient-rich foods to support our bodies and minds. The best part is that a great diet is a self-fulfilling prophecy, since your body will come to expect, and crave these nutrients. And so the virtuous cycle begins!
Teens can also do themselves a favor by starting the day with breakfast. Studies continue to show that teens who eat in the morning function better through the school day, so there’s no time like the present to start loving a green smoothie to go! And skip the coffee: Teens should avoid caffeine at all costs because it seriously damages hormone production and reduces the body’s ability to absorb iron and calcium, both of which are essential to growth.
Meanwhile, not to sound like a grandmother, but load up on vegetables: Learn to love and experiment with salads and raw vegetables—the more local and in-season the better. Besides all of the good things they’ll do for your gut, vegetables are great for skin—particularly skin that’s undergoing intense hormonal changes.
It probably goes without saying, but teens should embrace daily activity as a lifelong commitment. If you’re on a sports team, that’s great—if not, ensure you’re getting an hour of exercise per day, and make it so essential to your well-being, that you never stop as you age."