Chameleon Comeback

dream lake

Hello blogosphere! It’s been a while. There have been some major changes in my life since the last time I wrote to you all and I’m here to lay it all out. Last time we met, I was updating you on some of my favorite snacks for making healthy eating on the run a reality. I was also updating you on my ActivTrax challenge periodically and using that workout plan instead of my normal routine. Unfortunately, I never posted a week 4 update with ActivTrax to wrap up the experience. Here are my thoughts:

I did the challenge, but I didn’t see the results I wanted. A month can make a huge difference in reaching your goals, or it can be somewhat disappointing, as was the case with my month. I will say though that I am happy I tried ActivTrax. Now when I work with clients or people at the YMCA who are wanting to start a workout routine but aren’t sure what to do, I can honestly tell them if I think this system would be a good fit for them.

Who is ActivTrax right for? A lot of people. It offers a comprehensive workout routine that allows you to track all your activity and food in one place. The system helps people who are new to resistance training by telling them EXACTLY what to do (how many reps, how many sets, how many different exercises, etc.). It also has videos of every exercise in their library to help newcomers figure out what the heck it means when it tells them to do a stability ball crunch with legs elevated.

Experienced exerciser like myself? ActivTrax can be right for you too! The system pushes you to lift differently than you might normally. I had gotten set on a program I really liked, so I performed the same workouts on a weekly basis. The ActivTrax system brought exercises into my routines that I wouldn’t normally do, and it encouraged me to lift different weights than I normally would.

Who is ActivTrax not right for? Apparently me. I didn’t reach any of my goals, or even progress toward them. In fact, I gained a pound on this program. No Bueno. I felt that this program didn’t push me enough and often left feeling like I wanted a more intense workout. Also, I use MyFitnessPal to track my nutrition and am pretty loyal to this app. I have had the app since freshman year of college, was previously successful at losing weight with this app, and have all my favorite foods and homemade dishes saved in here.

All-in-all, I feel like ActivTrax is a wonderful option for many people and encourage YMCA members to use the program. However, I am excited to get back to my own routines (more to come about my next routine in the near future).

What else has happened in my life since the ActivTrax challenge and May? Lots! I moved to Vail, Colorado, one of the most beautiful places on Earth. When I got to Vail it was getting to be summer in Iowa, think 70s and 80s, but was still winter in Vail, 50s and snowing some nights up in the mountains. Colorado has been a great adventure, a lovely place, and a nice summer getaway. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I will be leaving Colorado in a few days and will be coming back to Iowa.

Which brings up more big news: I am switching my focus to health and wellness full-time, instead of being half invested in health and wellness and half invested in science education. I will always love science, astronomy, and generally being nerdy with my science buddies, but I am wonderfully excited to pursue health and fitness as a career path. I love working with my clients at the YMCA, helping people live healthy lives, and constantly learning and becoming a better fitness professional.

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Stay tuned for more changes to come, more updates, and more new blog posts. I’m happy to be back here with you all and hope you will continue reading and living this journey with me!

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Snack Attack!

Being a personal trainer and wellness coach, I work weird hours. Some days I work the morning shift and then have a client an hour or two later. Three days a week I work evenings, but sometimes that will turn into four or five days a week. One morning I’ll have a random appointment for an hour and then not work again until five hours later. Some days I even work at two different locations, one in the morning and one in the evening. Pretty much, my schedule has me all over the place. Add in the fact that I live at least half an hour away from either location I work at. Finally, consider that my Fiancé lives an hour away from me and the sorority I volunteer with is two hours away. Let’s just say, I do a lot of driving in a given week and need to have easy, healthy snacks with me at all times so I’m prepared no matter what my schedule throws my way. Today I am sharing some of my favorite snacks, as of recently, and why I love these items.

First and foremost, the snacks I have had the longest love affair with: string cheese and fresh fruit.

cheese and cuties

Fresh fruit is a no- brainer for me. I love fruit: berries, bananas, grapes, clementines, apples, more berries, etc. Fruit is fresh, sweet, juicy, and delicious. I especially like clementines because they are easy to open, (usually) have no seeds, and taste great. And, Guys, cheese. Need I say more? I love cheese, it is just so delicious. So, of course, low-fat string cheese is a must-have for my cheese cravings. It also supplies some protein and healthy fats, which are important for feeling full. Also, many studies have shown that people trying to lose weight are more successful when they eat at least three servings of low-fat dairy per day.

popcorn.jpgNext, popcorn. This is a snack I probably couldn’t exist without. Popcorn will definitely satisfy any of you out there who crave something salty and crunchy in the afternoon. I love white cheddar popcorn the best, thus my love of Smartfood Popcorn. Their white cheddar is possibly one of my favorite brands out there. The taste is spot on, but the popcorn isn’t totally caked with cheddar dust. Smartfood Popcorn is gluten-free and made with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and one of these little bags has only 80 calories, 1 gram of fiber, and 2 grams of protein. Recently, I stumbled across Buddha Bowl popcorn on an end cap at Hy-Vee. It was on sale and a fuel saver, which peaked my interest just as much as the fun flavors. This avocado oil popcorn has healthy fat from the avocado oil, 120 calories per serving, 5 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber, and is made with organic non-GMO ingredients. It is also gluten-free and vegan and the Himalayan Pink Salt gives it a wonderful salty flavor that is different from normal table salt.

granola bars

Granola bars are another quick, easy grab-and-go snack that has kept me sane over the years. I have a huge sweet tooth and sometimes just need that chocolate chip granola bar in the afternoon to make things right. Recently I picked up these Simply Eight chewy granola bars at Hy-Vee (also as a fuel saver item) and was pleasantly surprised that they tasted great. They contain no hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. They are also non-GMO, trans fat free, and made from 8 simple ingredients that make you feel good about putting them in your body. Nutrigrain bars are somewhat of a guilty pleasure for me.  They are definitely not clean, simple bars. They have many ingredients, some of which I can’t pronounce, which is usually a bad sign. I usually won’t reach for one of these as a first choice, but this week I was craving them so I allowed myself the treat. Now, as you’ll notice, we all have different standards for something being “healthy”. For some people, a Nutrigrain bar would be a much healthier option than what they normally eat, and I am definitely not discrediting that. Just for me and my lifestyle, I try to eat cleaner and lean toward items with less processing on a regular basis. They do have 3 grams of fiber per bar and 2 grams of protein with no high fructose corn syrup and whole grains, so they aren’t totally a lost cause. Remember, everyone has to make healthy fit their lifestyles to whatever degree they can. Don’t base your healthy and someone else’s healthy on the same principles because they probably won’t be an even match.

oatmeal.jpgClosely related to granola bars but slightly different, we have oatmeal. While instant oatmeal is not usually highly regarded by the health/exercise community, I found this brand of oatmeal years ago and have loved it ever since. Better Oats Revolution is the name of the brand and the flavor I love most is the Strawberries & Cream, although the Cinnamon Roll and Brown Sugar & Cinnamon ones are quite good as well. One pouch of this oatmeal has 130 calories, only 2 grams of fat, 12 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein, and their oats include flaxseed in them. This is one packaged oatmeal I feel ok about eating and makes for a great addition to breakfast or a filling mid-morning snack.

fruit and seed mix

Trail mix has long been a great snack to get some healthy fats into one’s diet but it can be hard for people with nut allergies to indulge. For those with nut allergies there’s Enjoy Life No Nuts! Seed and Fruit Mix. While I do not have a nut allergy, I tried a sample size of this mix a while back and thought it was pretty good, so I picked up a bag when I saw it in the health section at Hy-Vee last week. With sunflower kernels, pineapple, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and apricots, it is the perfect blend of salty and sweet. You barely even miss the nuts! This mix is made in a dedicated nut-free and gluten-free facility and is vegan.

yogurt

Second to last, yogurt. Of course, I used to be on the Chobani bandwagon when I first got in to Greek yogurt, but who can stand all that sugar? My go-to brand is Siggi’s. Their Icelandic style skyr yogurt is creamy and fruit flavored, without the sugary fruit syrup on the bottom of the cup. 1 container has 110 calories, 14 grams of protein, and 11 grams of sugar. I have liked mostly all their flavors: peach, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, and acai & mixed berry, with blueberry being my favorite. However, on a recent trip to Super Target, I discovered a new yogurt that I fell hard for.  Enter the Epic Seed yogurt. This yogurt has fruit and chia seeds on the bottom, is delicious, and helps with essential omegas that I don’t get enough of because I hate seafood. At 125 calories, 14 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and 11 grams of sugar, they have definitely given Siggi’s a run for their money, at least in my home.

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Finally, my newest snacking addiction: chickpeas. I have known about chickpea snacks for a while and even tried making my own a year or so ago, but they didn’t turn out crispy like you find in stores. Enter the Hy-Vee health market, which has been on fire lately with their great options, fuel saver deals, and sales. I found these organic Chickpeatos there and instantly fell in love, with one of the flavors anyway. These delectable chickpeas are roasted in olive oil and spiced with rosemary, a perfect combination for an Italian girl like myself. They have 6 grams of protein per serving, 5 grams of fiber, are gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO and a good source of iron. I also tried the Cinnamon Toast flavor which I expected to love (blame the sweet tooth), but was sadly disappointed (blame the stevia). The cinnamon flavor comes on strong, but the stevia gives them an odd after-taste that didn’t sit well with my taste buds. The other brand of chickpeas I have been eating is Biena, which I found at Target. They didn’t have very many flavors that I wanted to try, so I just got the signature Sea Salt flavor and was not disappointed. This brand is also gluten-free, vegan, and non-GMO and contains an extra gram of fiber per serving.

Now, your turn! What are some of your favorite healthy snacks that keep you on track?

 

Week 3 Update

As you guys noticed in my last post, week two flew by. Well, week three flew by pretty quickly as well. I gained another pound this past week, which tells me something is off. Even with working out almost every day and calorie restriction, I have been gaining weight. This tells me that something in this equation is not working for my body. For those of you who have been following the 30-day challenge, you might remember the second week I switched to a lower calorie limit. I found myself hungrier more often, feeling as if I didn’t have as much energy, and not feeling as motivated at this lower limit. Due to these reactions and the weight gain, I have decided to try the final week of the challenge back at the higher calorie limit. The higher limit is what ActivTrax calculates for me with a goal of losing a pound a week, instead of and pound and a half (which was the plan I was on for week two and three).

Additionally, when I started the challenge I set the time of my resistance training routines for 25-35 minutes. I was finding that these plans the system was generating were not long enough or intense enough for me. Since I was already at an advanced setting, to increase intensity I needed to increase the allowed time for my workout. I changed to 35-45 minutes and have found my workouts to be more challenging and fulfilling. I will be leaving the workout times the same for the final week.

One thing that I find hard to remember but am constantly reminded of is that no plan is one size fits all. We are all very different in our metabolisms, body styles, bone structures, genetics, hormones, lifestyles, tastes, etc. Thinking one person’s methods are going to work for you is usually not the case. It is great to get ideas from others and try a lot of different things, but ultimately you have to find the routine that fits your needs and your body to see the results you want. While I’m discouraged about my weight gain, I will not let it ruin me. I will take this final week to tweak my plan and hopefully see better results. What if that doesn’t work? I will keep trying. Something has to work to help me achieve my specific goals, but I have to find that specific formula and so do you. Don’t get discouraged if one method doesn’t work. Keep trying, stay positive, and be kind to yourself. Being happy and enjoying life is the overall end goal, so don’t let the little things rip you apart. I’ve learned a lot of great things about the ActivTrax system through this challenge and am happy I tried it, no matter the outcome at the end of week four (although I do hope it is a better week results wise).

Take a Hike

Hi friends! Sorry for the somewhat quiet week. A quiet week online means a busy week in real life. I gained a pound the second week of the ActivTrax challenge and wasn’t particularly happy about it, but as you’ll see in my post about motivation, sometimes it’s not the easiest to stay on track. The weather in Iowa has been getting beautiful lately and I have been itching to get outside as much as possible. To end this weekend on a high note, today was spent planting new seeds and hiking! It just doesn’t get much better than that.

ledges1Hiking is one of my favorite outdoor activities, although there aren’t a ton of places to do it in Iowa. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I can count on the great outdoors to supply just that. Hiking is an activity that has brought my Fiancé and I together. We take every opportunity we can to enjoy this pass-time with each other. One of our favorite places to go is Ledges State Park in Madrid, Iowa. Since it is only a 30-45-minute drive from where he lives, it is an easy half-day activity that gives us a much needed break from everyday life. Almost every vacation we take includes hiking and finding special places to explore.

There are many reasons I like hiking. Probably my favorite aspect of hiking is all the amazing scenery and time with nature. However, there are also many health benefits to make you appreciate hiking:

  • It is a powerful cardio workout
  • It is a low-impact cardio workout that isn’t as hard on joints as high-impact things such as running
  • Hiking reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, and colon cancer
  • Hiking helps lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Hiking is a weight-bearing activity. You have to hold your body weight up against gravity as well as often carrying things on your back while staying erect. These kinds of activities help protect against osteoporosis and boost bone density.
  • Hiking is good for many of your muscles including the glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and lower leg muscles.
  • Hiking is a great mood enhancer and is good at alleviating stress and anxiety

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Want to burn more calories on your hike? While hiking itself is a good way to burn calories, you can increase the burn by looking for hilly regions, even if they are only a 5-10% increase in elevation. Also, try loading your backpack up with a few more pounds. Carrying this extra weight will help you torch calories. Always remember to hike with a buddy for safety (and fun), stay hydrated, and work at your own pace or skill level. Have a wonderful week everyone and make sure you get out and enjoy some fitness in the great outdoors!

Motivation, Just Get It

 

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Let’s talk about the ever-fleeting motivation issue. Even as I write this post, I don’t really want to. I’d rather be watching Netflix, talking to the sorority girls, taking a nap, eating food, playing with a kitten, etc. etc. etc. As you can see, motivation can be a bit of a stumbling block for me. Usually my personal goals and love of fitness are enough to motivate me, but like anyone else I need an extra push sometimes.

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This week was one of those weeks. I completed all of my strength routines but only did cardio two times (not including walks). My nutrition wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t stellar either. Last week was definitely a better week all-around, but this one wasn’t a total loss. Still, weeks like this definitely are draining because you don’t feel like you’ve given your all and may be hard on yourself.

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So how do I stay motivated? Usually I just have to push myself to get to the gym. Say it with me: “Self, you will feel so much better after you go to the gym”. If that doesn’t work, my main motivation is thinking of why I started my health and fitness journey. As with many families these days, mine carries genes for a few life-altering conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. In college, I was disgusted with the way I looked and worried about future health problems I might develop if I didn’t start taking care of myself. I lived with 17 other women in college, hello sorority life, and was the one always known for cooking healthy food in the kitchen while others awaited the food delivery guys. This was the time where I really got interested in making healthy food taste good, and making good tasting recipes healthier. I also started going to the gym on a regular basis, and learned that a free gym membership is a beautiful thing. Because of the stress and anxiety of classes, I became interested in yoga. I took classes on campus twice a week, joined the yoga club, eventually became the president of the yoga club, and obtained my level one yoga teaching certification through YogaFit. I tried rock climbing and Zumba, and found a love for both of those types of fitness as well. College was the time that I started becoming myself and was a pivotal change in my life. These days when I feel unmotivated, I just think back to all the hard work I have put into this lifestyle, my health concerns and goals starting out, and all the goals I still want to accomplish.who i will become

Finally, I look to role models to help me stay on track. I follow positive influences on Facebook and Instagram. These women are strong, healthy, and fit. They embody what I want to be and they exude power in all their posts. When I am having a bad day, I know I can quickly turn to these social media outlets for a healthy dose of reality and motivation. I also have friends and family that either follow my fitness journey, or me theirs. They are the real life connection that keeps me going and reminds me why I started. What are your motivators? How do you keep yourself going when you’re feeling a bit sluggish? We all have those days, but the power and growth comes in pushing through them to the person we want to become.

Week 1 Update & Revelations

Getting set up with ActivTrax, one of the advantages I always talk about with my clients is the highly customizable nature of the program. To start the program, your wellness coach will discuss the F.I.T.T.R principles with you and decide which settings are best for your personal goals. What is F.I.T.T.R?

F – Frequency. How many days per week do you want to perform strength training exercises?

I – Intensity. How intense do you want each workout to be?

T – Training Type. Which muscle groups are you wanting to work and how often? Do you want to do full body exercises or set a specific muscle split?

T – Time. Approximately how long do you want each workout to take you?

R – Results. What are your overall results desired?

 

My starting F.I.T.T.R matrix was as follows:

F –  5 days or more

I – High intensity

T – Isolated muscle groups (with a training frequency of 5 days or more per week, this is one of the only options for me. It is important to remember that muscle groups need 24-48 hours of rest between training sessions, so your frequency will determine what kinds of options you have for training type.)

T – 25-35 minutes of resistance training (with warm-up, abs, and cardio this should make the overall workout time about 1 hour – 1 hour and 15 minutes)

R – Weight loss and toning

One of the things I learned from the first week of ActivTrax was that the workouts, while set as high intensity, were not intense enough for me. One way to make workouts more intense is to watch the rest time between sets. It is not unusual to hear that you should be resting for a full minute between sets, but for the purpose of weight loss I only rest for 30 seconds between sets. Even with this adjustment, I did not feel that the workouts were as intense as I desired. This week I will be changing the time component of my workouts in the system to allow it to give me slightly longer workouts. Changing the time allowed will increase the intensity and the amount of exercises or sets the system gives me. The ease of changing your settings in ActivTrax is another positive about the system. At any point if you need to change a setting, restrict an exercise, or complete a new strength assessment, these are variables that can be easily changed on your own or with your assigned wellness coach.

A few other things I learned in my first week of ActivTrax

Location – The way ActivTrax is set up, it assigns a home YMCA branch to the user (the branch where they complete their initial strength test, usually) and knows all the equipment at this branch that it can choose from when creating workouts. Previously, I had been telling my clients if they went to a different branch and that branch didn’t have a piece of equipment in their workout, they could ask a wellness coach about what they should substitute to work the same muscle group. After trying ActivTrax at three different branches, I was pleased to learn that ActivTrax will create a new workout at each branch you go to. Already printed your workout at the Ankeny YMCA but then decide to workout at Wellmark? Not a problem. Just log into ActivTrax at Wellmark and try to print your workout again. The system will come up with a message about how your pending workout was designed for a different facility. You will only have to wait a few minutes for it to create a new workout that is similar but contains equipment at the current branch.

Cardio Recommendation – ActivTrax shows a section at the bottom of a workout that recommends a length of cardio and a target heart rate zone for that cardio session. Originally, I assumed it always recommended the same heart rate ranges because it always recommends the same amount of time, 20 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized the system gives different heart rate ranges based on the intensity/duration of your strength routine. When you use bigger muscle groups, such as back and legs, your workouts include heavier weight and burn more calories or feel more intense. On these days, the target heart rate for cardio is lower. On days where you are using smaller muscle groups, such as shoulders or arms, the heart rate zones are higher, indicating that you will be doing more intense cardio on the days that your strength routines may not feel as intense.

Nutrition

One more note from my first week of ActivTrax is concerning nutrition. I am following the daily calorie and macronutrient values suggested by the ActivTrax nutrition dashboard along with my workouts. When I originally set my goals, I told the system I wanted to lose 1 pound per week. While many people want to lose more in a given week, 1-2 pounds per week is the recommended amount by health and fitness professionals because it is more manageable to keep off in the long-term, as opposed to large weight jumps or crash dieting. Although I set my goal at 1 pound per week, I only lost half a pound this week. Now, if you think back to my post about initial measurements, you will remember that weight is not the only indicator of success. While I am discouraged that I did not lose more weight this week, I am not gauging my success on this one variable and am at peace with that loss. In the end, I hope that my body fat and circumference measurements will show more change than my weight because that will show me that I have changed my muscle mass and body fat percentage.

If you do not lose the amount of weight you want every week, please do not become distraught! Think of the other reasons you are trying to be healthy, other goals you are striving toward, and keep a positive attitude! That being said, I am changing my nutritional goals in the system to a loss of 1.5 pounds per week. I will try this plan for a week, be mindful of good nutrition, and monitor my energy and hunger levels. After this week, I’ll see what changes (if any) occur at weigh-in and decide whether the lower calorie levels are sufficient or if my body needs more energy from the higher calorie levels.

Have you tried the ActivTrax system yet? If you have, how are you liking the system so far? What feedback and questions do you have? If you have not, what else can I help you with this week? I would love to hear from you!

Sunday Food Prep

Happy Sunday friends! I hope you are all enjoying some rest and relaxation before getting back into the grind of the week. If you are like me, Sunday means meal prep day. During the week there are so many things going on: rushing back and forth to work, traffic, families, and other responsibilities or opportunities. All of these things make cooking during the week hard. In order to be healthy, lose weight, feed your muscles, and reach your goals, proper nutrition is one of the most important aspects to success.

food prep

In order to keep my metabolism going, I try to eat every 2-3 hours and fill up on smaller meals rather than waiting for 2 or 3 large feeding times during the day. I always start my day with a healthy breakfast and try to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water throughout the day. With all that eating, food has to be readily available so I can grab it on the go and fit it into my schedule. I will usually spend Sunday making a few different kinds of protein, a few different cooked veggies or side dishes, and making sure I have an ample amount of fresh fruit and other snack staples on hand.

So what does a day of eating look like for me?

Breakfast: ¾ cup of liquid egg whites, either scrambled with a tbsp. of shredded low-fat cheese melted on top or made into an omelet with ¼ shredded low-fat cheese, and oatmeal or fat-free yogurt

Morning snack: either oatmeal or yogurt (depending on what I had for breakfast) and a serving of fruit

Lunch: 2-3 ounces of lean protein with one or two servings of veggies

Afternoon snack: 2-3 ounces of protein or a half cup of low-fat cottage cheese and a serving of veggies or fruit

Dinner: 2-3 ounces of lean protein and one or two servings of veggies

After dinner: I eat only if I am still hungry. This meal depends completely on how well I’ve done the rest of the day, where my macronutrient values are sitting for the day, how many calories I have left for the day, and how long I will be up until bed. I might have a protein shake, popcorn, Dole chocolate covered strawberries, string cheese, or some other small snack to keep me full overnight.

Due to all of this eating, I spend a lot of time looking for quality recipes I can come back to time and time again. I look for recipes that are healthy, quick, easy, and involve foods I like. Part of living a healthy lifestyle is finding healthy foods you like and embracing those foods. One of my all-time favorite websites for healthy recipes is SkinnyTaste.com. The recipe I am sharing today comes from SkinnyTaste and is in no way an original recipe of mine. Gina, the mastermind at Skinnytaste.com, always seems to come up with flavorful recipes that are easy and quick. Anytime I have made one of her recipes for my friends or family, they have loved the food so much that they didn’t even realize how healthy it was until I told them.

The one recipe I have been craving non-stop lately is Zucchini Tots. Fresh zucchini, shredded cheese, egg, breadcrumbs, what’s not to like? These babies are fresh, delicious, and satisfying. I have played around with this recipe and used cooked quinoa instead of breadcrumbs to increase the protein and cut back on the gluten, and it turned out just as great as the original. Run to the kitchen immediately and make some zucchini tots for the week, you will not be disappointed!

Jumping off point

To begin the ActivTrax 30-day challenge, I decided to start with some basic measurements that are commonly used in the fitness world when people are looking to make body modifications. Weight can fluctuate greatly from day to day or week to week, making it a somewhat inaccurate depiction of what is going on with your body. Don’t get me wrong, weight definitely tells us something, and it is a starting measurement we all want to know, but it can also cause crippling worry and self-doubt. For example, if someone who was previously uninterested in fitness started lifting heavy weights and working out regularly, they might actually notice an increase in weight due to increased muscle mass. However, they might be leaner and better looking than before because of their larger muscles. So while weight has its place in the world, it is not a measurement that should be taken as the be-all, end-all when it comes to health and fitness.

So what should we measure if not weight? One of the things that is often measured is body fat percentage. The most accurate way to measure body fat is by a process of submersion. This process is usually not widely available and may also cost a substantial amount. While less accurate, there are scales and biometric systems we can use to measure our body fat in the fitness industry. I met with a personal trainer at the Ankeny YMCA and had him hook me up to the biometric machine to get a base indicator of how much of my body was fat. While this system carries about a 3-4% error margin, I will be re-testing with the same system at the end of the program, so it will have the same percentage of accuracy.

While meeting with the personal trainer, I also had him take some basic body measurements with a tape measure. The most common sights to get these measurements done are the chest, waist, and hip, but I also had him measure the bicep, shoulder, neck, thigh, and calf. As part of the biometric fat measurement system, you can enter certain tape measurements and the system will re-assess your fat percentage. The measurements that were entered in the system were neck, shoulders, waist, hips, thigh, and stomach.

While I’m not happy with my fat percentage, my measurements, or my overall body progress thus far in life, I am sharing all of this information in hopes that I will see some positive changes after this program. I also hope sharing these ugly facts will help others to realize it’s ok not to be happy with where you are, but to still keep trying your best and not let that obliterate your fitness journey. Stay tuned for more background into my history with fitness and nutrition and how I got to where I am today.

**Side note- if you are a member of the Des Moines YMCAs, you can schedule a free appointment with a wellness coach to get your body fat or tape measurements assessed at any time. Contact your nearest branch to learn more. **

ActivTrax Challenge

Those of you joining me from the YMCA crowd may have heard of ActivTrax before. Those of you who are not YMCA members, I’m sorry for your loss. (Just kidding, kind of.) One of the great free perks of being a YMCA member is the ability to use the ActivTrax system to help you add variety to your workout, stay on track, and learn new exercises you might have never learned otherwise.

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So what is ActivTrax? It is a web-based system that creates strength training workouts based on your goals, experience level, personal variables (think age, weight, height, etc.), and a strength test administered when you sign up for an account. This system can be used to track your resistance training, cardiovascular workouts, and nutrition all in one place. You can log into the system on a computer or kiosk at one of the Des Moines YMCA branches, from a computer, or even from your smartphone which makes it easy to access wherever you are.

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What is the challenge? I have decided to follow ActivTrax for 30 days and blog about my experience. You will get my honest opinion on the system and the workouts, information about where I started and where I end up progress-wise, progress pictures, and other fun facts and opinions from yours truly. Through this process, I hope I can help my members understand the system better, be more excited to use/enroll in the system, and empower them to make the system work for them.

Fear not my non-YMCA/non-ActivTrax users, this challenge should also provide you with tools you can utilize in your own health and fitness journey and a place to come when you need someone who just “gets it”. I will be posting recipes and information about exercises that can be utilized by anyone and everyone. Let me know as we go if there are things you are wanting to see more of and questions that I can help you answer.

Stories without endings

For a few years now, I have played with the idea of starting a  blog. Who would read it? Would anyone care? And if not, why put in all the work and effort? I love the bloggers I follow, but surely I couldn’t become as popular as them, right?

Well folks, the time has come to stop wondering “what if”, worrying, or doubting. I took the initiative at work to pitch an idea that required a blog, and thus the endeavor birthed the Curious Chameleon blog. While I am starting this blog to talk about activetrax, which you will learn about later on, I will also be posting lifestyle pieces, recipes, fitness, and all sorts of other topics that speak to me personally. Please feel free to comment and connect with me. Let me know what is helpful, what you’d like to see more of, and just that you’re out there and we’re in this together.

This is just the beginning. The adventure is in seeing where the journey leads.