How I Wrote a Book!– Plus FREE Bonus

I originally posted this on my self hosted blog at http://www.valeriewiest.com, But I figured that since I still have visitors to this blog, and this post is really important to me I would share it with you all as well!

After doing a bunch of competitions I realized that there were no really good books or guides to help people navigate the whole process. So, I started working on my own bikini competitor handbook.  Writing a book has always been one of my goals but I never knew how or when that dream would be realized. Since writing and publishing a book is easier than ever, I would like to show you how I did it to hopefully inspire you to do the same.

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The first step was to create the content. Using a few posts on here as inspiration and knowing the basic information I wanted to convey, I came up with an outline and started working on filling it in. It wasn’t a short process—it’s taken me about 9 months. I worked on writing chunks while my son was napping or after everyone was asleep. If you would like to make an e-book make sure that you use the table of contents feature on MS Word, so that formatting your book for e-readers will be easy.

Once I had the finished creating content, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and relief. The next step was editing. I read over my book 4 times, correcting spelling, formatting and fixing holes in content. I also added in citations and a bibliography using the tools in MS Word. My friend’s mom is a professional editor and she was kind enough to look my book over too. Editing took a lot longer than I thought it would and was probably the most painful part of creating the book.

While I was busy editing my book, I hired a free lancer to create my book cover. I used fiverr.com which is a website that allows you to seek out freelancers willing to do work for $5. With a few extras, my book cover cost me about $40.

To upload your e-book to certain websites it has to be formatted in a certain way. Calibre is a free program that allows you to do this. I used Callibre to convert my e-book into the .mobi version so I could sell it on Amazon.

After I had the converted version of my book, I went to kdp.amazon.com to self publish my book using Amazon’s kindle direct publishing service. I uploaded my book and cover art answered a few questions, set the book price and after about a 12 hour wait, my book is available!

See how simple that was? If you have always wanted to write a book, I really encourage you to get out there and go for it!

My book is available for FREE for a limited time! Check it out HERE. If you enjoy it the greatest complement would be a positive review on Amazon.

I’m Moving!!!

So…. I am moving my blog to my self hosted website: www.valeriewiest.com

Please come visit and subscribe there! Thanks for your support! I love you guys!

Bikini Competition Diet Tutorial

So you’ve signed up for your first bikini competition or you just want to look like a bikini competitor. The most important thing you will need to focus on during your training is your diet.

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Exercise alone will not transform your body to its full potential, in fact most of the exercise you do during contest prep will be focused on losing fat and maintaining muscle. The diet is where the real magic happens.

Its also important to realize that every body is different and responds differently to different diets. Although there are general guidelines that work for MOST people, it is important to keep track of your progress and change things as needed. This is one of the reasons I think working with a credible coach is great. They can help tailor your diet to your body.

The first thing you should do is calculate your calorie requirements for maintenance.

You can do this using any of several formulas here is a link to a calculator to make it easy for you😉

Next, you want to calculate how many calories you will need to reduce your diet to lose the number of pounds you think you will need to lose to achieve the look you are going for. Considering that a pound of fat=3500 calories you will multiply the number of pounds you want to lose by 3500. Then, you divide it by how many days you have until your competition. This will be the number of calories you will need to subtract from your daily maintenance caloric requirements you calculated earlier. Keep in mind that this is not an exact science, changes is metabolism will change you your body loses weight. As you lose weight your metabolism will decrease. Also, it is NOT recommended to go below 1200 calories a day.

For example, let’s say my caloric requirements for maintaining my weight are 2400. If I want to lose 10 pounds by my show date in 60 days:

10 lbs x 3500 calories/lb / 60 days = 583.33 calories/day

2400 calories/day – 583.33 calories/day= 1816.66 calories/day

Once you have your calories, you need to create a menu of food that approximately matches that amount. You also need to factor in the right ratio of macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

The recommendations for macronutrients are as follows:

Fats:

Average or low bodyfat: 1-2g fat/ kg body weight [between 0.4-1g total weight/ pounds]
High bodyfat: 1-2g fat/ Kg LEAN weight [between 0.4-1g LEAN weight/ pounds]
Low calorie dieting: You can decrease further, but you should maintain AT LEAST 0.30g/ pound.
Proteins:

STRENGTH training -> 1.4 to 2g per KG bodyweight (about .6 / pound)

Research has shown that 2.2g-3g per KG body weight can help with muscle retention which may be good as you are dieting down for a show.

Carbohydrates:

There are no specific requirements for carbs, so the rest of your calories (once you have subtracted fat and protein) can be carbohydrates.

 

Ok, now sorry but I have to throw some more math at you.  Once you have the number of grams of fat and protein your body needs you will need to convert those into calories. You can do this by multiplying the number of grams by the number of calories per gram for each macronutrient. Carbohydrates and Proteins are 4 calories/gram; fat is 9 calories per gram. Once you have figures out how many calories you will be eating based on the protein and fat requirements, divide the remaining number of calories by 4 to find out how many grams of carbohydrates you should be eating.

Got that? Hope your head is not spinning! If that was really too much math for you here is a link to a calculator to help you out!

Now, I hope you like puzzles, because you are going to have to play around with the types and amount of food you are eating to meet your requirements. If you are off by a little that is totally ok! I like the my fitness pal app to help me keep track of what I am eating and to help plan out my meals to make sure they fit my requirements.

Now you could probably plug in junk food and reach your macro goals, but I recommend eating whole foods as much as possible. This will help with your hunger levels and also help your body get all the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) it needs to function.

Here is a list of some foods I eat when I am competing (and usually when I am not competing) to meet my macronutrient goals.

Protein
Chicken breast
Lean ground chicken
Turkey breast
Lean ground turkey
Lean steak
Tilapia
Salmon
Swordfish
Sea bass
Mahimahi
Grilled calamari
Shrimp
Scallops
Cottage cheese
Greek yogurt
Whey isolate Protein powder
Egg whites
Whole eggs

Carbohydrates
Leafy greens
Green beans
Asparagus
Brussels sprouts
Brown rice
Potatoes
Sweet potatoes
Squash
Bell peppers
Onions
Mushrooms
Oatmeal
Quinoa
Water melon
Berries
Mango
Pineapple
Banana
Apple
Ezekiel bread

Fats
Fish oil
Flax oil
Walnuts
Almonds
Pistachios
Cashews
Almond milk
Vinaigrette
Olive oil
Coconut oil
Avocado
Almond butter
In general you will want to eat about 6 meals and have a serving of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats at each meal. Make sure you are paying close attention to your portion sizes. THE BEST WAY TO DO THIS IS WITH AN ELECTRONIC SCALE. They are pretty affordable and take the guess work out of measuring. Here is what a day of eating can look like for me:

Meal 1

Oatmeal with flax oil

Egg whites

Meal 2

Ezekiel Bread with P28 peanut butter

Meal 3

Chicken Breast

Spinach

Walnuts

Sweet Potato

Meal 4

Protein Shake

Meal 5

Salmon

Green Beans

Quinoa

Meal 6

Cottage Cheese

Berries

Prenatal Pilates Guidelines

Many of my friends are getting pregnant this year and I think Pilates is a great form of exercise to stay strong during pregnancy. Not only am I a Pilates instructor with advanced training in prenatal exercise, but I have also done pilates through my pregnancy! Here are my guidelines for doing Prenatal Pilates and what modifications you should make if you are pregnant.
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The first recommendation I would make is to talk to your doctor and ask him/her what you can and cannot do. Different doctors have different recommendations. your doctor will also know your specific situation and whether or not there are any contraindications you should be aware of.
The second thing I would do would be to read through the ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) guidelines here: http://www.acog.org/-/media/For-Patients/faq119.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20141230T1538388118
This is pretty much the gold standard, which most doctors follow. The general guidelines are as follows:“The changes in your body can make certain positions and activities risky for you and your baby. While exercising, try to avoid activities that call for jumping, jarring motions, or quick changes in direction that may strain your joints and cause injury.

There are some risks from becoming overheated during pregnancy. This may cause loss of fluids and lead to dehydration and problems during pregnancy.

When you exercise, follow these general guidelines for a safe and healthy exercise program:

  • After the first trimester of pregnancy, avoid doing any exercises on your back.
  • If it has been some time since you have exercised, start slowly. Begin with as little as 5 minutes of exercise a day and add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.
  • Avoid brisk exercise in hot, humid weather or when you have a fever.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that will help you to remain cool.
  • Wear a bra that fits well and gives lots of support to help protect your breasts.
  • Drink plenty of water to help keep you from overheating and dehydrating.
  • Make sure you consume the daily extra calories you need during pregnancy.”
Finally, in my personal experience, for back lying exercises after the 2nd trimester use towels or pillows to prop you up. This is to avoid having your uterus compress the vena cava, which provides blood to your baby. You can also buy a support pillow  like this one to help prop you up comfortably. Lying on yours stomach will also be uncomfortable, so you can kneel angling your chest down toward the floor instead.
For any ab work you will want to make sure you are pulling your abs in, you should not see a ridge on your belly. If you are not engaging your core properly, this can result in a separation of the ab muscles called rectus diastasis. A good resource to avoid this is the Lose Your Mummy Tummy book by Julie Tupler, creator of the Tupler Technique. This is also how you should be using your core in pilates. Check out my post on The Tupler Technique here. You may want to stop doing crunches or other exercises that work your rectus abdominus to help prevent this.
Aditionally, during pregnancy your body releases a hormone called “relaxin” which softens your connective tissue creating more flexibility and less stability in your joints. This means during classes, you will want to focus on controlling your movement and moving more slowly to stabilize and avoid injury.
Lastly, I think it is important to mention that pregnancy is an especially important time to listen to your body: Take it easier when you feel like you need to, change the position or ask for a modification if something feels uncomfortable.
Good Luck and CONGRATULATIONS!!

Gift Ideas for Fit Chicks

The Holidays are quickly approaching and if you haven’t finished shopping yet, here are some great gift ideas for fit girls (or guys) in your life.

1. Shaker – Bonus points if you throw in their favorite protein powder or pre-workout ($5-$10)

 

2. Yoga Mat – Even if she doesn’t do Yoga, an exercise mat can be used for stretching, abs and tons of other things. ($8-$40)

3. Workout Gloves – No girl wants alligator hands. Protect your fit princess’s paws with a new pair of workout gloves. Chances are, even if she already has a pair they are smelly and gross and need an upgrade.($15-$40)

4. Arm Band – If your fit girl NEEDS music to get through her workout, she definitely NEEDS a good way to transport it. An arm band is a great gift because even if she already has one, just like workout gloves, arm bands tend to get sweaty and gross quickly so a new one is always welcomed! ($10-$40)

5. Beats By Dre – These headphones are “life-changingly” good. I’ve been crushing on this pair with no cords to get tangled up while you work out. ($79-$379)

6. Fancy Foam Roller – What girl doesn’t need a good massage? Fancy foam rollers with pressure points for myofascial release act like a deep tissue massage. Check out this one, which you can customize with a picture or writing. ($75)

7. Jacket From LuluLemon- I love Lululemon but I especially love their jackets. Not only are they super warm and practical, but they also seem to be universally flattering. I have a couple, but they change each season and I have been eyeing this one. ($198)

Fluff Off Jacket

8. Gift Certificate to Favorite Fitness Place- Does your girl have a passion for a particular pilates place or is she a committed cross fit community member? A gift certificate to her favorite fitness studio is sure to be a hit.

9. Resistance Bands- Resistance bands are my favorite “portable torture devices.” They are great for a quick workout at home or while travelling. ($7-$20)

10. Fitness Tracker- Fitness trackers are popping up like crazy lately. You can check out my review of the FitBit, which I loved or try one of the other devices out there. These are great for your fit check who is also into technology! ($40-$99)

Any other suggestions? What do you want for Christmas?

Top 8 Exercises for Building a Booty

For bikini competitors, having a butt is a requirement. If you weren’t genetically blessed with a booty at birth, these are the best exercises I have found to help bolster your backside. Click on the name of the exercise for instructions.

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1. Squats – Squats are the classic but builder. If you have been intimidated by the squat rack, its time to get over it and go squat!

2. Stiff Leg Deadlifts – Deadlifts Help strengthen hamstrings and the stiff leg version is particularly effective at hitting that spot where the glutes and hamstrings meet.

3. Hip Thrusts – Admittedly this exercise can feel silly, but trust me this is an awesome workout for your glutes.

4. Lunges – One bikini judge told me the best way to build a great butt is to do lunges, loading up the bar as heavy as you can and stepping out as far as you can. What can I say, he was right!

5. Single Leg Hack Squats – I found this exercise quite by accident but it is very effective. I always feel it the next day, and sometimes a few days after.

6. Kick Backs – This is a great exercise for really targeting glut muscles and lifting your back side.

7. Glute Bridge – Glute bridges are a great way to work the glutes in hip extension. Even using just body weight, single leg glute bridges are a killer.

8. Hip Abduction– This helps strengthen the outer thigh and glute area which helps create the desired roundness to glutes.

What are your favorite glute exercises?

Give Gratitude for a Healthy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is this week.

It is a time for joining family and friends for a feast, but it is also a time for giving thanks.

The problem is that most people take the former to the extreme and forget the latter; cramming congealed canned cranberries and stuffing themselves with heavy butter laden stuffing and forgetting to be thankful.

I see gyms open on Thanksgiving morning so people can purge the overload of calories they have yet to eat.

Then comes the post-Thanksgiving regret. The next day you can’t fit into your pants, the next week you step on the scale and see the pounds creeping up—and they don’t stop packing on until maybe you make that New Years Resolution to lose weight. You manage to peel off a few pounds before you lose your resolution to stick to your Resolution and return to your old habits.

But I’ve been thinking, what if we took a different approach, what if we cooked or encouraged our family to cook healthy alternatives to favorite dishes, what if we savored a few bites of our favorite dishes and stopped eating when we were full?

I want people to lose the idea that they are “being bad” by enjoying Thanksgiving and instead wake up to the true meaning of gratitude. Be grateful for your life (in spite of your problems), be grateful for your body (even if it is not the perfect shape), be grateful for all the luxuries you have just being able to sit (or stand or lie down) and consume this post.

Treat your body with gratitude and respect and feed it with things that will nourish it. Do things that will benefit it, be active, be healthy and be grateful for the ability to act in such a way. Don’t look at healthy behaviors and foods as a punishment for “being bad,” learn to enjoy them and approach them with a sense of gratitude.

By all means, enjoy your Thanksgiving but remember the true essence of this day is to celebrate gratitude. Find peace if you over indulge, forgive yourself if you eat more than you intended and truly enjoy the spirit of giving thanks and the ability to give yourself a new start with each day.

And by the way, did you know that gratitude is good for your health?

Scientists have found that people who regularly practice giving thanks, have better kidney function, lower blood-pressure and stress-hormone levels, and a stronger heart.

I feel like Thanksgiving has become more about gluttony and regret than gratitude and I believe that it we focus on the true meaning of  Thanksgiving we will have a healthier and happier holiday. Cheers!

Source: Louisa Kamps. 6 Surprising Reasons Why Gratitude is Great for Your Health. http://www.realsimple.com/health/mind-mood/why-gratitude-is-great-for-your-health

Staying Creative in Your Workouts

I like to think of myself as a creative person. Back before I had my son I loved drawing and painting. Now, however, since there is little time for my creative juices to flow in traditional ways I have to find other outlets. My fitness classes and programs have become that outlet.

Even if you don’t consider yourself creative there is value in being creative with your workout. For one thing, there is evidence that your body will “learn” how to use as little energy as possible when doing a familiar routine. Thus, for maximal calorie burn and to force your body to further adapt and change you need to change what you are doing. In addition, I really believe that a well rounded exercise program is the best way to have life-long health and well being. For example, if you only lift weights in a certain way, some smaller muscle groups may be neglected causing you to be weaker in some areas, which may lead to injury. You will also sacrifice flexibility and cardio health. In my opinion the optimal fitness program is one that changes with your body and incorporates strength, flexibility and cardiovascular training.

In this way I sort of look at my workouts and the classes I teach as a puzzle. Each experience is new and exciting to me with something else to be learned or gained.

So how can you incorporate creativity into your workouts? Here are my top 5 tips:

1. Take other people’s fitness classes- Even if it is not your thing you may learn something new. It’s especially good to take classes focused on something you don’t usually do. If you usually lift weights try a zumba or a spinning class. If you are all about cardio, try body pump or yoga. I have learned a lot over the years from working with different instructors. Sometimes just hearing cues in a different way can be really enlightening.

2. Go Beyond the Movement- In pilates we have 6 main principles: centering, concentration, coordination, breathing, precision and smooth and flowing movement. Sometimes, without even changing the exercises in a class I can create an entirely different experience just by focusing on different principles. You can do the same thing in whatever type of exercise you do or teach. Think of a goal or a purpose for your workout and try to achieve it.

3. Listen to Your Body- Some of the best workouts I have had are when I am listening to my body and just doing the things that feel right. For example, if it’s not a leg day and I feel like doing squats, I will throw some in. If I have a lot of energy one day I might do plyometrics between sets, if I feel like I need to take it back a notch, I might lift lighter weights really focusing on form.

4. Imagery- Did you know that the most effective cues are external. For example in squatting “drive your heels through the floor” is more effective than “flex your thighs.” I believe that this is imagery at work. By using imagery you can get clients (and yourself) to engage more muscle groups with fewer words. You can also create a new experience in the exercise by focusing on different images, thereby challenging your body in a new way. Imagery forces your mind to be engaged in the movement, which also helps you recruit more neuro-muscular connections.

5. Be a Life-long Learner- You tube makes this super easy! If you are curious about something all you have to do is plug it into youtube and BAM you have hundreds of video explanations at your finger tips. That said, don’t believe everything you see on the internet. Journal articles, books and workshops with experts are great too. One of my favorite fitness podcasts that discusses research articles  can be found here. The point is to make sure that you are constantly learning and not stagnating. Push yourself out of your comfort zone occasionally.

Do you consider yourself to be creative? What are some ways you bring your creativity into your workouts?

Tips to Resist Halloween Candy

You know the scariest thing about Halloween? The average trick-or-treater consumes 3 cups of sugar and up to 7000 calories on Halloween night! It’s hard, as adults waiting around with big bowls of candy, to resist nibbling on a Reese’s cup here and a KitKat there. And, even worse, if you don’t get many trick-or-treaters you may fall victim to the left over candy for weeks to come. Now that’s spooky!

But, don’t fear because I have a few tricks up my sleeve for helping you resist the candy temptation and keep your health and fitness goals on track.

1. Buy candy you don’t like- Don’t want to be tempted? Don’t buy candy you like. If you are a sucker for chocolate but hate hard candy,  buy jolly ranchers. Hard candy also tends to have fewer calories and takes a longer to consume– which leads to less consumption over all. If you can’t stand chocolate, load up on Hershey’s bars. That way it won’t be hard to resist your treats.

2. Discard or Donate candy after the last trick-or-treater: I know, I know “you don’t want to waste the candy” but seriously, all those calories will be wasted in your body anyway. If you really can’t bring yourself to throw it away and/or if you are feeling philanthropic donate your candy to troops over seas. If you have kids of trick or treating age you can have them donate their candy as well.

3. Make a deal with yourself- I’m all about moderation and sometimes allowing yourself to have just one or two pieces of candy can help you resist mindlessly eating the left overs. After all, one fun size candy bar is not going to derail your goals and the fact that you are not completely denying yourself may make it easier for you to stay on track. However, limit yourself to one or two small pieces of your FAVORITE candy and then keep your hand out of the candy bowl for the rest of the night. If you know one candy is likely to lead to a binge of more, it may be better to skip this tip

4. Get some exercise in- Whether you go to the gym or spend time running or walking around your neighborhood, burning a few extra calories will help you set the tone of your day as a healthy one. Not to mention that vigorous exercise has been shown to suppress appetite.

5. Chew gum- Chewing gum is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth with few calories. Also chances are, if you have gum in your mouth you will be less likely to cram other Halloween goodies in it!

Hope you like these tips have a safe, happy and healthy Halloween!

6 Healthy Japanese Foods You Must Try

Back in college I spent about a year in Japan. To me, one of the most intriguing parts about Japan is the food. The Japanese have been renowned world wide for their diet which supports not only a healthy weight, but a long healthy life.

Here is my list of nutritious Japanese foods that you can use to add variety to your diet while still retaining flavor and health. These foods (in conjuction with healthy eating and exercise) will help you lose weight and gain overall health!

1. Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin)- If you are a sucker for everything pumpkin in the fall, you have got to try kabocha! Kabocha is denser than butternut squash and has a very sweet, almost cake-like flavor and texture. A one cup serving of Kabocha has only 40 calories and 70% of your daily value of vitamin A. I like to roast 1-2 Kabocha at the beginning of the week for my meal prep and eat a serving as my source of carbohydrates for the meal.

2. Satsuma Imo (Japanese Sweet Potato)- Satsuma Imo is similar in taste and texture to the Kabocha, it is drier,denser and milder than the American sweet potato. You can recognize a Satsuma Imo because it has purple skin and yellow flesh. Satsuma Imo is a great source of fiber and Vitamin C. Since Sweet Potatoes are a staple in many physique athlete’s diets, this Japanese version can be swapped out to add variety. I also bake these weekly with my meal prep when I can find them.

3. Konnyaku- Made from the Konjac plant has close to zero calories. Konnyaku became sort of main stream with Shirataki noodles (a combination of tofu and shirataki). But you can find plain konnyaku and cook it up for a filling fibrous meal with even fewer calories. Konnyaku can smell fishy and feel slimy when you take it out of the package but don’t let that scare you away, with proper cooking and a good recipe you have a tasty, filling, almost calorie free food.

4. Seaweed- Packs of seaweed have also reached mainstream markets in the US. I have seen “seaweed snacks” in Trader Joes, Costco, & Wegmanns. Seaweed is another food that has barely any calories- around 25 per serving.

A 2011 review of  100 studies on the health benefits of seaweed found that seaweed had more bioactive peptides, which aid in heart health and blood pressure reduction. Additionally, seaweed is a good source of other micronutrients like iodine, Vitamin A, B-6 and C.

Sashimi

5. Sashimi- Most people are familiar with sushi but many people don’t know the difference between sushi and sashimi. Whereas sushi includes rice and other ingredients, sashimi is just the raw fish. This way you get protein, omega three fatty acids and fewer calories and carbohydrates than sushi rolls. After all, with toppings like mayonnaise and fried noodles you didn’t really expect your average sushi roll to be a healthy choice did you?

6. Green Tea- Green Tea is full of antioxidants which are powerful free radical fighters. Green Tea also helps boost your metabolism so you burn more calories even while at rest. I love drinking green tea with my breakfast or as I am teaching classes to give me a little boost of energy and soothe my dry throat.

While Japan has many other foods to explore, this is my top list of healthy go-tos that have been favorites of mine throughout the years.