Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Burpees are like Brussel Sprouts.

I love burpees.  

At least, I think I do.

Because I made myself think so.

Burpees have a bad reputation, kinda like brussel sprouts.  We are just somehow born thinking that they're both awful.  I don't know how that started because burpees and brussel sprouts are both excellent and so good for you.  You just have to change your perspective to enjoy them.  

One day I was suffering through a long set of burpees.  My mindset was "just get through this".  Then all of a sudden in a moment of insanity, it somehow occurred to me that I might be pretty good at them.

From that moment on it has become my personal truth.  "I am good at burpees; therefore I love them".

Now I get excited to do them. Because I think I like them I am able to remain relaxed, which reduces my stress and helps me perform. My mindset has shifted from "just get through this" to "how can I make every movement as efficient as possible and become faster?".  I'm no longer focusing on the misery but the mastery.

Honestly, I have no idea if I was actually any good at burpees that one day, but that doesn't matter because the change of perspective set me up for success and since then I have become good at them.

This leads me to wonder...if we were to face each movement, each workout, each challenge with the perspective of "I'm good at this." how much more could we achieve, and could we have more fun doing it?

Let's try it and see.

 - Coach Amy

Do something for the 1st time

When was the last time you tried something new?  

Think about it.  

Seriously.  When was the last time you did something for the first time?  

Now it's a country song by Darius Rucker but I was originally asked this in the pre-game pep talk before my first Tough Mudder.  The motivational speaker asked us this question and a light bulb went off.  It has stuck with me and guided me ever since.   

As children everything was new.  We were constantly being exposed to, or experiencing new things.  It was a natural part of our lives and we embraced it, mostly not even aware of it.  As adults we get into routines and get so stuck in them that not only do new experiences become inconvenient, uncomfortable or scary, but they can be hard to find. It's not that they're not all around us, but our minds are closed to them.  

Why should we practice seeking out new experiences? 

For me, trying something new or scary makes me feel alive.  Really alive.  Like a kid again.  Sometimes it is a quick rush like a fight or competition, or jumping off of a bridge (my biggest fear in the world).  These kinds of quick, frightening experiences are often spontaneous so you have to keep your eyes open to find them, and be ready to jump. They excite me short-term and make me proud of facing my fears.  They strengthen my confidence and my fear facing skills.  I stick them in "my back pocket" to pull out to help with future challenges.  

A more important time to face fear is chasing a dream or passion.  This is a long term rush.  It makes you excited to wake up every morning because you are pursuing a goal or your authentic self.  It may be learning to box, starting a new business, profession, hobby, training, or project, etc...  These blessings require you to keep your mind open.  We can often see them with our eyes and feel them in our heart, but can think of hundreds of "good reasons" why we can't or shouldn't do them.  All of these reasons are rooted in fear.  When we have practiced facing fears in our life we are braver and more comfortable pushing past the uncomfortable.  We are more confident to decide that we are capable and worthy of pursuing our passions, and we can unlock the good stuff.

When we have the courage to pursue these passions we feel like we are who we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing, and that brings such joy, peace and confidence.  We have a purpose.  We are more interesting.  We are more interested.  We make new friends.  We put ourselves outside our comfort zones and we get more and more comfortable out there.  We decide that a lot more is possible.  We inspire others just by doing what we love, being happy in who we are.  We attract positive energy and opportunity.  

So I encourage you to regularly ask yourself..."when was the last time I did something for the first time"?  If the answer is not recently, open your eyes and your mind and find something, or find the courage to do what is in your heart.  Be alive!  Be you!  Be happy! Inspire others!  

 - Coach Amy

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Macros and Muscles

What did you eat yesterday?

Did you intake enough carbs to fuel your workout for optimal performance?  Did you eat enough protein to maintain or build muscle?  Did you make sure to eat enough fat for good health and energy? Did you meet the calorie requirement for your body composition and activity level?  

Do you have any idea?  

I do.  

For the past month I have been eating differently and I'm so excited about it.  

I have been following a flexible eating program, which means I can eat ANYTHING I long as it fits in my "Macros".  

  1. a substance required in relatively large amounts by living organisms, in particular.
    • a type of food (e.g., fat, protein, carbohydrate) required in large amounts in the human diet.

No more starving, no more paleo!  No one can tell me that I can't have beans, wine or pizza if I can figure out how to fit it into my daily macro allotment.  My biggest challenge is letting go of the idea of eating low carb.  It was so ingrained in me.  I have learned that carbs are essential and important to athletes.  I have added bread back into my daily diet to help me meet my carb requirement and that is very exciting to me.  :) One night I even had to eat pretzels after dinner to hit my carb number!  That is so unlike me and was such a treat.  I feel like I am treating myself all the time now to get to my numbers, and yet I'm still seeing results!

My journey all started with a body composition analysis.  I stood barefoot on a special scale with my arms outstretched, holding special handles.  About 30 seconds later I had a full report of the breakdown of my body...fat percentage, muscle mass, water weight, how much each arm and leg weighs, and the EXACT amount of calories my current body needs to function.  No more guessing or estimating.  This was all powerful information.

From there my nutritionist, Rose Colleran of The Flex Eating Plan, and I decided that based on my results my goal would be to build muscle.  She then considered the kinds of workouts I do and how many per week to estimate a number of extra calories I would need, and then distributed them evenly throughout the week. Now I had my final appropriate caloric intake number.

I've counted calories before.  This is different.  My mindset is different.  In counting calories I was constantly trying to deprive my body and I would get tired of doing it and stop.  With flexible eating/macros I am trying to fuel my body.  If I don't eat enough protein I know that I am not maintaining or building muscle.  If I don't eat enough carbs I know that I am not going to perform my best.  If I don't eat enough fat I won't feel full or have the energy or overall health I desire.

I am empowered and excited by the science of nutrition, and accurate numbers based on my current body composition.

I use the My Fitness Pal website/app to track my food daily and it is easier than I thought it would be.  There is a barcode scanner and a place to copy and paste whole recipes.  I actually find it fun.  Trying to complete the puzzle of protein, carbs and fat each day is a little like a game of Tetris.  Some days are better than others and I have yet to really nail it consistently; however just trying to hit my numbers has helped me already.  In one month, which included Christmas and a gluttonous trip to Disney, I am already seeing results.  I lost .8lbs body fat and gained 1.3lbs of muscle (more muscle means more calories to eat)!  Note that my weight went up to cover the muscle and water needed for that muscle so if I didn't have this scan I would be down on myself for gaining weight, assuming it was fat, even though I feel extremely strong, lean and energized.  I am finally accepting that the number on the scale alone does not matter.  I am 6 lbs over my personal "ideal" weight but I feel better now than I do at that weight.

I have tried many different ways to eat, but this just feels right, and feels maintainable.  It just makes complete sense to me, my body and my life.

Update:  In my next scan a month later I gained 2.2 more lbs of muscle and lost 1.2 more lbs of fat - down to 13.4% body fat.

If you're in the Boston area and interested in a body composition analysis or just want to learn more about macros, contact Rose Colleran at

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Mental Training

My trainer, Sione, once told me that he could tell how I was going to perform in sparring the second I walked in the door.


The power of that statement set me off on a journey to study, better understand and very deliberately engage my brain and emotions in every workout since.  Could I manipulate how I am feeling to achieve optimal performance?  What if I'm tired? stressed?  scared? Could I teach or trick myself into feeling confident and excited to perform?

I am constantly searching for ways to do this.  It entertains me.

Good workouts are meant to stress your body and your mind.  It's the only way to grow. Finding, creating, and using mental strategies to get you through a tough workout both increase your performance and enjoyment, as well as enhance your coping mechanisms and grit in and out of the gym.

Workouts have become more meaningful to me since I've made this connection and practice it.

We all naturally find ways to get ourselves through a workout without quitting.  We may pace ourselves, or go all out using grit.  We may break it up into segments, or get lost in the music. You probably have used all of these natural methods, as well as others, without paying much attention to your strategy.

In addition to those more common mental strategies, I have been searching for, and creating others that are more fun and interesting.  Undoubtedly I will dedicate many more blog posts to them because it fascinates me, but here are a couple examples.

Transfer of energy:  In fighting or sparring there is such intense energy and it is constantly flowing.  I try to create opportunities to "steal" some of my opponent's energy/confidence.  In boxing, a moment of weakness or doubt strengthens even the tired opponent.  It is real and you can feel it both ways.

Similarly used, if I am working out on the heavy bag with someone, or just working out next to them, and I see that they are tiring, I visualize taking their energy and it fuels me.

Now this may not sound like the nicest strategy, but it is effective in the right situation.

Lying:  If I tell myself I am good at something I absolutely perform better.  It doesn't even have to be true!  Every time I look at a workout, I will pick something in it and tell myself that I am really good at a specific movement and each time I do it I reinforce this - "Oh, here's that thing I'm really good at!  Yeah! I get to do that now!".  I then enjoy it more, which is probably why I perform better. Interestingly, if you lie to yourself enough you may find that your lie becomes true. 

Personal Truths:  It is when you notice something about yourself that you then commit to being a part of who you are.  I have decided on a few "personal truths" which I believe about myself and therefore I expect to live up to them.  They, in my head, define who I am as an athlete.

For example, one thing I have been mindful enough to notice is that I start off slower and get stronger as I go.  It is just how I naturally work in nearly every kind of workout, and because I know this about myself I am able to remain calm the first round even when I am slower or behind because I know that it takes me a round to gain confidence.  I know that as others come out strong and then get tired I will keep gaining momentum and catch up.  Knowing and believing this personal truth allows me to remain calm, which allows me to perform at my best.

My challenge to you is to start by paying attention to your mental talk during your workouts.  Are you being your best coach?  Are you positive?  Are you resilient?  Are you confident?  This is so important.  You are your most important coach and the thoughts you have will directly impact your performance and results.

Next, be mindful of your coping mechanisms.  Instead of just trying to get through, try different strategies.  Experiment.  Lie to yourself that you love burpees.  Create a personal truth that you are the strongest in the class.  Try different mental strategies for different types of workouts.  Come up with your own creative ways to remain calm and have fun while optimizing your performance.

Practicing mental strategies to cope with stress will help you in and out of the gym, and will change your workouts forever.

So walk into the gym with confidence (real or fake) and a plan!

And next time you see me in there you'll wonder what's going on in my crazy head and if I'm trying to steal your energy.  ;)

 - Coach Amy

Sunday, January 7, 2018

1% Challenge

The 1% Challenge. 

At the beginning of each new year we are all conditioned to make resolutions because the start of a new year brings the exciting feeling of a new beginning.  Each January we feel compelled to come up with attractive sounding goals; however according to a news show I just watched on tv...only 8% of us actually are successful.  92% of us fail?  Why is that?

There are lots of reasons, and lots of articles about this.  Here's one I particularly like.  Like Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, I believe it comes down to not being ready to commit to the goal.  If we make goals or changes just because it is a new year, then we have no authentic motivation to do the work necessary to achieve them. A change, especially a large or difficult one, must be ignited from within - not by a calendar.  If you are not ready to change, then it will not happen.

So this year, if you are feeling excited and energized to make a resolution, go for it and be part of the 8%!  However, if you are not ready to make a significant change in your life don't feel pressured to do so right now.  Don't set a goal you're not committed to, and then feel badly when you inevitably fail.  Wait until you are ready.  Until then, I offer you this perspective...

What if every day you tried to be just 1% better?  That's manageable, right?

That's exactly how Dave Brailsford turned around Great Britain's professional cycling team.  Brailsford set out to improve everything the team did by just 1%, believing that small changes would eventually make a big difference.  He proved this to be true.  By making small adjustments to the team's nutrition, training, tires, and even pillows...Brailsford lead the team to a Tour de France victory in 3 years, and then won it again the year after that, and have won 4 of the last 5.

The changes were not noticed immediately, or in the day to day; however over time the small changes, now habits, made a greater and greater impact on performance.

This concept really resonates with me.  I can try 1% harder in all areas of my life without experiencing much, or any, discomfort.

What would happen if I consistently...worked 1% harder in boxing class?  Hit the bag 1% harder or faster than I usually do?  Drank 1% more water?  Ate 1% more vegetables? Slept 1% more?  Was 1% kinder?  Read 1% more?  Meditated 1% more? The list could go on and on.  I can pick something specific to focus on, or keep 1% always in my mind and apply it everywhere.  It's up to me.

Of course, I always try to measure everything and it is hard to measure many things by 1%, right?  That's actually part of the beauty of this.  It's like a mental trick.  There's not a lot of pressure, and I'll probably end up giving more than 1%, especially to the areas that need it most.  The 1% is  about training my mind to constantly look for ways to improve, meanwhile creating healthier habits which will multiply in benefits as each year passes.

Think about it.  Will you join me in the 1% challenge?  I'll be asking you for 1% more in class.  :)

Wishing you a very happy and healthy 2018.

See you in the gym!

- Coach Amy

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Do you workout or do you train?

Do you work out or do you train? 

Have you ever thought about this?  If not, then you are probably working out, like I was.

What's the difference?  

A "working out" mindset is a calorie burning, "just get it done", exercise to feel good, or to lose weight mentality.  You may show up to the gym every single day and do what's asked of you to check the box, but it may sometimes feel like a chore.  You may improve some, but not much.  Losing weight may be your only measurement of "success".

When you switch your perspective to "I'm in training" everything gets so exciting.

That hour in the gym is used much more effectively.  In training I purposefully practice various mental strategies in my workout that reduce stress and improve performance.  I'm working my body and my mind at the same time.  I use these same mental strategies in life outside the gym to guide me through stress or challenges.

In training my goal is to be better than I was yesterday.

How do I do this?  

  • Change perspective.  The first step is to literally just say "I'm in training." Change the way you think about exercise.  

  • Measure yourself in any way you can so you know if you're improving.  I keep a record of how much weight I lift, how many burpees I can do in a minute, how many pull-ups I can do...whatever I can measure I do.  Weight loss/gain, or how tired or sore you are is not a good measurement of success.  

  • Challenge yourself and your numbers.  I lifted 100lbs last week but I'm not going to be satisfied with that.  Today I tried 105.  When I hit 105, like I did this morning, it is a really proud moment. In training mode you will improve and it is really exciting to know that you're better than you used to be.  

  • Be present in each movement that you do.  I'm constantly asking myself how I can do something better.  How can I find more power in my punch?  In class I don't just go through the combinations.  I experiment.  I try sinking into my stance more, I consciously engage my hips, core and glutes into my punches.  I play with my breathing and posture.  I'm always looking for a way to move more efficiently.  

  • Surround yourself with a coach or personal trainer who knows your goals.  They will teach you and push you.  Today after I hang squat cleaned 105, I smiled in celebration, then immediately tried 115. I had several failed attempts and asked a coach for help.  He video-recorded my lift in slow motion to show me my form and broke down what I need to do to become successful.  Now he and I will work on it until I have it.  Personal Training is a powerful training tool.  A trainer holds your goals as a measure of their own success.  They see what you can't see, make you do what you would not do on your own, and they believe in you when you aren't feeling confident.  

  • Get uncomfortable.  Work on your weaknesses.  Only highlighting your strengths is exercising.  Working on your weaknesses is training.  Training is uncomfortable.  Embrace it. It's how you improve. Don't forget - weaknesses include nutrition and sleep habits.  When you're in training your mindset includes fueling and resting your body for optimal performance. 

  • Compete.  Sign up for a race, a fight, sparring, a challenge with a friend, a competition of any kind.  Having an upcoming competition helps to focus your training with a short term goal.  I also like competing because it is scary.  I want to practice performing under pressure.  This is part of my mental training.  I want to have the experience of being in stressful situations so that when life gets hard I am resilient.  Competing is a safe way to practice this important skill.  It also helps me measure myself against my peers.   Although my focus is internal (competing with only myself), it motivates me and often inspires me to see my peers perform.  

Why?  What am I training for?  


Recently I was doing a ropes course with my daughter for her 10th birthday and as I was one of the only adults participating it occurred to me...this is what I train have the strength, confidence, agility and courage to have fun with my daughter today.

We never know what type of fun or dangerous situation we will find ourselves in, and having the mental and physical strength to meet the unknown is important.

Growing older yet stronger is the reason I train.

Are you in training?  Why?  Share in the comments!

 - Coach Amy

Monday, October 2, 2017

The main event - from my couch

A few weeks ago, like most of the world, I watched the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight.  I watched it with my Husband, Dave, who, like most of the world, has never been in the ring, nor desires to.

We watched the same event, on the same couch, very differently.

He watched as a spectator.  The whole world was curious what would happen.  I watched excitedly and humbly as a student of the sport, and pridefully and empathetically as a fellow fighter.  He watched the whole picture.  I watched each combination, angle, and weave. Between rounds he took the time to grab a drink or go to the bathroom.  I was fascinated by the coaching in the corner and wanted to hear every word. I imagined what my trainer, Sione, would be saying.

It then occurred to me that most people watching the event have never trained for a fight. They couldn't understand the physical and emotional rollercoaster training is, the pressure of the night, the lights, the crowd - nevermind half the world watching!  There was so much context that they were missing!  To be fair...I'm quite sure they don't care, but to me it was like reading a quarter of a book. How could you fully appreciate it?

I enjoyed the pre-fight press conferences as much as the fight itself.  McGregor's personality is brilliant, his outer confidence unwavering.  You may have thought that he is entertaining or obnoxious - or even that he's just raising the purse of the fight.  Before I trained and fought it annoyed me when fighters were so over-the-top cocky. Now I know that if you don't wholeheartedly believe you are superhuman, you literally can't do this.  McGregor's press confidence made me believe in him - that he actually had a shot - simply because he seemed to steadfastly believe in himself. One ounce of doubt in yourself or your training and you are done before you start.  Fighting is as much, if not more, mental than physical.

Of course, if the physical goes, like it did in round 10, then the mental follows...and vice versa.  I used to wonder how such well conditioned and trained athletes got so tired that they actually stopped fighting to hug each other.  Now I know how three minutes can feel like 30. How self doubt can grow exponentially by the second and can destroy you.  I know that you need to train harder than the fight is going to be.  You need to do more rounds, with less rest, not only for your physical conditioning, but so that when you are tired you can remember that you have done more than this, and it will give you confidence to endure it.

Post fight McGregor posted this on social media about his camp:

"I feel with just a little change in certain areas of the prep, we could have built the engine for 12 full rounds under stress, and got the better result on the night.
Getting to 12 rounds alone in practice was always the challenge in this camp. We started slowly getting to the 12 and decreasing the stress in the rounds the closer it got to 12. I think for the time we had, 10 weeks in camp, it had to be done this way. If I began with a loaded 12 rounds under much stress I would have only hit a brick wall and lost progress as a result and potentially not made the fight. A little more time and we could have made the 12 cleanly, while under more stress, and made it thru the later rounds in the actual fight."

Do I need to mention that I also love the post fight analysis and camaraderie?  It might surprise people to know that once the fight is over you don't hate your opponent - no matter how much trash talk and head games happen before.  In fact, it's the opposite.  You don't respect anyone in the room more than them. This was evident even at this top level with both fighters.

Mayweather and McGregor put on a good show.  It is fun for everyone to watch a good fight, but boxing is hard.  Not everyone can do it.  Boxing is scary.  Not everyone can face fear. Boxing is humbling.  Not everyone has the resilience to continue.  Boxing is introspective.  Not everyone wants to be tested so hard they see what they're made of.  

But those of us who do are bonded through these things.  We are different than most of the viewers...we are fighters.

- Coach Amy

*Training for a fight is one of the most important things I've done in my life.  It taught me what I am capable of.  I had absolutely no idea of my personal potential before training. I thought I did, but I was limiting myself incredibly.   It gave me extreme highs and lows and taught me how to manage them both.  It gave me self confidence that I didn't even know I was lacking.  It gave me perspective. I measure everything in my life to - "no least I'm not being punched in the face right now".  :)   It got me in the best shape of my life.  It gave me belonging - in a community of fighters, and here at my gym home FA Boxing.  It has given me some of the best "fox hole" friends I have ever had.

If you have ever even considered for one second that you'd like to be a fighter, FA Boxing has an exciting announcement just for you.  Maybe I'll see you in the ring soon!  

**Written for and published on**