How to Set Action Goals & Get Results!


How many times have you set a weight loss goal or made a resolution in your life and not been successful?

…Or been temporarily successful, only to put the weight back on or backslide later? Some of my clients come to me with a history of repeated failed attempts at weight loss. I know this can be disheartening at best and at worst can lead to a vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting and self-loathing. As an athlete in a weight class sport for ten years, I sympathize, the scale can feel like your worst enemy.

The scientific and nutritional reasons why diet and exercise often fail people is a topic for another blog. I’ll touch it briefly by saying that successful clients don’t focus on calorie restriction (especially low calorie, low fat and hi carb diets) and excessive exercise. Instead, they focus on real food choices, food quality, lifting weights & finding joy in sports (like Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, basketball, rock climbing or tennis).

Today I would like to focus on how to set a fitness, health or even a life goal, something that when done correctly can bring great happiness and fulfillment to our lives. I’ve written before about willpower and neuropsychology has lately been the research topic that is most interesting to me. Goals setting is just a part of the willpower and habit human experience. If you want to know more, see the end of this blog for recommended reading.

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My Muay Thai Story

I often get asked how I got into Muay Thai. The sport seems such a part of my life now I sometimes forget that its unusual or even interesting to outsiders that anyone, especially a woman would gravitate towards a full contact sport that appears bloody and violent. When I meet other coaches or fighters I find their stories fascinating. What draws people to this type of training, what makes them want to excel in a sport that is so highly competitive, so physically demanding and pays nothing in the beginning and has no promise of a financially stable future is always very personal and tells me so much about who they are, where they came from and who they want to be.

Me in elementary school on my way to an orchestra recital... I know what you're thinking, future fight right? ;)

Me in elementary school on my way to an orchestra recital. I know what you’re thinking… future Muay Thai fighter right? 😉

This blog is about my Muay Thai story, my reasons for loving to fight and my reasons for wanting to make Muay Thai a part of my life forever by coaching and supporting the sport in any way I can. It’s a bit long, but not as long as the book I will one day write about my adventures.

If you read on I hope that my story will resonate with others in the sport and remind them of their humble beginnings as well as help Muay Thai beginners see that with enough strength, passion and dedication anything is possible. I also hope you will see that my love for Muay Thai, as violent and bloody as it can be, is really about empowerment and self discovery.

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Holiday Health & Fitness Survival Guide

The time of year is fast approaching when people deal with a lot of temptation that may derail them from their fitness goals. But you don’t have to feel helpless when it comes staying on course. January guilt and re-written New Year’s resolutions is not a fate carved in stone. Now is a great time to strategize a holiday fitness survival plan that keeps you moving, motivated, eating clean, indulging a little and most importantly feeling sexy and dashing at your Holiday parties!

But before I get started, let’s debunk the myth that the average person gains 5-10 pounds over the holiday season. This just isn’t true.  It’s estimated at 0.8, which isn’t a lot but can add up year after year and it’s not good that about 50% of the average yearly gain of 1.5 pounds is occurring over the Holidays. Realizing that you are not doomed to gain massive weight will alleviate unnecessary stress and help you think more clearly while strategizing a survival plan. A word of caution, though, overweight and obese test subjects (14%) gained an average of 5 lbs!  So there was some variance. That also means that a portion of the test subjects must not have gained any weight or just a small fraction.

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Flex Your Willpower Muscle

This article was originally written in 2008 for Wfighter.Com a site that doesn’t exist anymore, so I am republishing it here. Edited and updated with lots of sources. I noticed (thankfully) that my writing has improved since this piece was first written and I also saw I did a horrible job of linking to studies and references. So I researched again and added the goods 🙂

If this topic interests you I suggest the book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney (Aug 2012) as recommended additional reading on this topic.

If you are interested in health and fitness, you know the importance of willpower. We use willpower to get us to the gym, to run that extra 10 minutes, to choose carrot sticks over cookies, to get to bed early, to pass on a second cocktail, even to hold off on telling off our boss.

If we can understand how willpower works, we can conquer many of the demons that prevent us from optimal success. We will train harder, eat healthier, and be calmer. We can unleash a powerful, disciplined fighter in us all.

Fighters are notoriously disciplined, training 2-3 hours a day, following a careful diet, sacrificing social activities for the sake of a good night’s sleep. No fighter is perfect; we all have areas we would like to improve on. However, the world’s top fighters are inspiring because they have an enormous amount of willpower and discipline

In the last ten years, scientists have made some exciting discoveries regarding human willpower. First, it’s important to note that willpower is a mind-body response, which means that when we exert willpower, it affects our physical state and when our physical state gets altered a certain way, it will change how we can use willpower. Willpower is an evolutionary characteristic we developed to help us ignore instinctive instant gratification and focus on long-term goals. Willpower has helped us become the educated, career-focused society we are today and where it gets interesting is in the details of how it works.

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What I Love about Muay Thai that I Hope Never Changes

Roxy Balboa Muay Thai 2006

It’s easy for me to get nostalgic about my early days of training. When I discovered Muay Thai, it quickly became my sole passion. It did for me what true loves does for most people. It captivated me, thrilled me, challenged me and made me want to be a better person. Not everyone may feel this way about a sport, but everyone that becomes a fighter or even becomes good at Muay Thai feels at least a little like this at some point and remembers it well.

I started Muay Thai in the spring of 2002 in Philadelphia when I was 24 years old. I was dating a guy who trained, and he wanted to teach me, Muay Thai. At the time I was bartending in the city after graduating from college. I hit up Bally’s to work out a little on occasion, but had little clue about fitness other than what I gathered from playing basketball in high school and reading Shape magazine – and I had never taken a martial art in my life.

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What’s The Best Conditioning for Fighters… & Fat Loss?

I wrote this article in July of 2010 when it was printed in Caged360, an online publication no longer in operation. I have re-issued it with a few changes and updates here.

Conditioning for Fighters

When I first started fighting 10 years ago I got up every morning and ran 3-5 miles. I did this because a) I wanted to keep my weight down b) I wanted to have good cardio c) my trainer told me to. After my run, I would have breakfast,sometimes take a nap, then train again around 4pm for a couple of hours. This was my routine 6 days a week, with sometimes a longer 5-6 mile run on the weekend.

My cardio routine looks very different now. Today I know that although the long runs I did in the morning may have done something for my character, they did very little for my goals of maintaining a healthy fight weight, staying strong and improving my fighting cardio in the way I wanted it to. Plus my knees hate me today. When I first started Muay Thai I didn’t have the health & fitness knowledge I have today. In my naive fitness days I was always hungry (living on a high carbohydrate diet), never satisfied, always worried about making weight and definitely not as strong as I could have been.

“But running is good for me, right?!” “It makes me fit and improves my wind!” Well, not exactly. Let me explain.

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How to Find More Purpose & Increase Health

Finding Purpose

This is me, probably thinking about something to do with purpose 😉

When I have a consult with a new client I ask some unorthodox questions about their life. I want to know if they have long term and short term goals. I want to know if they enjoy their work. I want to know their priorities, passions and focus. Essentially what I am getting at, is do they feel they have a purpose? The average client usually looks to hire a personal trainer because they want to lose fat, feel good physically and look better naked. What I have discovered over the years is clients rarely succeed at this if they are stressed, unhappy and/or hate their life. I’m not a therapist, but find my job does include a good deal of life coaching, as well as fitness and nutrition tip; especially since what motivates people is so closely tied with their priorities and their general attitude.

Today I’d like to take a closer look at one area people usually think is unrelated to their health goals, but is incredibly important: Purpose. There are many aspects of wellness. As a culture we tend to think that if we just control what we eat and do enough exercise our bodies will magically be what we want them to be and we will automatically be free from disease and illness. This black and white thinking based solely on calories in, calories out leaves out a major component of wellness, the mind. If our minds are not healthy, we are not healthy.

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20 Tips for Muay Thai Newbies

Muay Thai Profile

This picture, taken three years after I started training; my cheeks still look chubby, and it reminds me of being new to the sport 🙂

Do you remember all your fears about the first day of a new high school or college? Worrying if you could find the right class room, wondering if you were overdressed, under-dressed, or had picked the right image to present yourself to your new classmates. You nervously checked your schedule, trying to figure out where to sit,  or if you were in the right place at all.  Looking around the room, wondering who would be a good person to talk to and become friends with, trying to figure out if you were cool enough to be their friend. Well thank God that’s over for me, and for most of you, but I like to remember that feeling because it can be a little like the first day of school for people when they walk into a Muay Thai gym for the first time.

If you have been in the fight scene for a while, you forget what it was like when you first started. For a newbie, instructors, fighters, and other students are intimidating. Muay Thai traditions are completely foreign. You don’t know a Thai pad from a kick pad, Thai oil smells funny, three minutes of jump rope feels like an eternity, and you have no idea how to take 180 inches of fabric and somehow with what seems like 37 different twists and turns, wrap it neatly around your hand without either cutting off your circulation or having the whole wrap fall apart after the warm-up.

At my gym, I try to make beginners feel comfortable and explain to them all the things they will need to know before they move on to the mixed level classes, but I will probably always fall short. It’s so hard to remember all the things beginners don’t know because it’s been so long since I was one.

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How to Beat Sugar Cravings

Ask yourself these questions: Do you just have to have something sweet after meals?  Does the idea of living life without bread and pasta scare you? Does afternoon fatigue prompt trips to Starbucks or a candy binge on a regular basis?  If someone offers you cookies, cakes, ice cream or candy at a party is it impossible for you to decline them?  Is it hard for you to stop after one cookie, candy, etc.?  Is drinking black coffee or tea without sweetener out of the question? Do you obsess over your next sugary treat?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions you are probably addicted to sugar.

Sugar is addictive. Many doctors now recognize the damage of sugar addiction, although it might be several more years before we can sue Coca-Cola for pushing its “drug” on kids.  Maybe it’s not as noticeable as illegal street drugs, but sugar does give you a mild “high” – why else would we jokingly call it “kiddie crack”?  I’m not fanatical or preaching sugar abstinence.  I love ice cream just as much as the next gal, but I find that many of my clients are plagued by sugar cravings and feel out of control when it comes to their diet.  I can relate.

You’re talking to a girl who single-handedly picked every chocolate chip out of her roommate’s trail mix (sorry, Monica). I remember when I was little stealing cookies from the jar at my grandmother’s house and eating them behind the couch so I wouldn’t get caught. I’m pretty sure I also remember also eating an entire frozen pound cake – while it was still frozen. I am no angel when it comes to sugar.  My history with sugar goes deep into the core of my psyche – but although I love the occasional treat, I am no longer consumed by sugar. I rarely have insane cravings, and I can stop after just a couple bites. How did I achieve this you ask?

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7 Things About Hydration You Should Know

It’s summer, and we are bound to get sweaty and hot more than usual. We all know water is good for us, but are you drinking enough or too much and when are a sports drink appropriate, if ever?

1. F*#$%!& the eight glasses a day rule.

I dislike this advice for a few reasons, first of all, how many different “glass” sizes do you have in your cabinet.  I have five that I can think of, and each will hold a wide variety of different amounts of water. Who has a standard 8oz glasses in their cabinets or wants to take the time to measure them? Not me. Second, who carries glasses around with them all day?  Third, it’s not very accurate. What’s easy to measure is a portable water bottle.  If you are one of the few people that don’t own a non-toxic water bottle, buy a good one today. Any one of these that are chemical-free will do. Next make it a point to fill it up with fresh, clean, filtered water first thing in the morning. I find that for most people who have a moderate workout schedule a minimum of two-three liters a day is a realistic goal.  You may need a bit less; you may need a bit more. If you are a larger person, you may need more. Another good measurement is half your body weight in ounces.

Try this test out to see how your water consumption needs can vary depending on a variety of factors. I’m not saying this calculator is extremely accurate, but it can be helpful to see how many factors come into play.

2. Slow or Fast?

Sipper or Glupper?  It’s better to sip water periodically throughout the day, don’t wait til you are dying of thirst, just have a few sips every so often. If the taste of water is unappealing, you can add lemon, mint or cucumbers to the water to make it more palatable.  Keep a bottle at your desk and bring it with you on errands etc. Don’t forget to take it with you when you leave the gym! Our gym has a collection of water bottles in the lost and found box.

3. Ice Ice, Baby!

Water is best when drunk room temp or maybe a tad cooler, but not very cold or iced.  It assimilates into your body best when it’s room temp. If you are working out and you notice water sloshing around you probably have been drinking too much or water that is too cold. Very Cold water can also cause side cramps when working out, which are no fun.

4. What’s You Color?

The best test it to monitor the color of your pee. With the exception of your first morning trip to the toilet, your urine should be translucent with a slight yellow hue, not anywhere close to an orange or brownish hue. 

If it’s entirely clear you may have been drinking too much water (or consuming alcohol), in which case you are flushing out too many electrolytes. You want a slight yellow tinge of color to your pee.

Note, if you are taking vitamins like C and B, you will see a bright yellow color. 

5. Eat for Hydration

Food can make up as much as 20% of your water intake. While food can’t take the place of proper water consumption, it makes a difference if you eat lots of fresh organic veggies and fruits and stay away from processed food you are doing pretty good.

6. Healthy Salt?

There is a difference between table salt and REAL sea salt. Your body needs the many nutrients in real sea salt, and it’s fine to salt your food a bit, especially if you are working out.

7. When a Sports Drink is a Good Idea

Fresh filtered water is fine for an hour workout. Don’t reach for that sugary drink just because it tastes better; you won’t die of thirst during your workout just because you drank plain water. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that Vitamin Water or Gatorade is necessary, or even supportive, of your body fat goals – it isn’t! But if you work out strenuously especially in hot conditions for over an hour you’ll need an electrolyte supplement.  I like a small coconut water or something like this electrolyte product. If you are a hardcore athlete training for a marathon or have long duration type session of two or more hours, we’ve had some great success with this EFS Drink.

Stay away from Gatorade, Vitamin Water and the like as they contain nasty chemicals and processed or fake sugar. Yuck.

Hope this clears up some of your hydration questions. Now get out there and work up a sweat!