Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Fire up the grill and put on your swimsuit, today is the ultimate day of summer fun in the sun. But it wouldn't really be Memorial Day if we didn't pause for a moment to reflect on the men and women who laid down their lives in defense of this country. God bless each and every one of them. To them we owe our freedom and our country, and it is in their name that we celebrate this wonderful day.

So tell me, how are you celebrating Memorial Day this year? Have you done something physically active to work off those burgers and hot dogs? Perhaps a little Frisbee on the front lawn? A game of Cornhole, or maybe even a run on the beach? If not, no worries. That's what holidays are for!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

'Tis the season to go sans sleeve!

It's official! Summer is here, bringing with it temps that call for shorter sleeves. If you're anything like me, you're wearing tank tops more and more (and your arms are pasty white). In honor of this major shift in seasons, I recommend adding some additional strength training to your repertoire of upper body moves. Here are a few of my favorites, all of which target the muscles in your arms.

1) HAMMER CURLS: Still a winner in my book. It really targets the entire biceps group (part of which extends past the elbow and into your forearm) to help you develop a nice, long muscle.

2) CABLE CURLS: If you're at the gym, set up a cable machine so that it hits right at shoulder height. Attach a handle to it, then step away from the machine until your arm is fully extended to your side and the cable itself is pulled tight. With your palm facing up, curl the cable into your shoulder for a nice tug at your bicep. Release slowly and repeat as desired. If you're not at the gym, you can rig up a cable curl machine using an exercise band. Tie a knot in one end of the band and secure it in a closed door. Proceed as previously described.

3) REVERSE CURLS: You can do these with a cable machine, dumbbells or a barbell. Grab whichever you've got available, palms facing down with arms at your side. Curl up, keeping your elbows in close the entire time. Not only will this work the bicep, it'll hit those oft-forgotten muscles in the wrist.

4) TRICEPS EXTENSIONS: So many ways to do these! What's your favorite? I recommend using a single dumbbell and standing tall, holding the weight in both hands behind your head. Contract your abs to give your lower back some additional support, then press the weight up, lower it and repeat. As you get stronger, you can try it with just one arm to increase the burn. I also like doing triceps extensions on an exercise ball. Hold a barbell with both hands above your chest as if you were going to bench press it. Bend at the elbows to bring the bar close to your head, then return to start and repeat.

5) REVERSE PUSH-DOWNS: Find a cable machine and attach a straight bar so that it falls at chest height. Grip the bar with your palms facing up, elbows in tight—which essentially puts you in a bicep curl position. Pull the bar down to your hips, slowly returning to start and repeating. Similar to the action on the biceps in the hammer curl, this move targets the entire triceps group which extends below the elbow. Again, you'll create a nice, long muscle.

6) DIPS: In my experience, people really hate dips. But I think you should learn to love them because they can be done absolutely anywhere. Really, anywhere. Find a bench to sit on, grab the edge of it close to your legs, then shift your weight just off of it. Keep your back close to the bench as you lower your weight until your arms hit the 90-degree mark. Straighten your arms and repeat. Bonus points if you can rest your feet on something. It lessens your ability to call on your leg muscles for help.

7) WRIST CURLS: Once again, we often forget about these smaller arm muscles. It's not a bad idea to work 'em every so often, especially if you frequently use a computer. Simply grab a set of light hand weights, resting your forearms on a bench so that your hands are hanging off the edge. Lift and lower, repeat. Do one set with your palms facing down, and another with your palms facing up.

8) DUMBBELL HOLDS: Yet another exercise that targets the wrists and forearms, and it couldn't be easier. Choose dumbbells that are slightly heavy for you, holding one in each hand for 20 to 60 seconds as shown below.

In addition to the above, you should also work with a medicine ball as virtually anything you do with it will call on your arm muscles in some way, shape or form. Whether you're throwing it, lifting it or juggling it—you'll feel the burn.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Are you well?

My mother sent me a link to a quiz developed by a company called Life...Supplemented™ that supposedly tells you how well you are. It factors in things like food consumption, exercise, sleep and meditation. The results are organized into a "Wellness Scorecard," and I found them to be quite interesting. However, she and I both agree that some of the questions need to have one or two more potential answers. We both had to compromise on a few, which may or may not have affected our individual results. But in the end, I fell into the "Well" category. Thumbs up across the board, however I apparently need to consume more fish and practice stress reduction (laughing).

Go ahead and try it yourself, but pay less attention to the push toward supplements. I personally do not agree with supplements unless it's a multivitamin. Further research indicates that Life...Supplemented™ is a "consumer wellness campaign presented by the Council for Responsible Nutrition and dietary supplement ingredient suppliers and product manufacturers." As a former advertising pro, I know exactly what that means. Don't buy into it! Just eat clean, healthy food and you should be fine. Unless, of course, your doctor suggests otherwise. They tend to know what they're talking about.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thanks, cow! This milk is delicious!

Despite the fact that some of us are incapable of drinking it, milk is truly a delicious beverage. Water will always be the leader of the pack because we obviously can't live without it, but in this world of sugared sports drinks—milk is certainly a healthy choice. It has the ability to supply us with a number of essential nutrients like Vitamin D and Calcium. Those two heavy hitters keep bones strong, and strong bones facilitate even stronger bodies. But did you know that milk has the power to strengthen our muscles, too? It contains all of the essential amino acids that form protein. And we all know how important protein is—it builds and repairs tissue. And muscle is tissue.

The International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise compared milk and sports drinks as post-workout beverage choices. They were able to conclude that milk repaired muscles much more efficiently, probably because of the protein content. Not to mention the other nutrients (some of which are also electrolytes, and you can read more about electrolytes here) that sports drinks can only really dream of.

In fact, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition added to the importance of that research by confirming milk's ability to build muscle and burn body fat. They conducted a 12-week study in which they followed 56 healthy men. Some consumed milk after their workouts while others consumed either a sports drink or soy milk. In the end, the milk drinkers built up 46% more muscle than the soy milkers, and 60% more muscle than the sports drinkers. They also lost two pounds of fat, which is almost twice as much as what the soy milkers lost. Sadly, the sports drinkers didn't report any fat loss.

And so, when they tell us that milk does a body some good, they aren't lying. It's totally safe to believe them, unless you're lactose intolerant. But if the thought of downing a glass of cow juice after the gym sounds totally unappetizing, consider mixing it in a smoothie with some fresh fruit. Pour it over a bowl of low-fat granola, or mix it into some oatmeal. You could also splurge on a glass of low-fat chocolate milk. Surprisingly, it adequately combines carbohydrates and protein. Both of which are two very important post-workout snack ingredients. Just be careful—the calorie and sugar counts in chocolate milk add up very quickly.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Quads first, calf muscles last.

If your gym is anything like mine, you probably have a wide variety of fitness equipment at your disposal. And if you're not familiar with strength training, this can turn the gym into an extremely intimidating environment. Some gyms will set up a circuit by numbering different pieces of equipment. This helps the beginner know where to, well...begin. But if there aren't any numbers in sight, or if you've chosen to strength train in the privacy of your own home, knowing where to begin is still a battle that you'll need to face. So without further ado, I give you my advice: quads first, calf muscles last.

In other words, always train your biggest muscles first. Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, core, chest and back muscles. The various exercises that work these muscles can be quite demanding, so it makes complete sense to hit 'em while your energy level is fresh. Small muscles, on the other hand, exhaust easily which means you won't have to put forth as much effort. These muscles include your shoulders, biceps, triceps and calves. And so, start with your quads and move through the list until you hit your calf muscles.

If you don't have time for a total body workout, it's perfectly acceptable to break things up. Just remember that whether you do upper/lower body or front/back workouts—the big/small rule still applies.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Ten Fittest Cities in America

Does your hometown have a lot of parks? How about primary care physicians? Do you notice your neighbors biking or walking to work every day? These factors are on a list of 30 and they were all studied by the American Council of Sports Medicine using "scientific evidence, expert opinion and statistical methodologies." The resulting American Fitness Index Report clearly defines our country's fittest cities.

Coming in at #1 for the third year in a row—Washington, DC. And last, but certainly not least, Oklahoma City. What's in between? Take a look:

2) Boston, MA
3) Minneapolis, MN
4) Seattle, WA
5) Portland, OR
6) Denver, CO
7) Sacramento, CA
8) San Francisco, CA
9) Hartford, CT
10) Austin, TX

Other noteworthy cities include Orlando (#19), Chicago (#33), Indianapolis (#44), Detroit (#47) and Los Angeles (#38). Even though they aren't high on the list, I bet you can certainly find a large number of fit people living there. The report is meant to encourage, not discourage. If you live in one of the cities on the lower end of the spectrum, I urge you to do your part in promoting good health and fitness practices. Every last bit counts for you—and clearly for the city in which you live.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why do you work out?

Yeah, I know. As a personal trainer, the answer to that question should be painfully obvious. The phrases "good health" and "weight loss" come to mind. But I want you to dig a little deeper because I bet, if you really think about it, there are some underlying reasons why you just can't give up your gym membership or your daily walk around the block, that Pilates DVD or whatever it is you do.

For example, I work out because it feels very empowering. Literally and physically. With every weight I lift or mile that I run, I can actually feel myself getting stronger. I'm kicking my own butt and taking my own name, so to speak. And it feels great, even when it hurts. And that's where the literal sense of empowerment comes into play. It feels good to take matters into my own hands. To give back to a body that has already given me so much by taking a stand against all that could harm it. You can't take this body down, I think repeatedly. And then I hit the gym to prove it.

I love going to the gym because I find it to be a very social form of inspiration. I enjoy being around people who appreciate fitness as much as I do. And it's especially great to see those people morph into healthier, stronger individuals over time because it pushes me to work even harder. As you develop a schedule, it's hard not to meet the people you repeatedly share the gym with. It's like an unofficial family and I genuinely look forward to seeing the people I typically see whether or not we exchange words that day. Sometimes we share a simple "hello" or swap smiles, other times we talk about our weekends. And sometimes, we even ignore each other as we focus intently on the weights in front of us. Either way, I look forward to it. And when I miss a day, I always wonder who didn't.

So I'll ask you again, why is it that you choose to work out? I'd love to know.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Skinfold Calipers

Like my new toy? Ha, no. It is not a medieval form of torture. It's a skinfold caliper and it will help me measure the amount of body fat in my clients. The skinfold caliper is actually one of only two different methods used to measure body fat percentages. The other method involves a large tank of water and some specialized electronics, which I clearly don't have access to. What about a scale? Well, they only measure total body weight. In other words, fat plus bones, muscles, organs, etc. With a skinfold caliper, you can measure fat alone by pinching a few (you guessed it) skinfolds. The resulting percentage indicates how much of your body is actually fat—otherwise known as adipose tissue. And with a little math, you can figure out out how much that adipose tissue weighs.

Most of the fat we carry sits just below our skin which is why this method is fairly accurate. I know, I'd rather not know! But if you keep track of your body fat percentage, you can understand exactly how your body composition (ratio of fat to muscle) is changing. And your body composition will change as you age.

Body fat percentages are especially handy if you are trying to lose weight. Let's say you weigh yourself once a week but the numbers on the scale aren't changing. If you've been keeping track of your body fat percentage as well, you might show a steady decline which would indicate that you've been shedding fat and gaining muscle. But if that body fat percentage hasn't changed or if it got bigger, then it might be time to rethink your diet and exercise program.

Keep in mind that there isn't one ideal body fat percentage. It all depends on you and your individual body. While body fat percentages can be too high, they can actually be too low as well. Our body does need some fat to function properly, so at the very least, be realistic about fat loss goals. And if you're wondering whether or not it hurts—the calipers themselves are harmless. It all depends on how hard I pinch your skinfolds. But don't worry, I'll be nice (insert evil laugh here).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stick to your goals.

When it comes to making advances in your fit life, it's almost essential that you set goals. My guess is that most of you already have one or two. Whether it be "lose five pounds" or "run a half marathon," a goal is a goal no matter what. And every goal is achievable. Except when it isn't. While that may sound like a contradiction, it proves that you must be realistic. Set achievable goals from the start. Use a series of benchmark goals to reach one major super goal.

For example, realize that you won't be able to run a half marathon in two months if you've never punched pavement before. Instead, set yourself up with a series of "one mile without stopping" goals. Develop a plan you can stick with, and adjust it as you improve.  Get what I mean?

Sure you do, but how do you successfully stick to reaching those goals?
Well, literally stick your goals all over the place.

Write your goals on sticky notes and place them near the places you visit most often throughout your home. Make note of them in your datebook, or on your computer. Essentially, make them visible until they become a part of your everyday life. And if you really, honestly can't ever reach your goals—revisit them. Make sure they're realistic. If they are, then you'll need to adjust your approach to them. Find a friend to hold you accountable. Or hire a trainer!

When you put your mind to it, you really can reach any goal. Even if it takes longer than you thought. Success is still success whether it comes tomorrow or the day after.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Snack time is my favorite time.

When people find out I'm a personal trainer, one of the questions they usually ask me is "What should I eat for a snack?" Let me remind you that I am not a dietitian or a nutritionist. My experience with food is limited to what I read in various places and what I, in turn, choose to eat as a result of that reading. I've learned a lot about food in this way, though it doesn't make me an expert. While I can't tell you what you should and shouldn't be eating, I am more than willing to let you in on the things that work for me.

When I was a little kid, I would wait anxiously for that 3 o'clock school bell to ring because it meant that I could go home and eat a snack. I would eat it outside with the boys next door, or in front of the television watching "Hey Dude" or "Double Dare" on Nickelodeon. The snack itself would have been a Freeze Pop or a Little Debbie treat. To this day, I still require that afternoon snack—but I've learned to make it a healthy one. And so, to answer the most popular question I get, today I will share with you some of my favorite snacks. I've found all of them to supplement, rather than suppress, the work I'm doing at the gym. Let's start with smoothies.

1) Contrary to popular belief, smoothies are extremely easy to make. The glass above contains a mix of Dannon Plain Greek Yogurt (you know I love Greek yogurt), skim milk, a handful of blueberries and half of a banana. I poured some of it into the cute little container above, which brings me to my next delish snack option.

2) Popsicles! No, not the store-bought kind. Make your own using a container like the one pictured above. I bought my set of 6 at IKEA for $2, but I'm fairly certain you can find them anywhere. And you can pour anything into them. I've got a Simply Lemonade popsicle in my freezer alongside the previously mentioned blueberry/banana concoction.

3) Salsa and cucumber slices. An odd combination, I know, but it works. Trust me.

4) Hummus, hummus and more hummus! Slice up your favorite veggies, or grab a box of Kashi crackers. Don't like hummus? I say try the Sabre brand. It's smooth, creamy (without the cream) and easily turned my husband into a fan.

5) Banana tortilla rolls. Slap some peanut or almond butter on a whole-wheat tortilla and roll it around a banana. Easy to eat, easy to pack...though you may want to go halfsies on everything to avoid a too-big portion. All depends on the banana, I guess.

6) Celery and peanut butter. Apple and peanut butter. These'll always be classics. (Don't be afraid to use almond butter!)

8) Hard-boiled eggs. No, they're not just for Easter! Sprinkle a little pepper on them for added zing. Even better, make a bunch then whip up some egg salad. Use plain Greek yogurt instead of mayo for a healthy alternative.

9) Almonds. They're perfectly joyous plain and get even better when flavored. Just pay attention to how they're flavored because all that processing can add extra ingredients that easily turn them into candy. If you're feeling really adventurous, toast your own with the seasonings of your choice! In fact, this goes for just about any nut out there.

10) Frozen grapes. Love them! Such a pleasant treat on a hot day. (But grapes don't have to be frozen to qualify as an excellent snack.)

11) Tomatoes and mozzarella. Stack slice on slice, or mix cherry tomatoes with cubes of cheese, then sprinkle with a bit of balsamic and olive oil for a tasty salad. Add basil for extra zing.

12) Egg in a pepper ring. Slice the pepper 1/4" think, then toast for about a minute in olive oil. Crack an egg in the middle and cook it thoroughly. You can season it with pepper and garlic if you like, then top it off with some shredded Swiss cheese.

Now tell me, what's your favorite snack?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Statistically speaking.

I love learning. You would have had to pay me millions to admit that when I was a student, but I'll readily admit it again right here right now: I love learning! It's actually part of the reason why I wanted to become a personal trainer. To learn more about health and fitness so that I could improve my experience at the gym. Lucky for me, the world of health and fitness is a constantly growing, constantly developing industry and I'm actually required to stock up so many Continuing Education Credits to maintain my certification. Though I'll have to pay for most of those CEUs, there is an overabundance of educational material out there for me to absorb almost daily.

As a result, I've turned into a bit of a fact freak. (See "6 Months, 50%.") Most recently, I read that if you stretch your hamstrings for 30 seconds when you get out of bed, you'll increase their flexibility by 26% in just six weeks. I can't remember where I read that (probably a magazine) or how it was concluded, but the fact stuck and I'm happy to share it with you.

Another set of facts I'd like to pass on—the results of Gold's Gym and's "Fitness Census." I get a daily e-blast from Hungry Girl (you may have seen her cookbooks at Barnes) and she linked her readers to an article about it on PR Newswire. Statistically speaking, the numbers aren't so good when you look at where we are now versus the year 2000. A brief recap:

• We are o-bese! Ok, maybe not you specifically, but our nation as a whole. We fall at #3 behind American Samoa (#1) and Kiribati (#2, wherever that is).

• Obese Americans spend more money on weight-related health issues than their slimmer neighbors. Almost $8,550 more a year, to be exact.

• Two out of every three adult Americans are overweight. And our little ones, one in every three. (25% of our pets are overweight, poor chunkachunk beagle included. Sad.)

• Hooray for the fast food industry, though! (NOT.) They experienced a 15% growth in sales over the past five years. Avoid the drive-thru, people!

• And speaking of food, we've increased our fat intake by almost 20 pounds a year. They say that amounts to about two sticks of butter per person, per week.

Remember my post on pop? The average American consumes about 45 gallons of it every year. When I think about what that must look like in milk cartons...anyways, moving along.

• We've reached a bright spot! I give a big hip-hip-hooray to those of you who are members of a health club. According to the "Fitness Census," 45.5 million people have joined one, and that they use it regularly. That's up 5% from 2000.

You can read more of the facts on, I found these to be particularly inspiring. Remember that every last bit counts. And it's never to late to start working out and eating healthy. No one is a lost cause, and we're all worth the extra effort. Find a trainer, call on a buddy...whatever you do, don't turn into a statistic.

Unless it's a good one.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bike to Work Day—It's tomorrow!

Polish off those pedals! Tomorrow, millions of people across the nation will forgo four wheels for two as they bike it to work. Because, really—if distance allows it, you truly can get yourself to work on your bike. Give it a try at least once, and there's no better day to do just that than on Bike to Work Day. Your body will thank you for the extra bit of fitness, and the environment will appreciate a break from your vehicle's exhaust. And if you must drive, be extra cautious of those who have chosen to ride!

PS—Even though they're an absolute must, bike helmets look so dorky. And don't you dare say it's just me!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Get the most out of your cardio sessions.

Many of us believe that the more time you spend on a piece of cardio equipment, the greater the benefits. And while this may be true for those individuals training for an endurance event, it's not always the case for the rest of us who simply want to burn calories. Consider the following:

1. Think quality, not quantity. And apply it to every cardio session you plan. For example, spending 45 minutes on a treadmill walking at a pace that barely causes you to break a sweat does not equal 30 minutes on a treadmill that leave you huffing, puffing and reaching for the nearest towel. If you consistently walk 45 minutes at the same pace, your body adapts. And adaptation means less calories burned. That's why distance runners do so well. Their bodies have learned to accommodate longer amounts of time spent moving. In other words, their bodies have learned to reserve whatever fuel is necessary to reach the finish line.

2. Know your target heart rate. It defines the intensity at which you should be working out. Successfully reaching that intensity means you're reaping maximum heart, lung and muscle benefits.

3. Change your speed and do it frequently. This is called interval training. And if you try it, you'll realize that it's nothing more than repeated challenges in one workout. For example, walk at a pace of 3.5 on the treadmill. After one minute, kick it up to 4...and then another minute later try running at 6. Do this off an on for 30 minutes and you'll get more out of your workout than you would if you kept it at 3.5 the entire time. Think of it as strength training for your heart and lungs. You're conditioning them to support you in activities with increased levels of exertion. Which in turn makes it easier for you move through your daily life.

4. Change the incline. Though this may not be possible on the elliptical or the step machine, you can certainly do it on the treadmill. Even on your bike if you pick a route that incorporates a hill or two. Or if you stand up when you're on the stationary bike. Think about what it feels like to walk up a hill—different than walking in a straight line because your posture (and sometimes your pace) changes slightly because it gets harder, which means that your muscles are working differently. Stepping up at an angle puts more pressure on your glutes to push from behind. You can even approach it like speed intervals. Take the incline up for a bit, drop it down, then take it back up.

5. Change the intensity. Many elliptical machines and stationary bikes allow you to increase the intensity which basically means you can make it harder to pedal, ellip? I made that up. Is there a word for "pedal" in terms of the elliptical? I don't know. And I digress. Changing the intensity obviously makes your muscles take it to the next level. But you want to choose an intensity that allows you to complete the action without serious, can't-breathe struggle. So rate your perceived exertion. See if you can talk (breath) (breath) to some (breath) one (breath) (breath) while you (breath) are working (breath) (breath) out. Make sense? If you can carry on a conversation, albeit a broken one filled with breathing, your exertion is probably spot on. If you can carry on a conversation without trouble, you need to kick it into gear. If you can't carry on a conversation at all, pull back the intensity to something that's only a bit of a struggle. (Unless, of course, you're doing sprints. Then it's perfectly acceptable, but do so in short...very short intervals. Sprints aren't for everyone.)

6. Break it up. Sometimes you just don't feel like spending 30 minutes on a piece of cardio equipment, but you know you want to get in 30 minutes of cardio that day. The easiest way to achieve that goal is to break up the cardio—do 10 minutes, stop and do some lifting, do another 10 minutes, etc. Just make sure those 10 minutes are filled with quality cardio so that you get your heart rate up. And if you move through the lifting at a decent pace (breaks no longer than 30 seconds in between sets), you'll be able to keep that heart rate up until it's time for your next 10 minutes of cardio.

7. Mix and match. At it's very basic, cardio is cardio. If you simply want to get your heart and lungs working but don't feel like spending all your time on one piece of equipment—don't! Choose two different pieces of equipment. That's perfectly acceptable. Start your workout with 10 minutes of walking, move to 15 minutes on the bike, then another 10 on the treadmill before cooling down for five minutes on the bike.

8. Now you tell me. What tricks do you employ to get the most out of your cardio sessions?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crystal Light PureFitness Naturally Sweetened Drink Mix

When I was a kid, Kool-Aid was a daily requirement. I loved making it, drinking it and freezing it into especially refreshing ice cubes and popsicles. Why mess with water when you could indulge in flavors like Grape and Cherry and still feel refreshed? At least that's how I used to think. And maybe that's why I had so many cavities as a kid.

I can't tell you the last time I drank Kool-Aid, but I'll never forget the cool, refreshing way it went down the hatch. Nowadays, I guzzle water like it's nobody's business. So much so that sometimes I have to force it down because I get so bored with it. When I hit the grocery store, I always walk down the drink mix aisle hoping to find something that'll give it a boost. I look longingly at the packets of Kool-Aid, but reach instead for boxes of on-the-go mixes from the likes of Crystal Light and Country Time. But I never put them in my cart. They are filled with artificial sweeteners that scare both me and my digestive system. (Does anyone else have a problem digesting artificial sweeteners? Maybe it's just me.)

When I saw an ad for Crystal Light's new line of PureFitness drink mixes, I was instantly intrigued. But when I hit the grocery store, I walked away from them unsure of whether or not I'd be a fan. And then I got this at the SELF Workout:

A free sample. Grape, of course. And I also managed to snag a Lemon Lime and Strawberry Kiwi. All of which lack artificial sweeteners, flavors and preservatives. One serving has but 15 calories, three carbs and three sugars—but that fact is a bit deceiving because one packet contains two servings. And you are instructed to dump the entire thing into one 16-ounce water bottle. For tasting purposes, I elected to make an official single serving using eight ounces of water and some ice.

For starters, it definitely smells like two things: Grape Kool-Aid and Grāpples. And it tastes fairly decent, too! Sweet, but not gross-you-out sweet. This I credit to the lack of artificial sweeteners. Instead, the sweetness comes from rebiana which Wikipedia says is a derivative of Stevia (a plant-based sugar substitute you've probably seen at the grocery store). Another thing I must mention—this mix contains electrolytes that "aid hydration when you consume one packet during light physical activity."

I don't know much about electrolytes, though I see them called out on a lot of drink labels. WebMD states that sodium, potassium and magnesium are some common electrolytes, and that we lose electrolytes during workouts because they're in our sweat. I also learned that electrolytes are very closely associated with water intake because they help regulate fluid levels in our body. Obviously our body can regulate fluids naturally since we always have a supply of electrolytes within, but as we push it to work harder, it doesn't hurt to help it out in an effort to avoid dehydration.

Though you have to be careful about how you're helping it out. I'm always in favor of doing it naturally, and I'm not a dietitian so I can't really say whether this mix fully fits into that thinking. But I can say this: I'd rather drink water enhanced with Crystal Light PureFitness than a gigantic, over-sized bottle of Gatorade any day.

I typically shy away from Lemon-Lime drinks because they always seem to remind me of household cleaners. Not that I drink household cleaners, but for some reason Lemon-Lime drinks always taste a bit chemical to me. Such is not the case with Crystal Light PureFitness Lemon-Lime drink mix. I found it to be extremely refreshing and definitely worthy of my water bottle.

Monday, May 17, 2010

RetroRobics—The Videos!

I really wanted to post these videos in yesterday's blog, but at 12:30 in the morning—YouTube and I were not getting along. So I gave it another go after a good night's sleep and was finally able to figure out exactly how to move video from my lovely little camera to YouTube, and then to this blog. It's amazing how much you can learn with a quick Google search! Trust me, I am not wise to the ways of video production. So I consider this a small miracle.

Without further ado, let me present a quick clip of our RetroRobics workout followed immediately by my dear friend Angie. She picked it up pretty well (which is more than I can say for the rest of us).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

SELF Magazine Workout in the Park

I went to Chicago yesterday for the SELF Magazine Workout in the Park—it was incredibly fun! And though I would have gone alone, I was blessed to have my mom, sister and my good friend Angie by my side. We joined thousands of other women (and some men) in Grant Park for a serious "all-in-one" event. For just $20, we were able to participate in a variety of workout classes and sample a ton of products. We even got a subscription to SELF! Take a look:

T-Fal was showing off their new ActiFry product, which uses convection to cook favorites like French fries with less oil. One tablespoon, to be exact. They had samples, so we did.

And we all agreed that they were probably some of the best French fries we've ever had. If the ActiFry weren't so expensive, I'm sure we would have all purchased one. We moved on to a few other vendors before participating in our first workout class. Yoga Body Sculpt.

Though it only lasted for 15 minutes, I think we all appreciated the short intro to what Yoga can do for the body. None of us really had any experience with it, though that might change after this Vinyasa-esque sculpting class. I know I'd like to learn more.

We barely had any time to put our shoes back on because we had to leave the Quiet Zone for the Rebounding Zone. Holy hell were we in for a good workout!

Urban Rebounding is not your average bounce on the trampoline! Our thighs were seriously burning after bouncing, squatting and bouncing while squatting. It was just like an aerobics class, only the bouncing never stopped. And yes, Aly is bouncing on her butt in the picture above. You wouldn't think it was hard, but it got you right in the abs. Needless to say, after 15 minutes, we were all sweating so we decided to do some more sampling.

Blue Diamond Almonds, anyone? They were flavored with Sea Salt which thrilled me. Blue Diamond Sea Salt Almonds are my favorite but I have the hardest time finding them. I was able to snag two free pouches, though I wanted to go back for more. So as not to risk being greedy, I moved on to the Reebok EasyTone tent.

Have you ever tried on a pair of EasyTone shoes? I don't recommend them for running, but they're pretty darn comfortable for an everyday sneaker. They have "balance pods" on the soles that work to tone and tighten the back of your legs while you walk. I only had one foot in them, but I could feel how they might possibly do that. Reebok claims you'll "discover 25% more of a workout for your butt" and "up to 11% more for your hamstrings and calves." Anyone out there have any experience with these shoes? Needless to say, I didn't walk away with a pair. However I did score a sweet water bottle just for trying them on.

Feeling as though we should get another workout in, we decided to participate in Retro-Robics. I was hoping for some Jazzercise, but it turned out to be more like a hip-hop dance class. We learned some Michael Jackson moves before heading over to the Jane Iredale booth.

Jane Iredale is apparently an all-organic makeup brand, though none of us had ever heard of it before. They were doing lip consultations, which we all participated in for so we could get the free lip plumper.

We made kiss faces before kissing the SELF Magazine Workout in the Park goodbye. We only got about 45 minutes of actual workout time in, but this sweet stash of swag made it all worthwhile.

I think we'll definitely be going back next year—and you should come, too!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Are you choosing the right weight?

Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, performed a study at the gym in which they watched people choose weights. It led them to conclude that the majority of people were choosing weights that were far too light for their fitness level. Now, there's nothing wrong with being cautious and I realize that sometimes we just don't feel like pushing it, but if you want to make advances in muscle strength and weight loss—you need to lift appropriately.

However, the easiest way to get hurt is to lift weights that are far too heavy for you. It would be wrong of me to send you to the gym without a short course in choosing the proper weight. So let me begin:

First and foremost, recognize the difference between pushing and straining. Pushing your muscles throughout a workout is a good thing, provided you can hold proper form. The minute you break form, or the minute you experience any type of pain—that means you're straining, and it's a surefire sign that you're lifting a weight that is too heavy. It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that you need to pick a weight that allows you to push your muscles without straining them. And if the last two or three reps of your set are difficult but you can still hold form, then you're lifting the right weight.

So what's up with those last few reps being harder? Well, obviously your muscles are getting tired. More specifically, you're on your way to temporary muscle failure.

Temporary muscle failure occurs when you absolutely cannot complete one last rep. If you're lifting the right weight you won't necessarily get there by your predetermined amount of reps per exercise—and that's OK. You don't have to reach temporary muscle failure to make advances, however some people employ this method of training to push through a plateau. And if you want to do just that, you'll need to keep lifting those weights beyond those fast few difficult reps. It's a good technique, but extra caution must be used because it puts you at a higher risk for over training.

Words of advice: Training to temporary failure  breaks down your muscle fibers at a higher rate, which  means you absolutely have to give yourself ample time to recover. Never rain a muscle group to failure more than once a week. And always do so on the last set of the last exercise. Finally, if you're lifting to the point of failure, it means that at some point you won't be able to control the weight. Please have someone there to help you!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Could you tell an overweight friend to lose weight?

75% of us say we couldn't, according to the current issue of SHAPE. And I'm not surprised. We love our friends dearly. We'd do anything for them, but when it comes to weight...there's just too many physical and emotional aspects involved. And it's the emotional aspect that tends to hold us back. We don't want to make our friends cry, and we certainly don't want to make them mad. We also value their self-esteem and don't want to ruin it by appearing overly critical. And we especially don't want to do anything that might turn away a friend.

But when those friends appear to give less than a care about their overall health and well being, and if it completely shows in their physical appearance—what the heck do we do? It's not always easy to sit back and watch someone you love self-destruct, but starting out with "Hey, Tubby..." probably won't fly.

No one likes their downfalls thrown in their face, which means that probably any version of such an opener won't work. And forget doing it in numbers, as you'll make it appear like an intervention. No need to gang up.

But you're concerned, right? You just want to help.

And you can, so here's my advice. SHAPE goes on to say that you should invite your overweight friend to the gym. While I think that's an excellent idea, I can see how it might be intimidating to someone who's never been. Perhaps you should pick active ways to hang out that might mirror certain efforts put forth at the gym. For example, when you go shopping, pick up the pace a little as you move from one store to the next. Or gossip  on a neighborhood walk or during a pick-up game of basketball at the park. And when you share a meal, set a good example. I've read a variety of different reports in the past that suggest we eat differently around our friends. We'll pig out because everyone else is, or we'll hold back because Healthy Friend did. So be that Healthy Friend. Again, set a good example.

You never know, your overweight friend might take notice and bring up their own personal battle after which you might feel more comfortable confronting them. Just remember that we all have to WANT to be helped. So if your overweight friend simply doesn't care, then realize there's nothing you can do. Pull back and enjoy your friend. You love them for who they are, not what they eat.

(To my friends: This blog was not written with any of you in mind!)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Strength training for runners...and non-runners, too!

It's a proven fact that strength training makes your muscles stronger. (I know...duh.) And strong muscles are obviously the base component of that which makes your body move. They not only facilitate the movement, but they balance your body throughout the motion. And strong muscles also protect your internal self from the excessive pounding often associated with running. So the stronger your muscles are, the greater their ability to protect you from injury.

Ready for another proven fact? Strength training also makes your bones stronger. And as a participant in a sport that, once again, employs excessive pounding—you need all the bone strength you can get. Creating a good strength training program is an excellent place to start. And according to my ACE Personal Trainer Manual, you might also boost your metabolism, improve digestion, lower your resting blood pressure, reduce your risk of osteoporosis and even lessen arthritic pain if it plagues you.

Have I sold you on strength training yet? Good.
Now back to strength training for runners (and non-runners, too).

Most runners have (or want) long, lean muscles. So when you put together a strength training program, you'll focus on higher repetitions with lower weight. And you'll want to pay special attention to your legs. Strong leg muscles will always serve and protect your knees. In addition, you never want to ignore the core. It supports your entire body. The stronger your core, the more solid a foundation you'll have from which to move. And movement is everything when you're a runner.

Take a look at the following list. It isn't a complete workout, rather, a long list of potential strength training exercises to add to whatever you're currently doing. Pick and choose as you please, and as always, let me know if you have any questions.

1) MEDICINE BALL CHOPS: If you don't have a medicine ball, a weight will do. Stand in with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Hold the medicine ball above your head and slightly to the right so that your arms are at an angle. Squat while bringing the ball across your body and down to the floor by your left ankle. Keep your abs tight throughout, and really control the movement so that you don't hurt your back. Bring the ball back across your body and repeat. Complete desired repetitions, then switch the movement to the other side of your body.

2) CRUNCHES: A classic no matter how you do them. Just remember, quality is better than quantity. Don't power through them, you'll risk hurting your neck or lower back.

3) BANANA ROLLS: Lie down on your back with your arms and legs extended, tummy tight. Lift your arms and legs six inches off the floor and hold for five seconds. Without lowering them, roll to your right and land on your stomach. Hold for five seconds. Roll to the left and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Increase hold time as you get stronger. (It's silly lookin', but good.)

4) SQUATS: Split or one-legged, these too are a classic. And boring, but totally worth it.

5) ONE LEG HIP RAISES: I've talked about these before, and I stand by them as an excellent glute option. Try the variations I've previously described, or straighten your leg instead of bending it in. You can also place your feet on a BOSU ball to make it more challenging.

6) HIP ABDUCTIONS: Lie down on your right side, legs stacked and straight, head supported by your bottom hand. Bring your left leg slightly forward, keeping it off the ground. Lift your leg about four inches higher, lower without touching the ground, repeat. Try at least 15 repetitions, as it usually takes a bit more to feel the burn. Switch sides and repeat. Roll back to your right side, bringing your left leg slightly to the back. Same action, same repetition. Repeat.

7) HIP ADDUCTIONS: Position yourself as if you were doing the abductions again, only move your bottom leg forward. Lift your leg about six inches off the ground, lower without touching and repeat. Switch sides and repeat. If you don't feel the burn, find a body bar in your gym and rest one end on your foot as you hold the other. Lift, lower and repeat.

(Note: Many gyms have hip abduction/adduction machines. You can also rig the cable machine and do these same moves standing up. Or, if you're working out with a friend, find a set of exercise bands. Tie one end around your ankle while your friend holds the other.)

8) CALF RAISES: Don't forget this ever-important muscle!

9) SHIN FLEXES: Many runners develop shin splints. To prevent them, you'll need to strengthen the muscles in your lower leg. Simply sit on a chair or stool that will allow you to bend your knees at 90 degrees without having to put your feet on the floor. Flex your ankles as hard as you can. Hold for 10 seconds then point your toes. Repeat desired number of times. If you have an exercise band, loop it around something that won't move. The band will act like a weight against the top of your foot.

10) DUMBBELL ARM SWINGS: I know, it seems counter-intuitive to focus on the arms if you're strength training to improve your running game, but it all goes together. I promise. And this exercise is especially fitting. Grab a light set of weights and stand with feet hip width apart, mimicking your posture during a run. Swing your arms back and forth as you would if you were, in fact, running. Mimicking sport-specific postures and other movements while strength training makes perfect sense, and it makes you stronger in all the right ways.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Few Tips for Runners

A lot of people want to know how they can improve their running game, and there are a variety of ways I can respond. First and foremost, it's important that you don't push too hard too quickly, as you'll risk injury. And nothing kills a running game quicker than an injury. So, proceed cautiously with the following recommendations.

First, I realize that we all hate running up a hill. Even the slightest incline has the ability to kill momentum. But hills are a necessary evil because they challenge your leg muscles and lungs in a way that only makes you better on the flat part of your path. All you really have to do is anticipate hills by adjusting your stride and slowing your pace before you head on up. This will help you conserve oxygen and energy, both of which you'll need more of in order to get to the top and beyond.

Now, unlike an uphill battle, running down a hill is generally easy as pie despite the fact that it feels a bit jerky and awkward. But for lack of better expression, I say run with it! Let loose and increase your pace. If you land more toward the front of your foot, you're doing fine. If you try to heel/toe it, the impact will kill your momentum (and it might not feel so great on your knees).

And speaking of momentum, don't pull back your speed as soon as you reach the bottom of the hill. Ease yourself into an appropriate pace for whatever lies ahead. And if you've got the energy to push it for a bit, go ahead and push it until you truly need to pull back. In fact, even if you aren't coming off a hill, try picking up the pace every so often. If you are concerned about time, this is a good way to knock some seconds off the clock.

Remember that distance running on a flat path is great, but you need to vary it up with hills and sprints on occasion in order to make yourself the best runner possible. And outside of your runs, strength exercises can make a huge difference. But, like the season finale of your favorite show, you'll have to stay tuned to find out what those strength exercises are. Though I won't make you wait an entire season—I promise to post a few soon :-)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Don't fall for diet gimmicks.

My husband and I went to the grocery store on Sunday, and since my supply of coupons was dwindling, we decided to purchase the local paper. I read the front page section as I was eating lunch and found this ad underneath an article about Palestine and the Mideast talks:

My first thought was: Really? Followed by: Seriously? And then: Stupid.

Essentially, I don't buy it. How can you promise people that they'll "lose 30 lbs, 50 lbs, even 120 lbs quickly and safely" without first discussing their current health and lifestyle on an individual basis? And while "two hypnotic sessions designed to eliminate unwanted cravings, reduce your consumption of sweets, and break the impulsive/compulsive eating habit" probably sound tempting to some, I can save you the $59.99 with a short sentence: Get active and eat clean. It's that simple.

If you want to lose weight, you have to develop a lifestyle that curbs your chances of gaining weight. In other words, don't sit on the couch and be bored when you can get up and go for a walk. Pounds don't fall off automatically. It takes some effort. And the effort gets easier when you learn to live the healthy life. Now, the official website claims that this seminar will educate you on the "physical and mental sources of many of the eating problems that have kept you from losing weight." And maybe that's legit, but then why the hypnosis? If they educate people properly, they should be fully prepared to go out and make life changes. Don't you agree?

And that's why I feel like the "Lose Weight with Hypnosis" seminar is a gimmick. And gimmicks may work for the short term, but in the long run they usually amount to nothing more than a quick fix. And quick fixes aren't always the best. In fact, they remind me of training wheels on a bicycle. They may get you up and rolling for a little while, but the minute you take them off, you have no clue how to ride a bike and the learning process begins again.

You may lose weight, but the minute you deter from the program—whether it be hypnosis, a shakes-only meal plan, no-carb diet, whatever—your body might just freak and go back to the way it was before you started.

Now, I'm not a dietitian or a nutritionist, but I am a personal trainer. Which means that I can say for certain that adding a little physical activity to a healthy, well-balanced diet will put you on the path toward weight loss. Beware of fad diets and gimmicky tricks that promise to make you lose weight fast. Again, get active and eat clean. And again, it's that simple.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The wheels on the bike go 'round and 'round.

My dad is an avid cyclist. He got into the sport a few years ago when his old hockey knees pretty much killed any chance of him ever enjoying a run. He rides a few times each week, either alone or with a group of people from work. And if Mother Nature reigns supreme, he'll ride inside on his stationary trainer or spin bike. It's total dedication, or at the very least, a hardcore case of Lance-ism. And last year, on a whim, he entered a drawing to win the bike above from his favorite bike shop.

Obviously he won, which my mom, sister and I thought was awesome. Now we could ride, too! And we all did on occasion, though never consistently because we're all a bit more into running. But I'm bound and determined not to let that bike collect dust this summer. I've kidnapped it from my parents' garage and over the next two months I will train for my first bike race—the L.A.T.E. ride in Chicago on July 10.

24 miles. At night. Through the streets of Chicago. And did I mention it's at night? The race starts closer to midnight, which should put a sweet twist on the whole shebang. And while some riders will actually treat it like it's a bona fide race, I'm looking at it more as a father/daughter bonding experience. The website says the "route is doable for cyclists of all levels." Of which I am at the lowest, so that's good. Because if it were a race, I'd eat major dust off my dad's back wheel.

I went out for six miles yesterday and did fairly well for a beginner. And while I was pedaling, I decided to name the bike Jamis because, well—it appears to be his name. Or at least his brand, so I'm going to roll (pardon the pun) with it. Now, if we could just find my sister a bike to use...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

National Women's Health Week

It starts today, and we have the United States Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health to thank for organizing it. This is the 11th year it's been on the calendar, and this year's theme is "It's your time." As women, we tend to be caregivers. Sometimes at the expense of our own health. And so this year's theme strives to remind us that we need to make the time to take care of ourselves, too. Both mentally and physically. Get enough sleep, workout, eat well, etc..etc! You're entirely worth it.

Visit for more information—and while you're at it, tell your mama Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Are you guilty of sweat-talking?

In this world, there is a time and a place for almost everything. Especially cell phones. According to State Farm, drivers distracted by cell phones cause over 600,000 crashes ever year. Clearly we are incapable of focusing on the road and sending a text or talking on the phone at the same time. And there are studies out there that prove this. Even laws that attempt to prevent it.

So as you cut back your cell phone use in the car, I ask you to do the same at the gym—it's for your own good. (Though people on the other end of a sweat-talk or sweat-text might disagree. And the girl on the cardio machine next to you would like to listen to her music, thank you.) Keep your cell phones in your locker, in your car, in your gym bag. Keep it out of sight and therefore out of mind. You have voicemail, right? Your time in the gym is too precious to waste, and to reap the maximum benefits while avoiding injury, you'll need to stay focused.

I can't tell you how many times I see people on the cardio equipment chatting away on their phones. They are no longer working out to their fullest and their form goes atrocious at "Hello" simply because their brain shifts focus to their phone. Put it down! It can wait, I promise. You deserve this time at the gym. (And also, you're sweating all over your phone which can't be a good thing.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Keep track of your measurements.

If you're making a conscious effort to lose weight, one of the things you'll want to do is keep a log of your girth measurements. Along with your weight, they'll give you concrete evidence that your body is changing. I suggest using a tape measure like the one pictured above (of COURSE mine is pink!) which you can find rather cheaply almost anywhere. And while you'll be able to self-measure some of the key areas, you'll really want to ask a friend for some assistance. This'll help keep the numbers as accurate as possible.

When measuring, you'll simply pull the tape around each key area. Pull it tight to get enough tension, but not so tight that you start to turn blue. Remember this tension as you'll need to recreate it when you measure again. And speaking of measuring, behold the key areas:

1. UPPER ARM—midway between elbow and shoulder, right and left sides
2. CHEST—at the nipple line
3. WAIST—midway between your rib cage and the top of your hips
4. HIPS—around the biggest part of your bum
5. THIGH—at the crotch, right and left sides
6. CALF—around the biggest part, right and left sides

I would recommend measuring yourself every four to six weeks, but ultimately it's up to you!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Grāpple

I don't know about you, but I love going to the grocery store. You never know what delicious concoction you'll come upon, or what out-of-season fruit you'll find on sale. And so yesterday, when I stopped in for some bread and cheese, I strolled through the produce section in case the blueberries were discounted. They weren't, but I did come upon this interesting version of an apple.

It's called a Grāpple (say it: GRAPE-ul) and when you walk by the display, you can't help but instantly figure out why. The delicious grape candy smell all but brings you to a screeching stop—it's that intense. Now, I love grapes and I love apples even more so of course I felt compelled to investigate.

The Grāpple, as it turns out, is a combination of Concord grapes and Washington apples (typically Galas or a Fujis). And no, Grāpples don't grow on trees. They are yet another byproduct of our wonderful (and I use that term loosely) food industry. C & O Nursery out of Washington state, to be exact. And while browsing the Grāpple website, I found a great video that detailed the production process.

It starts with those Washington apples, which are computer-picked for optimum size and density and then moved to what is best described as an apple soaker. In the soaker, the apples experience a "relaxing bathing process" that allows them to soak up the Concord juice. And by Concord juice, I'm not talking about freshly stomped Concord grapes. Rather, concentrated grape flavor combined with water. In their words—"natural and artificial flavor" that is completely healthy. Whatever that means.

In my mind, I'm immediately bummed that little elves aren't puncturing Washington apples with little juice-filled syringes. And I'm also wondering if this ups the natural levels of sugar in the apple itself. However, I was surprised to learn that it didn't. 16 grams of sugar, start to finish. And so, I'm sure you join me in wondering what's really in that magical grape potion to alter nothing but flavor.

And why alter the flavor of something that tastes perfectly good anyways? I'll never understand, which is why I didn't buy the Grāpples. Judging by the videos, I'm sure they taste superb. But I love my apples just the way they are, and I don't want that to change.

Tell me, have you had a Grāpple? What's your opinion, even if you haven't had one?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mirror, mirror on the wall.

Who's the buffest one of all? Not me, though I do check myself out in the mirrors. But probably not for the reasons you're thinking. Instead, I check myself out in the mirrors to make sure my form is correct (which helps prevent injury) and so I can see my muscles in action (which is great motivation).

Unfortunately, I had no way to photograph myself illustrating these points so you're stuck with the self portrait above. I know, it's beautiful—not.

And that's your Daily Dose! Nice and simple: use the mirrors that I'm sure line almost every wall of your gym. And if you work out at home, I suggest you install one full-length version wherever you pump iron. Or use the bathroom mirror if size permits. It really does make a difference.

But if I ever catch you flexing in front of the mirror, gazing lovingly at perfectly sculpted muscles, and if you kiss those muscles in approval—I will point and laugh. And if you utter any audible notes of self approval while doing so—I will point and laugh even harder. Pride is good, but not when it's flaunted. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Got stinky sneaks?

Feet sure can stink when they're put to good use, which does not bode well for our sneakers. Lovely topic, I know, but an important one as smelly sneakers can wreak havoc on closets and gym bags alike. So if you find that your sneakers are in need of a good cleaning, I give you this tip: wash them by hand.

The rough-and-tumble action of a washing machine in combination with heavy amounts of water can loosen the structure of the shoe. Rubber soles can soften and the glue that holds the shoe together can melt. As a kid, I used to wear white Keds a lot. I wore them for cheerleading before cheer-specific shoes were invented, and I wore them on the playground at school because they went with every outfit in my closet. Needless to say, my Keds got dirty so Mom would always throw them in the washer. But they never came out the same. The fit always felt different, and part of the white would always turn to yellow—which I know recognize as melted glue.

So, wash your sneakers by hand. Use an old toothbrush or a rough rag. Put some detergent in warm water and scrub away. Take the insoles out and wash those, too. The laces, can throw those in the washing machine. They'll survive.

Just don't ever put your shoes in the dryer. Again, the rough-and-tumble action and high heat levels can break down the shoe. (And do you really want to listen to a pair of sneakers bang and clang in the dryer for an hour or so? I didn't think so.) Always let them air dry, and if you absolutely have to rush the drying process, use a hair dryer on a low heat or cool setting.

And since you're taking the time to clean your shoes, you might as well inspect them, too.

Check for any worn spots in the tread. Mine are breaking down a little bit on the instep, but I think I can swing a few more miles out of them still. Also look at the insole. A visible footprint is a good indication that the shoe might need to be replaced soon.

And if a pair of sneakers needs to be replaced, by all means replace them. They are your protection while you exercise so it's very important that you keep them in top condition. And besides, no one wants to get caught in a pair of smelly old shoes. Am I right?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Happy Monday!

Today is the day that many of you, dear readers, will return to work after two full days of bliss. I know, I need not be reminded. But whether you're freshly energized and ready to start the week, or slightly sluggish from a weekend off the health wagon—I'm here today to tell you that being at work doesn't mean that all efforts to be fit are off the table until 5:00 pm.

In fact, there are a variety of things you can do in the office to supplement your existing fitness routine. For starters, skip the front row parking spot. Pick one that sits further away from the door so you can walk a few steps more than usual. Besides, it's practically summer. Enjoy that beautiful morning air before you're forced to consume recirculated oxygen for eight straight hours.

Once you get to your desk, situate yourself so that your posture is everything it should be. Sitting up straight will engage those core muscles, and you can even get some extra engagement by squeezing tight those very same muscles. Squeeze, hold, relax, repeat. Squeeze, hold, relax, repeat. Do this for a minute on and off throughout the day and you'll feel it, I'm sure.

I'd also recommend switching out your desk chair for an exercise ball, but some offices might not allow it. And depending on your individual space, tricep dips and inclined push-ups are entirely possible. I say "individual space" because these are better done in enclosed offices. (I doubt you want your coworkers to see you do such a thing in your nice work clothes.)

And speaking of your desk, I realize that some of you may need your computers all day long, but I encourage you to take breaks. Rest your eyes and wake your body up with a quick power walk around the office. Bonus points for working in some stairs—which brings me to another point. Never, ever take the elevator if you can swing the steps. Think of it as office step aerobics. And if you're on the steps by yourself, pause every few and do some calf raises.

But back to walking for one last point. If you must meet with someone, and if they're willing, make it a walking meeting. Step outside to discuss that budget, project or deadline. The fresh air will stimulate your brain, and you'll burn more calories than you would sitting in a conference room chair. Or if you can, eat lunch while you work so that you can block out an hour for a walking meeting with yourself. (Just stash some sneakers in your car so you don't have to power walk in dressy work shoes. That doesn't sound fun.) Also, physically get up and talk to someone instead of sending an email or making a phone call. Electronic communication is great, but it borderlines on lazy when the person you need is within walking distance.

My last point, and I'm sure many of you are already doing this, is that you should pack your own food. Buy a sweet lunchbox if you need to. Do whatever it takes to keep your diet rolling from day to day. And by all means, avoid the vending machines. Most offices are equipped with a refrigerator, so take advantage! And filing cabinets aren't just for papers you'll probably never reference again. Stock them with healthy snacks like almonds and fruit. That way, you have no excuse to dip into the community candy jar. And seriously, if you're filling the community candy jar, help everyone else out by switching to something healthy like mixed nuts (choose a covered candy jar and leave a spoon in it for sanitary's sake) or mints.

Trust me, it all adds up. If you can tweak your day according to the above, by all means do it and you'll hopefully notice a difference. And if you have a workday fit tip that I didn't mention, please be sure to leave a comment!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Susan G. Komen Northern Indiana Race for the Cure

I laced up my sneaks yesterday for a great cause—the fight against breast cancer. Since I know a number of women who have battled the disease, I was a very willing participant. And I wasn't alone.

Both my mother (middle) and my sister (right) ran it, along with her boyfriend and two of their friends. In addition, my aunt walked it.

There's nothing better than a race for charity. So many people come together for one great cause. For one great fight against something that ultimately affects us all in some way.

But still, it's hard to quiet that competitive nature. Though you're racing for something bigger than you, you still aim to start strong and finish with that personal best.


Speaking of a "personal best," I crossed the finish line at 26 minutes and 36 seconds which may very well be mine. My sister crossed shortly thereafter.


Big congrats go out to Aly for finishing her first 5K in under 30 minutes! Not bad, little sister. Not bad at all. 

Though we had such a great time running, the real fun didn't begin until all of us had crossed the finish line. Before Mom could truly get over her own personal best (under 30 minutes!) she ran into an old friend from high school who happens to be the news anchor at the station covering the event. So, well...we got our 15 minutes of fame.



At the very end of the interview he asked us which one of us had crossed the finish line first, to which Mom replied "she did, she's a personal trainer." Thanks for the plug, Mom. 

In the end, the event was a huge success. Congratulations to all of the participants.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

On junk in the trunk.

I must confess, I am always hesitant to work my glutes because I fear the size of my rear. I think I'm slightly prone to having a badunka-dunk so any efforts to tone and tighten are done not sparingly but lightly. Whether or not you feel the same about your body, I suppose I'll never know. (Though I'm guessing a few great minds are probably thinking alike in this case.)

What I know for certain, however, is that despite any fear of the rear it isn't wise to ignore this important muscle. The gluteus maximus is like any bicep or deltoid in that it needs to be challenged—and challenged often as it can be a central location for excess fat. A booty will always be at its best when toned and tightened. But squats and lunges, despite being great ways to achieve just that, get old really quick. So here's a list of other ways to put some quality junk in that trunk of yours:

1) WALKING LUNGES: I know, but it beats lunging in one place. Watch that knee, though. Make sure it never crosses your toe.

2) KNEELING CABLE KICK BACKS: Find the cable machine in your gym and place a bench perpendicular to it. Adjust the pull so it hits at the ground, ankle strap attached, ankle in strap. Facing the machine, kneel on the bench with your other leg and place your hands in pushup position. Keep your back straight and abs tight. Adjust the weights, probably to something lighter for starters, and lift until your leg is behind you and in line with your back. Lower and repeat.

3) SIDE STEPS: Tie an exercise band around your calf muscles, then take large steps to the side without releasing the tension in the band.

4) SIDE LYING KNEE LIFTS: Lie on your side, propped up on your bottom arm with your legs and bottom arm bent to 90 degrees. Keep your abs tight as you open your top leg, pointing your knee at the ceiling without releasing that 90-degree bend. Return to start and repeat.

5) STANDING KICK BACK: Face a chair, machine, wall or anything else that will help you balance. Keep your chest up and legs together, toes pointed forward and hips square. Lift one leg behind you as high as you can without bending it, and without opening your hips to the side. Lower and repeat.

6) WIDE SQUATS: Yes, we're trying to avoid squats, but this is a variation that's worth your time. Stand with your legs wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed out to the side. Lower into a squat, lift to starting position and repeat.

7) LEG PRESSES: If your gym has a leg press machine, you might be familiar with its ability to tone and tighten the quadriceps muscles. Simply moving your feet to the top of the plate will call on the glutes a little bit more than usual.

8) ONE LEG HIP RAISES: A typical hip raise calls on the glutes, but often relies heavily on the hamstrings for help. To perform such a move, you'll want to start on your back with your knees bent. Contract the hamstrings and glutes to lift your hips, creating a line from knee to shoulder, then relax and repeat. To limit the hamstrings and hit the glutes more intensely, hug one knee into your chest and hold it there throughout. Lift, lower, repeat. Then switch legs.

And there you have it. But I wouldn't be true to myself if I didn't share my absolute most favorite way to tone and tighten the tush (among other things)—by dancing, of course! And what better tune to twirl to than the following:


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