5 Ways To Gain At LEAST 5 Pounds This Holiday Season

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s time to live it up and put on those 5 extra pounds… you know, the ones that we put on every year but typically never actually lose. I don’t want this to be the year you risk not doing that, so I have put together some helpful ideas on how to make SURE you manage to add some extra inches to your waistline, maybe even MORE than you were anticipating!

 

1. Always Show Up Hungry (borderline starving!)

If you are going to a party in the evening, one of the best things you can do is to try and not eat ALL day so that when you get there you are so ravenous you will actually knock people out of the way to get to the little smokies and cheeseball. Once you get to the table where the food is, stand next to it all night so that you are able to mindlessly keep eating without the hassle of having to actually walk back over to it. Remember, calories don’t count if you eat while standing up, or without utensils!

2. Drink Like It’s Your Job

Few things make us want to drink the way family does, or hanging out with your old college friends while everyone is in town, so make that next cocktail a double! Not only is alcohol full of empty calories (especially all the super sweet and syrupy ones that tend to show up around the holidays) but after you’ve gotten a little tipsy you are a lot more likely to start making poor life choices. And by “poor life choices” I am simply referring to the fact that after a few drinks, go ahead and order that large meat-lovers pizza… live it up!

3. Eat ALL The Desserts

You are a grown-ass person and there is certainly NO reason why you shouldn’t be able to eat as many desserts as you feel like, don’t forget that! If someone offers you a piece of pumpkin pie OR pecan pie, you tell them you want BOTH. And don’t stop there… make sure they are generous slices AND that you have them with ice cream! And if you fought the crowds while shopping all day, don’t forget the whipped cream, YOU DESERVE IT!

4. No Exercise

It’s hard enough to get to the gym during the rest of the year when things aren’t as hectic as they can be around the holidays. Don’t even THINK about trying to fit in a trip to the gym or a quick run. Even though regular exercise has been shown to elevate moods and make us feel better, now is NOT the time for that!

5. Forget About It

It’s important to remember that during this time of the year, you have absolutely ZERO control in anything that is happening to you. Your friends and loved ones will be shoving food and drinks down your throat and it is considered extremely rude to be concerned with how YOU feel and and tell someone, “No thanks, I’m full” or “I couldn’t POSSIBLY have another cranberry margarita after the 6 I just had!” Now is the time to forget about any self-control. After the first of the year, you will have plenty of time to sweat it out on the elliptical machine with all the other people who have the same goal… to “lose a couple pounds and tone up a little” (Instead of finding the REAL reasons you want to be in better shape.)

Remember, there is ALWAYS a reason to overeat, have too much to drink and skip your workouts if you are creative enough! The good news is, coming up with good justifications for overindulging won’t make a dent in the extra calories you’ll be taking in, so you won’t risk not gaining all the weight you are hoping to before the end of the year! Do you have other tips that YOU like? Please share them below, or on my FaceBook page!

 

 

 

 

Posted on November 13, 2015 .

Practical Prevention

Winter is right around the corner and with those colder, darker mornings and shorter days comes the dreaded cold and flu season. The good news is, there are a number of simple things you can do in order to help boost your immunity and stay healthier as you hunker down and wait for the return of spring.

1.)  Sleep

Not getting enough sleep can wreak havoc on your immune system, which in turn can leave you susceptible to all those nasty germs flying around. Make getting ready for bed a ritual that helps you relax. Try not to watch TV or stare at your computer screen (including your phone!) for about an hour before bed. Take a warm bath with a cup of tea and some relaxing music on. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to fall asleep if you spend a little time getting ready for it!

 

2.)  Fuel

 In order to keep our immune system performing optimally, it’s especially important to make sure you’re eating plenty of foods high in vitamin C. If you find yourself having a hard time getting in all the fruits and veggies you need to, try having a smoothie. Here are some GREAT ideas for all sorts of different smoothies!

 

3.)   Move

Research suggests that something as simple as a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day increases the number of immune cells that circulate in the body.  According to Dr. David Nieman at Appalachian State University, “regular aerobic exercise, five or more days per week for more than 20 minutes a day, rises above all other lifestyle factors in lowering sick days during the winter and fall cold seasons.”

 

4.)  Connect

Supportive interactions with others benefit immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular functions. So, avoid the temptation to shut down and hibernate all winter… you are not a bear! Get together with your friends for a walk or spend an afternoon at a museum or the movies.

 

5.)  Wash

Washing your hands frequently is one of the best ways to prevent illness by limiting the transfer of germs and bacteria. Use soap and warm water and spend about 20 seconds, or about the time it takes for you to sing “Happy Birthday.” And now I know you are going to be washing your hands all winter and singing Happy Birthday to yourself in the mirror.

As many preventative steps as you take though to avoid getting sick, it’s pretty much a given that at some point you are going to feel a little under the weather. When this happens, practice a little self-compassion. Break out your big fluffy robe, get under the covers and and have a Netflix marathon. Rest up and stay hydrated as you recover and before you know it, you’ll be feeling as good as new again!

 

 

 

Posted on October 30, 2015 .

Tips For Treats

With halloween just around the corner, oftentimes it’s the idea of gaining a bunch of weight from eating all the candy in sight that is scarier than the thought of skeletons and ghosts walking among us. Even if you are the kind of person who would never dream of buying a candy bar or a bag of Skittles, it’s harder to resist the temptation when everywhere you turn there seems to be a bowl FULL of mini Snickers practically begging you to eat them. And they are so small  that the idea that they could lead to you packing on some extra pounds seems almost impossible. Keep in mind that each one of those little bite-sized candy bars is around 100 calories. Now, stay with me a little longer, 500 extra calories a day can lead to gaining roughly one pound per week. Are you beginning to see how slippery the slope can get? The good news is I have some Tricks you can use for your treats!

1.)  Buy The Stuff You Don’t Like

    If you know you LOVE chocolate candy, you would do yourself a huge favor if you bought bags of something that is NOT chocolate to hand out to all the little creatures who find their way to your door.

2.)  Keep The Empty Wrappers

    While you’re at work and you keep walking by Meredith’s desk and grabbing a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, keep those empty wrappers on your desk so you can accurately assess the severity of the situation. It’s easy to tell ourselves we only had a couple if there’s no evidence. That pile of 20 wrappers however tells a different story.

3.)  Stock Up With The Good Stuff

    Just like the lure of the vending machine can be minimized by having healthy snacking options on-hand at your desk, the same rule applies to Halloween candy all over the office. Put out a bowl of fresh fruit and little bags of almonds on your desk.

4.)  Don’t Deny Yourself Completely

    It’s certainly okay to have a piece of candy here and there, just be a little more discerning when it comes to what you’re going to have. Have a couple pieces of your absolute FAVORITE, but don’t let that turn into mindlessly eating the stuff you don’t really like just because it’s there.

5.)  Eat Real Food

    One surefire way to overindulge in candy and sweets is to not have a good breakfast. Starting out hungry is going to have a serious negative impact on your ability to “Just Say No.”  Make an extra effort to eat well-balanced meals throughout the day so that you don’t have to live off of gummy bears.

6.)  Go Trick-or-Treating As A Family… On Foot

    Walk the neighborhood to get all those treats, don’t drive from house to house. Take full advantage of the opportunity to get outside and have some fun as a family.  

7.)  Trick Out Your Treats

    If you are heading to a party where you are going to bring one of your favorite treats… are there some ways you can make a healthier version of it and save yourself and everyone around you some calories?

 

 

 

Posted on October 23, 2015 .

Coping With A Celebrity Divorce

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This month dealt an unexpected blow to my construct of love and all things right when Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale announced they are ending their marriage. I have an old photograph somewhere of Gavin and a couple of my friends when they were on European tour together. And then there was the time Gwen was staying at my hotel in Boston and I got up the nerve to go chat with her a bit out front one afternoon (and no, it didn't’ end with a restraining order). So, when they announced their split I felt a little bit of my hope for my own love story and perfect ending die. And then I craved pizza.

So, what are we supposed to do when an event triggers us to indulge in self-destructive tendencies? We need to identify the triggers, or the weak links in our chain, and come up with a positive action plan around them.

Too often one little event will start a downward spiral of behavior that is not conducive to the goals we are trying achieve. Let’s stick with the example of Gwen and Gavin forcing me to derail my diet by ordering a large pizza and eating the whole thing while crying and watching Bridget Jones’s Diary. The next logical step is to have a pint of Talenti Sicilian Pistachio Gelato, obviously. Suddenly, I’ve had an entire pizza, a pint of gelato and now I feel horrible because clearly I have no willpower and will never succeed at trying to eat better and lose weight. And, since I will obviously never be able to maintain anything close to a healthy lifestyle I may as well just skip the gym altogether in the morning and instead opt for a giant cinnamon roll and a coffee on the way to work.

Now, instead of losing all control (and sanity) what should have happened when I heard the horrible news is this: I should have been aware of how it made me feel, took a minute or two to evaluate the situation and look at it a little more clearly and make a decision of what to do next, based on something a little more logical and a lot less emotional.

If I had a plan in place for what to do when something makes me want to lose all control, I would have been a lot more likely to adhere to the plan than to sprawl out on the floor pounding my fists in desperation wondering how in the modern world it still takes close to an hour for a pizza to be delivered to my door. (Seriously, how?)

I should have gone for a long walk or maybe even a run to clear my mind and think a little bit. Your challenge this week is to think about what you can do to stop the self-destructive behavior the next time something triggers you to eat everything in sight. Now, put that plan into practice. Because you never know, it could just be your favorite celebrity couple splitting up next week!

Posted on August 21, 2015 .

The Art Of Self Compassion

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Not every morning is the kind where you throw off the blankets at the crack of dawn whistling a happy melody as bluebirds land on your shoulders and furry little woodland creatures scamper about your feet.

No, some days you wake up and you begin to mentally calculate exactly how many hours it’s going to be until you can crawl back into the comfort and safety of your bed.

We’ve all been there.

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the past several years of personal training is the need to meet clients where they are. There is great value in spending a couple of minutes at the beginning of each session to get past the perfunctory, “How are you?…I’m fine,” conversation to which we have all become so accustomed.

If I ask someone how they are doing and the words coming out of their mouth don’t match the tears welling up in their eyes, there needs to be an immediate change of plans to whatever I had originally scheduled. I never go into a session with someone without having a plan in place. But the ability to remain fluid and flexible is paramount to ensuring that they get what they need out of their training that day. Whether that’s just stretching and talking, or punching the hell out of a heavy bag. Both can be very therapeutic and extremely beneficial.

Many of us have become overly concerned with getting the best workout possible. We forget that, ultimately, being physically active should make us feel better. 

And sometimes, what makes us feel better is moving a lot of weight around, or running like we are being chased by a pack of hungry zombies, or hula ­hooping, yoga, or just wildly dancing to whatever music moves our soul. Our idea of what fitness is should be expanded to include how it makes us feel emotionally, not just seen as a way to combat extra calories or “sculpt a sizzling summer bod.”

While it’s useful to keep track of your workouts through various methods, it’s also useful once in a while to just lighten up and have some fun with them, to find the joy in movement. It doesn’t always have to be so serious, and it certainly doesn’t always need to be a competition, even if it’s only you that you are competing against.

There are days when you can push yourself harder, and there are days where you need to cut yourself a little slack. Learn the difference between the two.

The ability to be compassionate towards ourselves is a skill that takes some getting used to, but it’s a skill worth cultivating. The more adept we become at practicing self-compassion, the mornings we jump out of bed whistling and watching out for those scampering woodland creatures have a tendency to increase. And perhaps more importantly, the ones where we can’t wait to get back under the covers will begin to dwindle.

 

Posted on July 12, 2015 .

The Pursuit Of Perfection

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The relentless pressure to be perfect has reached epidemic proportions. Take a quick look through Instagram and it seems like everyone is an independently wealthy supermodel who can eat whatever they want and has never had to work a day in their life. They are usually surrounded by even more impossibly gorgeous friends, all lazily sunning themselves by the infinity pool of some contemporary steel and glass home overlooking the cerulean waters of an undetermined exotic locale.

Then there’s me.

I just had french fries and cabernet for dinner. At the Houston airport because of an unexpected 10 hour layover. I may or may not have spilled a glass of water on my no-name carry-on luggage as I tried to maneuver the extremely tightly-packed tables. Pretty much the exact opposite of the ideal of perfection that is constantly skulking around the corner ready to jump out at us and demand our attention.

But underneath the superficial beauty of all those perfect images could lie a very different narrative. Perfection suggests a state of flawlessness, without any defects. To be perfect implies a condition where your actions or your performance attains a level of excellence that cannot be exceeded. But, how much of our existence can we devote to trying to be perfect, before we begin to realize we don’t have much of an existence?

To a certain extent, the pursuit of perfection can help us stay on track and help us to achieve our goals. For instance, people like Martha Stewart and Serena Williams probably wouldn’t have gotten where they are today without that drive. But, there comes a point of diminishing returns.

When the obsession with having a six pack, a bigger chest, or a tighter ass keeps you from enjoying time with friends or family, it might be time to take a look at why that obsession is there in the first place. Usually, it comes from a feeling of unworthiness, a fear of not measuring up to our peers. We tend to think that if everything on the outside looks perfect, they won’t notice that we’re sad, lonely, or ashamed of ourselves.

The irony though: The more we strive for perfection (a constantly moving target that is impossible to actually hit) the worse we end up feeling. Because by not obtaining that elusive goal, it justifies our internal dialogue of not being good enough.

Perhaps the harder thing is to stop the relentless pursuit of the perfect body or the perfect life, and to spend some time with the idea that you are perfect enough just the way you are right now.

Learn to embrace and appreciate all your little imperfections, because it’s in your uniqueness that your greatest beauty lies.

Next time you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through all the beautiful images on Instagram of perfect people and their lives, stop and think for a while about how exhausting maintaining that facade must be, while you are enjoying your dinner of wine and french fries.

Posted on July 12, 2015 .

The Long Run

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I’ve often joked that I refuse to go anywhere if I have to drive 26 miles, so I’m really not sure how running 26.2 miles sounded like a good idea. However, running the Chicago Marathon was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. When I crossed the finish line and got my shiny foil blanket, I understood in that moment what it felt like to be crowned Miss America. Since marathon training season is upon us, I wanted to share some important things to keep in mind as you begin your journey.

Begin with the end in mind. What does that mean? Knowing what you are trying accomplish, and when, will impact how you train.

The date of your race will determine when you actually need to start training or conversely, if there is even enough time to train for it. Also, is there a particular time you want to achieve, or is it your goal simply to cross the finish line? Those are two very important variables that need to be taken into consideration when starting out.

Get to know yourself. All those dark lonely mornings and afterwork runs; those are the times when you need to experiment with your nutrition and hydration. Figure out what sports drink you like. You won’t generally need them on runs lasting under an hour, but those shorter runs are a good time to try a couple of different ones out and see how your body reacts to them without being too far from home, or possibly jeopardizing a long run. The same goes for bars, gels and goos.

Skipping a run is not end of the world. Training for a marathon is a big commitment and it should be taken seriously. However, you are also still a human being living a human existence.

Even with your training runs blocked out on your calendar (they are blocked out right?) life has a funny way of taking over. I suggest scheduling your runs in the morning before the day gets out of control, but that’s not always possible either. Just be selective when it comes to skipping a run, and don’t let missing them become a habit.

Embrace the long run. Give your long runs the respect they deserve. Too often during my training I would have an extra glass of wine the night before and, if I’m being completely honest, even stay up a little too late. The run the next day would always exact its revenge on me for my wicked ways.

Develop a ritual for the nights before your long runs that you can enjoy and look forward to and that will help to ensure your run the next day is relatively effortless, or at the very least, hangover free.

Let me leave you with this: Don’t be intimidated by the actual marathon itself. Turns out it’s basically a 26-mile party! Get your training in, treat yourself to plenty of relaxing baths, naps and massages, and enjoy the process. I promise, the shiny foil blanket at the end makes it all worthwhile.

Posted on July 12, 2015 .

The Myth of "No Pain, No Gain"

While the exact origin of the phrase “no pain, no gain” is a little unclear, it was popularized by Jane Fonda who brought it to the forefront of our vernacular in the early 80’s. But just like Member’s Only jackets and the side ponytail, some things are better left to a bygone era and have very little relevance today.

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Sure, everything is cyclical and I am not fooling myself into thinking that I won’t see a side ponytail worn in an un-ironic way, but hopefully the misconception that you have to experience pain in your workouts to be assured that you’re making progress will continue to be debunked.

We do, however, continue to see the message played out on popular shows like The Biggest Loser where there always seems to be a trainer yelling in the face of someone who looks like they are quite possibly on the verge of puking (if not death) to “go harder, don’t quit, how bad do you want this?”

As a personal trainer, I am constantly educating my clients on the fact that excessive muscle soreness does not indicate an effective workout. Some clients believe they didn’t get their fitness goals met simply because they are not too sore to stand up or walk down stairs. But, you may be happy to know that there is an actual term for the soreness you experience a day or so after a workout, and the term isn’t “gain.”

It’s actually called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. While the timeframe can vary wildly from person to person, typically the soreness will begin to set in around 6-8 hours after a workout and will peak at around 48 hours. The latest research suggests that the exact reasons for DOMS is not entirely understood, but that it “appears to be a product of inflammation caused by microscopic tears in the connective tissue elements that sensitize nociceptors and thereby heighten the sensations of pain.”

Right? But, what does that even mean?

Basically, it means, muscle damage. And while muscle damage is one of the contributing factors for muscle hypertrophy (a fancy word word for “gainz”) it is not the only component involved in building muscle and is, in fact, not necessary.

Moreover, it can even inhibit your progress. Severe soreness is going to have a negative impact on your performance in your next workout. Also, you may not even make it to your next workout if you are too sore. Pain is usually not a very good motivator to keep doing something.

I always say that your pursuit of health and fitness should make you feel better, not worse. It should improve your daily life by helping you move easier, have more energy, flexibility and the ability to pursue the things you love to do with joy.

If your workouts are leaving you stranded on the sidelines while your friends are out playing tennis and riding bikes, you may want to take a closer look at your training program; leg warmers, side ponytail and all.

Posted on July 12, 2015 .

Get Outside And Play!

“Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about about mission statements.” -Peter Gibbons (Office Space)

Fluorescent lights and cubicles are going to be the death of us. The average American worker spends way too much time stuck indoors, usually trapped in a little box, sitting, under artificial lighting. Basically the polar opposite of everything we were designed to do.

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Humans are meant to be outside, running, jumping, moving shit around and being active. For those of you whose idea of nature is the waterfall screensaver on your computer, I am not suggesting you quit your job and become a fire jumper in Montana or a park ranger in Alaska (although I admittedly flirt with those particular vocations on an almost daily basis). I’m just saying that there are benefits to getting outdoors and being active from time to time.

1. It’s a mood booster. It’s true that the dopamine and endorphins released while working out will elevate our mood, but did you know that getting your sweat on outside actually increases the effect? It’s true, exercise done outside will make you feel even better than performing the same exercise indoors.

2. It changes your perception. I know from personal experience that everything I do outside, seems so much harder to do inside.

Run a couple of miles outside? Sure, no problem! Do it on a treadmill? Ugghhhh!

Being outdoors changes your entire rate of perceived exertion. Most likely because it just feels more like playing, being outside lends an air of levity to what is typically seen as some sort of torturous obligation that we have to “get through” in a day.

3. You’ll be engaged. (No, not like that!) When you’re running on a wooded path or even a city sidewalk, you have to be aware of your surroundings, what you’re doing, what’s going on around you, whereas the treadmill can become very monotonous.

Outside, you must always focus on where you’re going to step next, whether or not that car is going to run the red light, is that monkey chasing me (an actual concern when I was running through a rainforest in Costa Rica) all the stuff that doesn’t cross your mind when you’re logging miles indoors while catching up on Scandal.

Obviously when you are outdoors there won’t be an assortment of dumbbells and things like that, so you will have to get a little creative. But there are almost limitless options when it comes to things you can do with just your bodyweight (squats, lunges, pushups, downward dog, etc.)

Now that the weather is getting nicer, challenge yourself to escape the cubicle and get outside. Sunshine, fresh air and reconnecting with nature is not just good for the human body, but for the soul as well.

Posted on July 12, 2015 .

Size Does Matter

Everyday we are faced with more choices. Sometimes, when I think about going for frozen yogurt, my anxiety at the thought of being confronted with all those flavors stops me in my tracks. And let’s not even mention the cereal aisle at a grocery store.

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Too many choices can leave us paralyzed and not entirely sure what to do. We tend to get concerned that we will make the wrong choice, that there may have been a better option which, for whatever reason, we didn’t choose.

With fro-yo and cereal, although there are seemingly limitless options, the consequences of making a suboptimal choice are, well, relatively benign. The stakes are a little higher, though, when it comes to choosing your next pair of running shoes.

The right shoe can help to ensure that you keep running happy and injury free. Just the other day, I asked my friends Kyle and Mariah, at The Runner’s Edge in Andersonville, for their top 5 tips for purchasing your next pair…

Talk to the experts. A specialty running store is one of the best places you can visit when you are starting your search. The staff there will know what questions to ask you about your running in terms of distance, intensity, terrain, etc. They will also usually be able to watch you run and analyze your gait which can be huge in helping to determine the best choice for you.

Size does matter. Most people think they know what size they are, but it’s always a good idea to get measured from time-to-time. Our feet can actually change sizes over the years. Also, shoe sizes can vary from brand to brand.

Find your support. You need a shoe that offers the right amount of support – not any more or any less than you actually require. It’s important that you are aware that there is a difference between support and cushioning.

Support takes into consideration whether you tend to pronate or supinate (if your ankles roll in or out) and the type of shoe that will help with that. Cushioning is essentially how comfy the shoe feels, nice and padded or a little more minimalist.

Also, you should more concerned with fit and support than the actual weight of a shoe.

Bring your baggage with you. Take those old shoes shopping with you so they can look at your tread. This gives clues to how you run and what kind of support you may need. Also, bring in the socks you usually use, as well as orthotics or any kind of inserts you regularly use.


Don’t be a trendsetter (or follower). I know it’s tempting to pick a shoe by the design or color – or sometimes even by what your friends are wearing – but as Mariah yelled from across the floor the day I was there, “Forget about what they look like. It’s the absolute least important thing to consider!”

With all this great advice, I’m tempted to ask my new friends at The Runner’s Edge if they might be willing help me pick out the best cereal or frozen yogurt for my needs. You know, based on how I run of course.

Posted on July 12, 2015 .

The Fountain Of Youth

In the movie Death Becomes Her, Madeline Ashton’s (Meryl Streep) lamentation on the inevitable decline of her youth probably hits a little closer to home than most of us would like to admit, “Wrinkled wrinkled little star, hope they never see the scars.”

For thousands of years people have dreamed of, written about and searched for the ever elusive Fountain of Youth. From early Greek and Roman mythology to modern day (think, websites devoted to botched plastic surgery) we have always been obsessed with trying to fend off the ravishes of aging. But before you make an appointment with that Beverly Hills surgeon, or make a deal with the Devil, consider this: There are several ways in which exercise can help keep you young!

Because after about age 35 we start to lose 5% of our muscle every 10 years , it’s important to do some strength training. Losing all that muscle can lead to a slower metabolism, meaning it will be much harder to keep telling yourself that a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is a “single serving” and not have to shop for larger clothes. Maintaining more of your muscle as you age will help keep that scenario from becoming a frightening new reality.

Not only can exercise help you stay younger physically, it can also improve cognitive function. What does that mean? You get to stay hot and smart! There is research that shows that exercise can reverse the decline of the hippocampus, the part of your brain that controls memory. So now you will be able to remember all the crazy things you did for many more years to come. (Perhaps whether you want to or not.)

Bone strength and posture are two other aspects of aging on which exercise can have a positive impact. As we get older (and especially in women) our bones begin to deteriorate, which can make us more susceptible to fractures and osteoporosis. Strength training has been shown to reverse that by stimulating bone growth and improving density.

 

Also, as we lose bone density, core strength and muscle mass in general, our posture suffers. We begin to take on the stereotypical “hunched over old lady” look. More importantly though, bad posture isn’t just an image thing, it can affect your balance and cause pain and stiffness. One of the best ways to keep you standing up straight and tall is to hit the weights, and add those exercises and routines that emphasize the core.

 

If all those weren’t good enough reasons to convince you that exercise is important as we age, let me leave you with one more incentive: As we age our libido tends to decrease.

No worries, exercise improves your sex drive! And depending on how vigorous you are in the bedroom (or how long your “sessions” last) sex might even be able to be considered a cardio workout. At the very least, sex has been shown to improve mood, give your immune system a boost and relieve stress, just like a heart pounding cardio session can.

As the saying goes, you’re only as old as you feel! By integrating some exercise in your life now, while you’ve got the energy and motivation, you spare yourself an uphill battle later on down the road.

Forget about potions and miracle products. You’ve got everything you need within yourself.

Who Runs The World?!?

When I think back to my very first time, all I can remember is how nervous I was. Was I really ready for it? What if I was just awful? What if I got a cramp and couldn’t finish? Or what if I came in last?

These were all the thoughts that were running through my mind as I laced up my shoes and headed out the door to attempt my first 5K. I hadn’t been running for very long, and certainly didn’t consider myself a ‘runner’ yet. My Saturday mornings were mostly spent sleeping in late and recovering from Friday night (keep in mind this was 15 years ago!).

As soon as I got to the site though, my anxiety quickly turned to excitement. And, as I crossed the finish line surrounded by my fellow racers of all shapes, sizes and ages, I knew in that moment things would never be the same.

Here are the 5 reasons why I think everyone should experience the magic of a 5K…

 1. It’s energizing. The energy is amazing! It’s so positive and inspiring and everyone is friendly and encouraging. You are literally surrounded by hundreds of other people who are excited to be up and going for a run. And, at the finish line, people applaud you. It doesn’t get much better than that.

 2. You get a change of scenery. If you do run outside on a regular basis, you probably tend to do the same route most all of the time; past the same houses, through the same intersections and around the same neighborhood. Running a 5K somewhere new gives you the opportunity to see your city (or maybe even another city) in a different way. You just may discover some new restaurants or shops or neighborhoods, or nature that you didn’t even know existed.

 3. It’s motivational. It can be easy to blow off a workout here and there, but if you know you have something you are actually training for, it makes it easier to get out of bed, or to get it in after work in the evening instead of heading to happy hour or an 8-hour binge on Netflix.

 4. You can make friends. What better place to meet other runners than at a race? And there’s plenty of ways to strike up a conversation with someone too: At the starting line, the queue for the porta-potties (honestly not creepy at all given the circumstances), or over a post-race banana and bottle of water.

 5. You get to give back. Since most races support a good cause or benefit a charity, running a 5K can be a fun and healthy way to be a part of something bigger and to give to others. It’s amazing how inspired you can be when you are running for a cause that you are passionate about.

And if I haven’t convinced you so far, here are a couple of bonus reasons to consider doing a race. It’s a great excuse to buy some new gear, like shoes and running clothes. You will also end up with a free t-shirt. This can be a great conversation starter when people see it, or your new favorite nightshirt.

So now that the weather is getting nicer and you’re trying to think of fun things to do outside, pick a race and get yourself signed up!

Posted on April 28, 2015 .

Build-A-Circuit

There’s a wildly popular misconception that in order to incorporate physical activity into your life you must spend your days in the gym and your paychecks on high-end spandex. Both assumptions are patently false.

Unless you’re Paris Hilton, you probably live in the real world where finding time to go to the bathroom while not simultaneously answering an email could be considered a small victory, and an old pair of sweats from an ex is your workout attire. And that’s ok! Working out is not just for heiresses.

You can put together a simple, effective, in-home circuit training workout you can do in under 30 minutes, and you can wear whatever you want.

Keep it simple by choosing only 5 “bodyweight” exercises. This way, it’s not overwhelming for someone who might be just starting out, yet it can still be very challenging to those with more experience. Also, by sticking with just bodyweight as resistance, there is no equipment to buy, and you can do your workout anywhere and anytime.

1. Pick your poison. Let’s start with the following circuit: Jumping jacks, Pushups, Running in place, Crunches, and Squats.

If you are unfamiliar with some of these moves, or would just like a little tutorial on the best way to perform them, YouTube can be a really great resource for not only learning how to do an exercise but for additional ideas as well.

2. Decide how you’re gonna roll. For today, we will do a total of 4 times around the circuit: Perform each exercise for 45 seconds, with 15 seconds of rest before moving to the next exercise.

After each time around, give yourself a 1:30 minute walking “rest” before starting the next round. Remember, you can always adjust the time to either increase or decrease the intensity according to your heart rate.

3. Find your space. Decide where you’re going to do your workout and make sure you won’t bump into anything or be within arms reach of distractions like tv, kids, your iPad, donuts or french fries.

I know I said you wouldn’t really need to have any special equipment but I would recommend at least a towel or yoga mat and a bottle of water.

4. Warm your stuff up. Before you begin, do a little warm-up, about 8-10 easy reps of each of the moves you’ll be doing. That gives you a chance to make sure none of the moves will cause you pain, and it also helps to establish a neuromuscular connection. (A fancy way of saying getting your brain and body to communicate with each other.)

5. Bust a move. That’s the technical terminology for, Get your fitness on! The only thing left to do now is to put on some music that fires you up and start your workout.

Now that you know how to put together an effective, in-home circuit workout that is both quick and free, you can no longer use “time” and “money” as an excuse to avoid exercise.

Posted on April 28, 2015 .

Find Your Why

Yesterday, I was talking with someone who wanted me to give them some advice on how to get back to the gym, how to get back into working out and maybe even an exercise routine. I could have answered him with the usual list of reasons why it’s important to exercise and take care of ourselves, but the truth be told, I think we already know those reasons.

So, I turned the question back around and asked him why he wants to get back into the gym and back into a routine of working out. If slim summer bodies and six-pack abs were really what inspired people to workout, we would be some of the fittest people on the planet.

Every month, it’s pretty much guaranteed that every fitness magazine on the stand will promise the newest (not to mention easiest) way to get cut, ripped, jacked, and sculpted. But it turns out that getting cut, ripped, jacked, and sculpted are horrible, extrinsic motivators.

Soon after we realize our genes weren’t sewn together by supermodels – and that in the real world we can’t be constantly airbrushed within an inch of our life – we give up on the whole “working out” thing because it’s too hard. We’ve already set ourselves up for failure by making unrealistic expectations our only goal for doing it.

If you scratch below the surface and go a little deeper though, that’s where you will begin to find the why, the real reasons to workout, to eat better, and to take better care of yourself.

When you connect with your why, you begin to discover that you don’t have to force yourself to do things like go for a run, hit the gym or make something healthy for dinner instead of picking up a bucket of fried chicken on the way home.

If your why is that you want to feel better, and if you notice that taking better care of yourself makes you feel better, the likelihood of sticking to your new routine is significantly improved. If your why is that you want to see your daughter graduate college, or to be able to play with your grandchildren, you just took your motivation to a whole other level.

If your goal was to have that sizzling summer bikini beach body, and summer is almost over and you still don’t have it, I am willing to bet your gym days are numbered.

Your job is to dare to be brave enough to figure out the real reasons you want to get in better shape. What is your most honest reason for wanting to feel better? What is most important in your life? What is your why?

You can think of this in terms of exercise only, or you can expand it and apply it to your whole life as well. Whichever you choose, once you connect with your why, you’ll start to see that every choice you make with will either bring you closer to or further away from that goal.

Find your passion, find your why. And maybe even find yourself in the process.

Snacking 101

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There are a few different situations when it seems like time grinds to a screeching halt and minutes can feel like hours. For example,  holding a plank pose, waiting for someone you’re interested in to text you back, and that awful stretch of time between meals when you don’t know how you’re going to make it without punching someone or raiding the vending machine and mainlining all the Doritos.

The good news is, there is something we can do to satisfy our lust in the interminable time between lunch and dinner. It is called snacking, and it is awesome.

But what are some healthy snack choices that can keep us swimsuit ready this summer? I know it’s sometimes challenging to have nutritious treats ready to go, so I want to give you a few ideas.

One of the easiest things to always have on hand, either at your desk or in your bag, is fresh fruit. Apples, bananas, oranges come in their own packaging and and are thus extremely portable. If you want to take your fruit to the next level (I never thought that would be something I would say), add some nuts to the mix.

Have a handful of almonds, pistachios or walnuts with your fruit, or spread a tablespoon of cashew butter on it. Another super easy thing to make that’s quick and healthy is a smoothie. Personally, I’m partial to a smoothie of coconut milk, bananas, strawberries and pineapple. But hey, you gotta do you, boo. Find the fruit and protein mixture that you like, and try not to add Doritos.

If fruit isn’t your thing, or you just need some more variety, hummus is very satisfying. Just be careful what you’re eating with it. I have heard it said that hummus is a gateway food…to everything in your fridge! Try it with raw bell peppers, baby carrots or broccoli.

Other interesting pairings include hardboiled eggs with a little Sriracha, Watermelon drizzled with a bit of basalmic vinegar, or tomato slices with feta cheese crumbles and olive oil. Think of some of your favorite foods; focus on just what it is you like about them, then see if there’s a way to recreate with just a few ingredients and smaller portions.

Now, if you have a little more time and want to play around in the kitchen, here are three of my favorite things to make. I guarantee, these will be better for you  than anything you can grab from that tired old vending machine full of stale Snickers and powdered donettes…

 

Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Nuts

Things you’ll need

1 1/2 cups raw almonds

1 1/2  to 2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

What to do

  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cook the almonds in a non-stick skillet over medium heat for  about 6 minutes or until lightly toasted (keep ‘em moving!). Mix the rest of the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Add the honey mixture into the pan with the almonds and cook 2 minutes, stirring the whole time. Throw the almonds around on the baking sheet in a single layer; let stand 10 minutes. Bust up any clusters.

 

Roasted Chickpeas: Sweet or Savory!

Things you’ll need

1 15 1/2 ounces canned chickpeas (also known as Garbanzo Beans)

1 tablespoon olive oil

For Savory:

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

For Sweet:

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon sugar

What to do

  1. Get your oven heated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit to start with.
  2. Get a rimmed baking sheet and line it with aluminum foil. Drain and rinse your chickpeas and put them in a bowl.
  3. Throw your  oil, salt, and pepper (or oil, cinnamon & sugar) to chickpeas and mix well.
  4. Lay  them all out on your baking sheet in one layer.
  5. Bake ‘em off in the oven for about 15 minutes.
  6. Take the pan out and shake them all about! You want to ensure that the chickpeas brown evenly.
  7. Put them BACK in the oven for another 15 minutes until brown and crunchy.

You can enjoy these nice and warm fresh out of the oven, or keep ‘em around to snack on anytime!

 

Zucchini Chips

Things you’ll need

1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs

1 ounce grated fresh Parmesan cheese (that’s around a ¼ cup usually)

A pinch of sea  salt

A pinch of garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons milk

2 1/2 cups (1/4-inch-thick) slices zucchini (about 2 small)

non-stick cooking spray

What to do

  1. Get your oven cranked up 425 degrees Fahrenheit to start with.
  2. Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, salt, pepper and garlic powder in a mid-sized bowl and toss together.
  3. Place milk in a shallow bowl. Dip zucchini slices in milk, and then drag them through the breadcrumb mixture.
  4. Place coated slices on an ovenproof wire rack coated with cooking spray; place rack on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until browned and crisp.

Serve right away. They’re hot and crispy!

Healthy At Any Size

There is a lot of truth to the old saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But, like a lot of good advice, it’s often easier said than done.

We are visual creatures and we tend to be very quick to jump to conclusions based on nothing more than what we see. We look at people and situations through our own prejudicial lenses. This is especially true when we form opinions about people based on their weight. I pondered this today when I was out on my run.

So, who is “healthy,” who isn’t healthy, and is that something we can even determine based on nothing more than outward appearances? I know that many of us equate being thin with being healthy, but is that an accurate assumption?

I was coming up behind a woman who was thin, had on running tights and the latest pair of Nike’s. However, when I got closer I realized she had just gone on a Starbucks run.

Nothing against coffee. Lord knows I love it! But, she was carrying a couple of drinks in one hand and smoking with the other. Probably not the healthiest person, although she may have looked the part.

A little while later, I saw someone who would most likely be (based on outward appearances) considered overweight, out of shape and unhealthy. They were actually running.

As a personal trainer, I have certainly gotten this question before. “Can people be overweight and healthy, or are those two things mutually exclusive?”

I want to state unequivocally for the record that I am not a doctor. And although there was a time that I tried to read the Journal of the American Medical Association, (I was dating a doctor and felt like I should brush up so our dinner conversation would never get boring) it tends to put me to sleep.

But there is published research which that indicates overweight and obese people are at no greater risk of developing or dying from heart disease or cancer, compared with normal weight people, as long as they are metabolically fit.

Researchers categorized obese participants as “metabolically healthy” if, aside from their weight, they didn’t suffer from insulin resistance, diabetes, low levels of good cholesterol, high triglycerides or high blood pressure.

Conversely, the research also found that being thin didn’t necessarily translate into being healthy. They might not be overweight, but the metabolically they can still be a hot mess.

The important thing to keep in mind is that people who were considered healthy were active and got regular exercise. They weren’t leading sedentary lifestyles.

If you want to really get into the research, it’s out there, but in the meantime, I think one of the most important things we can do is to be a little less judgmental when we see someone who doesn’t fit our ideal of what a “healthy” person should look like.

There are a lot of good books out there…with all sorts of different covers.

Does Your BMI Really Matter?

Last Friday night – just try not to get that Katy Perry song stuck in your head now – I was sitting at home all dressed up and ready for my date…who stood me up.

So, what does a single personal trainer do on a Friday night when he finds himself unexpectedly without plans? What anyone else would do, of course! I calculated my BMI! Is that strange?

Body mass index, or BMI, is used to estimate the amount of body fat a person has, based on their height and weight. Do you know what I found out? According to my BMI, I’m overweight. Friday night just got even better.

The thing is, BMI is actually not the best way to determine if someone is overweight or obese.

Since BMI only takes into account your height and weight, that means it doesn’t take into consideration the fact that someone who weighs 160 pounds may be athletic and lean with developed muscles, as opposed to 160 pounds and very sedentary with very little muscle mass.

Because muscle is more dense than fat (often it is said that, “muscle weighs more than fat,” but that’s inaccurate. Five pounds weighs the same whether it’s fat or muscle) what we really want to know is how much lean body mass we have versus fat.

I can practically hear you now saying, “But Steve, why do we even want to know how much of our actual body weight is fat? Won’t that just depress us and make us want to eat our feelings?”

Yes, it may. But the reason you should know is this: With higher percentages of body fat comes increased risks of developing diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, etc.

So, if BMI is not that accurate, should we just completely disregard it altogether then? Not necessarily.

Although BMI is not a perfect measure, most people are not athletes with tons of lean muscle mass. Which means that, for most people, BMI can actually do a pretty good job of gauging how much body fat someone has. It’s still a good way to screen those who might be at a greater health risk based on their weight.

I would just say however, that if you calculated your BMI (there are several online calculators you can use, like this one at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) and it says you are overweight or obese, you might want to consider getting your body fat percentage measured with a more accurate method like bioimpedance or calipers.

BMI can be a great way to get an idea of where you are in terms of body percentage, health risks, etc. But make sure you do it with the knowledge that it’s more of a starting point for information gathering and not the final word.

I would also recommend not doing it on a Friday night after getting stood up too…but that may just be me.

Cleaning for Calories

It was my first full day off in over a month. Instead of lying on a warm, sun-drenched, tropical sandy beach with an umbrella drink in my hand, I spent it doing chores. I washed dishes, did laundry and vacuumed the floor.

I hate to shatter the illusion you most certainly had of me as a glamorous fitness professional jetsetting around the world. I was wearing Prada shoes if that helps. I know it helps me.

While I was in the tub with a scouring pad and a can of Bar Keepers Friend (did I mention I’m not very good at the domestic arts?) I began to wonder…How does a bathtub get so dirty? Are these fumes safe? Does this count as my workout for the day?

Tragically, the answer seems to be: Not so much.

Does doing housework burn some calories? Of course it does, but the number of calories it actually burns is minimal.

The American Heart Association recommends that we get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity 5 days a week, or 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity 3 days a week, in addition to 2 days a week of moderate to high-intensity muscle strengthening activity.

Unless you are attacking those stains on the floor like Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, chances are your household chores do not get you out of going to your next Spin class.

There was actually a study done on the subject a few years ago, and its final conclusion was even more disappointing. It found that those who included housework as part of their routine were actually heavier, on average, than those who chose more traditional forms of exercise. Part of the reason seems to be that, oftentimes, we overestimate the intensity of what we’re doing.

For example, vacuuming the floor can burn approximately 170 calories an hour (and I would say that is a very generous estimate) whereas running for an hour at just 5 miles per hour burns over 600 calories. And honestly, who vacuums for an hour at a time anyway?

One of the other reasons why cleaning those mirrors and changing the sheets on the bed may not count toward an effective workout, is that we tend to snack while we are doing our chores.

I know you’re saying to yourself right now, “well, I don’t do that!” Of course you are also wondering how another box of Girl Scout cookies is already empty. Trust me, it happens to the best of us!

The quick and dirty answer is, cleanliness is next to…well, for some of us (me) impossible. It does burn a few calories, but not enough to make a significant impact on your health.

So, if you have both calories and money to burn, you would be better off outsourcing your cleaning and using that time to go to the gym, go for a run, or even a brisk walk.

And, if you know of a good cleaning person, or you want to go to a tropical beach and have umbrella drinks with me, let me know!

 

Posted on March 2, 2015 .

Pace Yourself!

One of the hardest things to do sometimes as a personal trainer (besides getting up at 3:30 in the morning) is managing expectations. When you have a new client who is so excited to get started and wants to change every part of their life in the first couple of sessions, it’s hard to be the guy who is all, “whoa, slow down, let’s take things easy for a little bit.” But, as someone who has been in this game for more than a hot minute, that’s honestly the best thing I can do. The truth of the matter is, if we take it a little bit slower in the beginning, you’re going to respect me more later. If I could give just one piece of advice to everyone who is starting out on their fitness journey, it would definitely be… pace yourself. Those two simple words have the power to help you more than anything else I could say. Further down on the list would be sage words of wisdom like, “no, you don’t  need to take out a loan to buy nothing but Lululemon” or “the top two reasons why you shouldn’t wear running shorts to a yoga class.”  

I totally get it, we have all been programmed to want instant gratification, immediate results. Anything worth having is worth having now. But the true path to health and wellness is a journey of discovery, of what works for you, of what is realistic and sustainable. There is a reason why most all of the contestants from The Biggest Loser gain all their weight back (and then some!) They were thrown into a situation where all of a sudden they were expected to give 110% effort 100% of the time...sounds eerily similar to how some people attack their new years resolutions. They weren’t given the chance to start slowly and properly adapt to all the changes they were making. By pacing yourself, by starting out changing habits one at a time, you are laying the foundation for something that you can stick with, something that will last.

So, if you find yourself a couple months into the new year, a couple months into your new years resolutions and you are starting to feel frustrated and unmotivated at the gym… relax. Shift your focus towards long-term goals instead of immediate results. Losing 20 pounds is going to take a little while. Gaining 10 pounds of muscle, same thing, it’s gonna take a while. In the meantime though, you can focus on some short-term goals that will be easier to track, easier to adapt to, and that will lead you towards your long-term goals. For instance, instead of focusing on your goal of having six-pack abs (or whatever your goal is) make goals that will help take you there, like, this week I will go to the gym 4 times, or, I will cook a healthy dinner 3 nights this week. By pacing yourself, by setting these smaller goals, you will be a lot more successful with changing your habits and ultimately a lot more successful at reaching your long-term goals...without getting frustrated or burned out!

 

 

 

Working Out Your Insecurities

The other night I went on a first date and I experienced something that I hadn’t in a very long time (and don’t let your imagination run too wild): I was the “new guy” in the gym. Now, I can almost hear you thinking, wow, first date, and you went to a gym? How romantic! What’s the second date? Doing your taxes? But that’s just the kind of weirdness you get when you ask out a personal trainer.

“We should meet for coffee some time,” he said.

“Ok, maybe, but why don’t we go rock climbing instead?”

“Are you… serious?” he asked.

“Yes! Let’s do it!”

Soon, there we were, and it was my bright idea, yet I was nervous walking up the steps to the gym. Partly because I knew it was a date, but partly because even after about 20 years of working in the fitness industry, I still find gyms an intimidating place to be.

Aside from the usual anxieties of walking into a place with which you’re unfamiliar (Where do I sign in? Is the desk person going to roll her eyes because I asked a stupid question? Does my hair look good, etc…) a gym can can bring up all sorts of issues we have with our bodies. And those concerns can be borderline overwhelming.

Am I thin enough? Am I muscular enough? Do I jiggle when I run? Did anyone notice me falling off the spin bike? We are all absolutely certain that everyone is watching. And judging.

Here’s the truth about those people at the gym judging you: They’re not.

I know we like to think we are all just a bit Beyonce, that when we walk into a place, it’s all eyes on us. But unless we are entering the gym with a full weave, a wind machine and a camera crew, chances are we’re getting just a few glances at most. Heartbreaking isn’t it?

But the good news is, this means we’re free to go about our business.

So what if you jiggle a little when you run? I’ll bet you anything, the person on the elliptical next to you is thinking they jiggle, too.

In all honesty, the folks in the gym are some of the nicest people you’ll meet. I havenever had a conversation with someone at the gym about how someone is too out of shape to be there. It’s usually more like, “That’s awesome! They are kicking ass and getting healthy!”

In other words, the people who probably feel the most insecure, are the same people who are actually inspiring us! And to let you in on another secret, the few people at the gym who might be throwing a little shade your way…well, that says a lot more about  their insecurities and hang-ups than anything about you!

Now, as far as how my date judged me, that remains to be seen. First dates can be shadier than gyms, and the angles you’re seeing in a rock climbing session leave little to the imagination. If there is a second date, you will be the first to read about it.