Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The perfect holiday gift

"Your real influence is measured by your treatment of yourself."
~ A. Bronson Alcott

It's that time of the year! Shopping, cooking, hosting, visiting relatives... busy, busy, busy! Sometimes it feels as if there's not enough time! Shopping for that perfect gift for someone special can sometimes be so time-consuming and draining that it sometimes feels more like a chore than the fun it should be. Well, let me tell you - I have the perfect gift for not only that special someone but also for yourself!

For that special someone that you feel needs it, give the gift of motivation. Be their support system in the coming year. Be the one who helps to motivate them into getting themselves into better shape. You are not only giving the gift of friendship but also the gift of better health. You may not be able to wrap it up with a bow and place it under the tree and you may even get a weird look from the recipient but with your motivation and support towards goals that help them look and feel better, they'll wind up being more appreciative of your gift than practically anything you could've bought them.

For that even more special someone (that's YOU by the way!), you can give yourself the perfect gift of educating yourself more on what you need to better your health and life. Learn some lo-carb recipes. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eat more protein. Take vitamins. Try different workouts - Yoga, kickboxing, weightlifting, etc. Subscribe to health/fitness magazines - there are plenty of good ones out there and many cater specifically to just women or just men. Be the example that everyone sees and tries to learn from. Use that to motivate them and educate them on what you did, etc. There's so much you can do right now to give yourself a gift. The really really really coooooool (yes, it's that cool. Wait for it...) thing is that you can give yourself this gift everyday. Isn't that the most wonderful thing you could do for yourself?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Holiday eating - stuff the turkey but not yourself

"Heed the still small voice that so seldom leads us wrong, and never into folly."
~ Marquise du Deffand

Uh oh, the best time of the year for the gaining weight gremlin is almost here - the holidays!! The oh so tempting scrumptious trifecta of holiday eating - Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah and New Year's. The smells, the good food, the overeating! Oh my! Some of us can gain a pound just thinking about it! Lol!

I'm here to offer you a survival guide to get you through the holidays with minimal to no weight gain. It can be done!! The key here as in all eating behaviors is moderation.

Don't overeat. That is the biggest holiday sin. Eat moderate portions and keep up your exercising (you are exercising, right?) and you'll be just fine.

Try to stick to lean meats (pile on the turkey!) and green vegetables but keep those plates of yams/sweet potatoes (although these in moderation are very good sources of complex carbs), stuffing, potato salad, mac & cheese, cakes, pies, sodas, candy and whatever other carb laden plates you might be tempted to have to a small portion instead! Very important, those holiday carbs are the weight gaining culprits. I'm not saying to not have them, no need to deprive yourself from these treats but just keep the portion small enough to satisfy your craving for their taste.

The trick here is to give yourself the reward for your discipline (especially if you've been and are working out hard) while not ruining all the progress you've made. The satisfaction you get from your show of willpower during the holidays should give you the confidence to get through any cravings any other time of year. Think of it as your end of the year discipline and willpower finals, don't fail the test!! You can do it. You can get through the holidays without overeating. I know you can.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Top 5 reasons to workout

"What progress, you ask, have I made? I have begun to be a friend to myself."
~Hecato, Greek philosopher

Why workout? There are many reasons but I'll give you what I feel are the top 5 reasons to get yourself into a consistent workout regimen.

Reason #5 - To reduce stress
Exercise is a great stress reducer. It helps the body get stronger and better able to deal with outside stress. It helps burn off some anxiety through exercise and it also helps you feel more tired at night which leads to better sleep.

Reason #4 - Weight reduction
Not much to say here, you and everyone knows the value of exercise in losing weight.

Reason #3 - Health
This normally should be #1 but I think you'll understand why I have this listed here when you see my #1 and #2 reasons. Exercise (along with diet in some of these cases) is key to heart and circulatory system health, to reducing cholesterol, reducing high blood pressure, improving lung function, strengthening bones and muscles, reducing anxiety, improving posture, raising metabolism, strengthening the immune system, prevention of diseases and conditions and so much more. Exercise along with proper nutrition is key to health.

Reason #2 - Self-esteem
Exercise helps your self-esteem as you see yourself getting fitter and stronger because of your own hard work. It is very satisfying to challenge yourself and find that what once may have been hard (say for example - 10 pushups), is now not only attainable but easily doable. It's a very empowering feeling. It shows you what you can do and accomplish if you set your mind to it and those are lessons you can apply to other aspects of your life. Seeing your muscles getting toner or bigger and your waistline getting smaller also makes you feel good about yourself. You feel more confident in yourself and can take great satisfaction in that you did that. Which leads me to...

Reason #1 - You
I put you as the #1 reason because you have to want to exercise for yourself. Not for anyone else. It is your stress, your weight, your health, your self-esteem. It all comes down to you wanting to do something about it. No one can do it for you. It is up to you to take a stand and say today is the day that I will make a change and not settle for anything less than the best for myself. Make today your day.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dieting math: When 2 equals 8

"Energy and persistence conquer all things."
~Benjamin Franklin

Dieting is an interesting process. You sacrifice daily to see slow progress over the long haul. That's what it is. That's how you have to learn to look at it and accept that reality. There is no quick fix to dieting, especially if you have a lot of pounds to lose. Having not done it before doesn't help either because its something that will take discipline. So keep that in mind when you approach your dieting. Train yourself to become disciplined no matter how slow the results may come and keep at it! You will see results but like anything else, you have to keep at it. Falling off the wagon only slows your progress down and can even undo all your progress!

So, now that we know all this let's get to my dieting math of 2 equals 8. How can that be possible you ask? 2 can't possibly equal 8! Well, when it comes to dieting 2 can easily equal 8. ???? Confused? Good. Let's expand that further, 2 lbs. = 8 lbs. Are you figuring out what I'm getting at? If you've read my prior monthly blogs, you'll probably already know where I'm getting to...

When dieting, 2 pounds (what's considered a healthy, gradual weight loss) lost a week equals 8 pounds lost in a month. Doesn't sound like a lot but when was the last time you lost 8 pounds in a month? Keep at it and those 2 pounds become 16 pounds in 2 months, 24 pounds in 3 months, 32 pounds in 4 months, 40 pounds in 5 months and 48 pounds in 6 months so in 6 months that would be 2 lbs. = 48 lbs! Not bad for 6 months of sacrifice is it? Slow and steady wins the race, I guess Aesop had it right after all! :)

Remember, keep at it and you'll see results. Happy dieting! :)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The best workout

"Know thyself means this, that you get acquainted with what you know, and what you can do."

What's the best workout you can do? Drumroll..... any workout is!

While for experienced trainees, more specific workouts are preferred and needed. For the beginning trainee, any exercise is good exercise. Just getting your body moving can mean a difference in your self-esteem, confidence, self-awareness and fitness level. A lot of beginners either have never really exercised or have not exercised consistently enough to see results so getting your body moving and into a physical workout routine is a huge step in the right direction. Sometimes getting started is the most important thing. This is especially important for seniors and obese people. Once you see how it makes you feel or how easy it was to make the time for it that you didn't think you had, it gets to be something to look forward to and not put off. Once you see results, then it gets better. However, working out in some fashion should be a lifelong pursuit. It shouldn't be just that thing you did for a few months before quitting on it.

Cardio, weights, martial arts, tennis, basketball, jogging, heck even ping pong! Anything that gets you moving and using your muscles is good for your heart and body. Just make sure you start slow and don't overdo it at first. Check out my blog post for July 2010 for tips on how to do your cardio and strength training and happy exercising!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cardio or Weights? That is the question...

"Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow."
~Doug Firebaugh

To do cardio or not? To do weights or not? 2 simple questions that cause so much confusion to the new exerciser. Well, simple questions usually have simple answers. The answer to both questions is YES!!

Now to give you the longer answer. ;)

No doubt that some form of cardio is necessary. It helps your fitness levels, helps lower stress, strengthens the heart and lungs, boosts your metabolism and helps burn calories. All things that say that doing cardio is very important.

What type of cardio is best? Any that you do! Again, simple answer! ;)
Get your body moving - calisthenics, power walking, jogging, sprinting, circuit training, martial arts, stair climbing, rowing, bicycle riding, ellipticals, treadmills - all ways to work up a sweat and get you huffing and puffing in a good way. To lose weight, my suggestions would range from 3 - 5 times a week of 20 - 45 min. per day of moderate to high intensity cardio. The frequency of doing your cardio would of course be based on your individual goals, fitness level and what equipment you have or don't ahve at your disposal. As with any form of exercise, start slowly with 20 minutes of low to moderate cardio and build up slowly.

Now onto the weights. Some people love weights (like me!) and some hate it but it's a necessary part of working out. For some people who are more out of shape or are older, weight training can come after a few weeks of cardio. Using the cardio period as an adjustment period for the body to get used to exercise as weights work out the body in a totally different way. Typically though you want some sort of resistance training (weights, machines, bands, toning bars, stability balls, pilates balls) along with your cardio. Weight training has the same health benefits as cardio with the added benefits of toning muscles, strenthening bones, making you stronger, preventing or decreasing lower back pain and many more benefits to your overall health and fitness.

What type of weight training is best? Machines are easily accesible in gyms and are a good choice for that reason. Bands, stability balls, toning bars and pilates balls are all good for home use and for beginners to intermediates looking to tone. For building muscle, machines are good but nothing beats free weights. While machines follow a fixed path, they only activate certain muscles while you exercise. Free weights on the other hand activate the main muscle and many more smaller supporting muscles so they build the muscles in a more complete way.

I would recommend doing some light weight training along with your cardio at first and gradually increase the resistance/weight as you get stronger and the exercises get easier to do. For building muscle, you want heavier weights and lower reps in the 6-10 rep range. For toning, you want lighter weights and higher reps in the 12-15 (or even higher with light weights) rep range. Always exercise good form and lift correctly to avoid injury. There are many good sources to learn the proper way to do an exercise. A good personal trainer will analyze and correct your form to make sure it being done in a way that is safe but will maximize your gains from the exercise. Weight lifting puts a different stress on the body than cardio so I would start with weights every other day for a total of 3x a week (for example - Monday, Wednesday and Friday). So cardio every day Monday to Friday and weights on the days above. Weekends free. It will give you a good weekly workout and give your body some time to recover.

So, remember cardio and weights is the simple answer to what you should be doing. So, what are you waiting for? ;)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The scale lies

"The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can."
~Robert Cushing

Are you afraid of getting on your scale? Do you dread what it will say? Do you avoid your scale like the plague? Is it hidden somewhere out of sight only to be pulled out and used once a year or so? Well I say, don't be afraid of the scale (in fact that's my slogan as a Personal Trainer) because the truth is that the scale lies! Yes, it does its job and tells you your weight but its not the scales' fault that it only gives you partial truth. Confused? Lol. I'm sure you are interested in what the heck I am talking about! ;)

The scale only tells you your weight. That much we know. What most don't understand or aren't taught by most of the weight-loss centers, dieticians, doctors, well-meaning family members and friends is that the scale doesn't take into account other things such as your fat percentage, your bodymass to bodyfat ratio, your well-being, your fitness level or how your clothes fit.

I always tell my clients that the scale is a good tool to keep them honest but don't freak out by the numbers when they are working out hard because the scale will only tell them a partial story. I have a weekly weigh-in with my clients and then take their bodyfat measurements with bodyfat calipers and also select body measurements. Put all together, I then show them how and why their diet is affecting their bodyfat levels and I also show and tell them how their exercise is affecting their muscle and body measurements. To further explain, let's say the scale says you were 160 lbs. last week and this week after much hard work, you get on the scale and it still says 160 lbs. Most would find it discouraging. I would tell my clients to wait until we do their weigh-in and let's see what it says. A bodyfat loss of 2 lbs. with a muscle gain of 2 lbs. would mean that the scale wouldn't change but there would be a difference! It would be 2 lbs of fat lost that was replaced with a 2 lb muscle gain! That's progress that the scale would show. This is why I say the scale only gives a partial story.

When you are exercising, you will be toning and building muscle (especially at first) and the scale may say that you've gained a few pounds but it will be muscle. At that point, you are ahead in the game because the added muscle will help you burn extra calories and fat. So while the scale may not change or even go up, it is not the bad thing you might think. Instead, most people would see that and think that what they are doing is wrong and give up when in fact they were actually progressing towards their goal. Always, always, always keep at it with your exercising. Even if you plateau and have no changes in a week, you are improving your fitness level so there is still a positive to focus on.

I always tell my clients to go by how they feel (do you feel satisfied that you are working out and doing something for your health?), how their clothes feel on them and how they look in the mirror as a progress marker for their dieting and working out rather than the cold hard number on the scale. Never let the scale lie to you again! Now you know. ;)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The importance of a support system

"The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist, the opportunity in every difficulty."
~ L.P. Jacks

In last month's entry I spoke about motivation and how to stay motivated to achieve your desired results. Another major part that deserves its own posting is what I will be talking about here and that's having a good positive support system.

A lot of people fall into food and fitness traps because of a lack of a positive support system. Spouses, friends and of course family are all big parts of the equation in helping you to reach your goals. Lack of positive support and positive feedback leads to thoughts of "why am I doing all this for?", etc. and that is just not productive nor is it fair to you. Too many times people get to working out and dieting for other people and looking for acceptance, positive remarks, etc. It has to always begin and end with you, it is your body and health after all and no one, no matter how well intentioned can do it for you.

Studies show that a big reason for failure in diets and workouts, etc. is that spouses don't participate or get behind it because of insecurities, laziness, etc. Also, the spouse asks you to cook for them and of course, if they are eating non-diet food and you are cooking, well then you feel obligated to eat the same food, don't you? Now I'm not saying to not cook for your spouse! But, I want you to understand that this will be a temptation trigger that you will have to watch out for. Another failure reason is well intentioned family and friends who tempt you by inviting you out to places they know you will have a hard time fighting temptation at or home cooking of food items that are favorites. There will come a time when these temptations will be less but in the beginning it is up to you to let your friends, spouses and family know that you will need their help to fight temptation and to help you stay on track. Let them know that you are serious about your health and need their help keeping you focused and on track. Having the right support at the beginning is very important. It can be the difference between success and failure.

Most people have at least one person that they can count on in their support system and if you can't find that one person that will help you like you know you will need then it makes sense to invest in yourself with a good nurturing personal trainer and / or with a diet center like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, etc. or both! Most good trainers can help you with not only all your fitness needs but with your diet needs as well.

It took a lot of factors and time to get you to this point of where you are unhappy with your body, fitness and health and using the same support systems and dieting / exercising methods will take a different approach from not only yourself but those around you. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to reach out to them in helping you along this journey because you will need every weapon and advantage you can give yourself to get yourself to where you want to be. It can be a very fulfilling and satisfying experience for everyone involved if they can help you reach your goals and you all may learn a lot about each other along the way. Positivity is the goal. Positivity of self. Positivity of mind. Positivity of health, fitness and body. You can do it. You just have to believe and get started!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The enemy within - staying motivated

"Believe it is possible to solve your problem. Tremendous things happen to the believer. So believe the answer will come. It will."
~ Norman Vincent Peale

Getting motivated to begin working out is pretty easy for most people. They just look in the mirror, take note of their health or feel their clothes tight on them and decide that its time to do what they know they should've been doing all along. So, what happens to unmotivate someone from that mindset?

In large part what happens is that people come into their decisions from a desperate point of view, they are looking for change at any cost. It's why the diet and diet supplement industries are both multi-billion dollar industries. These industries provide a well needed service but also literally bank on their customers being repeat customers. They know a large portion of their customers are those desperate customers trying out their diets and supplements and know that most customers will fail but still come back to give it another try.

Going into working out from the desperate mindset also sets you up for unrealistic expectations which is another major motivation killer. People watch shows like The Biggest Loser and see people dropping double digit numbers and fail to realize that this isn't normal or even safe. It's a TV show designed to motivate, etc. but at the same time, the contestants are under constant medical supervision and are putting in 8 hour workout days. That is how they get those large numbers. The average person cannot put in that type of time and shouldn't. Then there are ads touting big results and showing before and after pictures and although the ads say that these results are not typical, advertisers know that the pictures will speak more than the small print that says these results aren't typical.

Chances are you will begin or have begun a workout routine under the conditions I said, its just human nature so nothing wrong with that. How do you stay motivated though when you don't see the large number drops that you thought you'd have or when your body isn't responding and changing as fast as you expected? Well first, I would say that what you need to do is realize that the keyword in working out is WORK. There's no getting around it, to get your body back to where it was or where you want it to be will take work. You must learn to discipline yourself for this task just like anything else. The best way to do that is to set small attainable goals for yourself. This way as you reach your goal, you can set another one. This can be setting a goal of losing 2 pounds this week. A 2 pound weight loss doesn't sound like much but do that right and you will have dropped 8 pounds in 1 month. 16 pounds in 2 months, 24 pounds in 3 months, etc. Think about it. When was the last time you did that? It's all about consistency, determination and small attainable goals.

Doing these small attainable goals will help keep you motivated and seeing results. These small goals will help you reach the big picture goals that you might have not reached if you had just tried to focus on the big picture results. Consistency and self-discipline will get you there. Of course, it helps to also have support but I will tackle that aspect in next month's entry. You can do more than you think, you just have to adjust your view and fine tune your focus into something more tangible and the results you will get will do the rest.

Monday, March 1, 2010

You are never too old or out of shape to exercise!

"As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Think you are too old to exercise? You're wrong! Think you're too out of shape to exercise? You're dead wrong and that's exactly what you're doing to yourself. Leading yourself to an early grave. These roadblocks you are putting before yourself are only mental, you can never be too old or out of shape to try to improve your health. In fact, you owe it to yourself, your spouse, children, grandchildren, friends, etc.

I've trained people of all ages, from obese children to senior citizens, including seniors with health problems and through proper exercise and changes in diet, I've seen some dramatic improvements in my clients weight, fitness and health.

Is it hard to get started the older you are? It sure is but it's like anything else. It's about getting into a routine and being determined to make yourself happy and satisfied with your health and weight.

Is it harder to lose weight the older you are? It is because your metabolism begins slowing down at 30 and progressively slows down over the years, even more so if you lead a sedentary lifestyle. BUT you can get that metabolism working again in your favor through exercise! It can be done, I've seen it done firsthand through my clients. It's up to you to take that first step though. Stop saying you will do it only to continually keep putting it off and get to doing it. You owe it to yourself! You've put others before you throughout the years, now it's the time to put yourself and your health first. You can do it. Just take that first step.

Monday, February 1, 2010

You don't need a gym to workout! Workout from home!

"Do or do not. There is no try."

Since we just got through the month of January, I'm sure you've seen all the latest commercials and ads from gyms advertising their winter sales. The gyms know that January is the best time of year to capitalize on everyone making their new year's resolutions to get in shape and indeed, they rack up the memberships in January. Go to a gym in January, its packed. Go in February, its less so. Go in March and its just the regulars and a disciplined few that have stuck to their resolutions. Go in April and its the same and so on. You get the idea.

No doubt about it, going to a gym sounds like a great idea and is IF you stick to it. Just like anything else, you have to stick to it to see results. The problem with gyms that I hear from a lot of my clients are among others:

-you're too tired to go after work, you just want to go home
-you don't want to deal with traffic
-it's too far from home
-you're too embarrassed to go to a gym
-you don't know what to do at a gym
-you don't like being around so many people

Those are just some of the more common reasons people have. They all have a lot of validity to them as well. BUT you know what? You don't need a gym to workout and get yourself in shape. You can go running, swimming or you can workout from home! Yes, you can workout from home. No fancy equipment needed, in fact you can get a good workout without any equipment at all. Especially when you're just getting into the swing of it and starting out. I train people in their homes and even though I bring equipment to them if they don't have it, the first month of workouts usually are done with bodyweight exercises and calisthenics types of activities for cardio. For a lot of people, moving their bodyweight in an exercise manner is enough when all they're used to is moving their bodyweight from work to the couch to watch some TV. Nothing is better than working out at home and being able to take a nice long bath or shower right after in the comfort of your own home and then sit down to relax for the night knowing that you got a good workout in and got yourself one step closer to where you want your body to be.

The problems with gyms (unless you pay for the personal trainers) and training at home is the self-discipline needed to make yourself do exercise and to continue to do it. Most people lack the self-discipline to do what they know they need to do which is why they need to be doing it in the first place! If you can motivate yourself, then great! If you find it hard though, then training with a partner is the way to go. It holds you accountable to someone else who will hold you accountable to yourself. You'll know that you can't just take the day off with your partner coming over to workout with you. Of course, if your partner is not very motivated then you're back to square one. Also, its important that one of you know what to do in putting together a workout. While at first any exercise is good exercise, your body will adapt faster than you think and you'll need to know how to tweak the workouts as your body gets more fit to keep upping the ante and getting results. Contrary to what some believe, just adding more and more reps to exercises is not the way to go. When it comes to exercising, there will come a point of diminishing returns where you are overtraining your body and you will reach a roadblock. A proper workout schedule and program can prevent this from happening. Stress, lack of sleep, etc. can contribute to overtraining though, knowing how to get through that is important. Having a good workout partner if you need someone to hold you accountable or if you intend to do it on your own, making yourself knowledgeable on exercising and dieting can be very beneficial. You can subscribe to magazines like Men's Health or Women's Health for exercise and diet tips to learn more about exercise and dieting right.

I hope I've helped open your eyes to the possibilities that you have before you and removed some of the excuses you've put before yourself that have prevented you from getting your body and health where you want it to be. Remember that quote from up above! :)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Its that time of year to make those pesky resolutions!

"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult"
~ Seneca the Younger (4 BC to AD) philosopher, statesman and dramatist

It's that annual time of year that some of us dread, some of us look forward to and there's even those of us that don't bother with it - New Year's Resolutions time! All together now! Whoohoo! Groan! Mutter. Mutter.

Most of us have been guilty of all 3 behaviors. We make resolutions and don't follow them or break them weeks, months and for some - days or even hours later! It all starts with good intentions but we know the road to hell is sometimes paved with good intentions. Intentions followed by inaction will just lead to that all familiar road of frustration and disappointment that led us to doing the resolution in the first place! It's a good thing to set resolutions (goals), it gives you a roadmap to fixing a bad habit, character/personality flaw, etc. that you are probably more aware of than you'd like to admit. Setting a goal helps you face the thing that you need to fix and helps focus you on what steps you need to do to reach your goal. The problems a lot of people make is setting too big of a goal or setting them in too short or long of a timeframe. When setting a goal, its important to make small attainable goals that take you where you want to be. These smaller goals not only give you easier goals to reach for but also gives you small successes along the way to your overall goal. This progressive way of reaching your goals is efficient, motivating and best of all, seems rather simple. Sometimes simple is better.

So, lets say instead of saying that your goal is to lose 30 pounds this year, say that you want to lose 30 pounds this year and that you will lose 2.5 pounds a month to get there. With saying that you only want to lose 30 pounds, you're leaving the time-frame too open-ended since you are giving yourself a whole year to reach that goal. What will most do? You got it, put it off. Next thing they know, its November and it's too late with all that good holiday food ahead. So, you tell yourself "too late now, might as well start with the new year! That'll be my new year's resolution!". And so the cycle of frustration and disappointment continues and the clock ticks away. Sound familiar? Telling yourself you only have to lose 2.5 pounds a month sure sounds attainable doesn't it? Guess what? After 12 months, you'll have reached your 30 pound weight loss goal! ;)

Now repeat after me - I will set my goals but this time I will make small attainable goals to reach my bigger goal! I will get to where I want to be. I will because I have the roadmap and that gives me confidence that I will do it. Nothing will stop me from changing what I want to change and achieving what I want to achieve.

I'm proud of you. I have a good feeling that you will do what you need to do. Whenever you need a reminder or a motivation boost, come visit and read this entry. It'll be here waiting to motivate you all year long. :)