Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hint #14: Add Exercise to Your Agenda

One of my secret weapons for working out regularly is setting aside time in my schedule daily to exercise. In fact, I don't just think about working out, I take it a step further and write down in my planner exactly when I will exercise and what I will do.

So often, we hear the excuse - and yes, it is an excuse - "I don't have time to exercise." More often than not, the reality of the situation is that we don't make time to exercise. One of my most dedicated personal training clients was a full-time nurse and student, and still managed to squeeze in one-to-two workouts a day. Linda had a very specific plan of when she was going to exercise and what she was going to do. There is no question that it will pay dividends for her in the future.

This coming week, I challenge you to take your health to a new level by committing to be more active. You probably keep track of appointments, meetings, and other important engagements on a written or typed schedule. Why not do the same for your workouts?

If you want to improve your health and fitness, daily workouts are a must - not just for maintaining a healthy weight, but for your bone health, heart health, lung capacity, energy level, and self-confidence. Grab a pen, open up your planner or calendar, and add exercise to your agenda. Literally. You have what it takes!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hint #13: Dream Up New Desserts

Do you have a sweet tooth?

Many of us do.

In fact, if you grew up in a household similar to mine, your palate salivates at the thought of dessert after a meal.

When I was in middle school - and even in high school - my dessert might have been a candy bar, or bowl of ice cream topped with some of my homemade chocolate sauce. The mere thought of that decorated dessert makes my taste buds jump for joy.

Don't be misunderstood, desserts do taste good - whether its cheesecake, ice cream, chocolate, cake, or pie. But, there is no question they are not good for us. Many of the dishes I listed are loaded with fat and added sugars. Sure, you can work off the calories, but in terms of nutrition, you are filling your body with a bunch of - you guessed it - nothing.

I'm going to throw a lofty challenge on the table for you. Lose the traditional desserts for a few days and dream up some new ideas that will be a little kinder to your personal health and well-being. Think of foods loaded with vitamins and minerals - nutrient-dense foods that also satisfy your sweet tooth.

Need ideas? Start with fruit. It is low in calories, free of added sugars, and, as my old college biology professor used to say, "chocked full" with vitamins, minerals, and age-preserving antioxidants. These natural nibbles are loaded with nutrition.

You could eat your favorite fruit plain, throw some strawberries, apples, bananas, and melon on a toothpick for a kabob, or dab some low-fat yogurt on top of your favorite berries. My new favorite? Green grapes, sliced bananas, fresh strawberries, and orange slices. Mix them up in a bowl and leave enough for family and friends to enjoy. It's a homemade fruit salad without any added sugars.

Our love for savory, chocolatey desserts is learned. Wean yourself from it. Have a healthy dose of cheesecake or ice cream once or twice a week, but no more. I have complete faith in your ability to do it, but you must also believe that you can do it and commit to making a change. Now, dream up some new dessert ideas, and let me know what you come up with.

As I love to say, Bon Appetit!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hint #12: Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Did you know that the foods you eat can slow the aging process? If you want to be forever young - and healthy - consuming foods rich in antioxidants will help you tremendously. Berries, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables not only provide ammunition for fighting off heart disease and cancer, they also contribute to more youthful-looking skin.

Here are a few of the best foods for combatting aging:

Fruit: Berries, Red Grapes, Oranges, Grapefruit, Mangos

Vegetables: Red Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Spinach, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes

Whole Grains: Oats, Brown Rice, Bulgur Wheat

Nuts and Seeds: Peanuts, Almonds, Sunflower Seeds, Hazlenuts

Meat and Beans: Lean Beef, Pork Tenderloin, Turkey, Chicken Breast, Legumes

This is not an extensive list, but it should give you a few ideas for items to add to your cart the next time you make it to the grocery store. There are plenty of other fruits and vegetables full of vitamins and minerals, but the best way to lay an antioxidant-rich foundation that will steer off toxins and free radicals is by consuming a wide array of whole foods.

Dig in!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hint #11: Save Stretching for Later

Stretching may be one of the most misunderstood components of exercise.

When I was in high school, I stretched immediately after changing into my running clothes at cross country practice. In fact, the whole team did. We all gathered outside the front of the school and stretched – mainly our legs – before hitting the pavement. Some of my teammates sat doing butterfly stretches, while others stood trying to loosen up their quads. Little did we know, we were doing it all wrong.

Stretching is often – though erroneously – considered a warm-up activity. We warm up to increase blood flow, prepare mentally and physically for upcoming exertion, and reduce our risk of injury. Ironically, stretching at the beginning of a workout can do the exact opposite. If you have ever attempted toe touches or other stationary stretches before beginning physical activity, you could be causing your muscles to contract, which is counter-productive.

Think of your muscles as rubber bands. What happens when a cold rubber band is stretched? It could tear, or even snap, while a warm rubber band is more elastic and bendable. The same is true of our muscles. Stretching a cold muscle could result in injury or diminish your performance during a workout. If your body fears it is being overstretched, it may tighten your muscles, limiting your ability to move freely.

For maximum results, warm up your muscles by gradually increasing your heart rate before moderate and vigorous exercise. Jog lightly before going on a long run, gradually increase your speed before beginning a power-walking session, or, do sport-specific activities or dynamic (moving) stretches to make the body more agile.

Save static (stationary) stretches for the end of your workout or do them after you have elevated your heart rate. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds at a time, and repeat as desired. And, if you can’t ditch the pre-workout stretch, consider doing a light warm up and some gentle, quick stretching before beginning the more intense phase of your exercise session.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hint #10: Fill Up on Fruits and Veggies

I used to HATE vegetables. I mean I hated them!

In truth, I never really ate them enough to give them a chance. And fruit? It was ok, but I was lucky if I had more than a serving or two a day.

A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in March of 2009 showed the same story is true of the majority of children and adolescents today. They just are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Sadly, this issue is also a problem for adults.

Fruits and vegetables really are our best friend in terms of nutrition – they are loaded with nutrition. From apples to zucchini, these natural foods are some of the best sources of vitamins and minerals. So how can we ensure we are eating enough?

Eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal or snack.

You read that right: every meal or snack.

At breakfast, throw some fresh salsa in your scrambled eggs, top your cereal with fresh blueberries and bananas, or have a side of kiwi and strawberries with your oatmeal. For a mid-morning snack, have a handful of fresh carrots with a side of low-fat cottage cheese, or steamed edamame for a protein boost. My personal favorite is a cup of low-fat or Greek yogurt filled with fresh fruits of your choice and topped with natural granola or a little ground flax seed. Yum!

Lunch is a great time to have both a fruit and a vegetable. Have a fresh orange or apple with your entrée, and a side spinach salad or mixed vegetables is always a good idea. If you do not like raw vegetables, play with seasonings at home and heat them up if you take your lunch along to work.

Afternoon snacks and dinner are a great time to throw in more vegetables. I love experimenting with new varieties of vegetables. They add so much color to your meals! Try a medley of sautéed vegetables – red bell peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, and mushrooms. Or, grill up some asparagus and throw on a sprinkle of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Mmm.

Try one new fruit or vegetable a couple of times each month.

I am sure we have all heard that variety is the spice of life. It is also the spice of eating and a guaranteed way to enrich your eating experiences. Not long ago, I would not touch broccoli; but then I tasted some that had been steamed and lightly seasoned, and fell in love. Early on in college, I was quite skeptical of grapefruit, but thankfully, gained the courage to sample some and now have it as a side at breakfast on a regular basis.

I challenge you to pick up one new fruit or new vegetable a couple of times each month at the grocery store. You may be pleasantly surprised at the new flavors and textures you discover, and will likely find some new favorites.

Best of luck, and keep me updated on your successes! I would love to hear from you at

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hint #9: Unleash Your Motivation

The number one question I am asked as a personal trainer is “How can I stay motivated?” Guys and gals alike want to know how they can stay focused on their goal of losing weight, exercising regularly, or even eating better.

When I first started working with clients, I researched high and low in hopes of finding some magical trick for maintaining motivation. I wanted to provide my trainees with a fool-proof tip that prevented them from ever falling off the wagon. I combed through suggestion after suggestion, from finding a workout buddy and listening to music to joining a gym and adding variety to workouts, but none of the ideas made the grade.

And then it hit me.

We are all motivated by something different.

A former client of mine started working out regularly with me at age 68 to strengthen his knees so that he could take a week long ski trip in the Rocky Mountains every winter. My mom has wanted to lose weight for over a decade, and finally did it with portion control and nutrition alone. Her motivation is keeping the weight off. For me, experiencing the incredible feeling and energy that accompanies clean eating and regular exercise keeps me focused day after day.

Regardless of the goal – weight loss, improving physical fitness or simply becoming a regular exerciser – the answer to that commonly asked question is the same.

YOU have to figure out what motivates YOU.

Athletes likely have different motivators than non-athletes, just as men may differ from women in what drives them. If you are in need of inspiration, I challenge you to look within. What would make you want to exercise more or to eat whole, clean foods? It could be feeling good, running faster, having more energy, looking better, fitting into that old pair of jeans, reducing your risk of chronic disease, or something completely different.

One of my favorite quotes regarding motivation and the achievement of goals is quite applicable to this post, so here it is. "Obstacles are those frightful things that get in the way when you lose sight of your goals." - Henry Ford.

Do not let “lack of motivation,” be your excuse for living a healthy lifestyle. We all have motivators; the challenge is looking inward to find them. Now is your opportunity to discover what motivates you, and never look back.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hint #8: Shop on the Perimeter of the Grocery Store

Have you ever paid attention to the layout of the grocery store?

Most of the fresh, whole foods line the outside, while the processed and packaged items fill the aisles.

My challenge to you this week is simple: Shop on the perimeter of the grocery store. I know what you're thinking ... "eating healthy is expensive!" Not always. Here are my suggestions for filling up your cart.

1. Begin with fresh produce. Fill up on as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you can. They make great snacks throughout the day and are the perfect complement to any meal. To save money, look for bargains. Check the store ad ahead of time so you know which items are on sale. When I buy apples, the lowest priced variety wins its way into my cart. Apply that same rule to berries, salad greens, and other fruits and vegetables.

2. Scan the meat section. Choose lean meats over red meat, whenever possible. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, ground turkey breast, tilapia, salmon, and pork loin are just a few lean options. Watch out for lunch meats - they can be packed with sodium. Check the label to make sure you aren't filling up on unwanted salt.

3. Visit the dairy area.
Avoid butters and margarines when possible. Instead, choose low-fat yogurts (be wary of added sugars), and low-fat or non-fat milks. Eggs and egg substitutes are excellent options here as well.

4. Check out the frozen fruits and vegetables.
This is a great alternative to fresh fruits and vegetables because they can be more economical. Yesterday I bought frozen edamame, asparagus, blueberries, and strawberries. Steam up frozen veggies for dinner or use them as a snack. Frozen berries taste great in the morning with breakfast or mixed in with low-fat yogurt and natural granola.

5. Look for healthy options in the center of the store. When buying foods in this part of the grocery store, remember natural is best. Look for whole grains, and items low in added sugar. I buy rolled oats, natural granola, whole wheat breads, sea salted almonds, and tuna packed in water. Items closest to their natural state will be your best friend when it comes to improving your health and fitness.

From now on, I challenge you to take a different route through the grocery store. Strive to select more and more items from the perimeter, and fewer and fewer from the center.

Happy Shopping!