Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Scale

I'm not talking about your weight.  Actually, just forget your weight.  Shelve that worry for a few weeks, because right now, it doesn't really matter.

When you start or modify your workout program, begin by asking yourself a few questions.  Do you like the way you feel now?  Why?  Do you have past injuries that should be dealt with?  What are the exercises that you love and loathe?  In this initial conversation, the number you see on the scale is relatively unimportant.  However, you should ask yourself two important questions whose answers are on scales.

Question 1:  "On a scale of one to ten, how would I rate my current fitness level?"

The answer to this question establishes a baseline of your current fitness.  When answering this question, evaluate how efficiently you can walk up a flight of stairs, how easily you can get up from a chair, or whether getting out of the car proves challenging.  Consider whether you walk at a slow or brisk pace.  Is a brisk walk challenging?  Can you do a push-up?  Can you do a sit-up?  Yes?  How many?  Is a trip up the ladder an injury-in-waiting?  Can you run for 10 minutes without stopping?  Based on these reflections, confidently or gingerly place yourself on the scale.  That's it.

Question 2:  "On a scale of 'couch potato' to 'professional athlete', how committed are you to achieving your fitness goals?

This question has nothing to do with your current health and everything to do with how badly you want your current health to change into something better.  If you want it as bad as a pro wants it, you'll go after it with fury.  You'll be unstoppable in your quest.  If you want your life to change and are as motivated as a couch potato, you'll accept the first excuse you can find to quit.

If your fitness level is at a 3 and you've got the drive of a pro to make big changes, you're going to be successful.  The caliber of change should be measured by an increase in your fitness level.  A bi-product of this change will be weight loss, increased muscle mass, strength, power, and speed.  You'll look and feel healthier.

So today, your first challenge is to ditch the scale for about a month.  I'm not kidding.  Put it away.  Then, on one piece of paper, write out the following two scales:

My Current Fitness Level

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

My Committment to Improving My Fitness

Couch Potato   Weekend Warrior   Fitness Buff   Semi-Pro   Professional

Give yourself one reasonable goal with a deadline.
  • I will do 5 boy pushups by Christmas.
  • I will do the plank for 15 seconds by the end of November.
  • I will run for 5 minutes straight in 4 weeks.
  • I will learn a proper squat.
  • I will attend a class at my gym three times a week for one month.
Stick to your deadline.  Sit down and give an honest assessment of what you've achieved.  Do you feel good about what you've challenged your body to do?  How many times did you make excuses?  Then, make two new scales.  Where is your NEW fitness level?  How committed are you to changing it?  Then, give yourself an entirely new challenge, something completely different from the last one. 

But most importantly, HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE! 

Keep it fun.  Keep it interesting.  Keep going!  This is your life and your health!  DO IT!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Getting Specific

Creating a well-formed fitness program is like writing a thesis.  It begins with a general question: What do you want to do with your body?

Your answer is your conclusion.  The body of your work is what it will take to get you there.  Your starting point is your fitness level right now.

Your fitness program needs to offer realistic goals based on your current fitness level.  For example, if your end goal is to play a complete tennis match comfortably, you must first evaluate the state of your current body.  Be honest with yourself, yet give yourself grace.   Do you have a difficult time balancing on one foot?  Do you get winded easily?  Do you have a lot of weight to lose?

If you've answered "yes" to any of these questions, then simply picking up your racket is, surprisingly, not your starting point.  Tennis is a sport that requires specific conditioning.  If you're getting back into shape, jumping headlong into a specific sport increases your risk of injury and will likely decrease your enjoyment of the sport.  If you're injured or you lose motivation, you're less likely to reach your goal.  You deserve to reach your goal!

So let's rethink the concept of your starting point.  If a full game of tennis is your goal, your starting point is off the court.  Begin with mastering the basics of balance and coordination.  Stand on one foot.  Then use the wobble board.  Then use the BOSU ball.  Build up your cardio strength on the treadmill, elliptical, or bike.  Or go for a brisk walk until you can run.  Then run until you can trail run.  Begin lifting weights to increase the strength in your tendons and muscles.  Then increase the weight.  Run some more.  As your body weight decreases, your cardiovascular capacity increases, and your speed quickens, throw a medicine ball up in the air or against a wall.  Jump on and off of plyo boxes.  Run sprints.

Only then, after your ankles, calves, thighs, hamstrings, hip flexors, abdominals, back, and arms have all made thousands of new connections with your brain on how to run fast, jump, slide, and hit without falling, pulling a muscle, twisting an ankle, blowing out your elbow or passing out, you will have reached your final goal of becoming fit enough to play a full tennis match.  Only then should you pick up your racket and step onto the court.

Playing sports are a great way to stay in shape.  They are not an effective weight-loss plan, however, because of the risk of injury.  People who wish to play sports should be relatively conditioned before they begin.  If you've decided that you want to play soccer, tennis, basketball, baseball, slow-pitch softball, water polo, or run wind sprints, take some time to get your body ready.  Begin with a general plan to get your heart and muscles strong.  Then get specific.  You should incorporate exercises into your fitness program that will help you reach your goal safely and enjoyably only after you've conditioned your body to meet the increased demands.

So the question is: What do you want to do with your body?

Monday, September 26, 2011


Good Morning! 

Congratulations to Shannan for winning my copy of Michael Pollen's In Defense of Food.

Please email me your address and I'll get it out by the end of the week!
E.T.A. My email is

Many thanks,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Book Giveaway!

Hi Everybody!

It's time for another giveaway! 

As you might have noticed, I love learning about and discussing nutrition.  I recently finished Michael Pollen's In Defense of Food and I want to share it with you.  If you'd like my copy for free, you can enter twice.

  1. Leave a comment and tell me your very favorite way to eat your very favorite vegetable.
  2. Send a friend to enter and have them mention your name in their comment.
FUN!  Three steps and multiple chances.  Good luck!  The giveaway ends on
September 25, 2011 at 8 pm PST.

Have fun!

Friday, September 16, 2011


So, yesterday you went to the gym and you hit the elliptical for 45 minutes.   You sweat it out.  Then you went into the weight room and lifted for 20 minutes.  You stretched, drank a protein shake, hit the showers, and went home.  It’s the same workout you’ve done for the last 3 months.  Yet the weight still hangs.  You feel healthier, but your waistline isn’t really budging.  You’re beginning to think it’s hopeless.  Maybe you’re destined to hold onto those 20 pounds.  Maybe your body isn’t “supposed” to look like you’ve imagined.  After all, your parents and brother are overweight, your grandmother and aunt have diabetes, and your grandfather died of coronary artery disease.   This is part of your destiny, right?

Wrong.  Wrong, wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong!

Your life is yours.  Genetics are not destiny.  Your health and longevity are yours to manipulate.  You can sabotage your life with complacency or embrace it with action.  (Hint: choose “action”.  It works.)

If your workout program isn’t working, it’s broken.  You need to fix it.  Your mind and muscles might be bored.  You might feel a sense of “ugh” at the thought of getting on that machine one more time, but you do it because it burns the most calories.  Right?  Yes, but what’s the point of burning a million calories if you’re not having fun doing it?

If your workout feels stale, here are some tips help you enjoy the journey again:

Do Something Else.  If you are sick of your cardio routine, you’re in luck!  The world of fitness is full of different activities!  Get a ball and a racquet and play racquetball for half an hour.  You can play alone or with a partner.  Jump in the pool and run (yes RUN) laps in the shallow end.  Get off the treadmill and head to the track or a trail and test your endurance.  How far can you run?  Hike?  Get on your bike.  How far can you ride?  How fast can you go?

Get Out of The Weight Room.  I rarely recommend this.  I believe in resistance training with every ounce of muscle fiber in my body.  But if you hate it, it’s not worth it.  If you feel intimidated by dumbbells, try working with a medicine ball.  Challenge yourself with functional movements that work your whole body and are FUN!  Some of my favorites include:

·       The Slam:  With your feet shoulder width apart, hold the ball over your head.  Then, slam it on the ground.  When it bounces up, catch it and return it to the starting position over your head.  Do this 10 times.

·       The Dribble:  Try to dribble a medicine ball like a basketball.  You’ll see…  Repeat 10 times on each hand.

·       Underhanded Toss:  Stand 4-5 feet away from a wall with your feet a bit wider than shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.  Hold the medicine ball between your legs at knee level.  Keeping your back straight, toss the ball at the wall and catch it.  Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times.

·       Toss Out:  With your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent, hold the ball at chest level.  Toss the ball at the wall and catch it.  Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times.

·       Overhand Toss:  With your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent, lift the ball over your head.  Throw it at the wall and catch it.  Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times.

These five basic movements activate muscle groups throughout your whole body.  Though you might feel slightly silly for throwing a ball at a wall, you’ll be building core strength, increasing upper and lower body strength and mobility, and reclaiming the power and speed you’ve been losing annually since your late teens and early 20s.  These movements welcome interpretation, as well.  What if you did all of those ballistic movements, but never let go of the ball?  FUN!

Try climbing the hanging rope, doing 5 pull-ups, or doing pushups on a plyo box?  The tools and toys at the gym crave YOUR touch!  Use every modality possible to build yourself the body you want.  Be creative, but safe, and for heaven’s sake, have fun!

Change Your Goal.  “Lose 10 pounds” has been your New Year’s Resolution for how many years?  Ditch it.  Set your sights on a goal unrelated to weight loss, and you might find that weight loss is a side effect.  Not sure?  Try these on for size:

·       Train for a race.  (5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, ultra-marathon, triathlon, charity walk, century ride, you get the picture).  Setting a goal with a clear endpoint, like a real-life finish line, holds you accountable for your fitness.  Training without the goal of weight loss will likely lead to weight loss.  Go to to find a race in your area.

·       Take a class.  Set your sights on hardest class at your gym or recreation center, or find a personal trainer who holds a group class on Saturday mornings in a local park (they’re generally much cheaper than one-on-one, and are usually very challenging).  Make a goal of finishing the class strong and energized instead of depleted and fatigued.  It might take a few weeks, but you’ll likely notice a change in your strength, endurance, and maybe even your waistline!  Even trainers and professional athletes take spinning, Body Combat, and TRX classes.  I know of a very famous professional boxer who joins the ladies at his local gym for a class titled Rhythm Boxing.  See?  Have some fun!

·       Exercise for the greater good.  Follow a cause that fires your passion.  Local and national charities regularly host walks to raise awareness and funds for cancer, AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, animal shelters, child abuse, domestic abuse, the environment, public schools, private schools, preschools, and local arts programs.  Join one, and make it worth it.  Charities like Team in Training organize a fun group of athletes, train them, and set them loose with a GIANT cheering squad.   As an athlete, I am tremendously inspired when I see the purple, green, and white jerseys pushing for a higher purpose.

Hire A Trainer.  Even trainers use trainers.  Everybody can benefit from the motivation, creativity, and knowledge of a passionate personal trainer.  A good trainer integrates the latest science with proven techniques to guide you to your goal.  If you want someone to push you, to get one more rep out of you, to make you feel like an Iron(wo)man, then find a local trainer.  Many gyms and independents offer packages at a discounted rate.  However, if you’re looking to improve your current routine or simply break the monotony, hire a trainer for one or two sessions.  Hiring a trainer is akin to hiring your own personal cheerleader.  They want it just as much as you do.  You’re worth it.

A successful exercise program works your body and stimulates your mind.  If you’re not excited, indeed chomping at the bit to get out and move, the time has come to make a change.  Whether you include a new piece of equipment or restructure your whole program, infusing new ideas, movements, and energy keeps your program fresh, exciting, and motivating.  The job of losing weight becomes less like a job and more like playtime.  You deserve to have fun on your journey.  Your experience must be positive and engaging if you want to lose weight successfully.  This is your life.  You deserve to move and breathe and live with ease, and you deserve to enjoy it.  You have the power to make the changes that lead to a happier, healthier experience in living.  Do it!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Redefining "Fun"

When my babies were babies, finding time to exercise seemed impossible.  Many times, a sunny day beckoned me, urged me to strap my kid in the running stroller and go for a run.  Sometimes, the stars aligned and I got a mile or two in.  Most times, I would get ready and she would suddenly decide she needed a nap, or, if we got out and strapped in, she’d poop and I’d have to unbuckle her and get her changed.  For a new mom, this takes approximately 15-20 minutes.  Inevitably, she’d get hungry and the run would end before it began.  If she was well-rested and didn’t poop, we’d head out.  She was a busybody, so I’d spend half of my run stopping to get her another snack or picking up a dropped sippy cup.  She liked chatting, too, so I’d use precious breath to answer questions or acknowledge that bit of nature which she pointed at with such enthusiasm.  Sometimes, we’d be in a groove.  I’d be having a great run, moving at a pretty quick clip, when the worst of the worst would happen.  We’d run out of snacks.  I’d spend the final mile huffing it back to my car with a screaming child, effectively ruining what should have been the most relaxing part of my day.

Good news.  Those days are OVER!
This Labor Day weekend, Dave and I felt the full burden of babyhood lifted.  We started out Saturday morning by riding our bikes a few miles to Farmer’s Market with both kids in tow.  Afterwards, we braved the overly-cool ocean breeze and fog and rode along the boardwalk.  (In a few months, our Little Lady will be able to ride by herself!)  On Monday, we struck out for a hike.  The weather in Ojai was quite warm, and while we didn’t go too fast or make it too far, we all enjoyed the challenging terrain.  The Dude managed when he could and rode the shoulders when he couldn’t.  When we decided to turn around, The Little Lady decided she wanted to run.  Rocky trails on a descent?  Yes please!  Off we went.  She got her first lesson in trail running and rock-hopped like a pro! 

We’re only four years into our Adventure in Parenting and in most ways it’s tremendously easier than when we started.  We’re hitting our stride again, and it feels good.

In the beginning, the needs of my children dictated the day’s activities.  I built my errands and social interactions around their needs and schedules.  I often wondered if I even enjoyed the same things that I had prior to having babies.  I thought, “Why don’t I do those things* anymore?”  I felt like I’d lost some sense of my identity.  Foolishly, I lamented that I’d never get to do those things again.  Slowly and steadily, however, we do those same things again.  Sometimes the pace changes and we take more potty breaks, but we’re doing them.  We’re hiking and running and riding our bikes and loving it.

It’s work.  A lot of it.  But it’s worth it.  Turns out, my idea of fun hasn’t changed so drastically at all.  I still love a really tough gym workout or a quick-paced trail run.  I still love getting on my bike and coming home a few hours later.  I just don’t do those things as often (or ever) as I used to.  But when I get the chance to go alone, I GO!  However, the biggest change includes the little people.  Who’d have guessed that hiking with a 2 ½ year old on my shoulders or trail running with my four year-old would be more enjoyable than anything I could come up with at the gym? 

See, not that much has changed.  But really, everything’s changed.

 Kids do not need to hinder your progress in reaching your fitness goals.  Instead, try to find a way to include them.  Jillian Michaels has a great gig going, but there’s more than one way to get fit.  Get out!  Your kids will follow.  The Little Lady learned trail running from me.  She loved it, too!  Her little feet churned beneath her and she laughed when she leapt over rocks.  She’ll be my running partner soon enough.  If you feel stifled in your house, take your toddlers or teenagers with you.  You might not get as far, and it may be a bit of work, but if you keep your expectations realistic (you’re not going to get a challenging 6 mile hike in with a 5 year old), you’ll have fun as a family.  Your kids will probably even be excited to do it again.  And next time, you’ll go farther or faster, or both!  After doing it a few times, you all might notice a difference in how you feel.  Suddenly, your whole family is excited to challenge themselves with a longer hike or a steeper climb?  Really?  YES!  Maybe you’ll set out as a family on one of America’s best trails.  As parents, let’s take our kids with us, regardless of their age.  Let’s build “family time” around physical activities that challenge our bodies, minds, and spirits.  Let’s turn off the TV and put on our sneakers.  Together, family by family, weekend by weekend, we can combat lethargy, obesity, anger, selfishness, and negativity.  Each of us has the power to push back on forces that pull us apart.  Heck, you might even find that exercising together, as a whole family, really is your idea of fun.  You have the power to change everything.

*”Those things” include running 4-5 days a week, cycling, horseback riding, open-water swimming, quilting, sewing, knitting, wine tasting, going out to dinner with girlfriends, and reading until 3 in the morning because I didn’t have to work until 11.  You know, “single” or “married with no kids” stuff.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Truth About Sodium

I’ve got some great news: We need it.

Sodium is a naturally-occurring mineral found in most foods.  Sodium is essential for maintaining proper body fluid levels and transmitting nerve impulses.  Each time you drink water, the amount you retain to maintain blood volume is regulated by sodium.  Each muscle contraction is made possible by sodium.  Sodium is necessary for proper body function.
The problems with sodium, however, occur when we ingest too much.  Because sodium attaches to water, too much of it results in fluid retention.  Although not weight from fat, water weight can cause some serious problems.  Increased fluids signal your body to make more blood.  If your body creates too much blood, you increase your chances of suffering from diseases related to decreased blood flow, like stroke and heart attack.  Additionally, most would agree that the bloating, discomfort, and water weight gain caused by water retention is simply discouraging.
The great news about sodium is that it’s totally manageable.  When you are able to manage your sodium, you’ll find that water retention from sodium is a problem of the past.  You’ll rarely exceed the daily recommended maximum of 2, 300 mg per day, or 1, 500 mg per day if you’re 51 or older.
Here are a few simple rules to help you take control of your sodium:
·         Drink water!  Drinking water flushes your system and sends signals to your body that it doesn’t need to retain more water and minerals.  Regularly hydrating yourself decreases the amount of fluid your body holds onto.  You may lose several pounds of water weight in a single day through adequate hydration.
·       Take the table salt off the table.  While it adds “flavor” to foods, table salt adds unnecessary sodium to foods.  By simply taking the salt off the table, thus eliminating your ability to add salt habitually or absentmindedly, you’ll take a huge step to increase your overall health.
·       Add spices!  Salt adds flavor, and if you eliminate table salt, your food might taste a little bland.  Replace your salt with a low-sodium spice blend like Mrs. Dash, Spike, or Pappy’s.  Try a spoonful of salsa on your eggs or cumin, pepper, and hot sauce in your taco meat instead of prepared taco seasoning.  Spices enhance the flavor of foods without the negative health benefits.
·       Eat fresh.  Foods directly from Nature’s Pantry offer an endless variety of flavors and possibilities.  Familiarize yourself with recipes that call for fresh fruits and vegetables.  Enjoy an abundance of sweet, tangy, sour, spicy, and tart fruits and vegetables.  Bake, broil, grill, and pan sauté with fresh cut herbs and diverse spices.  Follow a recipe or blaze your own culinary trails.  The more you chop, slice, dice, julienne, puree, and crush, the healthier you and your family eat.  A diet rich in fresh foods is naturally low in sodium.
·       Rinse canned foods.  Canned foods are packaged in salt water to retain color and flavor.  Rinsing the foods of their salty coating removes much of the excess sodium.  It’s that easy.
·       Exercise.  With the permission of your doctor, work up a sweat.  Sweat consists of water, urea, sodium and other trace minerals.  By exercising and sweating, you’re giving your body a hand in eliminating sodium from your system.  Replacing those lost fluids with water will further aid in the release of excess sodium.
Sodium is an essential component of a healthy diet.  Eliminating the mineral completely is not only impossible, but it’s unhealthy.  Maintaining healthy levels of sodium challenges many accustomed to processed, salty foods.  However, learning to enjoy the natural flavors abundant in whole, fresh foods not only changes your palate, but changes your life.  This small but vital step in reclaiming your health will yield a lifetime of benefits.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Years ago, I read an article about a psychologist who worked with athletes to overcome the mental hurdles that hindered success in their sports. He told the story of a pitcher who fell apart after missed pitches or when batters hit home runs. He'd throw wild pitches, hit batters, or toss perfectly hittable pitches. The psychologist decided to take him out to a baseball field, give him two baseballs to hold in one hand, and ask him to throw a strike.
Obviously, the pitcher couldn't do it.

The lesson was this: You can't throw a strike if you're still holding on to your last pitch. You have to let it go.

The lesson applies to scenarios far beyond the baseball field.  If you’ve ever set a goal and didn’t reach it, you’ve had two choices.  You could carry your failure with you or leave it at the finish line.  You could absorb the lessons and forget the outcome, or drag the results like a weight.

Whether you’re an amateur or a pro, the ability to extract lessons from a poor performance, and then move on, are the hallmarks of continued success.  Very few people have an amazing first try.  Almost everybody, even those with boatloads of experience, has had an awful performance.  Actors forget their lines, dieters binge, and runners walk across the finish line.  It happens.  So it happened.  What now?

Ask yourself this question: “What good can come from this?”  How can you use negative experience to your advantage the next time you’re faced with a similar challenge?  Your job as a successful person is to pry deep inside the shell of disappointment and expectation to find your little pearl.  Did you make up lines instead and make the audience roll in the aisles?  Ha!  You acted at acting!  Well played!  Did an old flame call and fuel the fire of an emotional binge?  You’re smart to have deleted the phone number and tossed the junk food.  Did you finish your race despite having a bad night’s sleep or an upset stomach?  Indeed, you’re tougher than you thought.

When you can accept the value of all experience, both positive and negative, you carry the lessons with you.  Your life broadens.  Your life experience becomes a textbook of resilience.  You take control of the next similar situation.  The actor knows to practice his lines, learn them from the inside out.  The dieter knows he shouldn’t answer phone calls from people who cause pain.  He vows to turn off the phone and go for a slow, relaxing walk instead.  The runner knows she must sleep well if she wants to run fast.  She’s diligent about an early pre-race bedtime.

If you stumble (and you will), get up again.  You might stumble again.  Get up again.  There is a Japanese proverb that says, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”  This is resilience.  This is in you.  You might have failed yesterday, or you might fail tomorrow.  The most important thing you can do is to try again.  Get up.  Dig deep.  Crack through the shell of defeat and self-deprecation to extract the value of your experience.  Live your life stronger than yesterday.  Release yourself from the negative experiences that drag you and prevent success, but hold on to what you learned.  When you free yourself from the results of negative experience, you open yourself to a world in which all things are possible.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Last Day

Good Morning!

Today is the last day of our challenge to beat the national step average.  Did you beat it?  Did you notice anything about your days?  On which days did you accrue the most steps?

When I started, I was shocked at how quickly my steps added up!  I forgot how much our legs can move in a day.  I also noticed other things about days when my steps were lower:
  1. I slept in.
  2. I worked more on the computer.
  3. I didn't have my morning Stroller Fitness class.
  4. I didn't get a good night's sleep the night before.
I noticed that my energy level had everything to do with my activity during the day.  I walked over 21, 000 steps on Monday, but yesterday I only reached a bit over 17, 000 (that's what happens when Scrabble games go late into the night...).  I realized that my sleep has everything to do with how I feel the next day!

From this challenge, I learned that I need to maintain a more disciplined sleep schedule.  As the week moves on, I find myself staying up later and later, and my energy level drops a little more each day.

What have you learned?  Did you beat the average?  Let me know!  I love hearing from YOU!

We'll have another fun challenge in September.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

We're Moving!

Good Morning Everybody!

It's Wednesday morning, and I hope your legs are moving!  I started my challenge on Monday because hubs had the pedometer.  The thing I enjoy about the pedometer is that at 4 o'clock, I can look down, see that I've amassed 7, 328 steps, and realize that, although it beats the ladies national average, that's pretty sloth-like for me.  What do I do?  Head out the door! 

Nothing cures a bad case of sitting around the house like a 2 or 3 mile walk with my kids.  And then suddenly, my step count is up to 19, 000 and I feel much better.

How has your experience been with your pedometer?  What have you noticed about yourself and your habits?  There's a little place right below this post where you can share.  It's in the "Comments".  I'd love to know!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Let's Do This!

Get moving everybody!  Get your pedometer on ad GO!  Wear it when you're making your cup of morning joe.  Wear it when you're folding laundry.  Wear it when you're exercising, but don't wear it in the shower, or if you're a swimmer!

The goal to see how much we move every day.  If the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, let's see how many sngle steps it takes!

If you don't have a pedometer yet, don't fret!  This is a  flexible challenge.  We're not competing against each other.  We're in a contest to beat lethargy, fatigue, and extra pounds.  We're trying to win back ourselves, our lives!  So, if you want to start on Monday or Tuesday, or you're reading this a year later, it doesn't matter.  The point is that you take the first step.

Let's do this!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Get Moving!

Hello Everybody!

Tomorrow we start our walking challenge.  Armed with a pair of sneakers and a pedometer, you're going to head out into the world, and you won't return until you've amassed a serious number of steps!  Ladies, you're going to try to beat 5, 120 steps each day.  Gentlemen, you're going to try beating 7, 192 steps every day.  Think you can do it?  (Hint: I do.)

Here are some tips:
  1. Put your pedometer and your log book right next to your bed.  Put it on right when you get up, and take it off right before you get in bed.  Record your step count each night.  Make it as accurate as possible so that you can see how far you've gone each day.
  2. Keep you pedometer level and at your hip.  Attach it to your pants, but not your belt for the most accurate count.  Don't put it on the outside of your pocket.
Here are some no-no's:
  1. You may not stand still and shake it to increase the number.  Hold yourself accountable and have some integrity, for crying out loud!  There's no prize except increased fitness and a hightened awarenes of your every day movement!
  2. You may not accrue steps by jumping in place.
  3. You may not purposely skew your step count.
  4. You can throw all of these rules away and throw the curve, but I'll be awfully suspicious if you get 30, 000 steps in one day.
Are you going to beat the daily average? 

Leave a comment by predicting what your daily average will be!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


The winner of the awesome pedometer and water bottle is:

Lisa, who wrote, "I love to walk at Lake Chabot. They have some great views, nice paved trails, and tall trees for shade. "

Please email me your mailing address and I'll drop your cool new things in the mail!  My address is

I loved reading all your favorite walking spots.  The walking challenge will begin on July 16, so get ready!
Thanks for participating everybody!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Prelude To A Challenge and A Giveaway!

Remember a few weeks ago when I challenged you to walk and I mentioned something about "seeing you in a week"?  Major computer-in-the-shop fail.

So, I'm trying to make it up to you.

Beginning on July 16, challenge yourself to beat the statistics for one week.  Ladies, try walking more than 5, 120 steps in one day.  Gents, shoot for more than 7, 192 steps.  The challenge begins in two weeks.  You'll need a pedometer and a place to record your daily step count.  If you don't have a pedometer, don't worry!  I'm giving away this Awesome New Pedometer and 32 oz. water bottle.

The New Balance Via Mini tracks your steps, distance, and calories!

(yours will have blue buttons!)

What better way to get inspired to move than to have your real-time progress staring you in the face?  Only 3, 228 steps today?  Time to get out the door and GO!

You must do two things to enter:
  1. If you are not already, become a "follower" of the Fitness With Natalie blog.  Just clickety-click "follow" and viola!  You're done.
  2. Leave a comment and tell me your favorite place to walk, hike, or run.  "We have a beautiful park in Ventura called Arroyo Verde, and the trails there are my favorite place to run."
That's it!  You're entered!  Be sure to click and comment before 11:59 PST July 9, 2011for your chance to win!  Check back on Sunday, July 10 to see if you're the winner!  Open to US residents only (sorry friends across the pond...)

Let's get ready to move!  Good luck, and thanks for participating!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fat Burning Follow Up!

What's the deal with the Fat Burning Zone?

Well, as I wrote in the this post, it's a heart rate zone that utilizes a fuel mix consisting of a majority percentage (50-60%) of fat.

As some comments suggested, 30 minutes of exercise in the lower fat-burning zone will burn an equal amount or slightly more fat than a 30 minute workout in the upper cardio zone, but the 30 minute workout in the cardio zone will burn more overall calories.  In terms of weight loss, burning more calories is best.

Sort of.

While training in the upper end of the cardio zone burns more calories, it is a training zone beginners, unconditioned people, and people who carry excessive weight should generally avoid.  Working out at 70-85% of one's maximum heart rate is strenuous work.  When an unconditioned person attempts to continue working out at this level of intensity, they are likely to feel exhausted, overtrained, and unsuccessful.  They are likely unable to maintain high intensity for a long workout.  They may become more susceptible to injury.  In these cases, they are more likely to drop out of the program from burnout.  Additionally, people who suffer from a variety or conditions like hypertension, obesity or morbid obesity, or heart disease, might be advised against this level of exertion by their doctors.  In these cases, they might instead be advised to build their endurance through longer workouts (up to 45 minutes!) in the "fat burning zone."  In this way, they burn a high percentage of fat calories safely and effectively, and may actually burn the same number of calories as a "cardio" workout of half the duration!  Most importantly, they will feel successful.  Finally, as a trainer, I advise people to pursue activities they enjoy, and some people are simply not interested in high intensity work, no matter how much MORE fat or more calories they can burn. 

Though the number of calories burned in a 30 minute workout in the cardio zone might look impressive on paper, the reality is that high intensity workouts strain the heart, muscles, joints, and tendons, and may not be the best workout for everyone, regarless of caloric burn!  As I once read with respect to exercise and intensity, "Make haste.  Slowly."

As a trainer, I strive to give my clients a roadmap to safe, effective, and enjoyable weight loss and fitness.  I cannot imagine a circumstance in which I would recommend that a conditioned athlete take down the intesity of their workouts to shed some fat!  I might instead look at their nutrition or strength training plans.

Yet, when an unconditioned client begins their journey to safe weight loss, I usually begin by suggesting that their aerobic workouts remain in the "fat burning" zone.  It's a concept that's easy to understand for many people.  It's a location on a chart.  I use the term for lack of a better term, and it's an effective tool for illustrating to people how their body changes as the intensity of their work changes.

The titles of "fat burning" and "cardio" zones are simply helpful misnomers.  They describe, roughly, how the body is consuming fuel.  Posting these guidelines was simply a statement of facts.

The Life of A Carbohydrate

The last decade has not been kind to the carbohydrate.  We've heard that carbohydrates make us fat, they cause the 3 pm "crash", give us diabetes, and according to some, may not even be necessary.  That's quite a list of offenses for one major component of the Big Three Macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates)!  It sounds like carbs are out to kill us!  What exactly did carbohydrates do to earn this ignoble reputation?

The answer is neither short nor easy.  We'd need to take a look at modern farming, advertising, fast food, emotional eating, and processed foods to understand the full scope of this complex issue.  That's a lot of information.  So, let's start at the beginning.  The best way to discover the truth about carbohydrates is to first understand what carbohydrates do when they enter the body, and how the body reacts in the presence of this four-calorie wonder.

What Is A Carbohydrate?

A carbohydrate is a chemical compound of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.  Hydrogen and oxygen are usually present in a 2:1 ratio (H2O), hence the “hydrate” suffix.  They are classified as either simple or complex based on the number of simple sugars in each molecule.  Carbohydrates include sugars, glycogen, starches, dextrin, and cellulose (indigestible plant fiber).

Simple carbohydrates contain either one or two simple sugars bound together.  A monosaccharide contains one simple sugar.  Fructose (fruit sugar), glucose (“blood sugar”), and galactose (milk sugar) are each examples of a monosaccharide.  Disaccharides contain two simple sugars, and include sucrose (fructose + glucose) and lactose (glucose + galactose).

Complex carbohydrates, or polysaccharides, contain three or more simple sugars bound together and include starches and fiber.

How Do Our Bodies Use Carbohydrates?

Our bodies can only absorb monosaccharides (fructose, glucose, and galactose), therefore, we must break down di- and polysaccharides into simple sugars.  From our stomach, they enter the small intestine and then the portal vein.  The portal vein leads to the liver, the location in the body where simple sugars become glucose and then enter the bloodstream.

When glucose enters the bloodstream, the body uses it in one of three ways:

1.      It is burned immediately for energy if blood glucose levels are not stable at 20 grams of blood glucose circulating per hour.

2.      If the body’s energy needs are not immediate, the pancreas releases insulin which converts glucose into glycogen.  The glycogen is then stored as energy reserves in the brain, muscles, and liver.

3.      If glycogen stores are adequate in the brain, muscles, and liver, and there is an excess of glucose, the liver converts the excess glucose into fat.  The fat is stored as triglycerides (blood fat), cholesterol, and adipose tissue (body fat) around the body.  If needed, these fatty tissues can be burned for energy as fatty acids, but they will not be converted back into glucose.

Why Is Fiber Important?

Fiber is a carbohydrate that comes from plant matter.  It is either soluble, which means that it dissolves and enters the blood stream, or insoluble, which means that it remains in the digestive tract.  Both types of fiber are important for maintaining health, but are not sources of energy. 

As soluble fiber moves through the blood stream, it binds to the fatty acids that would turn into LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff).  The soluble fiber + pre-cholesterol is then treated as waste and removed from the system, preventing the synthesis of cholesterol.  A diet rich in soluble fiber may reduce cholesterol by preventing its synthesis. 

Insoluble fibers like cellulose serve two purposes in the body.  They help keep the digestive tract regular by moving bulk through the intestines.  Because it helps insoluble bulk move faster, it prevents some starches from breaking down and entering the blood stream.  Insoluble fiber is important for people losing weight because it does not dissolve, so they will feel full longer, and it helps prevent starches from converting into sugars, thereby regulating blood sugar and insulin levels. 

What Are The Glycemic Index and Glycemic Loads of Foods?

The Glycemic Index (GI) refers to the relative degree to which blood sugar increases after the consumption of food.  Foods are given a value which relates to the amount blood sugar increases in comparison to pure glucose (100).  For example, a raw apple is assigned at GI value of 40.  This means that when you eat a raw apple, your blood sugar will increase only about 40% as much as it would if you consumed pure glucose.

The Glycemic Load (GL) of food refers to the carbohydrates and portion size of a food.  A food higher in carbohydrates like watermelon is assigned a low GL because of its small portion size.

The University of Sydney maintains a comprehensive database of common foods.  You can find the link here.  You can search for food by name and by GI and GL values.

The Harvard School of Health recommends consuming foods with GI values of 55 or below and GL values in the low teens.  While there is much controversy over the value of a diet based on the GI and GL foods, there are a few points that many will agree are universal in the goal to eat more healthfully.

·         Make the switch from:

o   Instant or white rice to basmati or brown, or quinoa, spelt, or slow-cooking barley
o   Instant oatmeal to steel cut or old fashioned oats
o   White bread to whole grain, sprouted grain, or stone ground bread
o   Canned fruits and vegetables to fresh
o   Boiled vegetables to lightly steamed or raw

With respect to grains, a good rule of thumb came from a friend’s nutritionist, “The longer a grain needs to cook, the longer it takes to digest.”

Using the GI and the GL as a tool can help you choose foods which will aid in losing weight or maintaining good health. 

Putting It All Together

Carbohydrates are a necessary and vital part of our daily diet.  As we’ve discussed earlier, the general rule is that carbohydrates should make up approximately 50% of your daily caloric intake.  People with insulin resistance and diabetes may require less, while endurance athletes may require more.  Carbohydrates turn into glucose, which can be burned immediately, or synthesized into glycogen, the fuel that moves our bodies.  When glycogen levels are at full capacity in our brain, muscles, and liver, only then is excess glucose stored as fat.  The source of the simple sugar is irrelevant with respect to the body’s response to glucose.  People with more muscle mass store more glycogen than people with less muscle mass.

Soluble and insoluble fibers are carbohydrates which the body cannot use as fuel.  Soluble fiber helps prevent the synthesis of LDL cholesterol, while insoluble fiber prevents starches from converting into simple sugars and entering the blood stream.  By keeping the digestive tract regular, insoluble fiber regulates blood sugar levels and insulin secretion.

The Glycemic Index and Glycemic Loads of Common Foods are useful guidelines for people looking to improve dietary choices.  Switching to diets rich in carbohydrates from whole, unprocessed grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans will aid in weight loss.  As with all dietary recommendations, portion control is essential.  While these foods are extraordinarily rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, consistently consuming excessive portions is counterproductive to the goal of maintaining good health.

Consuming reasonable amounts of carbohydrates won’t make us fat or unhealthy.  Eating too many unhealthy carbohydrates too often leads to increased body fat, high cholesterol, excessive triglycerides, heart disease, high blood pressure, and increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.  Yet, in the journey back to good health, carbohydrates are an ally.  We’ve learned that the body uses a mix of glycogen and fat to move us, to fuel us, to make us GO!  This means that fat burns constantly in the presence of carbohydrates!  Maintaining regular blood sugar levels will allow your body to burn fat regularly and efficiently throughout the day and can help prevent the onset of diabetes.  You’ll give your pancreas a break when you require less work from it.  Additionally, your energy levels will neither peak nor plummet when you eat regularly.

At a mere four calories per gram, carbohydrates really are the Four Calorie Wonder.

Source: Fitness: The Complete Guide. Fredrick C. Hatfield, Ph.D. International Sports Science Association, Carpinteria, CA. 2010

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Determining Your Maximum Heart Rate, Cardio Zone, and Fat Burning Zone

The following formula is for determining the rough estimate of your maximum heart rate. While exercising, you should try not to exceed this number, as it puts too much stress on your heart

Max. HR = 220 - your age

For example: A 34 year old's maximum heart rate is: 220 - 34 = 186 bpm
If that 34 year old wants to work out in the cardio zone (70-85% max. hr), meaning her body uses glycogen as the majority percentage of fuel, she would use the following formulas:
  • The low end of the cardio zone means that the heart is beating at 70% of it's max.
    • (220 - your age) x 0.7 = low end of cardio zone
  • The high end of the cardio zone means that the heart is beating at 85% of it's max.
    • (220 - your age) x 0.85 = high end of cardio zone
For our 34 year old, the formulas would yield the following results:
  • Low end: 186 bpm x 0.7 = 130.2 bpm
  • High end: 186 bpm x 0.85 = 158.1 bpm
If our 34 year old wants to exercise in the cardio zone, she should keep her heart rate between 130 and 158 beats per minute.

If our 34 year old want to work out in the fat-burning zone (55-70% max. hr), meaning her body uses fat as the majority percentage of fuel, she would use the following formulas:
  • The low end of the fat burning zone means that her heart is beating at 55% of it's max.
    • (220 - her age) x 0.55 = low end of fat burning zone
  • The high end of the fat burning zone means that her heart is beating at 70% of it's max.
    • (220 - her age) x 0.70 = high end of fat burning zone
For our 34 year old, the formulas would yield the following results:
  • Low end: 186 bpm x 0.55 = 102.3 bpm
  • High end: 186 bpm x 0.7 = 130.2 bpm
If our 34 year old wants to exercise in the fat burning zone, she should keep her heart rate between 102 and 130 bpm.

You might have noticed that the upper end of the fat burning zone and the lower end of the cardio zone are the exact same number. Maximum heart rate and exercise zones are estimates. They outline a general range that identifies what our bodies do during different intensities of work. When our 34 year old exercises and keeps her heart rate at the upper end of fat burning and lower end of cardio, her body uses nearly equal amounts fat and glycogen as fuel.

Source: Fitness: The Complete Guide.  Fredrick C. Hatfield, Ph.D.  International Sports Science Association, Carpinteria, CA.  2010

Edited by Natalie at 4:08 PM

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Favorite Protein Shake

I've been asked more than once for a great protein shake recipe.  If you're looking for a great pre-workout, meal replacement, recovery, or filling, high-cal shake, this one's for you!

Combine the following ingredients in a blender:

1 cup ice
1 cup yogurt (for extra protein, try Greek yogurt)
1 banana
2 tbsp. peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter
1/2-1 cup milk, soy milk, or almond milk
1 scoop protein powder (optional)

Blend together to desired consistency.  Serves 2
Nutritional Information (may vary with your choice of ingredients)
  • Total Calories: 306
  • Fat: 11 g
  • Carbs: 34 g
  • Protein: 20 g
Do you have an allergy?  How can you modify this recipe to make it work for you?  Please share under the "comments" section!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I Challenge You!

Hubs and I had a little fun last weekend with pedometers.  Nerd.  Alert.
His company is in this worldwide competition with other teams to see who can amass the most steps per day as calculated on a pedometer.  No extra shakes.  No jumping in place.  Sometimes you get "steps" when you drive, or an extra step when you bound down stairs, but they're fairly accurate.  In the spirit of competition, he and I decided to compete over Memorial Day weekend.  I might have won had I not decided to take a nap on Sunday.  Wah wah waaaaah.

Here's the challenge:  According to a 2004 study by Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke, the average woman walks approximately 5210 steps per day, and the average man walks 7192 steps per day.

For one week, beat that.  If you're sitting down, and it's 5 pm and you've only got 3227 steps, get up and go for a 20-30 minute walk.  You'll be amazed at what a small effort can produce.  If you decide to go for a walk or run in the morning, don't forget your pedometer!  Put it on the second you get up and take it off as you're climbing in bed.  Log your numbers nightly.  Beat the national average!

So, by next Saturday, June 11, get a pedometer.  They're dirt cheap at walking stores and equipment stores.  Try to beat the national average for 7 days in a row.  If you've got a spouse and/or kids, make it a family competion!  Get everybody involved.  Winner gets a new book or gets to choose what movie to watch on Netflix.  Whatever.  The key is to have fun and get everybody moving.

There's some quote that goes "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  Take that step towards an active lifestyle.

So this week, go out and get a pedometer.  We'll meet here in a week and start!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Getting Help

The harsh, heartbreaking reality of being a personal trainer and fitness advisor is that many times, it's got nothing to do with fitness and nutrition.  Excess weight is sometimes an external illustration of the hate, self-loathing, pain, frustration, anguish, and sadness somebody is carrying with them.  It's nothing that a high-protein diet or cutting calories can fix.  Many times, people are literally carrying the weight of their childhood, and the weight of a child, with them every day.  Some people hide it well.  You'd never know that empty stomach was full 10 minutes ago.

Not a day goes by that I don't see these problems.  And I'm a fixer.  I would love to have the tools to fix everybody.  I'm all about solutions.  But I can't.  These problems are bigger than me, and they're bigger than the people who carry them.  Sometimes, we've got to admit it's bigger than us and surrender.

Seek help.  You're worth the time and struggle needed to get better.

Here is a link to Overeaters Anonymous.  Please love yourself enough to find a meeting.  Love yourself even more and go.  This is your life, and you deserve to live long and happily.

With much love,

Friday, May 27, 2011

Snack Time!

I love snacks.  I love the variety and possibilities that about with my tiny in-between meal called “snack”.

My snacks usually contain all three macronutrients.  I try to include a complex carbohydrate, a fat, and a protein.  The carbohydrate provides energy, the fat helps me feel full and maintains essential body function, and the protein regulates distribution of the carbohydrate and aids in muscle repair.  Balanced meals and snacks should contain all three and will sustain you until your next meal.
If you’re lost on what constitutes a “balanced” snack, here are some great examples.  Each of these snacks provides essential macro- and micronutrients and keeps your hunger pains at bay for a few hours. 
·         ½-1 cup low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese with:
o   1 chopped apple and ¼ cup walnuts
o   3 fresh strawberries, sliced and ¼ cup walnuts or pecans
o   2 tbsp. salsa.  Use as dip with 1 serving whole grain chips or whole wheat pita
o   On top of a toasted whole wheat English muffin, topped with a slice of tomato and cracked pepper
o   ¼ cup fresh blueberries and ¼ cup sliced almonds
·         One stick of string cheese, an apple, and whole grain crackers
·         1 whole wheat pita cut into triangles, 1 c. fresh veggies, and 2 tbsp. hummus
·         1-2 tbsp. peanut butter and sliced banana on sprouted wheat or a nut and grain bread
·         An apple, 1 oz. cubed cheddar cheese, and whole grain crackers
·         1 cup cooked oatmeal with nuts, fresh berries, peanut butter, and/or bananas,
·         Plain fat-free Greek yogurt mixed with fresh fruit, nuts and Stevia or Agave nectar sweetners
·         Sliced yams tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper, baked, and topped with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt
·         Baked potato with fresh steamed broccoli, a pinch of shredded cheddar cheese, and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt
·         ¼ cup granola mixed with yogurt (Greek or regular) and fresh fruit
·         A handful of almonds, grapes, and whole grain crackers
·         Sliced vegetables and hummus (or a dip made with seasoned plain Greek yogurt) wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla
Oh my!  This is just the beginning!  Create your own favorites by combining your favorite fruit or vegetable with whole grains and a small amount of healthy fat.
Each of these snacks contains complex carbohydrates and are high in fiber.  Each snack contains protein to help aid in muscle repair and regulate the distribution of the carbohydrates.  The fat in each snack will help you stay full, aid in body functions, and ensures absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.  The nutrients contained in these whole-food snacks go to work immediately to help you remain full of energy, properly nourished, and feeling good.  When you snack on foods like these, there’s no need to feel guilty!  It’s the food your body WANTS!
So, when you start to feel that gnawing sensation about 2 hours after breakfast, lunch, or dinner, go for something on this list.  Take note of how you feel immediately after eating these whole foods, and then an hour later.  Do you feel satisfied, or are you still craving something sugary or fatty?  After an hour, have you crashed or are you still ready to go?  The answer is probably “no”.  None of these foods cause a sugar rush or the inevitable crash.  These foods distribute slowly, like a time-release vitamin, thus regulating your energy level and blood sugar.  You won’t feel hungry and lethargic half an hour later.
I am lucky enough to work with some amazing nursing mothers.  Their caloric needs are off-the-charts high.  Whatever non-nursing people need to consume, these ladies need to add about 500 calories!  Continuously eating snacks to maintain milk supply and energy levels is essential to both mom’s and baby’s health.  Snack away ladies!
If you’ve got a favorite snack and you’d like to share, please post it in the “Comments” section!  Share the wealth and encourage health!