Tag Archives: fitness

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 12 – Three Reasons Why Physical Activity Should Be a Family Routine

(This is part 12 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans was released in late 2018. The new guidelines reiterate best practices for physical activity and shed light on new research findings related to physical activity’s impact on growth and development, sleep quality, brain health and much more. Here’s the bottom line: Physical activity improves health during all stages of life and is good for the entire family. Read on for three reasons why physical activity should be a family routine.

Family Physical Activity Models Positive Health Behaviors for Children.

Developing positive physical activity habits is like any other behavior—we learn by observing. Parents are children’s first role models and have the ability to shape attitudes about physical activity. When children adopt healthy physical-activity habits, they benefit not only in youth, but as teenagers and adults. A 21-year tracking study found that high levels of physical activity between the ages of nine and 18 predicted higher levels of physical activity in adulthood. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that parents not only participate in physical activity with their children but also facilitate environments that encourage self-directed physical activity. For example, parents can place equipment such as balls and jump ropes near doors and play areas. Additionally, parents can help kids to form healthy habits by limiting screen time, focusing on enjoyment (rather than competition) and by working with school officials and other caregivers to ensure that active playtime is encouraged even when children are not at home.

Families That Move Together Build Stronger Social Bonds.

Social bonds describe the level of closeness we have with our family members, friends and other people we interact with every day such as coworkers and schoolmates. Our social ties impact several dimensions of our personal wellness, such as physical, emotional and mental well-being. Strong social ties not only affect the quality of our lives, they are linked to longer life expectancy as well. Healthy social bonds develop over time. Making physical activity a family affair can provide protected time for family members to share joys and frustrations about their day, which is important in building trust and a sense of closeness. Furthermore, when families complete an exercise or physical-activity goal together—whether running a 5K or simply taking a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood—they get to enjoy a shared sense of accomplishment. These shared experiences strengthen family social bonds.  

Families That Move Together are More Likely to Meet Physical-Activity Guidelines

Only 24% of children between the ages of 6 and 17 get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity, and less than 23% of adults meet the physical-activity guidelines for aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening activities. Social support, however, has been recognized as a determinant of physical activity for decades, and can be measured in several different ways:

  • Emotional support is the act of offering empathy, concern or encouragement. This type of social support lets other people know that they are valued and that their efforts toward becoming more physically active, whether big or small, matter.
  • Tangible support occurs when goods or services are provided for another person, such as providing free childcare services for an hour so that a friend can go to the gym.
  • Informational support is the provision of guidance, advice or some other form of useful information. A qualified health and exercise professional providing a free 30-minute fitness consultation is an example of informational support.
  • Companionship support is seen when two or more individuals participate in shared social activities.

All forms of social support are beneficial in health behavior change, but a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology revealed that companionship and emotional support are key in encouraging exercise participation. Subjects in the study who exercised with at least one partner who could provide emotional support increased both self-efficacy for exercise and frequency of exercise sessions.

If you are at the beginning of your family health and fitness journey, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Try to keep family fitness activities simple. Select activities that everyone will enjoy and ones that do not require advanced sport skills.
  • Get outside. Hiking, walking and biking are all great ideas.
  • Get behind a cause. Consider training for a local 5K or some other event tied to a cause important to your family.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Best Wishes to You and Your Families for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season and New Year!

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever
Day #2Sleep Facts That May Surprise You
Day #3 – Why Losing Weight Through Exercise is Hard
Day #4 – You Are Never Too Old to Exercise
Day #5 – 6 Ways to Adopting a New Habit
Day #6 – The Real Science Behind Fascia
Day #7 – 5 Ways to Improve Eating Habits Without Counting Calories

Day #8 – How Age Affects Workout Recovery
Day #9 – Fitness and Nutrition Tips From the Healthiest Countries
Day #10 – 5 Bodyweight Exercises That You Can Do Right Now
Day #11 – How Exercise May Fight Aging

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 9 – Fitness and Nutrition Tips From the Healthiest Countries

(This is part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

While the world finds itself in the midst of a public health crisis with the COVID-19 virus, there are still many things Americans can learn from the health and wellness habits of those­­ who live in the healthiest countries in the world. Each year, the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index ranks 169 nations on several factors to determine their overall health. They evaluate countries on measures such as life expectancy, incidence of obesity and tobacco use as well as environmental considerations such as access to clean water and sanitation. Topping the list in 2019 was Spain, with an average lifespan of 83.5 years. Rounding out the top five on the list were Italy, Iceland, Japan and Switzerland. Unfortunately, the United States. didn’t break into the top 30 on the index last year, primarily because of the obesity epidemic that continues to plague the country. While Americans are exercising more than ever (up from 18.2% in 2008 to 24.3% by 2017), more than 42% of are still considered to have obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, what can the U.S. learn from these global leaders in wellness and life expectancy?

Eat Simply

A person’s overall health and wellness is determined largely by what he or she eats. In the U.S., average diets have grown in portion sizes, saturated fats and calories over the years and the desire for convenience has left many people eating more highly processed foods and beverages. According to a study by researchers at George Washington University, “The rising obesity epidemic in the U.S., as well as related chronic diseases, are correlated with a rise in ultra-processed food consumption.”

Conversely, many European nations have stayed true to their culinary traditions over the years and consume diets that include fewer processed foods, are lower in unhealthy fats and higher in vegetables, fiber and lean proteins. On Bloomberg’s list of healthiest countries, Spain and Italy’s populations typically follow a Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to be one of the most nutritious globally because it focuses on healthy fats, vegetables, legumes, fish and seafood, which promote heart health. In addition, Spain, as well as many other European countries, is known for tapas meals (small plates), which encourage right-sized portions. While they are thousands of miles from the Mediterranean region, the populations of Iceland and Japan also follow traditional diets that center on whole versus processed foods and include fish, seafood and vegetables. Japan’s style of eating encourages natural flavors in food rather than dousing it in sauces. Icelandic diets typically focus on lamb, seafood and dairy. Finally, while Switzerland may be known for its rich and decadent cheese and chocolate, they also base their diets on eating real, unprocessed foods that create satiety and prevent overeating.

Move More

In each of the top five healthiest countries on Bloomberg’s list, outdoor exercise reigns over indoor gyms. In Iceland, a country that moves more than any nation in Europe, outdoor hikes and swimming top the list of favorite workouts. Spain, Italy and Japan all have plenty of opportunities for walking, hiking and running outdoors, while Switzerland boasts some of the finest skiing in the world in the Swiss Alps. Overall, the healthiest countries have plenty of traditional indoor and outdoor exercise options, but they also maximize movement in the everyday activities of life, such as walking to the store or planting and working in a garden. In addition to the nutrition and fitness trends all these countries embrace—whole foods, smaller portions, regular exercise—they all have excellent air quality, fewer issues with opioid drug addictions and more walkable towns and cities, all of which contribute to a longer life expectancy according to the Bloomberg Index. Americans are exercising more than ever but we’re not making gains in the kitchen, which is so important to overall health.

Taking a cue from our healthier neighbors, Americans would do well to get back to eating whole, unprocessed foods that provide a balance of macro and micronutrients. Combined with regular exercise, a change in diet would undoubtedly help the U.S. rise in global rankings of health and, more importantly, increase both quality of life and life expectancy for all its citizens.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you Monday for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever
Day #2Sleep Facts That May Surprise You
Day #3 – Why Losing Weight Through Exercise is Hard
Day #4 – You Are Never Too Old to Exercise
Day #5 – 6 Ways to Adopting a New Habit
Day #6 – The Real Science Behind Fascia
Day #7 – 5 Ways to Improve Eating Habits Without Counting Calories

Day #8 – How Age Affects Workout Recovery

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 8 – How Age Affects Workout Recovery

(This is part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

I will continue to say that age is just an excuse when it comes to fitness. For many men and women that continue to work out regardless of their age, a daily or weekly workout routine is one of the few escapes from everyday life, not to mention an opportunity for some alone time or socialization at the gym. Yet many workout enthusiast, pros and amateurs alike, are ignorant when it comes to how age affects recovery. So how exactly does one’s age impact their recovery period? Are older workout enthusiasts hopelessly doomed by the sands of time? As luck would have it, people of any age can still enjoy a healthy, structured workout routine—they just shouldn’t expect to bounce back instantly if they’ve reached a certain age.

Taking Some Time for Recovery

Everyone, regardless of age, needs to take some time off for recovery every now and then. For older individuals, particularly those who are well past their 40s, this recovery period may be longer than they remember from when they were young. Yet those who maintain a healthy diet and a safe workout routine can expect to bounce back with little troubles, provided they’re exercising on a consistent basis. For the more experienced, age has often been found to have little impact on recovery times. This isn’t true for every fitness endeavor, however. Runners who have been honing their cardio craft for decades will find that age doesn’t necessarily slow the recovery process too much, but heavy weightlifters who have seen the years go by may be in a different boat. Pain from muscle fatigue, for instance, is often felt for a longer period when the individual in question has reached their 40s. No one can push back the sands of time, and older people will inevitably struggle at a higher level during their recoveries than they did when they were younger. Nonetheless, studies have confirmed that older individuals feel muscle fatigue for longer periods also determined that consistent exercise helps maintain performance levels and overall health, so keep at it. Our bodies, the muscles that move them, and the hormones and chemicals that power them inevitably change with time, but a determined human heart has many decades of exercising in it before it will give out.

Don’t Be Fooled by Appearances

People who hope to stay in shape well into retirement shouldn’t let themselves be fooled by appearances; fully grown adults and seniors regularly show the resilience and strength of the human body and mind. Similarly, older women shouldn’t fear that their beloved days of exercise are behind them, either. You don’t have to be a young, muscle-clad man to be healthy or successful in your fitness endeavors. Plenty of others haven’t let themselves be deterred by age. Wise people know they can’t always rely on spirit alone, however; so what are some practical, scientific ways to ensure you keep kicking for the foreseeable future?

How To Keep It UP

To start with, an incredibly protein-rich diet has been shown to be much more beneficial to older athletes and exercisers than traditional diets. Older people can’t quite expect the same levels of energy or spryness that they enjoyed in their youth, but smart habits like eating nutrient-packed foods and avoiding age-old hazards like smoking can go a surprisingly long way. It’s also important that older individuals don’t scare themselves into never taking a recovery day, for fear of “never getting back up” once they sit down. Alternating workouts, such as doing lower body workouts one day and upper body workouts the next, can also go a long way in maintaining your body’s physical prowess for years to come.

Staying strong and spirited well into your old-age is often a matter of maintenance. Putting in the right work, eating the right foods, and knowing when to take a break can go a long way toward keeping you in tip-top shape for the rest of your life.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever
Day #2Sleep Facts That May Surprise You
Day #3 – Why Losing Weight Through Exercise is Hard
Day #4 – You Are Never Too Old to Exercise
Day #5 – 6 Ways to Adopting a New Habit
Day #6 – The Real Science Behind Fascia
Day #7 – 5 Ways to Improve Eating Habits Without Counting Calories

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 3 – Why Losing Weight Through Exercise is Hard

(This is part 3 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Most of us eat more when we exercise, and though it may be just a few extra bites a day, the result is weight gain. People hoping to lose weight with exercise often wind up being their own worst enemies, according to the latest, large-scale study of workouts, weight loss and their frustrating interaction. The study, which carefully tracked how much people ate and moved after starting to exercise, found that many of them failed to lose or even gained weight while exercising, because they also reflexively changed their lives in other, subtle ways. But a few people in the study did drop pounds, and their success could have lessons for the rest of us.

Is Exercise Effective Enough?

In a perfect universe, exercise would make us thin. Physical activity consumes calories, and if we burn calories without replacing them or reducing our overall energy expenditure, we enter negative energy balance. In that condition, we utilize our internal energy stores, which most of us would call our flab, and shed weight. But human metabolisms are not always just and cogent, and multiple past studies have shown that most men and women who begin new exercise routines drop only about 30 percent or 40 percent as much weight as would be expected, given how many additional calories they are expending with exercise. Why exercise underwhelms for weight reduction remains an open question, though. Scientists studying the issue agree that most of us compensate for the calories lost to exercise by eating more, moving less, or both. Our resting metabolic rates may also decline if we start to lose pounds. All of this shifts us back toward positive energy balance, otherwise known as weight gain. It has not been clear, however, whether we tend primarily to overeat or under-move as compensation, and the issue matters. To avoid compensating, we need to know how we are doing it.

How Are We Doing It?

One of the main complaints about exercise is that it can make you hungry and cause you to eat more. It’s also been suggested that exercise may make you overestimate the number of calories you’ve burned and “reward” yourself with food. This can prevent weight loss and even lead to weight gain. Although it doesn’t apply to everyone, studies show that some people do eat more after working out, which can prevent them from losing weight. Exercise may influence the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin is also known as “the hunger hormone” because of the way it drives your appetite. Interestingly, studies show that appetite is suppressed after intense exercise. This is known as “exercise anorexia” and seems tied to a decrease in ghrelin. However, ghrelin levels go back to normal after around half an hour. So although there is a link between appetite and ghrelin, it doesn’t seem to influence how much you actually eat. Studies on calorie intake after exercise are mixed. It’s now recognized that both appetite and food intake after exercise can vary between people. For example, women have been shown to be hungrier after working out than men, and leaner people may become less hungry than obese people So, if you are hoping to lose weight with exercise, pay close attention to what you eat and not quit or blame the exercise.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 4 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever
Day #2Sleep Facts That May Surprise You

 

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 2 – Sleep Facts That May Surprise You

(This is part 2 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Back in May, I had the privilege of attending an online seminar about sleep. Prepare to have your mind blown. Science keeps shining a light on the unknown to illuminate things we don’t know. The undeniable value of sleep has led to a recent expansion of the body of science around sleep. New understandings of sleep may be pleasantly surprising—and a welcome relief to those feeling pressured to adopt the mythical “early bird” lifestyle dogma so commonly promoted in health circles.

The Early Bird Myth

There seems to be society-wide pressure to get up early and “crush the day.” This is especially rampant in the health and fitness space. This flawed idea has no basis in science or the historical human experience. Instead it is a byproduct of an attempt to fit all of us into the “workday” boxes laid out by the work and school schedules of modern society. In sleep research, there are different “chronotypes” that refer to genetically predisposed best times to wake up and best hours of focus. An “early chronotype” (commonly referred to as an “early bird”) refers to someone who likes to rise very early, usually before sunrise. A “normal chronotype” typically rises around sunrise or just after. A “late chronotype” refers to what we commonly call a “night owl”. (that’s me..most of the time) Most people fall naturally into one of the three types. For example, the Hadza people of Tanzania are hunter-gatherers whose lifestyle remains similar to early humans. At any given time during the night, no fewer than eight of the tribe members are awake. This is in line with the “sentinel theory” first proposed in the 1960s. In essence, it says that somebody needs to be awake to keep watch for animal or human predators during any of the 24 hours in a day. As a result, there are genes for staying up late, getting up super early and everything in between bred into us and health is optimized when you follow what works for you rather than what you “should” do. In other words, if you’re not in the “early bird” group, it’s best for you if you stop trying to be one.

Polyphasic Sleep

The idea of getting all our sleep in one uninterrupted session is a given in modern life. Surprisingly, many people instead follow a “biphasic” sleep pattern where they sleep in two separate chunks, or a “polyphasic” sleep pattern where they sleep in many chunks during a 24-hour period. It was very common in preindustrial times (before lighting and modern work schedules) to follow a biphasic sleep schedule. The most common form is to sleep for several hours, get up for an hour or two, and then return to sleep for several more hours to achieve the total amount of sleep needed to be well-rested. Leonardo da Vinci and Nikola Tesla stuck to almost impossibly strenuous polyphasic sleep cycles. Da Vinci reportedly slept 15 minutes every four hours, while Tesla never slept more than two hours in any 24-hour period (it is probably worth noting that Tesla had a nervous breakdown at age 25). These men were undoubtedly prolific and intelligent, yet their anecdotal examples are not a model to follow for most people. It can be as harmful to health to spend too many consecutive hours awake as it is to get less than your body’s required number of optimal hours of sleep. Our natural, historical tendency toward biphasic sleep warrants the acceptance of napping as a suitable method for being well-rested, especially if schedules or preferences make it impossible to get all your sleep in a single session.

Brain Flushing

When you are asleep, your body may be resting, but your brain is busy taking out the trash. The network that drains waste from the brain is called the glymphatic system. It works by circulating cerebrospinal fluid throughout the brain tissue and flushing any resulting waste into the bloodstream, which then carries it to the liver for detoxification. Brain cells even shrink when we sleep, allowing cerebrospinal fluid to enter and flush out the brain. Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are believed to be caused by inflammation and the accumulation of cellular waste products from energy production. These waste products are cleared out of the brain more effectively and more rapidly during sleep. Thus, in addition to the already familiar immediate effect of sleep quality and quantity on your mental function and mood the next day, there are apparently significant long-term brain health benefits to getting proper rest.

Bottom line: Don’t under value the importance of sleep. It could be your undoing.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day  #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever

Make It a Healthy Thanksgiving

Despite the current pandemic, the biggest meal of the year is about to occur. Whether your plans are a lot smaller than in years past or not, the question is, are you ready? The average Thanksgiving dinner has over 2,000 calories. You don’t have to starve yourself or exercise excessively to counteract this monstrous meal. With some smarts and a little willpower, you can eat, drink, and still button your pants when it’s over. Follow these tips to the dinner table and have a healthier Thanksgiving …

Plan Ahead

Before you get to cooking, schedule a workout prior to your big meal. Even a short workout may reduce appetite. Some studies monitored the brain activity associated with appetite. They found a decrease in food interest immediately after exercise.  Don’t take a holiday from your health. Exercise is usually the first thing people won’t make time for. You owe it to make time for yourself. You probably want to spend the day with family and football games and the excessive amount of sitting that occurs with it so make your exercise time count. Be sure to eat a complete breakfast and make time for lunch. Even a light lunch is better than “saving up room.” Always remember to slow down when eating too. When hungry, we often eat faster and dish out larger portions. By eating fast, more food is consumed before the brain registers the stomach’s fullness. Also, alcohol absorbs more quickly into the bloodstream on an empty stomach so drink responsibly.

Choose Wisely

Know everything being offered before you serve yourself. Then, prioritize your favorites as a few splurge choices. You may prefer dark over white meat, yet decide on leaner white slices so you can save a splurge for something that matters more. Serve yourself with a table spoon instead of a serving spoon or ladle. This lets you sample the variety without overeating. Go for the healthiest options first– veggies, garden salads, and lean meats. There will be less room to pile on the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and creamy casseroles. Satisfying your hunger throughout the day prevents gorging on appetizers and pre-meal bread. Leftovers are permissible so stock up on plastic containers to share the wealth of leftovers. Everyone can enjoy a little slice of Thanksgiving in the days that follow. And, no one person is stuck with the burden of a week’s worth of overeating the same foods. 

Get Moving

Many use turkey as an excuse to laze around post-feast. Experts acknowledge turkey contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, popularly cited as a kind of dietary sedative. However, it is not likely the cause of Thanksgiving Day fatigue. Tryptophan‘s sleep effect only occurs on an empty stomach when eaten with no other protein sources. This same amino acid is found in other common foods, like eggs, yet no one claims they have a sedative effect. Perhaps the popular association between turkey and fatigue is a placebo effect. More likely, Thanksgiving fatigue is the outcome of overeating and that extra cocktail. A full stomach requires blood for digestion, which reduces blood flow elsewhere. Big meals, especially those high in carbs and sugar, naturally trigger sleepiness from the effort required to digest.

Seize the Quality Time

Holiday stress, particularly this year, induces fatigue. Instead of sleeping off the effects of food and family, take a walk. Get fresh air and perhaps a fresh perspective on the day, a tense situation, or the meaning of life. An invigorating walk burns off calories and allows time outside the confines of what is likely an over-crowded house. Practice mindfulness so your senses truly come alive this holiday season. Indulge in the moment, notice each breath, and savor every delicious bite.

Wishing all of you a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

Note: See you all again on December 8th for another year of the 12 Days of Fitness

Sifting Through the Fitness Bull#@*%

I’ve been a fitness professional for over 25 years. During that time, I think I’ve seen and heard it all before. But then, something else will come down the line leaving me scratching my head. What I’m talking about is all the lies and deceit that fitness marketing pushes on you, the consumer. Allow me to explain.

The Great Ab Deceit

Abs, short for abdominals, continue to be one of the top reasons someone will start to workout or continue to workout. It’s assumed that if one trains their abdominals hard  and excessively, they will attain the coveted 6 pack. That will never happen. All of the ab programs, DVDs, classes, etc. are nothing more than a pipe dream that will never see the light of day. But they’re sold and presented in such a way that the buyer thinks that this time will be different. This time it will work. Again, that’s a big no. First of all, being able to see the abdominals divided into 6 separate parts has so much more to do with diet than any exercise. Period. Second, it’s a conscientious, consistent, and difficult dietary journey that many people don’t even possess the genetics to make happen. It should never be one’s ultimate goal, just something that potentially, and I mean potentially can occur. And the marketers will continue to lead you otherwise.

The Great Cardio Myth

Cardio, short for cardiovascular, is great exercise. Don’t get me wrong. Cardiovascular exercise works the cardiovascular system, plain and simple. But where that ends is when people are led to believe that it’s the only way to lose unwanted pounds. You see it in the gyms and health clubs where 2/3 of the equipment in there is cardiovascular exercise equipment. In January, they are occupied to the fullest, complete with sign up lists in some places. Again, cardio is good and yes it does burn calories, but no where near the amount that most of those machines are programmed to report. Why do they do that? To keep you engaged and working towards a misguided number. It’s easy to use numbers as a guide, but in the end they rarely correlate with effort..

The High Intensity Faux Pas

If cardio is not effective enough, then higher intensity, HITT for short, must be the way. Not necessarily. HITT is a great side car to an already strong exercise base. Meaning it’s not a great place for a beginner to start. Exercise is a stress and if you are not adapted to the stress of exercise to begin with, HITT can severely hurt you. These HITT programs are sold and marketed as the next best thing and what you’ve been missing. They are good when applied appropriately, not thrown at you as the best way to exercise.

The Spot “Toning”, Spot “Reduction” Fallacy

Toys and gadgets are sold on the promise of delivering quick results to a certain location on the body. Good news: you can spot “target “ a specific muscle or body part. However, that doesn’t mean miraculously the fat layer on top of said muscle disappears. That’s the result of a systemic loss in body fat. When someone says they want to tone, what they’re really saying is that they want the muscle to show and that won’t happen without fat loss occurring systemically. Consequently, you can not work a specific area exclusively and hope to decrease the body fat that is present. It all takes place as an overall effect, not a specific one.

The Nutritional Fiction

I am a fitness professional, not a dietitian, but I would be remiss to not discuss nutrition. The topic of nutrition is probably the biggest source of deceit when it come to exercise success because they are closely associated. Without getting into the semantics of carbs and protein and fats (the macronutrients), I can 100% assure that there are no cleanses, magical foods, detoxes, or super supplements that will answer or correct a poor or even so-so eating pattern. You will continue to be duped and reeled in because that is how the machine works. Sell, sell, sell, and sell more.

The True State of Fitness

It’s all of the outside distractions that take away from something that’s inherently very basic. It’s an annual battle that continues and unfortunately will continue leading more and more into a state of confusion and craving the next best thing. The message has never changed – you need to exercise in whatever form you enjoy. You just need to do it. You need to be mindful of not only what you eat but how much you eat. If it’s off, it’s easy to blame it on something out of your control. The thing is, you always have control. You just need to find what works best for you, not others. Nothing, and I mean nothing will ever replace hard work done honestly and consistently. If you’re capable of those two things, you can never be disappointed.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Getting Back to Normalcy

During these trying times we often talk about when things will return to normal. Thing is, nobody really knows if and when that is. What we can agree on however is that life goes on. We must continue on with our lives the best we can. While this temporary wrinkle to our “normal” lives exist, more and more opportunities present themselves as a return to “normal.” For one, fitness is and needs to be a part of our lives. Besides the many proven benefits of fitness, making fitness a regular part of your life has been shown to be one of the top combatants to this ruthless pandemic. But finding a way to get and stay fit comes with its own issues and question marks.

Getting Back to the Gym

Here in Pennsylvania and other parts of the country., most gyms and fitness centers were given the green light to reopen in June. Each situation has its own limits and restrictions but nonetheless customers were permitted to pick up their fitness routines back inside the gyms where they had been committed. So, whether you are back in the gym or are thinking about going back, here are a few things to consider:

  • Learn more about what your club has done during the closure and what policies have been put in place for your safety, as well as the safety of its employees. You can generally find this information on the club’s website or social media channels; if it’s not there, make a phone call or arrange a face-to-face visit and ask about.
  • What deep cleaning took place during closures and the new cleaning and disinfecting policies that will be in place (e.g., what products are they using, how often areas are cleaned, who is responsible for the cleaning)
  • Capacity limits and if reservations are needed for the gym as a whole or the specific area where you plan to spend your time (e.g., group fitness studio, weight room floor, functional area, cardio equipment). Try to schedule your workouts during slow times if possible.
  • What entry policies are in place for employees and exercisers to help decrease the spread of the virus (e.g., temperature scans, daily health questionnaires, signs and symptoms, tracking of those using the building at the same time in case a member reports being diagnosed after exercising on site)
  • How policies for staff and patrons will be enforced.
  • What are their mask policies? Most places still require a mask be worn at all times, particularly if you are someone with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.

Being able to clearly answer these questions is a positive sign that your gym or health club has done its due diligence, but you’ll still want to proceed with caution. On your first day back, carefully observe staff and patron behavior to see if what is proposed aligns with the club’s day-to-day reality. The less time you spend in the gym, the less exposure you will have, so get in and get out.

Alternatives to Working Out in the Gym

If you are uncertain about returning, have underlying health conditions, worry about being in frequent contact with others who are at high(er) risk whom you could possibly affect, take your time in returning. Keep in mind, there are other ways to get moving! It has never been easier to find at-home exercise options, whether it’s walking in your neighborhood, riding a bike, using an exercise app, training virtually with a fitness professional, or taking video-on-demand or live-streaming classes.

Everything comes down to a choice so always exercise good judgment and do what’s right for you.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

A Client Success Story

For those of you who have known me and followed me over the years know that not only am I fitness professional but a very passionate one. You see, fitness to me is a way of life. I’ve just been fortunate enough to make a career out of it. Most view fitness as a side activity, one that either fits into their lives or it doesn’t. I take a great deal of pride and education for myself in helping people to understand the positives that fitness can have on their lives. I don’t always have followers but that’s why I continue on. I want to share with you today a story of a client who has done all those things – made fitness a priority in her life; continued to follow my guidance; took all the positives along with the negatives and turned out to become the best version of herself.

How We Started

Tricia and I first met about 12 years ago when I worked at Pottstown Health Club. She had been working with one of my trainers and it was brought to my attention that I might be better suited to help her. Tricia had a “nagging” forearm issue of sorts that we later determined was the result of carrying heavy bags (computer, handbags). With a successful evaluation and treatment plan, Tricia’s arm got better and shall we say, the rest is history. Tricia has been a personal client since then and stuck with me through the gym closing and venturing out on my own. Stories like you’re about to hear are one of the many reasons why I do what I do, why I love what I do, and where my passion for all things fitness comes from. What better way than for you to hear this story other than from Tricia herself.

Her Story

I’ve always been athletic; a tomboy most of my life.  As a kid, I played baseball and football with the boys in the neighborhood.  I played field hockey and lacrosse in high school until knee issues sidelined me during my senior year.  Since then I’ve had a total of 5 surgeries on both of knees.  Ultimately, I will need a full knee replacement, so I have learned to manage the issues and pain since I was 17.  Having a chronic injury like that impacted my participation in sports, as well as working out.  This led to weight gain, which is not good for anyone, but for me with my knee issues, it was worse because I found it even harder to work out or even move.  That’s when I decided to take control and lose weight.  Another motivator was that I was engaged and wanted to look my best for the wedding. I joined Weight Watchers, as I knew I needed to be accountable to someone other than myself in the weight loss journey.  I lost 30 pounds and was very proud of myself.  I focused mostly on my nutrition but was working out a little as well. 

After the wedding, a few of my work friends started working out together at a gym close to the office.  Within a year, I was at my most fit and felt great.  I really enjoyed working out with my friends (never thought I would be a “gym rat” but I was there a lot). Then life happened.  I began traveling a lot with work and was not home a lot.  Because I was working out so much, I had a lot more “flexibility” in my diet.  When you stop working out consistently and continue to eat the same “flexible” way, a not-so-funny thing happens; you gain weight.  I did work out while I was traveling.  I found I had less excuses to NOT work out when I wasn’t home.  It helped that most of my work travel mates were working out in the hotel gyms, so if I brought my workout gear, and told my colleagues I was going to work out. I was accountable to them.  So, I tended to work out more when traveling then when I was home, but eating more than I should have, and maybe drinking more.  Because of my travel schedule, as well as losing most of my workout buddies (started families, changed jobs, moved) I canceled my gym membership. 

My husband and I decided to join Pottstown Health Club together.  I was using the cardio equipment and taking classes.  It had been a while since I spent time in a proper gym, so felt like I needed to work with a trainer; also felt like I needed someone to be accountable to again.  I had started working out with Cathy but then I met Jeff. He created a workout for me that allowed me to continue my momentum despite my injury.  I have continued to work with him since.

Fast forward a couple of years to the week I turned 40.  That seemed to be the year I hit the wall; it felt like I hit the wall, bounced off, then got run over by a truck, got up, and then fell face first into a vat of molasses.  I’ve felt stuck for the past 8 years. The week I turned 40 my back spasmed.  I never had any back issues until that week.  I spent most of that week in bed trying to recover from that until Jeff had recommended massage therapy.  In March of my 40th year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Luckily it was caught very early, but a lumpectomy and 7 weeks of radiation were necessary.  Oh, and you can’t forget the 5 years of Tamoxifen.  Through my recovery, it was difficult to bounce back into a healthy, fit lifestyle.  It’s been nearly 9 years, but I found my way.  My health journey has one consistent factor…accountability.  And today is no different.  I got a sinus infection in January and visited the local urgent care.  They take your temp, blood pressure and weigh you before seeing the doctor.  As you leave, they provide a synopsis of your visit, including an evaluation of your weight.  I rarely read that information, but for some reason I did after that visit.  Based on their information, I was considered OBESE.  I knew I was heavy, but to see that word in my “chart” was eye-opening. 

Jeff and I talk about accountability a lot, and why it is so hard for people to be accountable to themselves.  I think it took the word OBESE and the quarantine to finally get me to be accountable to myself.  I also know that I do not want to start my 50’s feeling the way I have for most of my 40’s. I’ve taken advantage of the time that I’m home to take care of ME.  I’ve been using my normal “commute” time to work out.  At 6:00AM I ride my Peloton for 20 minutes (that’s my normal commute time).  Again at 5:00PM, I’m on my bike for another 30-45 minutes.  I’m also eating clean and healthy; tracking everything I eat (using Weight Watchers again).  I am feeling great!  I have a lot more energy and just overall feel better.  My approach to the quarantine has been one of taking care of me.  Since I am not traveling (which has been a major excuse for not always eating healthy or working out) I really have no excuses to NOT take care of me.  If I’m not going to do it now, I’m never going to take responsibility for myself. 

My husband is benefitting from it as well.  His pants are a little looser too.  And I just hit 40 pounds lost!!  I am at the same weight I was when I got married 18 years ago.  The journey has not been easy.  As much as it is about eating healthy and implementing a fitness routine, it is also about psychology.  I’ve found that without feeling accountable to myself I would self-sabotage.  It was a viscous cycle.  It is a little crazy that it took the word obese and a quarantine to set me straight.

Tricia – a living example of what it means to train smart, eat well, and be better!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

12 Days of Fitness 2019: Day 9 – Fitness is a Choice and Mindset

(This is part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

I’ll be honest. I really struggle when I hear people say that they either hate to exercise or that they don’t have any time to exercise as well as the thousands of other excuses they give on the subject. But then I can come to a better approach and realize that they just don’t get it. Going to the gym isn’t a punishment for what you ate or how much you sit; fitness is a celebration of the fact that you are alive and can still move. Perhaps they just don’t feel alive. I don’t know.

It a Choice

Fitness isn’t something you only do at a gym; fitness for life means you either approach your body and mind with respect, or you disrespect the gift of your own life and health and then everything that defines a healthy human being, such as the ability to pick up a grandchild or to walk on the beach, is taken away from you. Getting in shape isn’t something you only do for a wedding or upcoming vacation. Fitness is a personal choice where you decide to live your life at the highest level you can possibly achieve, because if you are fit and healthy, then anything in life seems possible. What would you give for an extra 10 years of quality life? If you are 30, this doesn’t seem relevant, but if you are in your 40s, way overweight and don’t move, you made a decision, and that decision was to end your life earlier than someone who does realize what you do today in fitness determines how you will live 20 years from now. You, and only you, can determine the quality, and in many cases, the length of your life.

It’s a Mindset

The mindset for fitness isn’t about being perfect or trying to recapture who you were, “back in the day,” but rather becoming the best you can be today. There is no perfect you, but there is a you within that can overflow with happiness, vibrant health and crazy energy, because you now understand you don’t do fitness, you are fitness. Mindset is everything in the pursuit of personal health, but you have to enter the arena with the understanding that fitness isn’t another hobby you only do when you have time or to relax. Fitness is the very essence of how you live 24 hours a day, how you think and who you are. You choose to be healthy; then you chose life. You choose to ignore your fitness, and you made a choice… and you will pay for that choice someday, and then when you can’t get out of a chair without help, or play with a child, or hold the hand of the one you love on a walk through the woods, what would you pay then for just one hour of health and life? And the sad thing is you could have had it all along.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness!

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #16 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Day #2 – Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing
Day #3 – Festively Fit: Staying Fit Over the Holidays
Day #410 Fitness Myths That Need to Die
Day #5 – 9 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Feeling Full
Day #6 – The Cult Of Supplements And The Dangers Of Multi-Level Marketing
Day #7 – The First 5 Things Nutritionists Will Tell You To Cut From Your Diet
Day #8 – Dispelling 5 Common Training Lies