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Friday, December 16, 2011

Let's get Active!

I would really like to get this blog active again by answering some of YOUR questions. Please send me those burning "you've always wanted to know" questions about fitness and nutrition. I'm certain this topic is on your mind a bit with the new year just around the corner! Please email questions and topics of interest to

Speaking of getting active, is this something you could use a little encouragement on this month? Here are a few ideas to minimize that dreaded holiday weight gain.

1. Just 10 minutes
Can you afford just 10 minutes at the beginning of the day? A walk around 1 block, a quick jog on the treadmill (take those clothes off it the night before!), a home strength routine using an exercise ball? It will not only boost your metabolism for hours, but start your day in a "healthy" frame of mind. You just may make a different choice when you pass those red and green tinfoil wrapped candies at the office later!

2. Park farther away
As if you have a choice! No reason to wait in a row of cars though if that's your secret to getting the upfront parking spot at the mall. Take that a little less glamorous spot in the back corner of the lot.

3. Enough shopping online!
Isn't it easier to pick something out when you see it in person anyway? All this online holiday shopping is just adding up to even more holiday pounds. Get off your bum and get to the store. :)

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Beat the Heat: Tips for your outdoor workouts this summer

It’s the heat that’s making your workouts real tough these days! Here are some tips for making it through during these hottest days of summer.

1. Safety first: If the heat index (temperature combined with humidity) is over 100, choose to exercise indoors.
2. Lower your expectations. Change your goal for the day – maybe just to finish the workout!
3. Drink extra water – consider bringing a water bottle with you during your workout, but especially be drinking a lot the day of/day before to get yourself extra hydrated. Cold water is more beneficial in these temps than room temperature water. Also, help drop your core temperature by pouring water on your head!
4. Be willing to alter your workouts – it’s okay to do more cross-training (swimming! water running!) and less of your usual sport…when you do exercise on land, head out earlier in the morning or later in the evening. Sunrise is best.
5. Consider adding a sports electrolyte drink for a little more energy. Choose a natural brand that does not contain artificial flavors or colors such as Recharge or Y Water. Also check out some of the online recipes available to make your own.
6. Clothing: wear a visor with a sweat band; a hat will not allow the heat to escape your head. Wear performance materials that wick sweat away from the body rather than cotton.
7. Embrace your chance to soak up some vitamin D by choosing only moderate protection sunscreen made from natural ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Chemical sunblocks will INCREASE your risk of skin cancer. There are many acceptable choices available at your local natural foods store.
8. Get creative: here are some tips I found in Runner’s World, definitely on the creative side!

Miami Ice: Steve Brookner of the Bikila Athletic Club in Miami came up with this idea while running the marathon leg of Ironman Arizona. "They had thin sponges at each aid station," he says. "So I took one and grabbed a couple of ice cubes." He put the cubes on top of the sponge, then put his hat on over both. As the ice melted into the sponge, it created a cool spot on his head and a nice trickle of water running down his neck.

The Tucson Cold Cap: Randy Accetta, president of the Southern Arizona Roadrunners and a 1996 Olympic Trials marathoner, keeps his head cool in the extreme heat of Tucson with his "cold cap." "I'll soak a baseball cap in water and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight before a morning run," he says. "An old baseball cap retains the moisture longer than the new technical hats."

The Badwater Bandanna: For years, Denise Jones puzzled over the best way to keep the competitors in the Badwater Ultramarathon cool. Finally, Jones--considered the "dean" of Badwater aid-station volunteers--came up with the answer: Lay a bandanna out in a diamond shape. Place a row of ice cubes in a horizontal line, just below one tip of the bandanna. Then roll it up "like a burrito," and tie it around your neck. "We've found that this is the best way to keep runners cool," she says. "It feels wonderful.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Low Fat or Low Carb? Part 2

So if low-carb does seem to show greater results, then what’s wrong with this approach?

Low-carb dieting at first is primarily water loss. This isn’t always bad, except that the water quickly returns when the regime is stopped. And the dehydration this causes has several negtative effects on our delicate systems. Most importantly though, low-carb always results in muscle loss. Those pounds coming off are often more muscle than fat. You see, most of our body can function just fine on the energy from proteins and fats. But our brains and our livers cannot. They absolutely need glucose. When we aren’t getting any through our diet, the body resorts to the backup plan: break down muscle to obtain glycogen, and convert it into glucose.

A low-carb dieter’s body is under chronic stress from this situation. This is incredibly detrimental to athletes, who not only need their muscle but need the quick energy from carbs for successful workouts. Even the casual gym-goer trying to tone up and get fit will find their capacity severly limited without energy for their workouts and with a body chronically breaking down their muscle mass.

Before I sound all "pro-carbohydrate" I want to clarify that I do think the American diet is WAY too high in carbs. I don't think we need any flour or pasta and I certainly don't think we need any sugar. I believe daily consumption of plenty of fruits and vegetables and unrefined whole grains can help one to have adequate carbohydrate intake.

So if not low-fat or low-carb, what’s the answer? Moderation. We don’t like that word, do we. Portion control? Balance? Self-discipline? Patience for results? Difficult concepts in today’s “have-it-now” mentality… but assets to be gained for a lifetime of health.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Low Fat or Low Carb? Part 1

Since the “experts” keep changing their mind, it is no wonder that we are thoroughly confused about proper nutritional techniques for weight loss and maintenance. You probably will not be surprised that my answer is neither. Low Carb, I will say, has its place for certain situations, but this needs to be entirely based on the understanding that our modern diets are easily too high in carbohydrates, and we certainly could all benefit from cutting down on processed breads and pasta. But let’s take a closer look at these two dieting techniques, first understanding what these nutrients are.

Our caloric consumption from food comes from four basic energy-providing nutrients. Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, protein 4 cal per gram, fat 9 cal per gram, and alcohol 7. No the latter is not very nutritious, but it is important to note that it is indeed a source of energy, providing more calories per weight than most of our foods. I certainly don’t have a problem with the low-alcohol diet, which is quite beneficial since alcohol calories convert easily into belly fat.

But carbs, proteins and fats are all essential nutrients for health. Yes, even fat. Unfortunately heart disease has only skyrocketed since reducing this important component of our diets over the last few decades. The low-fat craze of the 80s did provide a quick weight loss solution for many. After all, cut out the nutrient that provides 9 calories per gram and it’s easy to create the calorie defecit needed. But like all other popular protocols, the pounds piled back on.

The low-fat philosophy was mostly based on an ideology that just doesn’t stand up to science. If you want to lose fat, eat less fat, right? The truth is that eventually our body’s need for this nutrient will only program our bodies to store more of it. This diet also has shown significantly less results than low-carb dieting in many studies, and one of the reasons is thought to be the difficulty in maintaining it.

Stay tuned for the low-carb review!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Returning to Fitness Postpartum

Moms On The Run has a prenatal and postnatal fitness specialist, Laura Polikowsky. Here is what Laura has to say!

Q: I had a baby six weeks ago and my doctor has given me the OK to resume exercise again, now what?

A: Congratulations, now we just need to find some time for you to exercise! As we know the sleep habits of a newborn can leave you barely enough time to get yourself fed let alone squeeze in a workout. If you are lucky enough to live in a climate where a walk outside is possible I suggest you begin there. Start with a short 20 minute walk to see how your body and the baby respond. If all is well continue to increase the length and speed of your walk. If you would like to begin running and your body feels ready, utilize an interval program such as Moms On The Run to progress slowly into running.

If the weather is not conducive to walking outside and your child likes the car seat, consider taking them to the gym with you. Most gym based child care centers will not take children until they are 3 months old but until then they can go on the workout floor with you. If you time it right they may sleep in the car seat the entire time you are on the elliptical or bike. Other moms place their babies into the baby carrier and workout on the elliptical or treadmill with the baby strapped on. If you choose this method make sure your posture is fantastic and your baby does not get too warm.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Priority #1 in Weight Loss: Keep your Muscle

A while back we talked about the hard WORK of weight loss and the problem with typical diet techniques that result in a 95% rate of regaining the weight.

To get off the yo-yo cycle and keep weight off for good, a dieter’s first priority needs to be to maintain their muscle. This is the only way for one’s metabolic rate to maintain as their weight is decreased. This doesn’t result in the fastest weight loss, that's for sure. Muscle does after all have weight. So what does this mean from a diet and exercise standpoint? First of all, it completely unvalidates any weight loss programs that do not promote fitness. Maintaining muscle in periods of calorie reduction can only be done through exercise. Strength training especially will help to maintain this muscle.

Second, it means we have to be conservative about cutting calories so that our bodies have enough nutrition to maintain our muscle mass while we lose. If you are serious about long term weight maintenance and health, don’t allow yourself to lose weight too fast. Depending on how much you have to lose, even 1 or 2 pounds a week could mean you are losing muscle along with the fat. Consider creating your calorie reduction by exercising more, which improves your metabolic rate, over eating less, which decreases your metabolism.

Lastly, it means that weight in itself is not a good measure of your progress towards losing body fat. A body composition test is a service provided by most personal trainers that shows you the amount of fat you’re losing. If slow results have been a deterrent in the past, body fat testing can be instrumental in keeping you motivated.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Strengthen your Low Back

Strengthening your low back as you strenghten your frontal core muscles is important to keeping your muscles in balance and preventing low back pain. I recommend the following basic low back exercise because it is easy to do with no equipment and is very effective, requiring very little time.

Lie on your stomach with arms extended above your head. (Think: Superman!)
Lift one arm while simultaneously lifting the opposite leg. Keep your head down and lift from the lower back. Alternate sides, lifting slowly and in a controlled fashion. As you get used to the exercise, hold this position for 15 seconds and then switch sides. Do each side 2-4 times. As this becomes easy, lengthen the holds to 30 seconds and then 1 minute. When one minute becomes comfortable, try adding a "pulse" - just a small movement up and down instead of holding steady. Start at 30 seconds and then work up again.

The video below shows the initial exercise, slow lifts without the hold or pulse.

If lying all the way on the ground is uncomfortable, you also can do this exercise by balancing on one knee and one hand:

You are well on your way to a strong and healthy back!