Running a marathon? Make sure you do this.

motivation20

When you sign up for a marathon, properly train for it.  This sounds pretty straight-forward, but not training is both tempting and common.  Because training is hard.  It’s grueling and time-consuming and takes you away from your other commitments.   Some mornings I talk myself around in circles for a good 20 minutes or so before I even get out of bed for my run.  And once I do, I shuffle around the house for another good 20 minutes, sighing, grumbling, ready to willingly accept any excuse that seems feasible for skipping.  It’s snowing/raining/dark/windy.  I’m sore/exhausted/too busy.  I’ll add the miles to tomorrow’s run.  One little run won’t make a difference.

But consistently skipping out on logging the miles needed to be physically (and mentally) ready for your race could set you and your body up for a cruel, rude awakening on the big day.  More importantly, it increases your chances of  getting caught in a vicious injury cycle that is tough to break out of.

If the whole thing seems daunting, don’t worry.  Here are some simple guidelines:

1. If you have the time and desire to train, it’s a matter of scheduling it into your calendar.  And then sticking to that schedule.  Can you miss an occasional shorter run and still be okay?  Yes.  But definitely don’t miss the long runs!

2.  Make sure the running plan/schedule works for you and your fitness level.  Hal Higdon has training plans for various types of runners.

  1. Don’t drastically increase your mileage from one week to the next as a result of trying to “make up” missed runs.

4.  Add strength training, stretching and yoga.  It will make you a better runner and further decrease your risk of injury.

5.  If this isn’t your first rodeo, try doing some speed training one or two days per week.  Track running not your thing?  No worries–Try some fartleks or pick up the pace for a minute or two, then take a few minutes to recover and repeat.

Advertisements

Burn Mega Fat With A Stability Ball

Stability ball…Swiss ball…Yoga ball…That big round blue ball…

You can find it in every fitness center, and you can buy one for around $15-$20.  It’s become a fitness staple because of its versatility and low cost (Work your core by sitting on it while you watch TV!).  Your kids will love it too (Just don’t let them pop it!).

Do you have one, but aren’t sure what to do with it?  Check out some of my favorite stability-ball moves.  Do these as a circuit, 2-3 times.  Do 10-18 reps per exercise.  Click on each photo for a demonstration.

1. Pec Fly With Bridge

Dumbbell-Chest-Flys-on-Ball

Bonus: Keep your glutes tight throughout these movements, lifting your butt off the ball so that your torso and thighs form a straight line (not demonstrated).

2. Ball Wall Squat With Bicep Curl

Wall-Squats-with-Dumbbells-and-Ball

Bicep Curl is not demonstrated.  Perform each curl as you squat, extending your arms and legs simultaneously as you return to standing.

3. One-Legged Static Lunge with Lat Raise

single leg lunge

There is no demonstration with this photo.  Keep your front knee behind the toe and you bend it.  Bonus: Add a lat raise (not pictured), lifting your extended arms laterally to shoulder level as you bend your knee.  Perform on both legs.

4.  Push-Up

Pushups-on-the-Ball

The closer the ball is to your feet, the harder the exercise.

5. Back Extension

Back-Extension-with-Ball

5. Side Plank

Side-Plank-on-Ball

This is great especially for those who find a regular side plank too challenging.  Hold in this position for 15-30 seconds, to start.

6. Dumbell Reverse Flys

Dumbbell-Reverse-Flys-Lying-on-Ball

Begin this exercise by placing your body balanced on the Swiss ball at your core with legs straight and toes on the floor.

7.  Wheelbarrow Walk

Wheelbarrow-Walk-with-Ball

Keep your abs tight throughout this movement.

8. Swimming

Slow-Swimming-on-Ball

9. Hamstring Curl

Hamstring-Flexion-with-Ball

Begin this exercise by lying flat on your back with a Swiss ball under your heels. Place your arms straight out to your side for support.  Keep your feet flexed, digging your heels into the ball.  For more of a challenge, keep your butt off the floor.

10. Jack Knife

Jackknife-with-Ball

Demonstrations courtesy of SparkPeople.

The Perfect Guilt-Free Dessert To Make For Your Sweetheart (Or Yourself!)

valentines-day strawberries

Dark chocolate covered strawberries are a perfect way to top off a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, especially if you or your significant other don’t want to splurge on sweets.  They’re decadent, fairly easy to make, and provide a perfect dose of flavonoid and antioxidant-rich chocolate.

The key to making your strawberries extra delicious and nutritious?  Find the ripest, freshest berries and a high-quality, low sugar, very dark melting chocolate.  Melt in the microwave for small increments of time at 50% power, or melt on low on your stove (usually the package will have melting instructions;  the key is not to burn the chocolate), dip, and let dry on parchment paper.  Sprinkle with your favorite chopped nuts, if you wish.

A large dark chocolate covered strawberry contains 115-145 calories, so this is a great way to feel like you’re indulging without actually doing so.  Actually, this dessert is quite nutritious.  Four extra large strawberries give you 3.81 grams of fiber, 44.82 IU of vitamin A and 94.12 mg of vitamin C.  Strawberries have more vitamin C per ounce than citrus fruits, according to the University of Illinois Extension.

Don’t have a sweetheart?  Who says Valentine’s Day is just for couples?  Make them for yourself, and enjoy every bite!

Trainer’s Tip #12: Use Apps To Hold Yourself Accountable

 

myfitnesspal

Trainer’s Tip #12:  Use a fitness app to help you hold yourself accountable.

Have you kept your New Year’s Resolution to finally get fit and healthy, or are you losing motivation?  If you’re slipping back into old habits, you’re not alone, but it’s not too late to turn it around!  Maybe you just haven’t found strategies that have work for you in adapting, then keeping, healthier habits.

I often recommend apps like myfitnesspal to clients.  Apps like this make it easier for people to keep their goals by a) allowing them to detect what foods/habits are sabotaging their weight-loss efforts, and finding healthier foods that are satisfying to them  b) allowing them to track their progress and accomplishments, which helps keep them motivated and holds them accountable c) allowing them to be part of a supportive online community of people, just like them.

Here are my experiences with myfitnesspal.  As a personal trainer, it taught me some invaluable tips: My Experience with myfitnesspal. Did it Work?

Good luck!

ff2428566cbd4802a783a9ea1d60a3c6

 

 

 

The Best (and Worst) Moves For Awesome Abs

truth-about-six-pack-abs-girl

Everyone pines for a six-pack.  People love to work their abs, and that’s good.  Your core is the foundation from where all your power originates.  Keep in mind that the core includes not only the abdominal muscles, but those of the back, glutes, spine, and hips (pelvic floor).  Keeping all of your core muscles strong also helps to prevent injury in athletes.

Before I continue, let me first say that you cannot spot reduce body fat on your waist, or anywhere else, for that matter.  You can strengthen your ab muscles with all of the exercises in the world, but without getting your heart-rate up through cardiovascular exercise, you won’t be able burn off the fat needed to see those strong abs you worked for.  So do your cardio!

People who want that flat tummy often gravitate toward crunches, because that’s the most well-known ab move.  However, research has shown that crunches are one of the worst ab moves in terms of how hard the obliques and rectus abdominus are worked.  The crunch only works a small part of the core, repeatedly bends the spine, and burns few calories.

The plank, a stabilizing move, works your whole core, as well as the transverse abdominus and your upper body.  It’s one of the best ab moves you can do.  What’s more, the possibilities with plank variations are endless!  Let’s first start with how to do a simple plank, because form is key:

With your forearms and toes on the floor:

plank1

  • Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
  • Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds to start.
  • Over time work up to 30, 45 or 60 seconds.  Don’t forget to breathe!

You can also do a plank with your arms fully extended, which works more of the upper body:

ICP

 

If you are a planking pro and can hold the pose for more than a couple of minutes, the simple plank is really no longer very effective for you.  It’s time to ramp it up a little!  Aside from the regular push-up, which is a great move, try one of these other variations below.  Happy planking!

Dolphin

dolphins

Plank Reach

plank reach

 

Single-Legged

0910-single-leg-plank

 

Reach & Raise

plank reach and raise

 

Lateral Walking Plank

Upper-Body-Core-Lateral-Plank-Walk

 

  • Simultaneously cross your right hand toward the left as you step your left foot out to the left. Then simultaneously step your left hand and right foot to the left, returning to the plank position. Your hands move together as your feet step apart. Take two more steps in this direction, keeping your abs pulled toward your spine and your pelvis level. This completes one rep.
  • Reverse directions, taking three steps the right.

 

Plank Up-Downs

plank up downs

 

Plank on Bosu Ball

bosu2

 

Side Plank

side plank

 

Plank Rows

plank rows

Sliding Plank

sliding-plank

 

Plank Walk-Out

 plank walkout

 

Oblique Crunch Plank

plank-oblique_-_step_2_max__v1

Bonus: Jack Knife on Stability Ball

jacknife

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meatloaf? Sure! Trainer’s Tip #11: Make Your Meals Hearty

turkey chili

 

Trainer’s Tip #11:  Make your meals hearty.

Yes.  Eat REAL FOOD, food that satisfies, and enjoy it.  Create hearty, filling meals using healthy, quality ingredients, and lose weight.

Why?  Because…

A.)  Calories are NOT created equal.  Your body wants and needs nutrient-dense foods like nuts, legumes, whole grains, avocados, lean meat, healthy oils, etc., to fuel your workouts.  Eating these foods will promote a better metabolism and better fat-burn, and you’ll feel way better.  Don’t be afraid of calorie-rich food that is packed with good-for-you-fat.  Just watch your portions and listen to your body’s signals, and don’t forget to give veggies and fruit a starring role in your meals.

B.)  In order to stick with a healthy diet long-term, you must enjoy the food you eat, and you must feel full.  Satiety is key with clean eating, and this has been illustrated through studies.  Why do you think people yo-yo diet so much?  They try to lose weight using short-term solutions that too severely restrict calorie consumption and eliminate complete food groups that contain vital nutrients.  Rather than flip-flopping endlessly between states of deprivation and bingeing–fill your meals with whole, natural, nutrient and fiber-rich ingredients.

Here’s a super-easy “Mini Meat Loaves” recipe that even kids will love:

Combine 1 egg, 1/2 cup of (lower sugar) marinara sauce, 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs, 1/4 tsp salt, 1lb lean organic ground beef or turkey, and 1/2 cup of shredded part-skim mozzarella in a bowl.  Divide mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into ovals.  Place on a foil-lined baking pan.  Spoon a dollop of marinara sauce on top, and sprinkle lightly with a little more cheese.  Bake 15 minutes at 450 degrees.  Pair meat loaves with your favorite vegetable.

For the recipe on the above chili, click here.

5 Strategies For Reaching Your Weight-Loss Goals

08a0e91f600695996d3e4e2b9096169d[1]

You make ’em…..Then you break ’em.  They begin with the best intentions, but then real life gets in the way and sabotages them.

Does that describe your experience with New Year’s resolutions?  Especially ones involving weight loss?

It doesn’t have to be that way.  But, it does take work, and a bit of planning on your part.  If you’ve resolved to get back in shape, or get in better shape, you’re not alone.  In fact, I’m right there with you.  The crazy holidays and a two-week illness last month really set me back fitness-wise, so I have a few goals of my own.  No, trainers are not perfect, by any means.  We have to work hard, too!  I’ll be using techniques like the following to keep my mental focus and get me back on track.  You may find them useful too…

1.  Who do you want to be six months from now?  Visualize that person.  Dig deep to recognize your internal motivations for getting healthier.  Sure, you want to fit into those skinny jeans.  But what else?  Do you want to be able to play sports with your kids without getting winded?  Remind yourself of these motivations regularly.

2.  Schedule your workouts into your calendar, like appointments.  Figure out ahead of time how much time per week you can devote to exercise, and stick to your schedule–Even if this means you have to wake up an hour earlier.  You may even start looking forward to this quiet time to yourself.  It will take a month or so to get used to your new schedule, and hopefully will become more of a habit.

3.  Use short-term nutrition goals.  Pick 2 goals for yourself (For example, eat breakfast everyday, cut out excess sugar).  Give yourself one or two weeks to adjust.  Once you’ve mastered them, be proud of  yourself, choose two more, and so on.

4.  Give yourself attainable, specific, concrete fitness goals, and make a contract with yourself to reach them.  For example, sign up for a 5k or another sports event with a friend.  If you’ve committed to it, you’re less likely to skip training.  Some people find that fitness apps like myfitnesspal really help to track their progress and keep their motivation up.

5.  Start a food log.  Write down everything you eat, and when you eat it.  For some people, this can be very helpful because it can help you detect what foods/behaviors may be sabotaging your diet.  Too much grazing?  “Problem” foods you didn’t detect before?  A food log can bring them to light.  Just be very specific, and brutally honest with yourself.  Also, you may wish to share your log with a registered dietician and ask for recommendations.

“Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.”

                                                         –Jum Ryun, former world-class runner

Trainer’s Tip #10: Snack Smartly At Holiday Parties

cocktailparty_main

Trainer’s Tip #10: Snack smartly at parties.

Tis the season for throwing healthy eating out the window at holiday parties.  But it doesn’t have to be that way!  Just be smart, and use moderation.  Here are a few tips:

~Eat something before you arrive.  You may think you need to save your calories for the party, but doing it that way will likely set you up for a bit of a binge.

~Bring your own healthier appetizer to share.  That ensures there will at least be ONE healthy option there.

~Don’t sit next to the food table.  Get a plate, move away, and eat slowly.

~Portion control, people!  If you’re drooling over the peppermint fudge, have one piece and really enjoy it.  Then move on.

~Limit alcohol.  It clouds your healthy-eating judgment.  Studies show that after a third drink, people are way more likely to abandon their healthy-eating goals.  Go for light beer and wine.  Stay away from sugary punches and mixed drinks.  Bonus:  No hangovers!

~Finally, opt for fresher choices that aren’t processed or fried.  One of the better choices? Shrimp cocktail!

Happy Holidays!