Why Running Won’t Help You Lose Weight

I see it all the time. People who run regularly, daily even, but who have a higher body fat percentage and/or complain that they want to lose weight. You would think running would burn calories and lead to weight loss, right? Wrong! It’s one of the most believed myths in the fitness space. Cardio does not equal fat loss. Here’s why.

When you perform a cardio activity, such as running or a high-intensity circuit or any other activity that gets your heart rate up, you do burn calories. But it’s not as many as you think. If you’ve ever used a cardio machine at a gym, for example, the machine will provide a reading based on your height, weight, and age. When you think about how long you are on that elliptical or treadmill versus how much you burn? It’s not much! Even if it was, it cannot last. This is because our bodies are super smart. They are adaptable. It’s how we can build strength, flexibility, and overall fitness. The more you practice something the better you get at it. The more you lift, the greater your strength and muscle gains. The more you run, though, the less calories you burn. Wait a second, what?

That’s right. Let me say that again. The more you run, the more you will have to run to continue burning calories. This is because your body is made to be as efficient as possible. When you run, you are telling your body to become as lean as possible to be aerodynamic, making it easier for your body to run. And by lean, I don’t just mean less fat. It means less muscle, too. And the more you run, the more you shed that muscle. Have you ever heard of being skinny fat?

You might step on the scale to check your weight, but you may not know your lean muscle mass to body fat ratio. And that is the more important number. You want your body fat percentage to be around 15 to 20% for a male, 20 to 30% for a female, depending on factors, such as age. I’m generalizing this range. The more muscle you have, the more compact your body will become and the more calories it will burn at rest. Some people who are very fit weigh more than they look like they weigh based on the amount of muscle they have on their bodies. And they can eat WAY more calories daily because that muscle helps them burn those calories efficiently throughout the day.

The best way to approach cardio and running is to think of it as a supplement to your resistance training. Always prioritize muscle building first to lose weight and build muscle. If you like to run or are training for a race, that’s fine. But just know at the end of that race, you’ll want to pause and work on building muscle, too. This will keep your heart healthy and your metabolism strong. And, if you’re like me and you can’t run or dislike running, stop worrying that you’re missing out on some magical weight loss activity. Resistance training is king. Focus on that and the results will come.

 

The Best Exercise Programming to See Results

So you’ve decided you want to start training. Maybe you have a few pounds to lose. Maybe your physician advised you to start exercising. Maybe you just want to look and feel better in your own clothing. Once you’ve made this choice, you want results, right? I mean, why bother, if you’re not going to see positive change. 

In this day and age, there are so many options when it comes to choosing an exercise program. From books to websites to social media influencers to brick and mortar gyms offering the latest group classes, it can be overwhelming. Where in the world do you start? Let’s begin with where NOT to start.

  • Social Media Influencers – It may be tempting to purchase the workout that your favorite Instagram fitness account is selling or even to try his or her workouts that may be posted for free from time to time. This is a bad idea. First of all, just because a social media influencer looks a certain way, it does not mean the workouts they are selling or sharing got them to look that way. Forget about Photoshop, some people are just genetically gifted or they know how to stage a good photo. Some of these stars do completely different workouts from what they are sharing online, too. It’s best to skip these folks when it comes to selecting a program.
  • Group Fitness Classes – Your local gym probably offers group classes, and to start, it’s not a terrible idea to enroll. But, it’s not a good long-term strategy for success. Group classes are designed for the masses and are not customized in any way. You could end up doing too much or too little to reach your own goals. Where group fitness excels, however is that it helps motivate people to get to the gym and get into the habit of working out. You also may be fortunate enough to find group classes small enough to allow for customization and if you can do that, even better! The idea is to find what works for you and fitness training is never a one size fits all.
  • Trainers Without Credentials – Personal trainers are prolific nowadays and the internet has made it even easier for people to share fitness information and workouts whether they are qualified or not. Be careful when selecting a trainer or program to check the credentials. If none are listed, skip them. I mean, would you choose to get surgery from someone who was not a medical doctor? Enough said.

The best place to start is to search for qualified, certified trainers or programs. You can do this in person at any gym, or you can also search online. The main certifications trainers typically have are International Sports Science Association, American Council on Exercise and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. It’s also helpful if the trainer has a nutrition credential, too. If not, it’s fine but be wary if they try to give you nutritional advice!

Once you’ve located a reputable trainer or program, you want to review the testimonials or reviews and if you can’t find any, be sure to ask. You want to find out if others with similar goals have seen success. For example, before I became certified, I was looking for someone with certification and experience training “hard gainers” or people who struggle to build muscle. Once I located Lyzabeth Lopez, I checked her credentials and reviewed what others were saying about her training. She had a muscle building plan and there were lots of females who had seen success with the plan. It had been established for several years, too, another sign that it worked!

While you can find online programs like the one I used from Lopez, the gold star for anyone looking to meet specific fitness goals is a personal trainer. No two people are alike; a custom program is essential to maximize the benefits of exercise. A personal trainer will get to know you, your goals, your limitations, your lifestyle, everything. He or she will create a program that will help you meet your goals efficiently and effectively. 

So, instead of spending a dozen a day on coffee, invest those dollars in a quality personal trainer. You can afford it and the dividends you will reap are priceless. Interested in starting today? Hit me up. I’d love to work with you! Good luck!

What is the Best Exercise?

Often I am asked, “What’s the best way to grow my shoulders?” or “How can I strengthen my hamstrings?” There are so many exercises out there–too many to count! But, there are tried and true weight training exercises that I have incorporated into routines over the years. Below is a mini exercise library. It’s my gift to you. Bookmark it and reference it the next time you are looking to focus on a specific body part.

 

Chest

  • Bench press*
  • Dumbbell press
  • Incline dumbbell press
  • Decline dumbbell press
  • Dumbbell fly (flat)
  • Incline dumbbell fly
  • Cable fly
  • Underhand cable fly (bottom to top)
  • Pushup*
  • Chest dip*
  • TRX press

Triceps

  • Triceps dip*
  • Barbell skull crusher 
  • Dumbbell skull crusher
  • Triceps overhead press
  • Triceps kickback
  • Triceps pressdown
  • Triceps overhead cable press
  • Close grip barbell bench press
  • Narrow grip pushup
  • TRX overhead triceps extension

Back

  • Pullup*
  • Chinup*
  • Underhand bent over barbell row*
  • Overhand bent over barbell row*
  • Dumbbell single arm row
  • Seated row
  • Seated cable row
  • Wide grip seated cable row
  • Straight arm lat pulldown
  • Lat pulldown
  • Inverted row
  • TRX row

Biceps

  • Barbell curl
  • Preacher curl
  • Concentration curl
  • Dumbbell curl
  • Incline bicep curl
  • Hammer curl
  • Chinup
  • Zottman curl

Core

  • Cable crunch
  • Russian twist
  • V situp
  • Decline situp
  • Cable chop
  • Lying leg lift
  • Plank
  • Side plank
  • Thread the needle
  • Ball crunch
  • Toe touch
  • Bicycle crunches

Shoulders

  • Shoulder press
  • Military press*
  • Arnold press
  • Front raise
  • Side lat raise
  • Bent arm lat raise
  • Around the world
  • Rear delt dumbbell fly
  • Rear delt cable fly
  • Neutral grip shoulder pres

Quads

  • Leg extension
  • Raised goblet squat
  • Wall sit
  • Kneeling banded lean back
  • Stationary lunge
  • Sguats*
  • Front squat
  • Zercher squat
  • Goblet squat

Calves

  • Standing calf raise
  • Seated calf raise

Hamstrings

  • Leg curl
  • Ball leg curl
  • Nordic curl
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Stiff legged deadlift
  • Cable hamstring curl
  • Squats*
  • Adductor machine
  • Deadlift*

Glutes

  • Sumo deadlift*
  • Deadlift*
  • Hip thrust (variations)
  • Glute bridge
  • Squats*
  • Cable kickback
  • Donkey kickback
  • Frog pulse
  • Side lying leg lift
  • Banded crab walks
  • Abductor machine
  • Reverse lunge
  • Lunge
  • Step ups
  • Walking lunge
  • Elevated glute bridge
  • Hyperextension
  • Reverse hyperextension
  • Clam shells
  • Fire hydrant

*Compound movements that work more than one body part.

 

A Weekend to Remember

Taking a pause on fitness-related content to share a story with you all – a story about perseverance, grit, hard work, and overcoming obstacles. And, truly, this should inspire all of you who are attempting to meet health and fitness goals. It’s a long game and it takes dedication and commitment, no matter what. 

Faithful blog readers will recall that one of my daughters is in all-star cheer. All-star is different from school cheer. It’s the cheer featured in the Netflix documentary, Cheer, and it’s what you see if you happen to tune into ESPN this time of year and see the crazy stunting styles of the NCA teams in Florida. Lucia came home one day and asked if she could cheer. I had no idea even where or how? But, we figured it out and four years later, she’s completing her fourth season and, wow, this past weekend was a doozy.

End-of-Season Cheer Events

All-star cheer culminates in many end-of-season events across the country that require bids to compete. Our gym, New York Icons, typically goes to the Regional Summit and Summit Championships run by Varsity. It also has a World’s team and attends that competition, as well. Regional is for youth teams, the younger girls under 13 years old. The Summit, held at Disney World, is for junior and senior teams, the older girls. This year, Lucia is a crossover athlete, meaning she cheers for two teams, one is a youth and one is a junior. So, she attends both end-of-season events since both teams received bids for those respective events. Anyway, I digress but I wanted to set the stage.

The Northeast Regional Summit was held April 9-10 in Richmond, Virginia. I had been dreading this trip for months. I hate driving and knew the 10-hour trip would be hard for me to do alone. I tried to book a flight, but it was way too much money and hard to schedule, not knowing her cheer schedule. I tried to get my husband to take us but we couldn’t find care for our son for while we were gone and didn’t want to take him and his sister due to missing school and the extra cost. Cheer is expensive and money is tight. I tried to find a carpool but everyone had someone to drive with–so, it would be Lucia and me. 

Northeast Regional Summit Day 1

The trip down took more than 10 hours. The horrific traffic was just unreal. I never left the car for six and a half hours! But, we made it, went to bed at a decent hour and got up early for Day 1. Now, her team, Prodigy, has faced a ton of obstacles this year. Kids came and went from the team; kids got COVID-19, kids got injured. You name it, it happened. Just a struggle. In fact, the team wasn’t even ready for its first competition and had to pull out. By some miracle, we got a bid to the Regional Summit at our first competition (actually the second but first one at which we actually competed). The kids worked and worked to get to a place where they were going to be a force. I recall that Lucia struggled with the dance. It was a lot faster than she was used to and dance is her weakest link anyway. Finally, they were scoring better and winning! They were headed into this Regional weekend feeling pretty good.

But, if I can focus on just Lucia for a minute. The Monday before the Regional, she rolled her ankle coming down from a jump (she’s a point jumper for both of her teams – the one front and center). She stayed home from school one day it hurt so badly. It wasn’t 100 percent when we arrived in Virginia but Tylenol and an ankle brace were keeping her together. Plus, our household was hit with COVID, finally, after all this time. My son had it and my husband wasn’t feeling well. Lucia and I stayed as far away as we could prior to leaving but when we got there, she had a sore throat and wasn’t feeling great. She ended up testing negative three times so not sure what was going on but she wasn’t 100 percent. OK, back to the story.

Day 1 the girls looked great. Everything was hitting and they were loving life up on that mat and then, it happened. The left side of the pyramid was unsteady and then just sort of melted to the ground. One of the girls was dry-heaving and we found out after she had actually gotten sick. Everything that happened in the remaining 30 seconds was off. The girls came off the mat in tears. It had all gone so horribly wrong. The athlete who got sick had anxiety/nerves. She wasn’t ill. But, still, it caused an implosion and major deduction for the routine. They were devastated. There was still Day 2 but they knew there was only a slim chance of victory after that performance.

A Second Chance?

Lucia and I made our way back to the hotel sadly. She was silent on the ride back. Quietly, I took her hairpiece out and she removed her makeup while we talked about finding some macaroni and cheese, her favorite, to make it all better. And then I got a text. The team mom was calling everyone back to the venue. The judges were giving the girls another chance! They could do another full-out (the entire routine) and the judges would simply score from the pyramid on. The rest of the score would stand. Lucia immediately burst into tears. “I can’t! I can’t! She screamed…because we literally had minutes to get her hair back in, makeup redone and back to the venue which was about a 15 minutes drive plus parking. A few frantic minutes later we learned we had 45 minutes. “Plenty of time!,” I calmly told her! And got to work redoing everything.

We made it back to the venue, paid for parking again, and rushed to meet the team. The girls were still kind of frantic. Some were still redoing makeup. They all looked tense. The coaches arrived and calmly talked them through the scores for their first run. They had done phenomenal. The judges obviously liked what they saw. Perfect scores in jumps, which made Lucia happy. It was easy to see why the coaches fought for that second chance. The girls had a shot at winning if they could keep hitting the routine.

They went back out and killed it… they just cheered their hearts out! At the end of the day they were only behind the first place team by .1! We went back to the hotel again, happier, and headed for the mac and cheese. Later that evening, after a long nap, Lucia felt awful again. I worried she was sick but she rallied to hang out with her team a little. We went to bed early again and luckily, the next day she felt better, just still had a sore throat and laryngitis.

Northeast Regional Summit Day 2

Day 2, the girls knew they had to pull it all out. It would be their last performance as a team and they were within striking distance of the title. After we dropped them off for check-in we got a text from the coaches. The scores were miscalculated, we were actually in the lead by the tiniest of margins – .04! We discussed whether we thought the girls should know or not and waited with bated breath for their performance. And, wow, did they deliver. The best performance they ever did. We were crying, the girls were crying. It was just amazing. We agreed no matter what happened, we won. Those girls overcame everything. They gave it all they had and that is winning, no matter what the score says.

Then came the awards. We were up against 10 teams, one of the largest, if not the largest division at the Regional Summit. So, the announcer started with 10th place and worked his way back. We waited, phones in hand, ready to see if they would pull it off. And he said, “In second place….New…. Jersey Premier All Stars!” Hanging on that New had us on pins and needles. They won!!! Not only did they win, they were in the running for Grand Champions, which is the highest score of the entire event. They were sized for rings, in case they won. They ended up not winning that one but still. What a weekend. What a season. One of the coaches said she’s coached for 22 years and this will go down as one of the most memorable of her career.

These kids. This sport. There are no words. They learn how valuable hard work is. How you never give up. How even when one person struggles, the team lifts them up. It’s an expensive sport and I complain bitterly about the money and the travel. But at the end of the day, if she loves it and she’s learning these life lessons, I suppose it’s worth it. Money isn’t everything and we’ll survive, right? Lucia, on the other hand, will thrive.

If you made it this far through my story, congratulations! I hope it inspired you as it inspired me. Below is a photo gallery from the event, as well as a video of their final, amazing performance. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

The Importance of Sleep

With this week being the first week of Daylight Saving Time, I thought it might be a good time to refresh everyone’s memory about an important subject–sleep. It’s one of the most important things you can do to get and stay healthy. It’s a well-known fact that most of us don’t get enough sleep. And if you think you can function on less sleep, you’re probably wrong. Only a very small population of people can get by on less; it’s not the norm. So, how much sleep do you need?

Experts agree most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night, but it’s not just a matter of going to bed at 9 p.m. and getting up at 5 a.m. That sleep in between needs to be quality sleep. Believe it or not, what you do all day can impact how well you sleep at night. For example, if you don’t eat enough during the day, you make awaken at night due to hunger. If you drink too much before bed, you might wake up to go to the bathroom. What’s worse, if you drink caffeine too much or too late in the day, that also can make a huge difference in how well you sleep.

Most of us have a morning routine. We probably get up, brush our teeth or shower, and get ready for our day. But, how many of us have a nighttime routine? It’s just as important. Making sure you wind down, stop eating a couple hours before bed (and maybe cutting back on fluids, too), turn down the lights, use blue light blocking glasses, or stop watching screens can make a huge difference in how well you can fall and stay asleep. Beware of the “night cap” effect, though. While a glass of wine might help make you drowsy initially, it likely will disrupt your sleep as the night goes on. Better not to have it at all.

By now you’re probably thinking that getting good sleep is boring and not at all in line with your lifestyle. And herein lies the problem. Americans don’t place an emphasis on sleep and it shows. The vast majority of the population is overweight, a by-product of not getting enough sleep. We’re chronically tired and when we are sleepy our bodies create more cortisol, the stress hormone. Basically, we are adding more stress to our lives, which leads to other unhealthy behaviors. And for those of you who are interested in building muscle and who exercise regularly, lack of quality sleep can hinder your gains.

If you still need a reason why sleep is so important think about what happens when you know you haven’t slept well. What’s your mood like? How productive are you? If you get a whole week of poor sleep, are you more susceptible to illness? How’s your diet when you’re overtired? The answers should point you in the right direction – on your back, in your bed, with your eyes closed. Sleeping.

For more tips on how to get better sleep, listen to the MindPump podcast, “How Sleep Helps Your Muscles Recover and Grow.” It’s full of helpful advice and reasons why sleep is underrated and oh so important.

A Trainer is Born

When I was 9 or 10, I was addicted to Mousercise on the Disney Channel. This lady with a headband, leotard, and leg warmers, led us through the classic 1980s aerobics every morning at 6:30 a.m. and I never missed it. It was just me in my PJs in the family room following along with all the kids on TV. Over time, I stopped doing it. I don’t remember if it was no longer on or I just got busy with other things, but Mousercise was over for me.

Fast forward a few years. I didn’t play sports in high school. I tried. The summer before 9th grade I attended volleyball camp for a few weeks. In preparation for camp, the coaches sent a workout schedule and I diligently did all the exercises and running that was required. When camp began, my parents made me ride my bike all the way to the high school, a trip that took about 20 minutes, winding through the connected neighborhoods until I reached the main road to the high school. Every day I tried to learn the sport. I figured it wouldn’t be that hard; I’d played in my backyard for years. But, it was that hard. In fact, I wouldn’t make even the freshman team. 

After that happened I pretty much forgot about working out. I still rode my bike from time to time and it wasn’t that I was inactive, but I didn’t have a routine and I didn’t play any sports. I mostly concentrated on my piano and violin instead. But, the whole time I lived at home, prior to college, my father exercised daily. He first would go before work (I think it was before work) at the local Bally’s fitness. Then he started to do his workouts at home. Even though I was not working out, I saw him doing it. Research shows that role modeling is a powerful force in whether kids grow up to be active adults.

In college, I quickly met a friend who loved to go to the gym. She showed me lots of different exercises. I didn’t really know what I was doing so I usually just did the Stairmaster, followed by endless sit-ups and, if my friend was there, I would follow her lead with resistance training. I finally had the routine, but I still wasn’t really following a program; not yet.

After college I continued to go to the gym regularly. I would still do cardio, followed by machines. I picked up a few routines from trainers at the gyms I would join, but nothing really official. I loved to go to the gym but I didn’t quite know what I didn’t know about training. Soon, the gymgoing went on a major hiatus as I had my first, second, then third child. Between my second and third child, I went through a difficult divorce where I found myself in the worst shape of my entire life. I had lost a great deal of weight, making me severely underweight and I was overstressing my body, trying to get through the divorce, take care of my two small children, and keep up with work. After the divorce was behind me, I knew I had to regain my healthy lifestyle and do something about my weight. 

Building Muscle and Learning to Train

I had always been a tiny person who had trouble putting on and keeping on weight. I figured it was normal. My mom was thin, my grandmother was thin, and I could eat whatever I wanted and never gain a pound. That was good, wasn’t it? But, it wasn’t good. I needed to do something to fuel my body more fully, and I was sick and tired of being thin. My clothes never fit well, and people were always accusing me of being anorexic. I didn’t feel right in my own skin and I wanted to look and feel better. I joined the new YMCA that opened near my home, and began researching lifting routines, starting with a progressive overload program that took me 12 weeks. And, wow, did I ever see gains. I never had that kind of muscle on my body before. I was hooked.

I wanted to find more routines/programs like that one. In my Google search for keywords, such as hard gainer, muscle building, and bodybuilding, I found Lyzabeth Lopez, a world-renowned trainer based in Toronto. She had a muscle building program for sale on her website and I eagerly purchased it. It was a three-month workout program, along with an eating plan. Again, I saw tremendous results and was really intrigued as to how this program and muscle building worked. 

My husband could tell I was really excited about building muscle and was borderline addicted by this point, so for Christmas he gave me a membership to a new gym in Syracuse that had recently opened. It was the Y on steroids. So much equipment, so many like-minded individuals. Plus, it had the added benefit of a Dexascan machine, and other devices to really track your progress. I started to think perhaps I wanted to learn more about training and nutrition at a higher level. 

Becoming Certified

In May 2019, I took a huge leap, and enrolled in the NASM-CPT course, purchasing a package that included the certification as a nutrition coach, too. By this time, I knew that training and nutrition were not independent variables and they really did need to go hand in hand for success. On my birthday, August 25, 2019, I became certified as a personal trainer and nutrition coach.

At that time, my plan was to work part-time as a trainer either at the gym where I was currently working out or maybe the Y, where we still had a membership. But, in January, 2020, my gym closed. I joined another gym but it wasn’t a place where I wanted to train. And by March, 2020, the whole gym industry shut down, ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I continued to train myself at home. Thanks to my knowledge of training and nutrition, I was able not only to keep the muscle I had built, but also to build more. 

Although I’m still small, I’ve packed on 10 pounds of muscle in about four years. My clothes fit better, I feel better, and I don’t hear talk about what I eat or don’t eat anymore. I’ve learned so much from my own experiences, as well as from others in the industry. I even visited Lyzabeth in Toronto a few years back, training at her flagship gym before she was forced to close it due to the pandemic. I continue to learn as much as I can about training, recently becoming certified in Stronglifting by Bret Contreras. 

When we moved in June, 2020, I built a home gym, with the help of my husband and although gyms reopened, I never went back. But, I never started training either. Between the pandemic wreaking havoc on things, and the fact I took a new, higher level position (I’m a full-time public relations and marketing professional), I just didn’t have the time to pursue personal training.

Now, I’m in a place where I have the capacity to train online. I am going to be highly selective as to who I work with since I have limited openings and want to make sure I devote enough time to my clients who will need support. I’m excited to finally be able to share what I know, particularly for those who want to build muscle, and people who are crazy busy, like me. Muscle building and managing to fit health and fitness into a busy lifestyle are what I do best! 

I can’t wait to find some special clients to help in their own fitness journeys. If you are interested in taking that next step, contact me today! If you know someone who might benefit from my coaching, please let them know about me! I would be honored to help others and so many have helped me.

How to be a Morning Person and Why You Should Embrace the Sunrise

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a morning person. I don’t really know how it happened. Was I born that way? Did something happen in my upbringing? Who knows? The fact remains I am at my best at the beginning of the day. They say the “early bird gets the worm,” and some of the most successful executives swear by their morning routines. I agree. I credit much of my success in life to embracing the sunrise. Here are some of my best tips to become a morning person and why they work so well.

  1. Don’t hit snooze. This is the biggest mistake of your morning. Once you hit snooze, it’s all over! You often can’t stop. What’s more, if you fall back asleep, you feel worse when that buzzer goes off again. When your alarm goes off, count to yourself, “3-2-1” and jump out of bed. Just do it! If you struggle with this, move your clock or phone far enough away that you have to physically get out of bed. By the way, if you have a bed partner, they will appreciate you not hitting snooze 10 times. Trust me on this!
  2. Have a morning routine. Identify something or more than one thing you accomplish every morning. Having a reason to get up in the morning and knowing the plan will help you engage with your new day. Make coffee, read the news, exercise, throw in a few loads of laundry…just pick something that you will do each and every day. You’ll be amazed how it jump-starts your productivity!
  3. Workout. I have been a morning workout person for years and one thing I’ve noticed is that the morning gym crowd is the most consistent. Personal trainers will tell you that, too. I think it’s because there is little that gets in the way of a morning workout. After work or school, things come up and you may get off track. But, what else is happening at 6 a.m.? My workout is the first thing I do every day, whether it’s resistance training, Peloton, or an outdoor walk. Getting moving helps wake me up and gets my digestive system going so I can eat a healthy breakfast. Having trouble getting into an exercise routine? Just go for a walk. Even better? Get a dog (or a human friend)!
  4. Plan your morning in the evening. This is probably my best tip. Fail to plan, plan to fail, I always say. The night before, I typically lay out my clothes, including my workout gear. I also prepare my workout supplements, pack my lunch, set my alarm, and review my calendar. This helps me get my head in the game so when I wake up, I can just go. The less I have to use my brain early in the morning and the more I can hardwire my routine, the more successful I am. When I first started getting up early to workout, I even slept in my workout clothes!
  5. Eat. It’s so important to eat something when you wake up. I hate breakfast. I’m often not hungry until I’ve been up a while. I do try to have something, though, whether it’s a cup of yogurt or a whey protein shake. Just something… and you can even grab and go, choosing a healthy Starbucks order or a protein bar from your pantry.

All these tips are from my own experience. After so many years, my routine is so set that if I try to change it, it’s difficult! In fact, I often wake before my alarm now. You CAN change your body clock and your approach to mornings. It just takes repetition and time. I think it’s well worth the effort to try.

How to Stay Motivated to Exercise (Hint: You don’t!)

Motivation. The Holy Grail. When you have it, you know it. Firing on all cylinders you are a machine, checking things off and taking names. When you don’t have it, you feel lazy, overwhelmed by not getting anything done and, at times, depressed and dejected. The truth is, we can’t be motivated all the time. Life just isn’t that way despite what you see on social media. Even fitness influencers lose their mojo once in a while. So, how in the world can you stay motivated to exercise? Well, you don’t. But, there is a way to make sure you stay connected and engaged even when you aren’t necessarily feeling it.

  1. Try to establish a regular routine. If you can exercise at a regular interval, you will have much better success continuing to work out even when you are not motivated. Experts say you build a habit once you’ve done something for 21 days. More simply, if you can stick to a routine for a month (not necessarily a daily one), you typically can stick with it beyond that timeframe. It’s best to choose a day/time that you know you won’t have a conflict. Personal trainers who work in gyms will tell you that the people who show up first thing in the morning are the most consistent gym goers… and it’s easy to see why. There isn’t anything standing in their way (besides the alarm clock). If you can get up, you can work out. There isn’t likely to be anything that would usurp that time. Find that time for you. When are you always free? Start there. Then, when you aren’t motivated, you just go anyway. Just like going to work when you really just want to binge Netflix and eat chips all day.
  2. Track it. Keep track of your exercise and progress. It helps you see how far you’ve come and where you need to go next. I use the back of my planner to write out all my workouts and keep track of the weights I use. Having to mark it down keeps me accountable plus it’s a great way to see improvement and celebrate your success. If you like to bullet journal or are competitive, set goals for yourself and track them, too. For example, if you want to lift weights three days a week, mark that down and check it off. Give yourself a reward when you do it!
  3. Together we stand. Find a partner in crime who either goes to the gym with you or who you can call or FaceTime to hold you accountable for being there. Try to pair up with someone who you will be ashamed to let down. Someone you want to make proud! It helps, believe me! If you can’t find someone, consider posting on social media either in a like-minded group or just to your own followers. Checking in to a location on Facebook is a quick easy way to publicly hold yourself accountable for showing up, even when you don’t want to. Your followers just may call you out when they don’t see that check in pop into their feed and that may be all the motivation you need!

These three tips have been key to my success over the years. At this point, when I don’t exercise first thing, the whole day just feels “off” somehow. And you don’t have to wait until a major milestone to start doing any of this. Start tomorrow, next Monday, next month, or next year. Just start. And if you keep going, no matter what. You will stay the course, motivated or not. You got this!

 

How to Add Cardio to Your Resistance Training Program

Despite popular belief the best way to stay fit and maintain a healthy weight is NOT endless cardio. Resistance training is the end all be all for that. But, that being said, does cardio harm your muscle gains? Not exactly and it depends!

Here’s a basic explanation. When you do nothing but cardio, your body learns to adapt and it tries to make itself as lean as it can to make the cardio easier for your body to accomplish. This is the opposite of what resistance training does. With training, you send a strong signal to your body to build muscle. So, the two “can” be at odds with one another. Still, cardio is the best way to train your heart muscle, and it helps build overall endurance, so it should be an essential part of your routine.

As someone who struggles to pack on muscle (and keep it on), I tend to limit my cardio. There have been times where I haven’t done it at all. A half hour walk twice per day is all I’ve done for weeks on end. Recently, though, I purchased a Peloton for my home gym and I really enjoy riding! In fact, I have to force myself not to ride every day because it does impact my lifts, tiring my muscles. How am I fitting it into my routine? Below are a few options to consider:

  1. Ride on rest days. If you do this, keep in mind that not every ride should be a burner. Mix in some low impact, too, so you don’t overdo it and ruin your stamina for your heavy lift days.
  2. Ride at the end of your resistance training workout. Depending on the type of lift you could choose a HIIT ride as a finisher, or a cooldown or beginner ride if you need something less taxing.
  3. Ride at the opposite end of the day from when you train. If you lift in the morning, ride in the evening. Still, this could be too much for your body so listen to those aching muscles and if you get too sore and/or you can’t lift as much, cut back.

My sweet spot appears to be two to three rides per week, all on rest days. I am still doing beginner and low impact rides for the most part and not overly taxing my body. I’ve noticed that my legs are stronger and more shapely since I started the rides. They are so fun, too, and completely different from the solo training I usually do.

Bottom line? You can do cardio and resistance training. You just have to be smart about it and not let one overpower the other. Staying in tune with your body is key. Happy riding (and lifting)!

How to Have a Healthy Thanksgiving

It’s here–well, it’s been here for a while, if you pay attention to retail–the holiday season! It’s a time when all the goodies and treats are plentiful and the atmosphere is light. If you’re not careful, you overdo it, only to recommit to a crazy diet and dry January right afterwards! But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

You don’t have to go off the rails to enjoy your holiday season. Let’s take Thanksgiving, for example. It’s one day but it’s a big day when it comes to all the calories. Still, it’s possible to indulge without blowing your whole nutrition plan. Here are a few tips that might help:

  1. Eat a very light breakfast. Knowing that you are going to have a huge meal later in the day, plan to eat a lighter breakfast. A high protein meal is best. Think protein shake or smoothie, bacon and eggs, or Greek yogurt parfait. You just need something to break the fast of the night and to get your metabolism going. The protein will help satiate you so you aren’t starving by the time dinner rolls around.
  2. Exercise. Today is a good day to burn some calories to make room for your big meal. A long walk, resistance training, or even a Turkey Trot are all great options. Get up and get going!
  3. Choose healthy appetizers. If your host is serving appetizers prior to the main meal, choose wisely. Typically you will find vegetable trays or olives. If there is cheese and crackers, limit yourself to a little bit. Don’t go overboard! Maybe fill one plate and call it quits. 
  4. Drink responsibly. If alcohol is being served, go easy. Try to limit yourself to only a drink or two. If there is seltzer, choose that. The bubbly not only will settle your stomach, but also will help you feel fuller, limiting the amount of food you eat. If you must drink, make sure you hydrate. A good rule of thumb is to have one glass of water for every alcoholic drink.
  5. Pay attention to your plate. During meal time, choose your food wisely. Typically you will see vegetables or even cranberry sauce on the menu. These are healthy (well the sauce might have sugar in it but mostly healthy)! And you don’t need to put piles of mashed potatoes on your plate. A fist-sized portion is plenty! Choose your serving sizes carefully. You should be able to fit your food on your plate without it looking like a mountain of food! You can always have leftovers later!
  6. Time for dessert. It would not be Thanksgiving without pies. Have a small slice and hold the whipped cream, if you’re worried about the calories. Or choose a lighter dessert, if one is available. Typically your most calorie dense pies are pumpkin or pecan, while apple pie is a little lighter on calories. All are heavy on sugar so keep that in mind!
  7. Go easy the next day. Given all that you ate during Thanksgiving, go easy on yourself the next day or weekend following. Eat lighter than you normally would. Go for a long walk or do what we do and put your holiday decorations up. That burns some serious calories!

Some or all of these tips can help you enjoy your Thanksgiving without feeling like it’s the beginning of the end when it comes to your health and fitness! Happy Thanksgiving!