Going Back to the Office

This time we have ample time to prepare. Unlike March 16, 2020, when everything suddenly shut down, this time is different. We’re going back to the office. I remember lockdown like it was yesterday. The kids came home from school excited that they were going to learn from home for a “few weeks.” I was just beginning to plan out our family’s relocation for the new job I had accepted just days before. Toilet paper was scarce but spirits were still high. We had no idea what was ahead and it seemed like an extended snow day. Wow, were we ever surprised.

Lockdown lasted months. Working, and workout out, at home transitioned from a novelty to a reality. Personally, I started to enjoy my home office. I was saving money and time. I was sleeping more and eating more healthfully. I didn’t need to spend money on new clothes, jewelry, makeup or shoes. I missed interacting with people and Zoom got old quickly, but those were small prices to pay for how stress-free being at home was for me. In a few short days, that honeymoon is over.

I work for New York State and all state employees are returning to their workplaces effective July 6. Today is my last at home day with my dog at my slippered feet and my full breakfast in my belly. Today is the last day I can have lunch with my family. And, it’s the last day my car doesn’t leave the driveway. I am feeling bittersweet.

I started my job nearly one year ago, July 9, during the pandemic. I have never gone to the office more than one day at a time and have never been together with my whole team. It’s been 15 months since I commuted every single day to the office. It’s been 15 months since I had to get up as early as 5 a.m. to get my workout in, as well as have time to shower, get dressed, do my hair and makeup, and get all my things together for work. It’s been 15 months since I crashed on my couch at 8:30, unable to do anything because I was exhausted. These things contribute to my stress and anxiety in ways I never really understood until they were absent. But, they were taken away suddenly. I didn’t have to wonder what it would be like or plan for lockdown. It just came. This time is different.

I have been thinking about the return for weeks now. It’s not that I have anxiety about the actual going back to work part. It’s more that I have anxiety about missing my more relaxed life at home. I am worried about the increased spending of time and money with my one hour round trip commute. I’m not looking forward to the increased effort to meal prep and plan both for my own breakfast and lunch, as well as for the family dinners. I’m wondering what it will be like to be so far away from my family every day, and how challenging it will be to keep up with the family activities come fall when school and everything starts once again.

These are first world problems for sure. I am fortunate to have a wonderful job and healthy family. I know this. But, I also know that my world is going to change. Again. And this time not only do I have time to prepare, I also have time to be anxious. Here’s hoping this three-day holiday weekend will serve as a positive transition and break between two separate lives for me, and that the days, weeks and months ahead will go as smoothly as they possibly can. It’s not like we haven’t all done this before, right?

Pushing Through Setbacks on Your Fitness Journey

This pandemic has rocked everyone’s world, particularly fitness enthusiasts who had to adapt to closing gyms, limited equipment, increased stress, new work schedules, and shortages of different foods. Now that we appear to be on the other side of it, bodybuilding competitions have resumed, gyms have reopened, and it’s time for all of us to get back to basics.

I stuck with my workouts this whole time, but it wasn’t without hiccups. Lots of things prevented me from sticking to my usual way of working out that works best for me to build muscle. As a result, I kept changing things up, trying new things, attempting to keep motivation and results high. And it didn’t work!

Let’s start at the very beginning. In January of 2020 I started a new leg/glute program with my personal trainer, Shawna Moran, who was piloting the program. I am always a willing test subject! It was going gangbusters and I was seeing glute development like I had never seen before. During this time, I was also considering a relocation for a new, higher level job at my college alma mater. The move would have been significant for me and my family, and I was stressed through the interview process and as I agonized over my decision. March 13, I accepted the new position 90 minutes away in Geneseo, New York. The following Monday, March 16, I had a meh leg workout and I somewhat joked with the gym folks on the way out that I hoped that wasn’t my last gym workout. There was already talk of a lockdown. Well, later that day, it happened. EVERYTHING shut down.

With the stress of the move, the lack of gym equipment, and general anxiety over the pandemic, I was stunned. Shawna gave me a home workout to continue the glute development and I quickly started to replace my usual exercises with home versions using the little equipment I had on hand, such as resistance and booty bands, dumbbells, an EZ curl bar, and an old barbell set. It wasn’t ideal but the normalcy of continuing to get up and workout was helping…a little. Still, the stress made it difficult to maintain and make any new gains.

When we got through the very stressful house sale and purchase process (during lockdown with limited housing market action), we ended up in a position where we could build a home gym in the basement. My husband, a trained opera singer, wasn’t singing due to lockdown so we took advantage of the stimulus money and finished the basement, complete with a home office/gym for me. This allowed me to significantly enhance the workout equipment edging me ever closer to near normal when it came to my workouts. But, then a strange thing happened. Nothing felt normal.

At first I thought it was my supplements or vitamins. Then, I thought it was my lack of sleep. Then, I blamed work-related stress. Maybe it was all of the above. But, for whatever reason, I wasn’t feeling my workouts or myself. So, I took breaks, changed the frequency, and even tried new types of workouts, all in an effort to regain my workout mojo. I bought an indoor bike (a whole other sordid story – let’s just say I started with a knockoff Peloton and paid the price!) thinking having the cardio option on long winter days would help. Nothing helped. I just felt lost. This feeling was new to me. I have been working out since college and in 25 years I’ve never felt this way. The past five years in particular have been all in with me falling in love with lifting and then becoming a personal trainer and nutrition coach in 2019. I systematically tried to isolate the issue by stopping all the vitamins and supplements, prioritizing sleep, and adding a monthly massage to my routine.

This past weekend, I happened to notice a bikini pro named Kerigan Pike, who won her first pro card at a competition. Something stirred inside me as I watched her success and looked through her past posts. I realized I had forgotten how exhilarating bodybuilding can be. To work systematically on each part of your body with the goal of building muscle and curves. Split routines in a hypertrophy style… that’s my jam. And maybe now it’s time to reintroduce the supplements that gave me so much success before. I immediately set to work writing myself a new program for the next at least six weeks. I just finished phase one of a performance-based program that had a strength focus with low reps and heavy weights so my body is primed to transition to a three to four set/10 rep format. I did my first routine in that workout plan this morning and I am feeling myself! It was awesome. I feel like I am back and so is my love for this type of training.

This has been a long struggle for me and I’m sharing it because others may relate to my experience. In addition to sharing the plan (my “emerging from the pandemic” gift to you), below are some tips that might help you, if you find yourself in the same spot I did.

  1. Don’t stress yourself out trying to figure out what’s wrong.
  2. Keep a consistent training schedule no matter what it looks like. Don’t lose the habit!
  3. When troubleshooting what’s wrong, isolate the variables. Don’t get rid of everything all at once or you won’t know which thing was the problem.
  4. It’s ok to take a complete break from training.
  5. Take the opportunity to try new styles of training or new routines.
  6. Don’t wait until the first day of the week or month to make a change. Change can happen anytime (mine hit on a Friday!).
  7. Seek out likeminded individuals to help talk you through your woes. We need to support each other on this journey!

I’m excited to be back on track again and looking forward to the summer months, which are typically more active months for me. Plus, who doesn’t love to wear tank tops and short shorts to show off all those gains? Happy summer!

Summer Six-Week Split Training Program

It’s summer and a time when I feel most energized to lift. My activity is up and my stress is down. There is no better time! Below is a program I wrote for myself that you might want to try or adapt for your own goals. My goals with this program are to build my lower body, specifically the glutes, as well as my shoulders. So you will see more emphasis on both. I also included some mobility training to keep my limber, some ab work, and two Peloton days, one of which will likely be a HIIT for me. If your goal is to build muscle you definitely want to limit the cardio. Warmups and finishers are also included. Keep in mind, you may want or need to adapt depending on the equipment you have available, as well as your level and goals. For example, there is a banded leg extension listed and if you have a leg extension machine, you may wish to substitute that, which is a better option, if you have it!

I am accompanying this program with daily creatine supplementation, as well as a half a gallon a day of water. My macros are set at roughly 50-55% carbs (to provide the energy I need for my more active summer days), 25% protein (for muscle building), and 25-30% fats (regulate hormones and help meet caloric goals). I’m trying to limit alcohol and eat as clean as possible, especially since fruits and vegetables are fresh this time of year!

You can find examples of many, if not all, of these exercises on my YouTube channel, if you need to see how to perform them. If you try the program, please let me know what you think in the comments below!

FitPRMomLife Six Week Summer Split Routine 

Monday – Lower (glute focused)

WARMUP: foam roll, 90/90, banded crab walks

Hip thrust 4×10
Sumo deadlift 4×10
Single leg RDL 3×15
Walking lunge 3×10
Glute kickback 3×15
SS with
Cable abductor 3×15

FINISHER: Tabata banded glute bridge 8 rounds of :20

Tuesday – Upper (back/bi)

WARMUP: foam roll, scorpions

Deadlift 4×10
Assisted pull ups 3×10
Close grip lat pulldown 4×10
Seated cable row 4×10
EZ bar curl 4×10
DB hammer curl 3×10

FINISHER: Tabata DB curls/DB rows 4 rounds of :20ea OR Tabata inverted row 8 rounds of :20

Wednesday – Peloton/mobility/abs*

Rotational lunge
Pigeon
Stick mobility
Band pull aparts
Abs
Lower Abs
Rotational Abs

Peloton ride – choose a HIIT format

*Choose whatever ab exercise you want. Here is a playlist of some to get you started.

Thursday – Lower (hamstring focused)

WARMUP: foam roll, walk stretch

Hip thrust full/half 4×10
RDL 4×10
Step up 3×10
Hamstring curl 4×10
Banded leg extension 3×10
Calf raise 3×10

FINISHER: Tabata stability ball curls 4x:30

Friday – Upper (chest/tri)

WARMUP: Band pull aparts, stick mobility

Bench press 4×10
Incline DB press 4×10
DB chest fly 4×10
Skull crushers 4×10
Cable pressdowns 3×10
Tricep dips 3×10

FINISHER: Tabata Pushups/KB tricep press 10 reps each AMRAP for 3 minutes

Saturday- Lower

WARMUP: banded side crab walks, 90/90

Squat  4×10
Glute bridge 4×10
Bulgarian split squat 3×10
Hyperextension 3×15
Banded adductor 3×15
Calf raise 3×10

FINISHER: Tabata banded crab walk 4x:60

Sunday – Upper (shoulders)/Peloton

WARMUP: stick mobility, shoulder rotations against wall

BB shoulder press 4×10
DB side laterals 3×10
DB front laterals 3×10
DB around the worlds 3×10
DB Arnold shoulder press 3×10
Banded upright rows 3×10

FINISHER: Cable side laterals to failure

 

12-Week Muscle Building Program

Looking for a new program that will help you build muscle and strength? I’m sharing my own personal program that I wrote specifically for my own goals. If you share my goals and you have access to a fair amount of gym equipment, this workout plan might be for you. This focuses on resistance training, beginning with reps in the hypertrophy range and ending with strength. There is also a small amount of cardio focused on building muscle in the lower body (cycling), as well as a mobility day that you construct yourself based on your own personal needs. This program is for an intermediate lifter who is self-aware of their own body and goals. It’s not for a beginner. If you have questions, hit me up in comments or email me at kerri@fitprmomlife.com. To receive the program, fill out the contact form below. Happy lifting!

 

 

How to Build a Home Gym

It’s been a couple of months since I set out to build my own home gym. Most of the work belonged to my husband who spent countless hours finishing the space in our basement, drywalling, painting and installing the floor. I focused on the components of the gym, including the equipment I wanted and how I wanted to lay it out. Now, it’s a reality and I am sharing it with you in case you can take some tips from my own experience.

One of the first challenges I faced was the lack of availability of basic equipment due to COVID-19. It seemed no matter where I searched, weights and things were out of stock. In many cases this is still true but if you persist and continue looking, you will find it! Some of the places to check include Amazon, Target, WalMart and Facebook Marketplace. You also can search the big fitness spots, such as Rogue and Giant Lifting, if you have the funds. I also spent a lot of time googling the various components and found some obscure websites that had them in stock.

And this brings me to my next point. Be careful where you are ordering from! One site I used had a New York City address but it actually shipped from a distribution warehouse in Europe, a fact I only learned when the shipping took much longer than I expected. Some sites are faster than others. The original source for my bumper plates was Fitness Armory in California, with a 10 to 12 week wait time. As of this writing, it’s been 11 weeks and they are only up to the 11K order numbers; mine was in the 14s. I ended up canceling that order after rolling the dice and ordering from Giant Lifting. They sent me plates in about four weeks, although one is missing in action and I’m still waiting to hear that outcome! It’s not easy ordering all this stuff from all these places and you definitely have to pay attention!

In terms of what I chose to purchase, it was based on my personal workout regimen with some consideration given to my husband in case he wants to also workout at home. Some of the equipment was already on hand, as well, including yoga mats, kettlebells, EZ curl bar and various dumbbells and weights. Below is a list of what I bought with a link to where I purchased the item:

Olympic bar
Pad for bar
Bench
Flooring
Squat rack
Hex bar
Adjustable dumbbells
Weights (2.5 and 5lb for Olympic bar)
Bumper plates
Stability ball
BOSU
Hip thruster
Pull-up bar
Resistance bands with handles
Booty bands
Pull-up assist bands
Ankle weights (2.5 and 5lb)

The grand total spent was $2,270, which doesn’t include the room finishing. Below are photos of the gym, along with a bit of explanation as to why I chose that piece of equipment or what it does.

HexClockBumpers
My hex bar is a 55lb bar that I perform deadlifts with. It’s much easier on my back! In the background are bumper plates. I purchased a pair of 45lb, 25lb and two pairs of 10lb weights, all based on the weight I need in a typical workout.
BallThrust
My stability ball sits nicely inside my Hip Thruster Lite from Bret Contreras. I use bands across my waist for this one and can also situate my bar to do the thrusts. I also use the back pad for Bulgarian split squats.
FoamRoll
This corner has my foam roller and Pilates balls, as well as a cabinet for odds and ends. Things you’ll find inside the drawers include workout gloves, wrist bands, ankle straps, towels, headphones, extra pair of sneakers, components to inflate the exercise ball and BOSU and pull-up resistance bands not in use.
Weights
Here is an assortment of dumbbells, kettlebells and plates. I have 5, 8 and 10lb dumbbells and an adjustable set that goes from 5 to 27.5lbs. The plates are 5 and 10lbs and they fit the EZ curl bar.
CableSystem
This is my makeshift cable system. My husband purchased handles from Home Depot that hold up to 225lbs. I add the resistance bands at the appropriate level to create the cable exercises at home.
Bosu
The BOSU is used for a variety of exercises for core, pushups, balancing and more. I also have an accent wall that is a blackboard with magnetization, as well. I write my workouts up there to refer to easily!
MatsBands
This says it all! The rack below the mantra includes my yoga mats, resistance bands and booty bands.
Bench
The lightweight workout bench moves around so I can use it to bench press or move it so I can squat or deadlift. The bench inclines and declines, as well.

As far as some other extras, my family purchased the large clock for my birthday and it has seconds on it to help with timing for certain circuits. I also have a small Bluetooth speaker to play my tunes from. In the future I do want to add a mirror on the wall behind the squat rack to help monitor form, etc.

By the way, in the background in the same room as the gym is my home office where I work for the time being due to COVID-19. I spend about 12 hours a day in this space now but I’m not mad about it! It’s a great spot and things are exactly as I want them. It’s amazing how much time we now spend at home and it’s so important to have things set up nicely to feel like you have a space for each activity and not have to use the living room!

That being said, this is a pretty full gym. If you have less space in your home and still want to set up a gym for yourself, you can still get a lot of these items and create great workouts. Resistance bands can attach to doors, for example, and dumbbells don’t take up a lot of space. So, don’t despair if you can’t add all this stuff to your home gym.

Have questions or want advice for your future home gym? Hit me up in the comments!

Do You Need Supplements?

If you pay attention even a little bit to the fitness and nutrition world, you know that supplements are big business. Even grocery stores that used to not carry things like whey protein now have entire aisles of fitness and nutrition supplements not to mention vitamins and herbs. Through the years I’ve used a variety of all kinds but over time have landed on the right formula for me. That special recipe is different for everyone, of course, but one thing holds true–there are some supplements you simply do not need.

BCAAs

I took these religiously for three years during my workouts. I erroneously thought they would help hydrate me and prevent soreness after my workouts. In truth all they really did was flavor my water and add sugar to my diet. I was afraid to stop taking them because I was convinced I would be so sore after workouts but when I finally did stop recently, I was happily surprised to see nothing had changed! Nothing! I still get the same required protein and aminos as I did when I was taking BCAAs and now I save about $35 a month! Skip these!

Pre-Workout

Again, I was dependent on this one simply out of fear that if I stopped, I would not be able to power through my lifting at the early hour of 5 a.m. Others told me to just do an espresso shot but I maintained that C4, my drug of choice, was my elixir! Turns out I don’t need it. Once you get up and start moving, your body is fine. It can power through. Truthfully, what turned out to be more important was getting something into my system at that early hour. I started drinking a protein/creatine shake during my workouts and I find I’m doing just fine. Still have energy and still making it through my workouts, even at 5:30 in the morning.

Collagen Peptides

A few people told me they took collagen peptides for healthy hair and skin. While I was growing out my pixie I took it daily in my workout shake. But, when I no longer had a need for it, I stopped. And nothing has changed. My hair is still growing like crazy, my skin is the same and I have no issues growing healthy, strong nails either. I’m not convinced it added anything but cost.

Greens

Lots of companies out there are touting “red” and “green” drinks as a way to ensure you’re getting your vegetables. It’s better for your body when you eat the real thing, guys. I get it that it’s hard to strive for five and I’m not perfect in that area but we all need to commit to trying. We’ll be healthier and it’s probably less expensive, too. Even spirulina and greens shots add little value to your daily diet. I know there are some who would disagree but personally I have noticed no difference. This is the one place, though, where I will sometimes add this supplement back into my diet–when I’m doing a cleanse. It’s helpful to saturate myself with all the healthy things and it helps clear out the not so nice things left in my system.

Vitamins and Herbs

I have never taken an herb that I felt actually did what it was supposed to do except for Fenugreek back when I was nursing my children. Herbal supplements are not necessary. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you don’t need them. Now, if you have a special condition or health issue, you could very well benefit from herbal supplements but if you are healthy with no issues, skip them. As for vitamins, I do take a lot! But, they are mostly to help me with specific issues related to aging. I recommend everyone take a good quality multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D in the winter (if you live in a cloudy area) and a probiotic. Beyond that? You don’t need anything.

For those who are curious, I also take vitamin C, B complex, calcium and magnesium. C helps my immune system (I have three kids!), and the rest are helpful as I age through peri-menopause and have helped me with various symptoms.

Notice I have not mentioned two other popular supplements–whey protein and creatine. That’s because I take both of those and feel they are worth it for muscle building. I don’t need whey every day because I do consume enough protein-rich foods but it helps me in the morning when I just need to have something in my system for my workout. Creatine gives me the extra push I need to really progress with my weight training. I usually take it for about 8 weeks and then take a break from it just to switch it up and keep my muscles guessing. Both supplements are terrific for when you are trying to gain and both have healthy versions with little to know extra ingredients.

When it comes to supplements, I say try what you think might be helpful to you and see how it goes. But never feel like you need to be dependent on them and always be honest with yourself about whether you really do need them. Don’t be afraid to stop taking them and see what happens. You may be surprised to learn you don’t need them after all!

 

A Review of 5 Podcasts for Spiritual and Physical Health

I never thought I’d get into podcasts. I had tried in the past to listen to them but could never stay tuned long enough nor could I find the time when I was alone and could really listen to them. The gym was never a great place because I needed the beat. The car was never a great place because kids! Over time, things have evolved to where I am in the car for longer periods alone and have finally gotten hooked on a few podcasts! Now that I’m working from home I find that I even miss them! Here are 5 I’ve been listening to off and on with my honest personal review. 

Stronger by Science

This podcast is hosted by Eric Trexler but he typically has Greg Nuckols alongside him. They are “bros” in the sense that they talk more about male-related topics than female, if there is such a thing. I get the sense when I’m listening that they are really talking to my husband! But, all that aside, they do share a lot of cool scientific studies and data associated with training and nutrition, which I appreciate. Their website is a wealth of information; all of their episodes are indexed so you can do a keyword search on any topic and probably find something they’ve said about it. I have only scratched the surface on the amount of content these guys generate. Their podcast is a bit on the long side so plan to listen to it in tiny chunks if you don’t have more than an hour to spare. It’s great for long car rides, though! Oh, and if you aren’t a fan of sarcasm, you may want to skip this one!

Mind Pump

One that posts a new episode nearly every day, Mind Pump is great fun. Things I like? The host reviews a “table of contents” at the beginning so you know what’s in the episode. I often skip ahead to the listener Q and A but it’s always good to know what they’re chatting about so you know if it’s an episode you’re interested in. Mind Pump often includes content that really resonates with me so although it is a bunch of guys, they talk about training and nutrition tips for hard gainers, women and more. Things I don’t like? There is a fair amount of sponsor posts and them trying to sell their own programs. I finally did buy one and am in week two of it. The jury is still out on whether they really do know what they’re talking about! Seriously, they do know and as a personal trainer and nutrition coach I like that they talk about things that are not often accepted by clients or necessarily believed by clients. Mind Pump is a great service to the fitness community!

Your Best Life with Anna Victoria

This is a newer podcast by fitness trainer, Anna Victoria, who has quite the social media following, mostly on Instagram. She has her own fitness training app with a nutrition component and often is featured in top women’s magazines. She is wholesome and sweet and often features her husband in the podcast, too, which is cute. Her content skews a bit younger, though, and I am not always interested in her special guests. It’s very current, though, and if you are pregnant or expecting she covers a lot of ground there as she, too, is expecting. Her episodes are nearly an hour in length but she also sprinkles in shorter 10 to 15 ones she calls “Real Talk” that just touch on tips or quick thoughts. This podcast is new and I expect it will age nicely, especially among the 20 and 30 something women who tune in.

Ask Father Josh

Turning to spiritual health for this next podcast. If you’re Catholic you will definitely want to check this out but even non-Catholics would learn a ton from this zany priest from New Orleans. He’s hip, he’s fun and he’s not afraid to talk about ANYTHING. Taboo topics come up all the time and he handles them with truth and grace. The show is fun, on the shorter side closer to 30 minutes, and a great way for me to reconcile my faith with real life. Father Josh is goofy but incredibly smart and he explains difficult concepts eloquently in a way everyone can understand. The only drawback on this one is the production value isn’t great. The volume often goes up and down. Plus, he does have a random commercial for Ascension Press, the producer of the podcast. Overall, though, it’s one to listen to, if you have any interest at all in Catholicism.

All Things Catholic

This podcast is also on the shorter side, coming out weekly usually on Tuesday. It’s geared a bit more toward families and how they can live their faith. What I like about it is that the host himself is a husband and father and often brings his wife on the program. They have several kids and they struggle with the same things I struggle with in terms of how to keep faith front and center in a world that often goes against all of it. I have learned a lot of little tips on how to make daily prayer easier, include my children and encourage their faith formation and even a few marriage tips along the way. The host has his doctorate and adds his scholarship to the mix, too, which satisfies the nerd in me!

There is literally a podcast for everyone and every topic you can think of. These five have been in my car playlist for a while now but others pop in every so often, too. If I had more time, I’m sure I’d listen to even more. It’s great to be able to learn and be entertained at the same time. My physical and spiritual health is super important to me right now and with my limited time, podcasts are helping me keep my focus on them! What podcasts are you listening to? Any fitness, nutrition or spiritual life ones I should check out? Drop a comment below!

10,000 Steps A Day – Fact versus Fiction

We’ve all heard it drilled into our brains – you need to get 10,000 steps in every day to stay healthy. But, if you’ve ever actually tracked your steps you may have realized just how challenging it can be, especially if you have a desk job or avoid cardio like I do. But, do you really need it? And, if you do need it, how can you achieve it without going crazy? I’m here to sort out fact and fiction when it comes to the steps.

There is no question that moving more is better than moving less. In fact, you probably do move more than you think you do. In fact, everything we do expends some level of calories in a phenomenon known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT. Some people are lucky enough to have high NEAT jobs, such as farming or construction. Those of us who sit at a desk all day face a different challenge. But, there is a way to increase movement. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Drink more water. It forces you to go to the bathroom more. You’re even luckier if your restroom is far from your office area. Working from home my bathroom is on the next level, forcing me to climb stairs to go. Even better!
  2. Take 10-minute walking breaks, or a longer one on your lunch, if the weather is nice. I have started walking our dog morning and night for a half mile or so each. It’s been easy to hit 8 to 10K steps this way, especially on days I do more NEAT activities, such as cleaning the house or running errands.
  3. Park far away from the entrance when you go to the store.
  4. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. These days, it’s probably safer for you, as well.
  5. Plant a garden! That will burn calories all by itself but so will tending it — watering, weeding, etc. Plus, you get healthy food!

All of these strategies will help you with your step count and thus calorie burn in support of that elusive 10,000 steps. But do you really need 10,000 steps a day? One study says not necessarily. Any movement is good and when you take into account the average American walks 4 to 5,000 steps a day, it’s easy to set your bar a bit higher for optimal results. My personal goal is 8,000 steps based on how my activity levels have ranged over time, as well as the latest research, which says 7 to 8,000 is the “sweet spot.” I use my Apple Watch to keep track. On days I walk the dog twice and stay active throughout the day, I easily get to 8K. On days I don’t walk her and sit around for most of the day, I’m lucky if I reach 4K. So, I know 8 is a better day for me personally. 10K is a stretch goal and I try to have at least one day a week where I reach it.

What you decide is best for you depends on your own activity level and goals, as well as your overall health. If you are overweight and want to lose weight, walking is a great low impact way to support that goal and you don’t even have to walk quickly. Start out small and walk around the block, adding more distance or more sessions as time goes by. Slowly, your step count — and calorie expenditure — will increase. Plus, you will have more energy and feel better as a result.

Steps is a great way to gauge your activity level. I know so many people who have lost weight just by walking more. It really does work! So, enjoy this summer weather and start paying attention to your NEAT. You just might hit 10K steps a day!

Pros and Cons of Creatine Supplementation

There was a time when I took a lot of supplements – a whole lot! Over time, I’ve weaned myself off many of them in favor of better nutrition. But, when I first started lifting, I had a hard time fueling my body for the workouts and life in general. My nutrition was terrible. Now, that I’ve learned how to eat healthier to meet macros, supplements are not as necessary for me. But, there are two that continue to be staples in my pantry – whey protein and creatine.

When I first heard about creatine to help muscle growth I was very skeptical. Most of what I’d heard about it was from the bodybuilding world and it all sounded negative. When I tried to research it for females, I had a hard time finding anything about it and those who seemed to have knowledge stopped short of recommending it or not. It was like you had to figure out on your own whether you should use it. I decided to try it and the first time was not a great experience. I have never been great at staying hydrated and I wasn’t replenishing all the water my muscles were retaining with the supplement. So, I quickly became bloated and developed chronic headaches. That combined with the increase in weight that I was able to lift left me lethargic and miserable.

The next time I cycled on to it was better. I was ready for the hydration issue and had developed better eating and sleeping habits to accompany the use of the creatine. I made huge gains and was happy! I did not stay on it, however, mostly because I ended up in a place where I wasn’t really lifting heavy anymore and didn’t feel it was worth it to stay on it. I wanted to give my body a break. I’m back on it now and feeling great! But, it reminded me that perhaps it would be a good idea for me to pay it forward for other women wondering if creatine supplementation is right for them.

Pros

  1. You can lift heavier. Creatine really helps you gain the extra edge to do one more rep or lift 5 pounds more. It’s a huge confidence booster!
  2. You look more muscular. Because creatine increases the water level in your muscles you end up with a “pumped up” look, which doesn’t hurt your ego!
  3. It might boost brain power! According to a 2003 study by scientists in Australia, creatine can boost memory power! Subsequent studies have backed this up.
  4. It helps slow bone and muscle loss in seniors. In fact, it’s often recommended for older people to help with age-related loss of bone density, muscle mass and physical performance.
  5. Affordable! You will find that creatine monohydrate is a pretty inexpensive supplement, as low as $5 for a container. This is refreshing when you consider the price of so many other supplements on the market today.

Cons

  1. You may experience bloating. Particularly during the loading phase when you’re dosing higher amounts of creatine into your body, you may be bloated as your body accommodates the supplement. Sometimes even going forward, you may also feel this way, if you’re not drinking enough. Decreasing the daily dose and increasing your water intake should help mitigate it.
  2. You need to keep taking it to keep it in your system. If you’re like me, you take creatine on days you work out and on rest days you might forget to take it. You can’t forget! It needs to stay in your system, much like an antiobiotic, so make sure you mix it into a shake on your off days, too.
  3. Those with kidney issues need to beware. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements. In particular, those who have kidney-related issues should consult with their doctor before starting creatine supplementation, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It’s best to take the purest form of creatine you can find and make sure you use the monohydrate version as it’s the most studied of all the types. Personally, I find it to be most effective, too. The brands I would recommend are Optimum Nutrition and MuscleTech. If you do decide to take creatine, pay attention to your body. You know you. If it doesn’t feel right or you have any negative side effects, just stop taking it. Make sure you give it at least a week, though, to be certain it’s loaded into your system and your body adjusts to it. Like anything, it will take time for you to get used to it. Happy lifting!

4 Healthy Shakes to Help You Meet Nutrition Goals

It’s summer and what better time to try some new shakes than when it’s extra hot and you have zero motivation to cook? Shakes are a great way to load up on nutrients or help you make up for where you may be lacking. What’s more, they’re easy to make, great on the go and tasty! Here are four recipes to try the next time you need a nutrient-dense quick meal:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bonanza

Scoop of chocolate whey protein
1 banana
1 c. almond milk
1 tbsp. cacao nibs or powder
1 tbsp. peanut butter
1/2 to 1 c. water (depending on desired consistency)

Green Monster

Scoop of vanilla whey protein
1/2 avocado
Handful of spinach or kale
1 c. almond milk
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 to 1 c. water (depending on desired consistency)

A Berry Good Smoothie

Scoop of vanilla whey protein
1 c. frozen berries (any kind you like!)*
1 c. almond milk
1/2 to 1 c. water (depending on desired consistency)

* You can use fresh berries. Just add a few ice cubes!

The Caffeinater

Scoop of vanilla whey protein
1 tbsp. cacao nibs or powder
1 tbsp. organic coffee
1 c. almond milk
1/2 to 1 c. water (depending on desired consistency)

(Want more healthy fats in any of these shakes? Add 1 tbsp of any or all of the following: MCT oil, flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp hearts)