Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolutions!

Happy  New Year!  Have you made your resolutions yet?  What about your fitness related goals?  The time has come to truly consider what your are doing, and how you might improve your overall health through exercise, as exercise is truly medicine.  We all know now (or we should) all the research proving that exercise reduces hypertension, can eradicate diabetes in some, and reduce the need for meds in others, lowers your risk of heart attack and stroke, and gives you not only a better outlook, but a better quality of life.

Now is your chance to tap into all of those positive effects, by examining your current exercise program, and adjusting the time, frequency, and intensity to better your body.  If you need help, I have a slew of classes and small group trainings to offer you, as well as my services one-on-one.  Think about making a list that delineates the negatives you see in your life, and what positive things you can do to achieve a more positive outcome.  Whether you've been considering a dietary change, or an exercise adjustment, remember that consistency and commitment are your friends when making such a change.  Just do it.  

To start logging your food:
This week for exercise:
Wednesday, 9am, small group training (drop in $24) Elite River Glen
Friday, 6:10 am, muscle mix (free) Elite River Glen
Saturday, 11:30 am, small group training (drop in $24) Elite River Glen

Embrace the day, and the season!  Try something new, or do something you love, today.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ab workout...

Happy Holidays!  Well here I am at the club on Christmas Eve, thinking about what I might help with this week.  It's a notoriously difficult week for both exercise and food, as I'm sure you are aware.  But also difficult because many of you may be out of town, visiting family, and wondering what to do for exercise.  So, I thought I would give you a little abdominal strengthening program to do at your home, or during some free time if you are out of town.

Also, November's T-shirt winner is SUE DEAN!  She came back fighting hard after a shoulder surgery, and worked diligently and consistently to ensure her shoulder didn't freeze up.  Fantastic effort and results!  December has been tough, but I do have one more T-shirt to give away...

abs abdominals exercises photosThis one is a double crunch...feel free to support the head with light fingertips
abs abdominals exercises photosFlutter kicks!  Add some hands under buttocks for extra support if you like:)
-- abs abdominals exercises photosPlank with a hip raise adds a bit of interest.  Just be sure you are coming back to a neutral back position.
abs abdominals exercises photosExtended leg double crunch gets top and bottom...getting tired now...

abs abdominals exercises photosI like to lift both legs, but this is the first step.  If you master the oblique crunch with abduction, then you can try the side V lift with both legs.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Partner Exercises!

Tubing Partner Exercises

Try these fun, effective partner exercises to build strength.

Mid-Row. Stand facing your partner. Intertwine the tubes, holding one handle each in your right and left hands. Back away from each other, arms fully extended, until there is some resistance on the tube. Begin in a squat stance with feet between hip and shoulder width apart. Slowly pull the tube, leading with your elbows, driving them backward. As you’re rowing backward, pinch your shoulder blades together and toward the ground. As you release your arms forward, squat toward the ground. Complete 1 set of 8–20 reps. This partner exercise helps improve posture.

  • Hold a static squat.
  • Do single-arm rows. (Double up the tube in each arm.)
  • Add rotation as you row.

External Rotation. Stand side-by-side with your partner, facing the same direction. Each of you holds one handle of one tube in your outside arm. Your outside elbow, bent at 90 degrees, is anchored at your waist. Keeping your upper arm at your side, slowly rotate your forearm away from your body. Complete 1 set of 8–20 reps for each arm. This partner exercise strengthens weak rotator cuff muscles.

Variations: Try this exercise standing on one leg

Trunk Rotation. Stand facing your partner. Wrap the tubes around each other and each hold one handle in your right and left hands. Back away from each other until there is some light resistance on the tube. Contract your abdominals inward and maintain good posture throughout the entire exercise. Begin by rotating your torso one way while your partner rotates in the other direction. Slowly return to the starting position. Perform 8–20 reps on each side.

  • Keep the lower body static.
  • Rotate/pivot through the lower body.
  • Add one-arm rotation, to engage more of your upper body.

Lunge and Full-Body Rotation. Start facing sideways to your partner, holding one end of one tube in your hands. Lunge your outside leg (leg farthest away from your partner) forward while simultaneously rotating to the outside of your body. Press up and backward and do 8–20 reps one side; then repeat on the other side. Be sure that, while lunging, your front knee stays over your front foot and you always push from the leg in front. Both people lunge simultaneously.

  • Step forward (entry-level variation).
  • Perform a deep lunge (more advanced variation).

Sit and squeeze exercise

For this week, here is a fun exercise to try:
Sit and Squeeze
Sit and Squeeze

Place your back against a wall with hips & shoulders squared. Slide down until knees are at 90 degrees, knees over ankles and weight in heels. Squeeze a medicine ball or towel just above your knees and hold for 15 or more seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

Latissimus Stretches

This week, I decided to share a stretch series written by a physical therapist for back and shoulder tightness.  He talks about athletes, but I had a client just this morning that has tightness in her shoulders, and limited mobility, and I think it's partially from her lats.  In my classes I will use both of these stretches, but on the floor.  Here, Brian uses a stability ball for range and extension.
It is common to assess clients with latissimus tightness. This is often manifested as limited shoulder flexion mobility. This diminished range of motion can be particularly detrimental for overhead athletes and when training the Olympic lifts. The following stretches are simple ones and effective for reducing tightness.

Begin in kneeling and position the hands/forearms in a prayer position on top of the BOSU Ballast Ball. Next slowly allow the head and trunk to lower down (meanwhile the BOSU Ballast Ball will also slowly roll forward) easing into a sustained stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat twice. You may also opt for a more active isolated approach by moving toward end range and actively contracting the anterior deltoids 2-3 seconds to flex the shoulders at end range. Release and return to the start position and repeat 10 times.
Single arm progression: Place the palm of the hand on top of the BOSU Ballast Ball allowing it to flex as the head and trunk flex. Additionally, move the arm and trunk in a diagonal motion (rotation) to introduce a more isolate stretch on that side. Again, you may opt for a sustained stretch or perform 10 repetitions holding for 2-3 seconds at the end range of motion and cycling through the entire motion each time.
This stretch is useful for maximizing shoulder flexion and mobility. It may be necessary to use soft tissue mobilization prior to the stretch if trigger points are present. I use it in rehab and in shoulder mobility programs for my athletes. Maximizing shoulder mobility (flexion) will help reduce excessive extension and/or rotation in the spine that appears as compensatory motion in order to complete overhead activities such as snatches, overhead squats, throwing and serving motions.

I prefer the BOSU Ballast Ball because it offers adequate stability with its design yet natural movement that the client can use to carefully control motion and attain an ideal stretch. Small graded progressions can be made easily based with the ability to roll and adjust the position of the BOSU Ballast Ball during the movement.

Use caution with clients experiencing rotator cuff pathology, tendonitis, arhtritis, labral pathology, or shoulder instability. Forcing the shoulder into end range elevation can cause shoulder impingement. Any pain felt in the shoulder as opposed to a stretch along the latissimus would be an indication to stop the exercise and refer the client for further evaluation by a medical professional.

Brian Schiff, PT, OCS, CSCS, is a licensed physical therapist, respected author and fitness professional. Currently, he serves as the supervisor at the Athletic Performance Center in Raleigh, NC. Brian presents nationally at several professional conferences and seminars on injury prevention, rehab and sport-specific training. For more cutting edge training information, subscribe to his monthly Training & Sports Medicine Update at

Parking lot safety, self defense tips!

I'm currently beginning to teach Women's Self Defense classes, and so have done a great deal of research lately regarding general safety.  If you think about self defense as beginning with your planning, then you have a much more holistic approach to your personal safety plan.

1.  Pull your shoulders back, walk upright, scan the area.
2.  Always peek in the back seat before getting into your car.
3.  As you approach your car, take a quick look under your car.
4.  Don't park behind a large van.  Find another spot.
5.  If you return to your car and there is a van parked next to your driver's side, go around and get in on the passenger side.  It's easy for someone to grab you from one of those sliding doors.
6.  If your instincts are telling you something is wrong, listen to them.  Go back inside, and ask for an escort.
7.  Never, never go with someone to a secondary location.  This will never end well.
8.  If someone forces you into your car and tells you to drive, run your car hard into a building or something solid.  Your airbag will save you, and you will attract attention and help!
9.  Do not act distracted in a parking lot.  No cell phones, no earbuds, and make sure you have your keys out and ready, and your bags organized before you leave the mall/store/work.
10.  Planning ahead will stack the deck in your favor, so plan ahead!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread!

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread

Just be sure it bakes long enough- I'm guessing, about 50 to 55 minutes up to an hour at 350ºF. This is a large loaf. I adapted this recipe from one I found online, and just made a couple of improvements for healthiness, without removing so much of the good stuff that I removed the YUM factor!


Mix the following--I use a stand mixer, and just keep it rolling while adding each ingredient, but you can also mix dry and wet, and then combine.
1/2 cup packed organic light brown sugar
2 TBSP stevia
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light olive oil
2 large eggs, beaten, or 1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer whisked with 1/4 cup warm water (for those who can't have eggs)
1 tablespoon bourbon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin is fine, but I baked a great "pie pumpkin" from the farmer's market)
1/4 teaspoon light tasting apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 cup GF buckwheat flour
1 cup coconut flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or gluten-free Pumpkin Pie Spice blend
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

As needed for liquid as it mixes:

Pure apricot or peach juice


As it begins to mix the ingredients, use a soft silicone spatula to scrape down the sides. After a minute or two of mixing check the consistency. If the batter is at all like my batter, it will be a bit thick and stiff. Add a tablespoon at a time of your favorite unsweetened pure apricot or peach juice until the batter becomes slightly thinner than muffin batter but thicker than cake batter. Not too thin, but not too thick. You'll know it when you see it. When you are happy with the consistency, close the lid and let the paddle beat the batter.

When the top is domed and the loaf is firm to the touch, and a wooden pick inserted into the center emerges clean, this is a good sign it's done. Using a pot holder, remove the bread pan from the oven and cool it on a wire rack for five minutes or so, until it's a tad cooler to handle.

Using a clean tea towel and a pot holder, grasp the pan and carefully tip it upside down to release the pumpkin bread onto the wire rack; set the loaf upright on the rack and continue to cool.

Although you'll be tempted to slice and eat it warm, wait if you can. This moist bread only gets better as it cools. In fact, I did an experiment.

Half the bread- we ate that day. It was tender and moist. The other half we wrapped in foil, bagged and froze. Although the fresh loaf was tasty, I thought the frozen and thawed half tasted even better, and had an improved (less fall-apart) texture.

Makes one generous loaf.
So, today, I brought some muffins from this recipe, with the addition of chocolate chips on top, and I'm awaiting the staff thoughts on it...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Increased Appetite?

It has begun: the fall season, and with it, the natural fattening up process that mother nature intended to be protective for us, as winter sets in and supplies diminish. But, as luck would have it (and we ARE lucky), supplies are pretty consistent, thanks to trucking and airplanes bringing fresh food our way from warmer climes.
Still, have you found yourself craving sweets? What about warm, hearty foods and lots of fresh bread? Watch out: you may be adding as many as 500 calories without even realizing it, and the increased bread consumption can trigger an additional increase in appetite (Dr. William Davis, Wheat Belly). This is the time to reevaluate what you are eating, and explore new and exciting spices, warm stews, and soups that will satisfy your seasonal craving for more without adding an extra inch to pinch.

I have also noticed the typical loss of energy that goes right along with less daylight, and less sunlight. Make sure you are getting some bright light going early in the morning to get your day going, and exercise, which helps to elevate those feel good endorphins! So, with those items in mind, here is a great recipe to try to keep your tummy full, without filling up your jeans!
And then, let's add an exercise of the week, for good measure:
Think of this as a back extension for lower back, as well as obliques. You are face down, with your hips and abs on the ball. Lift the chest up, and slowly rotate to one side, and return to the starting position. Then repeat on the other side. Work up to 2 sets of 12 per side.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

This week's exercise

10. Dynamic prone plank

Functionality: This dynamic exercise tones, lengthens and strengthens just about every muscle in your body. It is very challenging, and if you have back problems, please ask me for assistance before trying it on your own.  The extension (as shown below) can be very good for your spine, but you may have to modify, depending on your personal issues.

Exercise: Get on your hands and toes, facing the floor, keeping your head, back and legs in a straight line and your arms straight underneath your shoulders. Lift your rear to the ceiling, pulling your belly button into your spine, forming a pike or downward dog (yoga) position, lengthening your arms and legs. Return to plank position and bend your elbows against your sides, lowering your torso and legs to the floor. Keeping your lower body flat on the floor, use your arms to push your chest and head up towards the ceiling (similar to the cobra in yoga), stretching out the front of your body. Lower down and push your body back into plank position. Repeat 5 to 10 times. As you get stronger, increase the number of repetitions.

Additionally, you can make this into a diving pushup, by diving down from the down dog position into the up dog position, and then return the way you came, reversing your dive.
Prone Plank
Weakness is not a reason, it's an excuse.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Exercise of the week...

Exercise of the week:

Seated twist, with medicine ball


A strong core equals increased performance, balance, coordination, and decreased risk of back inuries. This exercise improves the strength and coordination of all of your core muscles — and will tone and tighten your waist.

Exercise: Sit on the ground with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, holding a medicine ball at your chest with both hands. Lean your torso back away from your thighs, increasing the angle at your hips and pulling your belly button in towards your spine. Maintaining your hip angle, rotate your torso to the right, moving your right elbow towards the floor behind you. Return center and rotate to the left. You can increase range of motion (ROM) if you are comfortable and pain free, by rotating and touching the ball to the floor. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each side. As you get stronger, perform the rotations with straighter arms and/or use a heavier medicine ball. Always keep your core braced and pulled in tight.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Functional Exercise of the Week...

Today's exercise is the push up with hip extension:

Functionality: This exercise strengthens your chest, shoulder and arm muscles, as well as your core muscles and glutes.

Exercise: Begin on your hands and knees, with your hands wider than shoulder-distance apart. Extend your right leg straight back and pull your belly button up towards your spine, and tightening your core muscles. Keeping your leg lifted, lower your chest to the ground until each of your elbows is at a 90-degree angle, about fist distance from the floor, and then push up. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg.

As you get stronger, consider doing this on your toes, with one leg extended as described above. A typical progression might be to perform this on your knees, in a quarter position, move to a 3/4 position (back flat, knees at the end of the lever arm), and progress to your toes into a full push up, eventually adding in the extended leg.

Monday, August 13, 2012

More Functional Exercise!

Knee lift with side raise

Functionality: This exercise improves your core strength and balance, while also shaping and strengthening your shoulders.
Exercise: Stand tall with a small weight (2-5#) in each hand, arms to your sides. Lift your right knee until it reaches hip level while simultaneously lifting your arms straight out to the side to form a T at your shoulders. Hold at the top with the knee lifted and shoulders in the T for 2 seconds.  Make sure your belly button is pulled back towards your spine, bracing your abs, then lower to start position. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg. Feel free to increase the weight of the dumbbells as you get stronger.  Please remember, form is important, but even more important is to keep MOVING!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cobra Pose...for lower back strengthening

This pose is fantastic, if done correctly.  Hold feet together tightly, and keep them on the floor.  Place the hands below the shoulders, and lift, using mostly your back strength.  Start with a hold of 5 seconds, and progress to 10 seconds.  Please note, this is NOT a press up.  A press up utilizes the arm strength, to push the back into position.  This is utilizing the back extensors to do the majority of the work, and the arms are only there for support.  Opinions differ on the neck position.  In Bikram, and other strict yoga classes, the chin lifts, and you look purposely up to the ceiling.  Some prefer to keep the head in alignment with the spine.  I feel that it can be beneficial for your mid to low back either way, and you can add the chin lifting if you have no contraindications.

Race Prep, Dirty Girl...

Today's race prep...anyone can join in for a good workout!  Just follow the instructions below:
Run, 2min
10 squats, jumping if you like
10 lunges per side
10 push ups, plyo if you can
10 pull ups, with jump and slowly lower down
10 knees to elbows (per side), prone
Repeat 10 times.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Melissa's Blackjack workout

Today's workout:  21 each of 7 exercises with 15-30 seconds recovery between.

Clean and press, watch form, back stays flat
Jumping pull ups, underhand grip
Push ups, full military if possible.
Bicycles, both sides equal 1
Star sit ups
Jump squats
Power lunges, both sides equal 1

Diagonal Reach with Medicine Ball

Continuing out foray into functional exercise, making your body work together more efficiently and fluidly as a unit, is the Diagonal reach with medicine ball.

Functionality: When you reach for your boots off the top shelf of your closet, pay attention to how your body moves — one arm reaches up while the opposite leg slightly lifts to the side. This exercise works all the muscles — arms, shoulders, legs — involved in lifting something diagonally overhead as well as lowering it.

The Exercise: Stand tall holding a medicine ball at your chest with both hands. Lift medicine ball diagonally overhead to the right, straightening your arms, while extending your left leg to the side, making a diagonal line from the medicine ball to your toes. Lower to start position. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg. Increase the weight of the medicine ball and strap 2- to 5-pound weights on your ankles as you get stronger.  Additionally, as you get better at the balance of this exercise, you can increase the range of motion to reach up to the side, and then down to the opposite side.  Back has to stay flat, if you are increasing the ROM!
Medball diagonal

Monday, July 30, 2012

Functional Exercise number three!

First...I'm back!  Here to make your fitness dreams come true!  And I will begin to accomplish just this by offering an incentive.  It's the end of the summer, notoriously a time when folks lose momentum and slack off:  But I say NO!  We press on!  There is no off season!  There are no excuses!  There is no mercy! 

And with that in mind, I will offer an incentive.  Stay with your program.  Get to your training sessions, group or one on one.  I will be giving out a T-shirt to the winner for each month until the end of the year.  The most consistent client, that stays with their program, does their homework, and makes or makes up their scheduled sessions, will be the winner.  I will be keeping track.  And like Santa, I will know who's "naughty and nice".

Next, let's continue our foray into functional exercise.  As I remember, we had two already in our pockets, and now on to the third!

Hip extension with reverse fly (variation, Stork pose with reverse fly)

Functionality: This exercise improves your balance and coordination as well as strengthening your upper, mid and lower back, shoulders, glutes and legs.

Exercise: Stand tall with a 3-5-pound dumbbell in each hand. Extend your right leg back and place your toe on the floor keeping your right leg straight. Lean forward slightly at the hips, keeping your back flat and your abs tight. Lift your right leg behind you as you bring your chest towards the floor and lift your arms straight out forming a T at your shoulders, squeezing your shoulder blades together and keeping your head in alignment with your neck. Return to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg. As you get stronger, increase dumbbell weight and strap 2- to 5-pound weights on your ankles.

Stork pose variation.  Instead of lifting the leg and lowering with each rep, get into the leg lift position and hold that while continuing to perform the reverse fly exercise.  This focuses a bit more on the balance aspect, and isometric contraction in your low back and gluteals.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stair Climb with bicep curl, functional carrying and stair climbing

Continuing our foray into functional exercise, I am adding on this week.  Add this exercise to the previous one and you begin to have a workout, plus your cardio of choice.  If you see me regularly, we will do this in your workout this week.

Stair climb with bicep curl

Functionality: Whether you have stairs at your house or have to climb them elsewhere, using stairs as part of your fitness program will keep your legs conditioned — not to mention toned. Adding stair climbs with bicep curls will strengthen your arms and improve your ability to carry things up the stairs. This exercise will also boost your cardiovascular fitness.

Option 1: 
Stand at the bottom of a flight of stairs holding a 5- to 8-pound dumbbell in each hand. Climb the stairs while performing bicep curls. Perform 2 sets of 12 per side.

Option 2:  Walk or run down the stairs holding the weights but not doing curls. Repeat 5 to 10 times. Increase the dumbbell weight as your arms get stronger and mix up your climbs by taking two steps at a time for a flight or two.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Functional Exercise Series

Currently, the focus in fitness is on functional exercise.  As a trainer, I have had to learn hundreds of exercises with at least as many variations to make them harder or easier.  The fact remains, however, that in order to do what makes us happy, whether that's sailing or strolling or roller blading or cycling, we need some exercises that will encourage what we call "functional strength"; the kind of strength and coordination that comes from utilizing exercises that work multiple parts of your body in concert, to increase stabilization, power from your core, and better performance during your chosen activity.

With that in mind, let's start to examine some possible functional exercises that most of us can do.  We will look at a different one each week to start building a repertoire that you can follow.

1. Medicine ball squat with overhead lift

Functionality: Even though you lift things — like groceries, your kids, and other objects primarily with your arms, your legs and back are also key players. This exercise strengthens your legs, glutes (butt), lower back, arms and shoulders.

Stand with your feet wide, holding a light medicine ball in front of you in both hands. Squat down moving your rear back (like you are sitting in a chair), keeping your knees over your ankles and lower the medicine ball to the floor while keeping your head up and back straight, with your shoulders down and back, and your chest lifted. Return to a start position and lift the medicine ball up over your head. Repeat squat and lower ball to the ground. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions, and increase the weight of the ball as you get stronger.

Monday, June 25, 2012

No Equipment Necessary!

No Equipment Necessary!
Today, while teaching Craig's Training camp, I realized something important:  there is no equipment necessary to get a good workout.  Sure, you can add items to make it interesting, and to change it up for your body, but really, your body is all your need to exercise. 

You can do exercise anywhere, anytime, as well, and it doesn't have to be all at once, even.  For instance, you can have cards set up on your T.V., and then do one exercise for the 2-3 minutes of commercial breaks.  Or, you might be waiting for someone, and practice balancing on one foot, or find a ledge, and do some triceps dips.  Pushups, squats, lunges, walking, running, planks...all require just you. 

So if your excuse is that you don't have the right equipment, it just doesn't fly.  You have the right're in it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fast and Furious--getting it done!

Upcoming openings: 
Wednesday, 6/27, at 8am
Friday, 6/29, at 8am

Continuing fun!  Monday night TRX Blast, 5:30-6pm, fast and furious--get it in and get done!

Monday at 11am, Muscle Revolution
Wednesday and Friday 6:10 am, Muscle Mix
Tuesday at 6pm, Muscle Revolution

Want to try a great form of self defense?  I will be teaching Kavanah for Dr. Neil Farber this Tuesday at 7pm, and next Tuesday, at 7pm, at the JCC.  Nominal Drop in fee applies, class in 75 minutes.

Hello there!!  I hope you are enjoying our beautiful hot weather!  If you are anything like me, you want to get in the necessary exercise, and get done and enjoy your summer.  Get outside and walk with the kids, the dog, or your significant other.  We all know that muscle conditioning is crucial to keeping yourself in great shape, maintaining strong bones and a healthy metabolism.  How do you make yourself work out, and still have enough time to enjoy this beautiful weather?  I have two ideas today:  a well designed program (funny, I do that for a living!), or a TRX Blast class! 

Ok, the other classes I teach are also fun and fantastic, but they are 50-60 minutes.  If you can't spend that amount of time, then having a program designed for you is definitely a great option, because I can make it work for YOU.  Be it cards that you put next to your T.V. for during commercials, or a 30 minute concise workout in the gym, training doesn't have to be about coming in all the time to see the trainer.  It can also be about making what you do in the gym really count.

TRX blast classes are appropriate for almost everyone.  I can give modifications to any exercise, and you can work at your own level.  But if you want to be kicked in the seat of the pants, this fast and furious workout will get it all done in 1/2 hour.  What could be better after a hard day at work, than coming in, and getting your strengthening in for 1/2 hour, then you are on your way for dinner with the family by 6pm!

Let's make fitness work for you!
In Health,

Friday, June 1, 2012

Exercise and Safety

Exercise and Health Issues
Almost anyone, at any age, can do some type of physical activity. Of course you can exercise, even if you are diabetic, or have suffered a heart attack.  In fact, chances are good that your doctor has recommended physical activity as a part of your recovery or management of your particular issues. For most folks just starting out, brisk walking, riding a bike, swimming, weight lifting, and gardening are safe, especially if you build up slowly. As always, check with your doctor if you aren’t used to energetic activity. Other reasons to check with your doctor before you exercise include:
  • Any new symptom you haven’t discussed with your doctor
  • Dizziness or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure or the feeling that your heart is skipping, racing, or fluttering
  • Blood clots
  • An infection or fever with muscle aches
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Foot or ankle sores that won’t heal
  • Joint swelling
  • A bleeding or detached retina, eye surgery, or laser treatment
  • A hernia
  • Recent hip or back surgery

Keeping it Safe

Here are some things you can do to make sure you are exercising safely:
  • Start slowly, especially if you haven’t been active for a long time. Build your activities little by little, and be patient with yourself.
  • Holding your breath during weight lifting activities isn't a good idea.  Try to focus on exhaling while your push or pull, and inhaling as you slowly release the resistance.
  • Always use safety equipment. For example, wear a helmet for bike riding or the right shoes for walking or jogging.
  • Unless your doctor has asked you to limit fluids, be sure to drink plenty when you are doing activities. 
  • Always hinge forward from the hips, not the waist. If you keep your back straight, you’re probably bending the right way. If your back “rounds,” that’s probably wrong.
  • Warm up your muscles before you stretch. Try walking and light arm pumping first.
Exercise should not hurt or make you feel really tired. You might feel some soreness, a little discomfort, or a bit weary, but you should not feel pain. After the first couple of weeks, you will begin to feel better, and your routine will begin to become a part of your daily schedule.  Start slow, and increase bit by bit; you will be happy that you did!

Exercise for Seniors

Some folks are finding the fountain of youth, and it's not located solely in Florida, but in gyms and parks all over the world.  It's called exercise.  Seniors are a population that benefit greatly from exercise.  It keeps your bones strong, your muscles from weakening, your metabolism higher.  It keeps your cells functioning at a higher, more youthful and resilient level, which keeps you going stronger for longer!  There are four main types of exercise that seniors need to be getting regularly:

  1. Endurance exercise that incorporates an elevated heart rate, like walking, jogging, cycling, rowing or classes like water aerobics or land aerobics.
  2. Strengthening exercises that are weight bearing, like weight lifting, or body weight exercises like squats and push ups.
  3. Flexibility exercises that incorporate stretching, foam rollers, and slow movements based on range of motion, like yoga, Pilates, and basic stretching.
  4. Balance exercises that focus on fall prevention, like those that incorporate standing on one foot, balance pods, BOSU, and other functional activities.

It's important that seniors that want to stay active, youthful, and able to keep up with their activities of daily living participate in some of each of these types of exercise.  Going to classes is an easy way to get a little of each, but you can, of course, have something basic designed by a personal trainer, as well, or you can go to websites that provide samples of what you should be doing.

Stay active, and have fun!

Class Escapades

Have you ever been in a highly formatted group exercise class like Body Pump?  You know how the instructor has to explain what you are going to do for the next song, which body part you will be working, and what equipment you will need?  I teach just such a class, but have a small problem:  two ladies that stand directly in front talk constantly.  Now I generally don't mind a little discussion; after all, you're there for exercise and for fun. But this was definitely getting distracting for some.  Last week, one of the ladies in the class had had enough.  She announced in the middle of the class, while the music was off "I cannot hear anything! You never stop talking!  Shut up!".  Well, you could have heard a pin drop!  So I asked if everything was all right, and she explained again, that they are right in front of her, so she can't hear the instructions.  I repeated them, and we continued on with class.  The following week, neither the talkers nor the annoyed woman were in class.  Hopefully, they will return soon.  Thinking back, I have done similar things in classes that I've taken.  I know I will think twice about talking during a class I'm attending in the future:)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Side Plank!

Hi there! This week, I thought I would remind you of a classic core exercise that works like gangbusters on your whole body, but particularly your obliques and tranversus abdominus.  As shown, come up onto your forearm, lifting from your core, pushing up through the waistline.  Keep breathing.  Hold, for anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute depending on your level.  Variations include putting the bottom knee on the floor to make it easier, or lifting the top leg up (abduction) to make it harder.


Saturday, 9:30 am

Join me for fun on Monday (6am), Wednesday and Friday mornings (6:10 am), for my weight lifting classes at Le Club (free), or Monday and Wednesday evenings (5:30pm) for TRX at Le Club (nominal fee).  Tuesday evenings, I teach my own version of Body Pump called Muscle Revolution--come and try it!

Have a great day!  Melissa

Garlic Mustard Pesto...yes, the weed!!

More nutritious than spinach, garlic mustard is everywhere in the spring as an invasive weed.  Pull it, and USE it!
4 cloves of garlic
3 tbs. garlic mustard taproots
3/4 cups parsley
1 cup garlic mustard leaves
1 cup basil
1-1/2 cup low-sodium olives
2 cups walnuts or pine nuts
1/2 cup mellow miso
1-1/4 cups olive oil or as needed
1. Chop the garlic and garlic mustard roots in a food processor.
2. Add the parsley, garlic, garlic mustard and basil and chop.
3. Add the nuts and chop coarsely.
4. Add the olive oil and miso and process until you've created a coarse paste.
Makes 4 cups

Monday, April 30, 2012

"I Am Loveable And Capable"

This week I decided to write about what I am thinking, rather than a specific tip.  And this morning, after not a small amount of wasted time and computer frustration, I am finally sitting down to put these thoughts down, and share them with you.

IALAC:  I Am Lovable And Capable.  This is something I was introduced to when I was a child, somewhere around 5th grade.  We had a particularly tough class, and so the Vice Principal brought in a guidance counselor to teach us the principle of the IALAC sign.  It's something like this:  You begin each day with a sign that says "I am loveable and capable".  Throughout the day, things occur;  people say things to you that make you feel good, or things that make you feel bad.  Maybe some computer frustration happens along the way (wink!).  The bad things that are said were nicknamed "cold pricklies" (remember, I was a kid, bear with me), and the good things that are said were nicknamed "warm fuzzies".

So each time someone says something that puts you down, or makes you feel bad about yourself, a piece of that sign (I am loveable and capable) gets ripped off.  And each time someone says something that makes you feel good about yourself, you get to put a piece back on the sign.  Let me go one step further.  Whenever YOU say something to yourself that is negative, a piece gets ripped off, as well.

Everyone is fighting some sort of battle, each day, whether you can see it or not.  Some are struggling with problems with their kids, some are battling cancer, others are fighting an addiction.  Not all of these things are visible to the naked eye.  Each day I try hard to add to peoples' signs and not take away, and that goes for myself as well.  Stop the negative self-talk.  And if we help each other to live more positively, we can more effectively work through our struggles with our signs intact, making us even more capable of dealing with whatever life throws at us. 

Remember the role exercise plays in all of this.  It helps to reduce your stress, increase those beneficial endorphins that make you feel better, and, of course, you look better and feel stronger.

No matter what you are dealing with, remember I am here for you, as are your friends and family.  I am always eager to hand out compliments (warm fuzzies).  Keep moving, keep's worth it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Do the foods you eat matter?

Does it matter if you have a burger or baked goods, or an apple with a cheese stick and veggies?  Do the types of food you eat matter, as long as the calorie count is the same?  Absolutely.  1200 calories of sugar, fat and carbs are not equivalent to 1200 calories of nutrients, fiber, complex carbs and lean protein.  Your body will function very differently with the better food choices, including but not limited to: your mental outlook (depression, mood), your overall health, and your energy level.

But you knew that, right?  Then why are you still eating those foods that you know aren't doing you any favors?  I'm not saying all burgers are bad, by the way.  By now, you know that I think you can incorporate your favorite foods into your diet with a few small modifications.  Still, coming back to our point...why are you eating foods that you know are not great for you?  Did you know that your body replaces billions of cells every day?  It replaces those cells with the building blocks (food) that you give it.

Ask yourself if you want to replace those cells with garbage, and get garbage cells that don't work well, and have a high incidence of malfunction (mutations!), or do you want to replace those cells with good quality fuel, so that your body has it's best chance at full function at the highest possible level?

And that's really what's important, right?  Giving your body it's best chance a full, high function.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Anyone who's ever tried to lose weight has encountered sabotage. There are in fact a couple of different types of sabotage that can happen as you navigate your way to a healthy lifestyle.  The first kind is usually encountered by people close to you. No, they generally don't mean to hurt you, but they are used to you the way you are. People are threatened by change. So, your husband who knows you are on a diet, brings your favorite high calorie dessert home, and you can't say no. Or your best friend encourages you to skip your training appointment to go out for lunch, instead, and then wants the fried onion rings and other unhealthy fare to share.  You might even encounter comments like (and this one is 100% true) "What size are you in now?"  "I'm now in a size 6!"  "Oh, you look more like an 8." Seriously?!  Or what about this:  "have you seen Melissa?  She lost even more weight!"  "Yes, but her face looks old now."  Yes, real people actually will say things just like this to you/about you.  Anyone who has lost a substantial amount of weight can assure you of this.  My weight loss is up to 165 pounds, and I'm perfectly willing to take the trade off of some loose skin to be healthy, strong, and comfortable in my body.

Whether they realize it or not, they are trying to undercut your efforts to change for the better.  Sometimes this happens because they are unhappy with themselves.  Ok, most of the time.  Try to let this stuff roll right off your back.  Or, as I do, you can let those comments be the fuel for your determination.  People are actually doing me a favor when they make comments like this.  It makes me even more determined to be the very best I can be, in every way.

Beyond what others say, though, we sabotage our own efforts to be healthy.  One client of mine (and this is certainly not limited to him) would come in every appointment and tell me that he ate horribly.  At every appointment.  We'd discussed food logging...he knew what he should be eating...he had a nutritionist...he had a therapist...and he STILL came in every appointment, weighing in heavier than the last, telling me all the horrible things he ate.  In two years, I can count on one hand the times he came in and had actually taken off a couple of pounds.  Inevitably, I can't make someone's choices for them, I can only make my own.  I can lead a person to the healthful way of eating and exercising, but if they are working against themselves, there's not much I can do.

You need to look deep inside for this one.  If you are constantly ruining your diet, or consistently missing workouts, you need to ask yourself why.  Are you afraid of change?  Are you hiding from something?  Are you harboring worries about weight loss that are groundless on the surface, but deep seated within you?  Are you worried that your spouse/friends/co-workers won't accept you healthier and thinner?  You need to get to the root of why you are working against yourself, and that will lead to fixing the problem.

But that answer lies in you. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Exercise and Illness:

Exercise and illness-when you should call it quits, and when you should go work out-

Mild to moderate physical activity is usually OK if you have a garden-variety cold and no fever. It may even help you feel better by opening your nasal passages and temporarily relieving nasal congestion.

As a general guide for exercise and illness, consider this:

  • Exercise is usually OK if your signs and symptoms are all "above the neck" — symptoms you may have with a common cold, such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or minor sore throat. Consider reducing the intensity and length of your workout, though, or you may feel worse. Instead of going for a run, take a walk, for example.
  • Don't exercise if your signs and symptoms are "below the neck" — such as chest congestion, hacking cough or upset stomach.
  • Don't exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches.

Let your body be your guide: If you feel awful, and the cold is severe, taking a day or two off won't ruin your exercise goals, or set you behind. If you are unsure, check with your doctor. Overall, the fact that you exercise regularly will afford you the benefit of staying healthy and fighting off most of the minor colds and viruses, so take heart!

And to avoid getting sick, consider washing your hands more often, avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes until you do wash up, and add healthy vitamin C rich foods to your diet during the cold and flu season, like kiwi, and citrus fruits. One of my best kept secrets is "Host Defense".

This an extract of mushrooms that helps aid your body in fighting off infections. Of course, check with your doctor or nurse practitioner before adding anything to your regimen.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Very Low Calorie Diet

The VLCD (Very Low Calorie Diet): 1000 calories or less=danger.

When you first began to consider managing your weight, were you surprised by the recommendations given to you by your doctor or trainer?  Did you feel frustrated that they said losing 1-2 pounds a week was what was reasonable?  Did you feel like if you just ate less than what was recommended, the weight would surely come off faster?  Were you tempted to try one of the many "crash" diets that are popular with starlets today?

You're not alone. Extreme calorie restriction is a growing trend, and not a good one.  Eating a diet well below the amount of calories your body needs to function properly can lead to losing muscle mass, going into starvation mode and losing fat that supports your organs, resulting in dropped organs, a life threatening situation.  In an effort to grasp how this can effect you, read this post about how extreme calorie restriction led to a harsh reality.

This is solely from my perspective, but to everyone that has asked, "why can't I eat <1000 calories a day for weight loss? I've seen the numbers on the scale, it's working..."
I've been there. Ten years ago I lost 65 pounds in about six months. For ten years I consumed between 700-900 calories per day. I started at 1000, but as I got older the weight kept creeping on even at that low amount, so I cut further to maintain. When I started eating 400 calories per day about six months ago, I realized it's not worth it. There are consequences for losing that quickly and in such an unhealthy way.
I have been put on new medication and doctors orders, 1600 calories per day. Not an amount that a person should gain on, but I am. I have put on fifteen pounds in an incredibly short period of time. When I finally balance out, I have a long road of weight loss ahead of me.
Starving like that has put me in a ten year battle with my weight that didn't have to happen. When done in a healthy way, weight loss can be achieved and maintained. Do it the way I did, and you are in for constant misery with the scale dictating your life. People would always say to me, "You're so lucky you're thin." They didn't know that I kept two food diaries (in case one was off), an exercise diary and an activity diary. I became a group fitness instructor so that I had a reason to exercise MANY hours a day. This is the path of starvation. This is what happens when you cut too drastically, and lose too quickly. It's still misery, it's just skinny misery.
I finish my medication in two weeks. I can tell you that I have been happier these last four weeks than I have been in years. I am not counting calories to the last degree. I am not constantly moving to burn more, and I'm not worried about what the scale will say next week (I only weigh once a week now instead of every day). I will drop some of these pounds, and I will do it in healthy way. I even increased my calories to 1850 to ensure that I can do it the right way. I can't go back to being a slave to the scale.
The next time you ask yourself if you should eat less calories than is wise, ask yourself if you are willing to give up eating and drinking with friends. Ask yourself what you will do as you age and can't maintain the loss anymore. Ask yourself what you will do when start driving everyone around you away because of your obsession with your weight. It's a road that is VERY hard to come back from.
Weight lost from starving CAN'T be maintained. What will you have left when the weight creeps up? It's not worth it. -end

Final Thoughts

Healthy weight loss begins with a determination to change your habits in a positive way.  Cut out foods that are unreasonable, like fast food and soda.  Add foods like vegetables, and fruits, and think about what you are putting in your mouth.  Will this help my body today?  Will this create better cells?  Will I be able to do what I want to do, and enjoy my life?  These are more important than strict calorie restriction.  That said, you can get a better idea if what you're doing is healthy, by healthfully logging your food. (online and app) and Lose It (app) will both give you reports on what nutrients you are getting and which you are not.  This can help to guide you in a healthier direction.  I know this is hard.  Hang in there.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Are you discouraged?

I know I am.  This winter stuff does go on and on...and our vitamin D levels are low.  Check with your doctor if you are feeling down in the dumps, getting sick really often, or low on energy.  It could be as simple as vitamin D levels, or maybe you need to rev up your exercise.

Here's a new exercise to try, if you need something to get your mind off the grey day...

Come to me and ask for a demo...although I am going to try to do a video demo of this exercise:
1.  tie a band on something solid, about waist height.
2.  Stand with the band to your left side, and hold it in your left hand so that there is tension on the band.
3. Lift your opposite knee up, and bring the hand with the band, in to touch the opposite knee.  Do 5, and repeat on the other side.

Stay positive and proactive!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is This You? Eat...Repent...Repeat...

Is this you? Eat...Repent...Repeat...
Now that we are a month and a half from New Year's resolutions, I wonder if your resolve has lost steam. Are you going back to your old habits? Did you ever really change them? Let's ask ourselves a few questions to check our current status in this arena:
1. I have a friend who is always thinking about his next meal, while he's still eating! Do you think about food more often than you think you should?
2. Do you struggle to pass up tempting food items, even when you aren't hungry?
3. Do you often feel too full when you are finished eating? Many of my friends are so stuffed, they can barely move after a this you? Is Thanksgiving every day?
4. Do you find yourself reaching for food when you are sad, lonely, mad, frustrated?
5. Do you fluctuate between dieting, and eating too much? (This one is a classic!)
If you said "yes" to any of these, you are probably realizing that losing weight isn't that easy, and dieting isn't necessarily the answer. The problem with the word "diet" is that it carries the connotation of finality. In other words, you do this for a short time, and then you can go back to "normal".
Many of you know that I've lost a lot of weight. Some of you have only known me during the last 40 pound loss. Prior to that, however, I was as high as 296#. I know. When my daughter was born, 17 years ago, I weighed in at 296. On my 5'6 medium sized frame, this was not good, and my knees hurt, my back hurt, and I was so sad.
But I didn't go on a diet. I began to exercise, and log my food (an incredibly useful tool!). When you look at this as a change in lifestyle, then you can begin to change permanently. You begin to change one bad habit, incorporate that, and then tackle another. So with that in mind, let's examine the following points:
1. Let go of the word "diet". It's temporary. The answer to change lies within YOU.
2. Whenever you find yourself wanting food, key in to the physical feeling of HUNGER. Are you truly hungry? Or are you just craving...something...
3. Try not to think of foods as "good" and "bad". When I want something, I look it up-Lose It, My Fitness Pal, Calorie Count, are all great ways to check your facts on food. Can you have half of your favorite food? How can you fit it in to your day and still enjoy?
4. Think about how the foods you eat make you feel. Certain foods taste good, but make you feel physically ill. I try to eat mindfully, thinking about what those foods are fueling. Your body creates billions of new cells each day from the foods you eat. What do you want to create those building blocks from? Are you enjoying the texture and tastes of the food? I'll give you a quick example. I love cheese. But, it's high in fat and calories. Bummer. So I went to the "cheese lady" over at the store, and tried some very flavorful cheeses: strong sharp cheddar, grass fed pungent gouda, etc. So now, I get more flavor in each bite, and I am able to enjoy a smaller portion!
5. Stop eating when you feel full. Save some money, and have a second meal from the leftovers. You do NOT...I repeat...You do NOT have to clean your plate. This is about feeling good about eating and feeling good after you eat, and fueling your body, not about shoving every possible mouthful in that you can fit. Let it go.
6. Distract yourself. If you are finding yourself grabbing every food in sight, and not stopping, ask yourself why. Did something trigger this? Distract yourself by walking away, take a walk outside, make a cup of tea, fold some laundry. What's eating YOU, that's making you want to eat?
7. Perfect does not belong in your vocabulary. There is no such thing as a perfect diet, or a perfect person. We are all flawed, and we all struggle. Try to balance your mistakes. Eat more sparingly at your next meal, go workout, go for a walk. Don't beat yourself up.
But get OFF the roller coaster!

Weakness is not a reason, it's an excuse.