Exercise, Misc

Exercise and Emotional Trauma

One out of three women will experience a sexual assault, domestic violence, attempted assault in her lifetime! 3d002060-3ed0-4c3a-9011-79812960e2c2

As a fitness professional who works primarily with women, I understand the sense of helplessness, depression and other symptoms that can linger and hold you back from achieving your optimal health and well-being.  April is sexual assault awareness month and I’d like to talk a little more about how exercise can help in the healing process.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder triggered by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Although it is commonly associated with combat veterans, it also frequently affects survivors of violent personal assaults (rape, mugging or domestic violence), childhood abuse, natural disasters, accidents and life-threatening illnesses.

Exercise can play an important role in helping clients with PTSD or who experienced a trauma recover and regain confidence. Exercise also addresses many of the health problems commonly associated with chronic PTSD, including cardiovascular disease and depression or other bodily manifestations of the emotional after-effects of trauma.

Mind-body exercises like yoga, low-intensity aerobic exercise, in addition to the sense of accomplishment provided by feeling stronger through resistance exercise are valuable components of a comprehensive treatment plan.(Tsatsoulis & Fountoulakis 2006)(Cohen & Shamus 2009)(Cohen & Shamus 2009).

Diaphragmatic breathing, muscle relaxation exercises and stretching are an essential component of all my training programs. Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to improve immune function, hypertension, asthma, autonomic nervous system imbalances and psychological or stress-related disorders (Jerath et al. 2006).

Symptoms of PTSD can vary from day to day and may be triggered by seemingly innocuous situations, such as loud noises or crowds. The bootcamp drill sergeant approach may really trigger someone for whom being pushed or yelled at was part of their traumatic experience. This is another reason why I think touching a client without asking permission or standing  too close to a client in general is inappropriate.

Sufferers of trauma often need a sense of control which they lack in other aspects of their lives. There is a risk these clients could develop unhealthy or unsafe approaches to exercise. It is my job to show my clients how to make sure that exercise does not become an excessive behavior.

I would welcome the opportunity to assist you in your journey to wellness, wholeness, health, fitness and peace.

Diet, Exercise, Fitness Goals

Planning to go on a diet and exercise plan after Passover?

Consider the following things a personal trainer can do:

  1. Improve Your Overall Fitness by monitoring your progress and fine-tune your program as you go, helping you work your way off plateaus.
  2. Reach or Maintain a Healthy Weight by helping you set realistic goals and determine safe strategies, all while providing the encouragement you need.
  3. Learn to Stick to It by helping you overcome your biggest obstacles to exercise.
  4. Focus on Your Unique Health Concerns such as low-back pain, rehabilitation from injury and pre/postnatal training.
  5. Find the Right Way to Work Out, by learning  the correct way to use equipment, and appropriate form and technique for cardiovascular work and free-weight training.
  6. Stop Wasting Time. Get maximum results in minimum time with a program designed specifically for you.
  7. Learn New Skills.
  8. Enhance Your Mind, Body and Spirit by showing you potential you didn’t realize you had.
  9. Benefit From the Buddy System, individualized attention and support.
  10. Finally find the exercise program that works best for you.
Exercise, Fitness Goals, Injuries

Have You Been Naughty?

santasOne of my long-time clients confided to me last week that the scale hasn’t moved in a while.

She just doesn’t feel that into it anymore, and she’s exhausted.  Ever since the holidays she hasn’t been eating great – skipping meals and eating high-fat, processed foods – and hasn’t been doing all of her workouts.

Between family visiting, the holiday goodies, the change in schedule and starting back at work after her baby, she has taken quite a bit of time off from her program, which previously consisted of some cardio dance classes and yoga, in addition to strength training with me once a week.

Looking back on our schedule, it had been at least a couple of months off.  She feels like giving up, like maybe she’s never going to reach her goals.  Although she knows what she is still doing has health benefits, maybe she’s never going to get into that smaller dress size she had in mind.

Wow!  Is that you?  It has happened to me, too!

Yes, even some fitness pros have moments when the whole enchilada, workout and nutrition, goes kaboom.  Maybe a stress, like family visiting or emotions or a bingeful off-season gone awry or an injury, set you back and you’re not sure if you can ever pick up all the pieces…or if you even want to.

Naughty, very naughty!

It doesn’t feel good to be in that “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” state.  I’m not going to tell you to pick yourself up by your boot straps and get moving because we know if that was gonna happen, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Now is the time to be nice to yourself.  It feels awful enough already. You haven’t worked out and yet you are tired nearly all the time.  Be good to yourself.  Can you think back to a time when you were energetic?  What activities were you enjoying?  Are you doing any of those things now?

Here are some ideas to get you going:

  • Dig out that workout and or nutrition journal and go back to the early pages when you were so excited. Read through your goals…especially the “why” behind your desire to start a fitness program.  Do those reasons apply still?
  • Try a new recipe from a healthy cook book or online site or magazine.
  • What did you do differently at the times when you were looking and feeling better?  Were you eating breakfast, did you have more salad?  Did you go places or do things that made you happy?  Would you want to do just any one of those things now?
  • Skip the ‘go hard or go home’ style workout, try a restorative yoga class!
  • Try a new piece of equipment.  I know some of us have equipment graveyards in the closet and under the bed, but if it gets you off your tush and back on track even for a little while perhaps its money well spent.  The idea at this time isn’t to start a new long-term program, but to merely get off the couch.
  • Too much effort to get out?  Why not just put on Pandora and dance around in the kitchen to some tunes!
  • Pull out a DVD and just hit play.  No commitment, just hit play and see if you want to try it. YouTube a cardio workout or check FitnessGlo.
  • Get a Groupon for an activity you have always wanted to try.
  • Have that pedicure, that cup of tea, that chat with an old friend…something to just incorporate “you time.”  After all, that’s what your workout should be – time to be good to yourself, not beat yourself up or down.  Maybe all the holiday stuff – the emotional and the seasonal treats everywhere and the focus on doing so much have made you disconnected from taking time to recharge yourself, so take the time to self-indulge with feel-good things to build you back up.
  • Go shopping for a new fitness outfit or sneakers. The sale racks are bursting right now with returned gear that might motivate you to put it to good use.
  • Make a date with a friend to go walking…Or come to one of my walking groups. Groups can make us feel part of something bigger and making new friends and having the support of a group helps reset your mood and motivation.
  • Buy a few sessions with a personal trainer – someone who can focus on you since you spend so much of the day, whether as a Mom or daughter or student or a hard worker, putting yourself aside for others.  The trainer can focus on you, coach and motivate you.  The trainer can create effective and safe workouts so you don’t have to worry about becoming injured or creating a workout program that will be effective.  Have an expert in your corner.  Its cheaper than therapy!
  • Just get outside!!!  (This is the one that got my long-time client back on track).  I find the air, the change of scenery, even for a 10 minute walk once a day, helps break me out of my sedentary rut.  Being in nature lifts my mood and the walking gets my circulation going.  Don’t overthink it.  Just get outside once a day and see how you feel.  Maybe just a walk around the block today.  Maybe in a couple days you will feel like a block and a half.  Maybe you like hiking or horseback riding or raking leaves in the yard.
  • Don’t let your mind talk you down. If the thoughts come, like “Oh, why bother?  I am fat and nothing will change,” just acknowledge it, “Oh, you again” and tell it “next” or something similarly non-judgmental, but dismissive and let go or focus on part of your life you like and think gratitude thoughts.  Just be in the moment for those 10 minutes you are walking or noticing the smells outside or the colors of the leaves.
  • Know this is normal and temporary.


Heated Workouts – Are They Better For You?

sauna-suitYou may have heard that hot workouts like Hot Yoga or wearing a Sweat Suit or exercising in warmer temperatures or sitting in a sauna and steam room will do all kinds of things, like make you lose more weight faster, detoxify the body etc.

While it is true that a very small amount of toxins leave our body through sweat, it is the kidneys which are the main detoxifier of the body, along with the liver and gastrointestinal tract and immune system.  The kidneys rid our body of toxins by helping you pee and poop them out.

Sweat is the body’s way of cooling itself so you don’t overheat your main organs, etc.  It’s how your body maintains that ideal internal temperature of 98.6, whether the temperature outside is 100.4 degrees fahrenheit or not.  It does elevate the heart rate somewhat to be in a higher temperature like a sauna after a workout, but the extra calorie burn is only slight and the risk may not be worth it.

When we sweat, we lose electrolytes – chloride and sodium and water in a plasma-like substance.  Only some sweat glands do release some lipids (fats).  Most of what you are losing through sweat is just water weight, which will come right back on after you drink something (which is a great thing to do after exercise, by the way).  Our weight actually fluctuates throughout the day, so don’t get all excited about a loss of weight after your first hot yoga class.

Sweating too much can be harmful!

It can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, injure your kidneys – even lead to heart failure.  You need proper hydration in order to burn fat stores.  Sitting in a sauna or steam room isn’t going to burn off fat to make you start losing dress sizes.

Sweating and cooling are great de-stressers though..something about that feeling of sweating is something we associate with having worked hard.  Your body does have to work harder to bring itself to the correct temperature, so you could be burning more calories in a hotter classroom as the heart rate and circulation increase.

If wearing a sauna suit made us lose weight, wouldn’t we all be reading this here eating doughnuts in a sauna suit?  They don’t work and they can be dangerous.

So why do some people sweat more than others?

Smoking, caffeine and alcohol increase sweat, what you are wearing can affect it (some synthetic fibers trap heat).  Fat can act as an insulator so some fatter people sweat more.  Some people have more sweat glands than others.  Some people have more active sweat glands than others.  I heard of one study which indicated athletes sweat more than un-fit people because their bodies become more efficient at cooling themselves.  According to the same study published in the Journal of Experimental Physiology, unfit women sweat the least.  Bottom line – don’t necessarily use sweat as an indicator of how good a workout you got.

Heat can make muscles relax more – so you may find you are more bendy at hotter temperatures.  Seniors may benefit from exercising at SLIGHTLY warmer temps..but go too high and you may be more prone to injury from becoming too bendy.

Given the option, I prefer to exercise at temperatures which lead to ideal performance—like 68 -72 degrees or so, rather than those higher temperatures which leave me too tired to perform at my best.  At 68 degrees, I get a better workout at a better intensity, burning more calories overall and increasing my body’s ability to build lean muscle– which helps me burn more calories after exercise while my body is repairing those muscles as I sit back and enjoy a book or something.

Diet, Exercise, General Health

Are You Skinny Fat?

fatIt has been a colorful 2 weeks since I last posted.

I have been substitute teaching PE at an all-girls private High School.  When I took the 9th graders, split them into groups to do resistance exercises circuit-style, one group assigned to do sit-ups couldn’t execute a single sit-up with proper form.  One pretty young thing just lifted her head up and down while laying on her back. It was so sad.

I explained to them the many health benefits of exercise.  I don’t think they were incredibly impressed.

I explained how 65%+ of Americans are overweight – which puts them at all kinds of health risks from diabetes to heart attacks and cancer.  They could even quote back the statistics to me…and nobody seemed to think these numbers had anything to do with them.  If you look around, its usually like a carnival house of mirrors with all kinds of distorted bodies peering back at you – distended bellies and all, but this group was actually relatively thin looking.  From all outward appearances, you would assume they are a healthy bunch.  So I think the girls figured they don’t really need to exercise.

That’s simply not true!  There’s something called Skinny Fat – medically, the term is metabolically obese, normal weight (‘MONW’).  Not enough lean muscle.  Or your ratio of muscle to fat is off-kilter.  For instance, a body-fat of 24-39% is high by medical and health standards, but with good genes and bone structure you might appear thin.  Yes, its also true that if you fit into a size 2, but you still jiggle while you wiggle and your skin feels spongy…there’s a good chance you fit the definition of skinny fat.

Actually, a Skinny Fat person can have the same health risks as someone overweight/obese—or worse.  The shocking news published in the Journal of the American Medical Association is that nearly 1 in 4 skinny people have pre-diabetes and are metabolically obese.   Skinny people diagnosed with diabetes have twice the risk of death than heavy people with it.  Could be that having some extra muscle from lugging around that extra weight is protective?

In other words, a heavy fat person with a good amount of muscle might be healthier than you, Miss String-Bean!  Yeah, fit people come in all shapes and sizes is what I am saying.

Why am I so passionate about this subject?  Because I have been Skinny Fat myself.

Thanks to genetics and bone structure, I appear taller and slimmer than I actually am.  Many years ago, after the birth of my second child, I went for my annual physical.  The doctor looked at the results of my blood tests and asked what I did for exercise.  I told him “I chase toddlers. ” He went on to tell me that although I was active and exhausted from all the chasing of my kids all day long, I was actually 33% body-fat.  I was obese.  I gasped – but I’m not that heavy according to the scale!  He said if I were older, he would have put me on a statin drug because of my cholesterol numbers and that I should start an exercise program (I had not done regular exercise since High School) and eat oatmeal for breakfast.  I joined a gym and attended classes religiously, ate my oatmeal for breakfast, backed off on the fancy coffee dessert-drinks, and within 3-6 months I had lowered my cholesterol 13 points.  This was the start to my journey of becoming a fitness professional.

There are a number of tests your Doc can run to see if you are Skinny Fat, including a fasting glucose tolerance test, HDL, triglycerides, blood pressure, NMR lipid particle test.

So how to fix it when you are Skinny Fat?  Pair a lean protein with a healthy low GI carb at every meal in order to keep blood glucose levels steady.  For instance, an apple with some almonds, a hard boiled egg and oatmeal, celery and peanut butter, rice and beans, chicken breast and bell pepper.  Don’t drink your calories.  Get enough sleep.  Do resistance training with cardiovascular intervals…just like I have been doing with all of the classes I have been teaching at school this week.

Don’t worry – if you lift more than 2 lbs you aren’t necessarily gonna bulk up and look like a female version of the Hulk!  If you would like more help finding a fitness program to help you avoid being Skinny Fat, drop me a line or take one of my classes this week!


5 Favorite Moves to Help You Get Your Inner Thigh Gap


If you can stand straight with your knees together and see a space between your upper thighs, you have what’s known as a thigh gap and its getting a lot of notoriety on social media this summer…particularly among teenage girls.

A thigh gap can happen because of a particular bone structure or being toned and lean.  It can also happen, sadly, because a person is so emaciated and unhealthy that you can see air between their legs!  Some people’s genetics, pelvic size and width etc. just aren’t going to allow them to have a thigh gap.  Some ladies don’t want one, need one or like one.

If the notion of a thigh gap motivates you to stop eating so much frankenfood and get off the couch, great!  Have a realistic understanding that you may never look like a runway model from doing some thigh exercises and most of us might not be so healthy if we did.  Toning exercises for the inner thigh can help prevent injury, are needed for certain sports and life activities and, like all resistance exercise, help build bone strength.  If you hate the rubbing, heat rash from your thighs touching, use that as motivation to get off the couch and try some of these exercises.

Remember to do a light dynamic cardio warm up to activate the legs and thighs before beginning these resistance training exercises and add a cool down and stretch your quadriceps, hamstrings, inner and outer thighs and calves afterwards.  Always listen to your body – if it doesn’t feel right to you or you have pain, that’s a sign to back off or stop.  Modify the exercises as needed.  Take breaks whenever you need to.  (Any exercise carries a risk of injury.  Please consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program).  No equipment is needed.

  1. Forward Leg Liftthigh-ex1
    This is a ballet move that tones the quadriceps (the top of the thigh), as well as the adductors (inner thigh muscles). The adductors are often a weaker muscle. Toning the adductors will firm it and help you achieve that inner thigh gap.

    Find your balance or hold a chair or wall to help you gain stability.

    Begin standing with your legs straight. Feet slightly outward.

    Extend one leg up in front of you, toe pointed and turned outward and slowly lower the leg back down to the floor, heels touching where they meet.  Repeat 3 alternating sets of 8-12 repetitions each leg

  1. Sumo Plie’ with Slidethigh-ex2a
    Begin in a sumo squat knees and toes pointing outward/away from the mid-line of the body.  Keeping your knees behind the toes lower down until your thighs are parallel with the floor or you feel the muscles of the top of the thigh elongating.  Keeping your navel pulled toward the spine and your shoulders down and back, exhale as you straighten the knees and squeeze the glutes (buttocks) and inner thigh.  (steps 1 & 2)

    thigh-ex2bNow for inner thigh work, (steps 3 & 4): Squat as above and as you straighten the knee and come to standing slide/drag the left leg across the floor using the floor as resistance bringing the left heel to meet the right heel.  Repeat on the other side.  Again, 8-12 repetitions each leg, 1-3 sets as your strength allows.

    To make this exercise even more challenging , you can hold 5-8 lb (or more) dumbbells in each hand together at chest level while performing the exercise.

  1. Side Lying Hip Adductionthigh-ex3a
    Lie on your side left arm extended overhead, legs straight, head resting on left arm.

    Cross your right leg with the knee bent over your left leg, right foot on the floor.

    thigh-ex3bLift the left leg, leading with your heel by squeezing your inner thigh.  Stay tight through your core.  Relax head and neck.  Maintain a straight line from head to hip to heel.

    This is a small movement.  You do not need to lift very high to feel it working.  When you lower the left leg down, try to hold it slightly off the floor rather than letting it relax all the way.  To make this exercise more challenging, you can add ankle weights or hold a dumbbell on the working inner thigh.  If you need more help stabilizing yourself from rolling forward or backward, you can use the arm closest to the ceiling to hold the bent leg or the floor in front of you.

    This exercise can also be performed with the leg closest to the ceiling propped on a chair and the head resting on your hand, but be sure to keep the spine in neutral.

  1. Standing Leg Sweepthigh-ex4
    Stand, holding your kitchen counter if you need more balance, or sideways to a wall or chair.  Feet together and turned slightly outward.  With a straight leg, leading with the heel, exhale and sweep the right leg across and in front of the left leg (working the right inner thigh).  Inhale and swing the right leg  out to the right side (working the right outer thigh and right glute).

    If its too intense for you to swing and extend the right leg out to the right and hold it in the air, you can modify this by tapping the right toe to the floor.

    Repeat the right leg sweep 8-12 times, then try the exercise with the left leg.

    Do 3 sets each leg.

  1. Supine Leg Crossesthigh-ex5
    Lie on your back, hands at your sides and close to your body raise both legs to the ceiling.  Open the legs and with pointed toes and straight knees close the legs and cross them.

    A few variations to this exercise: you can keep the legs wide and exhale as the legs close or you can do them with a smaller range of motion or mix it up – big ones and small ones.

    If you would like to add some abs, lower the legs 6 inches closer to the floor to intensify the lower abdominal involvement in this exercise.

Is there a body part you would like to know how to work?  I would be happy to meet and design a workout program for you.