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.

Exercise, Fitness Goals

How To Get Arms Like Michelle Obama

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) released new statistics which show arm lifts in women have skyrocketed 4,378% in the last 10 years. While there’s no single reason behind the increase, a recent poll conducted in the USA by Harris Interactive on behalf of the ASPS found  that women most admire the arms of first lady Michelle Obama, followed closely by Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Biel and Demi Moore.

Brachioplasty does remove excess skin from the triceps area. It requires an incision from the elbow to armpit generally on the back of the arm and leaves a visible and permanent scar and carries the same risks as other operative procedures.  It also does nothing to actually tone the muscles in the upper arm.  But there’s no need to go under the knife.

There are ways to get those sexy celebrity arms without going under the knife!

In interviews with Vogue Magazine and with Oprah Winfrey, MIchelle Obama revealed that she pumps iron a the gym and regularly hits the treadmill.  “I also do some jump rope, some kickboxing…” added Obama. In fact, on the FLOTUS twitter feed March 11, 2013 she revealed that to relieve stress, she loves kickboxing!


According to Mrs. Obama herself, she works hard and eats right. Also, the Obama Family’s personal trainer Cornell McClellan shared his tricks for perfectly toned arms.  McClellan says it’s about the whole program – a lifestyle. Nutrition and exercise, both cardio and strength training, but some days you can just focus on the arms. These are the same basic  arm exercises I recommend to my own clients for wonderfully toned triceps (back of the arms):

Exercise, Fitness Goals, General Health


Nearly every one of my female personal training clients had a question about their menstrual cycle this week. Really. It hit me like a sledgehammer that this week’s blog post must address these issues.

It’s like this: “Kayla, I don’t understand, I am working my butt off and eating right and this week I gained weight.”  Another was like this: “I’m just not losing. I am doing everything, well, OK I ate a few doughnuts, well like more than a few but anyway, the scale is going in the other direction and I have no energy all day for the last two days.” “I just started the pill and I think it’s making me gain weight. Do you think that’s possible?”

Did you just get your period, or are you expecting your period like today/tomorrow? The answer 100% of the time was YES!

I’m really not sure why this was so shocking to them. I mean, I practically have 2 wardrobes depending on where I’m at in my own cycle..but it could be that once they are down enough pounds to notice the difference or maybe because they are specifically looking for changes now they notice the scale may not move, or it may move in the opposite direction you want during the time when Aunt Flo decides its time to visit.

Its normal for Auntie to add a few lbs or even more right before and sometimes during her stay. No worries. So don’t jump off the diet and exercise bandwagon. Stay the course and these lbs will just be temporary. I KNOW it feels like the end of the universe when you wake up one morning and for what appears to be no good reason, your clothes are too tight after all that hard work. I even maintain a set of clothes which fit a bit looser for “those” times.

The period can bring with it all kinds of fun – constipation, bloating, moodiness, food cravings.  The science is out there to explain all the details about why and which hormones are doing what to cause it. Bottom line to limit bloating related weight – limit salt, lay off the alcohol, drink plenty of water (yes, drinking water won’t make you retain water), and try some relaxation like tai chi or yoga (avoiding inversions like head stands for prolonged periods). If your big event that you are trying to lose the weight for is during that time of the month, plan in advance to consume foods which have a diuretic effect like watermelon, cucumber, and asparagus. Have a little extra potassium – like bananas, coconut water, leafy greens.  If you’re totally beat, maybe increase some iron, like in beef (if you eat beef).  If you need to back off on the intensity of your workouts for a day or two that’s fine, but studies show that exercising even when you have your period can alleviate some of the crampiness and moodiness that comes along with it.

Also know that gaining or losing a significant amount of weight, or exercising excessively can change your menstrual cycle – making it longer or shorter. Mostly, its temporary…so pull out your list of coping strategies and have at ‘em.

If cramping is severe or weight gain, moodiness, lack of energy is extreme, you probably want to see a Physician! Endocrinology, Gynecology etc.

Finally, as for whether the pill can make you gain weight. Yes. It can. Those based on estrogen can make you gain, and some older birth control pills had an effect on insulin resistance. Your doctor may or may not tell you that your particular brand of birth control could make it hard for you to lose weight or may make you gain weight, whether from bloating, or other hormone-based reasons and effects. I would say that in the overall scheme of your life, having a baby will make you gain more weight most likely than the pill and if every other reason you are taking this pill is fine for you maybe you need to let go of the self-imposed mandate that you should be 4 lbs lighter right?! You could also speak with a registered dietitian about whether changing up your ratio or balance of proteins to carbs might help you out while you are on the pill. Ultimately, you are the world’s foremost expert on you. So if your body is telling you a medication is having a certain affect on how you feel, you owe it to yourself to research it and consult all the experts you need to make an educated decision about whether this is the right medication for you.

Exercise, Fitness Goals

ABC’s of Getting Back in the Workout Groove


I’ve eaten so much food over Passover/Easter/My Birthday that I feel so fat and bloated I’m not even sure my workout clothes even fit anymore.

I don’t even want to step foot in the gym if I’m going to look like a fool since I have taken so much time off from working out I probably would be huffing and puffing after the warm-up.

I really should get myself into better shape but I’m so tired at the end of the day.

Sound familiar?

Maybe you’re thinking, “I’ll never get in shape again.”

Maybe your exercise plans got derailed by an injury.

Or maybe it was work demands, family schedules, or an emotional trauma like a divorce or death in the family.

Whatever it was, you’ve fallen off the exercise wagon and aren’t sure you’ll ever be motivated or fit enough to jump back on.

This happens to just about everyone. The hardest thing to do after you have stopped exercising is to start again.

Here are some quick ABC tips to help you bust a move:

Accept. Accept that you hit a bump in the road to fitness. Own it and know its only a bump in the road. Its not forever.

Be good to yourself. Don’t expect that you can do everything you could before your setback. Take it one step at a time. Taking on too much is a surefire way to get injured and have yet another setback. Start easy and listen to your body and work at your current fitness level. If you haven’t worked out in a while consider doing half of what you think you can do and if you’re not sore tomorrow, you can try doing a little more. Maybe even ask a trainer how to work around your injury safely or ask a knowledgeable friend how to modify those tough Yoga moves to something you can do.

Commit to something small. Putting your shoes on and driving to the class is the first step. Staying for the first 20 minutes is fantastic. Maybe next week you can stay for 40 minutes. Make that first goal something easy. Go for the low-hanging fruit. Don’t try and run a marathon…just walk out the door and walk for 10 minutes, turn around and come home…today. You will feel good and can build on that success. Make that appointment with a trainer, offer to drive to the gym with a friend and hold yourself accountable.

Do it. The hardest part is getting off our butts – but if I were richer, taller, thinner, smarter, happier…It’s time to stop thinking and start moving. Stop waiting for a brilliant moment of inspiration. It’s not going to get any easier. Just not. You’ll be inspired once you start moving and the endorphins kick in. You’ll be inspired when the music turns on. Maybe not…Just go do it because you know it’s the best thing you can do for your body and your mind.

Fitness Goals

How Fast Do You Get Out of Shape?

Sometimes holidays, an injury, travel plans, or prenatal nausea takes us off the workout wagon.  Or maybe it’s that taking the day off turned into a week or more.  So how much does this affect your strength training and weight training gains?

According to the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, Cardio-respiratory fitness generally appears to decrease only after 2-3 weeks without training.  Muscular Fitness (strength/endurance) generally appears to decrease after 2-3 months without training.*

Individuals vary.  You may find performance may decrease without a noticeable visual decrease in muscle size for instance.  Also, there’s the principle of adaptability – that if you’re used to swimming, you may not see as much decrease in your ability to swim, but you may find a bigger decrease in your running.  Some studies show that conditioned exercisers are more likely to gain back the strengths they had more quickly and lose them more slowly than less regular exercisers.

What does this mean?  Keep moving!  If you’ve fallen off the workout wagon or holidays derailed your workout train just get back on asap.

*Fitness Theory and Practice, 5th Edition, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, ed. Laura Gladwin, p. 186

Fitness Goals

How Hard Should I Be Working During My Cardio Sessions?

Target Heart Rate/ Fat Burning Zone

Cardiorespiratory exercise (running, jumping, stepping, spinning aerobic class) is a good way to improve our aerobic capacity. As our aerobic strength increases, the efficiency at which we’re using oxygen increases, and we’re able to sustain longer activity. People often work out on cardio equipment but fail to make progress either in their weight loss or in their endurance or strength. There are many possible reasons for this. Most often, I find that it is because they are not working hard enough. Sometimes this is because they were led to believe that there’s some sort of fat burning zone which is way lower than their perceived maximum exertion—which is somewhat of a misconception…So how hard should you be working?

Some fitness professionals used to believe that if you worked out at a lower intensity you would be burning more fat. The idea was that your body requires less energy when you are working out at a lower intensity so the body would dip into fat stores rather than glucose (sugar)/blood sugar/sugar stored in your muscles for fuel. You may even still see target heart rate on some workout machines at gyms and find that this is targeting you to work out at 60-65% of your maximum heart rate…as if this is some sort of unique fat burning zone. Yes, it’s true that this is the aerobic training zone whose main source of fuel is carbs, fat and protein and where the anaerobic system mainly uses glucose for fuel. However, when you work out harder, and reach into the anaerobic zone, you burn more calories overall and therefore burn more fat calories and more sugar calories.

Take for instance, if you are working out at the gym for 30 minutes at your “target heart rate of 60%” and you burn 200 calories. For the point of illustration lets say 70% of those are from fat and 30% are from sugar. However if you spend the same30 minutes working at a higher intensity and burn like 300 calories, with 50% from fat and 50% is glucose..You are burning more calories from fat and more calories overall!

To further press the point, look at it this way: glucose that doesn’t get burned off can turn into fat anyway.

Another benefit of working in the anaerobic zone is the after-burn. What that means is that the body’s metabolism remains elevated longer after the workout. (Also known as excess post oxygen consumption).

Recovery of the metabolic rate after a cardio workout can be several minutes post-workout if you stay only in the aerobic zone, but after anaerobic training, it can be several hours and even up to 12 hours or longer for exhaustive interval training or circuit weight training. This post-exercise energy expenditure during the recovery can really speed weight loss.

OK, before you foolishly exert yourself into oblivion…just wait..and keep reading. I like to give clients a Target Heart Rate Range for establishing a safe and effective cardio training parameter. There are a few methods in which to do this but for today, I’m going to give you the simplest formula I know to get a good estimate.

(The drawback to this formula is that is underestimates Heart Rate Max for men and women under age 40 and overestimates it for men and women over 40..but knowing this, you can always fine-tune for your self). Here goes:

Target Heart Rate Formula:

Take 220 and subtract your age to get your age predicted maximal hart rate.

For instance:

220-40 years old= 180 This is the theoretical maximal heart rate of a 40 year old.

Then, multiply the result (in this case 180) by the percentage of maximum you would work at

I recommend keeping your heart rate between 64% and 94% of max. So the target heart rate range for this client would be between 115 and 169 beats per minute for safety sake.

Furthermore, I like to break it down for clients who are just starting out so they can progress safely or so that we can work in a class setting so as to monitor intensity for the warm-up, body of the workout and cool down. (Some folks push too hard in the warm up and cannot sustain that level during the bulk of the workout)..so this gives them a guideline.

The first zone for beginners would be 65-75% of maximum, the second zone 80-85%, and the third zone 86-90% of maximum

In the case of the 40 year old:

.65x 180= 117
So the first level is 117-135 Beats per minute

And so on….

.80x 180=
.85x 180=
For level 2

For level 3

Realistically, you cannot sustain 94% too long, and at 60% you’re not making too much impact on your cardio strength unless you are a beginner. For those unaccustomed to exercise, we may start out in zone 1 for 2 or even 3 weeks and adjust as necessary. Seasoned exercisers may want to strive for the 80%+ for the bulk of their workout. Those using High Intensity Interval Training (a topic for another post) may want to spike their workout with intervals in the 80-90% range occasionally. These guidelines are for healthy individuals. (The recent recommendations for pregnant women is not to exceed 140 beats per minute but please check with your healthcare provider for your individual situation…Those with CVD risk factors, or on blood pressure medication will have unusually low heart rate readings so the method discussed here may not apply. Again, please check with your healthcare provider.)

One great way to monitor how hard you are working that I highly recommend, is to wear a heart rate monitor. These are relatively inexpensive, easy to get (most sporting good stores have them) and allow you to know your heart rate at a glance.

You can also measure the number of beats in 10 second pulse check at the radial (wrist) artery or the carotid (neck) artery and then multiply by 6 to give you the approximate number of beats per minute..(10×6=60 seconds in a minute) (Please don’t stop moving while you are checking as this can cause blood to pool in your extremities and cause you to be lightheaded..so keep moving or at least lifting your knees)

Another methods for monitoring intensity include the talk test and the rate of perceived exertion.

Now you know how hard you should be working during your cardio workouts. 220 – age x % of max (60-90% of max) you want to work in.


Fitness Theory and Practice : A Comprehensive Resource for Group Fitness Instructors.Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. Fifth Edition 2010. p. 254 -256

NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training Third Edition Ed. Miceal A. Clark, Scott C. Lucett, Rodney J. Corn 2008. p. 110

Fitness Goals

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Fitness Goals

(Originally posted January 1, 2012)


Any day is a good day to make a fresh start on your fitness plan but as covention has it, the first day of the new year is typically when most of us resolve to make a new beginning…and the first day of 2012 is here! For those of us that have fallen way off the healthy diet and exercise wagon, the temptation to make drastic changes to our lifestyle is strong. Unfortunately, old habits die hard and after a few weeks, earnest resolutions often end in frustration. Before you set your New Year’s fitness resolutions, know that there is a technique to being successful. I suggest making S.M.A.R.T goals as your first step.

S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for the 5 steps of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based goals. It’s a simple tool used by businesses to go beyond the realm of fuzzy goal-setting into an actionable plan for results and its equally applicable to our individual fitness goals. As with business plans, our fitness plan also needs to be flexible/a work in progress and we need to evaluate it periodically—to make sure we are on track or that the plan meets our lifestyle. A woman who becomes pregnant, for instance might need to re-write parts her plan to accommodate her new needs


Specific, focused goals are more likely to happen and can jump-start other exercise goals. Rather than saying things like, “I will work out 3 times a week”, plan it out. For instance, “I will l attend spin class on Tuesdays with Amanda, lift weights for

my upper body with a trainer Thursdays, and do yoga on Sunday.” Better yet, if you are relatively sedentary, start by signing up for that first personal training session or take a walk around the block or visit to the yoga studio just to check it out ..Yes, even that is a step in the right direction.


One of the most motivating things about fitness goals is that they are easy to measure. Get naked in front of a mirror and take a good long look. Make a mental note of what you like and what you don’t. Yes, also note what you do like! Take our your measuring tape. Measure your thighs, calves, biceps, forearms, waist, hips, bust and tush. You can take out your “skinny jeans” and use these as a sign of your progress. You can also use fat calipers to measure your percentages. You can also use the scale*. Write it down, re-check these numbers once a month. Things like blood pressure and cholesterol are affected by diet and exercise. These can be

measured by your physician, consult with him/her on when a good time for a re-check would be. Keep a journal to log your daily diet and exercise –studies show it helps you reach those goals faster!

*One note about the scale as a measure, is that our body weight fluctuates regularly depending on where we are in our menstrual cycle, how much salt we consume, water we drink etc. Also, muscle is more dense than fat so there will be times early on that your weight won’t change much but your body will. Therefore, weighing yourself daily becomes somewhat irrelevant. I recommend weighing yourself on the same scale at the same time of day wearing the same outfit/none only once a week.


High and unrealistic goal sets you up for failure. If you cannot run around the block, running a marathon in a month isn’t a realistic goal! Maybe running a 5K in 6 months would be a good plan. Deciding to cut all sugar or carbohydrates is likely to set you into binge mode. Take a moderate approach to sweets – indulge in a square of dark chocolate once a week, just don’t make a meal of it and don’t feel the need to cut it out entirely. Take it one day at a time. Instead of deciding on a huge long

-term goal like losing 40 lbs in 4 months, try to set short-term goals by the month or even the day such as “lose 4 lbs. by February, or “lose a pound a week,” or “cut 250 calories per day.” When you reach your mini-goals be sure to celebrate them! Reward yourself with a new pair of leggings or a bandana for instance. Then, continue to set new small goals to help you attain that big goal at the end of your weight-loss rainbow.


This is where you ask yourself. Why do I want to lose the weight? Why do I want to be stronger? Shut out all your negative thoughts, close your eyes and really focus on why you want to get moving. Is it because you are fed up with the aches and pains you suffer because of carrying around so much extra weight? Is it because you huff and puff when climbing a set of stairs? Has your yearly doctor checkup resulted in a prescription for cholesterol medication and a scary talk? High school reunion coming and you’re embarrassed to show up in the outfits you have in your closet? Nobody but you has to see these reasons though, so go ahead and purge it on paper.


Grab a piece of paper. Decide on your overall goal and write it in a place you will see it. Then, decide on smaller goals—something you can reach in one week from the start date. It could be as simple as losing a pound or swapping out 1% milk in your coffee for the full-fat or cream you have been using, or going for a walk each morning. Set a new goal for each week without losing the progress you made the first week. Keep those and build on your success. Then set a goal for one month from your start date and a year and so on until you reach your dream.

What are your fitness goals? Why are you starting to work out this year? Feel free to share them with other readers…