Archive | December, 2011

Staying Fit During the Holidays

23 Dec

So you’ve worked hard all year long to turn your body into a finely-tuned calorie torching machine right?  But now the holidays have rolled around…cocktail parties galore…how do you survive? You certainly don’t want to come off as a grinch or a party pooper, but you’ve sweated blood and tears for this body and you don’t want to start all over in 2012 AGAIN.  Below I’ll share some of my tried and tested tips to surviving the holiday season.

Getting enough exercise is crucial for maintaining that killer physique.  Between buying and wrapping presents, finding those killer pair of heels and party hopping, it can be hard to hit the gym as hard as before, correct?  If you’re hosting or going to a small gathering, suggest a group walk post dinner, walks are a great distraction-free way to focus on the conversation and not be distracted by the football game that’s on or washing up the dishes.  Fresh air is always good for the soul.  Take a family (0r couple or friend) getaway to a place that encourages fitness like a fitness spa (like Fitness Ridge) or a ski trip. This is a great opportunity to enjoy the company of friends AND get some exercise. Just go easy on the apres-ski drinks!  Trust me, I know it can be hard to keep up on your pre-holiday routine, but even if you make it to the gym for a 20 minute run, that’s better than nothing!

A cardinal rule of any party would be to NEVER go famished to a party.  If you starve yourself throughout the day “in preparation” for the party, you’ll gourge yourself on food once you get there. You’ll have no idea how it was prepared and you’ll eat more than if you’d eaten beforehand.  Sometimes it can backfire, and you’ll end up eating more calories than you would’ve the whole day if you’d just eaten responsibly throughout the day.

Eating can be a challenging piece of it. You don’t want to offend Auntie Besty by declining her famous Pumpkin Cheesecake, but you also know that it will go directly to you hips (or spare tire). If you have the willpower to just have a bite or two (they say after 3 you don’t have the same experience anyway), go ahead and have those few bites.  But if you know you can’t resist eating the whole slice (or TWO!), opt to slice a microscopic piece AND make sure to forgo the vanilla ice cream.  Better yet, just have a bit or two off your sweetie’s!  You shouldn’t completely forgo sweets during this fabulous season, but you also can’t eat every dessert that comes your way.  You have to pick and choose what you want.  Before you go to the party, decide on your priorities, would you rather have the hor’doreves or are you really in a dessert kind of mood? You really can’t have both.  If there are 3 dessert options to choose from which one do you REALLY want or can you get itty bitty tastes of each?

If it’s a buffet, peruse the whole table BEFORE you get your plate, pick what you want, then go back to the plate stack.  Try to aim for half of the plate to be stacked with veggies and fruits.  Avoid processed meats and foods.  Also try to avoid the refined grains.  The goal is to enjoy the buffet, but limit it to one trip to the line and get only what you really want that first time. A little bit of a lot of different types of food is more interesting for your palette anyways.  This goes without saying, but only one plate people!  You’re eating for one, always (yes even if you’re pregnant)!

If you are going to a cocktail party, snack on healthy snacks about an hour before you head out.  This will keep you fuller and you’ll be able to better resist the temptation of those delicious-looking crab cakes!  A handful of almonds or a few celery sticks with almond butter will keep you satisfied for a few hours!  If you’re a female at a cocktail party, your job just got easier. Pick an awesome handbag or clutch that doesn’t have a strap. Therefore you have one hand occupied by holding your bag and the other, a drink (see below for alcohol tips).  No free hand for snacks…problem solved!  Men? Well you’re on your own, maybe offer to hold you’re lovely lady’s purse!  Who says chivalry is dead?

Alcohol…the necessity to every holiday party right?  Not necessarily!  There are some holiday cocktail parties that I never touch the stuff!  If you plan a race around the holidays, it is a great reason to swear off alcohol!  Not only will you avoid extra calories, people will admire your dedication to your races!  A simple “oh I have x race coming up and I’m trying to stay hydrated” typically keeps you from getting strange looks.  Other options include seltzer water (with or without fruit juice) or some type of nonalcoholic beverage.  Just note that some “virgin” drinks do not equal calorie-free!  The best option is to stick with water.  Here’s my preach for the post: if your friends can’t respect your decision to not drink or limit it to one drink, then they’re not really your friends.  Besides, peer pressure to drink should never be tolerated outside of the college years, and even then it’s ridiculously stupid!

One of my fool-proof strategies if it is a cocktail party followed by dinner, is to drink seltzer water throughout cocktail hour and then have one fabulous glass of red wine with dinner.  You get a great taste and don’t feel bad in the morning (for several reasons).  Another option is to have an alcoholic beverage first and then drink water or seltzer the rest of the night. Just do yourself a favor and steer clear of tonic water. It’s loaded with calories!!!!

It is never good to deprive yourself of what you’d like, but everything has to be in moderation.  Make the decisions responsibly, have the veggies sticks at the party, but skip the dip. Have that glass of champagne, but then forgo the pigs-in-a-blanket.

But, as in life, there are always bound to be slip-ups.  Don’t beat yourself up the next morning when you realize you ate way too much or had a little too much vino.  We’re human, we’re prone to mistakes, don’t ruminate on it.  Just resolve to do better next time and move on.  In other words…hit the reset button.  We all want to have a rocking holiday season, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a New Year’s resolution that wasn’t “I want to loose the (fill in the number) of pounds that I put on in the last 2 months”????  How about setting a resolution to climb that mountain that you’ve had your eyes on?

Happy holidays everyone and keep sweating!


Supplements…are they necessary?

12 Dec

If you were to walk down the aisle of your local pharmacy or supermarket you’d more than likely see dozen and dozens of not only brands but types of vitamins and supplements.  Multivitamins, mineral & vitamin supplements, powders and concoctions you can drink to achieve optimal wellness.  It can all be very overwhelming.  It leads me to ask the question is it all worth it?

The supplement industry is a $26B a year industry.  Yes you did read that right, I said BILLION!  A reported 71% of all Americans use or have used a supplement in the past year. 53% of adults (20 & over) take supplements on a daily basis.  Surprisingly, consistent use is more common among women than men.  Interesting huh?! But just what are supplements. Well supplements are a broad term for anything other than food/drink used to supplement your diet.  Some examples are vitamins, minerals, herbal remedies, nutritional powders (that are typically mixed with water and often contain vitamins, minerals, etc).  Before we talk about whether or not you need to supplement your diet let’s deep dive into the basics of vitamins and minerals. Ready? Let’s go!


You’ve probably heard of vitamins in one way or another. Broadly there are 13 vitamins that humans need.  These are divided into 2 categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Water-soluble are not stored in the body and are excreted daily in your urine. Because of this, they need to consumed daily to maintain proper levels.  Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed in the intestinal tract and are stored in your fat cells.  Below is a list of the vitamins that you need on a daily basis.

Vitamin Solubility RDA Uses Food Sources
Vitamin A Fat 900 µg Supports Visual Function Orange vegetables carrots, pumpkin, squash, spinach
Vitamin B1 Water 1.2 mg All B Vitamins: Metabolism; Healthy skin, hair, nails; Enhance immune system; Promote cell growth (including red blood cells); Helps nervous system function Oatmeal, rice, vegetables, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, liver, eggs
Vitamin B2 Water 1.3 mg Dairy products, bananas, popcorn, green beans, asparagus
Vitamin B3 Water 16.0 mg Meat, fish, eggs, many vegetables, mushrooms, tree nuts
Vitamin B5 Water 5.0 mg Meat, broccoli, avocados
Vitamin B6 Water 1.3-1.7 mg Meat, vegetables, tree nuts, bananas
Vitamin B7 Water 30.0 µg Raw egg yolk, liver, peanuts, certain vegetables
Vitamin B9 (aka Folic Acid) Water 400 µg Leafy vegetables, pasta, bread, cereal, liver
Vitamin B12 Water 2.4 µg Meat and other animal products
Vitamin C Water 90.0 mg Slows down sign of aging, boosts immune system Many fruits and vegetables, liver
Vitamin D Fat 5.0 µg–10 µg Assists in the absorption of calcium; helps fight depression Fish, eggs, liver, mushrooms
Vitamin E Fat 15.0 mg Treats burns; reduces signs of aging; assists in formation of red blood cells Many fruits and vegetables
Vitamin K Fat 120 µg Blood Clotting Lots of leafy greens

As you can see they help your body in huge ways!  And you will also notice that you can obtain a lot of these vitamins through natural sources. Those who might struggle with obtaining all these naturally would be vegans and some vegetarians.


Now minerals are just as important to you body as vitamins and it’s important that you get the right ones as well. There are a lot of minerals that your body uses, but below is the list of some of the minerals that your body needs!

Mineral RDA Uses Food Sources
Calcium 800-1,200 mg Builds bones and teeth; promotes blood clotting, contraction of muscles and nerve impulses. Primarily in milk and dairy products; also dark-green vegetables, legumes, shellfish, fish with edible bones and tofu; also calcium-fortified orange juice.
Chromium None; 50 – 200 µg suggested An essential nutrient required for normal sugar and fat metabolism; may also help prevent high cholesterol and atherosclerosis. Whole wheat and other whole grains and molasses.
Copper None; 2-3 mg suggested Builds bones, red blood cells and hemoglobin; metabolizes iron, maintains connective tissue and blood vessels; may play a role in cancer prevention. Organ meats, shellfish, whole-grain products, legumes and dried fruits.
Fluoride None Promotes bone and tooth formation; prevents tooth decay. Seafood, tea, coffee and soybeans; sodium fluoride is often added to the water supply to prevent tooth decay.
Iodine 150 µg Helps produce thyroid hormones; adequate iodine intake during pregnancy is crucial to normal fetal development. Saltwater fish, shellfish, sea kelp and iodized salt.
Iron Women: 15 mg; Men: 10 mg Helps produce hemoglobin and red blood cells; delivers oxygen to muscles and other body tissues; protects against effects of stress Iron is poorly absorbed from food. The richest sources are red meat and organ meats; other sources include whole-wheat products, shellfish, nuts and dried fruit. Many breads and cereals are enriched with iron. Vitamin C aids absorption of iron and is often added to iron supplements.
Magnesium Women: 280 mg; Men: 350 mg Builds bones and teeth; involved in functioning of muscular and nervous systems and hear and circulatory system. Legumes, whole-grain cereals, nuts and dark-green vegetables; also meat, seafood and dairy products.
Manganese 2-5 mg Involved in reproductive processes, sex hormone formation; essential for normal brain function and bone development. Tea, green vegetables, legumes, oats and rice.
Potassium None; 3.5 g suggested Helps nerves and muscles function; regulates heart’s rhythm; regulates bodily fluids. Potatoes, dried fruits, bananas, legumes, raw vegetables, avocados and mushrooms; also lean meat, milk and fish.
Selenium Women 55 µg; Men: 70 µg An antioxidant, helps protect cells and tissues from damage by free radicals; may also protect against some cancers. Whole-grain cereals, fish and shellfish, meat and dairy products.
Sodium 2, 400 mg Maintains body’s fluid balance; important for nerve function and muscle contraction; controls heart’s rhythm. Naturally in many foods and is added to many prepared foods.
Zinc Women: 12 mg; Men: 15 mg Involved in growth, skin health and wound healing, development of the reproductive organs, protein metabolism and energy production. Shellfish (particularly oysters), organ meats and lean red meat, yeast, whole-grain cereals, and legumes.

Food Sources vs. Supplement Debate

So now that you’re oh so well versed in the types of vitamins and minerals that are needed by your body to survive, let’s talk about the raging debate in the supplement world. Some people swear by supplements, while others say they do no good and may even pose some harm to your health.  Some experts argue that your body absorbs the synthetic versions exactly like their natural counterparts. On the other hand, other experts say that a large dose all at once is not properly absorbed by the body and therefore you’re simply flushing away your money.

My opinion? It comes down to personal preference and cost. I take a multi every  night before I go to bed (otherwise it does upset my stomach) and it’s more of an insurance policy. Even though I eat healthy and try to get everything I need naturally, I know there’s always a chance that I missed something.  I drink Shakeology as one meal a day and that gives me a lot of what I need (and it’s delicious!). After a tough work out I will also have a whey protein drink/smoothie to recover and restore my muscles.

What’s the Bottom Line?

The key here ladies and gentlemen is to eat a clean diet with lots of fruits and veggies and you should be good to go. However if you’re neurotic like me, you can take a multivitamin as insurance.  Before taking any supplements though, I would really check with your doctor FIRST, especially if you’re on medications.

Keep Sweating!

The Importance of Flexibility

7 Dec

No, I’m talking about being able to lick your elbow or turn your body into a pretzel, but I am dedicating today’s post to the importance of being flexible and incorporating stretching into your daily life!

I completed another half this past weekend and today I realized my IT band (fibrous tissue that runs from your hip down your thigh and connects to the knee) is super tight and is causing me pain.  What does that tell me? I need to stretch more!!!  Tightness can cause lots of problems, especially if not nipped in the bud early on!  So I thought I should share with everyone the importance of stretching!

Flexibility provides you with a sound foundation with which to get lean and mean!  But more importantly, being flexible helps prevent injury. But what just is flexibility?  According to, flexibility is defined as “the ability of your joints to move through a full range of motion. Having flexibility in your muscles allows for more movement around the joints and you can achieve this with a basic stretching workout.”

Now there are two ways to think about flexibility: static and dynamic flexibility.  Static flexibility is how far a joint can hold a particular pose. For example it’s like the ability for a cheerleader to keep their leg next to their ears.  Dynamic flexibility is how far a joint can flex in motion, such as a cheerleaders high kick.  But both types of flexibility affect and impact the other.

If your muscles tighten up, it can cause lots of pain and result in a loss of flexibility, this is why it is so important to stretch in whatever way you like best (or multiple ways).  Being inflexible can cause joint pain, muscle pain, poor posture, injuries and the list goes on and on.

So how do you properly go about creating those flexible joints? Please do read on…

There are several ways to creating flexibility. The more ways you do it, the more flexible you become!

Yoga/Pilates– is a great way to not only relax your mind and firm those muscles, but it also creates some great range of motion for your joints. It lengthens your muscles, forcing them to stretch and with time and practice you’ll become more flexible.

Static stretching – Static stretching is the typical stretching you see occurring in the gym. That guy grabbing is ankle to his butt to stretch the quad. That gal in the corner with her feet together in the butterfly pose stretching the insides of thighs.  Static stretching is great AFTER your muscles are warm.  Doing this type of dedicated stretching on cold muscles is simply asking for strains and tears!!!  It is important to hold each pose for at least 30 seconds in order for your muscles to relax and allow themselves to being to stretch.  Rapid fire static stretching will not help and could actually cause damage if done on cold muscles.

Dynamic stretching– Dynamic stretching is where you use motion to stretch your muscles out. You typically see this in a warm up: the high knees and butt kicks in the warm up of Insanity are the perfect example. It gets the heart pumping and it stretches your muscles for the grueling workout to come.

Myofascial Self Release – This is my personal favorite type of stretching.  Myofascial is a type of massage that you can give yourself. It typically involves foam rollers (see picture) and/or other props that use your body weight to roll down the length of the muscle you wish to “massage”. This is great particularly for runners with tight IT bands (which can cause hip and knee problems). While it won’t cause flexibility, it will release your muscles, so it becomes easier to stretch and develop that awesome flexibility you’re craving!

Massage – Who doesn’t love a good massage right?  Now a massage isn’t going to result in the ability to suddenly do the splits, but beyond being relaxing and feeling amazing, massages do help relax those muscle and unwind all those knots that have built up with lots of exercise.  And relaxed muscles are easier stretched!  So it can be helpful if you want to try to hit the reset button!

Now I try to dedicate at least 20 minutes of my workout 3-4 times a week to focus on just my flexibility.  On the days I’m not doing a full stretching routine does not mean I am not stretching, I am, but it might be 5 minutes of my time. I try to alternate my stretch days with my strength training days, except on Sundays when I typically dedicate several hours to the gym with a long distance run (LDR), strength, and flex.  Below you will see generalized examples of my “stretch days” and my “non-stretch days”

Non-stretch Days:

Dynamic Warm-up (5 min)

Cardio (30-60 min)

Strength Training (30 minutes)

Simple static stretches (5 minutes)

Stretch Days:

Dynamic Warm-up (5 minutes)

Cardio (30-60 minutes)

Myofascial Self Release (10 minutes)

Dynamic Stretching (10 minutes)

Static Stretches (10 minutes)

As you can see, I spend about the same time in the gym most days, I just do different things.  But it feels so great to stretch out,and it’s a wonderful way to reward yourself after a punishing workout.  But I make a point to stretch throughout the day.

I try to do a few light & easy stretching activities when I wake up in the morning. I know I said not to stretch cold, but I do a few sun salutations and point/flex my feet. It’s a good way to get the blood flowing and start your day off right!

I also do a few relaxing yoga poses at night if I’m not too tired! Child’s pose is one of my favorites, as well as the nighttime goddess twist & upside down relaxation.  The purpose is to elongate the body and help wind down the brain to prepare you for sleep!  I also so some stretches at work, particularly after long periods of sitting!

So remember, the key here is to remember to stretch at least 3 times a week. Hold poses for at least 30 seconds to be effective, but 1 minute is ideal!  It’s also important that you don’t feel pain. You WILL feel tightness, but that should ease up as you get more flexible.  But you should never be pulling to wear you feel something might or will tear.  Start slowly and try to go a little further each day!  Always lead with your chest and NOT your head, which can hurt your spine.  Before you know it you just might be able to lick your elbow!  Now imagine if you were as flexible as a cheerleader who could do this:

Keep sweating! (and stretching). Be sure to email me if you want me to help you with some stetching routines for a specific area you’d like to work on @

The Dangers of Stress

6 Dec

S-T-R-E-S-S. That little word sends shudders through most people.  Everyone knows the feeling, your heart starts racing, you start sweating through that meticulously ironed shirt of yours, you feel like you just might faint…

Stress can result from lots of different things. Work, your weight, your love life, friendships, money, and the list goes on and on.  Stress has a bigger impact on your life than all the other things you do to stay healthy!  With the holiday season in full swing I thought it appropriate to remind everyone why they should take a moment to relax during the stressful holiday season (kind of an oxymoron don’t you think? A stressful holiday…anyways…)  Even if you exercise a ton, get lots of sleep and eat your fruits and veggies you can still die at an early age if you live under a constant cloud of stress. Why you ask? I’m so glad you did! Read on for a run down on just what stress does to your body…

Within moments of feeling stressed, your body begins the protocols of “fight or flight”. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.  In the days of the cavemen, when we were faced with a foe, our bodies automatically begin to prepare to either fight the beast or run like hell.  It saved us from life-threatening situations.  Now those work deadlines are interpreted in the same way and our bodies prepares for battle.  First, your body triggers a release of cortisol, which also happens to be a hormone that is tied to weight gain.  Your body will also release a surge of adrenaline into the bloodstream which pumps up our muscles and allows us to run longer and faster. Think of hulking out in a less green and brutish fashion.  When your stress response is in full gear your senses become heightened, you can focus and think more clearly, and be prepared to react to whatever comes your way.

Now your flight or fight response is great when there’s a crazy person or a bear chasing you, however your body cannot distinguish between physical threats and psychological threats, so when that deadline is causing you to flip out, your body responds the same way it would if you just saw a hungry mountain lion pouncing on the attack.

If you are stressed out or have a lot of responsibilities for most of your life, your “flight or fight” response is also on during that time, forcing your body to behave like the world is about to blow up and that’s when it get bad for your health.  The more frequently your body’s response is turned on, the harder it becomes to turn it off.   Chronic stress disrupts practically every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process.  Prolonged periods of stress can put you in an early grave.  Some studies show that long periods of stress can even rewire the brain, which leaves you always on high alert and can cause lots of anxiety and even depression.

So what CAN you do to prevent stress or alleviate it once it’s happened?  Firstly, you need to recognize the symptoms of stress which sometimes can be very subtle.

Stress Warning Signs and Symptoms
Cognitive Symptoms Emotional Symptoms
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness
Physical Symptoms Behavioral Symptoms
  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds
  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

(chart borrowed from here)

Obviously, all of these symptoms could have a medical or psychological reason behind them, but it is also likely that it is stress that are causing these problems.  So how do you de-stress you life?

Learn how to RELAX!  When your boss starts yelling at you about a deadline or the last of that “must have toy” of the Christmas season in the hour radius from your house you wanted for your tike just landed in the cart of that au pair in front of you, don’t panic.  Take 10 slow deep breaths and ask yourself “is my life going to end if I don’t xyz”.  More than likely the answer will be no.  Take stock of that and then create a game plan.

To tamp down on stress before it even hits take up something that you find relaxing and try to do it for at least 30 minutes everyday.  For me it’s to make sure I exercise at least every day and I try to write my thoughts in a journal daily. It keeps me sane and grounded. Some other ideas are meditation, yoga, cooking, or anything that YOU find relaxing.  There’s no one pill for everyone solution here.

Stress, unfortunately, has become fairly commonplace in our everyday lives today.  So you need to learn how to manage it when it occurs. What do you find works? Is it deep breaths, going for a walk around your office or the block, giving your dog (or cat a hung), or simply talking to a friend?  Find what works for you (or a combination of things) and then do that.  The key here is to manage your stress before it manages you.  You’re too young to be shopping for headstones right….RIGHT?!?!

Here’s a little comic I found that I thought was what you DON’T want to turn into!!!

Keep Sweating!

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