How Do You Track Your Workouts?

Workout tracking….some people are meticulous, including every imaginable detail in their exercise log and some people have no record at all of what they’ve done. Both ways are completely fine if it works for you! I’ve found a happy medium is what works best for me. I have a workout journal that I keep notes in like the type of workout, mileage or time of running, whether I was dealing with an injury or illness and if I’m training for a race. This is nothing fancy, just hand written scribble in a spiral notebook I buy at my local drug store. I don’t use this for motivation. It’s purely informational. I use it to check or track progress or backtrack to see what might have led to an injury or a success. It’s boring and clinical and gets the job done. But a couple of years ago, in a runner group I follow on social media, someone posted a mileage tracker coloring page and I thought I’d give it a try for something fun. And it’s been so motivating for me!

Workout tracker coloring pages
Workout Tracker Coloring Pages

The photo above shows the coloring pages I’ve used the last couple of years but there are all kinds online so if you want a particular shape or format, I’m sure you can find it. I’ve used them in two different ways. The shoe shaped page tracked total miles run (as you can see, I didn’t get very far with that goal!) and I used the months of the year page to track how many workouts I did each month. I included all types of workouts on this one… running, strength training, elliptical, Tai Chi, boxing. Any day I did a workout of some kind, I colored. I found that having this hanging on the wall in my home gym kept me on track and sometimes reminded me to do something so I could color in that block. I often forgot to color blocks in but still helped. These are great for anyone that likes to see visual confirmation of their hard work. I’ve included a blank copy of the months of the year page below so you can print it if you want.

Do you have an interesting or fun way to track your exercise? Share it with me!

5 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Health. Right Now!

There are all kinds of things you can do to improve your health from starting an exercise program to overhauling your eating habits. But those big changes often take time and planning and sometimes you need a “quick win.” You can try one or more of the following simple things TODAY to help improve your health in a small way.

  1. Drink some water. The notion that everyone needs 8 glasses of water a day is outdated but most of us still don’t drink enough. The amount of water you need is dependent on your size, activity level and even where you live. A good rule is .5-1.0 ounce of water per pound of body weight. If you’re mostly sedentary and live in a cooler climate, you can stick to the lower end of that range and if you are very active and live in a warmer climate, you may need more. Staying hydrated keeps chemical processes in your body, like your metabolism, moving along and it keeps your kidneys functioning well and reduces or eliminates constipation. Drinking water throughout the day is better than gulping down 6 glasses at dinner. Keep a water bottle handy all day or set reminders in your phone so you can space it out. Most of us wake up dehydrated so drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning (yes, even before your coffee!) can get the rehydration started.
  2. Add a serving of fresh produce to your day. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and all-important fiber. Fruits and vegetables help you feel full, boost your energy and help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer, Type 2 diabetes and a variety of other diseases. All plants have protein so they can be added to your protein total if that’s something you’re tracking. Getting more produce in your day can be as simple as munching an apple or carrots on your commute home, adding some spinach or mushrooms to your morning omelet, or eating a handful of berries after dinner. And don’t forget about nuts and seeds! They’re not considered produce but they are plant-based foods that provide vitamins, minerals and fiber. Sprinkle sunflower or pumpkin seeds on your salad or toss a handful of almond slivers into your morning oatmeal.
  3. Spend some time outside. Spending time in nature can lower stress, improve your mood, help your body create vitamin D and strengthen your immune system. And I’m not talking about the walk from your car to the office! Getting as little as 10 minutes of intentional time in nature can change your whole day. Eat your lunch outside, take a walk before work, or sit on the patio in the evening. Hopefully, you can enjoy some plant life or green space while outside but even if that’s not possible, just being out in the sunlight will still provide plenty of benefits.
  4. Practice a daily form of meditation. This can be prayer, journaling, breathing exercises, calming movement such as yoga or tai chi, sitting quietly in thought or repeating a mantra. It doesn’t really matter what it is, just that it works for you. Mindful meditation can help relieve stress and anxiety, help you focus, calm you down and rebalance your emotions. If done in the morning, it can set the intention for your day and if done in the evening, it can wash away the stress of the day and help you settle for a good nights sleep. Which brings us to the last thing you can do today…
  5. Go to bed earlier. Easier said than done, I know! Many people choose to sacrifice sleep in the name of being more productive but consider this: Getting a little bit more sleep each night will actually keep your brain sharper and boost your mood which can ultimately make you more productive. Your nightly sleep amount can vary a bit from night to night without causing too much concern but if you consistently get 6 hours or less of sleep, consider altering your routine to get yourself to bed 15-30 minutes earlier each week until you hit 7-8 hours regularly.

Strive to add one or more of these simple things today and make small steps toward better health.

New Newsletter and Reasons for a Home Workout Plan

Hey there my fit friends! I know I haven’t been around for a while. I’ve been working on some other things and had some family stuff going on. But I’m back to focusing on home fitness and healthy lifestyles! Before I get into reasons for home workouts, I want to let you know that I’ve started a monthly newsletter to go along with my website. The newsletter will include workout programs, fitness tips, recipes, frequently asked questions and more. If you’re interested, you can sign up here. I will continue to post to this blog but will reserve this for more personal stories about mine and my family’s fitness journey, product reviews and other anecdotes related to fitness and health. And as always, I welcome feedback on existing content or anything you would like to see more of. Thanks for sharing this fit life with me!


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5 Reasons You Should Have a Home Workout Plan

If you work out in a gym every week, you’re probably used to the equipment and routine. You like the variety of exercises or classes offered. You might enjoy the social aspect of a gym and seeing the usual people at the same time every day. Your monthly membership fee is a totally worthwhile expense and you feel right at home at the gym. 

But what happens when you can’t get to the gym?

Do you have a backup plan? 

There are a number of reasons to have a plan for working out at home. Even if it’s as simple as running up and down the stairs, knowing what you’re going to do before you need to do it will help you stay on track.

  1. First, if the weather is treacherous and you don’t want to drive, a home workout plan will save you that headache. Then you don’t have to worry about cleaning snow and ice off your car (Unless you still have to go to the office, I guess) to get a workout in. You don’t have to concern yourself with trying to navigate sketchy traffic in bad weather. Just stay safely at home and still get your workout in with your home exercise backup plan.
  2. Second, nothing will derail your gym workout plans like a sick kid coming in to your room at 4am. When this happens, having a home workout backup plan can keep you from losing your mind caring for those sick kiddos.
  3. Speaking of 4am, what if that’s the only time you have to workout? Work and activity schedules change all the time. Whether its a permanent change or temporary, your gym hours may not mesh with your current schedule. Sure, there are 24 hour gyms but maybe not near you. And you might not want to be part of the 4am crowd at a gym. Just sayin.
  4. If you don’t want to skip your workouts when you travel for work or when you go on vacation then a home workout plan is in order. This plan might need to be a little different to accommodate what you can do in a hotel room but the idea is still the same. Lots of hotels have in-house gyms or equipment you can borrow to use in your room which will make planning your travel workout routine much easier but it will still be different than your regular program so planning is important.
  5. The last reason for having a home plan is simple convenience. Sometimes you just don’t feel like schlepping out to the gym. Sometimes you just don’t feel like putting clean clothes on. (No judgment, I do it!) Having a plan in place for when you need (or want) to stay home just makes sense. As I stated above, it can be as simple as running stairs or jumping rope in the driveway or it can be as complex as a full body strength plan with multiple sets and makes use of some equipment you have at home.

Now that you have the reasons for a home plan, you need to create the plan. Think about your space. Do you have stairs you can run? Do you have a backyard you can do sprints across? Think about bodyweight exercises you can do such as pushups, sit-ups, squats, mountain climbers or burpees. A super easy way to get a workout in is to stream something online. So clear some space in front of the tv and do a quick YouTube search. The bottom line is that having a plan before you need the plan is what will keep you consistent even when life gets in your way.

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Here’s the newsletter link again!

Is the Fat Burning Zone a Mythical Creature?

My husband I were recently discussing a similar topic so I thought I would re-share this blog post from 2017.

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Is the Fat Burning Zone a mythical creature?

It must be! Otherwise, all those people plodding along on the treadmills at the gym would be in great shape. Like a beautiful, sparkly unicorn, we want to believe that it exists but the concept of the fat burning zone has been regularly misinterpreted and misunderstood.

The fat burning zone theory is that lower intensity exercise, at about 55% – 70% of maximum heart rate, burns more fat. Basically, your body burns more fat at a lower intensity of aerobic exercise than it does at a higher intensity. This sounds good in theory. After all why work harder if you don’t have to, right?

The misinterpretation of this theory happens because there is a difference between percentage of fat burned vs. actual fat burned. In reality, you burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities but generally more fat overall at higher intensities. Your body draws energy from two sources, fat and glycogen or stored carbohydrates. The percentages of these two fuel sources vary depending on the intensity of your exercise.

At a lower intensity, you may burn 60% of total calories from fat. And at a higher intensity only 45% of total calories from fat. On the surface, that seems like lower intensity would be better. But at a higher intensity you burn more calories OVERALL which bumps your actual fat calories up even though the percentage is lower.

For example:

 

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The numbers above are just for example purposes but hopefully, you get the point. Percentage vs. actual are very different. Lower intensity exercise has its place in a workout program but if you’re relying on it to help you burn fat, it’s not the best idea. Circuit or interval workouts are efficient and help you burn more calories in less time.

Click here to get a FREE PDF download of high intensity workouts you can do right in your living room!

Stop searching for the mythical creature! To truly burn maximum fat, focus on building muscle with a comprehensive strength training program and healthy eating habits. These will do far more to help you reach your goals then chasing the unicorn at the end of the treadmill!

Happy Exercising!

P.S. If you want help creating an effective exercise program, check out my monthly coaching services here.

1-Year Anniversary and 3D Pictures

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This is a post I wrote almost 2 years ago and since its Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I would share it again…

 

The 1-year anniversary of my breast cancer surgery is coming up in a couple days and I’ve been reflecting on the last year and how it all started. With a 3-D mammogram.

Regular mammograms are so important and when I was offered the option to have a 3-D mammogram done, I took it even though I would need to pay an additional out-of-pocket fee for it. My insurance only covered part of the screening. I didn’t really know the difference between a regular mammogram and a 3D one but my very quick and limited research indicated a 3D mammogram created better pictures.

Traditional mammography takes a single picture versus 3D mammography which takes multiple pictures or slices. The multiple pictures are used to make a 3D image that is clearer and easier to read. These images help detect more cancers and detect them early and help doctors see the size of the cancer easier. It also reduces false positives.

A lot of the research on the effectiveness of a 3D versus traditional mammogram is published by companies that manufacture the screening machines and doesn’t necessarily show a huge difference between them. There is some debate that the more accurate, clearer picture may show abnormalities that require further testing thus producing unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Here’s some more information about the greatness of 3D mammograms from breastcancer.org

A study looking at 3 years of data on breast cancer screening with 3-D mammograms has found that the benefits of 3-D mammograms last over time.

The study was published online on Feb. 18, 2016 by JAMA Oncology. Read the abstract of “Effectiveness of Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Compared With Digital Mammography: Outcomes Analysis From 3 Years of Breast Cancer Screening.”

Benefits of 3D Mammograms Last Over Time

“These findings reaffirm that 3-D mammography is a better mammogram for breast cancer screening,” said Emily Conant, M.D., chief of breast imaging at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who was the senior author of the study. Dr. Conant also is a member of the Breastcancer.org Professional Advisory Board. “These results are an important step toward informing policies so that all women can receive 3-D mammography for screening.”

Based on my personal experience, I highly recommend a 3D mammogram. I was fortunate that my cancer was very small and caught very early. My amazing surgeon indicated that a 3D mammogram was the reason my cancer was caught early. A traditional mammogram may not have caught it and I would have gone a whole year before another screening. In hindsight, the best $50 I EVER spent.

But, sadly, many insurance companies don’t cover the full cost or even part of the cost of a 3-D mammogram. Many women, including me, can afford to pay out-of-pocket fees on top of our insurance coverage to have this more advanced screening but far too many women don’t have that option.

If you have the means, please consider donating to help someone and if you need assistance, here’s a search tool  to help. Please help me spread the word.

*steps off soapbox…

Happy Exercising!

If…Then… Do You Have A Backup Plan?

Your workout and nutrition routine should be consistent and progressive to give you the best chance of seeing results but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Consistency over the longterm is what really works. But let’s be real, life happens and sometimes you have to stray from your routine. You have a sick child at home or you have to travel unexpectedly or a pipe bursts and you have a flooded basement. And on and on.

What if you skip your workout for a few days? What if you eat more tacos than planned (I’ve never done this, I’ve just heard people do!!) What if you are more sore than expected after a workout and can’t do your prescribed routine the next day?

Having an “If…Then…” plan allows you to get back to your routine quickly without beating yourself up for days when you make less than desirable choices. (I’m looking at you, Girl Scout cookies.) Studies show that “if-then” planning (contingency planning) ups your chances of success no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. This can work especially well with health habits.

For example:

“IF someone brings donuts into the office on a random Wednesday, THEN I’ll avoid the break room and eat the healthy snack I have stashed in my desk.” This obviously requires that you plan ahead and have healthy snacks in your desk in the first place!

“IF my schedule gets crazy and I skip a few workouts, THEN I’ll find 20 minutes the next day to take a walk or stretch.” Doing something is better than nothing and can get you back on track.

“IF I get sick and can’t exercise, THEN I’ll continue to eat well to feel better and workout again soon.” It’s important to rest when you’re sick but plan to start with light exercise again as soon as possible.

No plan and no person is perfect. You’re going to have bumps in the road. Having a back up will get you back on track. Even the back up plan won’t be perfect and won’t always work but its better than having no plan at all.

But a back up plan is only as good as you make it. Don’t blow this off. Give some thought to the things that could derail your exercise and nutrition routine. Be honest about your cravings and weaknesses. Be honest about things that get you off track. Keep your personal motivation in mind. Why are you exercising in the first place? Why are you trying to change your eating habits? If you always keep your personal reasons in mind, it makes getting back into your routine that much easier. 

Take time today to think about some of these things. Make yourself a plan. Let me know if I can help!

Happy Exercising!IMG_1204

Home Step Workout

Working out at home allows me a lot of flexibility with my schedule but can sometimes be limiting since I only have a certain amount of equipment. I get creative with things around the house, such as a step or fireplace hearth. This is a simple but very effective workout. It left we wiped out with my legs feeling like Jell-O!

Make sure you have a sturdy step and that you plant your feet solidly on the step when you’re working out.

1 minute of walking step-ups.

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1 minute of running step-ups.

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30 reps of alternating lunges.

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30 reps of angled push-ups.

 

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Another 1 minute of running step-ups.

30 reps of side squats. Switch sides halfway through.

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30 reps of tricep dips.

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Another 1 minute of running step-ups.

Another 1 minute of walking step-ups.

I repeat this circuit 2-3 times depending on how much time I have and how I feel.

Happy Exercising!

 

 

3 Ways to Make Your Strength Routine More Efficient

I enjoy exercise. Moving and sweating and pushing myself. But that doesn’t mean I want to spend hours and hours on my workout. I’m busy just like everyone else so I need to create efficient exercise routines.

I’m not a bodybuilder or figure competitor so I have no need for dozens of exercises that hit every individual muscle. There’s nothing wrong with that type of training (I’ve used it at other times in my life) its just not what I need right now.

If you’re like me and need an effective and efficient workout too, follow these principles…

1. Compound Movements

Compound movements are exercises that involve multiple muscle groups. Working multiple muscles at once certainly saves time. These can all be done with or without added weight. Things like:

Squat Presses – after you squat down and return to a standing position, press the weight overhead.

 

Row to Stiff-Leg Deadlift – bend over at your hips with weight hanging straight down. Pull weight up to chest. Return to start. Contract glutes and lower back to stand up straight.

Walking Lunge with Alternating Shoulder Raise – step forward into a lunge position while lifting both arms to at least shoulder height. One arm at front and one arm to the side. On the next step alternate arm positions.

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Lunge with Shoulder Raise

Kettlebell Swings – start with the kettlebell between your legs in a slight squat. Contract glutes and hamstrings to thrust the weight forward and lift to about shoulder height.

I could go on and on but you get the idea.

2. Circuits

Circuits are a great way to get a quick workout in when your schedule is busy. Alternate upper and lower body movements and move from one exercise to the next without stopping. For example, squats, pushups, lunges, bent over row, etc.

3. Intensity Level

Adding more weight to your current routine (within reason!) can increase your intensity just enough to give your program a little boost. If you’ve been just going through the motions or doing a set number of reps without considering how challenged your muscles are, then maybe its time to increase the weight to make your workout more efficient and effective.

Happy Exercising!

Moderation…what is it?

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Moderation!

So many people promote moderation especially with regards to diet. But what does moderation REALLY look like? What SHOULD it look like? Moderation is a very subjective sliding scale for most people but I’m not so sure that it’s “sliding” in the right direction. I know some people who consider cutting their McDonald’s run back to once a week is moderation for them.

Ummm….that’s a good start but I believe most people think tiny, moderate changes are good enough to make a significant difference in their health and well-being and to be honest, it’s just not. I’ve known many people to make a small change or two and stop there. Again, a good start, but our wellness goals should not be to stop when it’s “good enough”. Shouldn’t we always be striving towards better health? Even if we’re not always good at it?

Moderation should be different for everybody because everyone is different but it’s not a license to eat like crap and then justify it with “everything in moderation”. It may seem like I’m being harsh but moderation is a slippery slope. Don’t let it be your excuse or your crutch.

Let it lead you to success. Make conscious choices to eat healthy foods AND to indulge. Just make your indulgences count for something. Choose them thoughtfully. Don’t eat random junk out of the vending machine or drink empty calories and then justify it with moderation. Choose to indulge on occasion in your favorite homemade dessert or a decadent meal for a special occasion and TRULY enjoy it. That’s real moderation.

Moderation allows you to be flexible which is one of the best indicators of success in leading a healthier lifestyle. Being too restrictive or constantly over indulging will not lead to long-term success. When used correctly, moderation leads to real balance in your life. And, hopefully, that’s everyone’s goal!

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Click here for a free download Healthy Eating On The Go!

What the Hell is a Flexitarian??

Me…apparently.
A flexitarian is someone who consumes a mostly planted-based diet but occasionally eats meat, poultry and/or seafood.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been pretty conscious of what I put in my mouth. I don’t always make good choices but I’m at least conscious of it! After I was diagnosed with cancer I redoubled my efforts to eat whole, clean foods and make a hard push towards a primarily planted based diet. I started by eliminating red meat. This wasn’t a stretch for me as I rarely ate red meat to begin with because I just don’t like it! 

I don’t have a nutrition degree but I’ve done an extensive amount of nutritional research and I feel that cutting out red meat and reducing animal products in my diet in general has dramatically improved my health. 
I then started to cut down on the amount of chicken I eat. At this point, I eat chicken or seafood just a few times a month. I also still eat eggs and dairy, for now. I’ve never felt deprived or like I’m missing out on anything. And, although close friends and family know my eating habits, I refuse to expect anyone to accommodate me. When I eat at someone’s home, I just eat extra of the side dishes!

As a fitness coach, I don’t advise my clients to follow a prescribed diet plan or program (unless there’s a clinical need for it) like Atkins or paleo or pescatarian or whatever. I know there are people who have had success with these kinds of things but generally speaking, they’re not sustainable long term and the “label” of being a certain kind of eater is very restrictive. I have friends and acquaintances who “can’t” eat certain foods because they’re on a diet program that doesn’t “allow” them. These kinds of programs are baffling to me! Sure, I choose to not eat certain things but I feel that that’s my personal choice. I’m not being TOLD that I CAN’T. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me!

Which brings me back to what a flexitarian is! I didn’t even know that was a thing until I started researching plant-based recipes. However, the description is perfect…”flexible eater.” That makes sense to me and is a label I can live with!

Happy Exercising!