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!

Are You Warming Up Properly?

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Dynamic Warm-UP

What kind of warmup do you do before your workout? You DO warm-up, don’t you?!

Don’t worry, I’m guilty of not bothering to warm-up, too. That being said, as a fitness coach, I try to practice what I preach and a warm-up IS a good idea. However, it doesn’t have to be elaborate or lengthy. I know we’re all time-crunched and don’t want to waste the precious minutes we’re able to carve out of our day for a workout with a warm-up. But, here’s why its a good idea…

It gradually increases blood flow to the muscles and increases muscle temperature which in turn increases the oxygen available to the working muscles. This keeps the more intense exercise to come from being a shock to your system.
There is some evidence to suggest that a warm-up will help prevent injuries. As with many subjects, there is no definitive answer on this and there are people and studies on both sides.
A warm-up can help you mentally prepare for the workout or event to come. Especially if its going to be a tough one.

So what should your warm-up look like?

Forget everything you learned about warm-ups from your middle school phys. ed. teacher or your high school coach (unless they were very progressive and in-the-know :). Jogging for 30 minutes or more, bending over to touch your toes or contorting your body into odd stretches is not the best way to warm-up.

A dynamic warm-up is best. One in which you are moving at a low intensity ideally in the same types of motions as the workout. For example, if you’re going for a run, then the warm-up should be an easy run of just a few minutes. Your total warm-up only needs to be 10-15 minutes long, if that. You can, and should, incorporate other dynamic movements to loosen up your joints and gently stretch your muscles. Static stretching (sitting or standing and holding a stretch without moving) has been shown to not be a very effective warm-up.

The following are a few dynamic warm-up activities you can do. Just 30 seconds or so for each.

Bounding – This is basically exaggerated running. Leap from foot to foot with a long stride for about 10 meters or so.

High skipping – Again, an exaggerated exercise. Skip for about 10 meters, pushing off with force to go as high as you can.

High knees – Run, moving forward with small steps and bringing your knees up high so your thighs are about parallel to the ground.

Butt kicks – Run with small steps and bringing your heels to your butt. Try to maintain normal arm swing during this motion.

Hip swings – Stand with feet hip width apart. Hold onto something for balance if necessary. Swing your right leg forward and backward from your hip 5-10 times and switch legs.

Trunk twists – Stand with feet hip width apart and hands on hips. Twist your upper body from side to side to loosen up your low back.

Arm circles – Holding your arms at shoulder height, move them in wide circles to loosen and warm-up the shoulders.

Jumping jacks – This is a great full-body warm-up activity Everyone can do them and they can modified if necessary and don’t take a lot of space.

Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite warm-up activity I haven’t included.

 

Happy Exercising!

 

Strong to the Core

Strengthening your core is important for just about everything you do. Most movements, whether they’re fitness activities or just every day life, originate from your core. Your core muscles work to stabilize your body and help produce power for movements of your limbs.

Your core involves all the muscles of your trunk not just your abs and low back like most people think. Doing a few sets of sit ups and bird – dogs is not going to cut it if you truly want to strengthen your core.

Your core is basically everything but your arms and legs. It includes your glutes, hips, abs, low back, upper back and chest. Your upper back and chest are less involved in certain core movements but are still connected to the whole core chain.

Here are some great core exercises that can be done with minimal or no equipment. And not one sit up in the bunch!

Planks (the exercise you love to hate!)

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Planks

 

Side planks (a slightly more challenging variation)

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Side Planks

Plank with leg lift (alternate leg lifts for up to 10 reps each)

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Plank with leg lift

Seated leg lifts (I’m horribly inflexible so this is a tough one for me because my hamstrings are so tight!)

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Seated Leg Lifts

Bridge

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Bridge

Back extensions (these can be done on a machine in a gym as well)

Can Exercise Help You Recover From Jet Lag?

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My husband recently returned from a trip to Japan and was understandably exhausted because he was 13 ahead while there. He keeps a very consistent workout schedule at home so he tries to fit exercise in when he needs to travel which fortunately, isn’t very often. He was away for 5 days and worked out twice in the hotel.

He returned on a Wednesday evening and went right back to his usual exercise and work schedule at 3:30am on Thursday even though he was completely wiped out. And so I started thinking “Will exercise help someone recover from jet lag faster?”

The typical recovery time for jet lag is 1 day for every time zone change. That would mean almost two weeks for a trip to Japan. That’s a long time to be battling brain fog!

Research shows that physical activity can help combat the symptoms of jet lag. Of course, you probably aren’t going to have the energy or desire to do a high intensity workout but something is better than nothing. When you feel like you’re in the Twilight Zone a HIIT workout is probably the last thing on your mind but an easy run or walk or even something as simple as a stretching session is helpful. My husband altered the intensity of his normal routine but he still did SOMETHING.

Exercising at your normal workout time is best. For example, if you normally work out at 6am East Coast time and you travel to Paris, you should try to exercise at 6am Paris time. And doing an outdoor workout, if possible, is even better. Bright sunlight tells your body that it’s time to be awake and alert. An outdoor workout will help fight fatigue and insomnia and reset your body clock a little faster.

So the next time you have to travel across time zones plan your workouts in advance. Check the hotel to see if they have a fitness center or access to hiking trails or a local gym. And plan your workouts for your return trip. Being proactive and more importantly, flexible, about your workout routine when traveling will help you feel better and get back to normal that much faster.

Happy exercising!

P.S. Click here for some Done-For-You treadmill workouts you can use to get back on track without having to think too much about your workout!

Is High Intensity Always the Way to Go?

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High Intensity Workouts are a Good Addition to an Overall Fitness Plan

There’s no denying the popularity of high intensity interval or boot camp style workouts that promise to torch fat, kick your butt and get you in great shape. You can find local classes, gyms or even online videos everywhere. These workouts can be as quick as 7-10 minutes or as long as a 1-hour class and if done right, will leave you feeling like you want to sprawl on the floor and not move the rest of the day. The idea that you can get in killer shape quickly is appealing to so many people. How could it not be, right?! The intensity of the workouts makes for great Instagram and Facebook posts too! But is working at such a high intensity all the time, even for 10 minutes, a good idea?

Steady state cardio seems to have fallen out of favor in recent years. After all, why do something that takes longer and isn’t as effective as a HIIT workout? But high intensity training is tough on your body and often recovery takes longer than most people allow for themselves. My 44-year-old body does not recovery from that kind of workout in just a day! And a number of my clients have the same recovery challenges.

If you’re trying to lose fat, often you’re restricting your calories in general and sometimes your carbs. This could make it difficult to get through a very intense workout. You need those carbs! If you’re trying to improve speed or sports performance then high intensity workouts are important. If your primary goal is fat loss then strength training and diet should be your new best friends. High intensity workouts are fine as part of an overall fitness plan but not ALL THE TIME!

As with so many other things, the old saying “Everything in moderation” applies here too. Definitely include high intensity workouts in your fitness plan but don’t make them the whole plan.

Here’s a 9-minute interval workout you can do at home… But only once or twice a week!

Do each exercise for 30 seconds moving immediately from one to the next.

  1. Plank
  2. Star jacks
  3. Push-ups
  4. Curtsy lunges
  5. Crunches
  6. Side-to-side pushups
  7. Mountain climbers
  8. Sumo squats
  9. Jog in place
  10. Plank
  11. Jumping jacks
  12. Burpees
  13. Butt kicks
  14. Standing side crunches
  15. Skater jumps
  16. Glute bridge
  17. High knees
  18. Stretch

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Visit my website TheHomeFitnessClub.com for more workout ideas.

Detox Diets…

Detoxing cleanses and diets seem to be the latest health trend. People use them to lose weight or to attempt to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle or because they have a belief that their body can’t naturally get rid of toxins on its own. Not true, by the way! If you’re feeling sluggish and unhealthy it’s more likely because of what you’re putting into your body rather than your body’s inability to get bad stuff out.

Detoxes come in a variety of forms. Some have you drink only juices, some allow certain foods and some “require” supplements or proprietary products from the company promoting the cleanse. You may see weight loss with a detox diet simply because you’re taking in so few calories not because this program is so healthy. And you will likely gain the weight back when you’re done with the diet. The detox will leave you feeling weak and depleted. You could experience headaches, nausea, muscle aches or cramps and fatigue. Does any of that sound healthy to you?!

The human body is naturally equipped to handle toxins if you fuel it properly. The very best “detox diet” you can perform is to eat clean, healthy, whole food. Lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and minimally processed foods. These kinds of foods will help your body run efficiently and ultimately get you the results you want in a healthier and more sustainable way.

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Here’s a sample of meals for a day just to get you started. I’m not vegetarian but I don’t eat red meat and I eat chicken and fish only occasionally so this sample day may not be right for everyone. But it gives you an idea. I usually have 2 cups of coffee in the morning and drink water the rest of the day.

Breakfast
Cottage cheese with blueberries and roasted pumpkin seeds
Fruit smoothie made with strawberries, pineapple, spinach, oats, chia seeds

Morning Snack
Baby carrots and hummus

Lunch
Spicy black bean burger
Apple
Almonds or peanuts

Afternoon Snack
Banana

Dinner
Vegetable stew
Whole grain bread

Let me know what kinds of healthy, whole foods you enjoy. I’m always looking for new ideas.

 

Happy Exercising!

My Favorite Running Stuff

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links)

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SPIbelt, ASICS running shoes, RoadID app, Hyathletic gloves

I’ve been a runner since I was 13. I’ve gone through dozens of pairs of shoes and probably hundreds of t-shirts, shorts, tights, socks, hair ties and who knows what else. I’m not super particular when it comes to my workout gear. I’ll wear a 10 year old ratty race t-shirt just as often as a $50 technical shirt. I don’t care. But, there are some things over the years that I’ve come to love and run with more often than not. Here are a few of my favorite things…

ASICS running shoes. I’ve had more Asics shoe models since high school than I can count and they have all worked well for me. I’ve avoided major injuries for 30 years and have always had comfortable runs so I see no reason to change my routine anytime soon. I’m currently wearing the Gel Kayano 22s and they give me just the right amount of cushioning without too much bulk. I’ve always been a fan of ASICS and would recommend them to almost anyone. I even recently made a convert of my husband!

Road ID app. The Road ID app uses GPS to track your run (or walk, bike ride, hike or whatever) and send eCrumbs to up to 5 people that you designate so they can keep track of you from any web browser. They don’t even need to have the app. I use it to let my husband know when I’m going out for a run alone or when I’m running a race so he knows when I finish. The app also has a Stationary Alert Notification feature that would let someone know if you stop moving for a preselected amount of time. A fantastic safety feature, in my opinion! And, it’s free!

SPIbelt. I don’t run with headphones so I’ve never had a need to carry my phone on my arm and frankly, I find armbands annoying anyway so I wear a SPIbelt. A spy belt is like the sleek, rich cousin of the 80s fanny pack. It’s big enough to hold my phone, keys, ID and a small snack or energy gels but not so big to be bulky or get in the way when I run. It’s usually hidden under my shirt or jacket so no one can even tell I’m carrying it. Another safety feature!

Hyathletic Flux gloves. These are a new addition to my stash of running gear. I’ve only worn them a few times but they’re quickly becoming indispensable. They’re thin and light as a feather. They keep my hands comfortable without making them clammy. In the past, I’ve tried gloves that are too thick and I end up taking them off halfway through my run. I’ve also tried using the thumb holes in my running jackets instead of gloves but they don’t quite keep my hands comfortable. I’ll admit these gloves look crazy when you take them out of the package (you’ll think there’s no possible way they can fit you) but, trust me, they work!
What are some of your favorite running gear items?

Happy Exercising!

5 Ways to Squat

Oh, the squat! Chances are you either love them or hate them! Personally, squats are one of my favorite exercises but they can be a killer so I get it if you love to hate them!
Squats are a very effective lower body exercise that can be done anywhere with or without added weight which is what makes them such a great home exercise. Not to mention the really great things regular squatting can do for your butt! Squats target and strengthen your glutes, hips, quads and hamstrings. Your core will also get worked during a proper squat. With all those perks, what’s not to love, right?!

Squats are one of the most versatile exercises because there are SO many variations. I’ve listed 5 here that I routinely use but there are dozens! You could even get creative and figure out your own variations. With any variation, keep your core tight and your chest and head up. When squatting down, keep your butt out behind you and lower until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor and even a little further if you can.
Standard squat – feet about shoulder width apart, core tight, hands on hips or clasped in front of you. Squat down until thighs are at least parallel or a little past parallel. Keep your knees in line with your toes. Pause and press up through your heels to return to start.


Prisoner Squat – feet about shoulder width apart, core tight, hands clasped behind your head. Squat down until thighs are at least parallel or a little past parallel. Keep you knees in line with your toes. Pause and press up through your heels to return to start.


Sumo squat – feet wider than shoulder width with toes pointed out at about 45 degrees (like a Sumo wrestler). Squat down until thighs are at least parallel or a little past parallel. Keep your knees in line with your toes. Pause and press through your heels to return to start.


Split squat – start with a staggered stance, core tight and hands on hips or clasped in front of you. Slowly squat to parallel or lower keeping knee in line with toes. Pause and press through your heel to return to start.


Wall squat – stand with back against a wall and feet shoulder width apart and out in front of you about a stride length from the wall. Keeping core tight, slide slowly down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause and hold this position for 10-30 seconds (or longer!). Press through your heels to slide back up the wall and repeat.


All of these exercises can obviously be done without added weight but just for good measure my daughter felt I needed a little extra!


Happy Exercising!

I bailed on a race…

20 years ago I ran a race while I was recovering from bronchitis (not the smartest thing I’ve ever done!) I’ve run races after very little or no training. I’ve run races with various injuries. I’ve run races in horrendous weather and on terrible courses. (My sister likes to remind me repeatedly of a 5K I “forced” her to run with me that was seemingly uphill the entire way despite it being a loop course!!)

Once I pay a registration fee I find it very hard to NOT participate in a race. I know in the big picture, it really doesn’t matter whether I run or not. The organization already has the money and in most cases I already have my T-shirt or whatever other giveaway is involved. Although, I do have issues with wearing a T-shirt for a race that I did not actually complete but that’s a blog for another day!!

My point is, that despite having a number of legitimate reasons for not running a scheduled race, I very rarely bail out. Even when, sometimes, I really should.

However, I bailed on the five miler I’ve been training for that was supposed to happen two weeks ago. The Celtic Solstice 5 Miler takes place in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore about an hour from where I live and is a great race. The course is hilly and it’s usually very cold but overall, the race is just a great atmosphere during and after the run. There’s a heated tent at the end with cookies and hot spiced wine! What could be better than that! And this race offers beautifully designed, high-quality jackets with registration. Not a thin, cheesy looking t-shirt but a running jacket.

But the morning of the race, my friend and I would have had to leave at 6 AM and at that time my driveway was a sheet of ice and there was a “wintery mix” coming down. We decided to skip the race for our own safety. We knew the weather was probably better in Baltimore but our current location posed some problems. And let’s be honest, it’s not like this was an emergency. I’m not a doctor, police officer or other emergency worker that needed to be out. There was absolutely no reason for me to be on the road. And yet, I felt this ridiculous need to run because I put my name on the list and paid money. I run this race every year. How could I not go this year?

I know, logically, we made the right choice but it drives me crazy that I had to miss that race. It’s still bugging me almost two weeks later. I ran 5 miles on my treadmill to make up for it and have decided in my own mind that justifies me wearing the jacket even though its not really the same!!

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Celtic Solstice 5 Miler Premium Jacket

My point in all this is that one of my goals for 2017 will be to lighten up a little bit when it comes to racing. Or any other fitness endeavor really. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody but myself and my personal health (and safety!) are my priority. That being said, I already have several races lined up for 2017 so stay tuned!

Let me know in the comments what you have planned for the new year.

Happy Exercising!

Just Start Now

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I recently wrote about New Years resolutions (click here if you missed it) so to go along with setting goals at any time…don’t wait for the perfect time to start a new fitness plan.
Start now. Don’t wait for Monday or next month or the perfect plan or New Years or whatever…

I know it’s a cliche but the perfect time is now. If you’ve decided to make a new fitness plan (or any other healthy habit for that matter) a priority, why wait? What’s going to happen between now and your “start date” that you need to wait for?

I know the holidays are crazy and stressful and you have other priorities so putting off your new fitness goals until after the holiday season seems like a smart idea. But…exercise can improve your mood and lower your stress levels (helpful when dealing with visiting family!) When you exercise your body’s level of stress hormones drops which helps you relax. Exercise can also give you more energy. I know that sounds contradictory but trust me. And who couldn’t use an energy boost during the holidays? And last but not least, going out for a 30 minute run or a quick weight session gives you a break from all the merriment!

So just start now.

If, for whatever reason, you’re not ready to start your formal fitness plan and are sticking with your pre-determined “start date” at least get out and do SOMETHING! Go take a walk or do some crunches or push-ups.

Here’s a fun holiday workout to help you out!
My family loves the movie “Christmas Vacation”. We watch it A LOT! So I decided to make it into a workout game. It’s simple.

Every time someone gets hurt (usually Clark) do 10 push-ups.
Every time something breaks do 10 squats.
Yep, it’s like a drinking game! Enjoy!

Happy Exercising and Happy Holidays!