Ideas, inspiration and motivation for a FIT LIFE!

Archive for March, 2012

How to make a Home Gym

I love gym “toys”….BOSU trainers, TRX straps, Smith machines, dumbbells, bands….the more the merrier!  I have a pretty sweet home gym, with one of my favorite pieces being my cable crossover machine.

I’ve been collecting equipment for years, and I have a pretty good space to put it all.  But if you’re thinking of creating your own place to work out at home, you don’t have to get too complicated.  On the flip side, if you have deep pockets, you can create a space you’ll never want to leave!

Cathy's favorite piece of equipment

Dummies.com has a great article on how to .  I highly recommend the read, and make sure you look at thethey recommend for beginners!

Make just ONE change

I always get a kick out of people saying, “I love to eat”.  Well yeah, don’t we all?  It’s one of America’s favorite past times!  But usually I hear that same comment followed by, “…which is why I can’t lose weight”.

Who says you can’t  ”love to eat” healthy foods?  I really enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough…but I also enjoy grilled zucchini, eggplant and onion with balsamic vinegar and feta cheese.  It’s a no-brainer as to which is the better choice.

So let’s talk choices.  Instead of  trying (and probably failing) to eat clean all the time, focus on making just ONE change.

For example:

  • Switch from to fat-free or low-fat milk.  If you don’t like the flavor, try mixing  your regular milk with the lower fat version until you get used to it
  • Use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, mayonnaise or cream cheese.  You can use it cold for dips, mix it through salads and pasta  and add it to hot meals.
  • Try a GOOD butter substitute.  My three favorites taste like the real thing, and aren’t filled with partially hydrogenated soybean oil ( a transfat).  Try “Earth Balance Margarine Natural Buttery Spread Lactose Free”, “Olivio Spreadable Butter with Canola & Olive Oil”, or “Smart Balance Omega Plus Buttery Spread”.
  • Try the diet version of your favorite soda.  I know, it’s still artificially sweetened, but if you are hooked on the regular, you’re getting way too many calories!  (We’ll work on eliminating all soda later.)
  • Switch to sugar free jams.
  • Buy low-sodium versions of your favorite deli meats.  Remember, a high-sodium diet can raise your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Making just one change can really be a springboard to success.  Once you’ve been accustomed to your new food choices, you’ll start realizing that you still “love to eat”…and your healthier body will thank you for it!  Do YOU have changes you’ve made lately?  I’d love to hear about it!

Teaching Motivation

I have a soon-to-be-sixteen year old boy that LOVES extreme sports.  Which means I am a soon-to-be-gray-haired mom who worries every time he heads out of the house with his helmet/skateboard/longboard/bike/lacrosse stick…. You get the picture, right?

When this child is excited and motivated about something, there’s pretty much nothing I can do to stop him.  Case in point.  He broke his collarbone a week ago while he was out longboarding with friends.  I’ve included the clip of the accident if you care to watch.  But after the crash, you may want to stop it.  He drops a “bad” word…I wish I knew where he learned it!

He’s going to be ok, but unfortunately for him, he’s sidelined from the lacrosse season, and as a captain, he’s heartbroken.  So my next challenge—how to motivate this teenager to stay motivated…focused…and inspired to still be a part of the team even though he can’t play.

Can you TEACH motivation?  Why is it that some of us are motivated to do the very best in all we do—work, school, the gym—and others can’t motivate themselves to get off the couch?  Children and adults alike have to find that inner “something” that motivates them to try harder, study longer, get up earlier, stay later—to be the best.

There are actually two kinds of motivation.  INTRINSIC motivation comes from inside an individual rather than from any external or outside rewards, such as money or grades.  EXTRINSIC  motivation comes from outside oneself and usually involves rewards which provide satisfaction and pleasure that the task itself may not provide.

Which one will help YOU meet your fitness goals?  I’ll bet a little of both.  You may  motivated to simply feel better in your clothes, and losing 15 pounds is important to YOU and only YOU.  Or that 15-pounds has to go before your best friend’s wedding, so you and your husband wager a “friendly” hundred dollars you can lose the weight.  (Yeah, and is that ever really friendly?)

So while intrinsic motivation is probably the best for “lighting a fire” within yourself, I have a few ideas how to give yourself the nudge you might need to reach your goals.

  • Start slow.  You can’t train for a marathon in one day, so break your training, or your goal into little pieces.  If you think about losing 50-pounds you’ll get discouraged, but I’ll bet a pound-and-a-half a week isn’t too bad!
  • Eat your Frog.  Remember?  It’ll be the worst thing you do all day—so get it done early.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.  It’s a learning opportunity.  So you overate your “calorie budget” today–isn’t tomorrow the chance to try again?  This time, however, you know you have to track what you are eating.
  • Remember and celebrate your successes.  If you dwell on what IS working, and how you’ve succeeded, you’ll be more motivated to repeat it.
  • Develop a mantra.  I tend to tell my female clients “you are a warrior!” which sounds odd in day-to-day conversations, but when you are lifting weights, it seems to help them work harder.  Make your mantra positive, of course—and repeat it often throughout the day!!
  • Find a friend.  We know they hold us accountable, and they push us.  Plus, they get mad if we don’t do what we say we’re going to do.

As a personal trainer, I work hard to give my clients extrinsic motivation.  I’ll do the same for my son as he heals.  No one said it was going to be easy.

I spent a day at the in Columbus, Ohio, and was excited to see all the new fitness tools and gadgets.  I love having new “tools for my toolbox”, and was intrigued by the LibertyBell offered by .

It looks like a bowl with a clapper inside, and according to Blue Chip, is designed to allow the user to do all traditional  kettlebell and dumbbell exercises, as well as many dynamic exercises, like running and jumping.  All with a greater degree of effort, safety, and control.

I asked Wayne Hickman, the owner of Blue Chip Fitness to demonstrate:

The great thing about working out is that there’s an infinite amount of ways to move our bodies.  Adding another device to meet your fitness goals is in my opinion, a great way to keep your workouts fresh and exciting.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the LibertyBell!

I often feel overwhelmed by all the dieting advice we are bombarded with every day.  Google “diet”–and you get 587,000,000 results.  Google “eating healthy”, and you get 32,500,000 results.  Do we really need that much information about how and what to eat?  Isn’t this something humans have been doing since they were tracking down mastodons?  It’s amazing how complicated we’ve made healthy eating.

Obviously we have more choices, and more complicated lives than our caveman ancestors.  But what to eat has not changed that much.  If it grazes, or grows from the ground, it’s good for you.  If it comes in a box, probably not.  Oh, and if your food rhymes or has a cute name…it’s not a food.  Think “ho ho”, and “ring ding”, “pop tart” and “twinkie”.

I don’t push or endorse any one kind of diet to my clients.  I do see many of them have great success with Weight Watchers, in part because the program truly seems to teach HOW to eat, not just WHAT to eat.  I applaud that.  But in my opinion, the best diet is simply one that makes sense…it’s one that we learn in elementary school when we learn the food pyramid.

Eat lean proteins like fish, chicken and (grass-fed) beef.  Eat your fruits, vegetables and dairy.  Add nuts to your diet.  Look for 100-percent whole grain products.

It sounds simple, but I understand that it’s not.  In our busy lives, it’s difficult to work, raise children and then put together a healthy meal for families on the go.  But too often we replace common sense with convenience.  We grab a box of crackers and a soda for a snack.  We throw together macaroni and cheese and call it a meal.

So as you think about your meals, let me give you some food for thought.  Are you filling your plate with food that had few processing steps to get to your plate?  Broccoli does.  A granola bar and pretzels do not.  If it comes in a box it has some been through some type of processing.  Our bodies don’t need the preservatives, the fat, sodium or calories.  Think farm to fork.  It’s not possible every day.  But small changes can become big healthy habits.

And back to food that rhymes.  I loved Ring Dings as a child.  But at over 330 calories a serving with 34 grams of sugar, I think they’re more fun to say than eat.

My father always says, “There’s two kinds of people in the world….the Irish…and those who wish they were Irish”.  Which means my Dad’s a big fan of corned beef and cabbage, and a nice Irish Whiskey.  If the restaurant I was in on St. Patrick’s Day Saturday was any indication…there’s a LOT of people wanting to be Irish—the Guiness couldn’t be poured fast enough!  St. Pat’s may not be an “official” holiday, but for many, it was a day to overeat and drink.  We all occasionally overindulge on weekends, but it’s really not the reward you need after watching what you eat all week long.  Having a cheat meal now and then is actually a great way to stave off cravings and binge eating, but overindulging every weekend can lead to problematic, compulsive eating behaviors.

If you step on the scale Monday after two days of overeating, you may be shocked to see a three, four or even five pound gain!  But did you REALLY gain that much in just two days?  Probably not.  Remember, one pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories.  To gain five pounds, you would have had to eaten over 17-thousand calories, and even Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps would find that challenging!  Also, keep in mind that your scale weighs everything…. water, undigested food (even if it will all later be burned off), and waste your body hasn’t eliminated yet, as well as bone, fat and muscle.  You likely ingested much more sodium than usual, which retains water.  It’s probably why you feel “fat” and bloated.

It can be really hard to “start over” on Monday with healthy eating.  Mondays are difficult enough, right?  But if you begin with baby steps, you can quickly get back on track.

  • Start by forgiving yourself.   Don’t call yourself names, don’t beat yourself up.  Today is a “do-over”, and your self talk will be “I can do this!”
  • Drink more water.  You need to flush out all that excess sodium.
  • Get back to sensible eating.  You may still feel full, and want to skip breakfast, but don’t.  You’ll just end up hungry later–and likely to overeat again.  Instead, try having just a small bowl of low-fat yogurt and berries.  Eat several small meals throughout the day with plenty of protein and vegetables.
  • Get your food journal out again.  Whether you use my favorite smart phone app  or just a notebook, logging what you eat is the easiest way to be accountable.
  • MOVE.  You may feel sluggish, or lazy after eating so much.  You may have to do an easier workout, but that’s ok.  Go for a walk, try a new class.  But find a way to move your body.

Don’t get discouraged by a weekend setback.  It may have been a step backward, but it’s NOT an excuse to give up.

We have a new “toy” at the Hockessin Athletic Club where I train part-time.  It’s called the , developed by a yoga teacher named Tony Susnjara.  It looks like a plate on  wheels.  Have you ever had a plant in a pot that was so big you couldn’t lift it?  You may have put it on a wheeled platform to move the plant from room to room.  That’s basically what this looks like!

It’s a “multi-directional rolling platform”, which means it rolls through all planes of motion.  It moves as you move, it changes direction as your body does.  It lets you push, pull, twist and balance.  It flows around the body, and with it, you can make almost all basic moves more challenging…lunges, push ups, stretches and more.

Most of the moves involve core activation—you can -really- feel your abs engage as you hold yourself still, or upright, or pull through a movement. Check out HAC member Rush Fisher moving through a complete body series:

Anytime you can challenge your body to work as it does in real life, you are “teaching” it to do what you want, when you want.  We all have to stand on one leg sometimes to pick up a pencil.  We must reach way overhead while leaning over a counter to reach something in our kitchen cupboards. We need to get up and down from chairs, often quickly.  helps to train the body to move “functionally”.

I’m a fan.  So the next time you hear me say, “I’m rolling through the gym”, I’m REALLY rolling through the gym!

Do you know why it’s called BREAKFAST?

Before you walked out of the house this morning, what did you eat?  Did you have time for breakfast?  If you’re like many people, your mornings are a whirlwind, and you rush out the door with just a cup of coffee, maybe you swing through a drive-through, or (gasp!) eat nothing at all!

But do you know why it’s called “breakfast”?  You are literally ‘breaking the fast’ of not eating for the past eight to 12 hours.  Breakfast is very important for weight loss and weight management.  It helps curb your hunger and prevent binge eating later in the day.  It’s the first chance the body has to refuel its glucose levels, which is the fuel that keeps our motors running.  Your brain and your nervous system need glucose to work: that means walking, speaking, stretching, typing – any activity requires this fuel.  If you don’t supply it, your system resorts to finding stored carbohydrates or it tries to turn fat into glucose.  Why put your body through all this?  Instead, do what mom said and eat that breakfast.  And if you exercise first thing in the morning, it’s ESPECIALLY important to eat something with protein and carbs before-hand!

You don’t have to take a great deal of time to make—and eat…what your body needs first thing in the morning! If you’re pressed for time, try some of these ideas:

  • Ready-to-eat whole-grain cereal topped with fruit and a cup of low-or non-fat yogurt
  • Whole-grain waffles topped with peanut butter, fruit or ricotta cheese (try nuking some frozen berries if you don’t have anything fresh)
  • A whole-wheat pita stuffed with sliced hard-cooked eggs
  • Oatmeal packet… topped with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or cloves (look for LOW or NO sugar brands!!)
  • Peanut butter on a small bagel with fresh fruit (banana or apple wedges) and low-fat milk
  • Breakfast smoothie (milk, fruit and teaspoon of bran, whirled in a blender)

Pop-tarts are not breakfast, by the way!  And if you truly don’t have time to make, and insist that you can only have a breakfast bar of some kind, look for low sugar (10-15 grams or less), and add a piece of fruit.

I love to tell my clients that the only place failure is actually success is in the gym.  You are on your 9th rep, and you just….can’t….get….one….more….and you are spent.  You’ve reached failure.  That’s great!  You’ve given it your all!  You’ve left it all on the gym floor.

But really, failure is actually success in the “real” world too, IF you learn from it.  IF you use it as a chance to “Do Over”.

I just read a fabulous post about second chances, and how we can look at our mistakes to move forward and improve our lives.  I’m including it here for you to read  —-but I want to share the highlights.   Because whether we regret a mistake that hurts ourselves or someone else….or we can’t live the (fit) life we want because of past mistakes—we ALL need to be able to give ourselves a second chance.

The author, Judy Belmont, says we should all have a “second chance checklist”–and I’m applying it to healthy living.

1.  Turn unproductive regrets into productive regrets.  

—You regret overeating all weekend, but Monday is a new day…let it begin with a healthy breakfast.  You were too busy last week to exercise, so this week, put it in your calendar.

2. The more wrong turns you made in retrospect, you increase the odds that your future choices will be more informed.

—-We become better advocates of our own health when we learn what does and doesn’t work for us.  You know that trying the latest fad diet won’t last—been there, done that.  Perhaps you can choose to educate yourself about the local gym’s class schedule to choose a place you’ll want to be—because you know buying yet another piece of gym equipment for the basement isn’t getting you to use it.

3. Ask yourself – Did I do the best I could at the time?  Undoubtedly, the answer will be “yes!” 

—The author says, “Unhealthy people make unhealthy decisions and behave in an unhealthy way.  People do not intentionally make self- defeating decisions.  So consider it a noble effort to try your best, even if your best felt short and was misguided.”  I agree!!!!  Start small, because baby steps towards a healthy life are steps in the right direction!

4. Moving from regrets is a ripe opportunity to work on the ability to forgive.  

—-”A lack of forgiveness for oneself or others is one of the most common reasons for depression, anxiety and interpersonal conflict.”  We hold ourselves to such high standards, we often create unrealistic goals.  If  your reunion passed withOUT you losing the 20 pounds you had planned, stop beating yourself up.  NOW you begin a new goal…a smaller, more manageable goal that you can plan and strive for.

Give yourself a second chance.  A healthy life isn’t something reserved for the rich, or people with more time than you, or someone who knows more about exercise, or diet.  A healthy life is YOURS if you want it bad enough, and you are willing to move past your failures.

See Belmont’s post at:

We all have an inner “rule book” we try to live by.  Some of us bend the rules, sometimes we break them….but it’s basically our own personal roadmap of how we live.  I’m sharing mine with you simply to show you what I have found works for me.  I’m not saying it’s the best….it’s just my rule book.

I try to live by the 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of the time I eat clean, exercise regularly, and get my necessary eight hours of sleep.  The other twenty percent I live a little.  Truly, what’s the point of  living your fit life, it you can’t live your FUN life as well?

So here’s how I treat and train myself.  It’s not for everyone, but it’s what works for me.

  • Exercise six days a week.  For me, it’s generally in the gym.  NO EXCUSES.  I don’t let myself slack off.  Period.
  • Eat breakfast every single day.   Even if I had a big meal the night before.  I truly believe it sets my eating up right for the entire day.
  • Eat every 2-3 hours.  I’m a big believer in snacking.  The right snacks, of course.  But it’s constant fuel, and I am less likely to make mistakes when I’m starving.
  • Eating out is not an excuse to overeat.  You can enjoy a restaurant meal to your liking if you aren’t afraid to just ASK!
  • Alcohol in moderation.  Enough said.
  • Go to bed.  I aim for eight hours of sleep a night.  It means my 15-year old is up after me, but I know what I’m like without my eight.
  • Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store.  I buy very few items that are boxed or packaged.  If it doesn’t grow from the ground, or graze, it’s probably not healthy.

It all works about eighty percent of the time.  The other twenty–well, if it’s a well deserved chocolate chip cookie—leave me alone!

So enough about me…stay tuned!  Look for my Monday motivations….and Nutrition news on Wednesdays.

And if you stop in….could you share YOUR personal philosophy with me?  I would love to hear it!

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