Monday, December 21, 2015

Pay Attention: Your Stomach is Trying to Tell you Something!

As our last blog before the New Year, I want to leave you with one last (hopefully) helpful piece of advice that will wrap up November and December’s blogs focusing on taking pre-emptive steps in the right direction now, as 2015 comes to a close. These tips have included noticing what you are doing right on days when you feel like all cylinders are firing, adding a little more exercise to each day or week and cutting back on sugar, to give some of your vital organs and waistline a break. All of these tips were designed to create a slightly healthier end to 2015, and ensure that you have some footing come New Year’s Day. In other words, don’t give up in December because you have big plans to work out hard in January. Do better whenever you can this month, including cutting back (a little!) on Christmas treats, stuffing, alcohol, whatever, and hit the ground running next month.

So before we get to the main point of this blog, let’s remember: It’s prime time for sugar consumption right now. If there is one thing I can strongly suggest you do to keep your sugar intake to a minimum and give your body and mood a break, is to just step away before you feel full of sweets. I read once that sweets are fine if you can just adjust your idea of what constitutes a serving. Think of it as a bite or two, not a meal. In Europe, especially in the Mediterranean regions where fresh fruit is at most people’s fingertips (like here in California!) it’s common for fresh fruit to serve as the “dessert” and wrap up a great meal. A bowl of tangerines, apples or pears in the winter, or berries and stone fruit in the summer, provide that satisfying feeling of sweetness on the palate without the surges of blood sugar and insulin that tax your system and add inches to the waistline.

Which leads me to today’s rant moment of clarity: Avoid automatic eating. While you are enjoying those bites, don’t stare at your phone and get lost in a your Facebook feed or checking emails; have a conversation with the person sitting across or next to you; stare out the window, watch a bird, look at the clouds, and really taste whatever it is you are consuming. Whether it’s a cookie or small piece of fudge or better yet a crisp apple, don’t be a mindless eating machine (cue Jaws music).

Automatic eating has a few different meanings. One of them is more emotion-centered, where we eat out of habit, in order to feel better or associate a moment with comfort instead of anxiety or pain. The other type of automatic eating has more to do with the action of eating as being totally ignored by your brain. Think of it as thoughtless eating. Here’s why thoughtless eating can lead to eating more than we need to feel satisfied, which of course, leads to more pounds we then need to work off: Thoughtless eating separates our stomach from our brain. The stomach, when it’s full, sends a signal to the brain, via nerve receptors and hormones, which in turn signals the brain to think about stopping the action of eating.

Now, imagine your brain is a guy sitting next to a conveyor belt, feet kicked up, face in his phone, catching up with the Kardashians. Those signals coming in from the stomach? Totally missed. They glide right on by, piling up like a bad wreck on the other end of the factory (your waistline). That’s what happens when we eat while watching TV or looking at our phone. When you eat, eat. When you read, read. Can we also get lost in a conversation or watching some deer nibble on grass? Yes, but it is far more likely that we’ll become hypnotized by a screen than we might while observing Mother Nature or chatting with our companions. Screens kill. Remember that.

When you finish the appropriate sized serving on your plate, and you think you need to go back for another helping, wait a few minutes. Let your brain catch up with your stomach. I promise you, if you wait five minutes after eating a normal-sized meal, you will feel fuller than you did 30 seconds after finishing. Wait another five minutes and have a piece of fruit, or a maybe just a little sliver of pie. Pay attention to what you are doing, which is eating, and savor every moment. You’ll feel satisfied faster and ready to move on to the next thing on your “to do” list: couch surfing working out.

Happy Holidays and I’ll see you in 2016 at Motivate Personal Fitness Academy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sugar: Eliminate, Cut Back or Load up? (OK, not that last one.)

The fact that in the U.S., individuals eat way too much sugar is well-documented, and we know that because sugar’s ill effects on the body have been well researched. Sugar is not only high in calories, the calories are really just plain useless, once the initial “ohmygodthatwassogood” moment passes. Once sugar is down the hatch, the body begins breaking it down—into glucose and fructose. And it’s not the good “breaking it down” like I do in the studio; it’s some heavy lifting for the pancreas, liver and other organs. Eat a handful of processed sugar multiple times a day and you are really stressing out your organs and systems.

In a nutshell, too much sugar wreaks havoc on some pretty major organs in the body, namely the liver and pancreas. It interferes with normal hormone production and regulation, such as insulin, which the body produces to counteract the huge surge of sugar after eating a high-sugar snack or meal (soda, candy, fruit juice, but also simple carbs – starchy foods like overly processed breads, muffins, crackers, etc.)

What you’re left with is a roller coaster of sugar surges, then crashes. And all that sugar that couldn’t be burned off? It’s eventually stored as fat.

This Holiday Season, consider cutting back from high-sugar snacks and give your organs (and your belly fat) a break. If you’re not sure how, here are a few tips. Each day, do the best you can. If you can hit most of them, most days of the week, you’ll be way ahead of the game come January 1. As I’ve mentioned recently, here and here, there’s no time like the present to start thinking about what you want to achieve in the New Year, setting some baby-step goals, and actually feeling like you have a head start on your healthy habits come Jan 1.

1. Monday through Friday in the month of December, make a decision to eat a high-protein, high-fiber, super-low sugar breakfast. This will help your body burn energy more efficiently and you’ll stay fuller, longer. Try to skip that mid-morning coffee and pastry. Instead, have a stash of high-protein, low-sugar snacks or a few cherry tomatoes and a slice of cheese instead. That’s right, cheese: a Babybel or slice of Swiss cheese and a half-dozen cherry tomatoes is far better than a muffin or other sugar-laden carb.

2. Same goes for lunch: Do NOT eat a super high carb, or carb-only lunch. No giant plates of pasta and bread. If you are a sandwich junkie, use only whole grain breads without added sugars. Read the labels. If you see sugar in the first five ingredients, it’s not bread. It’s sugar disguised as bread. Try an open face sandwich if bread isn’t that important to you. That’s half the carbs/calories! Just make sure you choose “whole grain.”

3. If you are going out to dinner or a holiday party after work, eat some nuts first. Keep a container of unsalted nuts in your car, or in your desk, and eat a handful before you go. Why unsalted? That saltiness with give rise to a thirst—and we all know what that means this time of year. The protein will fill you up and it will be easier to stay away from empty, sugary carbs while you’re out.

4. Skip dessert during the week. Just think: If you refrained from dessert of any kind Monday through Thursday in the month of December, you’ll be avoiding tens of thousands of calories.

Wondering where the sugar is lurking? Here’s a quick-and-dirty list of the worst sugar hiding spots:
  • Bottled sauces (BBQ, sweet n’ sour, teriyaki, ketchup, etc.)
  • Bread (see above)
  • Pasta sauces (store bought)
  • Soda and store bought tea. If you are buying pre-made teas in large containers or cans, you are loading up on sugar.
  • Dried fruit (some dried fruits have a whopping 24 grams of sugar in just a 1/3 of a cup.)

Remember, the point of these December posts is to help you edge toward some serious changes next month. Don’t give yourself a green light to over-indulge in December just because you have a big plan for January! Cut back in little ways now, make healthier choices, and you’ll be ahead of the game in January and more apt to really stick with your diet and exercise plans, long term.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Start Now and Hit the Ground Running in 2016

In my last post (11/10), I said this:

When you have a productive day and you're feeling you're best, think about what you ate that morning, or even the day before. What about exercise? Did that ‘great’ day include exercise on the previous day, or that same morning?”

And then, I said this: “If so, keep doing it! When you find foods or exercise habits that work for you, make a mental note of them. Start picturing yourself heading into 2016 having more "great" days in a week or month than you have right now. Keep up the practices that work for you.

Why am I repeating it again this week? Because so many people look to Jan 1 each year as the day to start getting in shape, which includes exercising, eating healthy, and cultivating a productive attitude toward life. But is there a worse day to actually implement a new plan for healthy living? Perhaps…Christmas may be a worse day, or Thanksgiving. Jan 1, the first day of the New Year, may be inviting mentally, but in practical terms, it stinks. There are way too many inviting distractions: You and your family are off from school and work; you’ve just survived the busiest time of the year and you deserve a break! And then there was New Year’s Eve, which may not have left you feeling your best.

And that’s why I suggested, in my last post, to start thinking about a new approach to your health in the coming year right now—in November—and not on January 1. Pick a few days (today might be one of them!) where you have a high-protein, low-fat, high-fiber breakfast, drink plenty of water, and work in time for a walk around the neighborhood. Do that twice this week – arguably the biggest eating day of the year next to the week of Christmas, and guess what: You will go into the first week of the last month of the year just a little bit better than you were before. Not perfect—better.

For month of December, do the same thing, whenever you can. And don’t forget: walking around a mall all day, or running all over town and walking around several stores or malls is exercise! If you have a shopping day planned, there’s your exercise! Take advantage of that day of walking and combine with healthy food choices. Then, at the end of the day, make a note of how you feel. Was your energy level a little better following that healthy breakfast of nutrient-rich food? Did you get more done than you expected? Don’t write this off to coincidence. Your body will give back to you what you put into it, period.

So what I’m suggesting you do is ease into your desire to find a healthier lifestyle next year, this year, with the remaining weeks of 2015. I call this the “sneak attack.” The problem with picking a day in the future, and proclaiming “Starting Jan 1, I’m going to really get in shape!” is that people tend to feel like they have a green light in the days and weeks leading up to Jan 1 to eat anything they want, and get no exercise at all. Why? Because on January 1 they’re going to exercise like crazy and eat vegetables and lean protein at every meal and stop eating sweets, right? Wrong.

Instead, pick a few days that are right in front of you, like one or two this week and next, and then in the following few weeks, and plan ahead just a little bit: have healthy breakfast choices in the refrigerator and make time for a walk or even a quick run on the treadmill into your day. It’s not difficult to do and it serves as a head start for 2016. Hit the ground running in 2016. If you have spent even half of the days in December making healthy choices and getting just a little exercise, you’ll have earned a little couch time on Jan 1. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Welcome to Motivate Personal Fitness Academy Website!

Finally, my new website is ready! Check it out here: Motivate Personal Fitness

As we approach our 1-year anniversary in December, I'm happy to be tying up some loose ends, such as getting this website finished, adding some new certifications to my resume and mainly, working with a great staff and growing list of truly dedicated clients.

Take a look around the website. We'll be adding a few more links at the bottom of the homepage, so if you have a cool health and fitness, or healthy eating website (or just a fun blog), let me know.

My goal (I'm trying to get a head start right now!) for this blog in 2016 and beyond is to post about three to four times a month. You'll find everything from more in-depth explanations of what we do at Motivate (TRX, Tabata, yoga, etc.) to tips for specific fitness goals, challenges and frequently asked questions.

With that, I'll leave you with our newly crafted motto, that I think can apply to any person, regardless of ability or fitness level:

"It isn't about where you begin, it's about where you're going, getting there safely, and having fun!"

One more thing! Get ready for the New Year and Holiday Season now: When you have a productive day and you're feeling you're best, think about what you ate that morning, or even the day before. Was it healthy? Could that be the reason you felt good and had a lot of energy? What about exercise? Did that "great" day include exercise on the previous day, or that same morning? If so, keep doing it! When you find foods or exercise habits that work for you, make a mental note of them. Start picturing yourself heading into 2016 having more "great" days in a week or month than you have right now. Keep up the practices that work for you. Be willing to adjust to make them work.

Remember, no person has a perfectly organized and balanced life. Keep making as many good choices as you can when you eat; keep squeezing in time for exercise, even if it's yoga or pushups during your favorite TV show right on the floor of your living room, or getting up an hour early a couple days a week for some strength training at the gym or better yet, in a TRX class at Motivate! Soon, the good choices will outnumber the not-so-good choices, and those "great" days will be commonplace.

Happy almost-Thanksgiving and don't forget to stop by our 1st Anniversary Open House on Saturday, Dec 5! Raffle prizes, demos, and more! Bring a friend for new sign-up discounts.

See you soon!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tabata Boot Camp: What are you Waiting for?

Motivate Personal Fitness Academy officially has one TabataBoot Camp on the books, and a second is about to begin on June 7. So I’m devoting this blog to helping people understand exactly what to expect—and here’s why: After an explanation that Tabata is a high-intensity intervaltraining (HIIT), the two questions I have been asked the most are “How much will I lose?” and “How hard is it?” In other words, people need to know what they have to gain (or in his case, lose!) before they commit time, energy and money to something new. 

What those two questions I keep getting about Tabata Boot Camp tell me, as a trainer, is this: 1) People want to lose weight and get fit, which means they want to look and feel better; 2) People need some level of assurance that they will see serious results. Let’s face it: Everyone knows that if the word “boot camp” is in the title of an exercise plan, they are going to work hard. But what will the results be of that hard work?

The truth is, everyone sees different results, but those who complete the program, and who follow a sensible (not crazy….just smart) eating plan that includes reducing your intake of simple carbs (bread, pasta, sugar, etc.), and increasing your intake of lean protein (chicken, fish and turkey) and complex carbs, are going to see results that will likely surpass anything they have done on their own. 

So here’s what you can expect from Tabata Boot Camp:

After four weeks: Subtle results that YOU will see in the mirror, and slightly looser clothing. Consistently, the four-week-mark comment I get from bootcamp attendees (or anyone following a three-day per week personal training program) is something along the lines of, “My clothes aren’t as tight.”

After eight weeks: More substantial results that YOU see, in addition to feel: sleep is more sound, energy levels are higher and motivation is surging after continuing to lose weight gain strength.

After three MONTHS: Results that OTHER PEOPLE notice: This is where the comments start coming, like “You look great! What are you doing?” After just 12 weeks on a comprehensive workout plan like Tabata, combined with healthy eating, people not only notice, they want to find out what your secret is.

FACT: At the beginning of our Tabata Boot Camp program, our participants spend about 25 minutes of work out time, plus about an equal amount of rest time, spread out over the course of an hour. But just six weeks later, we are hard for, straight through, for 50 minutes, with just a quick sip of water once in awhile. And there is no complaining.

The results of HIIT are widely known. Give me call or drop me a line and let’s talk about it what it can do for you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Carbs 101: Know When to Say When (and to Which Ones!)

Carbs have received a bad rap in the last 20 or so years, ever since the Atkins Diet craze, which led to a million other low-carb, high-other stuff diets. Since then, confusion about carbs has ruled, including exactly what they are and what they do—and don’t do for your body. If you are trying to lose weight, some people swear by cutting carbs. But did you know that zucchinis, kale, carrots and spinach all contain carbohydrates? Certainly a diet high in those veggies isn’t a bad idea if you are trying to lose weight…so what is the skinny on carbs? Most people know there are two types of carbs, but many just don’t get the key differences between them. Keep reading to better understand what carbohydrates do and which ones you should make sure you are getting plenty of in your daily diet.

Carbs: Let’s Break it Down
Your body, during the digestive process, breaks down carbs and converts them to glucose, which is the fuel that makes your body run. Excess glucose (what the body doesn’t immediately burn off) is converted to glycogen, and stored in the liver and muscles for later use (between meals, for example). But the body has a limit to how much glycogen it can store and so guess what the liver does with excess glycogen when it hits capacity? It converts it to fat.

The Bad and the Good
Simple carbs (bad carbs) include sugar and refined (white) flour, which means that anything made from these two ingredients is going to be loaded with simple carbs: soda, candy, white bread, white rice, white pasta, pastries, cakes, pizza dough…all are super high in simple carbs, with little to no dietary fiber.

And Now for the Good News (the OTHER type of Carb)
Remember that second type of carb? It’s called “complex,” and they contain high amounts of dietary fiber, as well as being rich in nutrients, vitamins and mineral. Complex carbs are those you get from whole grains, beans, legumes, and fruits and vegetables.

What the F? Fiber!
Why is fiber good for us? Fiber slows down the body’s absorption of carbs, providing your blood, brain and muscles with a consistent, efficient supply of energy. Unlike simple carbs, which cause your blood sugar levels to skyrocket, and then plummet, causing the “sugar crash” that leads to more carb binging, high-fiber, complex carbs are like super fuel for our bodies. Why do low-carb diets say “fruit in moderation?” Well, you are getting more sugar in your orange, than you would in say, a serving of broccoli, so for that reason, vegetables generally beat fruit. But the benefits of the high-fiber content of that orange will outweigh the extra carbs you are getting from it, so don’t fret: fruit in moderation.

Remember this: Eat a balanced diet of lean protein, complex carbs and nutrient-rich fats (avocado, nuts, olives) for the most part, and go sparingly on simple carbs and nutrient-poor fats. That, combined with regular exercise and plenty of sleep, is a winning combination for good health.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Yoga: Anywhere, Anytime, for Anyone

If you are conditioned to believe that yoga is not for you because you “don’t bend” or you “just aren’t into that sort of thing,” then please, keep reading.

There is a saying in yoga: “Go where your yoga meets you today.” What does that mean, exactly? It means that just because you can’t touch your toes doesn’t mean you can’t do yoga. Even the most experienced yoga practitioners won’t have the exact same workout twice. And for you beginners, like any other new activity, sport or hobby, you have to start somewhere. After every yoga session, your body will be able to do a little more than the time before. Over time, like any physical practice, the measureable results will be revealed.

The Basics
Yoga focuses on three main components: mindfulness, physical movements, and breath. Through the regular practice of yoga poses (asanas) the health benefits are reaped from head to toe, and include improved concentration, sleep and energy levels, as well as increased muscle tone, joint flexibility, balance, and weight loss.  The breathwork in yoga (which, simplified, merely amounts to remembering to breathe deeply, slowly and regularly throughout the poses) has been shown to help both blood pressure and resting heart rate.

Yoga: A Complement to Any Type of Training
Yoga’s emphasis on stretching and flexibility result in strengthening— not just to muscles, but to joints and tendons as well. This is precisely why yoga is fast becoming a training mode for every category of athlete, from high school wrestlers to college swimmers to professional basketball and football players. Think about it: What athlete from any sport, or discipline couldn’t benefit from added flexibility, core strength, balance, and concentration? 

Anywhere, Anytime
The beauty of yoga is that if you are looking for purely a physical release, and a quick workout that can wake up your joints, muscles and tendons, yoga can help. You don’t have to be confined to a dimly lit room with soft music and a yoga mat. Of course, those elements will add the benefit of relaxation and more of a de-stressing component, but if you just need a good s-t-r-e-t-c-h and to get your blood flowing, yoga poses can be performed anywhere that you have enough room to lay down and stretch your arms out to your sides. Yes, this means even in front of the TV. Watching your favorite show? Get on the ground and do a series of five poses, holding each several minutes. This “Yin Yoga” practice, which calls for holding poses for 3 – 5 minutes or longer, especially targets connective tissues such as ligaments and tendons, as well as bones and joints that are not typically targeted during more active yoga sessions.

Yoga is coming to Motivate Personal Fitness Academy! “Like” our  page on Facebook and find out more!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

HIIT: High-Intensity Interval Training is Where It’s At!

Let’s break it down: High Intensity (move at 100% effort) Interval (short period of time) Training (over the course of several weeks, months, etc) is not a new concept, but it is rapidly growing in popularity. Why? HIIT strengthens your body, fast, without breaking it down. But what else does HIIT deliver? Keep reading.

HIIT burns fat. In fact, look at these stats from one of the most studied HIIT programs happening today: Tabata. This high-intensity, interval-based training model has been used throughout the world since it was first developed in the early 90s, and is structured around “20/10” sessions (20 seconds of high-intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest)that  are repeated eight times, for a total of four minutes of exercise. HIIT programs like Tabata jump start your metabolism and keep it revving for up to 48 hours after only a single workout.

HIIT adapts: Anyone, any fitness level, can benefit from a HIIT program. If you are out of shape, you can do it. If you are in shape, you can do it. If you are an elite athlete, you SHOULD do it. Regardless of where you are on the fitness scale, so to speak, during your very first HIIT session, it can and will take you to the next level or get you to the next goal.

HIIT is portable: You can literally do it anywhere—outside, inside, living room, bedroom, garage. Unless your goal is serious bodybuilding, you don’t need weights (a medicine ball and a set of dumbbells are all that you need). 

The best part: HIIT won’t break your body down. Instead, it supercharges your metabolism to burn fat, and it relies on the science of body mechanics to improve balance, and strengthen muscles while protecting connective tissue (ligaments, tendons) from injury or strain.

The bottom line: HIIT pushes your body to its maximum output for short intervals, using mainly just your body weight, and then programs your body (improves metabolic performance) to deliver maximum results, faster than any other method of exercise or fitness regimen.

For more about the science behind HIIT, click here. Or better yet, send me a note at Motivate Personal Fitness Academy today.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tabata: What It Is and Why You Should Do It

Tabata? What’s that?! Root vegetable? New dance move? Tropical island destination? Intense, effective workout that provides maximum results in a fraction of the time of traditional workouts? Ding-ding-ding-ding! We have a winner.

Tabata was invented by Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese doctor and researcher whose interval-based training model has been used throughout the world since it was first developed in the early 90s.

Tabata consists “20/10” sessions that are repeated eight times. That’s 20 seconds (yes, seconds) of high-intensity exercise (giving it all you’ve got, in other words) followed by 10 seconds of rest; this is one “set.” Repeated eight times, you’ve got four minutes of exercise, total.

Learn more right here.

The benefits in this short interval-based workout may only consist of up to 80 calories during the time of exercise, but it’s the after effects that make the difference. Science has proven Tabata to be a jump start to your metabolism for up to 48 hours after only a single workout. How many extra calories are burned after a single Tabata workout? Not 100… not 200… but up to 350 more calories per day, for up to 48 hours after working out. If that’s not worth it, I’m not sure what is.

Sound easy? It isn’t. In fact, it’s far from it and should be introduced slowly for anyone who is not already in fairly good shape. Depending on the specific exercise moves, Tabata can be personalized for target zones of the body, which is one reason why it is catching on so fast. Need core strengthening? Pick four ab moves that work various areas of the lower back and torso. Training for short distance running? Tabata is widely used at the track where runners create interval workouts to improve their overall speed.

Just to be clear, there is no shortcut to getting and staying fit, but like any other sciences, new research and discoveries lead to an ever-evolving menu of options when it comes to exercise. As with anything “new,” do some reading of your own and talk to your trainer before you try Tabata.

Keep moving as much as you can and see you next time!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Yoga with Yasuni!

Our first-ever yoga class was a blast...that is, if total relaxation, deep stretching and yin poses are your thing. In a word, it was a great way to start a Saturday. Today's class, led by local instructor Kathy Greathouse, was part of a global "Yoga for Yasuni" day, organized by Amazon Watch, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting indigenous peoples of the Amazon River Basin. The goal of "Yoga for Yasuni" day is to increase awareness of the impending destruction of one of the planet's last, protected rainforests (Yasuni National Park) and disruption to the lives of indigenous tribes who inhabit it and have chosen to remain out of contact with the rest of society.

Argonaut science instructor (and Motivate client) Kelsi Himmel contacted me about hosting the class. I couldn't think of a single reason why not!

We're trying to put a yoga schedule together, so I need to hear from yoga devotees (or just yoga curious!) out there: What days and times work for you? What level are you? For those who already practice, which style of yoga would you like see offered? Drop me a note here in the comment section, or send me a note via Facebook (Motivate Personal Fitness Academy). There's always phone and email: or 406-8828.

Are you ready to feel great and be your best self? Reach out to me for more information about our individual and group fitness instruction. I'm here!