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Fuel for the Day

Some of my favorite fueling options

Some of my favorite fueling options

Today’s Motivation Monday post has been inspired by the team at ETB Fitness.

Petro Martynyuk, community coordinator for the sports nutrition-based lifestyle business – which stands for “Eat the Bear”  – was kind enough to reach out to me after reading my post, Spring Fitness for Your Fitness Routine. He had some questions about the kind of fuel that energizes me before, during and after my workouts. While I haven’t tried any of ETB’s products (yet!), I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some tricks that work for me. Here’s what Petro wanted to know:

What foods do you eat pre workout? 

This all depends on what I’m doing:

  1. If I start a morning with fasted cardio, the only thing I’ll have before hopping on the elliptical machine and/or stationary bicycle and/or rowing machine for a 60-minute kick-start to the day is six to eight ounces of water while walking to the gym. I should mention I do “strip” twice during the cardio session. I take one rapid electrolyte replacement oral thin-film strip made by Sportsfood, Inc. at the start of the workout and another halfway through.
  2. If I’m taking a Physique57 class, I’ll have a green apple or some reduced-fat wheat thins with almond butter about an hour before class starts. If I need a real grab-and-go option, a banana always works in a pinch as will a serving of raw almonds and a 1/2 cup of blueberries. If I’m in a real hurry, a banana always works in a pinch. (Want to know more about the total-body, kick-butt barre-based method based program I’ve been addicted to since 2013? Click here.)
  3. For more heavy lifting, whether it’s a free-weight based group exercise class or if I’m pumping iron on my own, I’ll eat some more carbs before the workout. My go-to for that fuel is oatmeal with strawberries and/or blueberries. If I want an extra kick, I’ll stir in a teaspoon of almond or peanut butter.

What do you listen to during your workout?

I’m a firm believer that having the right music can make the difference between going the extra mile or throwing in the towel. Like my pre-exercise prep, I have different music for different workouts. Fortunately, my group exercise instructors have fantastic playlists and Spotify selections. For my fasted-cardio sessions, I need beats that keep me moving with some help from Calvin Harris, Tiesto and other master mixers. My current top three Workout Playlist favorites for cardio:

  • “Pray to God (featuring HAIM)”, Calvin Harris
  • “Let Me In (Astma & Rockwell Remix)”, Kleerup & Susanne Sundfor
  • “Comeback”, Ella Eyre

If I’m lifting, I tend to listen to music with a bit more of an edge. Because of my age and variety of music tastes, the bands that provide that inspiration range from Nine Inch Nails to Twisted Sister.

How do you switch up certain routines daily/weekly to stay motivated?

No matter what you’re doing, variety IS the spice of life. As I mentioned above, I do mix things up between strict cardio sessions, group exercise classes and one-on-one time with the iron. I’m also sure to give myself a minimum of one rest day each week to recover. Those off-days help me feel stronger physically and mentally when I do get back in the game.

What do you eat or do after your workout to make sure you got the most out of your workout?

I always make sure to cool down and stretch after my workouts. What I love about Physique57 classes is that stretches are incorporated throughout the class after high-intensity sprints.

As far as the post-workout food plan goes, I admit this area of my routine remains a work in progress. The key is getting some protein into my system as quickly as possible – preferably within 30 minutes and no more than 45. Thanks to the nutritional cleansing program I did in the spring and the maintenance program I follow now, I’ve found a protein recovery shake I really like. On most days, I’ll accompany the 8-ounce shake with a slice of toasted Ezekiel bread and almond butter.  One final food note: I make a point of trying to eat five to six small meals each day. This keeps my metabolism fueled, hunger in check and blood sugar levels on an even keel.

Thanks again to ETB Fitness for giving me a reason to make sure I’m keeping my fitness routine energized with the right fuel. At the end of the day, the right food, the right music and even the right workout wear can motivate fitness buffs of every age and fitness level stay on track with their goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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‘Tis the Season…

iStock_000014614375SmallOn this Motivation Monday, we’ve recovered from the turkey hangover but find ourselves ensconced in the hustle and bustle of the 2014 holiday season. While it’s known as “the most wonderful time of the year,” let’s not kid ourselves. It’s also a time filled with stress. How do we fit the shopping, decorating, card writing and other holiday prep into our days already filled with work, taking care of the kids and hosting or dropping in at a couple of  holiday parties along the way?

Despite the crunch, this is not the time to put the sneakers and workout wear in the back of the closet until 2015. In fact, the extra stress and calories thrown into our already frenetic days should make finding time to exercise more important than ever. It could be just what both your mind and body need to let go and enjoy some holiday cheer!

No doubt the extra chores paired with fewer hours of daylight can make it feel like there are fewer hours in the day. If you normally spend more than an hour at the gym or take 90-minute power walks with your friends in the neighborhood, chances are you’re going to need to spend some of those minutes elsewhere. So, here are some tips on how to fit fitness into your busy holiday schedule:

  • Switch things up: Try working out in the morning. If you can hit the gym, take a walk or break a sweat with some help from your favorite workout DVD first thing in the morning, you can cross exercise off your to-do list for the day. Two bonuses: you’ll be energized and focused thanks to the endorphin rush AND you’ll feel less guilty about having a treat or two at the holiday get-together in the evening.
  • Try the group thing: Most group exercise classes run between 45 and 60 minutes and take the guesswork out of planning your own routine. Give total body conditioning or strength training classes a shot as they get your heart rate up and hit all the major muscle groups in a short window. The group environment also gives you the opportunity to strike up a conversation with someone who can share his or her own holiday season survival tips!
  • Make shopping physical: If you drive to a mall, don’t look for the closest parking spot to the entrance. Also, be sure to wear walking shoes or cross trainers to keep your body moving efficiently while you rush from store to store.
  • Arm yourself with healthy snacks: If you’re squeezing in a shopping trip between work and picking up the kids, chances are you’re in between meals and could be hit with a snack attack. Instead of letting the smell of cinnamon, chocolate or other decadent temptation get the best of you at the mall, be sure to have some almonds, an apple or snack bar in your bag (No matter what purse I leave the house with, there’s always a KIND bar stuck in one of the pockets).
  • Don’t arrive hungry: Never show up for a holiday get-together feeling ravenous. If you’re eating late in the day, have portion-controlled healthy meals leading up to the main event and a snack up to an hour before arriving at the party. This can help you avoid grabbing the first high-calorie, high-fat item you see.

What are your tricks for getting through the holiday season? I’d love to know! Sharing ideas is one of the best ways to get through a busy season and stay on the path to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Fast Fitness Friday

Make the Most of August!

I don’t know about you, but I have no idea where the summer is going. I feel like we went from Memorial Day weekend to the beginning of August in the blink of an eye.

That being said, there’s still plenty of the season left to enjoy. If this was the summer you were going to get your butt and your fitness routine in gear, there’s no time like this weekend to get things going!

As our brains start shutting down from the work week and move into weekend mode, I’ll keep this post short and sweet, but hopefully offer just enough motivation to turn the next couple of days into productive ones when it comes to working on your health and fitness goals.

1) Start your weekend with a workout: While I’ve never been a 6-am workout girl, I do like getting to the gym when it first opens at 8am on Saturday mornings. It feels great to kick-start the heart and break a sweat while clearing the mind of the leftover mental clutter from the work week. Afterward, the endorphin rush provides the energy I need to get all those pesky errands done. Then I can transfer the energy to enjoying whatever fun is planned later in the day or in the evening. (The added bonus: not feeling totally guilty if those plans include some cocktails or sweet treats!)

2) Try something new: Have you heard rave reviews about the new Saturday morning Zumba class at your gym? If you belong to a gym, check the schedule for a group class you’ve been meaning to take, but have found a million excuses not to get there. No gym membership? No problem! Make this the weekend you explore that new hiking trail or ride your bike to the beach and then take a long walk on the sand.

3) Make it social: Getting fit with a friend is a great way to incorporate some fun into your schedule! Meet a pal for a walk, group exercise class or to spot each other for a solid weight training session. Afterward, you can catch up over coffee and egg whites!

So, make the most of your escape from the daily grind and enjoy a weekend filled with chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Fall into Fitness

As I walked to work on this cool, breezy morning, I realized just how quickly the summer flew by. I know the calendar says we still have about 15 days left, but I think it’s safe to say most of us think of Labor Day as the unofficial end to the season.  This also marks the time of year where people’s routines are getting back to “normal.” School starts, summer Fridays come to an end and Halloween items start popping up in the stores. (We won’t even talk about the Christmas decorations I’ve already seen in some stores.) So, forget New Year’s – this is the time to make fitness a part of your daily routine and turn your goals for a healthier lifestyle into a reality!

If you’ve been putting off joining a gym, now’s your chance to make it happen. Many health clubs are offering some of the best deals of the year. I know my gym, New York Sports Clubs, has offers including join now, pay later; refer a friend and get a $50 dues credit; and discounts on personal training packages. Other gyms like Crunch have month-by-month payment plans with no contracts.  If you know someone who already belongs to a gym, ask him or her to get a guest pass so you can “tag along” for a workout.  This gives you the chance to see if that particular gym has the right vibe for you.

This is also generally a time when gyms mix up the group exercise schedule a bit, so there are lots of opportunities to try some of the classes you’ve always been curious about. Don’t want to go it alone? See if a gym near the office offers classes that you and some colleagues could go to during a lunch break or after hours. Having a friend or loved one share in your fitness journey can be just the motivation you need to stick with your new routine.

Work at home or keep busy running the household? Carve out some time in the morning after sending off those morning emails or sending the kids off to school so you can head to the gym and get your heart pumping.

If the gym isn’t your thing, no sweat! Depending on where you live, fall is a beautiful time to get outside and enjoy what nature has to offer. Maybe there are hiking or biking trails not far from where you live or work. Got kids? Help them with their spiral and toss a football around on off-practice days or kick a soccer ball around the yard before homework and dinner time.  Basically, make the most of the daylight while it lasts!

As we all settle in to our fall routines, it’s the perfect time to pencil exercise into your schedule so you don’t miss out on the many opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

I Got Myself to the Gym. Now What?

You took the plunge and signed up for a gym membership. You change into your workout wear, turn on the iPod…and find yourself completely overwhelmed surrounded by a sea of equipment.  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  One of my best gal pals from Northwestern University, Molly, recently posed the following questions:

“My problem with getting/staying fit right now is not knowing exactly what to do with myself once I’m at the gym. Should I just focus on cardio? (I’d like to lose a few pounds.) If so, do I stick with one machine like the treadmill and work on building speed and endurance, or switch it up and try the elliptical sometimes? Should I start again with the weight machines, which I haven’t done in a while? (I’d also like to tone up and gain strength.) Take a class?”

Two important points to address right away:

1) They key to losing weight is burning more calories than you take in. That can be done through cardio and/or resistance training. Whether you’re an exercise novice or seasoned gym-goer, your body will benefit most from a combination of the two.

2) Find what you like to do at the gym, and you will stick with it. Then with some help from perseverance, self-discipline and motivation, you can get the results you’re looking for.

Reminding myself how good I feel after a workout fuels my perseverance and self-discipline.  As for motivation, if you’re new to the gym, I strongly recommend meeting with a personal trainer at least once. Aside from helping you get familiarized with the gym, a personal trainer will also conduct fitness assessments to determine if you have any postural distortions that need correcting as part of your routine. In the simplest terms, you will learn what areas of your body need to be stretched and which need to be strengthened.

Many gyms welcome new members with a complimentary training session. If your gym doesn’t offer this service and a personal training session is not in your budget, then recruit a friend who does know his or her way around the gym to be your training partner.

Group exercise classes can also be a great source of motivation. With classes ranging from cardio kickboxing to Zumba, there is something out there for everyone. To avoid boredom at the gym, I’m a big fan of mixing up group exercise classes with your own program during the week.

Cardio is a topic that warrants its own blog post. For now, I recommend newcomers try the treadmill, elliptical and stationary bike for 10 minutes each. Determine which one you like best, then work on being able to run, stride or cycle for up to 30 minutes where you notice a moderate increase in your heart and respiratory rates.  Doing this five to seven days each week with two days of resistance training is a good workout plan to strive for.

One final note: it takes six weeks before something becomes a habit.  So, your first trip to the gym is the first big step in making exercise part of your routine to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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