Blog Archives

Birthday Reflections

What a difference a year makes!

As the celebration of my 38th birthday winds down, I can’t help but sit here and think about the plans I made on this very same date last year.

It was February 9th, 2011 when I made the phone call to reserve my spot for the National Academy of Sports Medicine‘s certified personal trainer exam. I started studying immediately following a weekend of birthday fun.  Three months later – May 21st, 2011 to be exact – I passed the exam. These days when I’m not busy with my full-time production job or writing posts for this blog, I brush up on my studies to create exercise programs for my personal training clients.

While I’ve thought about becoming a personal trainer since finishing my days at Northwestern University, there’s a whole other aspect of fitness I never expected to fall in love with in my 30’s. As a lifetime lover of dance and exercise, I’m not sure why I didn’t give Zumba Fitness® a try until November of 2011, but I guess that old expression really is true: better late than never. It only took one demo class to get me hooked, and a just last month, I became a licensed Zumba instructor. Now, I’m trying to figure out how to fit some practice and choreography time into my schedule along with my full-time job, personal training, blogging and the rest of life’s everyday hustle and bustle so I can actually start teaching Zumba in the spring.

For me, this is just the latest move in the you-can’t-plan-everything-in-your-life playbook. Even when you set a course, make a plan and list your goals – something may come along to throw things off course. And that something can be the best thing you never planned for.

Some birthday love at work

I’m excited about the start of a new year in my life. Like everyone else, there are trials and tribulations I’ve dealt with this past year that I’m happy to leave in the past. There are other challenges I’m struggling with today and will continue to grapple with tomorrow. But just like in years past, exercise will remain one of the few constants that can help keep my head on straight even on my most stressful days and lowest times.

So, I end this work week another year older. I’m not sure if that makes me another year wiser, but I am looking forward to discovering what lies ahead in the next 365 days and all the new 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!

Food & Fitness

Nutritionists and registered dietitians are the experts when it comes to healthy eating. I am neither, but as part of the fitness industry, I get plenty of questions about what people should and shouldn’t eat.  So, in order to address this topic early in my blogging adventures, here’s a 100% personal account of how I try to maintain a healthy diet.

I joined Weight Watchers in May 2007. Why? Because the post-divorce “diet” I started which included a dinner of half-a-jar of peanut butter with chocolate syrup and a side of vodka on ice was not a healthy regimen to maintain. Also, being in my 30s, I couldn’t rely on the workouts I started during my Northwestern days to counterbalance the bad food choices I was making too often.  Aside from worrying about gaining weight, I felt absolutely awful.

Today, I am a lifetime Weight Watchers member. I continue to go to meetings when I can and the program works for my lifestyle. Again, for me, it was not about losing a lot of weight, it was about learning to eat better.  I’m not here to offer a lesson about point values and food.  Instead, here’s a snapshot of what I’ve learned that helps me stay on track.

  • I never skip breakfast. During the work week, I’ll make my own parfait with non-fat plain Greek yogurt, sliced banana, strawberries or blueberries (there’s two – three servings of fruit for the day!) and a serving of high-fiber cereal.
  • Instead of having three big meals, I eat every three to four hours. This prevents me from being so hungry that I go overboard at the next meal.
  • Every Sunday, I spend 30-60 minutes chopping red peppers and celery and pack up the sticks up with baby carrots or cherry tomatoes in individual containers, one for each day of the week.  It’s an easy way to get in two servings of veggies while sitting at my desk. (The idea works just as well if you’re home.)
  • I have embraced whole grains! I like Weight Watchers breads for sandwiches, cook whole grain pasta at home and on “bad”nights when we order Chinese or burritos, we ask for brown rice.
  • Finally, I refuse to say “I will never eat (a fudge-covered Oreo/a bacon cheeseburger/lasagna) ever again!” First of all, life’s too short.  Second, in my experience, the longer you deny yourself something you really like, the better chance you have of over-indulging when you do finally “break down.”

Life's Short - Eat Dessert!

Now listen, I have my fair share of “bad food” days. I love dessert, especially chocolate, and I love Prosecco and red wine. But one bad day doesn’t have to mean “well, I blew it today, so I may as well throw the whole week out the window and start over on Monday.” On the contrary, every day offers a clean slate and a brand new chance to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

%d bloggers like this: