My Fitness Secrets 10/14

“What’s your dream? …Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreamin’… Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.”

Today’s notes were inspired by a conversation I had with a great friend of mine while sitting in traffic last night – goal setting.  If you are serious about losing weight, toning and shaping your body, or improving your overall health, you need to set many goals in order to achieve your dreams.  So, what’s your dream?

Often when it comes to weight loss, someone will have one big goal in mind such as lose 25, 50, 100 pounds, whatever.  I think it is great to have a long-term goal on which you focus but unless you have little mini-goals along the way you may have difficulty reaching your goal.  It would be like getting in the car, thinking you want to take a road trip to California but ignoring the fact that you need a map or GPS to guide you, fuel for the car to power your trip, snacks along the way to nourish you, and a general plan of attack as to how you’re going to break up the trip.  Unless you know exactly how to get to California, you need to do some pre-planning to figure out how you’ll make it.  Otherwise, you’ll just be driving around aimlessly and you may never reach your destiny.

So keep that big, end result goal but put more focus on daily and weekly goals.  I like to use SMART goals: your goal needs to be Stated, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed.

  • State your goal: what exactly is it you want to achieve?
  • Make your goal Measurable: objectively be able to assess your progress.  Instead of “I want to lose weight” or “I want to work out more”, change the wording to “I want to lose 10 pounds” or “I want to work out at least 3 times a week”.
  • Your goal must be Attainable and Realistic: If you’ve never worked out consistently and you’re not a runner, it would be foolish to say “I’m going to run a marathon next month”.  You’d be setting yourself up for failure.  Perhaps a better way to say this would be “I’m going to sign up for a 5k and I will finish it by combining walking and jogging”.  Using the examples in ‘measurable’, it may be unwise for you to say “I want to lose 100 pounds” (if that isn’t a healthy goal) or say “I will work out every day this week” when you’re managing a job, household, children, etc.
  • Your goal should be Timed: Have a deadline for your goal.  “I want to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks” can be just the thing you need to keep you motivated to continue with your program.

You also need to have long-term, medium-term, and short-term goals to aid you in your process.  Let’s say you want to lose 50 pounds.  Here are some good examples of breaking it down into smaller chunks so the goal is more digestible:

  • I want to lose 50 pounds in 50 weeks, or 1 pound a week.
  • By week 25, I want to have lost 25 pounds.
  • Each week, I will find a way to burn an extra 3500 calories in order to meet my goals.
  • Each week, I will commit to doing 3 days of cardio.

In doing so you give yourself a road map to arrive at your destination.  Of course, you may need to adjust your goals from time to time and you may fall short.  Don’t scrap your plan altogether; forgive yourself, formulate new attainable goals, and get started again.

A while back I was having issues with my blood pressure being too high.  I scheduled a visit with my primary care physician and we talked about ways I could try to get it under control.  I was to see him again in 3 months for an update on my progress.  My goals looked like this:

  • Lower blood pressure to a healthy level within 3 months (lower than 120/80).
  • Take blood pressure morning, noon, and night and record in a journal.
  • Log daily nutrition and keep sodium intake between 1500-2300 mg and potassium intake above 3000 mg.
  • Participate in cardio exercise 3 days a week for 30 minutes.  Participate in strength training exercises 3 days a week.

At the end of 3 months I had dropped my blood pressure to 140s/110s to 110s/60s.  As a result, I did not have to go on blood pressure medication (I’m not opposed to it and I know eventually, despite my best efforts I will probably have to take it anyway).  Having these small daily and weekly goals enabled me to take all the steps needed to make it to my big goal.

Tip of the day:  Make ONE short-term goal for next week and stick with it.  Exercise and nutrition might not seem so daunting if you take it one step at a time.

Happy thought of the day: I love being able to take a day to give my kids a progressive relaxation program day.  They’re so grateful for the break from their hectic day to just slow down and breathe.

And remember, always seek the guidance and approval of your physician prior to beginning any nutrition or exercise program.

My Fitness Secrets 10/13

I’m back – did you miss me?  And…I think I did a pretty good job of sticking with my nutrition plan while I was away.  I had my Skyline cheat meal (which, of course, put me over my caloric limit), and I also had one slice of LaRosa’s pizza and ice cream from UDF (and on that day I only went over by like 100 calories!).  Planning ahead was the key.  I didn’t lose any weight over the weekend but I didn’t gain a single pound.  Don’t be jealous; you can do it too!

Planning ahead for exercise and nutrition is critical to be successful.  I knew that Thursday of last week would be my last day to work out before taking FIVE days off.  I considered this my “fall break”.  I’ve done 7 consecutive weeks of cardio and strength training and I think it is okay to give yourself a mini-vacation every once in a while, especially if you’ve been hitting it hard.  But…don’t get used to it and fall back into the bad habit of not exercising.  And you definitely cannot neglect your nutrition and take a vacation from that too!  I’m not going to beat myself up over missing that many days or having ONE special day (that happens maybe twice a year) where I had a 3-way (the chili, sickos!), but I am going to focusing on being disciplined and getting back with the program, which is exactly what happened today.

HOW TO GROCERY SHOP:  Start planning your nutrition with a trip to the grocery store on the weekend.  Make a menu of all the meals you’d like to eat, definitely including snacks.  From there, create your grocery list and stick to it.  Not only will you stay within your calorie range, you’ll also stick to your budget and not overspend.  EAT before you go grocery shopping!  I stop at McDonald’s and eat an Oatmeal (no brown sugar) before I go.  If you are hungry in the grocery store, you’ll wind up buying tons of crap and feel guilty about it later when you stuff it in your pie hole while watching TV.

You will find the best, most nutritious food around the perimeter of the grocery store.  The bulk of your purchase should be fresh fruits, vegetables, lean poultry and fish, and low-fat dairy.  The vast majority of the products you find within the aisles of the store are processed foods that tend to be nutritionally void – meaning they are full of refined sugars, artificial ingredients and preservatives, and empty calories.  They tend to lack naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, good fats, and fiber necessary to fuel your body.  In order to make the products taste good, they often contain sugar, fat, or sodium.  They do little for you besides temporarily satiate your appetite for a brief period of time, while depriving your body of essential nutrients that keep it running like a finely tuned machine.  Oh and did I mention that you’ll want to probably stuff your face 30-60 minutes later again because these types of foods don’t keep you feeling full and tell your brain you’re starving?

Once you get your groceries home and have washed and prepped your fresh produce, go ahead and pack all your lunches and snacks for the week.  Do all of the work ahead of time so that in the morning you can just grab and go.  No forgetting.  No dealing with it every night.  In other words, no excuses!

And finally, how to prep your house:  take an inventory of your refrigerator, cabinets, and pantry and THROW OUT all the crap that is keeping you unhealthy and reaching your goals!  If you can’t bring yourself to waste a perfectly good box of Pop Tarts, take them to work.  Someone will eat them.  But get them out of your house.  If you don’t keep the junk in your house, you won’t be tempted to eat it!  For the nutritious stuff that is left behind, go ahead and portion it out into single serve baggies or containers.  I love Blue Diamond Jalapeno Smokehouse almonds but I could eat the whole can in one sitting if I just mindlessly dipped my hands into it.  Take the time to make your single serve portions so that you don’t wind up overeating.

I know some of you are thinking, “But my kids won’t eat my hippie-dippie food!”  Well, guess what: too bad!  This is where you get to step up and be their role model.  They’ll whine and bitch about it for a little bit (your spouse or partner might, too) but they don’t need the crap either and certainly will not die without it.  They will get hungry and forage for whatever is in the house.  You have a responsibility to ensure that they, too, are learning healthy eating habits and eventually they will come to love apple slices, grapes, raspberries, cantaloupes, carrot sticks and other good options.  Besides, they’ll get enough of the junk at school and birthday parties which is okay because it teaches them that there are certain kinds of food that are for special events and not for everyday consumption.  It’s not forbidden.  It’s just a treat.  The exception, not the norm.

TODAY’S WORKOUT:  I only get two days of lifting this week and they’re back to back.  I also wanted to maximize my cardio sessions.  Today and tomorrow I will be doing fast-paced supersets.  A superset allows you to work several muscle groups with very little rest in between.  Today’s focus was upper body, so to superset it, I did a chest exercise immediately followed by a back exercise (working in opposition).  After three sets of those (I did dumbbell bench press and bent over dumbbell rows), I did three sets of biceps/triceps/shoulders (bicep curl bar, lying tricep extension, dumbbell shoulder press).  For cardio, I used very fast-paced music to power my 15-minute elliptical routine and followed that with 30 minutes of medium to high effort step aerobics.

TODAY’S TIP:  Everyone has an off day and everyone deserves a break.  Forgive yourself and move on.  No need to dwell on what happened in the past.  Focus on the present and the goals you want to achieve.  If you really feel badly about it, well, beat yourself up in the gym with a killer cardio session J

TODAY’S HAPPY THOUGHT:   I’ve recently closed a big, challenging chapter in my life and am very excited to move forward.  Thank you, JTR and DJP!

What are you going to do today to get closer to your fitness goals?  Comment on this note or drop me a line!  Here’s to good health!  -Michelle

If you are interested in weight loss or exercise, you need to consult your physician.  Remember, I am NOT CERTIFIED as a trainer (but do have a bachelors and masters degree in HPE).

My Fitness Secrets 10/6

MY DAILY PLANS:  I know a lot of us are extremely busy.  We’ve got jobs.  We’ve got spouses or partners.  We’ve got kids.  We’ve got stuff we’ve got to do and it can be downright difficult to fit exercise into the day.  But you have to believe that YOU are worth it and you have to remember that you deserve to give yourself the best shot possible in this life that you have.  Make exercise a priority!  Schedule it into your day like you would eating a meal, sleeping at night, going to work.

I am luckier than most because I teach at a high school which means access to gyms and locker rooms.  While we don’t have fancy schmancy equipment, we HAVE equipment.  I have access to free weights, Cybex machines, cardio machines, exercise balls/tubing/mats, medicine balls, etc.  I also have a locker room that has a shower and my own personal locker in which I store everything I need to get ready in the morning.  The only thing I don’t have access to, which annoys me greatly, is a DVD player.  Sometimes I don’t want to think about my workout.  Sometimes I just want an expert barking orders at me!

I get up at 4:45ish (hush, Aric!) during the week and make the 39-mile, 50-minute commute to work.  I get to work anywhere between 6:00 – 6:15 and begin my workout.  Typically I do either a 3, 4, or 5-day lifting program followed by cardio.  I like to do my lifting first for two main reasons: #1 the fuel needed for the strength training supposedlycomes from readily available sugar in the blood and stored glycogen in the muscles so that by the time I go to do my cardio I can tap into stored fat as fuel and #2 I sweat like a pig when I do cardio and there’s no way I’m spreading that sweat around benches and machines!  My workouts tend to last anywhere from 60-90 minutes, depending on what I’m doing for the day.  When I’m done, I take a shower and am at my desk by 8:15.  I have my workout checked off of my list of things to do and because I do it first thing in the morning, I don’t have to worry about the afternoon sneaking up on me and finding myself needing to do it but making excuses that I am too tired, I need to spend time with my kids or spouse/partner, <insert various=”” excuses=”” here=””>.  It’s done.</insert>

TODAY’S WORKOUT:  I had the hardest time this morning deciding what I wanted to do.  And, although I have a 50-minute commute which gives me plenty of time to ponder this and other things, I still had no idea what I wanted to do once I arrived at school.  So I went with my good ole standby: the elliptical machine.  Since it is an off day from lifting, I knew I wanted to do a longer cardio session so doing a HIIT workout seemed like the perfect choice!

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training.  They’re nice because they tend to burn more fat over shorter periods of time and force your body to really work hard.  You won’t get bored because you have to watch your clock and switch resistance/pace/incline often.  And, you can finish in 25-30 minutes if you want.   Today’s session looked like this:

*0 – 4 minutes warm-up, resistance 4 (my crappy elliptical at work doesn’t have an incline feature)

*60 seconds, resistance 15, go as fast as you can, everything you’ve got

*90 seconds, resistance 6, recovery time so catch your breath

*rinse and repeat the 60 on/90 off for 30-40 minutes

*5 minutes cool-down, resistance 4

I won’t lie.  This 45-minute session kicked my butt!  The 60 second sessions should be like a sprint session – all out.  This is the time in your workout when you have to really dig deep inside and find the motivation to keep pushing even when your legs feel like lead and you’re sucking wind.  Think of your goals, be it good health, weight loss, being a good role model for your kids, whatever.

TODAY’S TIP:  If you do not have time for exercise in your life yet, start by overhauling your nutrition.  True story – the first go ‘round I had with my weight loss in 2008 I dropped my first 30 pounds without a minute of exercise over a 2 ½ month period.

TODAY’S HAPPY THOUGHT:   I am going out of town this weekend.  Cincy, here I come!  (I won’t write another note until next Tuesday or Wednesday)

What are you going to do today to get closer to your fitness goals?  Comment on this note or drop me a line!  Here’s to good health!  -Michelle

If you are interested in weight loss or exercise, you need to consult your physician.  Period.  End of story.

My Fitness Secrets 10/5

It’s all about the food today!

TODAY’S WORKOUT:  Day #2 of Jen Heath’s Hard-Body Workout (on page 400), again fromThe Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises.   It looks like this:

1a. Single Leg DB Straight Leg Dead Lift (google it

1b. Pull Up (use assisted PU machine if needed…I do)

1c. Cable Pull Through

1d. Cable Row

1e. Side Plank (raise and lower top leg)

(do 2 sets of 12 for each with no rest in between; rest for 60 seconds after 1e)

2a. BB Row

2b. Underhand Grip Lat PD

2c. Ball Hip Raise/Leg Curl

2d. Rear Lat Raise

2e. Cable Crunch

(do 2 sets of 12 for each with no rest in between; rest for 60 seconds after 2e)


Do all of the “1” exercises in succession without resting in between (you rest after you do 1e), then do your second set before moving on to the “2”s.  I had to tweak a few things since my “gym” is still “under construction” and I don’t have access to a cable cross-over machine or many back machines.  You can substitute resistance bands for pull down and row exercises; just loop them over an anchor.  My cardio was 30 minutes on the rowing machine/erg.  I wanted to try something different and it was okay.  I think my traps and rhomboids might be killing me tomorrow…


TODAY’S TIP:  Eating.  We all have to do it so we may as well make the most of it and fuel our body with products that will give us energy, lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, keep our blood sugars and blood pressure in check, and taste good.  You only have a certain number of calories to consume in a day so make each one count!  Forget “dieting”.  You want to adopt an eating plan that you can continue for the rest of your life.  Do you really want to be eating tiny, unsatisfying microwave meals (likely filled with sodium and artificial ingredients) for the rest of your life?  Do you really think it is healthy to have two of your meals be shakes?  Is it smart to omit an entire essential nutrient from your diet (carbs…I promise, they’re NOT the devil!)?  Here is what I do:


-Based on my current weight and weight loss goal of 1.5-2 pounds per week, consume around 1600 calories per day, independent of exercise.  I rarely allow myself to eat more based on how much I exercise.  I try to hold myself to 1600 calories consumed.


-NEVER, NEVER, NEVER skip breakfast!  People who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to lose weight and keep it off.  I’m going to guess that people who actually eat breakfast don’t reach lunchtime and think “OMG, I’m starving so I’m going to inhale my extra-large value meal and a dessert because, hey, I didn’t eat breakfast and therefore I have the calories to spend!”


-Breakfast is oatmeal with fruit.  And a diet coke.  Shh, it’s my dirty little secret.  260 calories


-I work-out in the morning (lift first, cardio second) and as soon as I finish my lifting I eat a piece of light string cheese before doing cardio.  I’m drinking approximately 20-40 ounces of water during activity.  After cardio I’ll eat a piece of fruit, usually an apple.  115 calories


-Mid-morning I have a tiny snack, usually my beloved Hershey kisses, dark chocolate.  They come in at 20 calories each and since they’re dark chocolate they contain flavonoids which have antioxidant properties.  Perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth! I’ll also drink another 20 ounces of water (yes, I am running to the bathroom all day long).  20 calories


-Lunch is always chock full of vegetables.  Today I’m having a turkey, swiss, and spinach sandwich with 1 T of light honey mustard dressing on 2 slices of Healthy Life with flax seed and omega-3 bread,  2 cups of veggies mix (cucumbers, red peppers, green peppers) , and Yoplait Light Fat Free Very Vanilla Yogurt and fresh cut strawberries.  I’ll have another 32 ounces of water.  444 calories


-Mid afternoon snack will be a 100 calorie snack size popcorn.


-Dinner will be a grilled boneless pork chop and corn.  Finally another 24-32 ounces of water, but I know I gotta stop drinking at dinner otherwise I’ll get up a million times in the night to pee, thus interrupting my much-needed sleep.  210 calories.


If you add it all up, you’ll see that I will be consuming about 1250 calories, so I still have 350 calories left that I can play with.  NEVER dip below 1200 calories consumed (more on why later).  Since I’m close to that 1200 calorie mark, I will definitely find some other snack to eat during my long commute home.  Hmmm, do I go with the super delicious but nutritionally worthless non-fat, no-whip Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha – hey, I guess I *am* getting some calcium and protein with the milk – or do I be responsible and have a handful of Kashi Cinnamon Harvest cereal or almonds?  Fortunately these are my 350 calories to play with, so I don’t have to feel guilty about them at all.


And finally according to My Fitness Pal, I burned 732 calories through exercising and am consuming 1250 calories through food which gives me a net intake of 516.  I’m pretty stoked about that – it’ll get the number on the scale going in the right direction.  But, never forget do not consume fewer than 1200 calories per day.  You will sabotage your weight loss efforts and do damage to your body.


TODAY’S HAPPY THOUGHT:   Did I tell you I’m one day closer to having a 3-way?  At Skyline, that is…


What are you going to do today to get closer to your fitness goals?  Comment on this note or drop me a line!  Here’s to good health!  -Michelle


If you are interested in weight loss or exercise, you need to consult your physician.  Period.  End of story.

My Fitness Secrets 10/4

TODAY’S WORKOUT:  It comes from page 105 in the August 2009 issue of Oxygen magazine (buy it at your grocery store, fall in love with it, then go subscribe).  I call it “50 minute hills”.  It looks like this:


Time                      Speed                   Incline                  (if your treadmill counts down instead of up)

0-5                          3.0                          0                              50-45

5-7                          3.2                          2                              45-43

7-9                          3.3                          4                              43-41

9-11                       3.3                          6                              41-49

11-13                     3.3                          8                              39-37

13-15                     3.0                          10                           37-35

15-17                     3.0                          12                           35-33

17-21                     3.0                          15                           33-29

21-25                     3.0                          12                           29-25

25-30                     3.0                          10                           25-20

30-35                     3.3                          7                              20-15

35-40                     3.3                          5                              15-10

40-45                     3.3                          3                              10-5

45-50                     2.5                          0                              5-0

This is a great “steady state” cardio workout that uses the incline of the treadmill, as opposed to speed, to push your cardio.  Since my current lifting scheme is only 3 days a week for the next few weeks, I am adding more cardio on my off days from lifting in order to get the burn (of calories).  The incline will also challenge your glutes, hamstrings, and quads without having to do actual lifting

When you start this workout, particularly in the first 7 minutes you may think to yourself “This is too easy!  I’m going to jack up the speed.  I’m walking too slowly; this is going to be a waste of 50 minutes.”  Don’t fool yourself.  It’ll get more difficult.  TRUST me!

TODAY’S TIP:  When you begin a treadmill work out, be sure to start by standing on the side/the rails and not on the belt.  Let the treadmill begin to pick up a little speed and then start to walk/jog on it.  This is a safety and a maintenance issue.  Next, nothing annoys me more than seeing some chick in a gym that gets on the treadmill, immediately cranks up the incline to 15, and proceeds to do her entire workout while hanging onto the treadmill.  Why bother with the incline if you’re going to cheat yourself out of the challenge?  In other words, do not hang on to the handrails or the top!  Don’t get lazy on me, people!  Instead, imagine as if you are holding walking sticks (think: ski poles) and with each step move your hands as if to use the walking sticks to help.  Keep good posture but lower your center of gravity and lean forward.  Yes, it is difficult but you’re strong enough to do it.  And the bonus for you?  You’re toning your butt and legs by using the incline – without wearing those stupid ShapeUp shoes (that are a complete waste of money, imo)!

TODAY’S RESOURCE RECOMMENDATION:  Fooducate – it is a free app, fun, and will teach you about the things you’re eating.

TODAY’S HAPPY THOUGHT:   I have a cheat meal planned for this weekend.  It’s Skyline.  YUM!

What are you going to do today to get closer to your fitness goals?  Comment on this note or drop me a line!  Here’s to good health!  -Michelle

If you are interested in weight loss or exercise, you need to consult your physician.  Period.  End of story.  Don’t be afraid to enlist their help.  After all, you’re PAYING them to help keep you healthy, right?  Your MD is a great resource to get you started and be your biggest cheerleader along the way.

My Fitness Secrets 10/3

Welcome to my first fitness note!  After posting my recent weight loss I got several messages asking me what my secret was, how do I do it, etc. so I have decided to put together some of my thoughts on health, fitness, and weight loss and share them with those of you who are interested.

MOST IMPORTANTLY:  The information I am sharing with you is for informational purposes only.  I am not a medical doctor (MD), registered dietitian (RD), and I do not hold any credential from a reputable, accredited governing body of fitness (such as NSCA, ACSM, NASM, ACE), I am not a CSCS or CPT, and I did not major in Kinesiology.  If you are interested in weight loss or exercise, you need to consult your physician.  Period.  End of story.  Don’t be afraid to enlist their help.  After all, you’re PAYING them to help keep you healthy, right?  Your MD is a great resource to get you started and be your biggest cheerleader along the way.

TODAY’S WORKOUT:  It comes from The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises. (Love that book, go check it out).  I did day #1 of Jen Heath’s Hard-Body Workout (on page 400).  It looks like this:

Exercise Set Rep Rest

1a. Overhead DB squat 2 x12 0 sec

1b. Pushup 2 12 0 sec

1c. DB Bulgarian Split Squat 2 x12 0 sec

1d. Inc DB Bench Press 2×12 0 sec

1e. Hanging Leg Raise 2×12 60 sec

2a. Goblet Squat 2x 12 0 sec

2b. DB Bench Press 2×12 0 sec

2c. DB Lunge 2x 12 0 sec

2d. DB Chest Fly 2x 12 0 sec

2e. V-up 2x 12 60 sec

Do all of the “1” exercises in succession without resting in between (you rest after you do 1e), then do your second set before moving on to the “2”s.  I LOVED this workout!  It was quick (30 minutes maybe) but exceptionally challenging.  I followed it up with 30 minutes of self-led step aerobics.  Because it requires you to move from one exercise to the next, it is a circuit so not only are you building muscle, you’re torching fat and calories.  Bonus!

TODAY’S TIP:  If you are not strength training, get on it NOW!  You don’t need a gym and you don’t even need equipment.  Use your body weight as resistance.  Women who don’t strength train may lose weight but they end up as shrunken versions of their old fat self.  Cardio alone isn’t going to cut it, girls.  There are so many other reasons why you should strength train that have nothing to do with appearance or vanity.  They include: strengthening the bones and warding off osteoporosis and putting muscle on your body so you can become a fuel-burning furnace all day long.  And, good news girls: you are not going to ever look like the scary women inside the pages of Muscle & Fitness.  Why?  You don’t possess the level of testosterone necessary to get bulky and massive.

MY HAPPY THOUGHT THAT KEEPS ME GOING TODAY: This weekend I pulled out a pair of jeans and when I put them on they were baggy.  The last time I wore them my thighs felt like sausages tightly encased in denim.

What are you going to do today to get closer to your fitness goals?  Comment on this note or drop me a line!  Here’s to good health!  -Michelle