I teach a Cardio Sculpt class at The Glass Courts every Wednesday evening. Each week I try to create a new class set because I want to challenge my participants and I never want anyone to be bored with the format.
Last night I designed a class that required nothing but a mat and a paper plate. When I told the class we weren’t using weights they responded with wide eyes, “So it’s all cardio?” No, not all cardio, but a good mix. Trust me. I could tell by the look in their eyes they had reservations.
Fast forward to the end of class, when I asked, “Was it still a quality workout even without weights?” I got many exhausted, sweaty nods, along with comments like, “Next time I won’t doubt you,” and “Challenging and different, I liked it!”
So often I think we get hung up on needing fancy gym equipment to complete a workout and it’s simply not true. I loved to train people out of their homes because I felt like it gave me a great chance to show them how little equipment is required to stay physically fit.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are numerous benefits to resistance training and I encourage people to incorporate weights in their weekly routine, however, a simple body weight workout can be a great way to challenge yourself while building muscle and endurance.
Following is my class set from last night – I’ve included instructions or links to many of the exercises in case you are unfamiliar with the name, form, or movement. This routine should take approx. 1 hour to complete and be sure to stay hydrated!
Warm Up – 5 minutes – in class I do a series of low impact moves, you decide what works best for you
March in place
Heel Ups (stand with feet wider than hip width and kick your heel towards your butt, pull elbows back as you kick or reach arms to the ceiling and pull down to sides)
Step with a reach across the body (take a wide step to the right and reach your left hand to the right, step left and reach with the right)
Knee cross (raise right knee and bring left elbow across the body to the outside of your right knee, raise left knee and bring right elbow across the body to the outside of your left knee)
Circuit #1 Kickboxing (30 seconds each move = 4 min cardio)
Step kick right (start by kicking to the right, as your right foot returns to the floor step to the left with your left foot, step right with left foot and kick right again, repeat)
Step kick left (start by kicking to the left, as your left foot returns to the floor step to the right with your right foot, step left with right foot and kick left again, repeat)
Squat with a jab cross (drop to a squat position, as you raise up punch with your left then your right, repeat)
Back lunge right with a knee raise NOTE: the video shows the use of dumbbells, they are not required
Back lunge left with a knee raise (see above video for back lunge right with a knee raise)
Uppercut with a twist NOTE: the video shows the use of bands, they are not required
Circuit #2 (Mat Work: 1st set 20 reps, 2nd set 10 reps)
Bird dog (right arm, left leg)
Hydrants (left leg)
Leg Raises (left leg; on hands and knees, raise left leg to hydrant pose, then straighten leg so it is perpendicular with your torso, raise and lower the leg)
REPEAT Bird dog, hydrants and raises other side
Push-up with superman (from a push-up position – either from knees or toes – lower all the way to the floor, raise both arms and legs off of the floor, place hands under shoulders and press back into push-up position, repeat)
Single hand toe touch (lying on your back raise right arm and left leg at the same time, reaching fingers towards your toes, complete reps for this side then switch to left arm and right leg)
Circuit #3 (Leg work: 1st set 20 reps, 2nd set 10 reps)
Right side slide out NOTE: I used a paper plate in class, if you don’t have a surface that will allow you to slide your foot out do your best to keep your weight on your left leg)
Left side slide out (see above)
Squat (complete full motion reps then pulse)
Right static lunge (complete full motion reps then pulse) NOTE: video shows movement, this is an option, however, in class I taught lowering and lifting from the lunge position
Left static lunge (complete full motion reps then pulse) (see above)
Plie squat (complete full motion reps then pulse)
Right curtsy lunge with knee lift NOTE: to include the knee lift simply raise your right knee toward your chest after raising from the lunge
Left curtsy lunge with knee lift (repeat above)
Circuit #4 (Mat Work: 1st set 20 reps, 2nd set 10 reps)
Plank with donkey kick (complete all reps on one side, then the other)
Side plank leg lift right NOTE: you can modify by placing your left knee on the floor, pressing in to a side plank and lifting your right leg
Side plank leg lift left (see above)
Plank with spiderman step (holding in push-up position, step your right foot up and place it by your right hand, return to start position, repeat left side)
Full sit up with jab cross (complete a full sit up and punch with the right, then left and return to start)
Repeat Circuits 1, 2 3 and 4
Enjoy your workout!!!!
As a trainer I would talk to my clients about being realistic with setting goals. I encouraged them to examine truths about themselves that may prevent them from achieving goals. One of my favorite examples to use was the fact I am not a morning person so I purposely avoid setting exercise goals for early morning workouts to avoid failure and disappointment.
Now that I’m working my hatred for mornings is going to have to take a back seat. I feel rushed every night to try and spend time with the kiddos, run errands, make dinner, do laundry, teach classes and still get to the gym for my personal workouts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fortunate enough to have a supportive family who all pitches in around the house, but as many of us know, there can be more to do than the hours in the day will allow.
So this morning I set 3 alarms: two on my phone and one on my FitBit. My phone and FitBit both went off as scheduled at 5:00am. I silenced both alarms and pulled the covers up a little higher, all while battling with myself about the good reasons to get up and the ‘good’ excuses to stay in bed. Five minutes later my second alarm went off on my phone and the good reasons won over the ‘good’ excuses.
Half awake, brushing my teeth, I decided my pajama sweats were good enough for the gym. I then tiptoed past our bed and looked on my sleeping husband thinking, ‘He said he was going to the gym this morning too. If he’s not getting up, maybe I should just lay back down too.’ Despite the temptation to reset my alarm and get back in bed, I swapped out my top, threw in a ponytail and searched for my gym shoes.
I couldn’t help but notice I was about the only car on the road as I headed to the gym. My thoughts returned to my husband and I wondered if he had since rose and headed to the gym as well. While still thinking fondly of my warm bed, I pulled into the lot at Patriot Boxing and I realized I wasn’t the only crazy one – there were at least 4 cars there and more following behind me.
Groggigly I explained that I had forgot my card and entered the gym. A number of the women clearly already knew each other and were chatting and laughing. Who in the world is this happy to work out at 530am?! Instead of joining in the chatter looked to my phone to check in for my Gym Pact. Now it’s not my intention to be unfriendly, but let me remind you how much I despise mornings. I thought I’d be better off saving my conversations for the cool down.
Before I knew it we were running laps for a warm-up and the groggy feeling started to lift. My steps got a bit lighter, my pace got a bit faster and before I knew it the warm-up was over and the true workout began. I’ll admit, there were a couple times throughout the workout I checked the clock and wondered what in the world was a non-morning person doing at the gym so early. But as I worked to catch my breath and the sweat rolled off me, I couldn’t help but think this was a pretty good way to start my day.
My early morning boot camp helped me to:
- Complete a solid hour of cardio and resistance training
- Achieve over 4,500 steps before 7 am
- Work the grumpy out
- Regain an hour and a half of my evening (the time normally spent working out and driving to and from the gym)
But most importantly, early morning boot camp made me realize that not being a morning person isn’t a truth anymore, it’s now an excuse. It’s an excuse that is no longer going to stand in the way of me achieving my health and fitness goals. Early morning workouts are going to become the norm, and rather than being the grumpy lady looking at my phone, I’m going to engage in the pre-workout conversation and laughter.
Do you have any ‘truths’ that may simply be excuses holding you back from achieving your goals?
I despise the thought of being defined by the number on the scale. That said, regular weigh-ins can be a good reality check. Let’s face it, we all know when our clothes feel a little tighter or when our muffin top becomes more noticeable with certain outfits. But for me, tighter jeans or a ill-fitting top just makes me dig a little deeper in my closet and find something more flattering. Tight clothes aren’t the wake up call I need; seeing a climbing number on the scale is the splash of cold water I need to wake up and examine how my choices are affecting my health.
So in an effort to be accountable and try and shed a few pounds for summer I joined a weight loss challenge at Patriot Boxing. I find that if I am accountable to a team or a challenge I feel empowered to make better choices.
Last night was the weigh in for week two and I bombed it. I would have been okay with holding steady, but instead I actually gained. Right back to where I started at week one. In that moment I felt like I had let myself down, I let my team down, and oddly I felt the weight of disappointment from my previous clients who looked back and me and asked, ‘How is that possible? I’ve been working so hard.’
The reality is, I too have been working hard. Unfortunately, when it comes to the number on the scale all that hard work can’t overcome some of the other things I haven’t been so great at:
- Poor sleeping patterns
- Skipping weekend workouts
- Eating too few calories
- Eating enough calories but not getting the right balance of carbs, proteins and fats
- Eating dinner late
- Eating too little for breakfast
- Eating meals out
See a pattern here? Eating. So what did I do after my terrible weigh in? I ordered a pizza with double pepperoni, ate 3 pieces and attacked the candy drawer for dessert. Clearly not the best of choices but I have to say that pizza tasted good.
So where do I go from here? I can continue to negative self-talk about all the ways I failed, especially with the pizza and candy, or I can take stock of the past week as a whole and be empowered as I work towards my week three weigh in.
- Poor sleeping patterns – Yes, I stayed up too late, but I would have missed out on quality time with friends and my husband. For those moments, I’ll gladly give up a little sleep.
- Skipping weekend workouts – I could have been more intentional about working out over the weekend and that is something I should work on. However, throughout the week I put in some good hard workouts.
- Eating too few calories – The days I ate too few calories, I simply wasn’t hungry. I try to tune into my body and eat when hungry and stop when I’m full. I know consuming too few calories can slow metabolism, but I’m not going to force feed myself when I’m not hungry.
- Eating enough calories but not getting the right balance of carbs, proteins and fats – This is a work in progress and some days I am right on the money.
- Eating dinner late – We live busy lives. I’d rather eat a late dinner and enjoy it with my whole family rather than eating in shifts.
- Eating too little for breakfast – I’m generally not hungry in the morning and something is better than nothing. It’s time to get back to my green smoothies.
- Eating meals out – Sometimes this is beyond our control and I at least made healthy choices. I wanted a bacon cheeseburger, instead I ordered a salad with no dressing.
Yes, by the number on the scale I failed. But in looking at the whole picture, I gained in a good way. I embraced time with family and friends and I made healthy choices as often as possible. Sure I have things to work on for the coming week, but I’m not going to let the disappointment of a bad weigh in weigh me down.
A couple months ago my husband anxiously awaited the delivery of a stand to convert his traditional desk to a standing desk. As someone who hadn’t been tied to a desk for a few years I had a hard time understanding the purpose or even his excitement about making the change. I can honestly say given the option I would too have a standing desk.
Sitting all day makes me anxious, and in some ways, even though I’m clearly working, it makes me feel lazy. I work in a small office where I rarely need to get up to have a conversation with a co-worker and there are definitely no stairs involved in my day. The most activity I get is walking to the water cooler to refill my water bottle. By the time I leave the office I’ve accumulated a whopping 1,500 or so steps for the day.
I think it hit me the hardest when I was completing my profile for the MyFitnessPal app and selected ‘sedentary’ for my lifestyle. Ugh, I saw red flags flash before my eyes and heard warning sirens screaming through my head – personal trainer and group fitness instructor turns to a sedentary lifestyle.
Unfortunately, I’m not to the point that I feel comfortable asking for a standing desk. First, I’m still relatively new and with it being a small company there isn’t a whole lot of focus on providing customized desk set ups. In fact, I’m pretty sure most of the office chairs would fail ergonomic testing. Second, I’ve already proved myself as ‘which one of these things is not like the other.’ My co-workers think I’m a bit strange for ordering salads with no dressing when we go out to lunch and no one understands why I turn down the daily offerings of breads, pastries and other sweets.
While I don’t have the power to change my seating arrangement, I do have the ability to change my posture and activate my muscles while sitting. One of my favorite classes to teach is Pilates because it largely focuses on body awareness and activating muscles through proper posture. Pilates helps to build flexibility, muscle strength and endurance while developing a strong core. So why not apply the principles of the ‘Pilates posture’ to sitting at a desk?
Here’s how to do it (give it a try as you read through these cues):
Head: Elongate your spine and pull the top of your head towards the ceiling. You should feel taller.
Shoulders: Draw your shoulders down and away from your ears. You should also feel your chest open and your shoulders slightly tucked back so your shoulder blades are in contact with the back of your chair.
Core: Draw your navel up and in as though you are buttoning it to your spine. You should feel your abdominal muscles engage while your lower back presses lightly into the back of your chair.
Legs: Zip your legs together from your feet to your sacrum. You should feel your inner thighs (or adductors) engage.
Now granted, I understand this posture isn’t one that comes naturally. Believe me, I find myself with hunched shoulders, crossed legs and an overall droopy posture more than I would like to admit. However, now every time that I catch myself slouching I start from the top and work my way to my feet correcting my posture. It’s certainly not a full blown workout but maintaining these ‘connections’ makes my body do more work than if I was sitting here with no body awareness. For me it’s yet another good reminder that even the small things count when trying to maintain health.
Maybe after a while I will be comfortable enough in my own skin to stand at my desk, but until then I’ll continue with my seated Pilates workout.
Life has a funny way of taking unexpected, yet appreciated turns.
If you read my blog you probably know that just over a year ago my family relocated to a suburb outside of Chicago. In an effort to get the family settled, I took time off and focused on being a wife and mom. I was free to hit the gym anytime during the day and often put in two workouts a day. It was kind of a nice break from the hectic schedule of training and teaching I left behind when we moved. While the break was nice, I was getting anxious to again have something of my own. Shortly after picking up some classes and rebuilding my ‘work’out wardrobe I got a call from a recruiter. ‘I found your resume online and I was wondering if you would be interested in a position as a Production Manager with a local e-Learning company.’
After a couple weeks of great contemplation and numerous discussions with friends and family, I decided returning to a more traditional job was the best choice for both me and my family. It’s now been almost two months since I started working in an office and I’m finding my way back to making health and exercise a priority.
I always thought I could identify with my clients because I was a working wife and mom too. But having a career in fitness, as opposed to a traditional office job makes you take a number of things for granted:
- Getting 10,000 steps in a day – it was incredibly difficult for me to understand how people couldn’t meet this threshold number. Now that I sit at a desk all day, I have to intentionally work to get my 10,000 steps.
- Drinking water – it’s pretty difficult to chug down coffee or a soda in the gym but when sitting at a desk they seem to be the best source for giving the extra charge needed to get through the last tough project of the day.
- Getting to the gym – When you work at the gym, it’s clearly never a problem to stay an extra 30 minutes or an hour to get in a personal workout. After a long day at the office, it takes some convincing, some willpower and a whole lot of determination and planning to fit in that 30 minutes or an hour at the gym.
- Making good food choices – Similar to drinking water, it’s pretty easy to down a healthy meal/snack at the gym. The last thing anyone wants is unhealthy food weighing down your body and energy while trying to encourage others to ‘step it up.’ Food is fuel to keep going through training sessions and classes. But when sitting at a desk, food is either an afterthought because of the bustle of meetings and projects or another trip out to lunch with co-workers.
So while I am no longer training and teaching full time, I’d like to shift the focus of my blog to help support the vast majority of women out there who are struggling to find balance with it all. I recognize what I took for granted and I now understand better than ever the struggles many of my past clients faced.
So from one overscheduled working mom to my audience of overscheduled lives, here’s my advice:
- 10,000 steps – yes, the number of steps you take a day does make a difference so pick up a pedometer or use something like a FitBit to track your activity levels. It’s important to start with an awareness of your activity levels so that you can make the necessary adjustments. I’ve discovered the most efficient way for me to get my steps in is a 30 minute run. Running may not be for you, and that’s okay. Take a walk with a friend, join a step aerobics or Zumba class, play a game of basketball with your kids – be creative and do what it takes to meet that 10,000 step mark each day.
- Drinking water – hydration is a major contributor to weight loss and overall health. The standard is to consume the equivalent of half of your body weight in ounces in water each day. Believe me, there are many days that I would prefer a coffee to water, but I am finding that staying hydrated is a great way to maintain my energy levels. If I am properly hydrated the caffeine isn’t as crucial. Get a refillable water bottle that you like and keep it on your desk or near you wherever you are. I’m not a fan of drinking out of plastic so I found a glass water bottle that I love.
- Getting to the gym – I always advised my clients to put their workouts on their calendars. You wouldn’t skip a meeting or lunch with a friend, so don’t skip gym time you have scheduled for yourself. I am finally taking my own advice and have all of the classes I plan to take on my calendar. When I miss a class it is staring me right back in the face. Another thing is to recognize what the most appropriate time of the day is for you to exercise – if you aren’t a morning person, don’t expect that bouncing out of bed at 5am to hit the gym before work is going to come easy. Be realistic about the expectations you set for yourself with exercise. I’m learning a ton of lessons in the ‘getting to the gym category’ but I’ll stop with this last one for now - something is better than nothing. If you only have 10 minutes, then do a few push-ups, crunches and jumping jacks. Just do something!
- Making good food choices – planning and preparation are key to good food choices, both during the work day and at home. I’ve found that bringing healthy options to the office is a great way to ensure I don’t skip lunch or make an unhealthy choice. I don’t always have time in the morning so when cleaning up from dinner I take a few extra moments to make a lunch. When heading out to lunch with co-workers I make sure to first check out the salads or light plate offerings and always ask for dressing or sauces on the side. Week night dinners are often now crockpot meals or easy recipes and I’m saving the more time consuming cooking for the weekend. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with heating up leftovers for dinner.
I’m enjoying my job and while it’s been a bit of a struggle to maintain my focus on health and fitness while transitioning back to an office environment, I’m embracing the journey. By trading my gym shoes for high heels I’m gaining a better understanding of the reality of working moms everywhere.
I’m confident I’ll find my way and hopefully I can help inspire others along the way too.
Even before I was a trainer I believed in the value of logging calories – and I still do. Before the days of smart phones I would keep track of everything in a notebook. Then along came great apps like LoseIt and MyFitness Pal which made it much easier to log my caloric intake.
Because I still believe in the value of food journals I want to take a few moments to share with you the benefits of keeping one of your own.
Food Journals Create Awareness
Many times we aren’t aware of how much we are actually consuming. By keeping a record you can take an honest look at your caloric intake for the day. This can be extremely eye opening and can raise your awareness to areas you may be able to cut back. For instance, many people don’t recognize the calories associated with beverages because it’s not a meal. Eliminating juices, coffee drinks with heavy syrups, and reducing alcohol intake are an easy way to cut back on unnecessary calories.
Food Journals Establish Accountability
When I logged my food I paused to think about every food choice. Did I really want Hershey kisses bad enough to account for 200 calories of my daily allowance? Probably not. By tracking your food intake you are much more likely to think twice about a food choice rather than just mindlessly consuming it.
Food Journals Reveal Patterns
There are a number of things you can learn about your eating patterns through food journals. Do you snack more at night if you skip breakfast? Are you always looking for something to snack on at 3pm when the kiddos are getting home from school? Do you crave junk food after consuming alcohol? These are just a few examples of what you might discover through food journaling. We all have our own patterns and food journaling is a great way to learn more about your own.
Food Journals Reflect Nutritional Deficiencies
Many times we are not getting the proper balance of carbs, proteins and fats and through food journaling you can discover which areas you may be under or over-consuming. Thankfully most of the apps available now will give you a breakdown of your nutritional intake. In general this is what you should be consuming:
- Protein: approximately 50 to 70 grams (depending on body size) or 12 – 20% of your caloric intake
- Carbs: a minimum of 125 grams, optimal 350 to 400 grams or 55 – 65% of caloric intake **NOTE: these are healthy carbs from fruits and veggies, NOT processed carbs found in pre-packed and processed foods
- Fat: approximately 30 to 65 grams depending on caloric consumption, or 25 – 30% caloric intake
So with all of these benefits why in the world would I stop counting my calories? I’ve been working towards clean eating for many years. In fact, my daughter Ella once told me that I must have different taste buds from the rest of the family since I chose carrots over chips for a snack.
I’ve recently discovered that for me, food journaling makes me overly obsessed with calories. As a result I make some very poor and damaging choices.
For instance, I am so fearful of going over my calories that I am likely to skip a meal (maybe even two) to compensate for the pizza I am going to eat for dinner. I’m so obsessed with staying within my limits that I limit my protein intake to avoid the extra calories. So in my effort to be healthy, I’m achieving the exact opposite: a screwed up metabolism and a body vulnerable to sickness and injury.
So I stopped journaling and started focusing on three things:
- Recognizing Hunger
- Portion Sizes
- Smart Choices
I’m no longer bound to meal time because the clock says so. I am listening to my body and eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full. Sometimes that means breakfast is only a green smoothie. Other mornings it may be a smoothie and egg whites. Which brings me to…
I am concentrating on staying true to portion sizes. Anything, even pizza, eaten in the proper portion size and moderation can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. So now instead of starving myself all day for pizza, I make sure that I also have a salad with my pizza.
Having a salad with my pizza is just one example of making smart choices. I’m far less likely to eat 4 slices if I start with a salad. Not only will the salad help to fill me up but it is a great reminder of what good food tastes like as compared to fatty processed food.
So I’ve stopped counting calories because for me it was becoming a destructive behavior. Rather than feeling oppressed by food, I feel empowered to make the right choices.
My goal in sharing this with you today is to empower you to discover what works best for YOU. Life is not a one size fits all. For some, food journaling is the exact tool that empowers them, if that’s you – I encourage you to keep it up! I whole-heartedly believe journaling can be an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, however, it is just not a tool that works for me.
When it comes to living a healthy life take time to consider what helps you to feel the best about yourself – if something makes you feel worse about yourself, find a new way.
I love food, but I’ve come to realize I have an unhealthy and dysfunctional relationship with food.
I struggle with cravings.
I struggle with portion sizes.
When it comes to cravings rarely seek out sweets or chips. I crave things like pizza and cheeseburgers, which may have some redeeming nutritional value however tend to be very high in calories and saturated fats. And yes I know there are ways to make these dishes in a more healthy way, and I’ve tried them, but they aren’t the same. There are times that the only thing that will do is a classic slice, or two (or three or…) of pepperoni pizza.
Which brings me to portion sizes. I have a difficult time sticking to the recommended portion sizes. I know one of the best ways to reduce portion sizes is to reduce your plate size, and I do that. But then I go back for seconds, totally defeating the purpose of the smaller plate. (If you are unfamiliar with a standard portion or need a refresher click here to review a slide show on portions.)
So because I suffer from cravings and portion control, I have created a distorted perception of food. Instead of seeing food as fuel for my body there are times I fear having to make food choices and times where I even hate it because I’m unable to ‘control’ my consumption. As a result I see food as what makes me dread stepping on the scale instead of a necessity to help me stay healthy and active.
Granted, I’ve trained myself to think through my choices and not be impulsive so most days my food consumption remains in check. But there are those days where no amount of self-talk can provide the willpower needed to not give into the cravings or extra helpings. For years I’ve beat myself up over those days. I’ve been disappointed in my failure to eat healthy, I’ve chastised myself for seeing the numbers rise on the scale and I’ve looked in the mirror and said some pretty awful things to myself – things I would never say to any other person.
After a really tough conversation with my best friend (my husband) I realized my mirror dialog needed to change. It needed to change not only for me, but it needed to change so that my children would never look in a mirror and think negatively of themselves.
I recently posted two links on my Personal Training FaceBook page that have helped me greatly in thinking differently about my relationship with food:
- The first is about a 13 minute video in which neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt uses her personal story to explain how our brains manage our bodies, and the science behind why dieting not only doesn’t work, but is likely to do more harm than good. She suggests ideas for how to live a less diet-obsessed life, intuitively. Do yourself a favor, watch this video.
- The next is a follow-up blog on the science of willpower written by Kelly McGonigal. Her blog explores why we cannot rely on willpower and is applicable to much more than just dieting and food consumption.
I recognize that in order to change my mirror dialog, I have to change my relationship with food. I need to recognize food as the fuel to help me be a loving wife and mom and a successful fitness professional. What is your relationship with food? Is it a healthy one? If not, take some time to think about how you can work on that relationship so that it doesn’t affect the way you talk to yourself.