Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rest & Recovery

We never stop. We go to school, we go to work, the kids soccer game, cruising youtube, cleaning the house...does it ever stop???? Granted, I'm the worst at stopping but I am a big proponent of rest and recovery in diet and exercise.

For those over-achievers out there, hitting the gym twice a day, working full-time and all the other commitments you have, don't you just feel burnt out? I know I did last summer. I was bordering on over-training syndrome (http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/overtraining/a/aa062499a.htm). I was cooked, nothing left it, it wasn't fun, I wasn't proud of myself! I was violating one of my very own cardinal rules~~~REST AND RECOVER. When we push ourselves, in particular in the gym, we tear ourselves down. In lifting weights, we make micro tears in our muscles in the negative phase of the lift. This isn't building our muscles, this is damaging them. The way we increase and improve our muscular strength is from the recovery. The rest day after a hard lift is when these tears are healed together creating a larger and stronger muscle fiber. It's absolutely essential to have a recovery day when lifting.

I also find the "free" day or diet free period is as important as the diet itself. I hate feeling like I can't or shouldn't have something but if I know that I have a "free" day coming up, I can usually talk myself into waiting. It is similar in the concept that I posted with the zig zag diet. By not providing a level, steady state amount of calories/nutrients, the body has to work harder to metabolize and digest them. If you stay in a low carb state for long periods of time, your body will begin to work more efficiently with less carbs and you'll see your diet starting to slow. If you throw a high carb day in there, your body is suddenly working harder to process the new way eating and thus kicking you back into a more efficient calorie burning machine!

So take this as your permission slip to take a break! Enjoy a day off and find a renewed sense of optimism.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Down A Pound and a Half!!

Mark Sisson, Ilove you!!! (Don't worry honey, it's for his diet!) Weigh in this weekend was 137.5, not bad for a chick that struggles to drop a 1/2 pound a week.

As you know from my last post, I've stumble across Mark Sisson's Primal Diet. The concept harkens back to the caveman days when we were hunters and gatherer. Yes, the concept is about restricting starchy and sugary carbs (some of my favorites and definitely my weaknesses).

Here's what I've mapped out for my first 2 to 3 weeks on my version of the primal diet. I'm not counting calories but I am counting carbs. I am not doing the goofy fiber v. carb content right now. For the kick off, a carb is a carb is a carb. My daily goal is to eat near (usually slightly above) 100 g/carb/day. My protein is around 1 g/pound a day also. I am monitoring my fat intake but not restricting it. I am making sure that my fat choices are healthy ones (olive oil, avocado and my new favorite, Kraft Light Mayo with Olive Oil). Do I miss all the bread and cheez its that I chow down on, oh, my yes but I'm so impressed with the weight loss it just seems to click. I love my veggies and my salads so I'm still enjoying things that I would eat every day anyway!

In addition to my macro nutrient change, I'm also being sure to have my Omega 3 supplements 3 x day, 1 multivitamin x day and 1 calcium/vita D 1 x day.

My exercise hasn't really changed much. Since I teach 3-4 x week and then I take yoga, it's fitting the exercise goal. The big difference (and really thanks to the daily apple for this) is that I don't feel guilty for not doing MORE. Coming from the gym rat, competition mind set, the philosophy was hours in the gym, grunting, sweating and straining. I've released that and instead I'm using my teaching as my intervals and those peak moments and I'm making a point of the low level continuous activity as being prominent. What freedom.

I'll keep you posted but I'm actually excited for bathing suit season!!! Still rockin it at 40!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I'm going PRIMAL.....

I felt like I found my home a couple of days ago when I was searching the internet on ways to bust a diet plateau. As many of you many know, this year was my year for balance. I'm looking for a natural way to live, to find ways to restore and maintain not only my health, but my sanity (good luck with that and having 5 kids and 2 dogs!). I've been feeling like I've been swimming upstream and that my homeostasis had very little to do with 3 hours a day in the gym and crazy calorie/macronutrient tracking. I've fallen in love with yoga and I've scaled way back on my workouts. I've been drawn more to the mind body rides in our spinning class but my weight is still sticking around my gut. I just don't have the heart to do the competition or cut diet that I did last year; I felt like I was losing my mind!

Low and behold...Mark Sisson and his amazing blog....http://www.marksdailyapple.com

The thing that I appreciate with Mark's information is the simplicity and the level of gut reaction I had while reading it. It felt right, it felt balanced and it felt natural. Mark's premise is that our genetics have not morphed that far from when we were primal beings hunting and gathering. Diabetes, obesity and a host of many other ailments are stemming from our highly refined and processed diet. Now don't go getting all organic and freaked out on me. This isn't why I LOVE his primal diet. The thing that sold me is the fact that he talks about filling his 6 cup tupperware container up with his 20 veggie salad and chows down...NOW THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!! Give me the grub! I'm quite happy with giant greens and veggies with my side of beef!

I admit that lately due to dashing between work, teaching, T's karate and J's cough I've been eating way too much processed foods. (I ate 2 poptarts for dinner last night-vanilla milkshake flavor~yum but oh so bad!). So I've decided to jump on board the primal eating project. I'm going to try and limit my carbs to 100 g/day with the idea that some days may be higher and some lower. Mark also recommends the calorie and muscle confusion that I hold near and dear to my heart...(see my post on zig zag calories and muscle confusion is coming soon!). I'll keep my protein at .8- 1 g/1 lb of body weight per day and keep my fats healthy.

So here's my jumping off point...Today I weigh 139 pounds and the weight lingers on...I'll keep you posted. Better yet, join me on the primal path!!!!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Power Yoga

I've been in the fitness industry for 20 years. I started out when we wore g-strings over our spandex tight (eeek!). I was also introduced to Kripalu Yoga (www.kripalu.org) in 1989 by my mother. It was my first taste of non-western exercise. Kripalu is a wonderful yoga although it didn't satisfy my very busy 21 year old mind at the time and I soon drifted into many other forms of fitness.

At the end of 2008, I reflected on my year and I felt the desire for balance of mind and body. After dedicating so much time and effort to what my outside should look like, I felt very lopsided. Training and living in the life of figure competitions is a very disciplined lifestyle but I found it very one dimensional. I have huge respect for all of the competitors but I was missing the nuturance and the balance of my spirit. Additionally, I had lost a great deal of range of motion due to the training. All of my muscles were being trained in a contraction.

I read an article in the newspaper about a place in Shadyside called Amazing Yoga (www.amazingyoga.net). These were the yogi's the Pittsburgh Steelers. Boy, did that appeal to me. I figured if it's physical enough for the Steel Curtain, it's right up my alley. I took my first class in January and was instantly hooked from the physicality of it. As I continued my practice, I became more aware of my imbalances such as tight shoulders, tight hips, etc. It started to become a source of frustration AND a challenge. Also as an instructor, the yoga practice greatly enhanced MY classes. I became more mind-body focused.

Yesterday I took Karen Conley's class (http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A20488). Karen and her husband Sean, own Amazing Yoga. The class was intense and varied from the other classes I had taken. Her transitions were seemless, her guided meditation was powerful. For the first time in years, she took me to a place of physical and emotional surrender. I felt a release and success within myself that I had never before experienced. I felt my strength in a way in which I never had while cutting and training for a competition.

Needless to say, I'm inspired and I'm hooked. I am looking forward to what the next 20 years will unveil with the help of Amazing Yoga.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Autism and Yoga

My youngest son has autism. He is very high functioning, some people may call him "quirky". I think he's fanatastic. Lately little T has become enraptured with yoga and martial arts. He will often join me while I do a series of sun salutations and often cracks me up when he does his "om" (which he learned from the cartoon Skunk Fu).

His stepdad just took him to see his first martial arts class this week and he was over the moon. He has learned how to bow and how to do the greeting. He's raring to start his karate lessons with his big T (his stepdad).

One of the interesting things that is starting to emerge with my son is the effect that Eastern based activities are providing him. Because yoga and martial arts are based so much on the internal discipline rather than group competition, my son is beginning to recognize the control he can have over his world. A child with autism perceives the world in ways in which the "typical" person can't understand. Quite often their frustration and reaction are due to the fact that they don't "fit" and can't participate the way that the rest of us take for granted. The gift of yoga and martial arts is that it provides these kids with the opportunity to find their strength and their stillness in the chaos that autism cloaks their perception with.

So I have great optimism in what little T and I will find in the coming months as we explore our Eastern based training programs. Little T & I are working on some videos to share his progress with you!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The joy of SPINNING

I love Spinning, I love teaching it, I love doing the ride and I love the music! We had an excellent class today; we did TONS of climbs to old rock music. Nothing like busting hump to "Sympathy for the Devil". My quads burned like I was pushing the leg press!

I'm finding a complete body workout through spinning and yoga. I like the similarity of the mind~body connection that I get in both workouts. Yoga makes me feel incredibly long and strong, particularly my upper body. Spinning challenges my lower body in so many different variations from hill climbs to sprints to long saddle runs.

If you've never tried spinning, I heartily encourage it! Unlike traditional aerobics, spinning is an individual workout in a group setting. As an instructor, I often tell my students that my directions are really just suggestions. I know as I'm leading, I have specific type of ride I have set up for them but it is an individual choice whether you want to take that ride on that day. Today we did many, many variations of hill climbs and I was very happy to see that some of my students took the challenge and even happier to see that some knew when to back off and tailor the ride to their needs.

I always try to incorporate a meditative ride right after a particularly difficult segment; I've found that when we push our bodies beyond our comfort zone, we often find a new clarity and insight in that fatigue. In weight lifting that point is often called the "failure", I'm not a fan of that description for spinning. In spinning, I find it to be just short of "I can't". I will tell my class to find first position and find a visual focal point or to close their eyes. In this position, we can look inside after being stripped of our defenses and give ourselves a high five for meeting the challenge and focus on what we want from our ride and our day.

Come and ride with us!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Do you follow your heart?

I woke up the other morning with the thought, "do I live life or does life live me?". There are so many external influences in my life at the moment that have been weighing heavily on me and I've been feeling rather beat down.

I've taken up the practice of yoga, initially to help balance my physical well being, but an unexpected side effect has popped up. As I struggle to perform poses that are just outside of my reach, I'm often guided by a gentle voice that allows me to modify, accept, and celebrate the position that I can achieve. There was a psychic shift that took place this week for me also. I could no longer hang out in the dark where so much is out of my control. I realized that I was having wonderful thoughts of success and change. They were appearing in my daily consciousness and also showing up in my dreams. It's amazing how these intangible thoughts and feelings have lightened and brightened my outlook.

And so I come back around to my question, "do I live life or does life live me". Yes, I do both. I took action that changed my feelings/thoughts. Suddenly the life I was living was coming alive inside of me. There's a saying that you have to learn to walk the walk before you can talk the talk. I may stumble but the first steps have been sweet.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Maximum Heart Rate and Fitness

I get this question all the time.."how do I know how hard I should be working?". The pat answer would be to work between 60 and 85 percent of your maximum heart. The most well known formula for calculating your maximum heart rate is:

220-your age= x
x times 60-85%=Target Heart Rate

180 X 75%=135

This is a simple and quick method but not always the most accurate for my students and clients who are more experienced exercisers. A bit more complicated but much more precise is the karvonen formula. To use this formula, you need to calculate your resting heart rate. Preferable first thing in the morning or after lying down for a bit at the end of the day, time your pulse rate. This will be your resting heart rate.

To calculate with the karvonen formula:

220-your age=x
x-resting heart rate=y
y x 60-85%= z
z + resting heart = target heart rate

120 X 75%=90

As you can see from the calculations, when you add in your resting pulse rate, you get a more accurate calculation. My target heart rate is 150 calculated with resting pulse rate and 135 based on age, that's 15 bpm higher.

A third option that can be used is the "all out" method. WARNING, this is not to be used by people who are new to exercise or who have medical conditions where over exertion could be dangerous to their health. After a proper warm up, go all out in one aerobic activity for 60 seconds (sprint, cyle, etc). Preferably have a heart rate monitor on, check to see what your pulse rate is at the completion. You may find that your maximum heart rate is greater than the 220. If it is, you adjust the maximum heart rate in the above formulas.

Knowing your maximum and target heart rates is very informational and beneficial. My personal choice is perceived exertion. Quite often in class, I will tell my students to exert their effort to a 6 on a scale of 1-10. Not very scientific but very simple. In addition, the hard numbers you set with the formulas don't allow you the variance for an off day. If you know that your 75% THR is 150 and I ask for an effort of 7 or 8 and you can only get your heart rate up to 140, you may feel defeated. That's why I like rate of perceived exertion (RPE); it gives you the flexibility to adjust to what is going on with you on that day.

Always pay attention to how you're feeling when exercising. Just like in life, they are good days and bad. Just keep on track even when you stumble and you'll get to where you want to be.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Energy Follows Intention

I have a great sign by my front door that says "THINK ABUNDANTLY Energy Follows Intention". It really does, doesn't it? I think back over the years and I can recall those times in my life where my thoughts were complete abundance whether it be financial, professional or personal. I made my own reality.

So why do I struggle more with it at 40 than I did at 21? Experience vs. naivety? My husband would say I fill my life up to more than I can swallow and, granted, I sometimes operate out of a place of fear that if I don't take advantage of what is presented to me now, it won't be there tomorrow.

Now it is time to slow down while encompassing as much as I can. My life is so rich in the things that matter. I have an incredible (and large) family, I have delightful and wonderful friends and I am constantly honored and awed by the women who I teach and train with. I've been presented with abundance and opportunity and I need to make the choice to LIVE ABUNDANTLY. It is not a chore, it is a choice.

Sundays are my days that my boys are with their dad so my choice for today is husband time, organize time and me time with some hot yoga. I've got to remember that abundance is given to me, I don't need to heap it all on to my plate at once.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blog, journal, track, scratch, document....why?

Write it down.
Work it out on paper.
Log it into a spreadsheet.
Blog into on blogger or bodyspace.
Keep a notebook.

For years I've been writing it down. I write down my routines and my clients' routines. I have a hefty rolodex of information stored in my brain but it doesn't always fire away as quickly as it used to.

I taught my Thursday afternoon cardio/sculpt class. The first time I taught it, I felt like it sucked-couldn't stand it-felt embarassed by the quality of it. Being one to prepare, I tweaked my song list out and wrote and re-wrote out the routine. I ran through it twice and still tweaked it out some more right before the class. Having no shame at all, I printed out the routine and taped to the mirror in class and referred to it as needed. I felt much better about the quality of class I was presenting.

I have spreadsheets that track my weight, I have spreadsheets that periodize my lifting, I have spreadsheets the calculate my percentages lost/gained, to goal, etc.
I have a sweet little notebook that my son gave me for mother's day that has measurements and workout notes in it for the past couple of years. I also have several websites that I've used for years to help me track food and fitness.

It makes a difference. It brings your awareness back around to what your process is and what goals you're striving for. I don't do it for anyone else's eyes but my own but I will always share my templates and references. It keeps me on track and shows me my progress, especially when I'm not feeling it.

My favorite food tracking website is:

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Personal Challenge

When I was in my 20's it was ALL about me...narcissism at it's finest.

In my 30's it was about the climb. The educational improvement, the corporate movement, the super mom club. Damn, the 30's were tough but I achieved a lot. I took my life into direction that I never thought I could, that I was told that I couldn't (unfortunately I had a lot of nay sayers in my life..was even married to one). It laid the foundation for where I wanted to go in my 40's.

Now that I am at the front step of my 40's, I want to find balance, peace and productivity. I'm not interested in the climb anymore, I'm interested in challenging myself. One of the ways I accomplish this is by challenging myself to learn more, grow more and teach more. I love prepping for certifications, it makes me feel broader.

I was introduced to the practice of yoga 20 years ago by mother. We had been estranged for about 7 years when circumstances in my life redirected me to her. Although we would not stay connected for very long, the gift of yoga and spirituality that I gathered through our time together has permeated my life in various forms.

So with that, I will reacquaint myself with my yoga practice (which my mother would have despised). As I ran through a practice this morning, I noticed great areas of weakness and inflexibility. One of the ways I challenge by students and clients is to acknowledge their weakness and master them. Today I found that I no longer have the physical strength to do the Crane Pose (see photo) and my short term, personal goal is master the concentration and develop the flexibility and strength to perform this pose for 5 yogic breaths.

I'll keep you posted but if you see me with a black and blue spot on my forehead...well you'll know why.


Monday, January 19, 2009


Sometimes the most productive thing to do in our transformation is visualization. I recently read an article by another fitness friend and he spoke about starting his transformation by visualizing walking on the treadmill. The action of visualizing actions and outcomes prepares the psyche for the challenge. It takes away the fear of the unknown. A study was once completed showing that the atheletes that visualized performing their sport actually had a physical reaction to the visualization, which improved their performance.

There is a plentitude of websites, books, classes and lectures available on creating your own reality through visualization. It's not difficult and nor time consuming. So what do you want to visualize? What's your challenge or your goal? Is it to walk a mile in less than 10 minutes or run a marathon? Still yourself and create that movie in your mind. Review that movie until it becomes so familiar and so real that your body feels it. Take the action and move into the reality that you created.

My current visualization practice is focusing on my physical and personal balance. I'm trying to develop greater flexibility in all areas of my life so I'm taking time to reflect and to practice balance.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Calorie Requirements and a Zig Zag Diet

If you are serious about weight loss, understanding and having an awareness of what your daily calorie requirement is is essential.


This is one of my favorite calorie calculator websites. A great way to kick start your weight loss or jump off of plateau is with a zig zag diet. Much like the concept of muscle confusion, zig zag calorie consumption is way to confuse the body into utilizing more nutrients and calories. You can make this as complicated or as simple as you like. My schedule is often pretty crazy, I like to keep my numbers simple. I will do a zig zag that is 1800/1600/1400 for moderate weight loss. The thing to keep in mind is that we need to make sure that we get enough "clean" protein to sustain our muscle development. Clean protein means, skinless chicken, fish, turkey, egg whites, whey powder, etc. Depending on your level of intensity and weight training, an average person needs between .75-2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. If you weigh 120 pounds, you should aim for 120 grams of protein per day.

I have found over the years that 80/20 rule holds true for weight loss; 80% of what gives you a successful weight reduction is a clean diet, 20% is dependent on exercise. This doesn't mean you can sit on your recliner and eat broccoli, get up, hit the gym and eat right. You'll have a double prong approach that will speed up your results and you'll also feel better.

What's your goal for the week? 2 pounds off? 60 minutes of cardio day? 20 real push ups? Do it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

January Improvements

Over the years I've experimented with many different types of periodization. Periodization refers to introducing variety into your workouts by means of reps, sets, rest periods, tempo, intensity, super-sets, eccentric training, etc. The variety is contained in "cycles", usually 1-2 months each. At the beginning of each year, I try to develop my calendar.

2009 is different for me. Last year I was staring down the barrel of my 40th birthday. I really wanted to be shredded (see photo). I spent a great deal of time following a competition diet and periodization between heavy lifting and multi set lifting. I neglected my flexibility and the basics of strength.

My first cycle will be to reintroduce over all fitness. I'm incorporating yoga into my weekly routine and focusing on body weight strengths. What does this mean? I'm focusing on excercises that are based on body weight resistance; push ups, pull ups, chin ups, crunches, lunges, plyo and yoga.

My personal goal is to be able to do completely unassisted pull ups. What's your goal?

Don't forget......GO STEELERS .....!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Biggest Loser

It's that time of the year again, BIGGEST LOSER! The thing that I really enjoy about the BL at CFA is the camaraderie that ensues. Our bunch is quite supportive and down right humorous!

The kick off is Monday, January 12th. The players will weigh in with their starting weight and we'll check our weights on the following 10 Fridays! I learn something about my eating habits every time I do the biggest loser. I also got some great tips last year for snacking options.

I'm looking forward to spiraling back down to a more comfortable weight.
Happy New You!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Welcome Back, are we ready?

Welcome Back! I wanted to do this blog for myself and, especially, for all the awesome people that come to my classes and friends who are always asking for information! Today will be the first spinning class of the new and we've added a sculpt class to the Thursday lunch time spot so there's no excuse not to get in great workouts!

So it's 2009 and I'm sure we all ended 2008 with some over indulgences. I think January is a great time to great reacquainted with our health and well being. The party obligations are over, the weather is cold and gray...it's the best time to hit the gym, grab a fitness magazine or try a new healthy recipe. This is the greatest time to GET MOVING!

I want to just remind everyone of some basic information to get their fitness regime started.

#1 Lots of water....hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Depending on your workouts and your goals, a minimum of 64 oz of water daily. Don't worry about the running to the bathroom, your body will find stasis and balance out. I personally shoot for 120 oz of water a day.

#2 If you are looking to lose weight, keep in mind that a weekly deficit of 3500 calories (or 500 daily) is equal to one pound. You can shed those 3500 calories either through diet or excercise but the best is always a combination.

#3 Changes start on the inside and work their way out. Be patient, be persistent and be responsible. Your beginning to move the sludge and goo out of your system, it takes a jump start to get it all moving.

Please feel free to post questions or requests. I'm happy to share what I know. I will also give wrap ups and reviews things that come up in class.

I'm glad we are all back and excited to get back to fitness for love!


PS: Here's the link to all of the University's fitness class for the first part of the year: