What’s Your Time of Day?

Do you have a time of day that you prefer?  It’s widely accepted that some of us are “morning people” and some are “night owls” — and you probably know which one you are.   Whichever you are, you’ve probably noticed that either in the early morning, or in the late afternoon, you feel your most energetic. That is what I call your “sweet spot” and that time period is the best way to have an effective and efficient workout.

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I bring this up today because I know a lot of people get a slightly renewed interest in going to a gym during the summer so that they can feel more comfortable sitting by a pool, or have enough stamina to enjoy summer sports and longer days. However, often those of you who try to make the gym part of your daily routine this time of year, you forget one key factor. Just like workout routines are not one size fits all, the time of day you work out is a variable as well.

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If you’re a morning person there’s no doubt you’ll get a better workout in the first half of the day than after work. Vice versa for those of you who really aren’t up to full speed until about 2 or 3 pm. Working out after work or even after dinner would be best suited for your goals.

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I remember in the 80’s everyone was into “bio-rhythms” and there were ways to chart your own personal rhythms so that you could take advantage of your body’s “up” times to achieve goals and work; and not schedule things for your “low” times. Of course most of us found this to be silly mumbo-jumbo right up there with astrological forecasts, but there’s a validity to every body having different times of day where their energy ebbs and flows, and knowing the basics about your internal workings will benefit you in your fitness goals.

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So if you’re following my advice herein over the months, you know that you must cater your workouts to a realistic goal for your body type, personality, time management skills, and now – the time of day as well. Continue to eat 6 small meals, drink a ton of water, and try to arrange your day around your energy.

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In simple terms, if you’re a morning person, workout with the sunrise if you can. If you’re a late-night kinda girl/dude – head to the gym around sunset. You may think this silly, and in truth we can make ourselves workout at any time of day that fits our schedule. But try it a few times and see if you have a better workout when you’re at your best energy.

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Through The Looking Glass

The skill that I have paid the most attention to in my role as a trainer, life coach, and self-aware adult is that of perspective. I understand that there are always two sides (or sometimes more) to a story and usually the reality is somewhere in the middle. Conversely I also know that the grass is really never as green as it seems from the “other side.” Changing your perspective is the single best way to successfully change that which you are unhappy with, whether it be your body, a relationship, a job, or just how your emotions respond to stressful situations.

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In the sequel to Alice in Wonderland (Through The Looking Glass) everything she knew about life, and even about Wonderland, was upside-down or backwards. But by embracing that different perspective (instead of fighting it), Alice was able to overcome obstacles and get back home with a new and better understanding (i.e., perspective) of her life.

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Have you ever noticed that something that causes you great emotional stress doesn’t affect others the same way? Is that because they’re better than you? No, it’s because they simply have a different perspective. Same goes if you handle some stresses easily while your friends rage about. You’re not better, you just have a perspective in this area that differs than theirs and causes less strife.

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If you are unhappy with the condition of your body (or any of the other life-issues I mentioned above) and no matter what you’ve tried (working out or dieting), nothing has successfully budged that excess fat, then perhaps it is time you changed your perspective. As an example, in some other countries, women with higher body fat are deemed beautiful and/or a symbol of a successful or wealthy family. These women have a different perspective about their bodies than we do in the U.S., that’s all there is to it.

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So how do you change your perspective? One of the best ways is to de-personalize your view of the situation. In other words, take yourself out of the equation and look at it as if you were counseling a friend who was in your place. This allows you to see all aspects of the situation, not just what your emotional state focuses on.

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An easy way to do this is to write yourself a letter, assuming the role of a friend. Pretend that the YOU are writing to is a friend who is in need of support and encouragement, but most importantly – CLARITY. Diagnose the situation via the facts, and look at how other situations in this “friend’s” life could contribute to how they’re handling the current situation. You’ll be surprised at how much clarity you find when looking at a problem that isn’t YOUR problem. After all, most of us (especially women) love to offer advice to our friends to solve their issues, yet fail to follow that same advice when it comes to ourselves.

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Try this trick the next time you are frustrated or angry that something in your life just isn’t working to your liking. Take a deep breath and help your “friend” feel better and clearer about the situation. In the end, by seeing through the looking glass, I suspect you’ll find that your life is not as bad, or as stuck, as you thought.

Cardio Wimps Take Heart!

Cardio wimps, take heart, you’re not alone!

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I’ve admitted this before in my blog, but in case you missed it – I’m a cardio wimp! Every time I hop on a treadmill, stair climber, or elliptical I start with an enthusiastic committment to plow through 45 minutes of heart strengthening, fat burning cardio, and every time I get to about 20 minutes and my brain says stop this insanity, stop right now! I try to ignore my brain and usually make it about 30 until my all I can focus on is my aching knees, or how winded or light-headed I think I am. Sadly, though I know my brain is lying to me, I succumb because I just don’t like cardio.

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I truly envy all you people who can mindlessly run, cycle or climb stairs for ridiculously long periods of time, enjoying the surge of endorphins that result from sustained anaerobic activity which allow you to keep on moving and reap the rewards of lengthy cardio. I especially appreciate the fact that one’s ability to sustain cardio is not directly affected by a person’s external shape. In other words, there are many people carrying extra body fat that can perform cardio exercise for much longer than other lower-fat bodies. It’s all about your body’s internal set up (i.e., slow twitch muscles vs. fast) and how your brain operates and handles different movements.

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For those of you who feel like I do – you just can’t turn off your brain and run – I felt like I should remind you of certain truths that I have been needing to remind myself of lately. Cardio exercise is all about getting your heart rate to a certain level and keeping it there for a certain length of time. The key here is to remember that you can achieve “cardio” without actually “running” or performing the same monotonous exercise at a set speed for a sustained period of time (i.e., 30+ minutes).

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My approach to cardio therefore, is to perform a wide variety of specific exercises in a specific manner for an hour. In this way I not only train my heart to stay in a specific fat-burning range (HRT=heart rate zone) but I’m also working my muscles and core to be stronger and more toned.

Circuit Training Defined

So if that sounds like your kind of work out, here’s the gist of how you can do this for yourself (or request a customized workout routine from me via http://www.workouts247.com). Follow the sample workout noted below, all the while maintaining your target heart rate to the levels noted. This means you’ve got to keep a pretty quick pace throughout the resistance training portion, so all rests between sets should be no more than about 30 seconds.

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Try this entire workout at least 3-4 times to build up your stamina and you will definitely see better results than 60 mins of boring, non-stop cardio! Your cardio vascular system will be improved, your muscles will see more tone, and your brain will be at east!

THR GOAL = 130-150*

10 mins Cardio equip of your choice

15 mins Cluster of 5 lower body resistance exercises repeated 5x**

10 mins Different cardio equipment

15 mins Cluster of 5 upper body resistance exercises repeated 5x**

10 mins Different cardio equipment w/cool down last 2 mins

*I’m offering up a generic target heart rate that will still be effective for most, but if you really want to be fully effective for your fitness goals, you need to have the THR established that works for you and your body. Any personal trainer can tell you this very quickly, and of course I would supply you with this if I made a workout for you.

**Clusters are 5 exercises performed in a row, one after the other, with no rest, followed by a brief rest, and then repeating the exercises back from the top, etc.

Use Your Senses

One of the keys to successfully achieving your fitness goals through resistance training (weight lifting) is to have proper form and tempo. I find that many of my clients have very limited body awareness when it comes to either isolating a muscle/muscle groups, or knowing where their body’s limitations truly are.

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To help someone achieve better body awareness, and thereby better body toning and fat loss (through resistance training), I often coach my clients to exercise using senses other than visual (eyes/sight) or kinetic (touch). The way to do this is simple, you close your eyes, and breathe!

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Okay, it might not be quite that simple, but allow me to clarify. As you perform any exercise – let’s say standing dumbbell biceps curls – you make sure both feet are evenly spaced and that you are balanced in your disbursement of weight to both feet (i.e., not having one foot placed in front of the other, or leaning slightly to bear more weight on one foot).

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Then you close your eyes, and slowly curl the dumbbells up (by bending the elbow) and then slowly back down to starting position – al the while breathing in with the up, and out with the down. Repeat this for the requisite amount of reps (i.e., 10-15 repetitions). As you conduct the exercise in this manner, it is essential that you pay attention to how your body feels, what muscles are contracting, what muscles (if any) are straining, how your spine feels, and when your muscles feel fatigue.

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By keeping your breath to a slow and even pace, there should be less tension within your core and your focus can easily stay on the muscles that are supposed to be utilized in the exercise. Also, by keeping a slow and steady pace, while having your eyes closed so you have to FEEL instead of SEE your form, you’re more likely to have better form which will result in quicker results and less risk of injury.

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I recommend trying this approach with at least one standing exercise, one seated exercise, and one supine exercise (lying on your back) all of which conducted with dumbbells (vs. machines). This way you can fully benefit from better body awareness and control as you move the weights without assistance and without visually watching your form.

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So next time you’re at the gym or at home with your dumbbells, give this a try and note any new understandings you experience about your body and how to use your muscles. Your fitness goals will thank you!

Aging & Our Bodies

Many years ago I posted Maturity, Menopause & Metabolism and it seems a good time to remind us all that aging and our bodies changing is inevitable and we must keep a positive and healthy perspective.  I’ve updated it and re-post it as a helpful reminder that we’re all in this together and we’re all doing just fine!

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When I was a very slim 20-something it seemed like every woman who was overweight would say to me “wait until you hit 40, then you won’t be skinny anymore.” Well 40 came and went and I was still underweight. Then it became “ha ha when you hit menopause, then you’ll see!” Menopause abruptly came to call when I was 48 and I’m still not overweight at 56.

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But all these forecasts of my physical doom haunted me for years and as I became a fitness professional I looked hard at why age 40, or menopause would automatically trigger weight gain for so many women. What I discovered was that it’s not so much about the age, as it is about what lifestyle you lead, any medical conditions, and your perspective.

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Let’s tackle the 40’s first. People say your metabolism slows down by age 40. While there is truth to the fact that metabolism (“the chemical process that results in production of energy and elimination of waste”) does slow down with age, it is not automatic or inevitable. The typical adult slows down their energy output voluntarily, i.e., they work longer hours, drive longer distances, and are more sedentary when home. Also, as we get older we eat more, having more money as well as a wider taste pallet, therefore causing our calories to increase.  In the case of an individual who stays consistently physically active and maintains a constant moderate calorie consumption, they will likely not gain any significant weight as they hit a milestone of 40 or 50.

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Menopause is a different hurdle. There is no question that with the absence of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (all present in a pre-menopause woman), the body will gain wait and the metabolism will slow down. Women’s bodies gain belly fat as they go through menopause because the mechanical brain knows what our emotions do not – that fat contains estrogen and our bodies need at least a little estrogen. But again, if an individual stays consistently active and maintains a balance between calories in vs. calories out, the weight gain can be slight and manageable (as it’s been in my case).

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Medically speaking, often with the onset of menopause, the thyroid will also give out, tending towards the hypo-activity (under active) which definitely causes weight gain and a loss of energy. But with proper medication, the missing thyroid output is restored and that portion of the weight gain can be reduced. Also, if menopause is a result of a full hysterectomy, or induced as a result of cancer treatments, a woman can experience rapid weight gain. This weight is very stubborn to remove. That’s when our last criteria comes into play.

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Perspective. We are a society focused upon the hollow ideals that women have to have perfect bodies and look young and fit all the time. My mother used to say it was too bad that the Zoftig bodies of her generation weren’t in vogue any more because that was a more realistic perspective of women’s bodies and the beauty that they possess. I have a client who would be considered over weight by most standards. Despite her roundness, she is super fit and flexible, and loves to salsa dance and take yoga. She eats well, laughs a lot, and feels sexy anyway. Her husband agrees whole heartedly!

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As I’ve detailed in numerous other posts in my blog stress and lack of sleep also contributes to weight gain. Often the lives of those in their 40’s to 50’s are at their most stressful – the kids heading towards college, careers being full steam, their parents becoming oilder and often less healthy, as well as the aforementioned menopause, cancer treatemetns, etc. During these 10-20 years stresses are higher, and undoubtedly sound long sleep is lower, both of which contribute to your body holding on to fat.

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So if you exercise regularly, eat lean and healthy, and can achieve whatever reasonable physical challenge or goals you desire, then you are perfect the way you are. Your body as it ages is going to change. In some ways I look better than I did when I was 20, and in other ways I don’t. But my perspective is that I can keep up with my 11 year old, I can climb rocks, trees, and lift weights for hours at the gym, and I can sit on my butt and drink wine and eat chocolate and not stress over it. So I’m okay, and life is good. Now if only these hot flashes would go away! Wink wink.

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What Can You Still Do?

When we’re kids we’re naturally limber (i.e., flexible) and most children (especially girls) spend a good deal of their childhood jumping, climbing, twisting, back-bending, performing splits or at the very least sitting for long periods of time on their butts with their legs crossed or bent underneath them.

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Then through the process of aging and studying more leading way to working at a desk more, we lose that limberness until we are old people who can’t get themselves off the ground. Most adults can’t touch their toes any more, can you?

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As a personal trainer, one of my goals is to help all my clients reclaim their physical ability to do the things they want to do whether it’s hiking in the mountains, or simply being able to play with the grandchildren on the ground (and then get back up again). Not all clients are seeking to achieve the physique of a Greek God, some simply want to be able to have more stamina, strength, and flexibility.

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A few years back my Mother took a fall and lost her confidence about traveling to Europe (one of her joys in life) because she felt that only my Dad could lift her up if she fell. I refused to have her stop partaking in her passion of travel and urged her to work with a trainer (we live in different States) just to the point where she could get herself up off the floor without help.

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After a lot of persistent nagging on my part, she agreed and I found her a pilates instructor only five minutes away. They worked together twice a week for about six weeks performing exercises to improve my Mother’s balance, strength, and flexibility just enough that she could get herself up off the ground without assistance. The following year we celebrated her 80th birthday in Yosemite and she hiked an slight incline mile with me, barely stopping. Since then she has maintained this fitness level by performing the exercises daily and continues to enjoy travel and hasn’t fallen since.

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Clearly when dealing with seniors or very out of shape teens/adults, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, we’re simply trying to build up the body to the point that satisfies the client’s life goals. We don’t all need to be skinny or “ripped” but we do need to be able to handle whatever physical abilities are required to achieve our goals and passions. (I’ve seen overly-fat people hiking with less difficulty than some younger and/or thinner hikers, so it’s not always about your shape on the outside, it’s about your shape on the inside.)

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So I urge all of you to consider this and find a trainer, take a class, follow a DVD or YouTube video, and push your body just a little more than you’ve been. Figure out what you can’t do physically today that you want to be able to do in the near future and seek out exercises that will assist you in that physical improvement. Sometimes all it takes is gentle but regular stretching. Other times it may require a little more effort and some guidance/instruction in form from an expert or trainer. Either way it doesn’t take much time, money or effort to see improvement, you just have to have enough motivation.

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At the very least, if you want to be able to do the things physically that you can do today when you’re 80 or 90, you should start now! With the warmer “outdoor” months upon us, this is a perfect time to get outside and enjoy being physical, to whatever extent that entails. If you would like a personalized exercise or stretching routine, you can order a customized plan with detailed instructions on form from me.

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Women vs. Woman

Over two years ago I posted Stop Competing, Start Caring which focused on the rampant issue of women putting each other down through mean-spirited acts of unspoken competition.  From the gym to work environments I see women continuing to combat jealousy via negativity and attempts to feel superior. Sadly, I suspect if my gender was more supportive of each other on the whole, if we’d have a woman as president today instead of the misogynist we’re stuck with. But I digress…

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I recently joined a new gym, the kind of gym where everyone is very fit and focused on hard core workouts.  This is no meat-market pick up joint, or Planet Fitness where you cannot grunt or show too much skin.  Despite being a fitness professional I found clientele on the workout floor a bit intimidating, so I decided the best counter-action was to smile sincerely at everyone, especially the women.  Not surprisingly, but too my renewed dismay, only one out of every ten women smiled back.  Even with deliberate eye contact and my broad and welcoming smile, they looked away with down-turned mouths. I even attempted to strike up a conversation with one woman in-between sets and she answered me quite curtly and sauntered off.

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So here is the post again, with slight updates, in my hopes to remind all women that we do not need to compete or be jealous of each other. The grass is NEVER greener on the other side, and only if we work together can we continue the improvements to our role in society that the Suffragettes’s started and the 60’s feminist movement continued.

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Since I was a young girl I’ve been aware of the serious nature of girls competing against each other for just about everything from friends to grades to boys. It gets worse and uglier as we grow into women. I see it at the gym, the mall, restaurants – women sizing up the competition. You can see it in their expressions, a defensive once-over seeking some flaw or registering uncalled-for disapproval.

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I’ve mentioned this before, living in Las Vegas I regularly see parades of girls, each more scantily clad than the next, perched in ridiculously high heels, all glaring at the gaggle next to theirs to see if there is anyone they can put down to make themselves feel better. Belittle the competition and they’re no longer a threat, right? Yet despite girls’ intentions, the message men take away from this contest of looks is that we’re offering your bodies and not our brains, and thus they don’t really care which girl they get.

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The question is why are we so quick to condemn or ridicule? The answer is competition. We compete to be prettier, smarter, slimmer, or funnier. But the true concern really comes down our fear that someone is “better than me.” Girls are constantly worried that another girl will get more attention, steal a mate, or even get a better mate. We regularly match our own worth against the next girl – which only serves to chronically undermine one’s self-esteem – and we usually know nothing about this other girl’s character and/or life other than her “cover” which we judge.

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It’s sad that we are driven to such levels of insecurity that we view our fellow “sisters” as potential threats to our happiness. I suspect this is also a part of the reason that women are still undervalued and underpaid in the workforce. It’s bad enough that we have to compete with men for jobs, but when women consistently treat each other with distrust and resentment in a work environment, it’s easy for employers to offer us less money knowing that we’ll accept it just to get ahead of the next woman.

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I know in my youth I did my share of mocking another or feeling envious of another girl’s achievements or looks, but I’ve worked hard in this second half of my adult life to remind myself that the grass is rarely greener on the other side, and that we all have strengths and weaknesses, gifts and limitations, and the only person I should compete with is myself – to constantly grow and improve.

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So I suggest that all women take stock of their attributes and stop beating yourselves up about your detriments. If there’s a negative aspect of yourself that you can actually change, DO IT and move on. Otherwise, be proud of who you are what you’ve achieved and never stop trying to be more. Consider the woman next to you your equal and always be there for each other.

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If we can teach our daughters through this example, we just might have a generation of women that work together to boost each other up, improve the world at large, and show men that we are not only equal, but in some areas might even be superior?  Just food for thought.

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I Don’t Count

A client asked me the other day if I counted calories. When I told her that I do not, she replied “then how do you control your food intake.” Alas once again I came face-to-face with that common misconception that calories are the way to control your weight. This is not really the case.  Sure if you are consuming 12,000 calories a day you might need to count them to learn exactly how many calories foods/meals actually are, but in general calorie counting only serves to stress out people seeking to lose weight (lower fat levels).

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After 17 years as a fitness professional, I know what amount of calories I consume in general on a daily basis without having to count them.  More importantly, I know that counting calroies is not as important as burning the calroies I consume.  So for all of you who sweat over calorie counting, you can relax and still lower your body fat levels if you’ll just follow this simple formula:

FUEL IN VS. FUEL OUT

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There’s no need to count calories if you’re eating six small “sensible” meals every day (with allowances for larger meals or less “sensible” treats) and moving enough throughout the day to burn your fuel (or calorie) intake. If your goal is to lower body fat (i.e., lose weight) then you need to burn more fuel than you ingest. Remember, if you ingest more fuel (calories) than you burn, that fuel will be stored in your body as fat. Continue in-taking more than you use and you will continue to store, and gain, fat.

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In plainer terms: if you are going to have a pumpkin spice latte on a daily basis, along with pizza, pasta, and a lot of processed carbs, you’d better be working out at least two-hours a day to balance it out. If you’re eating MY way, even if you throw in ONE Starbucks high caloric treat during the week, you don’t need to “count those calories” because you’re consistently burning your fuel source, and building enough lean muscle to burn excess fuel.

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I’ve addressed this issue several times through the years that I’ve had this blog, and clearly it needs repeating on a regular basis. Calories and/or carbs are NOT the enemy to our bodies. What is the enemy is the amount of excess calories or processed crap that most Americans put into their bodies. Since the great depression we have evolved into a Nation of super-sized, overly-salted, overly-sugared, overly-processed meals where 90% of the working population do not ride-share (drive alone in their cars), and work highly sedentary 8-hour days in forced air, fake lighting environments.

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All of this has left us with a huge obesity problem in both adults AND children. To my perspective, the first way we can reverse this is to instill in everyone the concept that food is for our survival first and foremost. While I am a “foodie” who enjoys the artistry and wide variety of flavorful meals, sweets, and wines I still keep moderation in place by always observing the rule of “fuel in vs. fuel out.”

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So stop counting calories if that’s your thing, and shift your focus to acknowledging that your body is a machine. Like a car needs quality gasoline, oil, water, well-kept tires, and regular maintenance, our body needs small amounts of healthy fuel on a consistent basis, while balancing it out with effective fuel-burning movement, followed by adequate rest. In this way your “machine” will stay lean and healthy for a very long time.

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2-Minute Abs!

So how many of you reading this got very excited by the idea of 2-minute abs?! I purposely titled today’s post that way because I wanted to illustrate just how geared we all are to find a way to get in shape with the least amount of time spent.

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In the comedy There’s Something About Mary, a brief dialogue between our Hero Ted and a hitchhiker centers around the idea that the hitchhiker has created a 7-minute abs video to trounce the popular 8-minute abs series. Ted replies “That’s good. Unless, of course, somebody comes up with 6-Minute Abs. Then you’re in trouble, huh?” The Hitcher’s response: “No! No, no, not 6! I said 7. Nobody’s comin’ up with 6. Who works out in 6 minutes? You won’t even get your heart goin!

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My point here is that we’re always seeking quick ways to do what we really know takes more time and focus than just a few minutes. I know I’ve discussed this numerous times herein, but once again we are in the season where infomercials and web-ads focus on our mid-sections as the key to our happiness and success in the coming summer months. This is why once again I feel the need to remind you all that excess belly fat cannot be reduced to show your ridged-abdominal muscles hidden underneath without a serious change to your way to eating and consistent hard work to ALL your muscles (including your cardio/heart) for more than even 20-minutes three times a week.

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With that said, today I will give you a 12-minute ab routine (yes that’s 10 more minutes than today’s blog title promised) which if done three times a week, ALONG with a weekly mininum of 90-minutes of resistance training and three hours of cardio AND a nutrition plan that reduces your sugars, fats, alcohols and starches (but not eliminates them) WILL result in a reduction of belly fat (i.e., a flatter stomach).

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This is just one of my routines that I use on my clients. If you want more (cause you will plateau in 1-2 months), you know where to find me. If you need further instruction/illustration on how to perform these surf the web or contact me:

Perform the following exercises in order for 30-seconds each.  The rest and repeat two more times.

Leg lowers & raises
Alternating Bicycle Crunches
Feet Flat Standard Crunches
Knees Up Standard Crunches
Legs in Air Standard Crunches
Legs Out Flat Standard Crunches
Ball Hand Off V-Sits
Ball Side Taps V-Sits

Photo samples of each follow below in the order listed above.

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Sugar Isn’t Just Sweet

Three years ago I posted an article All Sugars Are not Equal and now lately I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about sugars and sugar substitutes, so I thought it was time to remind you all that Sugar Isn’t Just Sweet!

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Sugar, in all its forms is highly addicting to our brains via our tastebuds.  Sugar is in so many foods naturally (like all fruit), and then for some reason our commercial food industry has decided to add in more sugar — probably because it makes us crave the items more and therefore boosts their sales.  As any annoying example I cite regularly, several American producers feel the need to ADD refined sugar (or even worse High Fructose Corn Syrup) into their apple sauce or apple juice.  It’s apples for goodness sake – it’s already sweet!

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The real problem is that so many people are unaware of just how much sugar they’re ingesting (or allowing their children to consume) and further, they don’t understand why sugar is so bad for our bodies.  It’s simple, sugar — ESPECIALLY REFINED SUGAR — attacks our immune systems, increases high cholesterol, causes systemic inflammation, confuses our metabolisms and therefore stores as fat (i.e., weight gain) and pushes our blood systems towards diabetes.

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To combat only two of the above-listed issues, once again commercial food entities diddled-about in their labs and came up with sugar substitutes that were “lo-calorie” and safer for diabetics.  Unfortunately, a whole slew of other issues came about with some of these subsitutes, the least of which is cancer.  In case you’re still confused about refined sugar vs. sugar substitues vs. natural sugars, here’s a quick recap:

There’s table sugar – white refined sugar — that we all grew up with, and it’s subsidiaries of powdered sugar and brown sugar (refined white sugar with molasses added).  This comes from the sugar cane plant and/or sugar beets plant. Like all sweet plants (fruits and vegetables), it has a sweetness to it that we have labeled as SUGAR. The Sugar Cane is not a bad plant, but it’s the process we have developed to refine that sweetness is bad.

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The term “refining” means to remove by a purification process, certain coarseness or impurities. Sugar refining is the process of extracting out the sugar (sucrose) from the plant materials and then removing other unwanted materials from the extracted raw sugar. These substances can include remaining stalk fibers, soil, insect parts, molds, bacteria and waxes.

The refined white sugar product is now over 99.9% sucrose and for all practical purposes contains no nutritional elements such as vitamins, minerals, proteins or fibers. What is left consists of pure, refined carbohydrates that the body cannot utilize. Worse yet, refined sugar drains and leaches the body of precious vitamins and minerals through the demand its digestion, detoxification and elimination makes upon one’s entire system.

sweeteners

With Refined Sugar being seen as the enemy we began to create foods labeled as “sugar free.” Here is where one of the first misunderstandings comes in. They are NOT sugar free. They are refined sugar free. These “sugar free” foods usually contain one of the following sugar substitutes:

NutraSweet or Equal (aspartame)
Splenda (Sucralose)
Saccharin or Sweet N Low (benzoic sulfilimine)
Stevia
Xylitol
Coconut Sugar

The first three are man-made chemical products, praised for having no calories, but criticized (rightfully so) for being so foreign to the body that they offer no benefit, and in fact can be very harmful. The last three(Stevia, Xylitol and Coconut) come from plants and are less offensive than any other choice of sweetener (real or artificial), but they still put SUGAR into the body.

sugar-substitutes

Other sweeteners like honey, agave, and maple syrup are “safer” to some esxtent, but the issue still remains that our bodies can really only handle so many grams of sugar per day before our systems are negatively affected. (Remember even alcohol turns into sugar in our bodies.) Even Raw Sugar is better than refined, but you’re still left with one important issue:  too much sugar – of any type – in our blood streams is bad (worse yet for those with allergies, diabetes or autoimmune diseases such as MS).

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So the real question you need to pose to yourself in regards to your nutritional health, is how much SUGAR should you eat per day. In other words, the maximum number of grams of sugar in any shape or form.  The American Medical Association suggests no more than 25 grams of sugar per day (which equals 6 teaspoons). Did you know there are 19 grams of sugar in a medium sized apple? There are 40 grams of sugar in a can of Coke! How many grams are in your latte, your salad, your sandwich? Refer to the chart below to see just how many teaspoons of sugar (1 cube = 1 teaspoon) are actually lurking in some of our foods.  Six teaspoons is VERY easy to achieve and quickly surpass in your daily nutrition, even if you believe you eat “healthy.”

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So take a hard look at what you eat and know how much of any substance you’re consuming, whether it be sugar, sodium, etc.  Keep a balanced diet, and try to keep your sugars (in all their forms) to a moderately low level.