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My Top 10 Tricks for Staying Fit

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I recently read Coach Nicole's "10 habits of fit people." It got me thinking—what are my habits for keeping fit and staying healthy? Here's a quick list that I came up with.

Set Your Alarm. One thing that keeps me consistent is treating exercise like any other obligation on my calendar. It has a set time, day, and activity (like a class at the gym) and I don't move it or let other things interfere. If I need a little wiggle room, I'll do a cardio interval workout that (I cut them out of magazines and use them on various cardio machines) if I can't make spin class. I always try to have a plan B to go on, but nothing interferes with my strength days, I can go earlier, but I never skip one.

Pack your bags. I always pack my gym bag the night before with the essentials, which makes it easier to grab my stuff as I head out the door in the morning. That way, everything is ready. Some things never leave the bag like: Spinning shoes (my staple exercise program), my heart rate monitor and watch, my iPod, deodorant, hair dryer and shower needs and exercise towels. I fill 2 water bottles the night before so I just grab them in the morning with a change of clothes depending on what I have planned to do that day fresh towel and washcloth.

Find something you love. I know that I HATE running on a treadmill. If my exercise program consisted of that—in any amount—I would definitely find excuses and fail to do it all the time. I think you should find something that you enjoy doing (or at the very least, the most tolerable thing for you). When you look forward to your workout, there's nothing stopping you from doing it.

Fuel the Fire. It takes a little planning at first, but once you're in the habit of it, this one becomes second nature. If you're going to workout regularly, you need to eat well to provide yourself with lasting energy, and to prevent yourself from feeling hungry/sick/lethargic/(you name it) during your workouts. For me, that means 3 meals and 2-3 snacks every day—and at least 3 quarts of water throughout the day. I'm an morning exerciser, so I always make sure to eat breakfast pre-workout with protein/carbs to keep my energy up during the workout. Then I grab a small snack for post-workout to keep me tied-over until lunch. That usually consists of a hard boiled egg/piece of fruit or nuts or string cheese.

Pump up the volume. Music is essential to my workouts. I pack my iPod with my favorite get-up-and-go tunes, the ones that I can't help but move to. I'd much rather exercise to some great music than watch the TV connected to the cardio machines—it's easy to ignore your pace, intensity, and signals from your body when you're absorbed in a rerun of "The Today Show." But with some good music, you can better focus on the task at hand, while also staying motivated to move. Often I create my own workout playlists, that vary high-intensity with lower-intensity songs, and I match my intensity with the beat of the music to keep things interesting.

Just ten. One of my secrets to success is that, even on the days that I feel lazy, tired, and don't want to get out of bed to head to the gym, I promise myself I'll do just ten minutes of exercise or lift light amounts of weight. I figure that at the very least, 10 minutes counts for something better than nothing at all. But, once I get there…most of the time I remember how good it feels, and end up continuing with a longer workout. Missing my workout would ruin my whole day and make me feel guilty.

Rest up. Rest and recovery not only help your body to repair and rebuild from exercise, but downtime is really important for your mind. I'm a stickler for sleep—I go to bed at pretty much the same time every night (including weekends), and tend to rise at about the same time each morning, aiming for 8-10 hours (I need a lot of sleep). When you're tired, working out is the last thing you want to do too. So ideally, both should be a part of your plan.

Prioritize. Sure we all have our baggage, our commitments, our obligations. But what we all have in common is the same 24 hours in a single day. Ever wonder how some people can fit in X, Y or Z into their day when you're struggling? Usually it's not a question of time available, but how people choose to use (and don't forget, manage) their time. For me, I choose to spend my time cooking healthy meals, exercising, getting plenty of sleep—sure I might be missing the latest episode of "Grey's Anatomy" to do it, but that's the choice I make and I'm happy with that. Interestingly, most Americans watch between 1 and 4 hours of TV every single day! Could you potentially do a little less of that or say "no" to yet another committee or volunteer position in order to give yourself some time and attention? The most important event on my calendar is my workout.

Each weekend I plan out my workout for the week, and write it down in my exercise log book. That way when I get to the gym, I don't have to look around and think about what to do, I just get right to work.

I have a regularly scheduled weigh-in first thing Monday morning. After I brush my teeth and before I get dressed I step on that scale. Gain or lose, I record it in my weight journal and I'm always honest. After all, who would I be lying to? Only me, of course.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TRACEE5 2/19/2008 6:11PM

    Very inspiring! I'd love to have your back!!!! Way to go. I'm adding you as a friend, you seem like the kind of person that can keep me motivated!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A smile is a curve that can set a lot of things straight.

- V. Borge

The power of a positive face

Have you ever contemplated how much a smile can change a person's day? Both the person who smiles and the one who sees it are positively impacted by such a small act. This seemingly tiny reflex can perk up a bad attitude, make you seem more warm and inviting, and often pass some happiness on to others. So the next time your alarm goes off for your 5 a.m. run or your dog barks in the middle of the night, smile instead of grumbling. You'd be surprised how a positive face can in turn become a positive and motivational attitude!

Something so simple really does have a big impact. Yesterday while lifting weights (ughh Monday is the hardest, and heaviest day) I just sat on the incline bench and smiled, for no reason really, except to see myself do so, and it just changes everything. It makes you feel so good just to do that simple thing, we all should do more of it.

Yesterday was hectic as I made arrangements with my daughter to go to the mall(she had off from work)and had also promised my friend at the gym to help her with the next phase of the 9 week strength program I gave her. So, I got to the gym at 6:15, did my lift(sorry I didn't post, but it's the same as week 1's Monday lift)and found myself running short on time, so I didn't have time for my spin class(which I hadn't planned on anyway)nor a full 45 minutes of my own spinning. So, while looking through some articles I have stuffed in my log book(I constantly take articles from M&Fwomen or Oxygen magazines and keep them with me)I found a 25 minute interval cycling program. That fit into my schedule well, so when I finished my triceps I hopped on the spin bike and used my heart rate monitor and watch to time the program. It was very intense and I burned 300 calories in those 25 minutes. That coupled with my lifting put me within my 500 range. For Thursday's cardio, I'm going to do this interval program on my own, but double it, so I get the 45-50 minutes I usually do. It's nice to know that I can adapt and be somewhat flexible with my schedule without derailing my progress. I'm going to have to do something similar for Friday as we are leaving for Boston at 8 am. That means I need to get to the gym by at least 6 am do my lift and get my cardio done and back home by 8...better make it 5:30...

Today's cardio was 65 minutes of spinning and 400 calories burned. I had lunch with a friend I haven't seen for a while, at Chili's. Chili's is a bit challenging to eat healthy(even though they have the "Guiltless" menu-all way high in calories and fat). So I did a bit of pre-lunch research and found that the blackbean burger-plain is 200 calories 18g of fat and20 g of fiber 21g of protein and 25g total carbs. I put that on a plain whole wheat bun(no butter)with some lettuce/tomato/mustard and had an enjoyable lunch that has kept me full all afternoon!

It's funny too that I read today's featured article about what is normal eating. I found that there are a few things that I do that are in the abnormal catagory.

These are the ones that I feel relate to me:
You very strictly count calories and track of everything you eat, and feel that going over your limit means you have failed, at least for that day.

You have many rules about what, when, and how much to eat, and breaking these rules causes you to feel anxious, guilty, or negative about yourself.

You tend to follow your eating and exercise plan for days or weeks at a time, but then seem to go on strike, rebelling against your own plans.

The closer you get to an intermediate or long term weight goal, the more you seem to engage in self-sabotage.

You spend a great deal of time and energy tracking your nutrition, and feel very uncomfortable eating food when you don’t know what’s in it.

The last one is a major issue for me and I get very stressed when I don't know exactly is in the food I eat. I don't believe these things mean I have a "disordered" way of eating, but I think they are things I need to control. It was interesting to see that some of the behaviors that have helped me to succeed, may not be considered healthy by certain standards...something to think about, but I don't see myself changing them.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TRECECOOKS 2/19/2008 8:20PM

    I could really relate to your "abnormal" food things. I am struggling right now, and attempting to put my "mistakes" behind me. I am a control freak par excellence, and trying to wrangle my food, in the face of self-sabotage, drives me nuts.
Glad you had a good day.

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Sunday-day of rest

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Well, today I have nothing scheduled. I will probably take a walk at some point, as the temp here is rather moderate for this time of year...rain is coming and so are colder temps tomorrow...seize the day!

Found this today and gave me a few flashbacks:

Top 10 Signs You Need to Lose Weight
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I don’t know about you, but I’d rather laugh than cry when life sneaks up on me and cracks me right between the eyes. Case in point: my weight.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was arguably in the best shape of my adult life. But being the yo-yo dieter that I am—with emphasis on the yo-yo part—I not only lost most of my muscle tone and gained back the fat, but I packed on a few extra pounds for bad measure.

Now, I could look at the number on the scale, throw myself on my bed and sob over my self-inflicted misfortune. But that’s not my style. Instead, I’m gonna take a lighthearted look (at least something around here is light!) at the top 10 sure signs I desperately need to lose weight. See if you can relate.

#10: You find yourself sucking air after performing the acrobatic maneuver needed to get socks on your feet.

Like some contortionist from Cirque de Soleil, I have to perfectly gauge the distance I need to bend at the waist with the distance I need to lift my leg. Accuracy is everything. I can only hold this position for seconds at a time without aborting the mission and gasping for breath!

#9: To button your pants, you have to lie on the bed.

I usually flop about and groan like the demon-possessed girl in the Exorcist. Scary behavior like this means you’re fat or that you are too cheap to replace the jeans you wore in high school…20+ years ago!

#8: You steer your car with your knees since both hands are busy holding a sugary 64-ounce fountain drink.

When I'm drinking the bucket-sized sodas, I know that I'm in trouble. It means I have chosen gluttony over portion control.

#7: You have a gut.

Occasionally, the lower portion of my gut sports the unmistakable markings of my car's steering wheel. This phenomenon usually leads to...

#6: Your driver's seat is reclined so far back that you can easily touch the rear window by scratching your ear.

Yep, this is a sure sign that I'm fat and desperately trying to escape sign #7.

#5: Your pile of picked-clean chicken bones resembles the sun-bleached skeletons found in old pirate movies.

I know I've been especially thorough if Scruffy, my ever-hungry golden retriever, turns up his nose at the barren bones I've just finished working over.

#4: Shirts with a single X on the size label aren't comfy enough anymore.

Same goes for pants with waistlines of less than 40. When my larger than life clothes are tightening, I know it's time for a change.

#3: The Mansierre (or Bro) episode of Seinfeld stops being funny.

Because, like Frank Costanza, I too could use a tad more support...up there.

#2: A wrestling match with your kids clocks in shorter than the commercials aired between evening news segments.

I need the remainder of that annoying Cialis ad to catch my breath…and to slurp a little of my supersized Pepsi.

#1: I know need to lose weight when I play Dracula and avoid mirrors at all costs.

Hey, it's easier to remain in denial if I don't have to come face-to-face with those chipmunk cheeks that sort of resemble mine...only much heavier!

Please don’t get mad at me for picking on a fat person—I am that fat person. But I won’t let this knowledge mire me in the sadness and depression that leads to inaction. So laugh a little, and smile too. With the proper motivation and support, a little exercise and some healthier food choices, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
John Mcgran
During his 25-year writing and editing career, John has written for several newspapers, tabloids and websites. One of his newest gigs is as co-writer of

While this was obviously written from a man's perspective, there are a lot of parallels to my (and I'm sure many other) experience. It's good to have this as a reminder of where I came from and what I never want to go back to!

This of course relates to today's healthy reflection:

Adversity and loss make a man wise.

- Welsh Proverb

Victory over Trials

The need to weather hard times is constantly part of our. Do you ever think of these hurdles in a positive light? The next time you are faced with opposition, instead of looking at it as a source of anxiety, view it as an opportunity! Can you apply what you have learned to other areas of your life? Will this experience make you stronger and wiser next time around? Sometimes the worst and most painful experiences are the ones that help us grow the most. Having a positive attitude can deflate even the scariest situation. Overcoming adversity can help you achieve the extraordinary!

Any reminder of where I started, no matter how painful, is a good learning lesson. I know that going back is not an option for me. The lessons I've learned that will keep me from that are of course, eating properly and exercising daily. Whenever I tried to lose weight in the past, I always thought of the process as being "temporary", something that I would get through, and then abandon. Now, I've learned that I will never abandon the healthy habits I've adopted. I understand that in order to continue to enjoy my life as it is now, I must always do those two things(eat right and exercise). That doesn't upset me, or make me feel overwhelmed, instead it is a comfort to know that every morning I will wake up, eat properly and go to the gym(or outdoors for a run or bike ride)! I look forward to it, rather than feel doomed by it.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KIMANDTONY 2/17/2008 9:50PM

    I saw that this morning in my spark email, and I loved it! I thought it was comical and insightful.
I hope you had a great day!!


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TRECECOOKS 2/17/2008 12:35PM

    "I know that going back is not an option for me". Absolutely!! And failure is NOT an option.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.

- Albert Ellis

Do you feel in control of your life? No matter how negative events or actions may become, you are the only force that is able to determine the reaction. Often we fail to do this, and instead blame the world for our feelings of sadness, rejection, and hopelessness. The reality is that your actions are a choice, and you must claim those feelings and choices. We can be our best cheerleader or worst enemy when it comes to determining the health of our emotions. Do some pep talks with yourself each morning. This will help you develop positive, self-affirming thoughts that will enhance your personal development and growth.

We all have our reasons for ending up as obese adults. When the reasons become irrelevent is when we finally take action by owning responsibility and taking the necessary steps to change. For years I allowed myself the excuse of "I have 5 children to raise" which was just a rationalization for doing nothing to change things. That was the easy way out. It required no effort, no thought, no responsibility on my part. But the more I allowed anything to be my excuse, the worse my situation got. Very few things brought me joy, with the exception of those 5 wonderful kids, but nothing having to do with me was joyful, because I hated who I was. Hating the outside led to a loathing so deep that anything good in me didn't matter, I only saw the fat, disgusting person the world saw.

We can all begin anew if we chose to accept responsibility for ourselves and acting to gain back our self-esteem. No one else in the world can do that for us, no trainer, or nutritionist, friend, loved one, only us. Knowing that is really quite empowering, as opposed to being daunting.

Today was a really beutiful New Jersey day. Though the temp was on the chilly side, the sun was bright and powerful. Going out for a run in the park was uplifting and invigorating. These kinds of winter days have been few and far between, so I have to take advantage when the opportunity presents itself.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TRECECOOKS 2/16/2008 8:44PM

    Excellent articulation of an important point. God bless!!

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KIMANDTONY 2/16/2008 8:08PM

    You are such an inspiration to me. After having seen your page, I decided that I want to inspire others too. I hope that I can be.
Thank you for sharing your story.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Metabolism has always been a buzzword in fitness-the secret weapon that can help you drop the last 10 pounds and keep it off. How? Find the right degree of cardio to burn fat. "By worling in different zones of intensity, your body becomes more efficiet at burning calories," explains Geralyn Coopersmith, national senior manager of the Eqinox Fitness Training Institute. That means doing a longer, steady-paced workout one day and a shorter, high-intensity interval session the next. The fitter you become, the more calories you'll burn from fat.

Next, add strength training to your program. A pound of well-conditioned muscle burns more than three times the calories as a pound of fat, says Wayne Wescott, Ph.D., author of Get Stronger, Feel Younger. The key is to use weight that's not wimpy-one heavy enough to fully challenge your muscles by the final rep.

Today's Lift:
deadlift 4 x4 85 lb
deadlift 2x12 75 lb
lat pulldown 4 x4 75lb
lat pulldown 2 x12 65lb
seated rowing machine 4 x 4 85lb
seated rowing machine 2 x12 70lb
shoulder shrugs 4 x4 45lb
shoulder shrugs 2 x12 35lb
barbell curl 4x4 45lb
barbell curl 2x12 35
incline dumbbell curl 4 x 4 15lb
incline dumbbell curl 2 x12 10lb
reverse bicep curls 4 x4 35lb
reverse bicep curls 2 x12 25lb

55 minutes of spin class=cardio

I haven't had a very good food week. There has been way too much cereal eating(dry of course) late at night. I'm quite unhappy with my choices this week in terms of not snacking. I have only 3 days to try and get it right, or else this could be a weight gain week! No excuses, just a lack of focus.

By Friday, I'm exhausted. I think it has to do with the fact that we have gone out both W&Th nights, which makes my evening last a bit longer as I take sometime to wind down once I get home. Next week it shouldn't be an issue as we're not going dancing W night, so I'll see if it helps. If so, I'll just have to be more diligent in coming home and getting into a restful sleep mode sooner.

I also think I'm going to try to mix up the cardio this week. While my spin class incorporates intervals and steady bursts I think I should also use the cardio machines or run to mix it up some. The funny thing is that I just seem to enjoy the spinning more than most other things, but comfort level is a bad thing when trying to keep losing weight, so that will be next week's goal.


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