Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category

“Keeping Your Fitness Edge As You Age”

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

At my personal training studio, we cater to the 40+ age group crowd. Yep, that’s our demographic and WE LOVE THEM!

If you’ve hit this milestone yourself, you may have noticed that the benefits you want from a workout have shifted pretty dramatically from simply losing weight and getting toned (not that it’s all THAT simple!) to any or all of the following:

  •  You want to FEEL better.
  •  You want to IMPROVE your balance.
  • You want RELIEF from low back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain.
  • You had a HEALTH SCARE and want to do all you can to position yourself to be physically and mentally STRONG, for whatever lies ahead.

These are all great motivators to get moving, yet now that you’re in that demographic group that we love, perhaps you’re wondering why it’s a little bit more difficult to actually do that.

A recent article on “Why Athletic Performance Declines As You Age” does a great job highlighting age-related changes and the body’s response to fitness. For example, as we age, our bodies don’t use oxygen as effectively, we experience age-related skeletal muscle limitations, and recovery following a workout can take longer.

But don’t you dare use this information as an excuse to sit on the sofa!

Here’s how you can actually keep your edge without going over it:

  • Train smarter, not harder.
  • Improve your sleep habits.
  • Plan your workouts for variety and recovery.
  • Actually take time to recover.
  • Add yoga and weightlifting as a way to cross train and maintain muscle mass and flexibility.
  • Engage in “active recovery”; i.e. swim or do an easy run on your days off.
  • Keep moving “outside” of your workout, hint, “Take the stairs!”

Hotel Stairs HIEP

“My VARI Happy Body”

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

I hate to sit.

If I could walk or run to every destination, every day, and only stand once I arrived, I’d be thrilled. Unfortunately time, distance, inclement weather, and the potential for countless awkward situations doesn’t allow that.

It turns out that sitting is a terrific thing to hate, because in case you haven’t heard, sitting has recently been labeled “The New Smoking”.

I don’t know about you, but anything that keeps me chair-bound; extended periods of writing, responding to emails, etc., makes me feel awful. My energy slumps, my lower back tightens and stiffens, and it feels like all the benefits of my morning workout are draining away.

So I’m launching my own “campaign against sitting”, and kicked it off by purchasing the office tool I’ve been dying to own; a “VARIDESK”.


I’ve tried a number of different ways in the past to raise my computer in order to be able to stand and work – none of them were safe, none of them worked.

Luckily, the VARIDESK is both safe and effective. A height adjustable standing riser that comes already assembled, the VARIDESK sits on top of your existing desk and allows you to move from sitting to standing quickly and easily. I’ve used the VARIDESK for three days now, and haven’t sat in front of my computer once. When I did sit down, it was to actually hand-write something, but even that could be done on the keyboard support. I’m doing a lot of computer writing this week, so it’s the perfect time to really give it a good test drive.


The positive? I don’t feel as fatigued at the end of the day, and my back and hips are less tight – I just feel more alive throughout the day, like all systems are GO! The negative? In order for my monitor to be at the correct height while I’m standing, I had to elevate it – see my book pile in the photo – which then requires adjusting the books if I sit down. But since I only sat down to work at my desk, not on my computer, that hasn’t been an issue, yet I could see how switching from standing to sitting frequently could cause it to be.

And finally, standing for long periods of time requires paying attention to posture – I’m learning how to stand without swaying toward the keyboard – but that’s simply awareness.

So there you have it. The declaration of my “campaign against sitting” is official – and I’m vari, vari happy to participate in the movement! STAND UP and join me, won’t you?

Inner Strength – Find It. Keep It.

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

20130713_075248[1]Recently, just a little over a mile into my Morton Arboretum East side running route, I spied this bench. I’ve run this stretch of the Arboretum many times, so I couldn’t believe I’d never before seen this amazing piece of functional art.

Perhaps because the location of the bench coincides with the “just getting warmed up” portion of my run, it was easy to overlook. During a warm up, I’m typically not focused on the scenery, rather, I’m simply working to find my running rhythm for the day. Regardless, I had to stop, wander over and snap a photo. I love the way this shot turned out.

I felt like the message was speaking to me, and I imagine I’m not the only one. You see, when you challenge yourself to do something, well, challenging – like running long distances, facing a food fear, or taking the first steps to changing your behavior to lead a healthier life – there are days when you feel you need super-human strength. And when you DO have one of those days, how do you find and hold on to that strength?

For me, it helps to think about the payback I’ll get for tackling a challenge. If I’m running, I think about how I’ll feel when I’m finished; accomplished, proud, strong, happy to be done! If it’s a work challenge, I think about how the outcome will move my business forward, help me become a better dietitian/nutritionist and personal trainer, or provide me with a skill to help my clients even more.

So what’s your payback for tackling a challenge? Or, let’s back up a bit to first identify the challenge. Once you’re done that, what helps you tap into your inner strength to attack that challenge head on? Then, what helps you hold onto it – on those most challenging of days?





Embraceable You

Monday, June 17th, 2013
Steamboat 2013

Steamboat 2013


This past weekend I was lucky to spend time with family – LOTS of family. Immediate family, extended family, friend family (you know, the friends you’ve had for so long they simply BECOME family?). It was Father’s Day weekend, and I was fortunate to be able to share it with my dad; hence, LOTS of family.

Also on the weekend agenda, running the Steamboat Classic 2013, a 4-mile and 15k run (Illinois’ Toughest 15k, according to race hosts, the Illinois Valley Striders) that I was fortunate to be able to share with my brother, my nephew, and my great-nephew. Nothing like being the only girl in the running pack. My great-nephew ran the 4-miler, the rest of us attacked the 9.

2013 marked the 40th year for this quirky race. I say quirky because we 15k participants had the pleasure of running the most grueling leg of the race not once, but twice. The Peoria, IL area is graced with gorgeous bluffs – bluffs equal very steep hills. Twice. Enough said.

So between lots of family and lots of runners/walkers, I was surrounded by lots of different people, and, I might add, a wide range of body types. I feel this is important to point out for two reasons.

Number one, if you’re a runner, you’ve probably noticed that many participants (of all distances, from 5k’s to Half Marathon’s) don’t always fit the stereotypical “runner’s build”. This particular race has a Clydesdale and Athena division (Weight Classes Aim to Balance Races), so you know every registrant wasn’t a lean, mean running machine. And even if you’re not a runner, you still belong to a family, so you’ve probably noticed that not all family members are built the same way (especially those extended and friend family members!).

Number two, many of the clients I see in my practice suffer from serious body image issues. They’re challenged to find even one positive physical attribute, and frequently spend hours each day attempting to exercise or starve their bodies into their vision of perfection. Which is impossible, by the way. These lovely women, beautiful just as they are, work extremely hard to embrace, let alone celebrate their unique beauty.

On the other hand, the “friends and family women” I encountered this weekend appeared completely comfortable in their bodies – they wore shorts, tank tops and tees, summer attire we wait all year to wear – and they certainly seemed to have no compunction about not being perfect. Not that I asked them, or that we even had this conversation. But being surrounded by such “normal” looking women was such a departure, not only from the clients I work with, but from the striving for bodily perfection that I frequently encounter, it was almost bewildering.

The bodies at the race were strong and fit – you simply can’t run distances of 4 or 9 miles and not be. That’s reason enough for celebration of body and spirit. The other “weekend bodies” had carried babies (ok, not ALL of them, but MOST of them), and lived full, joyful lives peppered with cookouts, beer festivals, birthday cakes, and chili suppers – all celebrations FOR body and spirit.

So if today you’re not feeling particularly perfect in your body, perhaps you can somehow see your way clear to honoring your body for all it allows you to do; like enjoy life in the walking or running lane, share good food and memories with friends and family, or even to simply show up and participate in life, and embrace YOU as a celebration of body and spirit. Imperfections and all.

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 3

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

48 hours from now, I will have completed my half marathon. I can’t believe it’s so close!

Essentially, I’m finished training – completely. At this point, there’s nothing else physically that I can do to get stronger, faster, or fitter. I follow a religious foot, Achilles, and calf stretching and strengthening routine that I’ll do tonight and tomorrow; can’t really ever overdo that, and it’s helpful, even in this final hour.

Today I walked 1/2 mile to warm up, then ran an easy two miles. By easy, I’m referring to intensity. I followed that up with a yoga class – it felt really good to fit in some extended total-body stretching. The instructor’s emphasis for today’s class was on stretching and opening the sides of the body; loved it! Yoga is a wonderful antidote to running and strength training, and I try to fit it in as often as I can – unfortunately, I’ve been neglecting it because my training has taken precedence. It’s ironic that we offer Vinyasa yoga for beginners here at the NutriFit studio, but since I’m working when class is in session, I never get to reap the benefits. Too bad. . .it’s an awesome class!

A couple of days ago I was kicking around the idea of bringing food along so that once we check into our hotel we’re not held captive by over-priced, underwhelming restaurant food. It’s rare that food bothers my digestive system, but now would be a ridiculously horrible time for it to be one of those rare times. . .bringing my own food just makes more sense, especially since we’re driving. My brother likes the idea as well, so that sealed the deal and I decided to go for it.

In advance, I’ll cook up a big pot of whole wheat pasta (extremely difficult to find at a restaurant), saute’ veggies and vegan meatballs for me, and bring shrimp or chicken for my brother, nephew and husband. I’ll toss a huge salad of spinach, mushrooms, and strawberries, mix up my special olive oil-based dressing, and bring fruit and dark chocolate for dessert. When it’s time to eat, I’ll simply plug in the wok, heat the pasta and toppings, and serve up the rest. Cheap, delicious, nutritious, and smart. Well, except for the dish washing; bathtub? Nah. . .just kidding.

I’ll take pics and let you know how it works out in my post-run follow-up blog.

For now, here’s the recipe for the salad dressing – it’s divine!


1 tablespoon orange juice

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 small garlic clove, smashed

½ teaspoon ground, black pepper

In a small glass jar, combine orange juice, vinegar, olive oil, mustard, garlic and black pepper. Put the lid on the jar; shake contents vigorously until thoroughly mixed.

This salad is actually tossed with this dressing. Yum!

This salad is actually tossed with this dressing. Yum!





Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 6

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

It’s been only 1 week since the Boston Marathon bombing, and it has been for me, as it has for countless others, a week of tremendous emotion.

When I ran my last long run on Saturday, it was such a beautiful day, and a beautiful run, but Boston loomed. As I head into the final week before my race, the pall of last Monday is woven through the excitement I feel. What to do? What every other runner in America (and beyond) is doing; run strong for Boston. In fact, this evening there are two informal runs taking place; one in Chicago and one in Deerfield that are doing just that. Wish I could participate, but work calls, so I’ll be there in spirit.

Now, a quick recap of today. Just when I thought that running through wind, rain, and snow, up seemingly never-ending hills, and putting in the long training mileage even when my body wasn’t cooperating was as hard as it would get. . .I hit taper week.

OMG! Let me be very clear. When I work out, I work out. I don’t get myself to the gym at the ridiculous hour that I do to socialize or do a few spins on the stationary bike. I’m focused, I sweat, I squeeze out every ounce of determination I’ve got, whether it’s lifting weights, doing cardio, yoga or core.

And this week? I can’t. Well, of course I can – but I’m cutting back in order to save energy and strength for the run. And it’s so hard!

Monday’s are my strength training days, and when I lift, I lift heavy (for me). Lots of women don’t lift beyond 10 pounds, give or take a couple pounds on either side of that number. It reminds me of the joke, “You should always lift weights that are heavier than your purse.” Well, plenty don’t. But I do (and so should you). You may think that lifting weights won’t impact running energy, but think about it, every extra ounce of energy your body spends repairing and getting stronger (which is essentially what happens when you lift weights) takes away from energy stores you need to run strong. If lifting weights during training impacts your running by making you stronger, why would it not have an impact now? So I had to ease back. Wicked hard.

But backing off on running? Now that I’m looking forward to. It’s a huge psychological boost to realize I only need to run 3 miles tomorrow and 2 on Thursday. Piece of cake!

So this week requires a different type of determination; scaling back, after I’ve spent 4 months pushing. And by the way, after tossing my purse on the scale in my office (hey, I’m a dietitian/nutritionist), it weighs just under 5 pounds.

My 4.75 lb. purse.

My 4.75 lb. purse.


Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 13

Monday, April 15th, 2013

It is with a heavy heart that I write today’s post.

I’m listening to coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and have only two questions. How can such an evil act touch such an innocent, joyful event? When will it end?

Just yesterday, I wrote about envisioning the actual day of an event you spend months training for. The joy, the excitement, the thrill.

In my wildest, most obscure thoughts, terrorism, bombings, and mass destruction weren’t even considered.

Tomorrow is a run day. Every step I take will be in honor of the Boston Marathon victims, their families, and their loved ones.


Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 20

Monday, April 8th, 2013
Check Out Number 9!

Check Out Number 9!

I thought this sign was too funny! Especially number 9 – NEVER EXERCISE ALONE.

Last Monday I did a treadmill run at the Holiday Inn Express in East Peoria, IL. The hotel staff was extremely friendly, the room was quiet, clean and spacious, the bed was fabulous. But the fitness room? I’ll start by giving them a thumbs up for even having one. It was clean and not too cramped, with furnished towels and a water dispenser – and wonderfully outdated exercise charts that were fun to look at, especially the 80’s workout attire! Yet if you were interested in anything other than cardio, you were out of luck.

Outdated Hotel Workout Poster HIEP

Love The Bike Shorts

Outdated Workout Poster Holiday Inn EP

And. . .More Bike Shorts

Workout Room HIEP

Nice Light, Good Variety of (working) Cardio Machines

While one weight machine was available, exercisers were limited to chest press, chest press, or chest press. And the decline mini-bench? It was fit only for teeny, tiny, inhumanly short little people – I’ve yet to figure out what one could actually do with it. I used it as a resting place for my heels while doing tricep dips. . .not ideal, but it worked.

Chest Press Machine

Chest Press Machine

Now back home, today was my “regular” Monday workout – so thankful! That meant a 20 minute warm-up on the stationary bike followed by 45 minutes of strength training, WITH DUMBBELLS, working biceps, shoulders, and triceps, with a little light leg work tossed in. Seriously, dumbbells should be your new BFF – especially if you’re a woman. Building muscle builds strength, stamina, and energy, and helps you burn calories more efficiently (even when not working out). All reasons why I was so disappointed there were no free weights (aka dumbbells) at the hotel. I missed my BFF’s.

With that said, I give the Holiday Inn Express in East Peoria, IL a two dumbbell rating (out of five). My recommendations for an improved workout experience? Move out the chest press machine and slanted mini-bench, and move in a rack of dumbbells ranging in weight from 3 – 50 pounds. Add 4, 6 and 8 pound medicine balls, and a BOSU balance trainer. Voila! That’s plenty of tools for a varied, effective workout.






Countdown to Marathon – Day 22

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

The Benefits of The Buddy System

Since it’s Saturday, it’s a long mileage day, and I’m happy to report I got in 12 (and then some) miles by 10 am. The last two Saturdays, one of my good friends has joined me for the first half of my run. Last week we did 4.5 together, today 6.30. Why is it that the second six felt much longer?

Well duh, it’s because I was by myself. Watching the time or miles fly by is one of the benefits of running with someone. Normally I don’t. I like the solitude and time alone to let my mind wander and really connect with my body. But, for a variety of reasons, it’s been beneficial for her to join me – and as it turns out, I’m enjoying it.

For some people, the accountability of meeting up with a partner to work out is the only way they can get and stay moving. I say, go for it! It’s a great way to keep each other motivated and focused.

Arboretum Run

Arboretum Run

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 27

Monday, April 1st, 2013

27 days from now, I’m running my second 1/2 marathon. As a way to maintain my commitment to blogging regularly, and to serve (hopefully) as a bit of inspiration to others working toward a fitness goal, I’ve decided to chronicle my last few weeks of preparation. If you’ll indulge me in sharing a bit of background. . .

I was registered to run this race in April 2012, but due to an injury sustained while training, I was forced to defer. Luckily deferring was an option; after a note to the race director, a letter from my doctor, and an additional processing fee (grrrr).

I’ve been sidelined by injuries before – most notably, 6 years ago, by a nasty encounter with plantar fasciitis (on BOTH feet) that required months of physical therapy, orthotics, acupuncture, and finally, shockwave therapy. The first pain-free run I did post-rehab and recovery, I was in tears (of JOY!) – that’s how much I love to run. Luckily, until last year I’ve been injury-free, when as fate would have it, I was once again reminded that I’m really not invincible.

This training season (in progress since January 2013), I’ve been extra careful to avoid injury. So far, it’s working. I have new shoes that I broke in and adapted to s-l-o-w-l-y, I’ve been religious about strengthening and stretching muscles, tendons and ligaments in my feet, never increase my weekly mileage by more than 10%, divide my week into cross training activities, and take a well-deserved rest day (or two) each week. And equally, if not more importantly, I also pay close attention to training and recovery nutrition. . .the other piece of peak performance!

As it turns out, I’m starting my 27 day countdown in a hotel – which means my regular workout schedule is disrupted. Here’s what it typically looks like:

M, W, F – 20-30 minutes light cardio warm-up, 60 minutes strength training, 15 minutes stretching.

T, Th – 4-6 mile run, 30 minutes core and stretching.

Sat – OR – Sun – Distance run.

Last Saturday (March 30), I logged 11 miles. Since I’m travelling tomorrow morning and working in the afternoon/evening, I got my 4-mile run in this morning, on the hotel treadmill. I’m just grateful they had one! One of the lessons I learned long ago, is that when you make fitness a priority, you find a way to make it consistent. Planning ahead is the best way, and so far, it works for me pretty well.

Happy Monday, and thanks for reading along on my journey.

 Day 27 Hotel Run

Yearlong Statue of Liberty Renovation. . .& YOU?

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Don’t say CLOSING. Lady Liberty may be undergoing a yearlong safety renovation, but those involved with the makeover are adamant that visitors will experience only restricted access, not a complete shutdown.

What does this have to do with you?

While a year may seem like a long time to complete a makeover, in reality, that’s the timeframe I give clients eager to quickly lose weight or get back into shape. Think about all of the things you experience in one year; vacations, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, retirements, illness, injuries, work commitments and business travel – the list is huge.

So regardless of what life throws in your path over the course of one year, the trick is to hold onto the gains and changes that you’ve made, all the while continuing to make progress. It’s incredibly easy to get sidetracked, yet if you can stay the course for 365 days, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goal!