Life is NOT going to Slow Down…Make Time to be Healthy NOW!

Are you someone who would rather read about exercise than do it? Most people understand that being physically active is associated with being healthy, but knowledge is not the biggest sticking point in changing behavior. What is the number one reason people typically give for not being regularly active? Not enough time. Here are ways to overcome this and other barriers to fit fitness into your life.


Modern life is highly efficient because technology makes tasks easier. For example, wouldn’t you take the elevator instead of the stairs because they are situated at the entrance of the building, rather than around two corridors to the left to even find the stairway? Habits like this contribute to our society’s lack of physical activity. Researchers estimate that stone-aged humans expended about 1,240 calories per day in activity, while the average modern man expends about 555 calories per day.


Even a little bit goes a long way for your health. You can get health benefits from doing only 30-minutes of brisk walking five days each week. And, you don’t have to do it all at once. You could walk the dog in the morning and then take a brisk walk with your coworker for 10-minutes at lunch. Few people can legitimately claim to not have 30-minutes or several blocks of 10-minutes during most days to incorporate some activity.


Fitting it in: Decide whether you are the type who prefers to add scheduled exercise sessions into your day or who will simply commit to making active choices every day (walk rather than drive, take the stairs). Activity must be a priority. “I’ll exercise when I have time” does not work.


Sticking with it. This is called working out with a friend or a personal trainer. It can also work by joining a fitness class at our new studio and being inspired again to take action and stick with it!


Make it convenient. That may mean having your workout clothes with you, choosing a gym nearby, or hiring a trainer to come into the comfort of your own home! Maybe you aren’t willing to bundle up during the winter months to get your daily walk in, but how about having a treadmill at home to use while watching your favorite TV show? Research shows that having exercise equipment at home increases the likelihood that you will exercise.


Changing Old Habits

Habits, good or bad…. are formed by repetition. Eating habits are no exception. If you are in the habit of snacking when you watch TV, you reinforced that habit until it finally became a part of your routine. Other habits are formed in the same way- for example- eating the minute you come in the house, eating when the kids come in from school, eating when you come in from a date, or eating while cooking dinner.


We also find that certain moods and circumstances cause us to eat even if we are not hungry. For example: anger, boredom, fatigue, happiness, loneliness, the kids are finally in bed, our spouse is out for the evening or out of town, nervousness, anxiety -all these may trigger an eating response. The list is endless. What are your strongest triggers that are preventing you from losing weight?


Habits are hard to break. We must not only break old habits, but we must make our goal to form new ones in the same manner through repetition. Make several daily commitments during this program. Your daily commitments will help you form good habits. Remember: “It is easier to act your way into a new way of feeling than it is to feel your way into a new way of acting.”


Resisting temptation is difficult. However, if you succeed in resisting the first time, it becomes easier to resist the next time. Before long, you have formed the good habit of resisting temptation every time it confronts you. If you yield to that temptation, you will find it easier to yield the next time. This process is also known as behavior modification. It simply means changing your behavior. These techniques work only if you consistently repeat them, so that they become a part of you.


Here are some NEW HABITS to put into practice:


• Eat three meals a day. Have two or three planned snacks daily.

• Eat only at the kitchen table and savor your meals by eating slower.

• Substitute an alternative activity for “mindless snacking”, such as developing a new hobby- reading, doing a craft, organizing the house or calling a friend

• Drink a glass of water or eat a piece of fruit before each meal. Research shows how this can decrease your total food volume!

• Spend 15 minutes every morning doing some daily stretches and strength exercises to wake-up the mind and the body for the new day ahead!

• Write your own!


Going from Good to Great in 2012

It’s the first of the year, and PRIME time for setting New Year’s goals for better health, giving up bad habits or finally starting to save more money than we spend.  Don’t get me wrong, I am all about setting goals (ask any of my current clients or ask to see my daily, weekly and 90-day goal worksheet) but I think sometimes we focus more on setting a goal than actually acting on it.  So, this past week, I had the opportunity to give a presentation on how to take your life from “Good to GREAT” with 10 practical messages to put into place.  Implement just 1 idea and you’ll experience a better year ahead.  Implement all 10 and you are in for some serious IMPACT!

1.  Have more fun….in your workouts! Try a new workout. Then try another. Find activities that invigorate you. Get new music. Team up with a friend. Meet other fit people. Subscribe to fitness blogs or magazines.

2.  Cook more– even if it is just 15 minutes a day. You can eat a healthy, wholesome dinner for less than $5 per person. Healthy food can taste good. Slow food movement. People often think it is too difficult (only gourmet chefs on the Food Network) or don’t carve enough time in their day to be successful.

3.  Get emotional about your goals. The first step is thinking about your goals for the short term and where you see yourself by the end of this year.  Write them down and place them in a visible place.  But you know what is even MORE important?  Discovering the WHY you want to reach that goal.  It needs to stir you.

4.  Slow down. Turn off the television. Put down your smartphone. Sleep more.

5.  Show your child that fitness is important. They are depending on you. Be a role model. Child obesity is a scary thing and we need to set an example and reverse this trend.

6.  Decide to be the most fit you’ve been, no matter what your age. Why? Because physical activity can impact all facets of your life.  If you have 5 extra minutes this week, start to write down all the ways that exercise can impact your job/productivity, family/relationships, overall wellness and future/retirement.  Age is NOT an excuse.

7.  Reflect. Journal. Breathe deeper. Read more books that inspire you or help you to dream.

8.   Get over it. Resolve past conflicts or wounds on your heart. This is your life- today. You cannot change your past. Love yourself. Care about your health. Accept your body for what it is and what it does for you. You only get one body in this lifetime. How you live with your body has huge power over your life.

9.  Believe in your power to change.  Everyday, you are in control of your choices.  Make better choices and believe it can happen.

10.  Stop waiting for life to slow down (it won’t). Your time is right now. Make the most of every decision you have to nourish your body, mind and soul, in order to nourish those around you.


Skinner Waistlines

So you’ve put on a pound or two this winter.  That’s not so bad, right?  Thing is, the extra weight probably went straight to your waist, and that is where the trouble starts.  Belly fat is the latest threat to your health.  Study after study shows that it increases your risk of heart disease, hypertension, cancer and dementia.  The guideline is for men to have a waist circumference less than 40 inches; women less than 35 inches.  Why is it so dangerous?  Belly fat, or visceral fat, lies deep in your abdomen, surrounds your organs and secretes toxic hormones.   These contribute to the thickening of the walls of coronary blood vessels, increasing your risk for heart disease.

The liver, your body’s detox center, also seriously suffers if you have too much weight around the middle.  When the liver gets infiltrated with this fat, it can have a harder time filtering out harmful substances.  Even your muscles, which typically use up a lot of the sugar you take in, can become sluggish and slower in metabolizing overall sugar in your diet.

The good news?  With the right fitness program and eating habits, you can reduce your midline, strengthen your core from the inside out and add years to your life! Below are my top tips for a stronger and more toned mid-section:

  1. Build muscle mass.  During a cardio workout, your body zaps hundreds of calories, but your metabolism slows down almost instantly when you stop.  After strength training, on the other hand, you burn fat for hours, or up your metabolism by 15%!
  2. Run from fat!  Hit the road for 30-60 minutes of jogging.  If this is not your thing, try interval training- constantly switching up the pace of your workout will help you burn more calories.  Get together a group of friends for a 6-week Bootcamp program with Allegro- you’ll be amazed at the progress.
  3. Have a high protein breakfast.  An egg-white omelet is a good choice, or try unsweetened Greek yogurt with fruit and honey or a piece of whole grain bread and low-fat cheese.  The protein will help hold you over longer through the morning.
  4. Manage your Stress.  Stress causes the body to start stockpiling fat in the gut.  Your system thinks a crisis is coming and deposits fat cells into the belly because it is most convenient.  Keep healthy snacks on hand such as almonds or dried fruit.
  5. Get your sleep.  Lack of sleep is linked to weight gain.  Research shows that when you are tired, the hormones that stimulate appetite increase, while the hormones that help you feel full plummet.
  6. Perform 3 core exercises after every workout.  Do one basic move such as crunches on the ball, one for your obliques such as side planks, and one for the low back, such as Super man.  Aim for 1-2 sets of 15-20 repetitions.  This will challenge each core muscle group and improve overall function!


TR…What? How TRX Training can benefit YOU!

This past year, after seeing this bright yellow and black suspension trainer highlighted at multiple trade shows and raved by top trainers, I finally decided to give it a try and see what all the hype was about.

What is TRX? Born in the Navy SEALS, Suspension Training bodyweight exercise develops strength, balance, flexibility and core stability simultaneously. It requires the use of the TRX® Suspension Trainer™, a highly portable performance training tool that leverages gravity and the user’s body weight to enable hundreds of exercises for every fitness goal.

I got certified, with the intention of using it as something in my toolbox for in-home personal training, but soon realized that it would change the way I train FOREVER. Does it look weird? Yes. Is it hard to imagine this suspension trainer can hold my entire body weight? Yes, but get over it. If you want the best core workout and most versatile piece of equipment, stop what you are doing immediately and sign-up for TRX classes beginning in January. Benefits?


•Get a fast, effective total body workout

•Benefits people of ALL fitness levels (pro athletes to seniors)

•Can be set-up anywhere (gym, home, road, outside)


How is TRX training different at Allegro Coaching?

We strive for safety in every workout and realize how important it is to cater to every fitness level, especially the beginner. Learn proper set-up, hand position, foot position and progressions at the start of every class. We take it further and mix in intervals of cardio off the TRX, body weight drills and core to make it a fun, fat-blasting workout!


Still not convinced? Check out this video to see how it can transform your body! (Used by Drew Brees, the US Women’s Soccer Team & my mentor, Todd Durkin)


Beat the Bulge- Holiday Must Do Tips

Did you know the average weight gain is only 1-2 lbs. over the 7-week holiday? So what’s the problem with an extra pound? The problem is, a year later, the vast majority of us have not removed that pound. Continue this pattern over 30 or 40 holiday seasons and the problem becomes—quite literally—huge.

So how are we supposed to get through the holidays without gaining weight? Here are eight effective ways to get yourself ready to beat the holiday bulge.

Buy clothes that fit right now. A new addition to your wardrobe in a size that shows off your summer body can be all you need to prevent those extra pounds from creeping on. So before you begin the festivities, go buy yourself something perfect to wear to your parties and hang it someplace visible, so it serves as a constant reminder.

Write it down. The truth is, if we would write down the not-so-perfect meals and treats, we could find a way to compensate for them, at least a bit. For example, you have a peppermint brownie in the break room at work, which you know is carbohydrates and fat. Eat one less portion of carbohydrate and one less portion of fat for your dinner. It’s not ideal, but it’ll help. Or perhaps you couldn’t resist Mom’s homemade scones for breakfast. You could plan on an extra 20 or 30 minutes of your workout tonight. The point is, if we write it down, and do the math, we can lessen the damage.

Keep exercising. One of my slowest times of year is between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I get lots of cancellations or conflicts with parties or holiday to-do lists. It’s hard to remain balanced when you have a million things to do and gifts to buy. Yet the greatest gift you can give yourself is to stay focused on your fitness goals and get your workout in.

Eat before parties. Most holiday parties don’t focus on low-fat, low-calorie refreshments, so unless you’re organizing the event, the best damage control is to show up with a full tummy. You’ll be a lot less likely to swim in mayonnaise dips and pigs in blankets if you’re full.

Get junk out of the house. The majority of people don’t get into their car at midnight, drive to the store, buy the ingredients for cookies, bake them, and then stay up to eat them. But if those homemade cookies are already on your kitchen counter, you better believe you’ll find a way to justify it. The secret is to get the garbage out of the house. Send it to work with your significant other, donate it to a bake sale, re-gift it to your 100-pound friend with the perfect metabolism, or just dump it in the trash.

Choose wisely and proportionally. Something occurs during a holiday meal. It’s like a Las Vegas buffet—we feel like we have to eat some of everything. We feel almost like those foods will never exist again, and this is our last meal on the planet. This year, why not try to eat only your favorites, as in two or three items, and keep the portions to the size of your palm? If you’re still hungry, try to fill up on veggies.

Don’t beat yourself up. We can only do our very best. Mentally beating yourself up will only make you feel worse, which never helped anyone get back to their fitness program. So if you happen to gain that 1 extra pound this holiday season, be part of the rare group who actually follows through with their New Year’s resolution and manages to shed it again.



Can Pilates improve your Sports Performance?

Last month, my friend and head baseball coach at Calvin College, John Sparks, asked me if I knew of a great yoga instructor he could hire. Unfortunately, that is one of the only classes I am not equipped to teach but I asked him what his intention was. His goal was to have his entire varsity baseball team take a class during the off season to improve their flexibility, range of motion and core strength. Ahhh, yes…sounds quite similar to my favorite workout: PILATES.

One of the most common questions I get from people is the different between yoga and Pilates. I am happy to explain but the best way to understand it is to take both and see which style you gravitate to with your personality and fitness goals. Both forms of exercises are called “Mind-Body”, which means they connect the mind to your physical movements, creating improved body awareness and thoughtfulness. In Pilates, we focus on breath work to set the tone for movements or repetiions. Some of the other key fundamentals of Pilates is stabilization, differentiation, flow and control. In a nutshell, though Pilates will help you get lean and long through your mid-section, reducing low back pain, releasing hip tightness and strengthening weaker glute muscles.

But then, as a former athlete, what was it that made me gravitate so much towards this form of exercise? I mean, I used to love running suicides and sweating from hours of defensive drills. How could this be used for athletes?

Well, not only did I have my best performance this fall at the Reed’s Lake Triathlon (with the least sport-specific training ever), but I started to do some research. Pilates has always been popular with dancers, but did you know that over 6,000 professional golfers and pro tennis players practice some form of Pilates during their off season? And these numbers keep increasing each year.

Pilates is not just for the beginner, the rehab patient or the woman. No, this can increase thoracic mobility to improve your golf swing and rotation, it can strengthen your hips and pelvis to create a more powerful baseball or tennis swing, and it most certainly can correct your specific muscle imbalances, which, isn’t that what we all truly need in the end? Creating that perfect balance of strength, flexibility and mobility to edge out our opponent? Well, if you are not convinced, I dare you to take our “Crunch” classes at the new Allegro Coaching Studio this year and see for yourself. The baseball team is just wrapping up a 6-week program and 100% of the athletes have already noticed a significant improvement in posture, core strength and flexibility. We’ll just have to wait and see if it pays off for winning the 2012 conference and edging out their opponent Hope College! Go Knights!

Power of Play

I am on my way back from sunny San Diego and enjoying a lovely 4-hour flight back home.  In the midst of traveling bliss, including long lines to pass through security, unhappy workers at Starbucks, and rude business men, I found a moment of pure bliss.  This beautiful little girl, about 18 months old, getting ready to board the aircraft for what looked like her first time and the biggest smile of anticipation from cheek to cheek.  Here she was, running circles around her mom with her new Minny Mouse suitcase and tennis shoes.  I couldn’t help but smiling.  It was just so contagious.  Was I missing my little Ava?  Of course, but it was so much more than that.  When did we lose our sense of play, excitement and carefree attitude?  Aren’t we supposed to be having a little bit of fun in this lifetime?

It was appropriate to ponder as I am coming off an incredible conference with mentor, Todd Durkin and fellow fitness professionals.  We talked a lot about creating fitness programs that are effective but fun.  And that is one of our core values at Allegro Coaching.  If it’s not fun, it ain’t gonna happen.  So, I ask you, when was the last time your workout was fun- made you smile, laugh out loud or teach you something new about your playful self?  If it’s been awhile, head on over to our new line-up of classes at the Allegro Coaching studio, opening in January 2012.  You may not be running circles around me with new tennis shoes, but you’ll definitely leave with a new skip in your step!