The Balancing Act

Written by Jessica Dahm


Let’s focus on the word BALANCE for a minute. Balance is a noun that holds several meanings:

1. A state of equilibrium; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.

2. Mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc.

3. A state of bodily equilibrium

When life is busy, or all your energy is focused on a big project, it’s all too easy to find yourself “off balance,” not paying enough attention to important areas of your life. While you need to have motivation and focus if you’re going to get things done, taking this too far can lead to frustration and extreme stress.

Before the frustration and stress kick in, take a moment to check-in with yourself to evaluate your BALANCE.

Be aware – of the areas of your life that you are neglecting. Consider or write down your feelings, state of mind, life challenges, or whatever will help you be honest with yourself in assessing your life.

Analyze – if your focus is more on internal (mind, heart, health) or external (family, work, social, fun) things, or if there are areas within each that you would like to be more balanced.

List goals – Based on what you are neglecting or what your focus has been on, write down goals to help you shift your attention to areas of your life that could use a little more of it.

Action Plan – Make a list of daily, weekly, or even monthly tasks to complete to help you reach your goals for a more balanced life.

Negativity, Drop it! – You do not need to spend your time and energy on people and things that are always negative. Minimize your time people, social media, news, etc. that are always negative, and fill your time with positive family members and friends that build each other up.

Commit – Make commitments to get your life in balance. Commit to take a Punch class, TRX class, or Pilates class one or more nights a week. Experts say that exercise may boost your energy levels and your ability to concentrate. Commit 10-15 minutes of your day to do something that will restore you; take a walk, read a novel, listen to music, take a bubble bath, etc.

Evaluate and Enjoy – It takes time and effort to keep your life in balance. It is good to look back and evaluate what has/hasn’t worked in the past and decided what you can do differently to make it work. It is also good to enjoy your life whether it is balanced or not.


Skinny Summer Recipes: 250 calories or less!

Spinach-Apricot Salad

Makes:  4 servings

Time: 20 minutes

Calories: 91 per serving



8 cups torn fresh prewashed baby spinach

1/3 cup dried apricots, snipped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced or minced

4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted


Freshly ground black pepper



  • Remove stems from spinach, if desired.
  • In a large bowl combine spinach and apricots; set aside.
  • In a 12-inch skillet heat oil over medium heat; cook and stir garlic in hot oil until golden. Stir in the balsamic vinegar. Bring to boiling; remove from heat.
  • Add the spinach-apricot mixture to skillet. Return to heat and toss mixture in skillet about 1 minute or until spinach is just wilted. Transfer mixture to a serving dish.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle with almonds.
  • Serve salad immediately.


Salmon and Asparagus

Makes: 4servings

Prep: 10 minutes

Bake: 12 minutes 450°F

Calories: 235 per serving



1 pound fresh asparagus spears, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Course sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound fresh or frozen salmon fillets with skin

1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

1 teaspoon snipped fresh parsley



  • Place two (1 large and 1 medium) cast-iron skillets or oven-safe heavy skillets in a cold oven; heat oven to 450 degrees F.
  • In a medium bowl combine asparagus and 1/2 teaspoon olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Brush the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil on both sides of fish; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Carefully remove hot skillets from oven. Place fish, skin side down, in the large skillet. Place asparagus in medium skillet. Return skillets to oven. Bake for 12 minutes, or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and asparagus is crisp-tender.

To serve, sprinkle fish with lemon peel and parsley.


All-Wrapped-Up Salad

Makes: 2 servings

Time: 20 minutes

Calories: 248 per serving



2 whole grain, whole wheat, or flour tortillas

3/4 cup shredded romaine and/or fresh spinach

1/2 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled, and sliced

1/4 cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced

1 ounce Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers, shredded (1/4 cup)

Purchased salsa (optional)



  • On each tortilla, layer romaine, avocado, cucumber, and cheese. Roll up tightly.
  • If desired, halve tortillas diagonally.
  • Can chill for up to 6 hours; each wrapped tightly with plastic wrap.

If desired, serve with salsa.


Roasted Pork with Apples

Makes: 4 servings

Prep: 15 minutes

Roast: 20 minutes 425°F

Stand: 10 minutes

Calories: 239 per serving



1 teaspoon snipped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 1-pound pork tenderloin

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 medium red onion, cut into thin wedges

3 medium (1 pound) cooking apples (such as Granny Smith or Jonathan), cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges

2/3 cup apple juice or apple cider

Fresh sage sprigs (optional)



  • In a small bowl, combine the snipped sage, salt, and pepper; rub on all sides of tenderloin.
  • In a large skillet brown tenderloin in hot oil over medium heat, turning to brown all sides.
  • Transfer pork to a shallow roasting pan. Add onion to pan around pork. Roast, uncovered, at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes.
  • Stir in apples; roast for 10 to 15 minutes more or until pork internal temperature registers 155 degrees F on instant read thermometer and juices run clear.
  • Transfer pork and apple mixture to serving platter; cover with foil. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing (temperature of the meat will rise 5 degrees F while it stands).
  • In a small saucepan bring apple juice to a boil; simmer gently, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 to 1/3 cup. Drizzle over meat and apple mixture.

If desired, garnish with additional sage sprigs


Pan-Roasted Chicken with Shallots

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 20 minutes

Calories: 193 per serving



8 shallots or 1 large onion

4 medium skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 to 1 1/4 pounds total)

Salt and ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley



  • Peel shallots; halve small shallots and quarter large shallots. If using onion, cut into thin wedges (should have 1 cup shallots or onion wedges); set aside.
  • Sprinkle chicken lightly with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Add chicken; cook for 2 minutes.
  • Turn chicken. Add shallots to skillet. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees F), stirring shallots frequently and turning chicken, if necessary, to brown evenly. If necessary, add additional oil to prevent sticking. Reduce heat to medium low if chicken or shallots brown too quickly.
  • Transfer chicken and shallots to a serving platter. Cover to keep warm.
  • Add zucchini to skillet. Cook and stir for 3 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add to platter with chicken.
  • Sprinkle with parsley.

Running…Made EASY!

Running! Everyone’s doing it, and there’s good reason why. This awesome cardiovascular exercise reduces your risk of heart disease, boosts your immunity, improves concentration, creativity, and memory, and is a fantastic way to shed unwanted pounds. Here’s the best part: it doesn’t have to be difficult, painful, or boring! Here are some tips for rocking a good run, and enjoying it too:

1. The right pair of shoes

This is something fundamental to having success as a runner. Everyone’s feet are different, and everyone needs a particular shoe. Having the correct footwear will prevent injury, allowing you to enjoy your run without damaging your feet, knees, and hips. Check out a running specialty store to get properly fitted with the shoe for you (I like Gazelle Sports).

2. Good socks

Nobody likes hot, burning feet, and blisters aren’t usually that fun either. Getting the right socks can make all the difference when it comes to your feet. Say NO to cotton. It holds onto moisture and doesn’t breathe well. Opt for a sock made from a synthetic blend or merino. Both these will wick sweat away from your skin and reduce friction, keeping you happy!

3. No shorts, no shirt, no good.

Just like socks, your clothing is important in keeping you dry, cool, and comfortable. Again, leave the cotton at home and instead choose synthetic or merino threads. They wick, breathe, and will leave you the better for it.

4. Find a friend…or two!

Running with another person or a group will give you accountability, a sense of community, and build new relationships. You can set goals together, work towards them together, and achieve them together.

Now, think Chariots of Fire and give running a try!


PROACTIVE: “to initiate change rather than reacting to events”

Joel Green, Allegro Coaching

“As I pondered the subject of my first blog entry, I couldn’t help thinking of the foundation for my choice to pursue a healthy and active lifestyle: I’d rather live a vibrant, full proactive life than live in such a way as to invite problems that only put faith in a health system that is full or shortcomings.

If we’re honest, we Americans suffer from a serious lack of proactivity in reference to our health. What is astonishing to me is that the two most fatal diseases in the United States (Heart Disease and Cancers) are largely preventable. Obviously, genetics play a substantial role in both illnesses, but the majority of research out there suggests that our lifestyle choices are largely to blame for our health. That means we have the choice – better yet – the opportunity to practice lifestyles that cultivate our own health. We do have some control over our futures.

So, back to my motivation for staying active and eating well; whether I am playing a soccer match, running, spending time outdoors, or working out at Allegro Coaching, I know that I am preventing the premature faltering of my vibrancy as a human being. Our bodies were created to MOVE. If anything we owe it to ourselves to live up to how we were designed. When we pigeon-hole our diets with one or two food groups and graft ourselves onto our couch we are fostering a REACTIVE attitude toward potential challenges to our health. Use this largely dull analogy as a clarifier: Nobody in their right mind plans to have their extended family over for dinner weeks in advance without gathering the necessary ingredients to create the meal they intend to serve before the day arrives. Even more un-appealing would be serving the family some take-out because things weren’t taken care of beforehand. That would be poor planning indeed. Think of your health in the same way. Gather those ingredients that foster a healthy lifestyle, whatever they may be, and get started now. Don’t wait for those family members (cardiovascular disease and cancer) to show up, only to run to prescription medicine and pricey medical procedures to partially do what a proper diet and exercise successfully would have accomplished.

In closing, being proactive about your health is vitally important. In my opinion, the vast majority of our health problems here in America would be solved if our society as a whole decided to stop reacting to their lack of health and started being proactive about cultivating a healthy life. Just like everything valuable in life, your health is something you must work for, fight for, and sacrifice for. Truthfully, your life depends on it.”


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.


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)


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!