Tag: exercise

The Realistic Victory

The Realistic Victory

You’ve been cutting carbs, lifting weights, and doing cardio till you are soaked. You’ve actually dropped two sizes. You feel fabulous. You look fit. Now if only you could lose those last five pounds…

Sound familiar? Welcome to the infamous Diet Plateau. After making a mountainous effort to exercise and eat right, you find your weight loss results have come to a halt. Diet plateaus are very real, usually occurring four weeks to two months into a diet.
I have a friend who I see about every six months. For the last three years, every time I see her she is complaining about losing that last five pounds. Talk about a diet plateau. We all know it doesn’t take three years to lose five pounds. She seems to be doing the right things, but just can’t seem to get those last few pounds off.


To lean down for my bodybuilding competition I lost around 20 pounds. This was not a sustainable weight, and it was purely for the competition. However, I did want to equalize at around a 10 pound net loss after the competition. I was able to keep my weight there for about five months, but then it started to creep up.

I have never been a fan of scales, and I even recommend that people put their scales away and just go by the fit of their clothes, and how they look and feel. When I was training, though, it was important to keep track of my weight loss and fat loss, so I started weighing myself every few days. This continued after my competition was over, and that is how I noticed this creep. I really couldn’t understand it. I was eating about the same as I had been eating the past five months, yet my weight was five pounds higher, and I couldn’t seem to get it off. I even bought a scale (for the first time in 30 years) because I thought that there MUST be something wrong with the scale at the gym. I know… a little obsessive.

A diet plateau can result from several factors. It may be a question of what, exactly, you’re losing. Seventy percent of the weight you lose in the first two to three weeks of a diet is water. By the end of the third week, water loss will account for only about twenty percent of weight loss. Once you begin burning body fat rather than merely shedding water, you have to work harder. Most people can lose a pound of water weight a week by cutting their daily intake by 200 to 300 calories. Losing a pound of fat a week requires cutting about 500 calories a day.

Beware though… consuming too few calories also can waylay weight loss. You need a certain amount of calories for everyday functioning. If you try to lose weight too quickly by radically reducing calories, your body will slow your metabolism to compensate, creating a weight-loss plateau.

Other ways that diets are unintentionally sabotaged include underestimating portions—essentially overeating without realizing it—and consuming hidden sources of calories, such as excess fat used in meal preparation. You also may not be working out at the right exercise intensity, thereby overestimating the calories you’re burning at the gym.

(Below are some tips to help with a plateau.) However, I have been considering some other things. As I really look at how much exercise I am doing, I realize that I have not decreased the amount of time or intensity. I also know in my heart of hearts that it is not realistic to do more exercise than I am already doing. I also took a look at my diet. I am averaging 1400 calories a day. That is sustainable for me. I do not feel deprived or hungry, but if I start to cut a few hundred calories, it is not realistic. I have decided that I have reached my ideal weight. My sustainable weight. Yes, I would like to be five pounds lighter, but it is not realistic, so I am okay with it. I think my friend has also reached her ideal weight, and she just needs to be okay with it.

Anyway, on to the tips…

Consume the Correct Number of Calories

Eat enough to maintain weight loss at a pace of one to two pounds per week. If you’re losing more than two pounds of body fat a week, some of that weight loss is coming from muscle. When you lose muscle mass, you slow down your metabolism.

The Calorie Need Calculator link and Activity Calorie Calculator link can help you to figure out the perfect number for you.


Add some exercise. Do some form of extra aerobic exercise three to five days a week and strength training two to three times a week. Strength training maintains and/or increases muscle mass, helping boost your metabolism.

Start a Food Journal

Recording what you eat make you aware of extra calories. The numbers don’t lie and they can add up fast. That handful of Doritos will affect your body, even if it came from a bag on someone else’s desk.

Be Patient

Sometimes we need to allow the body a period of time to adjust, and then weight loss will resume.

The Bottom Line: Take time to congratulate yourself on having come this far. Then adjust your routine to carry you to weight-loss victory. But make sure that your victory is realistic and sustainable.

5 Signs You Need a Shakeup to Your Shapeup

5 Signs You Need a Shakeup to Your Shapeup

SONY DSCWhen it comes to exercise, it’s always good to mix it up a bit, but there are also times when your exercise routine may be ready for a more major overhaul. Because exercise is a personal thing, and your workout results (and problems) can only be recognized by you, here are a few things to be on the lookout for to determine if you need a shakeup in your shapeup. No matter if you’re a novice to physical fitness or an expert, here are 5 signs that you need to switch up your exercise regime ASAP! –

  1.  If you’re working out and eating properly, you should be seeing results. If you aren’t seeing anything noticeable in the mirror, or if your clothing sizes haven’t changed (or gotten tighter), it’s likely that you need a new exercise routine. With the right routine, you should be able to watch your body transform, even if it is only a little bit. Inches should be coming off and you should start to see more tone to your body.
  2. If in the beginning you wanted to lose weight and improve your endurance, so you did a lot of cardio exercises, such as running on the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, etc. However, now that you’ve lost weight and built-up your endurance, you want to focus more on gaining muscle, which requires lifting weights. When your fitness goals change, your workout routine should change with them.
  3. Exercising releases hormones within the brain that are supposed to induce a happier mood. If you’re unhappy with your exercise routine, you rush through your exercises, you cannot wait to get out of the gym, or you find yourself losing focus when you work out, you may be bored. A boring workout is never a good one, and it only makes sense to change it. Being unhappy with your workouts means that you aren’t doing exercises that make you feel good. You should be enthused (okay if ‘enthused’ doesn’t quite describe you, let’s just say you shouldn’t dread your workout), and by the end of it all you should be happy with the physical activity that you do.
  4. You could do your workout routine with your eyes closed. You don’t sweat nearly as much as you used to. You don’t have to put forth a lot of effort to complete your workout. When your workout becomes a walk in the park instead of a challenge, it’s definitely time to change things around. You want your workouts to challenge you and to cause you to push yourself to the limit. If you are going to take the time to exercise, you might as well make it count.
  5. Since the day you’ve started working out until now, you’re been doing the same exact exercise. Even though you’re comfortable with this routine, it’s always helpful to switch up your routine at least every couple of weeks. Doing the same workout for months at a time could not only lead to boredom, but your body get used to the workout and you may find that your exercises are now completely and ineffective.
For a Short Bout of Exercise – Take the Stairs

For a Short Bout of Exercise – Take the Stairs


To take the stairs or not to take the stairs… that is the question.

I was recently on jury duty, and the courtroom that we were in was on the seventh floor, so I rode up and down the elevator many times during the day, many days in a row. What I found interesting was that many of the people were riding the elevator up or down for one just one floor.  Definitely an opportunity missed…

In a recent study, British researchers confirmed that some exercise is better than nothing.

Researchers found that for sedentary people, even a few minutes of daily stair climbing – a vigorous but easily accessible form of exercise – can improve cardiovascular health.

Previous studies have shown that accumulating short bouts of exercise can make a difference; this one shows just how short those bouts can be.

Twenty-two sedentary college-aged women walked up 199 steps – more than you’re likely to find at home, but doable in a high-rise – in 2.25 minutes, a “brisk but comfortable” pace which shot their heart rates up to 90 percent of their predicted maximum.

They progressed from one ascent per day during the first week to six ascents per day, for a total of 13.5 minutes over the course of a day, during the sixth and seventh weeks.

By the end of this modest exercise program, the women were measurably more fit: Heart rate, oxygen uptake and blood lactate levels during climbing were reduced, and their HDL (”good”) cholesterol levels had increased.  Source: Preventive Medicine, 2000; 30, 4, 277-281 via acefintess.org

My husband has been on a stair climbing kick lately, because he is so busy at work, he has no time for the gym. He works on the 10th floor of his building, and takes the stairs up and down at least once a day. Now, I’m not saying that his weight loss is 100% because of the stairs (some of it is because his awesome wife only serves healthy food), but he has lost over 30 pounds in the last year or so.

Make a new rule – three flights of stairs or less, skip the elevator and hoof it.

Everything You Need to Know About Stretching

Everything You Need to Know About Stretching

Stretching is a key component in most exercise routines, but knowing how and when to stretch can be confusing. Furthermore, taking extra time to stretch after a workout (that probably already seems too long) may not be a favorite among exercisers.  I know that I am usually rushed by the time I finish my workout, and stretching goes by the wayside.

Knowing the importance of stretching, I decided to do some research and learn how to better incorporate it into my exercise routine on a consistent basis. But I especially wanted to learn how to do it right, so I can make the most out of my stretches and my time.

The article 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Stretching by Greg Brooks, offers a lot of useful details about stretching. Stretching is important, but aspects of it aren’t always beneficial, and this article also highlights why stretching is not good for certain muscles and in certain situations. 

The last thing you want is to do something counterproductive to your exercise routine, especially when you are working hard to get fit, so this article gives you the tools to make sure you are maximizing the benefits of stretching.  Here are a few of my faves from the article.

You’re Not Just Stretching Muscle

Every time you stretch you are not just hitting your muscles but other soft tissue too. Fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds muscles, blood vessels, and nerves also gets stretched, as well as the tendons that connect your muscles to your bones.

Everything is Connected

The body is comprised of connecting pathways of soft tissue. These pathways run through the entire body, and with the body interconnected in this way by stretching one section of the soft tissue pathway, you are influencing other areas throughout that pathway. A simple example is how repeated wearing of high heel shoes may shortens the tissue that runs from the sole of the foot up the back of the body and can result in back pain.

We Should All Stretch Differently

We are all unique and have different length tensions throughout the body. There is no ”One size fits all” stretching program. Just like tuning a musical instrument we must only address the strings that need adjustment. It is important to understand your own body and then make adjustments accordingly.

Breathing Influences the Stretch

Deep breathing stimulates the Parasympathetic nervous system and this causes the body to relax. Mediation makes good use of this technique, as does Yoga. When the body is relaxed it lets go of muscle tension. When you stretch you can use the breath to increase your stretching range of movement. As you slowly move into the stretch take a deep and long breath out and feel your tension release, do not fight it. As you breath in, come out of the stretch slightly and then return into the stretch as you breath out again.

Stretching Can Cause Injury

Knots, Adhesion’s and Scar Tissue leave our soft tissue weak and vulnerable. Putting poor quality soft tissue under strain through stretching can cause further damage. Think about stretching an elastic band with a knot tied in the center, the knot gets tighter and produces weak breaking points. Massage and foam rolling may be a better alternative to improving quality.

Stretching is NOT a Warm Up

Static stretching should not be thought of as a warm up. Moving the joints and muscles by taking the body through the movement of the workout is a better way to prepare the body for exercise. For example, if you are getting ready to work biceps, do a few bicep curls using no weights. Just take your arms through the movement.

Better to Stretch Away From Exercise

Stretching can be done at any time but stretching when the body is relaxed is the most effective. Stretching after exercise or even in the evening is a good way to go. If you try and stretch during your workout the muscles finds it hard to relax, and the stretch doesn’t really do it’s job as effectivley.

Stretching is 3 Dimensional

We have over 600 muscles in the body and they all run in different directions. When you stretch you need to consider the angle of the muscles on stretch. For example you have 3 Hamstrings and by just internally or externally rotating the legs you can hit different muscles. If you find one stretch easy then try it from a different angle.

Exercise in Everyday Activities

Exercise in Everyday Activities

The body burns calories 24/7, even while asleep, so how do every day activities stack up against traditional exercise when it comes to burning calories?

We all burn calories during our daily routines, and there’s even a name for it — non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). It’s the energy we use for everything (not including sleeping, eating, or sports-like exercise) from walking up stairs to texting.

Everyday activities might seem mundane, but they can be an opportunity to burn some extra calories — no gym required.

But can these NEAT activities really count as exercise? Don‘t give up the gym membership yet; for most people, daily activities such as shopping or housework don’t get the body working hard enough to get the heart rate up, or engage the muscles enough to count toward the CDC exercise guidelines.  However, it doesn’t mean it’s not a good way to sneak in some easy calorie burning. Every little bit help.

There are many opportunities each day to boost the calorie burn, so turn off the auto pilot and get in the habit of doing daily activities with more speed, energy, and intensity.

  1. Stride Right — whether it’s shopping for groceries at the market or a new pair of shoes at the mall, shopping means walking, and walking burns calories. Walking for 30 minutes can burn over 120 calories, and by picking up the pace the burn can be over 150 calories. Park as far away from the entrance as possible to add some distance to the walk, and just say no to elevators and escalators. Take the stairs to burn an extra five calories per minute.
  2. Do the Vacuum while vacuuming — the exercise is called the vacuum, and it’s an easy addition to any vacuuming (or sweeping) routine.  Take in a big breath and fill the lungs with air. While breathing out, draw the belly button in toward the spine.  The dust bunnies are gone and the core muscles get a workout all at the same time. And adding some vigor to the vacuuming will not only get it done quicker, but it will burn a few extra calories too.
  3. Bottoms up — kitchen activities, like cooking and doing the dishes, may only  burn around 75 calories, but add in some gluteus Maximus isometrics (read: squeezing the butt), while chopping those veggies or washing posts and pans, and the backside gets a workout too.
  4. Sitting on an (isometric) goldmine — Sitting in a class, a meeting, or at a desk may only burn around 49 calories, but it doesn’t mean those muscles aren’t able to do some too. Work the shoulders by crunching them toward the ears. Add in some butt squeezes and vacuum abs, and let the muscle toning begin.
  5. Wax on, wax off — washing the car can burn 135 calories in 30 minutes, but add in a few sets of calf raises to reach the top of the car, along with a few sets of squats to wash the tires, and the legs get a workout, too. Bonus: Saving some cash by ditching an expensive carwash.
Are you the Queen of Procrastination?

Are you the Queen of Procrastination?

Happy Monday! Mondays usually mean procrastination for me… big time. So I am trying hard to break this habit.

It can be easy to procrastinate whether it’s cleaning, DIY projects, homework, writing blog articles, etc. And the tendency to procrastinate can even be linked to our personalities. So whether you are the king or queen of procrastination or just do it occasionally, here are a few tips to get er done. Ooh! and maybe have more time to exercise!

Understand how long things really take. In reality, many tasks take longer than we expect. The item at the bottom of your list is likely to be put off for another day (procrastination), if you have underestimated your timeline. To break this unintended procrastination cycle, schedule extra time: If you think a project will last two hours, plan for three. You’ll have a more realistic outlook on what you can accomplish during your day.

Fight the distractions. When you’re working on something that’s necessary, but maybe painful (e.g., cleaning the junk drawer), it can be tempting to check Facebook, surf the web, or give in to other distractions. Tip: Do whatever you dislike the most first thing in the morning (even for just a short period of time), and you won’t have to spend the rest of the day wondering (or dreading) when you’ll get it done.

Just say no. When you feel as if you should do something, but don’t really want to, it’s easy to drop the ball, and then really feel bad about it. Before you agree to do something, take time to consider whether it’s something you really want to do, and have the time to do. Unless your something is exercise. Then just say YES, no matter what!

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