Friday, July 30, 2010

National Dance Day

(Image found here)

Did you know that tomorrow is National Dance Day? There are festivities going on throughout the country to help celebrate the world of dance. I took dance lessons for 10 years and competed on a dance team in high school so needless to say, dancing holds a special place in my heart. Dancing has become quite popular due in large part to TV reality shows like "Dancing With the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance." I am a huge fan of the latter show which is where I found out about National Dance Day.

This a great way to get off the couch and get your groove thing on! For details on what may be available in your area, check out this site.

For those of you who live local, the Hagerstown Gold's Gym is doing a Dance-a-Thon in their parking lot tomorrow from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. with Body Jam and Zumba classes. There's free food too (I heard something about fajitas) so definitely worth checking out.

Also, Nigel Lythgoe will be in Washington D.C. to kick off the festivities there, including a flash mob!! As soon as I heard there would be a flash mob, I knew where I would be tomorrow afternoon...the National Mall!! If you're interested in learning the routine, it can be found here.

So get your dancing shoes's time to booooogie!! See you there...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Good Quote

I really like this quote by George Sheehan. It emphasizes the point that so much of the battle that rages in our quest to "make it fit" occurs in our own heads...

"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants to quit."

One of my favorite ways to combat this "quitting attitude" that my mind sometimes gives my body is by chanting a certain catch-phrase in my head over and over again. It gives my mind something else to think about rather than concentrating on wanting to "hand-in-the-towel" during any given workout. Any motivating phrase can work, as long as it's short and personal to you. Some that I have used recently are...

"Do it."
"Move that body."

Find something that works for you and try saying it to yourself when the going gets tough during your workouts. This definitely helps me to win the race that regularly occurs between my body and my mind!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Muhammara Recipe

I found this recipe here and it is delicious. It makes a great dip for vegetables and pita chips and we discovered that putting it on sliced baguettes and baking in the oven for a few minutes is DIVINE!!

Muhammara (Red Pepper-Walnut Dip/Spread)

1 12-ounce jar roasted red bell peppers, drained
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup panko (found in breadcrumb aisle)
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. honey
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. cayenne pepper

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until puree forms. Makes about 2 cups. Keep covered in refrigerator for up to one week (if it lasts that long!!)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gymboss Interval Timer

Speaking of HIIT, one of my favorite gadgets for being able to perform interval training is this...
This is my Gymboss Interval Timer. It works great for setting up two different repeating interval times and lets you know when each time segment is complete (either by an alarm or vibration). This allows you to really focus on the exercises at hand instead of looking at a clock. I find this invaluable when performing Tabata training since the interval segments are so short but it can also be adjusted to fit any interval workout that you have in mind.
So if you are serious about interval training, give this little guy a shot. You won't be sorry!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tabata Training

Tabata training is a form of interval training that involves short bursts of all out effort (20 seconds) followed by a brief period of rest (10 seconds). This sequence is repeated 8 times for a grand total of 4 minutes for each exercise. The great thing about Tabata training is that it can be done with almost any exercise (strength and/or cardio) and can be completed quickly for those who don't have a lot of time to work out any given day. I usually try to do about 5 different combos of strength/cardio Tabatas for a total workout time of 20 minutes.

The key to Tabata training is being sure you are going all out during those 20 seconds, pushing out as many reps as possible while still maintaining proper form. Here are just a few examples of some exercises that work great for Tabatas...

Chest Press
Bicep Curls
Tricep Dips
Shoulder raises

Mountain climbers
Burpees (or squat thrusts)
Jumping jacks
Jump squats
Jump lunges

The possibilites are endless and your results can be amazing. High intensity interval training (or HIIT) has been shown to be more beneficial for fat loss as compared to steady-state cardio activities. The reason for this is that HIIT causes more calories and fat to be burned POST workout meaning that you will still be melting that stubborn fat long after your workout is over. This has to do with what is called EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). With aerobic training, once you're done exercising, you're body is done burning calories. With HIIT, your body continues to burn calories from your workout as long as 2 days later. Pretty neat, huh?

So give Tabata training a try. It certainly isn't for the weak-hearted, but it will give you a great fat-blasting workout in very little time!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Clean Eating Journey

In January of 2010, I made a goal to learn how to eat. I know, I know you might think I'm crazy since I have been eating since I was a baby. But I really wanted to learn how to eat well. I have always been into working out, but was less than stellar with what was going inside my mouth each day. Sure, I lost the weight after having each baby by following Weight Watchers, but I wanted to incorporate healthy eating into my life as my new "diet" and not a "diet" that I would go on and off of.

I started the year by reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" for my book club which opened my eyes to the ways that we get our food and the kinds of foods that I was eating. After finishing that book as well as Michale Polan's "Omnivore's Dilemma" and watching the documentary "Food, Inc." I started to make some changes in the foods that I was buying and eating. The culmination of my quest in learning how to eat was the book "The Eat Clean Diet" by Tosca Reno. Clean eating isn't something new, but she gave me ways that I could incorporate it into my everyday life and see and feel the results from it that I had been seeking. (I highly recommend all of these resources, but be forewarned, they will definitely change the way you look at and hopefully eat food!)

(Image from

Clean eating is mostly about eating foods in their most natural state while avoiding the plethora of processed foods that we have become accustomed to eating as Americans. It is about becoming aware of what you are putting into your body at each and every meal and trying to fuel it in the best way possible. For me, it became a complete mind shift...instead of working out so that I could EAT, I had to learn how to EAT, so that I could workout...a completely different way of looking at food.

I've listed in the sidebar the basic principles of clean eating that Tosca Reno lays out nicely in her book. I am in no way perfect at this type of eating, but I have come a long way in the last six months. I feel better, I look better and I run better. (To give you the numbers...I've lost about 15 pounds, my skin is clearer, and I can fairly comfortably pull out 8-8:30 minute miles where before I was pushing 10-minute miles!) But the best part is that I feel like I am in control rather than food controlling me. And that is a great feeling.

I'll be posting tips that I try to incorporate into my own life during my adventures in clean eating as well as recipes and clean foods that I have found to be especially yummy. Hope you enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The President's Challenge...for Grown-ups!

Thinking about the horror that running was during my younger years and the memories of the Presidential Physical Fitness Award made me wonder if that program was still around. What I found may interest some of you out there.

They have now established an activity-based challenge that is geared for people of all ages and abilities. It is designed to challenge any person at any level and encourages them to become or to stay active. You can sign up and log in your daily activity levels and even earn awards and medals!! (I am a huge fan of medals, one of the motivating factors for me when I started running marathons!!)

If you would like more information about this program, here it is...The President's Challenge!

I always enjoy ways to challenge myself a bit more so this is right up my alley!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Gadget

I love finding new fitness gadgets to experiment with. They bring a certain freshness to what can sometimes become monotonous workouts. The best thing about the fitness gadget that I discovered this week is that it was free! In fact, most people already own some of these fitness gadgets and don't even know it. Can you guess what they are?


Yup, I had my first experiment with these this last week and I am in love. They definitely work muscles in a different way than I have experienced and after doing some of the exercises, my hamstrings were sore for days. So what exactly do you do with these washcloths? Well let me explain...(Note: You will need to find a hard surface to perform these exercises. Both hardwood floors and linoleum floors work great!)

1. Alternating Slide-Outs (a great core/upper body exercise)

Start in push-up position with a washcloth under each hand. Your feet should be hip distance apart with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Reach your right hand forward, sliding the washcloth along the floor while stabilizing your core muscles. Reach out as far as you can while holding your body in a straight line. Bring right hand back in and repeat on the left side.

2. Reverse Lunges (a new twist on a classic move)

Place a washcloth under each foot and stand with feet slightly separated. Slide your left foot along the floor into a rear lunge, making sure that your right knee does not go in front of your right toe and go down until your right thigh is parallel to the floor (your left knee should be close to, if not touching the ground.) Slide your left foot back up and repeat on the right side.

3. Mountain Climbers (more engaging than regular ones)

Again start in push-up position with each of your feet this time on a washcloth. Slide your right foot forward while drawing your right knee into your chest. Slide the right foot back to the starting position and repeat on the left side. You can alternate back and forth with this move or you can "run" your knees in so that as your right foot goes back into the starting position, your left foot moves forward at the same time. This will give you a good cardio-blast too!

4. Glute Bridges (these are killer -- I could only do a few before my hamstrings were on FIRE!!)

These are HARD (just thought you should be forewarned!) Lie on your back with your knees bent and each of your feet on top of a washcloth. Keep your hands on the ground slightly away from your body and try not to let them press into the ground. Lift your hips into the air as high you can and hold them there throughout this exercise. With your hips lifted, slide both feet away from you as far as you can while still keeping your hips in the raised position. Then slide them back in to the starting position. You should feel this working your hamstring muscles (on the back of your thigh) right away! To make this a bit easier, you can alternate between the right and left side rather than pushing both feet in and out together.

5. Pikes Peak (if you can do these, you must have abs of steel!)

Start in push-up position with both feet on a washcloth. Use your core abdominal muscles to draw your feet in towards your hands while keeping your legs straight (at the top of this move, your body should be in a "pike" position with arms and legs both as straight as possible.) Hold for a few seconds before sliding feet back into the starting push-up position.

So you see, a lot of times you don't need fancy equipment or luxury gyms to get in a great workout. A few washcloths and you'll be well on your way to "making IT fit!"

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day of Rest

Sunday has always been and will always be my "day of rest." While in a fitness routine, it is highly recommended that you take at least one day per week to completely rest your body. And rest doesn't mean performing non-weight bearing exercises such as swimming or yoga means REST!

In the most recent edition of Runner's World magazine (August 2010), Ruth England, a coach for Rogue Training Systems in Austin Texas encourages her athletes to have at least one pure rest day each week, even going so far as encouraging them to take the elevators rather than the stairs, etc. A rest day can help you to bounce back even stronger when you are in active training mode and can help clear your mind for the workouts ahead of you.

So don't feel guilty about taking a rest day each week (or even more, especially if you are just starting out.) It is important to listen to your body. It will let you know when to go harder and when to ease up. Train hard, rest hard and your body will thank you!

My Exercise Inspiration

Today I have to give a big shout-out to my Dad. It's his birthday today and it's a BIG ONE!! Today he turns 70 years old!!

My dad has long been my fitness inspiration. He never preached to us growing up about the importance of fitness and working out, he just laced up his shoes each day and did it. Rain, snow, sleet, ice, didn't matter, he was out there working out. For a long time I didn't understand this. I hated running growing up. My least favorite day in P.E. class was having to run the 1-mile test for the Presidential Physical Fitness Award. I still remember the day that my middle-school gym teacher told us that if we didn't finish our one-mile test in under 10 minutes we would have to do it again! I just about died hearing that and somehow managed to scrape myself in with just a few seconds to spare.

I've come a long way since those days, but my dad has always been there for me, encouraging me not with words but through making fitness a part of his everyday life. He has run marathons, half-marathons, biked huge mountain ranges over multiple days, hiked 14,000 ft mountains, rappelled off from towering cliffs, jumped out of airplanes and far more things than I could ever keep track of. And the most amazing part is that he was able to do all of this while still managing to be an amazing dad and our biggest fan and supporter.

And please don't think that turning 70 has slowed him down at all (no, not even being diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago and suffering a stroke six months later could do that!) He still bikes or walks to work everyday, the Colorado National Monument is still his favorite biking route, he lifts HEAVY weights each day in his own backyard gym, and he has his sights on doing an endurance event that involves hiking the Serpent's Trail (about 5 miles round trip) as many times as possible next summer.

Thank you Dad for being such a great example of hard work, dedication and endurance! I know I wouldn't be the same person I am today if it wasn't for your wonderful example. I hope to be able to pass along this same legacy to my own children!

(In 2007, three of us ran the Richmond Marathon to honor my dad while fighting cancer. We ran with these shirts and he was able to fly out to be there with us, always our biggest fan and cheeleader from the sidelines. Fight on!!)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Born to Run

"Some athletes run to train. Some athletes train to run. But make no mistake -- ALL ATHLETES RUN." - Under Armour

I am a runner. I have been running since high school with only a few breaks in between (namely an 18-month mission to Brazil and during the last trimester of two pregnancies.) I love running. I love the way it makes me feel. I love the way it empowers me and makes me want to be a better person. But I think most of all running has given me something that I had never felt until I found it...running makes me feel like an athlete.

I was not fortunate to have been blessed with the greatest balance or coordination. Organized sports are not one of my strengths (in fact, I seriously stink at every sport I've ever tried.) Try strapping things to my feet and telling me to move forward (think skiing and any form of skating) and things don't improve much there either. But running...that I can do. I'm not terribly fast. I'll certainly never give the Kenyans a run for their money. But I run. I run because I can. It makes me physically and mentally tough and I love that feeling. I love the feeling I get when I race and people I don't even know actually cheer for me!! Yes, me...not-very-athletic-except-for-running me. I even have my own personal water-person for a few hours (Okay, so in actuality they're actually wonderful race volunteers who pass out water/Gatorade cups to all the participants, but close enough!) Running makes me feel alive. It makes me strong. Running make me feel like an athlete!

So what makes you feel strong? I know so many people who abhor running, and you know what, that's OK. The point is to find your passion. What is it that makes you feel alive and want to set goals and see them fulfilled? Maybe it's biking, rowing, skiing, basketball, roller-blading, step-classes, kick-boxing, yoga, volleyball, pilates, swimming, etc. Whatever it is, follow that passion. Don't do something just because you "should" (although trying out new things may help you find what your true passion is!) Bring out your inner athlete by doing what you love. Not all of us were born to love running. But all of us were born to love something. So go out there and give it all you've got, no matter what that "IT" is.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Here We Go...

I have thought for a long time about starting a health and fitness blog. It is something that I am quite passionate about, love learning about and feel I have a bit of knowledge that may help others in their own healthy pursuits. I have a B.S. degree from BYU in Exercise Science and thought that this would be the best time to take the plunge and start this new blog as I begin my journey to becoming a Certified Personal Trainer.

I thought long and hard about what I would call this blog and finally came up with this..."Make IT Fit." The "IT" in this statement is what I want this blog to be all about. "IT" could be how to make fitness a part of your busy life. Or maybe "IT" is how to incorporate some clean eating principles into your crazy schedule. And maybe "IT" is a pair of jeans, a dress or a swimsuit that you want to wear (or wear again) but you need to do some work in order to make that happen. Whatever the "IT" factor is for you, I have hopes that this blog will work to inspire you to set those goals and see them achieved.

In this blog, I will share tips that I have learned along the way on my own fitness journey, new research that has come out on the best ways to workout and will share my own fitness triumphs and disasters! I will also include some "Clean Eating" principles that I strive to live by and recipes that my family and I find to be quite yummy.

I am certainly not perfectly healthy and I believe I will always be on my own individual journey to "making IT fit." My hope is that you will start today to "Make IT fit" in your own life. Make a goal, set a plan and set your new life in motion now. I know you can do it, you just have to believe it too!