Tomato and Watermelon Salad

watermelon_tomato_saladI love to watch Food Network, but often the recipes are so complicated that I can’t pull them off at home.  Or they contain ingredients that I wouldn’t.  But I discovered this fresh salad recipe last summer, and it was a hit!  Now it’s one of my summer favorites!  Enjoy!  (Thank you to Chef Alex Guarnaschelli)

Tomato and Watermelon Salad:

Prep: 15 minutes

2 Tab. balsamic vinegar

1 Tab. fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Seal salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2 beefsteak or other tomatoes, sliced

1-2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon

4 strawberries, hulled cut into small pieces

1 cup cubed cold watermelon

 

Whisk the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil. Add salt & pepper to taste. Spread the tomatoes out in a single layer and sprinkle with salt, pepper, & the sugar. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with half of the dressing. Add the tarragon and strawberries. Toss. Divide the tomato mixture among the plates. Drizzle with more dressing. Top with the watermelon. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

 

Mission Possible: My Top Choices For “Healthy” Rest Stop Food


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It’s that time of year again, when you pack up the car and hit the road!  Hurray!

You’re off for a long weekend!  You’re picking up the kids from college, or visiting relatives, or finally visiting the beach after the long winter.  In an ideal world, you’ll pre-pack a cooler with fresh salads, veggies, fruit, hummus, nuts, protein bars, and water.  And your kids will be in the back seat, making polite conversation with each other, saying, “Mother, may I please have another carrot?”  We’ll all play the license plate game and sing “99 Bottles Of Beer On the Wall” joyously.

I can dream, can’t I?

Maybe this sounds more familiar to you:  You rush out the front door, cram your whining, fighting kids into the back seat, and figure you’ll just pick up something to eat at the rest stop when you get gas (gas for both the car and you, that is!).  Your choices will range from bad to worse, and of course, you’ll just want to get back into the car and get on the road again as quickly as possible.

But after all that healthy eating you’ve done during the week, you really hate to blow it on lousy rest-stop food.  All that effort would go down the drain.  Plus, you won’t have time to exercise today, since you’re in the car for the long haul.

So let’s head down I-95 together, stop at a typical rest stop, and decide what  the healthiest choices are on their menus.   Keep in mind that I use the term “healthy” loosely.  The food isn’t going to be organic or GMO-free.  We’re lucky if the food is even fresh.  In fact, even referring to it as “food” is generous.  But let’s do the best we can to minimize the damage, shall we?

As I step out of the car, my radar will be up to find the best nutritional bargain possible.  I am looking to maximize protein while limiting calories, sugars and starches.

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At any location, the beverages will be either tea, coffee or sparkling water – no crappucinos or liquid candy (aka soda).  Usually, the choices for food are gas stations, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, or Starbucks.  (If you see a sign for a nearby Panera’s or Chipotle, go there instead – it’s worth the extra miles.)

Okay, here we go:

Option #1:  Gas Station or Convenience Store

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First, see if there’s any fresh food in a refrigerator.  If there is, grab a hard-boiled egg, an apple or banana, or a pre-made turkey sandwich if it isn’t too soggy (check the date). Other good choices are cheese sticks, cottage cheese, or yogurt.  If there’s no refrigerator, find a single-serving bag of nuts (not trail mix), or a protein bar (not an “energy” or “power” bar – those are code words for sugar.)  If you like turkey or beef jerky, go for it.   Grab a bottle of water and you’re back on the road!

Option #2:  Subway

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Subway can be confusingly upfront about the nutrition facts; there’s pressure to order fast, and I have to get my glasses on to read the fine print.  I’ll save you the time here!  If they’re still serving breakfast, have the egg white sandwich on flatbread.   They also sell a number of salads: either top it with guacamole or the honey mustard dressing.   Sandwiches:  the 6″ roasted chicken, roast beef, or Subway club, served on 9-grain wheat bread, and pile on as many veggies as you can.  If you’d like a spread, opt for guacamole rather than the suspicious-looking dressing. You can check out their menu here:  Subway Fresh Fit Menu

Option #3:  Dunkin’ Donuts

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Danger, Danger, Danger!!!!  Know what you’re doing before you walk in here.  If you know you can’t resist the donuts, go to another spot.  If you dare to stay,  choose the bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin or the egg white veggie sandwich on flatbread.  I don’t see anything else worth ordering that won’t send you into a sugar-induced coma behind the wheel. To see what they call the “DD Smart Menu,” click here:   DD Smart Menu

Option #4: McDonald’s

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I always laugh when I see people staring at the McDonald’s menu, because – hasn’t it been the same for the past 25 years?  Actually, no!  McDonald’s is attempting to make their food healthier.  Once again, this is not ideal food, but we’re trying to make the best of the given situation.  If they’re still serving breakfast, go for the Egg McMuffin or the Egg White McMuffin.  Their Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken (not Crispy Chicken) is also a good option.  If you want to know more, check out McDonald’s Nutrition Facts here:  McDonald’s Nutrition Facts

Option #5:  Starbuck’s

Starbucks

Step one:  AVERT YOUR EYES!  They put all the tempting treats at eye level with you as you wait in line.  It’s similar to the way grocery stores put candy at the register so you or your kids will fall for the easy grab food.  Stick it to the man and look away. Stay away from the crappucino with two shots of s**t.   You’ll be okay with either the low-fat turkey bacon sandwich or the spinach feta breakfast wrap.   Yes, it’s all pre-fab food, but you’ll know what you’re getting if you look here first:  Starbuck’s 35 Under 350

Sbarro’s – Don’t bother.  I checked the menu.  The salads are so woefully small, you’ll be hungry before you get to the next exit.  Keep going.  You won’t get out of there for less than 600 calories.

Pinkberry – Do not stop here.  Yes, yogurt is good for you, and maybe the recipe starts with yogurt, but by the time it gets here, it’s not yogurt anymore.

Cinnabon – If you go here, you know exactly what you’re about to do.  Don’t play dumb.

That’s my take on rest stop food.  Look for protein, and limit the starch, sugar, and processing as much as possible.

What do you think?  Did I miss any healthy options that you see at rest stops?

Can We Stop With the Minutia Already? Five Big Bang Changes

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Have you noticed that everything’s a health hack nowadays?

For example, leeks are good for detoxing your liver. Throw chia, hemp and flax seeds in your smoothie for heart health.  Recently, I overheard someone say, “I drink my water ice cold because it burns more calories than room temperature water.”  That’s the last straw!  C’mon!   Really?  I’m not saying these things aren’t true, but maybe we’re getting carried away here.  After all, my liver would be helped more if I didn’t drink as much alcohol; my heart would be healthier if I got more cardio; and I’d eat fewer calories if I cut back on that daily crappucino.  Just sayin’.

It reminds me of a Weight Watchers meeting a long time ago when the topic turned to salad dressings; which flavor was the best tasting for the fewest calories, or which brand the least fattening (back when low-fat salad dressing was considered a good thing).  As sometimes happens at meetings, the topic digressed – to the point where the group began sharing tips on measuring salad dressings.

 Finally, the leader got everyone’s attention and said, “Look, People.  I doubt any of us are here in this room because we’re putting too much dressing on our salads.”

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The room became silent.  She was absolutely right.  It’s possible that there was one individual with five pounds to lose who would benefit from this discussion, but it was far more likely that we should focus on the big things:  like our mid-afternoon peanut butter binges (me), our nightly bowls of ice cream, or those donuts on the way home in the car.

This is how our attention gets de-railed sometimes.

We focus on the minutia, rather than taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture. The little things matter, but if you want to make a change, it might as well have a larger impact.  If I had to pick my top five, here they are:

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1.  Drink less alcohol.  I’m not even going to suggest drinking NO alcohol because then no one would subscribe to my blog anymore, and all my friends would call me a hypocrite!  But let’s be honest with ourselves; we’re not drinking wine for its anti-oxidants.  My new rule is to only drink when I’m out; no drinking at home.  It’s doable, and it’s in the right direction.

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2.  Eat foods that have 5 ingredients or less.  Better yet, don’t eat any food that needs a label!  With the exception of eggs, oil and nuts, if it has a label, avoid it entirely.

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3.  Get your sleep. Research has proven that 7-8 hours of sleep is ideal for health.  If you have a hard time sleeping, try to figure out the root cause, rather than pop over-the-counter sleeping pills.  It could be pointing to a larger problem.  Talk honestly with your doctor about it.  You might need some yoga!

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4.  Get rid of everyday sugar. Sugar sneaks into everything we eat and drink nowadays.  Even those supposedly healthy Naked drinks have a surprising amount of sugar!  Then go ahead an enjoy a splurge, but only once a week.  I love a dark, rich, chocolate dessert.  I never waste my dessert on an Oreo or some store-bought goodie.  I save it for the real thing, and enjoy every bit of it.

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5.  Drink water. Water is SO good for you; here’s a link to why:  http://bit.ly/1cbimUl   Ideally, drink half of your body weight in ounces of water per day.  (If you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water per day.)  Have even more if you exercise a lot.  In other words, carry a big water bottle with you every day. I doubt that it matters if it’s hot or cold; just drink it!  😉

 

Is Your Exercise Stressing You Out?

insanity

 Maybe there’s a reason it’s called “Insanity!”

One of my favorite things is taking a group cardio class, and catching everyone in the mirror in perfect synch with the music.  I love that!  I get a rush when there’s a great bass line thumping away, pumping everyone up.  I still get a rush out of high-intensity cardio like kickboxing.   I love a good cardio workout.  I’m one of those chicks who whoops and hollers when it all gets flowing.

However, rather than relieving stress levels, as most people think, those types of high-intensity workouts might be increasing your stress levels.

According to Holistic Health Practitioner Paul Chek, the body perceives high-intensity aerobic exercise as a stressor.  To a certain extent, that’s a very good thing.  That’s how you get stronger.  But if that’s the only kind of exercise you get, then you’re actually putting your body into a chronic state of stress, activating the sympathetic nervous system, or the fight-or-flight response.  That, in turn, increases the body’s cravings for starchy carbohydrates, sugar in particular!  Furthermore, that exercise could be slowing down your metabolism because of all the increased stress.   (It’s a cruel world, isn’t it?)

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What can you do?

Chek says that we need to balance our work OUTs with work INs! 

Working IN would be something like deep breathing, massage, yoga, Pilates, or his favorite, Tai Chi.   Those types of exercise help the body slow down, relax, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system.  That speeds up metabolism.  (For example, did you ever hear your stomach growl when you’re getting a massage, but you know you just ate?  That’s why.)  You’re finally calm enough for your body to start digesting normally again.

So be sure to mix up your exercise.  If you like to spin until the wheels burn off the bike, try out yoga and see what happens.  If you’re the type of person who says,”Yoga would drive me CRAZY,” then you’d benefit the most.  Really.

So try out a work IN this week, and let me know what happens!  You might like it!  Mikey did!

Is Your Body a Bank Account, Or a Chemistry Lab?

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Like so many people, I’ve had a complicated relationship with food.

As a teenager in the 70’s, I remember my well-respected pediatrician writing down the simple formula for weight loss on a little sheet  of paper: “One gram of carbohydrates
has 4 calories, one gram of protein has 4 calories, and one gram of fat has 9 calories.  So eliminate fat, and you’ll lose weight.”  Wow!  That sounded so easy! And I was good at
math. So I tried it.
“Thus began the calorie-counting, fat-free, processed food era of my life.”
In my mind, I associated dieting with self-deprivation, so I began looking for caloric
“bargains.” It was just like the doctor said; if the food said “fat-free,” it was way
lower in calories.  If it was lower in calories, that meant I could eat more of it and
avoid being hungry!  If it said “sugar-free” AND “fat-free,” I could eat even more!
Over time, I was no longer eating to satisfy hunger or to nourish my body.  It was all about scouring the labels and bargain-hunting (calorie-wise) for the lowest-calorie food.  I had completely lost touch with whether or not I was hungry.
Weren’t we all playing the same game?
This rather disjointed view of food continued into adulthood.  All three times I was pregnant, I gained a whopping 50 pounds. After all, I was eating for two, so I felt entitled to more food.  It was good for the baby, wasn’t it?  (I must have forgotten that one of us only weighed a few ounces!)  In order to lose the weight after each pregnancy, I would start counting things again – sometimes food exchanges
(remember those?), sometimes points, and sometimes calories.  But as soon as
I stopped counting, measuring, or else inevitably started cheating the system,
the weight would start to sneak back on.  Looking back, I see that I was treating my body like a bank account, counting debits in (food) and credits out (exercise).
For the record, counting calories isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but that method backfired on me, and perhaps it backfired on others as well. Yes, counting calories can be a very successful method for weight loss.  Research does show that when people start writing down their food, they begin to eat less simply because the act of writing makes them more aware of what they’re eating.  I get it.  And it’s absolutely true.
But as I learned more about nutrition, I knew I was eating way too many chemicals and processed foods.  The media started to report that fat was GOOD for you, and that it was necessary to eat it.  But I still wouldn’t “splurge” for it, calorie-wise.  Everything was
sugar-free, fat-free and processed. Deep down, I knew that wasn’t a healthy way to eat.
I wasn’t paying enough attention to the quality of the food I was eating.
I don’t know how or when it finally dawned on me what my mistake was;
IT’S NOT ABOUT MY WEIGHT, AND IT NEVER WAS.
In the end, it’s about HEALTH.
THE HUMAN BODY IS MORE LIKE A CHEMISTRY LAB THAN A BANK ACCOUNT.
 It’s all about the QUALITY of the food and how it interacts with the body.
That’s when I made a shift in my eating habits.
The shift is that now I look for nutrition bargains instead of caloric bargains! I look for the food that has the most nutrients per serving instead of the least calories.  Wow!  What a concept!
One by one, I changed each meal around:  coffee and a veggie omelet for breakfast, using coconut oil in the pan; a salad with chicken or fish, some nuts and FULL-FAT dressing (GASP)!  Snack is my splurge – usually a high-protein Quest bar.  Dinner has 2 hot veggies and some lean protein again.  And wine sometimes.  And I thoroughly enjoy a gooey chocolate dessert once a week.
I feel so much better now.  No more counting, no sweet cravings, no energy dips, and no frustration over the scale anymore.  It takes care of itself now because I’m eating much more nutrient-dense food.  My food and I now have a healthier relationship.
Does calorie-counting work well for you?  Or did you have a similar experience to mine?

5 Things I’ve Learned From Mindful Eaters

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About ten years ago, when my kids were little, we brought them to Disney World and had dinner at the “50’s Drive-in Diner” style restaurant.  At the end of the meal, I was horrified when the waitress gave all five of us “Clean Plate Club” stickers.

Yes.  That’s right.  All 5 of us got the stickers.  That was a long time ago, and as a family, we’ve learned a lot of lessons about healthy eating since then.

I took a long, hard look at our eating habits.   Why did I eat so fast, and eat up every bit of food that on my plate?  And how did I manage to set that example to my sons?

It probably stems from being the youngest of 8 kids, and whoever got to the food first simply had more to eat.  But that was decades ago!  I’m not that little kid elbowing my way through a bunch of older siblings for food anymore.  I know that I’m going to eat again in a few hours, so why do I stuff myself full?

I started noticing how some of my naturally thinner friends ate.  They seemed to pay more attention to what they ate.  They didn’t just gobble the food down quickly.  They “savored the flavor.”  And in the end, they usually ate less.  Hmmm.  Maybe there’s something more to it.

Here are some of the things that I’ve noticed that these “mindful eaters” do differently:

1)  Mindful eaters are fussy.  If they don’t really like it, they don’t eat it – as if they’re picky kids.  It has to be “worth it” for them to eat anything.  They don’t waste their appetite on food that’s just so-so.  They don’t eat it just because it’s there, like the leftover peanut butter and jelly crusts off their kids’ plates.  (Takes one to know one!)

2)  Mindful eaters don’t keep eating until they’re “full.”  They only eat until they’re satisfied, or until their hunger is gone.  They know that they’ll eat again in a few hours.

3)  Mindful eaters eat slowly.  We live in such a stressed-out society that we even apply that mindset to eating.  But mindful eaters engage in the conversation, and enjoy the entire mealtime experience.  One of my friends says that’s how her parents taught her how to make conversation at the dinner table – she was taught to put the fork down between every bite, engage in the conversation, and then pick up the fork again.  (PS – She wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes in my home!)

4)  Mindful eaters are forgiving and flexible.  Once in a while, they overeat.  But they don’t waste time beating themselves up the next day.  They say, “That was delicious, but I overdid it.”  Then the next day, they eat a little less.  They skip the self-recrimination and judgment.  They don’t say, “Well, I’ve ruined my diet, so I’ll just throw in the towel now.”   They just move forward.

5)  Mindful eaters just eat.  They sit down and pay attention to what they’re eating, rather than multi-tasking or just grabbing food in a rush and eating it while standing over the sink. They use more of their senses:  they observe how the food is served, they taste and smell the food, and then they savor the flavor.

Many times it’s not about WHAT you eat, but about HOW you eat.  Being a mindful eater is not as easy as it sounds, but it can make a profound impact on your eating habits.  Try just one of these mindful eating tips for a week, and let me know how you make out.

Healthy Weight-Loss Habits That You Can Start Today

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Those who know me have followed my weight loss journey.  As a teenager, I did crazy fad diets with 20-pound gains and losses.  Then 3 pregnancies with 50-pound weight gains, followed by 50-pound weight losses with Weight Watchers.  Although I maintain my weight now by eating Paleo, I still incorporate a lot of habits that I learned as a Weight Watcher member.  Below are some of the most successful and healthiest weight-loss habits that have worked for me.

1.  Eat nothing after dinner.  Let’s face it; nobody eats anything healthy after dinner!  It’s usually empty calories like chips, or sweets, or drinks.  You can keep your hands busy by painting your nails or knitting.  Bleach your teeth with whitening strips at night to stop the sweet cravings.  Or just go to bed!  Then you’ll wake up hungrier, and eat your normal, healthy breakfast.  This is how my brother started his 107-pound weight loss journey!  This is a great habit to start with.

2.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Put away the candy dishes!  Studies show that if you can see the food, you’re much more likely to eat it.  The reverse works as well.  Try keeping healthy snack foods, like carrots and hummus, or cut-up fruit, at eye level in the fridge.  That way if you open the fridge looking for something to eat, the healthy stuff appears right before your eyes.

3.  Carry a huge bottle of water with you.  Not only is drinking water good for you, but it will make you get up more often to use the bathroom.  (Hey, every little bit counts!)  I’ve even used this habit to make deals with myself:  “I’ll let myself have ________ as soon as I finish one more bottle of water.”  Nine times out of ten, I forget all about it!

4.  Enjoy it, but just one serving.  If you already ate one serving of it, you know exactly what another bite of it will taste like.  If you’re still unsatisfied, allow yourself seconds of vegetables only.  Keep the serving dish on the counter rather than at the table.  That way you’re not staring at the dish, and if you want seconds, you’ll have to get up from the table to get it.

5.  Try the “no white at night” rule.  Rather than bread, pasta, rice or potatoes, try to have both a salad and a hot vegetable with dinner instead. Some people find that cutting themselves off from starchy carbohydrates at a certain time of day, say 3:00, is helpful. It’s not that this type of food metabolizes any differently at certain times of day;  the idea is to avoid those empty calories at the meal when most people pile them on.

6.  Have a fruit or vegetable with every meal.  At breakfast, you can have some berries, or mix some peppers and onions in with your omelette.  Lunch could include a salad or an apple.  Dinner could include a hot vegetable.  This habit displaces your appetite for other, less healthy foods.

7.  How about an afternoon veggie shake?  The protein will help with the afternoon energy slump, and the veggies will fill you up.  Click here for Precision Nutrition’s guide to making healthy shakes:  http://bit.ly/1yKQIu4

8.  Pack a healthy snack in your car or purse with you before you leave the house.  That way, if you’re stuck on the road without any healthy options, you’re ready.  My favorites are snack packs of nuts from Trader Joe’s or Quest Protein Bars from GNC (no, they don’t pay me to say that!).

 9.  Keep a big batch of vegetable soup handy. This recipe is famous among successful Weight Watchers:  http://bit.ly/1IYJRzn  It will fill you up for lunch, snack, or dinner time.  Yummy, nutritious, and very low-cal!

10.  Go to bed earlier.  Yes, this one is true.  The body perceives a lack of sleep as stress.  Stress slows down your metabolism and increases your cravings for sweets.  So, if you’d like to lose some weight, make it a habit to get 8 hours of sleep every night.  Black out your room and cover all those digital clocks for a deeper, more restful night’s sleep.

Only pick one idea at a time.  Keep it simple and focused.  As soon as one habit becomes second nature, add another one, building a portfolio of healthier habits over time.

What weight-loss habits do you use?

5 Easy Paleo-Friendly Swaps!

Yay!  Spring is here! And it’s time for me to clean up my act a little.  Over the holidays (weren’t they months ago?), some items snuck into my fridge.  It’s time for them to go!  I got caught red-handed when the photographer snapped this shot of me, with the beer and jarred condiments, front and center:

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It’s time for me to make some healthy swaps…..

1.  Homemade dressings and marinades instead of bottled. I know the bottled dressings are easier, but they almost always contain vegetable or canola oils (not good).  The homemade ones taste so much better, and at least I know what’s in them.  Here’s a link to a few good recipes:   http://paleoleap.com/salad-dressing-and-vinaigrettes/  I have yet to find a Paleo mayonnaise recipe that tastes good, so I just ordered a jar of avocado-based mayo from the new Thrive market online.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

2.  Almond butter instead of peanut butter.  This is a hard switch at first, but you get used to it. (And no one loves peanut butter more than I do!)  But there are several reasons that you want to avoid peanuts, even organic unsalted ones:  http://www.paleoplan.com/2011/12-29/peanuts-are-not-paleo/

3.  Zucchini pasta instead of pasta.  Honestly, I don’t try to sell zucchini pasta to my family, saying “It tastes just like pasta!”  The Romano men would never buy that line!  However, it tastes good and has a similar consistency and feel to pasta.  It’s delicious when I cook it with coconut oil, garlic and garlic salt.  You’ll need a vegetable spiral slicer – I use a Spiralizer:   http://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Active-Spiralizer-Zucchini-Spaghetti/dp/B00MG6ZEZM

4.  Olive oil and coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.  This is a really easy swap!  I buy mine at Trader Joe’s, and I also use their coconut oil spray.  I use olive oil for room-temperature recipes, like dressings and marinades, and I use coconut oil for cooking.  If you have margarine in the house, please just throw it out.  If you use butter, use real clarified butter, and savor the flavor – try not to use too much because it’s so calorie-dense.

5.  Sparkling water with cranberry juice instead of wine or Diet Coke (I have to admit that I still have a hard time resisting Diet Coke).  If I sip this after dinner, the fizz satisfies my “mouth feel,” and the tartness of the cranberry juice keeps the sweet cravings at bay.  I’m not saying this works all the time (just ask my husband), but it works most of the time to help avoid drinking wine or soda at home during the week.

Do you have any ideas for healthy swaps?  Or do you have a good homemade mayonnaise recipe?

Are You Making These Common Mistakes At the Gym?

Let me preface this post with the fact that I have made ALL of these mistakes at some time!  And at least if you’re at the gym, you’re trying!  

But here are the top ones I see:

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Mistake #1: You hold the railings of the treadmill.

A lot of people hold the railings, perhaps because they’re afraid of falling.  But when you’re at the gym, that’s where you want to train for real life.  And in real life, your arms would be swinging while you walk.  Let go!  Be free!  It will train your balance better, be a more aerobic workout, help prevent rounded shoulders and even make you burn more calories!

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Mistake #2:  You only use the cardio equipment!

Cardio equipment has its place, but if your goal is to lose weight, you want to hit the weights, too.  Did you know that your body returns to its pre-workout calorie-burning level as soon as you leave the gym if you’re just doing long cardio sessions?  But if you want to burn even more calories for 24- 48 hours after your workout (known as “EPOC,” or excess post-oxygen consumption), you’ll want to lift weights and do some high-intensity intervals.  So if you’re using the treadmill, check out some of those interval programs.

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Mistake #3:  You saw someone do an exercise and, without instruction, 

you try it on your own.  

I love to get new exercises ideas at the gym, but more often than not, I see a lot of what NOT to do! One of the most dangerous gym crimes I see is bad kettlebell swings.  Kettlebells aren’t really that different from weights, but when you start swinging around all that iron, you’d better know what you’re doing.  Check out this link for an excellent kettlebell swing lesson: https://www.girlsgonestrong.com/exercise-spotlight-kettlebell-swing/

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Mistake #4:  You use the equipment incorrectly.

There’s a reason that most gyms offer a free session with a trainer to orient you to the machines.  Yes, they want you to sign up for personal training sessions (and by all means, sign up!).  But the other reason is so that you don’t get hurt.  Take advantage of the free session.  Most gyms also encourage the trainers to circulate the gym while they’re not with a client so that they’re available for your questions.  So ask away!  That’s why they’re there!

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Mistake #5:  You eat your profits after your workout.  

I will always remember the time I saw someone all sweaty at Starbuck’s, wearing a t-shirt from the new gym in town.  I asked her how she liked the gym, and she said that she loved it.  “The workouts are so hard that I always come here and reward myself with a crappuccino.”  (Okay, I added that last word.)  But seriously, even an intense workout can be canceled out with the calories of just one muffin!  Make the most of your exercise by having a whey protein shake immediately following it!

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Mistake #6:  If you still look pretty after your workout!

Some people read books, talk on the phone, or distract themselves so much that they leave the gym without having worked up a sweat at all.  If you still look cute, you probably didn’t work out hard enough.

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Mistake #7:  Lifting weights that are too light.  

This infraction ties in with Mistake #6.  If you can lift that weight more than 20 times, it’s time to bump it up to a heavier weight.  While you don’t want to overdo it, you do want your workout to be worth your time.  Oh, and don’t worry about bulking up.  It takes months, if not years, for weight lifters to get that bulked-up look.  And they lift the big weights down at the end!

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Mistake #8:  You don’t go to the gym at all!

This gym looks so lonely!  I love to see the gym in January when it’s full of people enthusiastic about exercise! I think the biggest mistake people make is being over-zealous when they first start out.  Just start easy, and keep going.  Never give up.  It’s intimidating at first, but it will get easier over time.  In fact, most of the trainers I know were very overweight or out of shape at some point in their lives, and their efforts to become healthier actually brought them to their present careers.  So if anyone would understand, it’s the other people at the gym.  The door is always open!  Who knows?  Maybe you’re the next trainer-to-be!

10 Ideas To Spring Into Action

I can’t wait to get outside after this looong winter!  The sun is finally shining, I hear the birds again and the snow is slowly melting!  It’s a great time to change up my workout and get outside. So here are my top ten ideas for taking things up a notch for this season:

new sneakers

1.  Get yourself some new kicks!  Sneakers only last about 4-6 months.  If you can’t remember when you bought your sneakers, it’s probably time for new ones! I love the feeling of lacing up some new colorful sneakers and feeling cushiony new socks (I love my Thorlo’s!) under my feet.  It literally puts spring in my step!

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2.  Commit to an upcoming event.  Look around for a local 5K walk or run.  Maybe a Mudderella or Warrior Dash!  Having that deadline will give you a goal to strive towards.  Okay, you don’t have to get as muddy as we were, but you get the idea!

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3.  Get a friend or family member to exercise with you.  Exercising with a buddy makes it more fun, and makes you more likely to stick with it.  Commit to regular early morning walks or weekend tennis matches.

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4. If you’re still listening to December’s music, splurge on a new playlist!  I just created an 80’s playlist that really makes me move!  (I just posted it on my Facebook page if you want to check it out here).

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5. Try outdoor exercise!  If you’ve always wanted to try canoeing or hiking or even yoga on a paddleboard, you can start now and be ready for some real adventure by summer!  (You can tell from the three colliding canoes above that my family always makes these sports violent, as in jousting on canoes.)

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6.  Change up how you’re fueling your workout. Spring is a great time to overhaul your snacks. Try some different seasonal fruits and veggies in your smoothie, like fresh berries, spinach, and arugula.  Watch your juicing, though!  If you wouldn’t eat a banana, an apple and a pint of blueberries in one sitting (that’s a lot of food), why would you drink it?

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7.  Reward yourself!  Find an awesome summer top that you can reward yourself with, and post a picture of it in your kitchen so you’ll be inspired by it throughout the day.  Then buy it for yourself when you accomplish your goal.  For me, it’s absolutely anything from the Boston Proper catalogue!  (Oh, and always get the earrings, too!)

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8.  Get a fun new water bottle!  Let’s face it – drinking water isn’t the most exciting thing, but having a cute water bottle makes it just a little bit easier to stay hydrated!  The more you sweat, the more water you need to drink.  Keep it next to you all day long.

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9.  Take lessons in a new sport!  Tennis or golf lessons are great ways to get outside and meet new people.  And lessons make the sport so much more enjoyable (Sorry, Frank.  I saw this photo, and just had to put it in!)  Bonus:  What’s more fun than shopping for new tennis or golf clothes?

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10.  Plan an family outdoor adventure vacation!  Book the ultimate escapade for you and your family.  Hike one of the national parks, or ride horses at a dude ranch, or climb an island volcano.  I think I just talked myself into it!

Whatever you do, enjoy it!