Monday, May 24, 2010

Compare Leads to Despair

I've noticed recently that more and more of my clients seem to be comparing themselves to others these days. My motto in that department is "compare leads to despair." Since you never truly know anyone's story but your own, focusing on yourself, your achievements, and your own battles is the best way to go.

Last week I went for a 4 mile run in the park. It was a beautiful day but a little hot. Knowing that that I can get tired quickly in the heat, I paced my run accordingly. As I ran, people were passing me left and right and I started to question my running abilities. "Maybe I set my pace too slow? Or maybe I'm just not as in shape as I think I am?" were a couple of questions that ran through my head as people breezed by. Then it hit me: I needed to stop comparing myself. In that moment, I remembered what usually happens when it seems as if I'm the slowest runner in the world: I see people sprinting by me and no more than a minute later, I'm the one passing them as they are hunched over, gasping for air in their overzealous attempt to run the fastest possible. After having this thought, almost as if on cue, my realization was confirmed when I saw the people that passed me either walking or stopping at the water fountain as I continued on.

The moral of this story is to try your best to keep on keepin' on in your own life at your own pace. You really don't know what anyone else's story is but your own. You could covet your co-worker's body when you don't know what it took for he/she to get there...Perhaps it's genetic. Maybe it's a ton of sacrifice you aren't willing to make. Or who knows? Maybe they are surgically enhanced! Bottom line, work your best at being your personal best. By focusing on your own life improvements, you can only go up from here. Be well!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nutritious is Delicious

I grew up in an active family. I was taking dance classes at age 3, I played softball in middle school, and in high school I was on the varsity cheerleading squad -practices included track laps and weight lifting. My older sister grooved it out to Jane Fonda aerobics tapes (and later trained for triathlons), my dad played tennis and hit the gym, my brother played baseball and basketball, and my mom did a 5 mile walk/run daily(rain or shine).

But my mom, after her 5 miles, would sit down at the kitchen table with a bag of Cheetos in hand telling me that "you can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise." Not knowing any better, I believed this to be true. A lot of times, I would hit the gym and then afterward, think I could eat a burger and fries because I spent 30 minutes on the elliptical. I also thought that low-fat was the way to go and often ate over-processed products simply because it had 2 grams of fat or less. If the product advertised "low-fat", I believed it to be healthy. What I didn't realize is that I was consuming larger amounts of sugar that the producer would add to make up for the lack of taste that the fat would provide (i.e. Dannon Light and Fit Yogurt...have you ever checked out the amount of sugar in those little containers? It can get pretty high). At times, I felt sluggish and a little moody because my diet wasn't right.

Today, though, being a fitness professional, I know that while working out helps keep your weight down, the winning combination of exercise and proper nutrition is what keeps you healthy.

(As a disclaimer, I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian – if you're looking for a great one in the New York Area, check out Eve Kecskes and her blog for great tips! – but in this post I want to give tips on keeping your diet in check. And Ill also say that Im in no way perfect. I try my best to watch what I eat and how I eat, but I also enjoy life and try not to get down on myself if I enjoy the occasional indulgence. Chocolate anyone?)

· Watch your alcohol intake- This is particularly hard in New York, where having a drink after work is a pretty common thing. Living in NYC can be stressful and a glass of wine or a cocktail is a go-to for many as a stress reliever. Before you know it, one drink turns to several and you feel like crap the next day. Also, the calories in alcohol add up quickly and can add inches to your waist line. I try to reserve my wine and cocktail indulgence for the weekends. If I want a drink during the week, I try to keep it to one glass of wine (preferably red as it's been proven to have heart healthy effects).

· Portions are where it's at – You can eat what you crave as long as you do so in moderation. I'm not saying that it's best to indulge every craving you have, but if you can't seem to stop thinking about French fries, have a few and move on. If youre the type who cant stop at a few, think of healthy alternatives that might do the craving justice. Soy crisps for potato chips? Sure. A serving of dark chocolate for a snickers bar? Perhaps. Be smart about it!

· Eat! – Many people believe to lose weight they need to not eat or severely cut their calorie intake. What they don't realize is that the body adjusts to this lack of calories, and once you start eating normally again, youll store everything you take in as fat. Your body wants you to survive (believe it or not), and when its not getting food regularly, it starts to think that it won't ever get food again and begins storing up every calorie it can. This is why crash or fad dieting doesn't work. Eventually all the weight you lost gets stored back up, for the next crash, if there is one. So eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. Eat at least every 4 hours, but watch your portions! Good snacks include a portion-size of 22 almonds, whole fruit, part-skim mozzarella string cheese, veggies with hummus, Ezekiel toast with a tablespoon of peanut butter. That’s a good start, and you can always write me for more healthy snacking tips!

· Eat breakfast – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When I first start with a new client, I ask about their diet. Many times I find that they skip breakfast, thinking it's an easy way to cut calories. But this can lead to a severe hunger by 11am, which results in snacking on candy around the office, making a bad lunch choice like a high-fat/high-carbohydrate product (French fries or chips are usually a culprit), and in general continuing the bad eating cycle for the rest of the day. When you wake up, always have something to eat. Your body has been fasting for 7-8 hours. You need to replenish it to jump start your metabolism. I usually start my day with is a half-cup of cooked oatmeal mixed with a tablespoon of peanut butter and maybe half a banana. It's a great mix of carbs, protein, fats, and some fruit to get my body going. Other options include egg whites wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla with salsa (a breakfast burrito option), or Greek yogurt mixed with a serving of low-fat granola (for more, check out Eve's Blog Post on breakfast here).

· Eat your veggies Many people don't eat enough vegetables but it's oh-so-important. Vegetables fill you up more quickly than you'd think, and they are a great side dish at lunch or dinner. Instead of a high-starchy addition to your meal, think about substituting some steamed broccoli, asparagus, green beans, carrots, etc., as a side. I am not a good cook, so what I do is grab some frozen veggies, throw them in a steamer, and voila – in about 5 minutes I have a yummy side dish to my chicken for dinner. Frozen vegetables are just as good and fresh (they are usually flash frozen at the height of their freshness) so it works for me! I also can eat as many veggies as I like, and for someone who likes to eat, that's a good thing. :-)

Remember to check out Eve's Blog for more nutritional advice! Be well!

Sunday, May 9, 2010


I like to dabble in all forms of exercise. I find it fun and challenging (both physically and mentally) to try new workouts. Although I admit I don’t do enough of it myself, I recommend you give Pilates a whirl, if you haven't already.

Before you try Pilates in a mat class or on the reformer (that’s the reformer below…maybe you’ve seen it at your gym or in a studio…it’s a crazy contraption but believe you me, it works!), you should know a little history.

pilates_elizabeth  pilates_elizabeth

It was developed in Germany during the early 20th century by a gymnast named Joseph Pilates, who designed it as a rehabilitation program for soldiers returning from World War I. The idea was to aid injured veterans by reconditioning core musculature through stretching, strengthening and stabilizing the muscles.

Today, millions of people practice Pilates around the world. It’s a unique form of exercise, and you will definitely feel the effects the next day! I used to take Pilates from a private instructor, using the reformer a few times a week, when I lived in Las Vegas. Since private sessions can get pretty expensive here in NYC, I choose to take mat classes at my gym, from my friend Cheryl Dowling who is a Pilates instructor (she’s awesome!). Or, when I’m crunched for time, I do this DVD:

100_1242  100_1242

It’s the Winsor Pilates Sculpting Circle Advanced Workout. It’s only about 35 or 40 minutes long and it’s great. Mari Winsor is the person behind the Winsor name, and she’s become a celebrity Pilates Instructor and quite the Pilates guru. That sculpting circle you see in the picture can be used to make your Pilates workouts more challenging.

If you are interested in starting your own Pilates workout, I recommend taking at least one session with a private instructor so you can properly grasp what it is you’re supposed to be doing and feeling. Because the workout is greatly dependent on breathing and proper positioning of the spine, it’s important you initially have someone correcting you as you do the movement. If you can’t participate in a private session due to budget concerns or other reason, you should at least take a class, instead of starting with a DVD. Before the class starts, speak with the instructor and tell her/him that you are new and ask them to please correct you so you can really learn how it’s supposed to feel. I would also check out studios in your area for discounts or free first-time sessions. Often, studios will give free or discounted sessions to get you in the door. Still, even if you have to purchase a few sessions, believe me, it’s worth it! You will feel taller and more connected to your body when you’re done. It’s always fun to try new ways to challenge your body. Be well!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Good Days and Bad Days: Part Deux

I recently blogged about having good days and bad days when it comes to exercise (check out that post here ). Sometimes you can feel energized and have an amazing workout, but the next day it feels like you are moving through concrete. I’ve been feeling a little concrete-ish myself in my more recent runs, but last week I had a breakthrough run that made me feel amazing again.

It was a beautiful day in NYC and I knew I had to take advantage and run outside. Still, nice weather or not, I wasn't looking forward to it, so I decided to motivate myself by picking a new route through Central Park and shake things up. I researched the park and discovered that the path around The Reservoir is 1.55 miles. If I ran that twice and included my run to and from the gym, it would be about 4 miles. When I started, I felt sluggish like I have lately, but once I hit the park, I caught my stride. I was passing people left and right (literally) and I felt amazing. I even lapped a huge athletic dude who was probably 6 feet tall, a good 8 inches taller than me. I usually don't care who I pass or who passes me, since I try to focus on personal battles, but today I took note since I hadn't felt this good in a while.

That day has inspired my workouts since. Today I went on a run that wasn't so fantastic, but I thought of my rockin' jaunt around The Reservoir and that got me through. What gets you through? Is it a friend? Some good tunes? A goal that you want to achieve? Whatever it is, reach down deep and find some inspiration to help you push through another rep, swim an extra lap, bike an extra mile, run another 5 minutes...You can do it! Be Well!