Hi All! J I kept being asked what I am eating for the breakfast. I am being asked about all the meals, but, somehow, the breakfast attracts the most interest. Perhaps because I always say that this is the most important meal of the day, which fills us up and keeps things churning as we go with our daily activities!
OK, so, first of all, never skip your breakfast! I say this from my experience, until I was 18 years old, I was on the chubby side and my teen-mind reasoning kept directing me towards skipping the breakfast. All in hopes of weight loss, of course. Which, of course, did not happen as a result of skipping my meals!
Having said that, I have to tell you how monotonous my breakfasts are… But I really love them like this, because I like the taste a lot and they provide me with all what I need to start my day well.
Every evening, I spend a few minutes in our kitchen, preparing what my husband calls our “breakfast kit”… I get a bowl for each of us, and put some walnuts, cashews, peanuts, almonds (whole are better and this is what I put in my Better Half’s bowl, but I personally go for sliced, because I have weaker teeth than him!!!), three Brazilian nuts (enough to meet your daily requirement of selenium!), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds (for energy). All in small amounts, a few of each. At the same time, I put some steel-cut oats into a pot and pour water over them, covering overnight.
In the morning, as I bring the oats to the boiling point (and not more: the less mushy they are, the better for us!) – I mix the pre-prepared nuts with several tablespoons of 0% fat organic “Wallaby” Greek Yoghurt, and mix it all with warm oats. Then, I add some blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries of top. If I run out of them, I’d add a peach or a kiwi (with the skin) or some banana. Yum! And it keeps me full in a healthy way and satiated, so I do not start my day from feeling hungry, deprived and low-energy.
In life and in competition, we do not win at the finish line. We win as we proceed towards the finish line: by persistently taking steps towards our goals, by making daily decisions to do something healthy for ourselves rather than sleep in one hour longer, by sticking to our resolutions of eating healthy and “clean”. We win over the weeks, months and years, as we steadily progress towards our goals. We win if we are at it 24/24 and 365/365.
Sometimes, it is just so tempting to find an excuse not to exercise, not to eat healthy, and not to drink that glass of sparkle water instead of a glass of wine. As a winner, you, actually, think how to find time for exercise, you plan to shop for healthy food and you plan your healthy menu for the week. And you plan to have the wine twice a week, but not daily. You also plan for unforeseen circumstances: oftentimes, we hear an excuse about travel: “I travel, therefore I cannot eat healthy.” Yes you can. You can, if you only plan for it. If you travel by car, buy yourself a large cooler, prepare what you can at home and start from there. These days, pretty much all hotels and motels have a fridge. Or, you can keep fresh ice in your cooler and keep your foods in the cooler. If you run out of healthy foods, buy them at a local store at your destination, replenish your cooler and continue on the road! If you travel by plane, become a master at getting roasted chicken breasts past the Security, have steel-cut oats and ask the flight attendant for hot water to dilute them. Have nuts and fruits with you. Or, for those of you who use it, have your protein powder – so easy to create super healthy shakes, even on the road! I have been using all of the above tricks while I travel – from a simple overnight trip to a triathlon race to 3-week-long intercontinental endeavors. If we want, it can be done. You just need to want, set your mind at it, and… do it! Good luck, I believe in you!
No, you are not stuck with the diagnosis of hypertension for life! You do have control over what is happening to you and your body and, in many cases, you can become hypertension-free again! As I train with the hypertension-suffering trainees at my Studio, I have witnessed dozens of them lowering the doses of their anti-hypertension drugs and, actually, weaning off them (under close medical supervision of some great physicians we have in Sedona and VOC).
Usually, guys would develop high blood pressure some 10 years earlier than the gals (typically, at 45 years of age and, respectively, 55). Some of us will have a hereditary predisposition to it (thanks, dad and mom!) or are African-American, which increases the risk, too. However, the hereditary aspect is pretty much the only one you cannot control in here. The other risk factors fully depend on you and your life style:
If your body mass index indicates you are overweight, you have increased risk of high blood pressure and all the diseases which come with it. Same with your nutrition: if you do not eat clean, meaning you use processed foods, which come in colorful boxes, accompanied by an endless list of “ingredients” which sound like a list of necessities belonging rather to a chemical factory than to your kitchen, well, you run an increased risk of hypertension. Clean up your nutritional habits. Reduce your drinking habits (we talk alcoholic beverages here, not water…). Do not smoke. Exercise. Walk. Move vigorously for at least 30 minutes a day: “vigorously” meaning vigorously for you, not for Usain Bolt. All of the above will help! If you suffer from metabolic syndrome or diabetes, you are already at an increased risk of high blood pressure – and if you suffer from both, your chances at suffering from heart disease quadruple.
So, take your destiny into your own hands: once you lead a healthy life style, exercise and eat “clean”, you have a great chance to get your blood pressure under control, back to normal! This will significantly decrease the risk of heart diseases in the future, as well. Stay Fit-Fit!
As I was travelling most of June, I kept catching up on reading the books and magazines, for which I had had no time in the past months. Among others, I read “Biomarkers” by W. Evans, Ph.D. and I.H. Rosenberg, M.D., professors of nutrition and medicine at the Tufts University. This one renewed my faith in the fact that we can improve our fitness levels ad health status, regardless of our genetic load. They list 10 biomarkers of vitality, which we can improve: muscle mass, strength, basal metabolic rate (BMR), body fat percentage, aerobic capacity, blood-sugar (glucose) tolerance, cholesterol/HDL ratio, blood pressure, bone density, body ability to regulate its temperature.
Some aspects are clear: if we weight train, we improve our strength, muscle mass and power. As a result, the BMR and body fat % improve, even more so if we train aerobically (which leads to direct gains in terms of the aerobic capacity). Bone density can be helped by getting involved in some form of plyometric exercise (the simplest being the motion of rope jumping or, simply… running!). The point is to suddenly load the body (while jumping on a box, for example), which strengthens the osseous structure and diminishes the risk of osteoporosis. As I work with trainees who used to have issues with high blood pressure, I witness myself how nicely their systems respond to the increased load of exercises: I even have quite a few of them who are weaning off their high blood medication (or already did so): their bodies become more efficient, their arteries are less clogged, and their blood pressure levels stabilize. I have multiple devices at my Studio and one of them is the blood pressure monitor. In some cases, we started our fitness adventure with regular blood pressure checks: before the session, a few times during it and a few minutes after it was completed. As we progress and the trainees respond favorably to their respective training loads, they get a go-ahead from their physicians to check the levels less and less often. Their systems stabilize at a new, healthy level.
Now, you can ask me, how we can improve the glucose tolerance? Well, it declines with age – especially if we do not exercise: as the older adults gain more body fat by not training and eating some not too healthy fare, suffer from lower muscle mass as a result of not lifting weights, this tolerance diminishes. This gives us some hope, as commonly the glucose tolerance is associated with diminished ability to secrete insulin by the pancreas. If it is not exactly so and if it is also related to some factors that we can work on and which we can improve, why not? On top of that, it is proven that the risk of type 2 diabetes depends on where your body fat is stored (‘beer belly’ owners, beware!). This is yet another aspect we can work on and which is easily improvable.
This book was very uplifting and I’d recommend that you read it: it offers us a close insight into our own body systems and explains how, at the end, we have the upper hand at making sure we live a long, healthy, fit life! Once we are in control, we can do anything. It is the feeling of powerlessness which leads us to abandoning our attempts at a healthy lifestyle, making and implementing changes into our daily habits and succeeding. So, take action NOW, it is all in your hands! Stay Fit-Fit!
During the initial evaluation, some trainees tell me that they seem to be everything right in terms of their fitness, but they don’t have any effects. They tell me the stories of training for 90 minutes each and every day, seven days a week, faithfully sticking to their gym for years, starting their workouts at 5AM, because then, they have to go to work, sticking to exactly the same food, which they had established is good for them, not snacking in between the main meals. Yet, whenever they step on that scale (which they often do daily), the needle does not bulge!
What can a gal or a guy do to get out of this endless Catch-22 cycle?
Let’s analyze the above confessions. First, if the person claims to be working out for a long time, it is obvious that they do not use any intervals in their training. You see, working longer does not necessarily mean working any “better” or harder. Surely enough, our bodies get adapted to whatever the challenge we throw at them ad stop responding to the same level of stimuli, day after day (let’s say, 60 min. of treadmill at 3% incline and 3.5mph). Make sure you do introduce interval training: warm up, go at your regular speed you are used to, but then, some 8 times per session, introduce a steeper incline or/and a faster belt turnover. These “peaks” do not need to be long, just do that harder work for some 20-30 sec. and then, go back to your recovery level for another 45-60 sec., before doing another peak. Make sure you change your workouts, too. Do not “stick” to the same type of a workout or the same gym, or even the same biking path every time you are training. This can and will lead you to a full stagnation and halt your progress. Take a class which is very different from the one you usually take, go swimming instead of biking, sign up for a month at another gym, or make a point of not using a gym for one month and challenge yourself in all other ways possible! Moreover, if you introduce interval training, you won’t need to do the rat race on the treadmill for that long: typically, you’ll go for some 35-45 min. quick, efficient workout. You will, actually, save time! Second: never-ever exercise every day. Introduce one day a week of what we call an “active rest day”: go for a hike or a leisure bike ride, or a calm swim, or do some gardening. Make a point of relaxing and slowing down on that day. It is, actually, during these rest days, that our muscles really get stronger: they take their time to rebuild ad strengthen, therefore, making sure your body will burn more calories even while not exercising than if your muscle’s place would have been occupied by fat, which is a slow calorie burner. Just by building muscle mass, your metabolic system will become more efficient at burning calories and fat.
Third, we have the person proudly telling me they start training at 5AM. But, when did you go to sleep the night before? Are you sure you are getting your 8 hours of sleep every day? If not, again, your muscles won’t recover well, your body hormonal system will be in havoc and you’ll hit the fridge more often through the day, given the hormonal imbalances, caused by the lack of sleep.
Fourth, as to the food: even if your nutrition seems to be well-balanced and healthy, please introduce some changes. If we stick to the same food day after day, we are at a very high risk of depriving our bodies of important nutrients.
Fifth: Yes, you shall snack! I know, it sounds almost hard to believe, coming from the mouth of a fitness specialist, but yes, you really want to have 3 solid meals ad 2 (ideally 3) snacks in between them. Just make sure you are snacking on healthy foods and watch the portion sizes. Once you snack, you won’t be famished at the time of your main meal, and, as a result, you will eat less for that main meal. Also, snacking keeps our metabolic system churning at all times and it helps our body understand that we are not starving it. Along the same lines, get your hydration right. Make sure to drink lots of water or water with electrolytes. During a glass before your meal, so your stomach won’t be empty and, as a result, you will eat less, again!
Sixth, do not use that scale on a daily basis! I am almost tempted to say, do not use it, point, but I realize how people are attached to the numbers on their scales. Perhaps reduce its usage to once every 2 weeks or so, if you can? The weight is not any good measurement of your fitness success. In fact, while training and building muscles ad losing the fatty tissue, which is less heavy, but also takes more space in your body and is less healthy, too), you might, initially at least, plateau in terms of the weight loss. You’ll train and train and take your rest days and, nope, no weight loss! This is due to the weight of the fatty tissue versus how heavy a muscle is. However, it is the muscle which will get you healthy and will activate your metabolic system, not the fat. You will be losing fat and gaining muscle, therefore, the scale won’t bulge much. After that initial plateau, you will start seeing the numbers drop and you will also be more toned. The best way to measure your success is by noting the circumference numbers for the hips, waist, both legs, both arms. You can do it with a measuring tape or a piece of yarn. The latter is less stressful and does not put numbers on your struggles. For example, mark where your hip circumference is on the yarn and see how it changed in 4-5 weeks from the initial measurement. Also, I have great success with the before- and after- pictures, that works, too. In fact, the scale is probably the only piece of equipment I do not have at my Studio!
Let me know if and how I can help you in your fitness- and health-related goals. Let’s start sooner than later, it can only save you some medical costs later in life! Stay Fit-Fit!
A quick, intensive workout today, guaranteeing to bring your heart rate up:
Warm up for about 10 minutes. Then, do the following 3 exercises for the total of 30 seconds EACH of them:
1. Prisoner squats (squat with your hands behind your neck)
2. Front plank (make sure to maintain the body straight and parallel to the floor)
3. “Boxing” movement with some 2-5 lbs of weight in each of your hands. These do not even need to be dumbbells. Grab two bottles of water, if you don’t have free weights. Box as fast and furiously as you can, making sure to extend your hands in front of you.
Repeat the above 3 exercises 5-8 times, trying to have as little breaks as possible.
Always consult your physician before starting a new exercise program. Have fun!
How we think of the race we are about to do can definitely impact its results! Over the years, many studies have supported the notion that the positive imagery does, indeed, miracles in terms of the race results. And I am not only talking about the running, bike, triathlon, or swimming races. The same is true for all other sports, from winning a boxing match to climbing up for that NFL title!
Your task seems easy, but easy it is not: “just” keep imagining yourself at the start line, going theough the motion you need to reach the finish line, keep imagining how your body will feel and how your heart will race. While thinking of all that, start adding positive thoughts, such as: “I am strong”, “my posture is great”, “my pace is OK”, “yes, I am in pain, but it was to be expected and I can and will deal with it”, and so on. Practice this kind of mental imagery daily and see how your results improve!
And during your respective race, keep thinking your strong words: “Strong!”, “Can do it!”, “I have an upper hand here!” - Anything positive. Do not think in terms of the “can’t”, such as: “I can’t run any faster”, “I can’t breathe!”, or so.
Check it for yourself during your next race and let me know. I am sure it will help! Good luck and have fun! Stay Fit-Fit!
Well, there are plenty of occasions when you might feel the urge to eat. Oftentimes, we even do not think why it is now and here we want to eat anything within the perimeter of our eyes (or in the fridge). It can be the stress. It can be that we are tired after a long work day and walk into the kitchen, ready to indulge. It can be that we are at a wrong place at a wrong time: the so-called situational eating or indulging.
I will develop slightly more on this last reason for overeating, giving you, as an example… the serene and relaxed place of a cruise ship. Ouch! Over the last 20 years or so, I have been cruising extensively and, to be honest, I like it less and less. I love the fact that the ship can get me to a brand new destination daily, without packing and unpacking my hat boxes… However, the industry has become quite a mass production, both in terms of customer service and the food they are serving (and I am cruising with quite reputable lines). As I recently took to the seas during the school break, I kept witnessing a full-frontal assault on the buffet service: daily and 24/24. People who, seemingly, just had their lunch were coming back for the seconds and then, for the “High Tea at Seas”, meaning cookies and pastries and cakes and then, maybe, some tea or coffee. That was coming your way some 2-3 hours before your full-course dinner, which, on its turn, was followed by various activities, such as “Chocolate Extravaganza”.
Personally, I have a habit of sticking to my nutritional plan no matter where I am, but, to be honest, the moment I wanted to venture behind plain boiled eggs, raw broccoli, tomatoes and bananas, I kept running into nitrates and nitrites and worse. (I should not have mentioned the bananas: if I was lucky, there were whole banana fruits available for me, but on some days, we had sliced bananas, conveniently floating in… some sugary orange juice, nothing to consider if you want to stay on the healthy side. Most of the food items seemed to be modified by the humans the wrong way: either by adding salt or sugar, or maybe lots of fat).
Scanning the buffer for any lean proteins, I detected some, but again, they came, well, with problems… Beans were canned beans, and canned is not good for us. If they were prepared from scratch, they were floating in some suspiciously thick-looking sauce, guaranteed. Same with the meats: even a piece of any meat ending in “…-loin”, such as a sirloin (being the healthiest and leanest), a chicken breast or other cuts: they were all “enhanced” with enough of salt, fat and other additions (not to mention the sauces) to make me feel like a very pregnant, bloated, genetically-modified organism for my days at the sea and several days following my successful disembarkation. BTW, it is rare that on the ship you get any organic fare, so be prepared…
So, I was doing my best to avoid the “Chocolate Extravaganzas” and awesomely-looking Belgian waffles with double whipped cream and this and that on top. I managed, even though after 7 days of that cuisine, I felt very nutritionally challenged. However, cruise after cruise, I seem to be observing how the passengers get caught in that trap of food which looks tempting, is available at all times, and, especially since there is not much else to do, makes them gain the “cruise 20” in a matter of days. We might call it “vacation eating” (will we be back to “normal” once home? And, what is “normal”?). Or “emotional snacking” (missing your home and family yet?), or the “buffet problem” (still, even without all that food laid out in front of us, can we really stop from overeating?). I honestly do not know how some people managed to enjoy the cruise, feel good about their eating habits and regularly come back for more… On the other hand, there were some who seemed not to move out of the buffet zone for the day! And, they seemed to truly enjoy the experience: oversized plates, which automatically make us take more food, because if we take just a little, it seems like nothing, the variety of fatty and sweet food. I can only imagine, if someone is into this type of foods in their regular life, surely they’d have a very hard time not to crash the buffet during a cruise!
I often think we should be helped out: by not being served unlimited all-you-can-eat fares, by not having our taste buds challenged by extremely (and dangerously) salty or sweet food items, by not having the industry tell us that a diet soda is OK, even though it is packed with aspartame or such, only making our taste buds more dependable on that super-sweet, artificial taste, which will be never matched by the sweetness of a simple orange. Our oats really do not need to float in that heavy creamy substance and our nuts do not taste any better when roasted or salted. Why don’t we give the natural food a second chance, instead of feeding ourselves with an array of chemically-challenged, saturated in fat substances?
Long story and long love-affair made short:
When I was in the 5th Grade, I started drinking coffee. That habit, in the recent 10 years escalating to up to 10 shots of espresso per day, stuck with me until… well, until December 14,2013 precisely. I will remember that date forever. This was The Day when my Better Half announced that, perhaps-perhaps, ceasing all that caffeine consumption might contribute to us sleeping like theoretical babies. He meant some theoretical babies, because our own offspring, sort of, never slept! Awaken every 1.5 hour for months and months of her baby years… But I digress. So, in the hopes of getting some shut eye like the above-mentioned very theoretical babies, purposefully and with full premeditation, we stuck to the new plan: no coffee, point. This was it.
Ha! So, the first week, I really lacked it: the energy was not the same, my runs were somewhat slower, and in the weight room, I felt like curling up in the cable machine corner and go to sleep… Of course, My Better Half has not been affected at all. At least he has been claiming not being affected at all. Men have it always easier, right??? ;-)
After that initial week, I somehow got adjusted to my new, caffeine-free reality. The energy for my trainings and daily functioning came back to normal and I did not react in any uncontrolled manner to the smell of freshly brewed coffee from the Bakery, which is right by the Be Fit Fit Studio, from where I operate! After a long discussion of the situation and due consideration, we disconnected the two espresso machines we possess from electricity. It felt like unplugging some sort of life-support I.V.
BTW, we have two espresso machines, because when one breaks and is taken to the espresso machine doc in L.A., the other one is functional and this way, for years, we have been ensuring the steady flow of the best Java ever!
Now, as the racing months for us triathletes come around, I have this dilemma: shall I continue abstaining, or shall I go for it? The thing is: there is a certain recommended dose of caffeine, which really might enhance your athletic performance. If you take some 1.5 milligrams of the thing per pound of your body weight some 45 minutes before the race, your chances of finishing the effort on the podium and with a cool-looking medal which you anyway will surrender very soon to your kid suddenly increase exponentially! Some athletes also take caffeinated gels while training or racing, to get a nice, steady input of the God-sent substance.
So, am I making it unnecessarily hard for myself to win due to a planned deprivation of caffeine? Or, am I just racing and training in that “pure” state, as God created me??? In the state I had not been aware of until December 14, 2013? To drink or not to drink???
In any case, I think that by now, I’d rather prefer not running or biking by any Starbucks while doing my races… Because that smell of freshly-prepped quadruple espresso might really tempt me to stop by and enjoy a cup – right there, right then – and forgetting why I was there the first time around! Stay Fit-Fit and enjoy your daily cup of Java when you can! J
With the Holiday Season in the past and all of us moving into the New Year, desperately attempting to stick to our respective New Year’s resolutions, sleep might be the last on our list. We are back to work, back to school, back to the daily routine and back to our respective training schedules. In case we did not have yet any training schedules for this year a week ago, the chances are, now we do – as a result of the resolutions we make around January the 1st… So, just a quick note: don’t get lost in all that craziness and do get some rest. As you might know, personally, I do quite a lot of triathlons and in our sport, sleep and recovery is called “the fourth discipline” (after the swimming/biking/running part). It is treated as an equally important aspect of preparation for the next race. Apparently, it is the best to sleep between 7 and 9 hours a day. The researchers are not yet sure why, but any longer sleep does not translate into anything that would benefit our bodies. They speculate that it might be because people who sleep too long often suffer from some chronic diseases or depression. They are not well; therefore, they sleep longer, but do not tend to profit from all that slumber time. If we sleep any shorter than 7 hours a day, we cause havoc in the hormone levels in our bodies. Stress hormones and hunger hormones skyrocket, causing us to overeat (possibly on so-called “comfort food” the next day. We have less energy and cannot focus well, which results in a skipped workout of the day or a poor workout, without any focus on the performed exercises. The body is in need of rest and simply cannot work on building healthy, lean body tissue or burning fat in any effective way. So, take all of the above into consideration and… sleep tight!