Get more out of your workout with intervals!

January 7th, 2009

Whether you have been exercising for a long time or are just starting out, you can get more out of your cardio workout by adding interval training. This will boost your heart rate, metabolism and burn more calories!

Interval training is quite simply adding bursts of extra effort. It is taking an aerobic workout ( aerobic meaning that you can produce enough oxygen to meet the muscles demand)and interspersing anaerobic intervals. (anaerobic meaning that your muscles are using more oxygen than you can supply and therefore have to be much shorter in length.)

It may sound like you have to be an athlete in order to do this kind of exercise, but the best thing about intervals is that they are easily adapted to individual fitness levels and needs.

For example, if you have just started a walking program you can pick two spots on your walk  – say between 2  mail boxes – and walk a little faster between those 2 points.

If you run outside or on a treadmill, cycle or use an elliptical you can do the same – just increase your speed for a short and then go back to your original speed.

Intervals do not have to be exact and should only last for as long as you can sustain the increased pace.

They are also a great way to monitor your progress. You may start out with only one interval segment in your program and then progress to having two. You could then see if you can increase the length of the interval segment  – I would suggest you do this a few seconds at a time, and again only for as long as you feel comfortable with.

Try not to let your heart rate drop too low between intervals. If this happens reduce the time or intensity of your intervals.

You can play around creating your own intervals or many machines with preset programs.

As with all exercise, try and make it fun!

Make SMART New Year resolutions!

December 27th, 2008

Were now at that time of year when we vow to lose weight, exercise more and eat healthy. For most people this lasts for just a few weeks. In order to set yourself up for more long term success you need to make sure your goals are SMART!

S – Specific. This means instead of ” I will eat more healthy foods” you may start with something like – “I will eat broccoli and fish twice a week.”

M – Measurable. You need to be able to track your progress. So, using the previous example, you will be able to check off each time you eat broccoli or fish and know when you have reached your weekly goal.

A – Attainable. All to often we start the New Year with huge goals that can be completely unrealistic – like “I am going to lose 10 lbs a week and exercise for 2 hours every day”. In setting ourselves these goals we are creating a certain path to failure. So make your goals small and short term so you know you can achieve them. For example, ” I will do some kind of physical activity for 20 mins 5 times a week.”

R – Relevant. You need to ask yourself why you are setting a particular goal. Your goals should be based around your own individual needs, interests and abilities. For example, your goals may be based on reducing your risk of heart disease. For someone with no risk factors, this goal would be irrelevant.

T – Time- bound. It is very important to set a time limit on reaching your goals. This gives you something to work towards and helps you achieve long term goals in small steps.  For example – “I am going to keep a food diary 3 days a week for 4 weeks”, as opposed to “I am going to write down everything I eat”.

Need help with setting and keeping your New Year resolutions? Please email me at

Keeping off the Holiday Pounds! – Don’t diet!

December 12th, 2008

This is not a good time of year to decide to start a diet as you will probably be setting yourself up for failure. Instead I suggest you just  try to stay at the weight you are now.

Here are some ways you can help yourself do this:

Don’t deprive yourself! If you want to try some cookies, pie, chocolate, whatever, then have some – just a little -and this will get rid of your cravings. Feeling deprived will only lead you to eat more in an attempt to overcome your feelings of deprivation.

Don’t hog the buffet table! Get what you would like to eat and then move away.

Alternate alcohol with water. This will not only help prevent hangovers by keeping you hydrated but will help keep your alcohol consumption down.

Eat regularly. If you get over hungry you often end up eating anything you can find!

Plan ahead. If you know you have a party then make sure you exercise that day. Remember, if you indulge one day, then simply cut back a little the next. Women should not have less that 1200 calories or men 1500 calories a a day.

Keeping off the holiday pounds! Make exercise a priority!

December 10th, 2008

 At this time of year we all have extra long to-do lists, so it is more important than ever to make time to  keep exercising. Here are some ways to make this easier

 Write it on your schedule and remember 2 sessions of 15-20 mins are as effective as 1 long session, maybe more as your metabolic rate remains elevated for a while after you finish exercising.Less than 15 mins probably won’t give you time to get you heart rate up enough to have this effect.

Find an exercise buddy – making a commitment to someone else may make you less likely to find a reason skip a class or go for a walk.

Exercise should be fun and doesn’t always mean going to a gym or class. Try dancing, bowling, ice skating, playing in the snow. Too cold outside, play with a WII. There are lots of fun things you can do with family and friends that get you moving!

Park further away from the store. Parking towards the back of the parking lot adds extra walking distance, for extra exercise. I also find as there are fewer cars there yours is less likely to get dinging!!

Healthy energizing foods

December 5th, 2008

With our busy schedules this time of year we often found ourselves running out of steam so it is important to eat healthy  foods that will keep you energized.

The key to avoiding those mid morning and mid afternoon slumps is to keep your blood sugar levels steady. To do this you should eat a small amount every 2-3 hours and avoid skipping meals. The best energizing meals are those that include complex carbohydrates, and a small amount of protein.

Energy boosting foods include:

 whole grains – oats, rice pasta,breads 

 nuts and seeds

 fresh fruit – avacodo, banana, berries

dried fruit – prunes, figs, apricots, dates

 green vegetables – broccoli, cabbage, spinach

 legumes – kidney beans, chick peas, soybeans.

Smaller meals will also keep you more energized. If your body has to concentrate on digesting a large meal you will feel more tired.

Need a snack on the go? Opt for whole grain crackers with a low fat cheese, fruit – especially berries  – or have a handful of nuts.

It is also important to avoid foods that will deplete your energy. High fat and sugary foods – like donuts, pastries and cookies -may give you an immediate burst of energy but this will be followed by a slump as the body produces extra insulin to take the sugar out of the blood. Also, high fat foods stimulate the production of seratonin which makes you feel tired.

Make sure you drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is essential for your muscles and your brain. Be aware of drinks that can actually cause dehydration such as caffeinated drinks and alcohol.

Keeping off the holiday pounds! – manage your stress.

December 3rd, 2008

There is no doubt that stress can contribute towards weight gain, and this is the time of year that we are often under a lot more stress than usual.

When we are under stress the adrenal glands are stimulated to produce adrenaline and cortisol. This makes the digestive system slow down and slows our metabolism. It also leads to blood being shunted to the major muscle groups to provide bursts of energy, and our heart rate increases. Usually when the stressful situation goes away the body relaxes back to it’s normal state. However, chronic stress impairs the body’s ability to do this and can contribute to weight gain.

How chronic stress leads to weight gain:

1. Cortisol slows down your metabolism which means that even if you eat the same amounts of food you may still gain weight. It also makes dieting harder.

2. Chronic stress affects blood sugar levels which can lead to mood swings and fatigue. This means that it is more important than ever to stabilise your blood sugar levels during stressful times.

3. Stress often leads to emotional eating and cravings in an attempt to make us feel better. As we know, the foods we then eat are not conducive to keeping off the pounds!

So how can we keep stress under control?

1. Make time for yourself – This doesn’t always mean expensive massages, facials etc. It can be a simple as going for a walk, making time to snuggle down with a good book or having a soak in the tub – undisturbed! Don’t  feel guilty about taking a time out – you deserve it!

2. Find creative ways  to cut the cost of Christmas, have a budget and stick to it.

3. You don’t have to do everything! It is OK to say no! You can also try delegating some of the tasks that need doing and if they don’t get done exactly as you would have done them, that is OK too.

I always used to find that by the time it got to Christmas Day I was too exhausted to enjoy it and as soon as the kids had opened their presents it was time to start on the  dinner. Now we eat on Christmas eve, so that we can spend Christmas day playing games and relaxing

I would be interested to hear about tricks you use to keep holiday stess at bay.


Why turkey makes you sleepy!

November 23rd, 2008

Have you ever wondered why you fall asleep after Thanksgiving dinner? It’s all in the turkey!

It contains an essential amino acid ( essential means it cannot be produced by the body) called tryptophan.  This in turn leads the body to produced the B vitamin called niacin. The production of niacin causes the production of serotonin which is a calming agent.

Combining this with all the carbohydrates in the potatoes, bread stuffing and pie -maybe also a glass of wine – that your body now has to digest, and now you know why you fall asleep after dinner.

Did you know ther average Thanksgiving dinner contains about 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat!

Stay tuned for how to keep the pounds off during the holidays!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Exercising in cold weather

November 4th, 2008

The two main considerations when exercising  in the cold are staying warm and keeping hydrated.

Staying warm is important to prevent hypothermia and damage to your hands and feet. It can be easy to keep warm when you are exercising, but the time to watch is when you stop. This is when a lot of body heat can be lost. When you are cold more blood is sent to the center of the body to keep the internal organs warm. Although you can warm your hands fairly easily by rubbing them together, your feet won’t get properly warm until your body is back to it’s normal temperature or a bit higher.It is important , however, if someone has frostbite  DO NOT to rub or massage the frozen tissue as this can cause more damage.

The best way to keep warm is to wear layers. This will allow you to remove them as you get hotter and put them back on when you have finished exercising to retain your body heat. You need to wear clothes that will trap the warm air in but allow water from sweat to dissipate. Wet clothes next to the skin causes heat loss. Try to avoid heavy cotton sweats. It is important to wear a hat as a significant amount of heat loss comes from the head.

Pay attention to the wind chill factor. If it gets to minus 20 or colder, there is a danger to exposed skin. It is therefore important to wear a mask and/or scarf to warm the air you are breathing in. This is particularly important for people with asthma.

It is also important to keep hydrated. Many people only associate dehydration with exercising in the heat. However, you loose as much water through sweat when you exercise in the cold as you do in the heat. Also, in cold weather water is lost as vapor when you breathe out – when you can see your breath it is the water vapor you are looking at. Also the kidneys produce more urine in cold weather. This is why you always seem to need to pee as soon as you go out in the cold! 

So, wrap up, exercise and enjoy a nice warm drink when you are done.

Understanding the omega’s

October 15th, 2008

Omega – 3 and omega – 6 are what is known as essential fatty acids (EFA). This means that our bodies need them and that they must be obtained from food and cannot be stored in body.

omega -3 is also called linolenic acid. It is found in egg yolks and cold water fish such as tuna, salmon ,mackerel ,halibut, cod ,crabs, shrimp ,oysters , and nut oils. It plays a  crucial role in brain function and normal growth and development.  Omega-3 also helps promote a healthy immune system.

  Most people don’t get enough Omega-3 in their diet. It is recommended that you eat fish twice a week to help reduce inflammation and help prevent risk factors associated with chronic diseases, cancer, and arthritis

Not enough Omega -3 can cause extreme tiredness, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings, depression and poor circulation.

omega-6 is also known as  linoleic acid. It is found in flax seed,canola and soy bean oils, and green leaves. Most people have too much omega-6 in their diet, which can cause inflammation, increased blood pressure,and blood clotting. Omega – 3 on the other hand has the opposite effect.

It is very important to get a good balance between omega- 3 and omega-6. It is recommended that you 2-4 times more omega-6 than omega -3. A typical American diet has 14-25 times more omega-6 than omega-3!

People who follow a Mediterranean diet have a much healthier balance because they eat less meat, and more fish, grains, fruits and vegetables. This puts the emphasis on omega-3 and not omega-6.

Add gardening to your exercise routine!

October 2nd, 2008

Working in your garden for 30 minutes  to an hour 3 times a week can work all the major muscle groups for an all rounded, moderate intensity workout!

For cardiovascular/aerobic exercise:

mowing the lawn with a push reel or rotary power mower is the equivalent of walking on a treadmill and uses all the major muscle groups. Starting your mower is the same action as a bent-over row.  Of course using a sit and ride mower doesn’t count!

Clearing brush and stacking wood provides a moderate intensity aerobic workout.

For  your upper body:

Pruning trees and shrubs works the muscles of the forearm,hands, shoulders and upper back

For you lower body:

Digging works the glutes and quads, while weeding works the hamstrings, buttocks legs and hips.

For a whole body workout:

Raking is like using a rowing machine and uses the muscles of the shoulders, back, hamstrings and buttocks.